Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dreamboats in reach

If money were no object, what kind of boat would I buy? The big glossy sailing magazines have some interesting suggestions for people in that category. Few of those boats are less than 50 feet long.

While I find some of them interesting, they aren't the sort of boat I would own. Now if I had unlimited funds and wanted to cross oceans in comfort, maybe . . . no, not even then.. I have thought about sailing across oceans, but my idea would be to do it alone, and in a spartan boat to be closer to the ocean environment.

The sailing that I enjoying doing with my lovely wife is coastal. I need a boat that can get into all the little nooks and crannies along coasts and islands.

A shallow draft is mandatory. Some of the most interesting places we sailed to last winter had less than two feet of water in places.

A boat should be small enough so that it feels like sailing.

It's easy to make a small boat strong as overbuilding it is easier than trying to build it just strong enough. Over the short length of a small boat, materials are not stressed like they would be in a long hull.

My boat must be one that I can repair the hull myself if need be. I'm comfortable with fiberglass and composites and some wood construction. Aluminum and steel fabrication of marine hulls are way past my skill set.

Engine trouble is common. The marine environment is harsh. Often I've seen some really nice boats waiting around in marinas for boat parts. One captain I talked to was waiting for a mechanic to come from hundreds of miles away. There were good mechanics at the marina he was in, but they didn't work on his brand of diesel. It's not unheard of for boats to be stranded for weeks or even months while sorting out engine problems.

A small boat can dispense with an inboard motor entirely and clamp a little outboard on the transom. Outboards are a lot easier to work on. Sure beats hanging upside down in some dirty, smelly and cramped engine compartment. Worse comes to worse it's not all that hard to replace an outboard with another outboard.

There's a lot of gadgets I'd do without. Water makers sound like a good self-reliant technology, but generally they aren't. Power draws are high. When they fail they require a lot of specialized parts. The idea is to be independent from land, but needing to be near a good dealer and parts supplier defeats the purpose. The water problem can be solved with good sized fresh water tanks. If you want to get fancy, add a simple rainwater recovery system.

For the captain with a big expense account it's easy to get carried away with electronics. They have some amazing fully integrated systems out there. Personally, I prefer smaller hand held electronics that can run on their batteries if they have to. With an unlimited budget, I'd get several of each as backup. Even on blue collar budget, backing up the more essential electronics won't break the bank.

I like a boat with humble power needs that can be supplied by solar panels. I'd rather do without a big freezer than have to listen to a big generator.

It comes down to quality of life. A small, well put together boat that I can do most of the necessary work on, would be a joy. A big boat that required specialized technicians, parts, and materials would be a headache.

Heck a big boat may even require crew. Who wants to manage crew when they could be carefree?

Fortunately, there are plenty of good used boats within my price range that fit my requirements. Best of all, it would not be settling. That's the sort of boat I really like, not some floating money pit.



  1. Only points from which I might digress from your opinion.
    #1- An inboard diesal and a small outboard on a bracket.
    ( reason being outboards don't work well in open ocean swells )
    #2- A ships power chart plotter , as handheld batteries go dead at very inoportune moments. Plus backtracking features on large screen GPS has saved our bacon many a time.

    Totally agree on the small boat aspect tho, especially for coastal gunk holing.

    1. Valid points Spud.

      I had a couple handheld devices that were plugged into boat power to keep the batteries charged. That worked out well.

  2. I think I will stick to my canoe.

  3. Stick with the one most in your comfort zone. Just my two cents worth!

    1. It's all about what WE want, not some made up ideal boat.

  4. Yes you're right on Sixbears.
    Well I remember many years ago being invited onto this mega yacht moored next to me at a marina in Auckland's Westhaven, a mecca for yachties from all over the world.
    Look at this said the skipper showing me his electric can crusher and this he said pointing to a very expensive icemaker...
    When he visited Shoestring I was proud to show him my can crusher, a hammer and my icemaker, a plastic tray.
    We had a good laugh together, mostly at his expense...