A Larger Boat?
I was recently asked by a fellow 33OI owner whether I would choose a larger boat if I had it do over again (BTW, I
have no choice as I'm "married" to the boat because of the massive amounts of "sweat equity" invested). The
following are my thoughts based on my own experience. Your results may vary.
You may think that the question is a simple one , but I'm sure most full time cruisers (men anyway) spend a lot
of time thinking about the question (or the inverse- http://www.answers.com/topic/le-grand-bleu-yacht ), and
books have been written on the subject.
I recently read an article by Webb Chiles ( http://www.inthepresentsea.com/escape.html ) which points out that
the choice of "THE BOAT" is more relevant at the yacht club bar than it is out here. I couldn't agree more.
When I decided to purchase a sailboat, move aboard, give up my career, and cruise full time, I had no sailing
experience and very little time and money. I only knew one sailor and he assured me that a Morgan OI was
unsuitable for cruising. I LOVE my boat! That said, it is not perfect, and I doubt any other boat is either.
I would like to give you some things to think about;
I have an old article by Beth Leonard (circumnavigator) about how difficult it was to adjust to a 45' from a 38',
basically everything (anchors, sails, dock lines, ect.) is exponentially bigger and harder to handle. With my boat I
have a reasonable chance of ungrounding myself (there is no TowBoat US in Honduras). I probably could pull my
motor by myself if required and managing sails in poor sea conditions is not impossible (I'm sure there are many
fair weather sailors who would find it shocking to attempt to reef in a storm).
Another BIG THING out here is the cost-complexity issue. If you have a larger, more complex boat it is generally
to provide room for guests, AC, Washer/Dryer, a large Ref/Freezer, etc. That means you must have a genset. I
know people who are constantly struggling with keeping these operating, and when it goes down you must either
run your main engine many hrs. each day or head to a marina until it can be repaired or replaced. I know one
cruiser (retired Engineer) who built his own immaculate yacht and is on his third genset in two years of cruising
(the latest one overheated and melted down the exhaust in the middle of the night). Assuming you can afford
this and you feel like maintaining (1 hr. per foot LOA per week is the commonly accepted rule of thumb) all of
this (I know a guy who has a new 47' Catamaran in which the washer/dryer is impossible to remove without
cutting the boat up), it just leads to another BIG PROBLEM.
If one had the resources to purchase a new (or nearly so) yacht with all of the bells and whistles you must keep in
mind that the warranty is probably good only in the county where you purchased the yacht or unit. I have met
two (and only two) people out here cruising in $1M+ dollar yachts and they were both being forced to return
home and retain legal counsel to have their new yachts fixed, very unpleasant. One other owner I personally
know of spent years designing and having his $1M+ yacht custom built to his specifications only to have it
destroyed in a boat yard accident as he was preparing to go cruising late in life. No amount of insurance
settlement will put his plans back together.
Assuming you are still ready to take off into the wild blue you have to deal with INSURANCE. Once you have
found coverage, paid the surveyor, and come up with the cash to pay for it, you then have to live with the T's &
C's. Most policies will not cover you anywhere/anytime so you are forced to modify your plans to fit the
insurance, not exactly the carefree cruising life! As an example, my policy requires me to be South of 10D50M
North (i.e. Chaguaramas Trinidad) from July to Nov. in order to be covered for 'Named Storms'. I tried that once
and will not do it again. My plan to do a Caribbean loop means that I will travel through Venezuela (no coverage
for political acts), Columbia, and Nicaragua; no coverage at all. Even then you still have to get the insurance
company to pay (assuming you are around to collect), no small thing. Many cruisers are going "Bare" and simply
dropping their insurance. I have carried it for the first two years (because of my inexperience), but will not
renew. That is something I can live with as the $ I have in my boat (and what it can be insured for) does not
represent a large portion of my assets. I know a guy down here who says he will do the same in his $500K yacht.
It probably does not represent anymore of his net worth than my boat does to me, but still, I could not enjoy my
cruising under those circumstances.
I once read an editor of Good Old Boat who said that if you asked a boat to do what it did well you would be much
more satisfied with your choice. I think that pretty well sums it up. When I picked my boat sailing performance
was not high on my list of requirements. That doesn't mean it doesn't matter. I have to motor sail often when
others don't, and on a passage, the other boats I'm traveling with usually leave me behind. Still, I would not
want to give up my large cockpit, large salon, or roomy V-berth (function of height and beam) for more speed or
windward ability. After thinking about this, I developed the 99.9% Rule which states: 90% of the time I'm
anchored. When I'm under way I am motoring 90% of the time (no wind, wrong way wind, too short of a passage
to mess with sails, need to charge batteries or make water), and when I am sailing, 90% of the time I'm on a broad
reach or running. So only .1% of the time, when I'm sailing to windward, does my 'comfortable and roomy' boat
really suffer because of it's lack of "sailing performance". This is all predicated on cruising in the tropics (I take
all of my showers on deck). I know of one 33OI that went from Florida to New Zealand (but not with me in it). At
one time I wanted to sail around South America, I don't think I would attempt it in this boat (but Joshua
Slocomb's "SPRAY" was remarkably similar in size to my boat, and he had no engine).
I recently re-read Hal Roth's book After 50,000 Miles, in it he really rakes builders (and the sailing magazines
they support) over the coals for promoting 'speed performance' design traits into cruising boats. I know I'm very
glad to have a solid (non-cored) GRP hull, flush deck, full keel, and a very strong rudder attached to the keel.
One other thing that needs to be considered (but is not strictly a size issue) is your personal knowledge of the
boat. When we left the U.S. on our voyage, it was turning dark and we were headed into the Gulf Stream, leaving
Key Biscayne headed to the Bahamas (motor sailing into light winds and current), when the alternator quit. I
gave the helm to my wife and asked her to maintain course and speed while I went below to investigate. Within
15 minutes I determined the problem was a broken sense wire that I was then able to jumper bringing the
alternator back on line. If I had not spent years rebuilding my boat myself, the only option would have been to
turn around and go back. There have been other similar occurrences and they have now become "drama-less".
One of the things I have done to "make" more room is to remove the forward water tank and add a water-maker in
the quarter berth (this is only a option if you are full time, due to maintenance ). We have been very satisfied
with the result. Please note you will have to cut out the tank, but there is a fair amount of wasted space under the
tank that was used for the support structure. I also removed the quarter berth mattress and replaced it with a
layer of foam backed indoor/outdoor carpet gaining 2-3 cu. Ft.. Later, I built a lightweight shelf in the top of the
quarter berth for sail storage.
If had a larger, nicer boat I doubt if I would have been quite as willing to rip things out and do things as I thought
they should be done. In the process of researching, designing, and fitting ALL of the systems myself, I earned a
PhD. in cruising boat systems that makes my life very much easer now. Another point I mention to others, is
that no builder can integrate the systems for your own style of cruising as well as you can. Also, a builder will
only build a production yacht to the lowest common denominator, where as you should only use the best of
every thing you can find to put on a cruising boat (even then it is only "good enough").
While some may think that I have too much of a "Less is More" bent, I would only reply that while less may not
be more, it may also not be less.
A really great book on this whole subject is The Thoreau Approach to Cruising ,in which the author states;
- "The best boat to go cruising is the one you already have."
As I often say I'm very glad it works, and in the end that's what we're all after out here.
Fair Winds & Good Luck
Mast Rebuild - This page describes the dismasting and subsequent repairs needed to make Dreamtime
a voyaging sailboat once again.