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Thread: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

  1. #1
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    Default I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I am looking to build a first boat that I can sail and transport on top of my Suburban. I'd like to be able to take another adult and/or two kids sailing with me. I thought that I was settled on the Carnell Nutmeg/Bolger Featherwind which is 15.5' x 4.5' but now I'm getting cold feet about car-topping 105 lbs. I think that Nutmeg must be one of the lightest boats of its size given its absolute simplicity (4 sheets 1/4" ply, 3 frames, wide open cockpit), so I was considering going smaller and lighter.

    My major concern about a smaller boat is that it might only be big enough for me. With a wife and three kids, the number of days per year that I can get out and go sailing all by myself is vanishingly small.

    I was looking at other boats on my list like Steve Redmond's Whisp (15.5 x 3.5, 70lb), David Beede's Summer Breeze (12 x 4, 65lb), Dave Gentry's Annabelle Skiff (10 x 4, 65lb), and Jim Michalak's Piccup Squared (11 x 4.5, 90lb). But my favorite video of the Annabelle Skiff sailing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oEdFM2HpVE makes it look very, very cozy for more than one person. Summer Breeze doesn't look much more spacious in the few older pictures I can find. I can find plenty of Whisp photos of it looking pretty as a rowboat, but not many with multiple people sailing in it.

    I don't understand passenger capacity for sailing at all. I've never sailed a small boat so I don't have hard it is to fit another adult and a kid or two in the boat with me while sailing.

    Can Featherwind handle 2-4 humans, some small? Can the others only handle 2 humans?

    Should I resign myself to choosing a small boat that I can successfully build for my first boat and transport on a car and never use because I don't get time by myself, or choose a big enough boat for my family and spend (much) more time and money building it and buying and maintaining a trailer to carry it around on? Is this just something that people try and find out?

    As always, thanks in advance for your kind answers on things that I know nothing about.

    -Neil

  2. #2
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I can't speak for any of those designs, but something you may want to consider if sailing with kids is recoverability. Without knowing your kids' ages and their comfort level with water it's hard to make suggestions, but I'd lean toward something with some built-in flotation, either float bags or tanks and that might affect your decision making. When our kids were little we used to turn them loose on a small pond with the canoe and tell them, "Go sink it, if you can! But then you have to bail it out again " It had just enough flotation to keep the gunwales out of the water if it was calm and one would float inside, bailing while the other hung on at an end 'til she could crawl in and help bail.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    that is a tough set of requirements
    cartoppable 2-4 persons (and while your kids may be young and small now, they ain't gonna stay that way)
    plus a sailboat which is always more complex than a rowing or paddling craft

    i have a question and a potential suggestion or two
    first the question, why not a trailerable boat?

    suggestion for cartoppable, especially on the suburban
    why not a largish expedition/freighter canoe with a sailing rig? add an ama or two and rig it as an outrigger or small tri
    better yet, after you get one canoe in the water build a second identical model so you and your family can sail along side each other (race) each other
    canoes are often the easiest boats to car top and can be the simplest to rig for sail quickly (unstayed mast, leeboards, drop on rudder or even rudderless and use a paddle)
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    For multiple passengers, you absolutely need a trailer boat. There's just no way to meet that requirement with a cartopper and have even a basic level of comfort afloat.

    And even with trailer boats, you need a big one for multiple passengers in decent comfort. To give you a couple of examples:

    1. Ross Lillistone's Phoenix III design (15' 2" x 4' 8" beam). This boat is WAY too heavy to cartop. It can carry 2 adults in decent comfort. It can even (snugly but pretty comfortably) sleep 2 adults on board. But adding a third person makes it feel crowded--ESPECIALLY if that third person doesn't know how to sail, so doesn't understand where to sit, when to duck the boom, etc.

    2. Don Kurylko's Alaska design (18' 1" x 4' 8" beam). This boat is WAY WAY WAY WAY too heavy to cartop, and far too long anyway. If you sail it as I do, without the mizzen mast and sail, it can be comfortable for up to 3 adults (one at tiller, one on center thwart, one way up in the bow facing backwards--very comfy). It can also (snugly) sleep 2 adults aboard. But really, the amount of usable space aboard is very similar to the Phoenix III, despite the longer length (which really only gets you space for a third adult in the bow).

    The reality is, small boats are small. And even when enough "seats" exist on paper, there is rarely enough room or comfort (backrests, etc) to make them good people-haulers. And if you force people to accompany you in uncomfortable boats, you will quickly create non-sailors of them. I've sailed with 4 people in a 12' boat and no benches or seats. That works. For young people who don't care about comfort. For about 20 minutes.

    So, you may need to adjust your expectations and approaches a bit... Not meant to be pessimistic, just my honest thoughts.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I'm thinking 2 sailing canoes is your only sensible way forward if they absolutely have to go on the roof of your car. Or, just accept that you are going to need to tow a trailer.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    A 9’6” Joel White Nutshell Pram would take two adults or one adult with a couple of small kids and be cartoppable. But two adults and there would be no room for the kids.

    0DC97457-035B-4EEB-B9B1-E17B595A115F.jpg

  7. #7
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Dinghy trailers are simple light trailers and don’t need brakes.

    The “combination trailer” where a launching trolley fits onto a road trailer base so you don’t need to get the road trailer wheels and their bearings wet is the best. Secondhand is fine.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  8. #8
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    For multiple passengers, you absolutely need a trailer boat. There's just no way to meet that requirement with a cartopper and have even a basic level of comfort afloat.
    S'truth that.

    Passenger capacity and finished weight are at opposite ends on the spectrum of watercraft characteristics.

    I built a 14' stripper scow 50 years ago that weighed maybe 300 lbs & could carry two fairly safely. NO WAY could I have car-topped that on the Honda Civic I could afford at that time, let alone a Suburban that's maybe what, 18" higher now? So I bought a trailer.

    One kit I'd consider if I were in your position is the CLC-crafted W-17 trimaran designed by Mike Waters. Fully capable of carrying 3 or 4 safely for day-sailing, its unique design features folding akas that reduce its width for trailering, launching, and storage.

    Maybe not the best choice for a first-time builder though, owing to the complexity of this design. There are others out there you might find more amenable so look forward to doing some research on the suggestions others here will be contributing in answer to your questions.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post

    The “combination trailer” where a launching trolley fits onto a road trailer base so you don’t need to get the road trailer wheels and their bearings wet is the best. Secondhand is fine.
    in iowa, where from our original poster hails, there will be very little salt water sailing done
    the bearing issue becomes a less of a big deal
    simpler is better in this case
    Last edited by Paul Pless; 10-16-2021 at 10:20 AM.
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I built and own a Summer Breeze. It can handle two adults, not very comfortably, but for a an hour or three, it is fine. Same for one adult and two kids--as long as the kids are under ten years of age. Once they get bigger, there's no room in the boat for three humans. I mean, I have had four adults aboard to row about 400 feet across a tidal creek once, but really, Summer Breeze is a two person boat, at best.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Thank you for the feedback everyone, keep it coming. This is exactly what I needed to find out now instead of after I start making sawdust.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I have a Whisp. You can row 3 adults, but not sail. I agree, 2 canoes or a trailer.
    -Dave

  13. #13
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    First boat build, intended for 2 adults and two kids on midwest lakes...

    https://duckworks.com/ladybug-plans/

  14. #14
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Building a boat is such a lavish use of time and money you want to make sure you’re building yourself something that suits you and the only way to find that out is to get some experience sailing small boats. There are so many used small sailboats that can be had cheaply. You’ll learn what you like in a boat without a huge investment and if the boat doesn’t suit you or you decide you’re ready to build you stand good chance of getting back most or all of what you paid for it. Sometimes instant gratification is the smart move.

    With sailing experience you’ll also build a better boat. Despite 25 years being a full time woodworker I wouldn’t attempt to build a musical instrument. I think I have the skills but without a musical bone in my body I know I don’t have the understanding to do a good job.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    For multiple passengers, you absolutely need a trailer boat. There's just no way to meet that requirement with a cartopper and have even a basic level of comfort afloat.

    And even with trailer boats, you need a big one for multiple passengers in decent comfort. To give you a couple of examples:

    1. Ross Lillistone's Phoenix III design (15' 2" x 4' 8" beam). This boat is WAY too heavy to cartop. It can carry 2 adults in decent comfort. It can even (snugly but pretty comfortably) sleep 2 adults on board. But adding a third person makes it feel crowded--ESPECIALLY if that third person doesn't know how to sail, so doesn't understand where to sit, when to duck the boom, etc.

    2. Don Kurylko's Alaska design (18' 1" x 4' 8" beam). This boat is WAY WAY WAY WAY too heavy to cartop, and far too long anyway. If you sail it as I do, without the mizzen mast and sail, it can be comfortable for up to 3 adults (one at tiller, one on center thwart, one way up in the bow facing backwards--very comfy). It can also (snugly) sleep 2 adults aboard. But really, the amount of usable space aboard is very similar to the Phoenix III, despite the longer length (which really only gets you space for a third adult in the bow).

    The reality is, small boats are small. And even when enough "seats" exist on paper, there is rarely enough room or comfort (backrests, etc) to make them good people-haulers. And if you force people to accompany you in uncomfortable boats, you will quickly create non-sailors of them. I've sailed with 4 people in a 12' boat and no benches or seats. That works. For young people who don't care about comfort. For about 20 minutes.

    So, you may need to adjust your expectations and approaches a bit... Not meant to be pessimistic, just my honest thoughts.
    I appreciate those honest thoughts. Adjusting expectations now is much easier than after 6 months of nights and weekends and showing up at the launch ramp and finding out that there's no seat for my wife. Your experiences with those two boats are very clear.

    I have definitely not been thinking very clearly about this. We currently use a 15' x 3' plastic canoe and often go with two adults and the smallest child, but that's without any sailing rig. And the boats that I have been thinking of aren't too very much larger than that canoe and there's a sail rig to deal with and switching tacks on both sides. To have fun with the whole family, we have to borrow a second canoe and put both of them on the suburban roof.

    -Neil

  16. #16
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    A 9’6” Joel White Nutshell Pram would take two adults or one adult with a couple of small kids and be cartoppable. But two adults and there would be no room for the kids.

    0DC97457-035B-4EEB-B9B1-E17B595A115F.jpg
    This is a useful picture for me. It makes me wonder why so many of my favorite cruising stories (e.g. https://smallboatsmonthly.com/articl...a-big-estuary/) are about people each in their own boats traveling together, maybe with a partner along with them.

    -Neil

  17. #17
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike-in-Suffolk View Post
    I'm thinking 2 sailing canoes is your only sensible way forward if they absolutely have to go on the roof of your car. Or, just accept that you are going to need to tow a trailer.
    A second canoe is a very interesting option. We have a 15' plastic canoe that we love to use on the local creeks and ponds, but we always have to borrow a second canoe when we want to bring everyone along on the same trip. If there's a canoe that I could build that could do double duty as a sailing canoe and a paddling canoe, it would fit very well in the life of the family.

    Are there dual-purpose canoe designs that can go from paddling with 2 or 3 to sailing with more than one? I feel like most of the sailing canoe designs that I have seen like Mik Storer's Viola or Kombi would be hard to fit the second person for sailing, but they look like fine two-person canoes for paddling purposes. Most of the more classical decked sailing canoe designs look like they are specifically for single-handed sailing.

    I haven't looked at the universe of sailing canoe designs very much. Are there designs that people might suggest for using for both sailing and paddling?

    -Neil

  18. #18
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    If you were to give up the sailing bit a great cartoppable family boat would be a Dave Gentry Indian Creek motor canoe. With a small electric motor:


  19. #19
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Clamp-on sailing rigs have been made for canoes for many decades. Here's an ad for an old one. But of course you can make your own. All you need to knock together are partner to hold the mast, a leeboard and bracket, and a rudder. For the sail, you can repurpose a small dinghy or sunfish type rig, or start from scratch. The other pieces are simple enough. And the clamp-on leeboard allows you to experiment with the position to achieve the best balance. So I would say find the canoe you want first, and then put the sail on it.

    -Dave

  20. #20
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    If you were to give up the sailing bit
    get thee behind me, satan
    Simpler is better, except when complicated looks really cool.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    I would suggest having a look at some of Paul Fisher's larger canoes.

    https://www.selway-fisher.com/Canoes.htm

    Nick

  22. #22
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Okay, I've been trying to come around on the idea of a trailer. It looks like there's used utility trailers on Craigslist under $300 and this picture from Duckworks made a breakthrough for me.



    A little trailer could carry a small sailboat AND a couple of canoes and then everyone can go boating but we don't have to fit everyone in one boat. And it makes everything else a little easier for river trips with 2 or 3 canoes or general utility trailer use.


    Anything I should watch out for when putting a small boat on a used utility trailer?

    Thanks again for the great feedback everyone.

    -Neil
    Attached Images Attached Images

  23. #23
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Depending on the trailer, check the condition of the uprights. On the enclosed utility trailers it's a pretty common failure point, especially if they're used on washboarded road. Usually starts at the nose and works its way back. On 'custom' rigs like you've got in the pic I'd just check that the construction is solid, wiring is run properly, and regrease the hubs. If the trailer spent most of its time sitting I'd replace the tires right off.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    Since you don’t know how to sail… there is a cheap laser with a trailer or free sunfish near you. The sunfish on rollers would be car top-able at 120 lbs.
    It would be quite hard to beat either and both are joys to sail. On the right tack fast. You can not make a better boat for those prices.

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  25. #25
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    Default Re: I know nothing: sailboat passenger capacity vs. size

    On the trailer question, make sure your supports ae appropriate for whatever boat construction you end up with...good keel support along as much length is practical and never, ever ​step inside the boat on the trailer

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