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A simple ‘rule-of-thumb’ when selecting a long-term cruising boat.

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What is the issue?
Long term cruising vessels should be stable, strong and have the ability to carry large amounts of equipment. Ideally they should be easy to handle shorthanded or preferably by a solo sailor. Modern yachts design place more emphasis on speed and accommodation for in-harbour living.

Why address this?
A seaworthy vessel is a yacht that looks after the crew who in turn can look after the vessel. Choosing the average modern yacht that is designed for pleasure will place a significant load upon crews and could potentially be dangerous.

How to address this?
Choose a boat that is ‘in’ the water and not ‘on’ the water. This could be paraphrased into choosing a vessel with more traditional lines.
Modern yachts typically tend to sit ‘on’ the water upon rounded hulls. Although delivering speed and accommodation, it is bought at the cost of a handling trade-off. These vessels require continuous control that may prove onerous for long distance cruisers and they are not ideal to carry heavy cruising equipment loads. Heavy weather sailing in modern vessels can be particularly challenging as they have a tendency to ‘skitter’ about upon the surface, on the edge of being in control. In very heavy conditions, the absence of a bilge sump means water rolls up the side walls of the cabin and is difficult to remove. In extreme situations very wide yachts have a propensity to reside upside down if they suffer a (beyond 90 degree) knockdown.

Traditional lined vessels that sit ‘in’ the water behave differently. Their ‘sea kindly’ nature offers enormous tracking stability. This is largely due to long or three quarter length keels that, to a large part, take care of themselves in general sailing conditions. This can be equally said of heavy weather conditions. In addition to this they can typically achieve, and reside well ‘hove-to’ allowing for crews to rest. Having a bilge there is little issue with any water that gets inside. These keels typically yield significantly more stability resisting a knockdown and leave little chance of this type of vessel staying upside-down should one occur.

A vessels seaworthiness depends largely upon a vessel and crews ability to function. Placing an emphasis on choosing the right vessel for the purpose from the outset, and not following the current fashion, dramatically increase the sailing pleasure and safety.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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