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Old 17-02-2024, 14:35   #1
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Largest boat couple can handle

Hi, knowing the community and what the default answer will be, may I ask what is the largest boat a couple can handle, and what prevents a couple from handling a larger boat then they can handle.

The default answer will be, “if you don’t know, don’t buy that boat”. Since I know that’s an unhelpful answer, please keep it to yourself, I’m trying to learn.

But if we did get a larger boat, say an oyster 65 or swan 70, why can’t a couple alone handle it? Reefing in a storm with electric winches and autopilot, what are we missing?

Yes I know of that German couple that died 2 years ago in too big a boat and why, but what else is missing? We know how to do smaller boats but what don’t we know? That’s what I’d love to learn.
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:00   #2
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

A couple can handle any sized boat if properly set up, but why? I helped a couple down in Panama on a 70-something trawler yacht with a busted windlass. They couldn't manually haul up their anchor so we got a bunch of cruisers together and hauled it up hand over hand, then pointed them toward Colon some 200 miles away and they had to make it without anchoring or else they would never be able to retrieve it. Then if you're looking at a sailboat you are writing off most of the East Coast of North America between Norfolk and Miami because of the 65-foot maximum overhead clearance (really more like 62 feet). Plus, draft deeper than 6 feet makes your life onboard much more stressful, and limits where you can go in wonderful places like the Bahamas or even Chesapeake Bay. Some have speculated that the amount of work required on a boat is related to the length cubed. In any case, lots more maintenance on a bigger boat, and that is the #1 reason people quit cruising after health issues.
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:12   #3
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Networker I don't see why you can't have the biggest yacht you want. If you can afford it, then maintenance etc is not an issue as you can just buy your way out of the problem. Sure it might be expensive, but that's the price you pay for a larger vessel.
The issue for me is will you ever feel comfortable manoeuvring a big boat around marinas, crowded anchorages or leaving her unattended. I also wonder if you will be able to sail a big yacht to her full potential?
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:21   #4
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

You don't provide any info about your situation.

If you mean "handle" financially, there is a saying: If you love someone give them a small boat, if you hate someone give them a large boat.

Other considerations:

What is the intended use of the vessel, inshore? offshore? circumnavigation? seasonal? liveaboard?

What is your physical fitness / health? (How many pushups/pull ups can you do?) Can you haul a 100 lb sail from the sail locker to the deck and bend it on? Can you go fwd in a storm and reef the head sail / deal with the "roller fouling"?

You mention autopilot and electric winches ... every delivery captain I have talked to says autopilot is the #1 thing that doesn't work on boats. I suppose electric winches are nice if they always work and you know how to fix them on the fly and you never lose battery power because of corrosion or a lightning storm or anything else.

When it comes to boats, the only thing that is better bigger is your bank account.
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:24   #5
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Fore and Aft makes a good point - berthing long vessels limits your options, as well as finding a lift that can haul your boat. Draft is another issue ...
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:35   #6
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Networker asked: "... and what prevents a couple from handling a larger boat then they can handle."

The short answer is: Competence.

Seafaring men with the competence to handle large vessels are unlikely to ask that question. They would ask instead: "What is the SMALLEST boat that will meet my needs?"

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Old 17-02-2024, 15:41   #7
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Kettlewell thats what I was thinking about. But if you have the money then you just dump the anchor and purchase a new one at the nearest port along with the getting the winch repaired. If you're really well heeled then you have the technician, new anchor winch chain etc waiting for you at the closest port.
I have dealt with some wealthy people and they just consider issues like this just a minor bump in the road. Hardly worth mentioning.
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:52   #8
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Quote:
But if you have the money then you just dump the anchor and purchase a new one at the nearest port along with the getting the winch repaired. If you're really well heeled then you have the technician, new anchor winch chain etc waiting for you at the closest port.
Works if you only cruise places where there are ports with marine repair facilities, but even then you put yourselves at risk if you can't handle many breakdowns yourself. I have met some wealthy people who had beautiful boats getting things fixed that took all season, or longer, meaning they weren't out cruising but instead hanging around marinas waiting for parts and things to get done. As we all know, boat repairs are not like car repairs where you make an appointment and then pick up your car the next day.
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Old 17-02-2024, 15:58   #9
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Age is a factor
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:09   #10
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

That is such a loaded question hardly worthy of any response imo.
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:13   #11
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Based on my experience (myself and wife; a 2-person crew) we hit limitations with:
1) Is the boat designed and setup so we can dock the boat without a difficult jump onto the dock with mooring lines? Docking is the most difficult, most challenge and most stressful.
2) Assuming all lines back to cockpit, are we confident and able with two people to release or fix a jammed sheet/halyard/block/tack/clew/etc.. when things go awry.
3) With both bow and stern thrusters, you can go big with only two.
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:25   #12
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

We easily handle a 52 foot boat ourselves. With modern sail handling gear, and thoughtful setup, there is no simple limit from a sailing perspective. Basically, if one person can do almost everything that needs doing in a typical watch, and the second persons is needed only occasionally, it works.

Docking becomes much harder, but with practiced crew, that’s manageable too. It takes careful planning, setup and practice, the bigger the boat the more important the skills of all involved.

The hardest to get arms around is when things go wrong. Things are hugely bigger. Loads are enormous on a 70 foot boat. As long as everything works, that’s fine, but if something breaks, you just can not even hope to manhandle things in light conditions, never mind a gale. One person can not even pick up a genoa or mainsail for a boat that size. It’s even a struggle for two.
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:37   #13
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Obviously it depends a lot on your physical condition, but also the boat.

A boat with a lot of automation, push button electric winches, bowthruster, etc is easier to handle than one without that stuff.

I remember an article in Sail magazine, I don't recall the exact wording, but it said that 60' was pretty much the safe limit for single-handing, assuming you are in shape, know what you are doing, and have a seaworthy boat.

I would consider two people the same limit as single handing, because you would be trading off sometimes, one person rests while the other one pilots the vessel.

And as someone else mentioned, when you get too big other things become harder, getting under bridges, or finding a slip, etc.

Just my own 2 cents - a 40' monohull is plenty of room for a couple, with space to spare, unless you liveaboard. If you liveaboard, have pets, frequent guests, etc I would go bigger but I wouldn't recommend going above 50', which already feels like a house to me.
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:45   #14
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pirate Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Failed windlass and heavy anchor..
One person on helm/engine, second person ties hitch to chain and leads line back to sheet winch.
Helmsman motors fwd in tickover while second cranks the winch to haul in cable, tie off at max.. go fwd and secure cable then untie line while Helmsman releases winch when done. Reattach line to cable repeat process.
A electric winch makes life easier.
As for a couple on a 65.. if one person has the requisite experience it's not a problem.
Have done it with a 4ft 11" 41kg female crew from St Martin to E Spain via the Azores on a Laurent Giles 64 and Sweden to Holland on an old Americas Cup boat.
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Old 17-02-2024, 16:52   #15
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Re: Largest boat couple can handle

Quote:
Originally Posted by TrentePieds View Post
Networker asked: "... and what prevents a couple from handling a larger boat then they can handle."

The short answer is: EXPERIENCE.

Seafaring men with the EXPERIENCE to handle large vessels are unlikely to ask that question. They would ask instead: "What is the SMALLEST boat that will meet my needs?"

TrentePieds

Lovely response, I'm better with boats than computers so I changed it how I could ... wanted to do the strikeout thing ...
The OPs obviously don't have relevant experience, but your response is perfect nonetheless.
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