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Old June 17th 05, 01:15 PM
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Default An essay on cruising boats

This is one of the best summaries of what a cruising boat should be
like. I first read this about thirty five years ago, and still enjoy it.
I hope you all do too.

Doug King

** ** begin ** **

Taken from "The Stone Horse" booklet by Mait Edey and Peter Duff, 1968

We believe that there are five essential characteristics which any
cruising sailboat ought to have, regardless of her type or size.

1. She must be easy to handle.
Cruising sailboats are almost invariably short-handed. The watch on deck
is frequently only one person. So the sails and rig should be within the
strength capability of this abbreviated crew. The smallest, weakest
member of the crew, working alone, should be able to perform aby
evolution required to rescue another crewmember who's been silly enough
to fall overboard, in any weather likely to be encountered. In case of
medical emergency, he or she should also be able to detach the vessel
from the bottom (as such things usually wait until you're tucked away in
some remote anchorage) , get underway, sail to where help can be found,
and terminate the emergency run without terminating either the patient
or the boat.

And of course it's times like these that the engine and radio choose to
pack it in (Murphy has provided a natural law to cover these

Up to a point, mechanical aids such as winches and windlasses, and to a
greater extent, the the knowledge and experience of each crew member,
will permit larger, heavier, more cumbersome boats and gear. But
ultimately, a flogging headsail that must be muzzled and changed, a
spinnaker doused, or an anchor heaved on board or buoyed and slipped,
become the limiting factors.

She should be directionally stable, yet have authoritative rudder
control and a small turning circle. When the helmsman looks up from the
chart, she should not have wandered wildly off course. In fact it is
especially important that a cruising boat can be made to steer herself
for long periods. You should be able to leave the helm untended to trim,
set or shorten sail, make a sndwich, answer nature's call, study a
chart, or for any number of reasons without having to awaken a snoozing
spouse or trust a lubberly passenger.

On the other hand, to be able to negotiate a narrow harbor entrancem
twitch reliably and safely through an anchored fleet, and come to
anchor, wholly under sail, with a minimum of fuss, is a joy and a

2. She must be comfortable.
Comfort on a boat is really a function of two things: her behavior at
sea, and the quality of her accomodation. Gadgets and luxuries will not
make you comfortable if your boat has a violent motion or drenches you
with spray. A cruising boat should have easy graceful motion and be dry.

As for accomodation, no small boat can be spacious, but proper planning
can make her truly comfortable to live aboard. The demand for quart
accomodations and large yacht appearance in pint pot dimensions will
usually yield discomfort. At the very least, there should be places in
the cabin where the whole crew can sit comfortably for hours. Almost
without exception, places designed to be slept upon cannot do this.

3. She must be seaworthy.
We suppose that seaworthiness should be at the top of the list. We place
it here because it is partly a function of ease of handling and comfort.
Put simply, you are less likely to get into trouble in a boat which
doesn't tire you, and whose hull, rig, and other gear are calculated to
perform handily even in extreme weather.

Seaworthiness really means just keeping the sea on the outside of your
boat. A lot of factors contribute to making a boat seaworthy. She must
be strong. A weak hull, deck, place where the two join, steering gear,
or rig, is inexcusable but not unusual!

She must be weatherly; that is, she must be able to beat to windward in
even the most trying conditions.

She must be bouyant, unless you're willing to live with a submarine.

She must be maneuverable. If she takes a country mile to turn, you'll
constantly find yourself in threatening situations.

She must be sure in stays. Inability to tack has put more boats ashore
than perhaps any other single fault.

She must be within the capability of her crew.

4. She must be fast.
Speed, surprisingly, is not usually considered of great importance by
many cruising sailors. Yet if you have become accustomed to good sailing
performance in a small boat, you are likely to be unhappy with a slow

Beyond the satisfaction of making a fast passage, the ability to beat
nighfall, or a weather change, into a safe haven is more than comforting.

A fast cruising boat should be able to maintain a high average speed on
all courses in any reasonable weather, without needing the special
attention to keep her "in the groove" demanded by a racing boat. Blazing
speed is not essential, but she must be able to get you to the next port
with expedition.

5. She must be beautiful.
This is an entirely subjective matter, so we don't have much to say
about it. It nevertheless is one of our principal concerns.

A sailboat can be a work of art. We pity the poor fellow who sails a
monstrosity. Can he ever really love her?

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