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Old 16-12-2019, 14:38   #1
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Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Hi, we are a family of 4 (kids are 9 and 11) looking for our first (and hopefully only) cruising boat. We found a boat that ticks a lot of boxes and would suit us well in many ways, but we are concerned the cockpit is too small/not safe or comfortable enough, which would make it a deal breaker.

The boat is an Embrun design by Maurice Amiet, which is based on Bernard Moitessier's Joshua. Steel blue water cruiser, which definitely will go where we want to go and the small cockpit allows for roomy cabins and a good sized salon in a relatively small boat, which we appreciate. On the other side there is really no way all four of us can hang out in the cockpit, which means less safety when all of us want to be on deck.

Any advice/thoughts/experiences would be very welcome.

The plan is to start with daysailing/weekend trips here at the west coast of Scotland, then take longer cruises to the Med, Scandinavia, Baltic until the kids and I can be away from the UK for more than 6 months at a time and then go voyaging full time for a few years with an emphasis on high latitude sailing, but also some time spent in the tropics.

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Old 16-12-2019, 15:29   #2
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

You will be passage making 5% of the time and at anchor 95%. Get a cockpit good enough for the 5% and really good for the 95.

It's your outdoor space, a place where you will spend most of your time in warm weather and also on rainy days off it's covered. Have benches long enough so you can sleep during watches or stretch out during the day.
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Old 16-12-2019, 15:37   #3
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

You really need a cockpit that is big enough for the four of you. To my mind that is not negotiable.
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Old 16-12-2019, 15:48   #4
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

We spend alot of time in the cockpit, its the outdoor room, size matters to me.
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Old 16-12-2019, 16:02   #5
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

It's true that size matters in a cockpit... when you are at anchor bigger is nicer.

When you are offshore in really stinky weather, SMALLER is MUCH safer. Anybody who doesn't think this is true, hasn't been sailing in waves big enough to wash over a boat and fill a cockpit with water. That's bad enough with a small cockpit, and can be deadly with a huge one. Now, size is relative. A cockpit full of water that might swamp a 35 foot boat might not slow down a 60 footer.

It really depends on your definition of "bluewater." If it includes sailing in the North Atlantic, I'd error on the side of smaller is better.
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Old 16-12-2019, 16:14   #6
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

I would say forget it. We are a family of four (Boy 12 & Girl 8) and only weekend warriors but we usually all have dinner in the cockpit while motoring out for the weekend and the same with breakfast in the morning. Even lunch seems to be a cockpit affair, then there is the kids just hanging about reading, fishing etc.
Not having the kids in the cockpit would be like going on car trip and getting them to put their heads between their knees for half the journey. Its just not going to happen.
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Old 16-12-2019, 16:29   #7
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by billknny View Post
It's true that size matters in a cockpit... when you are at anchor bigger is nicer.

When you are offshore in really stinky weather, SMALLER is MUCH safer. Anybody who doesn't think this is true, hasn't been sailing in waves big enough to wash over a boat and fill a cockpit with water. That's bad enough with a small cockpit, and can be deadly with a huge one. Now, size is relative. A cockpit full of water that might swamp a 35 foot boat might not slow down a 60 footer.

It really depends on your definition of "bluewater." If it includes sailing in the North Atlantic, I'd error on the side of smaller is better.
Hmmm, I have a big cockpit, and have sailed a couple of oceans and experienced big waves, been pooped several times , last time was rounding the Cape of good Hope, and I can assure you I'd still choose the big awesome cockpit, the question is how well does it drain, my drains very well.Click image for larger version

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Old 16-12-2019, 18:28   #8
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Andira another factor to consider and I do not want to start a war about transoms but the double ender design is not very practical for a family. We are 11 feet wide on our stern and we often use all that space with the kids fishing, swimming or a dinghy and kayak tied up to it.
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Old 16-12-2019, 20:15   #9
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

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Originally Posted by Fore and Aft View Post
Andira another factor to consider and I do not want to start a war about transoms but the double ender design is not very practical for a family. We are 11 feet wide on our stern and we often use all that space with the kids fishing, swimming or a dinghy and kayak tied up to it.
Cheers
The boat does not have a canoe stern, but the stern is quite crowded with cable steering (we were going to change that to hydraulic), windvane, wind generator, radar etc.
It is a center cockpit, which we were actively looking for, both for safety and the aft cabin.

Thank you all for the responses. Looks like we do have a deal breaker here Yes we are planning on sailing the North Atlantic and I can see why smaller would be safer in high waves (that was what the boat was built for, I believe). However sitting on the cabin roof behind the cockpit for longer periods seems neither safe nor comfortable.
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Old 17-12-2019, 00:41   #10
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

It doesn't look like the picture I included actually posted. Trying as a file now.
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Old 17-12-2019, 02:07   #11
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

When was the last time a big cockpit boat caused a loss or serious problems for a boat into the north atlantic in summer? I'd wager that 90% of the boats doing the Atlantic circuit are big cockpit, wide stern modern designs.


Good luck in your search.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Andira View Post
The boat does not have a canoe stern, but the stern is quite crowded with cable steering (we were going to change that to hydraulic), windvane, wind generator, radar etc.
It is a center cockpit, which we were actively looking for, both for safety and the aft cabin.

Thank you all for the responses. Looks like we do have a deal breaker here Yes we are planning on sailing the North Atlantic and I can see why smaller would be safer in high waves (that was what the boat was built for, I believe). However sitting on the cabin roof behind the cockpit for longer periods seems neither safe nor comfortable.
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Old 17-12-2019, 03:16   #12
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Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andira View Post
It doesn't look like the picture I included actually posted. Trying as a file now.


Looks nice and cosy, a lot like mine.

My cockpit is optimal for one person, can barely handle two if they know each other VERY well. (And they will know each other pretty darn well in a short time)

But the aft deck is plenty spacious (despite being a canoe stern) and is where people tend to make themselves comfortable in good conditions.

Id suggest that if the weather is that bad that the safety of the cockpit is being sought by all on deck then maybe it is more prudent for those not needed on deck to get below.

Otherwise, look at decluttering the aft deck as you have suggested and adding some decent seating with convenient harness tether points.Click image for larger version

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Old 17-12-2019, 04:31   #13
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinof View Post
When was the last time a big cockpit boat caused a loss or serious problems for a boat into the north atlantic in summer? I'd wager that 90% of the boats doing the Atlantic circuit are big cockpit, wide stern modern designs.


Good luck in your search.
Exactly, another hangover from the 60's to 80's, the false narrative that older boats are more seaworthy which is so detached from what's actually happening in our cruising world, just no real world proof at all.
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Old 17-12-2019, 05:01   #14
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

Taking this to the next level, big, wide cockpits, with open (or partially open) transoms can often be safer regarding getting water onboard, because it normally exits over the stern and the leeward side pretty quickly. Certainly much faster than is possible with the tiny drains that are normally fitted to most boat cockpits.

I tried to find a nice photo of a cruising boat to illustrate this, instead of posting a racer/cruiser where this design is more common.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fore and Aft View Post
Andira another factor to consider and I do not want to start a war about transoms but the double ender design is not very practical for a family. We are 11 feet wide on our stern and we often use all that space with the kids fishing, swimming or a dinghy and kayak tied up to it.
Cheers
^^^ This.

Most cruising time is spent at anchor, and most cruisers are on and off the boat and in and out of the water multiple times per day.

If this isn't safe and convenient, including boarding the dinghy, it really starts to reduce the pleasure of everyday life onboard.

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Old 17-12-2019, 10:01   #15
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Re: Cockpit size for family blue water boat?

We did a five year circumnavigation of the world with two children and a cockpit large enough for everyone to spread out is essential.
The minimum length would be long enough to lie down on the bench seats, with a pillow behind your head, 6ft. plus.
Narrow enough for people to brace themselves across the cockpit with their foot on the opposite side bench is good, though if wider, there should be something to brace your foot against when the boat is heeling and rolling.

good cockpit protection is essential, too, a large dodger that protects the forward end of the cockpit, but is not too high to look over. When we had ours made I stood on the cockpit sole at the helm and had the maker choose the height of my nose (I am 6ft tall). That meant those shorter than me had to look around the sides when steering, though I was usually on the helm in the nasty stuff and could duck my head when the splashes came over and stay dry. If wheel steered, make the wheel easily removed for in port lounging, if a tiller it should pivot up and out of the way.
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