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MPM
02-15-2012, 09:56 AM
We're currently fine-tuning the lineup of boats for the next issue of our annual Small Boats magazine (available in December). When choosing subjects for this publication, we take a functional definition of "small," and seek out boats that can be towed home with an average car, and stored in a garage or in a yard, under cover. We stretch the definition occasionally; you might need to borrow a 3/4-ton pickup truck to haul a few of the featured boats home.

When we start poking at the edges of our definition of small, I find myself wondering what opinions you readers bring to the discussion. So here's the chance to chime in. How do you define small boat? What's your limit of "small." (The Coast Guard defines "small craft" as under 65', which is interesting but clearly not applicable here.)
--Matt Murphy

mcdenny
02-15-2012, 10:09 AM
Most any V6 powered minivan or crossover SUV can tow 3500 lbs. How about "small" means less than 3500# all up weight including trailer and normal gear?

John Bell
02-15-2012, 10:22 AM
To me the biggest determiner of what constitutes 'small' is weight. Notice I say weight and not displacement. The reason for this distinction is that weight is much more indicative of the amount of material needed to build the boat and also how easy it is to move around on land. Weight works well for most boats except if one gets into exotic materials of construction like carbon-foam-honeycomb structures where really large and lightweight structures such as high performance multihulls are possible. But these are well beyond the scope of WB anyway.

How you classify boats by weight is pretty subjective based one's individual biases and experience. Below are my thoughts:

1-100 lbs. = ultralight or car-top boats.
101-750 lbs = small boats
751-1500 = lightweights
1500 - 3000 = trailerable

These four classes are all part of the "Small Boat" category in my mind.

The controversy will be where you cut it off at the top end. To some, anything less than 10,000 lbs is 'small', to others anything over 1000 lbs is 'big'.

wizbang 13
02-15-2012, 10:44 AM
"Boats" live on the decks of "Vessels".
Just kidding of course, but that is how West Indians class them.

Canoeyawl
02-15-2012, 12:05 PM
I think that like pornography, you will know it when you see it.
It would be a shame to put all "small craft" in the same box.

Dan St Gean
02-15-2012, 12:24 PM
I'd love to see this become more than a once a year publication. Quarterly? Monthly? the vibe of WB can get a bit gold plater at times, which is fine to read about and interesting. What really gets my imagination fired up is the small boat yearly magazine. I like the variety of small boats thus far.

Dan

Canoez
02-15-2012, 12:58 PM
I think John Bell's description probably does the most justice - although I'm not sure what the distinction between "lightweights" and "trailerable" really is. In terms of being able to deal with and store the boat on land using man-power, a trailer and a winch or perhaps without need of secondary equipment (i.e. travel-lift or crane) that the average boater wouldn't have regular access to would probably help divide things up, also.

stromborg
02-15-2012, 02:14 PM
It just so happens I was reading the 2010 issue of Small Boats the other night. In his article on "Waterdog" (Iain Oughtred's 22'-2" Grey Seal) Geoff Kerr commented that at nearly 6000 lbs all-up she "...probably marks the upper limit of the 'Small Boats' concept." I am inclined to agree.

I think the design parameters for "small" ought to top out within the "trailerable" box of being able to be towed by the owner without special permits. It might even be further defined as being launched from a ramp as opposed to needing a crane.

Steve

Ian McColgin
02-15-2012, 02:37 PM
Small craft is a more general notion but you could easily justify restricting "small boats" to boats that can be trailored happily behind a normal sedan or wagon with no special tow package beyond the hitch and no special permits needed for the load.

That means there could be a pair of 25' sail boats one an open centerboarder of say 7' beam and the other a couple ton keel boat with an 8-1/2' beam and the latter would be left out because it's a small craft for going to sea in but a bit big to be a small boat.

Bill Perkins
02-15-2012, 04:44 PM
Most any V6 powered minivan or crossover SUV can tow 3500 lbs. How about "small" means less than 3500# all up weight including trailer and normal gear?

This seems like a good definition to me .

htom
02-15-2012, 05:14 PM
The easy "class" is the car-top / ultralight: less than 100-150 pounds.
There are then (say)
small, (less than 300 pounds)
medium, (less than 750 pounds)
large, (less than 1800 pounds)
jumbo, less than 3500 pounds
colossal, >3500 pounds

It's a little like the federal requirements for the sizes of olives (which seem to have been simplified; there used to be 14 or 17 size names.) Perhaps, in the less bulky sizes, by the number of persons needed to carry them using slings?

landlocked sailor
02-16-2012, 01:47 AM
I would like to see my BlueJacket 28 featured though; ~5000 lbs. including trailer. Rick

Draketail
02-16-2012, 08:00 AM
Weight and displacement are the same thing. When put in the water, a boat displaces an amount of water equal to its weight.

John Bell
02-16-2012, 08:47 AM
Weight is just the boat. Displacement is boat+gear+passengers+water+fuel. For small boats, the stuff in the boat can make up a significant %age of the displacement. For instance, my 17' boat weighs 350 lbs. But loaded up with two crew, outboard, and cruising gear it displaces ~850 lbs. There's a big difference between building a boat that weighs 350 lbs and one that weighs 850 lbs. That's why the distinction.

Canoez
02-16-2012, 08:59 AM
Weight is just the boat. Displacement is boat+gear+passengers+water+fuel. For small boats, the stuff in the boat can make up a significant %age of the displacement. For instance, my 17' boat weighs 350 lbs. But loaded up with two crew, outboard, and cruising gear it displaces ~850 lbs. There's a big difference between building a boat that weighs 350 lbs and one that weighs 850 lbs. That's why the distinction.

Yeah, like my 28 pound kayak that displaces about 190# or so.

Draketail
02-16-2012, 12:38 PM
OK..I stand corected. Thanks

Ian McColgin
02-16-2012, 01:17 PM
Sometimes people make a distinction between weight and displacement that does not exist. In general the designed displacement that the NA calls for based on material weights and (usually) fuel and water tanks half full is what's listed in the boat's plans and specs. For some types of very light boats that are profoundly affected by crew weight, hull weight might be a small fraction of the working weight or displacement - like my 30# Nordcap expedition kayak when brought down to her marks by my 250# and another 200# of gear.

Displacement equals the weight of water (or the cubic feet of water) displaced by the boat floating. Especially in small boats, the functional displacement can be drasticly higher than the boat's weight on a trailor if, for examply, she has water ballast.

But if one relishes the not very meaningful distinctions invented for weight v displacement, turn to "tonnage" in its diverse measures for real fun.

jimkeen
02-16-2012, 09:24 PM
I would like to see my BlueJacket 28 featured though; ~5000 lbs. including trailer. Rick

My Bluejacket 271 seems pretty big during the building process. But I am sure at less than 3000# all in it WILL be a small craft in the water.

Jersey_Boy
02-16-2012, 09:55 PM
I'd define small boat vs. big boat by the boat and it's scope, not the on-land trailering of the boat. My definition would be day sailing vs. cruising. If the boat needs to be returned to it's harbor, it's a small boat. If you can live on it, it's a big boat. Off shore sailing = big boat. A Christmas Cove one design is 22 feet and a hog to try to trailer, but it has no cabin and it's a racing hull with no "below." By my definition it'd be a small boat. A J-24 with any sleeping quarters and the ability to race off-shore, is only 2 feet longer, but is a "big boat."

BBSebens
02-16-2012, 11:15 PM
3/4 ton trucks are not what they used to be. A new 1/2 ton can tow upwards of 10,000 lbs, properly equipped. A 3/4 ton can get into the high teens.

That is not a "small boat"

Being a small boat lies in the concept behind the boat. A 25 foot canoe can be a small boat, where a 21' Maid of Endor probably isn't.

3500# seems like a very reasonable weight guideline, though is hardly a solid ceiling. I think that 3500# allows room for reasonable size and motor capacity, for something that one would consider a "small boat".

jimkeen
02-17-2012, 08:41 AM
Having thought about this a bit. I would suggest that the definition for the publication be a small boat is one that can be launched and retrieved by a single person.

Canoeyawl
02-17-2012, 10:53 AM
Having thought about this a bit. I would suggest that the definition for the publication be a small boat is one that can be launched and retrieved by a single person.

Then you may have to descibe the person.
I have seen some pretty good sized boats launched and retrieved by one person.
Would a Rosinante make the cut???

Canoez
02-17-2012, 01:04 PM
Having thought about this a bit. I would suggest that the definition for the publication be a small boat is one that can be launched and retrieved by a single person.

I'm not sure that the person matters as much as you think when moving heavy objects - such as a boat. Brains over brawn, anytime. With a little thought people move some pretty heavy things by themselves or with smaller groups of people than you might think.

gilberj
02-17-2012, 01:43 PM
Small with regards to boats is somewhat relative. I am not sure we really need to nail down a precise definition, have you got a big boat if it is 100 pounds over a nominal weight? or 6 inches over a nominal length??
For boats going offshore i'd consider perhaps 30 feet and/or 12000 lbs displacement as small.
....For normal recreational sailors........How about using a gross tonnage. In Canada we have a simplified method of calculating gross tonnage for small commercial vessels. All in metres.....Length x width x depth (gunnel to keel) x tonnage coefficient (0.08 for sailing vessels, 0.16 for non-sailing vessels, and .2 for barge shaped vessels). Perhaps boats less than 1 GT might be small.... so a boat 7 metres long and 1.75 metres wide and 1 metre deep would be approximately 1 GT

BrianM
02-17-2012, 02:57 PM
If you need a winch to haul it, it's not a "smallboat".
I agree that "boats" fit on decks of vessels, some of those are "smallboats"

J. Dillon
02-17-2012, 05:32 PM
I think that like pornography, you will know it when you see it.
;)

It would be a shame to put all "small craft" in the same box.


Probably the best definition yet.

JD

Gerarddm
02-18-2012, 01:30 AM
In my mind, I think of anything under 20' as small. FWIW.

michigangeorge
02-18-2012, 09:43 AM
The 26' SeaBird yawl and the 18' Fenwick Williams Catboat have both been featured in 'Small Boats'. In my mind the catboat fits in the small boat concept and the SeaBird does not but this is not so true when all is considered. In reality neither of these are really trailerable craft as most would want a yard to step the mast and the entire rigging process takes far too much time for easy trailering (in addition to the weights involved). Does this mean boats of this type should not be considered?
I'm feeling that for this publication you should stick to those boats which are truly trailerable (1/2 ton truck and legal beam) and spars which can be raised without outside assistance or gear such as cranes or gin poles.

David Cockey
02-18-2012, 11:14 AM
I'm involved with two organizations which have "small craft" as part of the their name, Tradtional Small Craft Association and Museum Small Craft Association. Neither has a precise definition of what constitutes small craft.

For TSCA the most common definition has probably been "under 20 feet" which seems to go back to the founding of TSCA in response to proposed safety regulations for boats under 20 feet. Also, TSCA usually doesn't include boats with enclosed cabins or below deck space.

For MSCA I'm not aware of any single definition which is commonly used. The boats that the organization is concerned with certainly include some over 20 feet in length, and are not limited to those which are easy to haul out. For example Friendship sloops and Chesapeake Bay skipjacks fall within the scope of MSCA.

David Cockey
02-18-2012, 11:20 AM
For the purposes of WoodenBoat magazine dry boat weight is probably as good a metric as any to use, with the obvious question becoming "what weight?" Someone who lives where personally owned trucks are not common will probably have a different answer than someone who lives where most households either own a truck or have a relative or friend who does.

Beam of 8' 6" or less to be trailerable in the US and Canada without a permit is probably also a good criteria.

Canoeyawl
02-18-2012, 02:05 PM
If some firm rule or guide is wanted then perhaps the requirements for a Commercial Drivers license (CDL) could be used as a guideline or limit.

There is a maximum allowable gross trailer weight and/or a maximum combined vehicle weight before an upgrade in class is required. Although not always widely enforced this is a 10,000 lbs gross trailer weight and 26,000 total combined vehicle weight. Under these limits and my grandmother can legally operate with no restrictions.
For example a loaded F-350 with a small camper and a trailer with a 3-1/2 ton boat would be getting close.

Sailor
02-18-2012, 09:12 PM
I think the only thing we've come to agree on here after all these posts is that it's hard to define what a "small boat" is. I think "you'll know it when you see it" is about as close as we'll come to it. After all, CUTTY SARK was refered to as "that little toy clipper". :D
Tell you what, how about the editors just send me a pic of each boat they want to include, a sort of preview and I'll tell them. I'll know it when I see it after all right? HA HA

Breakaway
02-18-2012, 10:13 PM
I like the 3500 lb weight ceiling as a working definition. ( Should a "small boat" design published exceed that by a bit I wouldn't hold it against you).

Kevin

johnno
02-18-2012, 10:29 PM
By talking of weights of 3500lb and beams of 8'6", we're missing the idea of a specialist publication on 'small boats'. Defining a small boat as a technical question is not really the issue here. It's about what that specialist publication is trying to cover as a collective of stories and illustrations about a way of sailing in all its aspects, a lifestyle if you like, that is free of the hassles and issues of 'bigger' boats. Not everything can be defined in engineering terms. Sometimes it's an issue of character and attitude rather than weight and beam. :)

TerryLL
02-18-2012, 10:49 PM
Having considered the question for a couple days now, it occurs to me that the focus of the Small Boats editions is on boats that can reasonably be built by the amateur in a home shop or garage. So why not let that be the defining criterion?

ILikeRust
02-19-2012, 06:45 AM
I'd love to see this become more than a once a year publication

Not to take anything away from our benefactor, but are you aware of Small Craft Advisor magazine (http://smallcraftadvisor.com/)? Six issues per year, focused entirely on boats typically about 19 feet and smaller.

michigangeorge
02-19-2012, 03:05 PM
By talking of weights of 3500lb and beams of 8'6", we're missing the idea of a specialist publication on 'small boats'. Defining a small boat as a technical question is not really the issue here. It's about what that specialist publication is trying to cover as a collective of stories and illustrations about a way of sailing in all its aspects, a lifestyle if you like, that is free of the hassles and issues of 'bigger' boats. Not everything can be defined in engineering terms. Sometimes it's an issue of character and attitude rather than weight and beam. :)

Johnno, I think you've said it best :-)

dahlbaker
02-29-2012, 04:31 AM
A small boat shall not be sighted on big water with a mutinous crew for long.

Best,

Dahl

Brian W.
02-29-2012, 05:23 AM
By talking of weights of 3500lb and beams of 8'6", we're missing the idea of a specialist publication on 'small boats'. Defining a small boat as a technical question is not really the issue here. It's about what that specialist publication is trying to cover as a collective of stories and illustrations about a way of sailing in all its aspects, a lifestyle if you like, that is free of the hassles and issues of 'bigger' boats. Not everything can be defined in engineering terms. Sometimes it's an issue of character and attitude rather than weight and beam. :)

I will also go with that. A philosophy, not a category. Pretty much any attempt at defining "small boats" by dimensions or weight will fail if applied rigorously. Those of you who write the articles and edit the selections know in your heart when you're looking at a "small boat", and I think we can trust you to come up with a selection that will (mostly!) entertain and inspire us. Just mix 'em up, so that we all get something we like!

Dan St Gean
02-29-2012, 10:20 AM
Not to take anything away from our benefactor, but are you aware of Small Craft Advisor magazine (http://smallcraftadvisor.com/)? Six issues per year, focused entirely on boats typically about 19 feet and smaller.

I've subscribed to that publication since issue one. Pity it is only 6 issues a year though. I love MAIB for it's content and frequency. I also subscribe to MAIB. If WB had a biger focus on small craft by producing a Small craft monthly, I'd subscribe to it as well. After all the wooden content of SCA is minimal.

Dan

Michael Wick
10-09-2012, 11:59 AM
Become a member of the Traditional Small Craft Association and read your quarterly ASH BREEZE, and you will learn a lot about what constitutes a small boat.

shade of knucklehead
10-09-2012, 07:01 PM
I put anything with an outboard motor under the heading small. Course I hate working on outboards and tell anyone who comes in my shop wanting work done on a boat with an outboard that I don't work on boats that small. Even if I am working on a rowboat at the time....

:lol:

Woxbox
10-09-2012, 10:13 PM
Along with the thoughts already expressed, I expect a "small" boat to also be in some way a simple boat, too. Even if it was short, I'd have a problem with a boat that was loaded with an inboard engine, complex plumbing and electronics, and otherwise attempted to do everything normally seen in a boat twice the length.

gilberj
10-10-2012, 12:59 AM
Small is relative. Some here have suggested that for a boat to be small, it must be trailer-able. Others think it might be roof-top-able. Woxbox above suggests there is a simplicity factor, complex plumbing and electrics are suspect.
I grew up sailing a 20 sloop of about 3600 pounds trailer weight. We trailered it but it was not easy or convenient. Highway speed was up to 50 mph. Launching, and rigging took most of a day. Despite its weight and some plumbing and simple electrics it was a small boat.
I have a Herreshoff Meadowlark. At 33 feet not a lot of people would call it small, till they are on board. Headroom in the cabin is about 4'6". I certainly have more room than the above-mentioned 20 foot sloop, or various other small boats I have cruised in. (6'6" pram dinghy, 10 flat bottom skiff, 14 foot double paddle canoe, 14 foot catboat sailing dinghy, 16 foot kayak, 16 foot rowing and sailing boat, 20 foot sloop, 21 foot cat yawl, 26.5 foot English gaff cutter......now we are getting into the bigger stuff). She is small but perhaps not that small.
I note that the 'Small Craft Adviser' regularly advertises the Roger Marshall Presto 30. ( I really like this boat )This is arguably similar and really only slightly smaller than my Meadowlark, but at $90K odd, it seems to go further beyond the normal small boat demographic than a lot of vaguely comparable boats.

L.F. Herreshoff came up with a factoral calculation of a cruising boat's rating. I do not think his factors would exactly work here, but perhaps an up-dated version might be worth it. LFH considered length / cost, number of masts(complexity)/crew required, draft, headroom, sleeping capacity, ropes and lines,(complexity again), engine cost. heeling when grounded, cost per mile under power, cruising speed under power and under sail. and a few others. We could come up with our own plus and minus factors.

wtarzia
10-24-2012, 02:32 PM
(1) A boat towable by an economical car (probably 4-cylinder). (2) A boat buildable by the ordinary person in a garage (I've been slowly drifting away from WB magazine as my tolerance for fantasy boats wanes. For me, passing 50 became the "time is running out; time for reality boats" time). --Wade

David Geiss
10-24-2012, 02:41 PM
Small boat to me translates as one reasonably fit person being able to haul her up a bit onto a gentle sandy beach or onto a trailer or dolly, at a ramp or otherwise, unassisted. But then again, consider the source, a dedicated open canoe sailor.:D

Bram V
10-25-2012, 08:55 AM
Beam might make it hard for a reasonably small, but wide iceboat or catamaran. Length might make a rowing scull or log kayak a large boat, which is silly. People that can sleep onboard won't help either, some small boats and their sailors take a lot more then other people and boats might agree to. Weight is one way of putting it, another one is the way the people on it consider it, someone with a large boat will probably not consider her small, someone with a small boat could do the other way around in a sense of grandeur.

Trui is some 45 ft alltogether and 20 tonnes, but small once you try crossing a busy waterway (damn those containerships are scary once your engine starts stuttering). I would not classify it as a small ship though.

I subscribe to the "You'll know it once you see it".

Rik van der Vaart
10-25-2012, 04:18 PM
Naming the publication "Smaller Boats" would avoid the discussion about what is small. It contains the relativity of the matter in its meaning.

John Meachen
10-25-2012, 05:28 PM
If you can tow it with a small car its obviously a small boat.If two people can lift it then it must be a small boat.I suppose the essence of the question is just how big a small boat can be.If you are used to a boat with all domestic comforts built in,any boat too small to contain such things would seem small.

IanHowick
10-25-2012, 06:16 PM
I think 'small' boats fit into four divisions, based, interestingly, on how you can handle them on land and into the water:

(1) Cartopable.

(2) Needs a trailer, but can be launched at places that don't have a boat ramp. Light enough for the one or two that sail it to get it off the trailer and down a path between say sand dunes and into the water using means such as a small dolly that could then be carried in the boat if necessary. Examples would be a Goat Island Skiff, Phoenix III, Walkabout etc.

3: Can be trailered behind a small (4 cylinder/2 litre car) but needs a boat ramp and a winch on the trailer for launch and retrieval. Examples would be the Ness and Caledonia Yawls, Pathfinder.

4: Needs a big tow vehicle (F150 truck or similar), but can be launched from the average boat ramp by the crew.

Anything that needs specialized equipment and or a crane to get it to and from and then in and out of the water, or in the case of a multihull needs so much setting up to get it in the water that you wouldn't go for a day sail in it is no longer a small boat. (Though on the other hand rather a large boat can feel very small in the big wide ocean in a storm...)

Ian

Woxbox
10-25-2012, 09:18 PM
...or in the case of a multihull needs so much setting up to get it in the water that you wouldn't go for a day sail in it is no longer a small boat.

Guilty as charged. But I have seen people with small boats - a Lightning comes to mind - who spend just as much time getting that boat set up and in the water as I do with my 27' tri. And I have day sailed it a couple of times. Is it a small boat? Not at all. I personally favor the "towed by a 4-cylinder car" definition. This generally means boat and trailer are 1,500 or 2,000 pounds at most.

Ben Fuller
10-27-2012, 09:00 PM
Four cylinder tow vehicle, single axled non electric brake required trailer would fit my personal small definition. I have owned a 18 foot catboat and would not consider it small.

Badger
10-27-2012, 11:07 PM
Here in Minnesota it is any boat less than 16 feet. I titled my Bluegill skiff that I built this summer with the state of Minnesota and only needed to show them receipts of the materials I bought, and sign my name, and got an instant hull number. Any longer than 16 feet and I would have to fill out pages and pages of forms.

The small bays on my favorite lakes will have skim ice on them by morning.

jdenny12
12-22-2012, 03:06 AM
Thanks for sharing with us its quite interesting and informative information about small boats which is very useful to someone.

landlocked sailor
12-22-2012, 06:53 PM
I am always impressed how big my BlueJacket 28 looks on the trailer and how small it looks on a mooring. Rick

Hunky Dory
12-22-2012, 07:22 PM
Boats allways shrink when put in the water.