Rick's Defination of a Blue Water Boat :
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 17:19:38 -0800
From: Rick Kennerly <nh2f@abs.net>
To: live-aboard@crux.astro.utoronto.ca

Subject: Re: lv-ab: Definition of a Blue Water Boat


We spent 10 years out in the Pacific islands, five of them working in cruising crossroads and five flitting about on boats, and I can tell you that blue water boats are like bumble bees. Engineers will tell you that bumble bees can't fly, but nobody told the bee, so they keep on buzzing around doing bee stuff. In that same vein, I met a lot of people happy as a song in flimsy little boats every other cruiser swore they'd not be caught out daysailing on a lake in, but that didn't keep those owners from living their dream. They just picked their weather, posted a watch, trusted to luck, and shoved off--just like the 60-foot, goldplated, steel hull owners do, just as sailors have done since before Moses was tacking through the bullrushes.

From what I saw in distant harbors, those things that make a blue water boat are the compromises and trade-offs you're willing to make to have the dream come true. In other words, almost any boat, it seems, can be outfitted, refitted, and reinforced to be marginal bluewater boats if the crew has the gumption to sail them.

Still, here's my list (note that not all items are found on my boat, alas. It's the nature of compromises, I suppose.):

A full keel (for tracking, storage space, and load carrying capacity) with something bridging the gap between the keel and rudder to keep drift nets and other lines from riding up in the slot and snagging the boat.

A fixed keel of no more than 6.5 foot draft.

Bulletproof steering x 2.

Positive righting moment.

External lead ballast for impact and grounding protection.

Moderate to heavy displacement for sea keeping qualities and a good ride.

A split rig for sail handling options (and a good suit of sails for all conditions) -- something like a cutter, a twin headsail ketch or a schooner. A bowsprit for extending the headstay out for big gennys in light air. Lots of reefing options. On a mom & pop cruiser, no sail or combination that the least of your crew can't handle alone and without assistance.

Storage for at least 3 big anchors and 500' of chain plus rope rodes and a windlass to haul it all--all stored away from the ends of the boat during passagemaking.

Provisions for stern anchors and line.

Broad sidedecks and high bulwurks.

A keel stepped mast.

A tiny cockpit so a boarding won't cripple the boat.

A reliable windvane.

Drinking water tankage of a gallon/day/crewmember times twice the expected length of the trip.

Fuel tankage for 80-100 hours of motoring at 5 knots.

Fuel and water tankage divided so a bad lot doesn't spoil the whole.

A big, reliable engine turning a real propeller (not one of those little switchblade folding numbers).

At least one great seaberth for each tack.

On deck storage for a hard dink or rigid inflatable boat.

A dodger.


Rick - nh2f

Westsail 32 Xapic
Annapolis, MD


A small boat & a suitcase full of money beats a 40 footer tied to the Bank.



Rick's Rules for Boat Buying

1. A small boat and a suitcase full of money beats a 40 footer tied to the Bank every time.

2. Cruising boats are bought by the pound, not the foot.

3. You gain more live aboard space for every foot of beam added than for foot in length purchased (there are some older narrow CCA-style boats that are 50ft long, but with less usable interior space than a Westsail 32).

4. While boats are linear, their maintenance, time and equipment costs are exponential (it costs three times as much to maintain a 40 footer than a 30 footer).

5. The view of paradise is exactly the same from the cockpit of a small boat as that from a goldplater.

6. Any fool can sail a 45ft boat downwind in nice weather. On the other hand, it is very easy to buy more boat than a couple can handle during a blow on a lee shore.

7. Pay attention to the basics--hull, engine, rigging, sails--rather than to amount, quality or age of gizmos; a few grand held back at purchase can replace (or add) GPS, VHF, wind and depth instruments, and creature comforts--cushion covers, propane stove, etc. A bum engine, a rigging failure, or a bad case of blisters can easily set you back three of four times that.

8. Charter fleet boats were designed for two or three couples living out of duffels and eating ashore most of the time, not live-aboard and cruising--you'll be offered hundreds of badly used former charter boats at very attractive prices, but you can't afford them.

9. "Go small, go now." Lin Pardey

10. Finally, always purchase a boat in which you will be proud to be seen arriving.


Generously contributed by:

Rick H. Kennerly
Xapic - Westsail 32


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