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Old 27-12-2019, 06:55   #1
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When is a boat too big?

I am considering moving up in hull length from a 46 footer (sense 46) to a wide beam 55 footer (beneteau 55.1). The reason for the upgrade is our current vessel only has two cabins and I need more (for the kids when visiting) and secondly, my wife and I am about to retire (60 next birthday) and will be spending most of the year on board and we feel we need a bit more space as this will be our home from home. There will, for most of the time, just be my wife and myself sailing her around the Med. My question is for those couples that have made a significant leap in hull length, is this going to be too big for the two of us to handle (assume electric winches, thrusters and the like) or is there actually little difference other than the bow is further away from your nose. We will be mostly anchoring, however, taking such a large boat on windy days into marinas or topping up the tanks I find slightly intimidating. It's a big expense and don't want to regret it.
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Old 27-12-2019, 07:09   #2
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Re: When is a boat too big?

It's too big when it's too big to fully handle (all phases of sailing) with the available crew. Is the main or the jib too big to handle? In a rising wind and wave, can you safely reef in? Is docking going to be problem with just the two of you? Is age and physical strength going to be a problem? Is it time to switch to engine power (I did, after a life of calling power boats "stink pots")?

At the other end, can you stretch your envelope a little? Might it be at the level of intimidating but possible to overcome with some practice? Can you limit your cruising so that you don't get into heavy weather situations that are scary?

It's a judgement call, and your judgement. No one else can really answer this question for you. Our solution, a very comfortable and spacious trawler rather than a 40' sloop, works for us. It was predicated on my love being small and not expert (that changed!), and my getting old. In a few years, the physical demands may catch up with me.

Best of luck with it, and happy sailing.
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Old 27-12-2019, 07:15   #3
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Rather than rely on advice from strangers, charter something of comparable size and make an informed judgment.

Having said that, we went from 40 to 50 ft some years ago and the adjustment in managing and sailing her was a trivial matter to us. In some respects, it’s easier now.
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Old 27-12-2019, 07:23   #4
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Re: When is a boat too big?

The number of cabins doesn’t depend upon increasing to 55’. There are 35’ boats with three cabins and 60’ ones with one cabin. We came across a couple while sailing in Maine that were not entirely enjoying handling their 47’ sloop. They’d had it for years, but it was getting to be too much for them. They were finding out that heaving heavy docklines was not as easy as it had been. Are you planning on getting older or younger? Perhaps it would make sense to charter a larger boat for a bit to see how it goes, first, or look around at other layouts on boats that don’t increase the length so much.
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Old 27-12-2019, 07:42   #5
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Re: When is a boat too big?

I think the 'equation' is pretty straightforward - bigger boat with couples tend to mean more motor sailing and greater reluctance to take short afternoon sails.

The motor sailing is in part simply because you can and it is fast(er) and gives you 'longer legs' and gets you to your destination, but also because you you are increasingly less likely to hoist light air sails, even 'easy' ones like a furled code zero can start to be a beast on a 55'er.

And the boat is simply more work to pack/dock and unpack/undock at the start and end of a short sail.

Where the sweet spot is for you is a personal decision. Some people are not at all bothered by any of the above and love the extra space. I have friends who sailed a 112'er around the pacific as a couple - was the perfect boat for them. Others start to think they should have gotten a powerboat (and some then eventually do, like the Dashews).

You do tend to use more powered help when short-handing bigger boats, and you need to think thru a plan for when some of that breaks. I singlehanded that 112'er I mention above, it had hydraulic everything and was easy to sail (with plain sails), but it would have been rather a handfull if the hydraulics ever went down.

I personally found the sweet spot for me at the high end was around 47' for single/couple with occasional guests. Big enough for good room and some pace, but small enough to be able to really enjoy sailing it to its fullest. It also discouraged any guests from staying too long
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:02   #6
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Illusion View Post
Rather than rely on advice from strangers, charter something of comparable size and make an informed judgment.

Having said that, we went from 40 to 50 ft some years ago and the adjustment in managing and sailing her was a trivial matter to us. In some respects, its easier now.
I did consider a charter but not sure this will help. I remember when going from a 27 foot Jaguar to a Bavaria 38 I thought I would never be able to manage such a "large" yacht. However, after a season I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Sort of a similar experience when I went to a 46 foot boat. However, it does take time to build confidence.

I am hoping I will have the same experience going to 55 feet but this would be the biggest leap I have done.

I have seen fairly new boats for sale in this LOA and the reason stated is it was too big for their owners which is making me wonder if there is some cut off point for a couple.
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:08   #7
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Haddock1 View Post
I am considering moving up in hull length from a 46 footer (sense 46) to a wide beam 55 footer (beneteau 55.1). The reason for the upgrade is our current vessel only has two cabins and I need more (for the kids when visiting) and secondly, my wife and I am about to retire (60 next birthday) and will be spending most of the year on board and we feel we need a bit more space as this will be our home from home. There will, for most of the time, just be my wife and myself sailing her around the Med. My question is for those couples that have made a significant leap in hull length, is this going to be too big for the two of us to handle (assume electric winches, thrusters and the like) or is there actually little difference other than the bow is further away from your nose. We will be mostly anchoring, however, taking such a large boat on windy days into marinas or topping up the tanks I find slightly intimidating. It's a big expense and don't want to regret it.
55 ft is getting to the size that you need 3 people to go stern too, into a med moor marina berth, (where you pick up the ground lines from the dock and pull them up to the bow)

going alongside on windy days,your crew better get good with spring lines,as you will be stuck at the helm powering to keep the boat alongside.

anchoring a boat that size in the med you invariably end up right at the back of the anchorage,to allow swinging room.

forget about being able to lift your anchor by hand if your windlass packs up!

your high season marina costs will be substantially more as you now will fall into the 16-18 meter price bracket.

fuel consumption will also probably double going from a 60hp engine to a 100-120hp engine.

i am not saying don't do it,just be aware that 55ft is a BIG jump in size and weight from a 46 footer for 2 people to handle if regularly going in and out of marinas in the med.
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:21   #8
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Going above 50 is great because of much better offshore sea handling

The negative is the tall mast and big heavy sails. The answer is to find a ketch in that size. Our 64 ketch has a main mast sized similar to a 45 boat.
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:24   #9
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Re: When is a boat too big?

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55 ft is getting to the size that you need 3 people to go stern too, into a med moor marina berth, (where you pick up the ground lines from the dock and pull them up to the bow)

going alongside on windy days,your crew better get good with spring lines,as you will be stuck at the helm powering to keep the boat alongside.

anchoring a boat that size in the med you invariably end up right at the back of the anchorage,to allow swinging room.

forget about being able to lift your anchor by hand if your windlass packs up!

your high season marina costs will be substantially more as you now will fall into the 16-18 meter price bracket.

fuel consumption will also probably double going from a 60hp engine to a 100-120hp engine.

i am not saying don't do it,just be aware that 55ft is a BIG jump in size and weight from a 46 footer for 2 people to handle if regularly going in and out of marinas in the med.
Good points and some I have considered. Firstly planning to anchor mostly so not overly worried about marina costs. Agree large fuel tanks are a necessity to avoid continually having to fill up. You raise a very good point about anchorages. Many I visit at the moment 46 feet is about the maximum length you can squeeze in to a packed anchorage. Don't see many 55 footers bustling with the crowd but as you say anchored out which is not a problem with a fast tender. I do worry about the beautiful yet small bays which I have enjoyed over the years been off limit due to size.
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:27   #10
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Re: When is a boat too big?

I have a 50ft monohull (Amel 50) and that's the largest monohull I'm comfortable on without stern thruster, in addition to the bow thruster.

My boat has a very powerful bow thruster and she's very maneuverable going stern to, but I'm stuck at the helm, except in calm & favorable weather conditions. The same is true when stern tying to shore. Regular anchoring is not a problem.

My boat is probably heavier (reacts less) that the Beneteau 55, and it may have similar windage due to covered cockpit. But, I'm pretty certain that the equipment installed my boat is heavier duty.

I think the Beneteau 50 has 3 cabins. It will make it easier for you. Make sure you at least get the now thruster. I hope it's efficient...
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Old 27-12-2019, 08:34   #11
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Haddock1 View Post
Good points and some I have considered. Firstly planning to anchor mostly so not overly worried about marina costs. Agree large fuel tanks are a necessity to avoid continually having to fill up. You raise a very good point about anchorages. Many I visit at the moment 46 feet is about the maximum length you can squeeze in to a packed anchorage. Don't see many 55 footers bustling with the crowd but as you say anchored out which is not a problem with a fast tender. I do worry about the beautiful yet small bays which I have enjoyed over the years been off limit due to size.
we are down sizing from 63ft to a 37ft catamaran,so looking forward to being able to fill the fuel tank from over 2000 euros to under 200 euros,and still get a similar mileage
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Old 27-12-2019, 09:13   #12
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Re: When is a boat too big?

Easy answer! When the dockage costs starts to bug you.
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Old 27-12-2019, 09:26   #13
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Re: When is a boat too big?

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However, after a season I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Sort of a similar experience when I went to a 46 foot boat. However, it does take time to build confidence.
I think this is one of the most relevant arguments against "try chartering first". Learning and getting confident takes time.

We're slowly progressing towards trying to find out what it would be like to sail a performance catamaran (years from now), and the first trial will probably be arranged by the manufacturer (of one of brands), together with their crew.

So, well, maybe chartering for a few days with a skipper would allow more room for exploring, without some of the negative stress of being responsible for it all from moment zero
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Old 27-12-2019, 09:51   #14
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Re: When is a boat too big?

I upgraded from an X-yachts X-46 (46ft) to an X4.9 (50ft) about 18 months ago and sailed her, mainly double handed, from Denmark to Barcelona over two seasons. We bought the new boat specifically to sail as we get older and to lower the physical workload. I'm 65 and my long distance crew member is 72. The increase in LOA makes a big difference to comfort at sea. The new boat is a lot stiffer as well - so it's a much more comfortable ride overall. I don't think increase in LOA, on its own, makes a lot of difference to manageability. It's more about how the boat is equipped and setup. For example....

On the 46ft the mainsail was hard to handle for two crew with slab reefing. Replaced by mainsail boom furling on the new boat which is easily to managed by one person in the cockpit.

Anchor windlass has a control near the helm station to make anchoring mainly a one person operation from the helm.

Replaced conventional jib by self-tacking jib. Now there is no work to execute a tack at all!

No increase in difficulty in stern-to mooring. The boat is kept in place by the boats on either side, protected from the wind, once you get the stern in far enough. One crew member attends to the pick up line leading to the bow line(s). The helmsman controls the distance off the quay. The only exception to this is if the gap between two lines of boats is narrow when you turn in. In this case you need to take care not to catch the bowthruster on the bow lines of the boats on the opposite side to the quay where you are mooring.

Watermaker eliminates need to go to marinas to fill up with water.

On the downside, the increased freeboard requires putting out a fender step in port, but it's a dryer boat at sea due to the higher freeboard. Also, larger boats have more complex systems and more things can go wrong.

For me, the main issue with more LOA would be being able to get into marinas, when you need to, without booking. I think with 55ft LOA this will still be OK. I see plenty of 55ft boats moored stern to with 45ft-60ft boats in the Med.
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Old 27-12-2019, 10:00   #15
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Re: When is a boat too big?

A boat is "too big" when single-handing her causes you occasional frights under your normal sailing conditions and relying on her gear as fitted, e.g. when you begin to fill you knickers having to dock her in a strange marina. Space considerations such as the number of cabins are NOT relevant.

You can develop that theme for yourself :-)

As you gain experience you can 'move up" to larger boats, in step with your increasing ability to keep both your boat handling evolutions and your knickers tidy.

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