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Thread: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

  1. #1
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    Default Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Roger Long

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    A nice essay. Although about sailboats, I think the same applies to powerboats.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    It IS true of powerboats. Around here, a guy with a lot of money and an important job moves into town, buys a big boat and makes stupid costly mistakes. A local boy will make the same stupid mistakes, and many more, over years in his small, cheap, insignificant little motor boat. In a few seasons, the fellow with the big boat usually either takes up golf, or sells his boat and gets a bigger one to overcome his boats 'inefficiencies'.

    A lot of time on a small boat lets you screw up, and make mistakes. And many of them you can then self correct, and learn (like running aground). A big boat that's used very infrequently by someone without a fairly good amount of knowledge, well, that's a whole nother box of apples.

    I'm not against folks with big boats at all, just an observation made growing up around an area with a large population of well to do tourists with more money and horsepower than sense. Some of those summer folks got wise, got small boats and took time to learn before graduation to a nice large boat, and they seem like much happier people on the water.
    Don't worry, that storm'll prolly just blow on by us.....

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    There is more than a grain of truth in the adage that a boat's length in feet should equal her owner's age in years, but "understood" in that saying is an assumption that the owner will be involved in boats from his first pram dinghy at the age of eight up to the big schooner of his old age.

    Setting that aside, I think that there is one absolute rule for boat size - unless you are a multi millionaire, and can afford a professional crew, never own a boat that you cannot confidently and competently take to sea and return to port and moor up singlehanded. The reason is obvious - nothing is more miserable, when messing about in boats power or sail, than being dependent on others.

    Going on from there, I would say that a summer weekender need not be big at all (a dinghy with a tent) but if you want to sail out of season or live aboard then it is very helpful to have standing headroom and a cabin heater. It is also a great help to be able to stow the dinghy aboard, but inflatables and folders ease this problem.

    Personally I reckon the best all round boats are usually in the range 25ft to 35ft LOA, or 5 to 10 tons Thames measurement. Below this size (and I cruised in an 18footer for 12 years) you are too dependent on the weather because you need to get to windward in coastal cruising and very little boats struggle in a Force Four, which is just a good sailing breeze to a ten tonner.
    Last edited by Andrew Craig-Bennett; 11-16-2010 at 07:52 AM.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    That's a great article. I adhered to its philosophy for a lot of years of sailing.

    Then one day I found myself driving a 70 ton schooner home from Avalon, flying everything but my skivvies in a nice 20 knot sou'wester. When I sailed over the top of that little Cal 40, and eclipsed him in a massive wind shadow, an evil grin grew on my face...

    Hand me my Miller!!
    Schooner captains love to get blown offshore!

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    There is more than a grain of truth in the adage that a boat's length in feet should equal her owner's age in years, but "understood" in that saying is an assumption that the owner will be involved in boats from his first pram dinghy at the age of eight up to the big schooner of his old age.
    So I guess my 11-18 foot long canoes are keeping me young.
    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
    -William A. Ward



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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I know that I have had much more fun over the years single handing Rowan or my Stone Horse than I have ever had when I was captain or, god forbid, merely crew on a larger boat. These two boats have come closer to being my "perfect size" than any of the others. I don't like having to wait to go sailing because I can't round up crew on the spur of the moment. Both of those boats are big enough to take a friend or three along for a sail, but neither of 'em needs anyone but me along if I get a chance to go unexpectedly.

    Don't get me wrong, I enjoy sailing the big yawl with several friends, especially on round-the-clock passages where having a second hand to help you stay awake on a late watch is invaluable. But in the small boats I generally stay closer in, stopping each night, and it's delightful. Smaller boats offer bigger fun much of the time.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Spot on in so many ways for the common boating approach. The article does not get at the trade-off of stress. Forces acting on boats multiply geometrically, as it were. Look at how the rigs of bigger yachts are more likely to be lost despite their vast strength compared to say a two ton cutter that's light enough that even a 360 roll does not overstress the rig. Also, there's a rather nice human scale that with the smaller cruiser, when you run aground you can just get out and push.

    It used to be a rule of thumb that the solo sailor could not manage more than a 500 square foot sail. I personally find 750 a more useful upper limit but the point is well taken that while winches and other gear are nice, you ought not to have a vessel inherantly dependent on machinery.

    Most of the tupperware oversized production cruisers will not take to sea - can't take much wind - anyway but sometimes one sees a good hull productionized and turned into a horror by these modern values. I helped with a rescue and bringing the boat in with a Bounty (LFH) hull that had a super dockside party interior. So in rough weather 100 miles or so outside Nantucket, people were tossed about the saloon so much - a good 15' of free-fall from side to side and no hand holds! - that every member of the crew had something broken - arms, wrists, collarbones, ribs - all the upper body damage one could predict.

    The essay is one of those perinnials that gets rewritten by someone new, gets refreshed as it were, about once a decade. Which is not nearly enough. Thank you for the good cite.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I thought the essay poorly written, but I agree with the sentiment. I dispute his claim that small boats are more seaworthy, but agree that they're easier to handle.

    I coined the phrase : "The amount of fun to be had from a boat is inversely proportional to it's size" and I am pleased to have seen it used many times, including being used by Dick Newick.

    There are exceptions, but it generally holds true, of course it's difficult to make a cup of tea on a kiteboard doing 50 knots, but there are other compensations, some of the big boats fully powered up must be a blast, Hydroptere is on my wish list, but probably after a foiling moth.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Speaking of wide interior spaces, what do you suppose it is like on the inside of the Maltese Falcon heeled over at 30 degrees?

    Brian

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Having spent many, many years canoe camping--I agree that taking out small boats is really fun. When wilderness traveling for a few weeks via canoe, to be safe, you really need two or more canoes and travel together--thus, getting crew is the same problem: can you find enough people to do a good trip? Sometimes I think this is the matter of all lengthy voyages no matter the size of the vessels involved.

    Regarding sailing, it seems that most people really have boats that ARE too big for what they do. The sailors of 30, 40, 50 ft boats often putter about in areas where a knockabout sloop would be ideal. A cabin isn't really needed in most places, but if so, there are many pocket cruisers that really do the trick and I do wonder why people have larger boats. If you're not spending a lot of time aboard, long trips, big provisions, or living aboard with many hobbies...it's just more boat to keep up. We live aboard but else, I'd likely want a cute little pocket cruiser for weekends and week long getaways.

    Having said all that, as a liveaboard cruiser, I can say having a 30 ton boat as large as ours (54 LOD) is a wonderful thing and can be sailed shorthanded or singlehanded coastal cruising or crossing oceans with safety. I further don't understand people (here and elsewhere) who have the mistaken idea that one cannot singlehand a large boat. I know that some folks feel they can't afford a larger boat so therefore they justify it with "I can't singlehand it" but I trust that the folks here on WBF are speaking from experience rather than otherwise. I had a serious injury to my neck/spinal cord many years ago which left me with a severe sensory deficit along my right side. I was paralyzed on that side for a while and had to re-learn everything. I can't feel my right foot and have crappy balance because of that and other sensory deficits. Thus, I think twice about doing anything besides crawling on the foredeck if there's any kind of serous sea motion. I'd have the same problem in a small boat as on our large boat--it's not size dependent. It frustrates me immensely that now when I canoe, I always kneel rather than sitting on the seat--just to get that little bit more stability because of my crappy balance. And, I can tell you that besides the fact that it takes me a little longer to manage sails than hubby, even I could singlehand our large boat if pressed. Neither he nor I would singlehand by choice, though. We sail together the two of us and this boat works wonderfully for that. It's been singlehanded by several previous (live aboard cruiser) owners for many years. So, don't make sweeping assumptions about big vs small boats with the "can't singlehand it" thrown in there.

    If you can't get out on the boat because it's too much hassle to get away from the dock, yes, that's the wrong boat. Warping this one out when there's high winds can be a bit tricky--but don't see it as an impediment to using the boat. We decided that living aboard we wanted a big boat that we could spend as much time on as possible. We've known many cruisers with small boats who can't wait to get to shore, hotel, eat out, etc while traveling because their boat is small, cramped for what they're doing and they're not happy with showers on deck, etc. Having a larger boat with enough amenities makes it possible to live indefinitely aboard without feeling deprived. (Having said that, I must admit that though we can shower inside because we built a shower into the forecastle, we just use a solar shower in the cockpit quite happily...different people feel they need different things and hot running water isn't one of our priorities). I do agree that many new boats with wide open expanses down below aren't made for offshore passages. However, their owners aren't going offshore typically either so it is a moot point by and large. Different boats for different folks. Big and small, it all makes some sense.

    I conclude in saying that I agree that many people do have boats that are way too big compared to what a person could get by with doing the same. However, if a fellow decides to spend his money on a large boat, that's his money, his business, and I can feel thankful if he's supporting the marine industry with his dollars. If the boat is a big wooden sailboat that would be scuttled without that big-boat owner, well, we all can feel lucky that another boat is saved.

    PS-- I re-read my post and realize that I've just had one too many opinionated folks walk up to me at the dock to--unsolicited--tell my why my boat is "too big" and that's why they'd never own it. Sorry for the rant, I'll take my issue to the bilge where I'll rant about it there..
    Last edited by redbopeep; 11-16-2010 at 05:54 PM. Reason: added PS

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    So what are these fairly seaworthy boats for under $10,000? Examples?

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I think of small boats as coming in four sizes.

    The small size is the boat you put on, not one you get in. A kayak is the prototypical example. A small-size boat is basically just an extension of your body. You can lift it up.

    The medium size is the boat you can manhandle. That's most of your small dinghies. Basically, one person by applying physical force can make this boat do most anything he wants. You can drag this boat onto the beach.

    The large size is the boat you can somewhat manhandle. A typical example would be a 18-20' small cruiser without a huge keel. You don't need winches. You can't drag it onto the beach, but you can push it off a sandbar.

    The X-large size is beyond that: a boat you cannot manhandle, so any movement has to happen by using either sails or an engine.

    Kaa

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I have a boat that is 32 feet long - and about 8 tons. It's small enough that I can handle by myself but large enough to really get me thinking and understanding why I should not go larger.
    Will

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Took me years to realize it, but I am a small boat guy. I have had more fun with small boats and make more use of small boats than I ever did with larger boats. I like big boats and enjoy them as well, but it's better if someone else owns them.

    Phil Bolger said a boat should be small enough to bring home or big enough to live on. Makes sense to me. My guid wyfe grew up as a fisherman's daughter and will never live on a boat again. That leaves me small boats. Currently four with one under construction.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I agree with most of it I suppose but I don't think LOA is the criteria that should be used. Waione is 41 ft long on deck but tiny by modern boat standards. Riada is bigger than I ever wanted but because I wanted that boat, I have to just cope I guess. 45 ft, I singlehand it easily and its a 2 handed dream, no passageway below more than 500mm wide ( less than 2 ft)in it but it can be hard to get docked in some wind directions because of a wide turning circle and a narrow fairway into our berth.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    LOA is certainly not the measure. Tonnage is. Sail area is somewhat. Also, I happen to have much single handed at 20 ton 5 sail 55' marco polo so I gotta say that a larger boat can be both more comfortable and easier to handle than many smaller boats. It's all a matter of design.

    All that said, force goes up exponentially. Boats in the 2 ton, anyway under 5 ton, ball park are more likely to be suitable for singlehanded or shorthanded cruising.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    As a custodian of a smaller vessel I reckon 30-40ft LOD and 5-10 tonne displacement on short overhangs is ideal (cost and maintenance effective) UNLESS you plan to transit in more extreme latitudes.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I am scared of big boats.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwyl View Post
    I thought the essay poorly written, but I agree with the sentiment. I dispute his claim that small boats are more seaworthy, but agree that they're easier to handle.

    I coined the phrase : "The amount of fun to be had from a boat is inversely proportional to it's size" and I am pleased to have seen it used many times, including being used by Dick Newick.

    There are exceptions, but it generally holds true, of course it's difficult to make a cup of tea on a kiteboard doing 50 knots, but there are other compensations, some of the big boats fully powered up must be a blast, Hydroptere is on my wish list, but probably after a foiling moth.
    I wholeheartedly agree, but then I don't mind getting wet and it doesn't freeze down here. I'd like to think that I could have a go at a foiler moth, I even know someone who has one. But I reckon I'd just make a fool of myself. Not quick or supple enough these days. Or have the necessary skill levels.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    LOA is certainly not the measure. Tonnage is. Sail area is somewhat. Also, I happen to have much single handed at 20 ton 5 sail 55' marco polo so I gotta say that a larger boat can be both more comfortable and easier to handle than many smaller boats. It's all a matter of design.

    All that said, force goes up exponentially. Boats in the 2 ton, anyway under 5 ton, ball park are more likely to be suitable for singlehanded or shorthanded cruising.
    I agree but I must say I regret the passing of the use of Thames Tonnage as a convenient measure of the size of a boat:

    (Length - Beam) x Beam x half Beam
    ______________________________ = Thames Tonnage
    94

    where the length is measured on deck from stemhead to rudder post and the beam is the extreme beam

    This was originally a rating rule used by the Royal Thames Yacht Club, and it is a simplification of Builder's Old Measurement - there is a nice Wikipedia article on all this, going back to Edward Longshanks in 1303, in Wkipedia here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Builder...ld_Measurement

    The great merit of Thames Tonnage is that it is simple to calculate and it gives a really good idea of the actual habitable size of a boat - by way of illustration a Vertue is a five tonner and my old girl, a pre-War cruising boat of 37ft, with a beam of 9ft 9ins, is a twelve tonner. (No passageway wider than 20" and handholds everywhere below!)
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    If it wont fit on a trailer and can t be pulled by my truck, its too big for me.

    Mooring fees are too high for me anymore as are fuel costs.

    And I think smaller boats are more fun - did the big boat thing - dont plan on ever going back.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Black-Jack View Post
    If it wont fit on a trailer and can t be pulled by my truck, its too big for me.
    Mooring fees are too high for me anymore as are fuel costs.
    And I think smaller boats are more fun - did the big boat thing - dont plan on ever going back.
    Yup, I'm with Black Jack. For me, boats fit into 3 sizes.

    1. Toys, anything designed to fit in the back of a truck or roof of a car. Dingys, canoes, and the like. Fun, but not big enough for me to consider as being a 'serious' or 'real' boat. This class of boat has little maintenance (or storage space) and is a lot of fun but mind being caught out in any sort of weather.

    2. Trailer boats: 12-24'. These usually have a sail or engine, and (while not fun when it gets rough), can cross most small bodies of water in most weather. A lot of bang for the buck, fun, and useful for something other than a swimming aid. Can be used for fishing or transporting beer and bikinis as bonuses.

    3. Over 24'. Requires slip or dry dock or mooring. Fuel goes up. Maintenance time spent often equals enjoyment time spent. Good for folks who want to live aboard, or do commercial work. Not so hot for using 2-4 times a year unless you have loads of money to pay someone to maintain the boat for you.
    Don't worry, that storm'll prolly just blow on by us.....

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    3. Over 24'. Requires slip or dry dock or mooring. Fuel goes up. Maintenance time spent often equals enjoyment time spent. Good for folks who want to live aboard, or do commercial work. Not so hot for using 2-4 times a year unless you have loads of money to pay someone to maintain the boat for you.
    Oh I don't know about that. A lot depends on if you are creative these days and willing to modify or even update your way of thinking. There are some compromises for sure. But you can own a boat that rests beside of your house on boat trailers in the mid 20s or even up to around 30 foot with some decent accomadations that do not break the bank and plans are avaliable too on the net.

    Of course you need to be able to compromise of speeds. But day end and day out, 20 mph will be tops for the body on open waters unless you pick your days and location for sure. Of course many here boat on lakes and enclosed regions that do not see what we see over the course of a year along coastal regions.
    WBF=DNC

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I have or had a book that included a survey of long-distance voyagers. It indicated that couples who seemed most able to continue longest and most satisfactorily (ease of handling, repairing, sailing) had boats in the 32'-38 range.
    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Or, to put it another way, in the nine to fifteen tons TM range.

    A singlehander can be as well served by a boat in the five tons (Vertue, Folkboat) to eight tons (HB Englyn, Twister) range, but I agree that a couple need a nine to fifteen tonner.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Yep, as above - Dave and Andrew. I'm veeery slowly doing up a Twister but I do wish it was just that little bit roomier. Something around 32' would be ideal for us I think.
    Rick

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    I agree that a couple need a nine to fifteen tonner.
    Damn! A ton and a woman short (for cruising anyway).

    Roger Long

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFNK View Post
    Yep, as above - Dave and Andrew. I'm veeery slowly doing up a Twister but I do wish it was just that little bit roomier. Something around 32' would be ideal for us I think.
    Rick

    Kim Holman obliged: you need a North Sea 24 ("Rustler 31" in the Other Material) or the counter sterned version the Shaker (only two in wood - Northney 34 in the Other Material)

    Same performance, same good looks, bit bigger!
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Long View Post
    Damn! A ton and a woman short (for cruising anyway).

    Looking on the bright side; since I became one woman short I regained the rights to the pilot berth...
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I see (older) people "cruising" for a season or two to the Islands. Bigger boats with all the modern inconveniences. Not saying there is anything wrong with that, just a culture change from 30 years ago, when there sure were more small boats that (younger) people tended to make more of a lifestyle of.
    Far as seaworthyness goes, it seems more gray and less black n white to me than it used to. Between modern weather gear and gps, well, take those 2 things away and I think the smaller boat would come back. (in popularity) Boats that seem unsafe, or at least a bit scary to me are going round the world WO barely hitting a squall, while I am wallowing around, too slow to get outta the way and too stubborn to educate myself to new stuff. (weather)
    Last edited by wizbang 13; 11-17-2010 at 10:39 AM.

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Kim Holman obliged: you need a North Sea 24 ("Rustler 31" in the Other Material) or the counter sterned version the Shaker (only two in wood - Northney 34 in the Other Material)

    Same performance, same good looks, bit bigger!
    So you've mentioned previously but unfortunately neither of those is sitting in my front yard. From the little I've seen of it, thanks to you (the fact that Ive see it at all rather than that I've only seen a bit!) I think that the Shaker is really a lovely boat. Otherwise I'm pretty favourably disposed towards the Payne-designed Tasman Sea Bird and Robb's Lion Class. Having said all that though, I'm really very pleased to have the Twister as a project and I'm sure it will bring us great pleasure in a few years.
    Rick

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    Quote Originally Posted by RFNK View Post
    Having said all that though, I'm really very pleased to have the Twister as a project and I'm sure it will bring us great pleasure in a few years.
    Rick
    Lovely boats! That's what I would have if I were sailing in deeper waters. I have chartered one several times (mainly as overflow when more friends that we can accommodate want to come sailing) and really enjoyed sailing it.

    My younger self spent a lot of time sailing in the west English channel, Brittany and Biscay in a wooden North Sea 24. I remember them with the greatest affection - especially the way they looked after us in rough weather. I even met the old man aboard one.

    Our 32 foot suits us fine. Very comfortable for two, good for three and perfectly OK for four. When we strated work on her 25 years ago she was huge. Now she's a tiddler!
    "Mozart is the heart's touchstone" (Edwin Fischer)

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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    This discussion seems to be dominated of late by people who have, what many would consider, big boats, stating that they are small.


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    Default Re: Excellent essay on boat size - a must read.

    I still love sailing small boats, and do so often, but big boat sailing is a whole different beast. A whole different thrill. A whole different set of stimuli to one's pleasure centers.

    Everything about a big boat is more expensive -- There are 2 ways to get around this problem. You either earn a lot of money, or you get somebody else to buy the boat and pay to maintain her. If you are crafty about it you might be able to find somebody to pay you to sail her, but that's another thread.

    You need more crew to sail a big boat -- Absolutely true, but make that boat a schooner, and you don't need quite as many more. And I don't really like sailing alone. In fact, I don't really mind sharing the experience with 25 or 30 of my closest friends (or paying passengers). In my experience, if you have an 80' schooner, you don't really have much trouble finding people willing to go sailing with you. If you look hard enough, you might even find a couple with enough knowledge to actually help out.
    Schooner captains love to get blown offshore!

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