Your boat becomes your world, town, village, home, sanctuary. There is no such thing as a perfect boat, and you will always make at the very minimum one or two compromises when you make your purchase.
If you intend to cruise long-term, do not forget to consider the boat’s ability to be your home. There are used boats out there to suit any budget.
Which boat building material is better?
With a plethora of different boat materials, design, layout, length etc., our suggestion for which material to buy is to buy a boat built of material you like, or can handle working with.
They all have their pros and cons:
Pros: Light, strong, attractive, easy to work
Cons: Rot, dents easily, many parts make the whole unit
Composite – usually molded lightweight timber and epoxy resigns
Pros: Light, strong, low maintenance, no electrolysis
Cons: Not a strong as steel, especially pin-point loads
Cons: Undetected terminal damage, due to rust, a possibility. Poor resale
Pros: Strong, light, modular construction
Cons: Osmosis, UV deterioration
Pros: Best strength to weight ratio of the commonly used metals, easier to work with than steel
Cons: Electrolysis: constant monitoring of electrolysis is required (e.g. earth leakages in power circuit). Galvanic Corrosion: don’t drop a coin or sinker in the bilge, as it will corrode the aluminium
Pros: Strong, easy to repair
Cons: Maintenance, rust, heavy
When looking at boats you obviously see what needs doing, but start asking pertinent questions or thinking along the lines of what you don’t see. There are always hidden surprises. If you see a lot of work, that will only be a part of what actually is required.
All jobs on the boat take much more time than you think. Give a job a time, double it, then treble it and then you are nearly half way to estimating the time the job will take.
Previously we talked about the rough calculation (in our opinion) of a size of a boat being 10 feet per decade of your age (see previous article here).
In our twenties, it always made us feel better that we were the smallest at all the anchorages, we thought bigger boats were too big to handle for two, more expensive etc. In our middle age, several years later we leapt up to 51’ (by accident really). Pyewacket handled better than Mariah (our first boat of 33 ft) under sail and motor, she was far easier to dock. As for reefing there was no difference, it was just as easy on Pyewacket as it was on Mariah . . . in fact in some cases it was slightly less of struggle (in big seas). Pyewacket had a kinder motion and bum bars to lean on (next to the mast).
We’ve already written a fair bit about the costs (see link to article above). However don’t forget, the marina fees will be more for a larger boat, (and hauling out). But with hard work and constant maintenance on both our boats, we noticed that Pyewacket (51 ft) was not significantly more expensive than Mariah (33 ft) … all in all an eye opener for us.
Make some savings with a bigger boat
We actually made some savings, having a larger boat:
Pyewacket sailed so much better to windward so we used far less diesel than we did on Mariah*.
We had far more storage for storing long-term foods and spare parts. We carried incredible amounts of water, so it didn’t matter that we didn’t have a water-maker or that we didn’t see land for months. (We could also collect rain water very easily – more on that another day).
*(I know, I know – it’s a sailboat, why do we run the engine? Well, at times there is no wind (or very little) and swells in the ocean, this can create a horrid motion on board, which is not only uncomfortable but damaging. As the boat rolls, the sails ‘slat’, or ‘bang’ from side to side as there is not enough wind to keep them full. This stress on the sails is very damaging and ultimately could end up costing you more than the diesel you use to counteract the rolling motion. At these times we would run the engine at very low revs, just enough to settle the boat’s motion, protect our sails and have a bit of comfort on board.
- where the dinghy is to be stowed
- the outboards
- dive gear
- toilet rolls
- laptops and printers
- sewing machine
- cleaning gear
- bathroom gear
- dirty laundry…
There is no ‘right’ kind or size of boat. Our preference is on the heavier side. As well as type, design, materials, think ‘layout’ as you are going to be living on this boat for some time. In our opinion a ‘big’ bathroom looks good but is really a waste of space.
Different types of rig are linked with different types of boat. For example a schooner and a ketch have different aerodynamic properties, which make them more suitable to certain types of boating. A racing boat will have different aerodynamics than a cruiser. Ensure the rig is fitted according to the design of the boat. Double mast rigs allow different sail plans. Cutter rigging on the foremast is ideal for carrying a storm jib and is strong.
A Schooner has beauty, but is it manageable? Popular choices are sloop and cutter. Both our boats were cutter-rigged sloops which worked for us (furling jib, hanked-on staysail and full battened main).
The missen on a ketch or schooner take up a lot of room, usually reducing cockpit comfort.
Can you cope?
If there are just two of you on board, you are effectively single-handed for at least eight hours a day. What if something happens to your partner? Can you handle the rig? Not just when there is a 15-knot breeze, your partner may be incapacitated in a storm, can you handle everything then?
- less manoeuvrability in port (wider turning circle, when applying astern propulsion it could go anywhere – probably into the wind)
- more stable
- take grounding better
- can help protect prop from debris
- don’t point very well
- less likely, in our opinion, to broach
- more on performance boats
- more efficient
- point better
- less structurally sound
- grounding could result in major damage
We’ve listed two extremes here, of course there are many choices ‘between’ these. Study, research and figure out what you want to do. If you just want to do bay sailing on the weekend you would want a fin keel. If you are serious about blue water cruising, think full keel, or something close to it.
For cruising try to avoid ‘a fat-arsed’ boat, they are tempting for storage but enhance the vessel’s desire to broach.
Then there’s depth . . . the deeper the boat the more restricted you are into some ports/anchorages… but that is not a top-list item for us – safety & comfort come first.
With some of the technical aspects tackled here – don’t forget the boat will become your home. The considerations are endless. Our book Cruiser’s AA will tell you much more.