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Thread: Defining "Small Boats"

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    Default Defining "Small Boats"

    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

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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?
    Denny Wolfe
    www.wolfEboats.com

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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'.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    "Boats" live on the decks of "Vessels".
    Just kidding of course, but that is how West Indians class them.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Quote Originally Posted by mcdenny View Post
    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 .

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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?
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    I would like to see my BlueJacket 28 featured though; ~5000 lbs. including trailer. Rick

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Weight and displacement are the same thing. When put in the water, a boat displaces an amount of water equal to its weight.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bell View Post
    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.
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    OK..I stand corected. Thanks

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Quote Originally Posted by landlocked sailor View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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."

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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".
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Quote Originally Posted by jimkeen View Post
    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???

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    Quote Originally Posted by jimkeen View Post
    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.
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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"

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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
    Senior Ole Salt # 650

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    In my mind, I think of anything under 20' as small. FWIW.
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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".
    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
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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
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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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.

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    Default Re: Defining "Small Boats"

    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?

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