Thursday, November 26, 2009

Does Size Matter? Three Boats

St. Marys, GA November 24, 2009

Align CenterSunrise, St. Augustine

Meredith arrived in St. Marys late yesterday in anticipation of this community's annual celebration of American Thanksgiving for sailors. The town puts on a full Thanksgiving dinner for all visiting cruisers every year. It started this out of sympathy for cruisers who were separated from their families at this time of year.

It has grown into a week long celebration: nightly happy hour at Seagle's Hotel hosted by barkeep Cindy the Porn Queen, boater's swap meet, daily drinks parties put on by various visiting cruisers and townfolk. It is a lot of fun.

With only eating, drinking and partying going on there is not much sailing stuff to write about. Today I look at Boat Size. Does Size Matter? Here are 3 boats at or under 30 feet.

How Big a Boat Do You Need?

No one sailing from Ontario into Florida will ever have a big enough boat to compare to the locals. Down here retired farmers buy new 45 foot boats for weekend sailing. No one we know will ever have a boat big enough to make even the second tranche of the size awards.

The question is: what is the minimum size of boat you need to cruise the Caribbean? Here are three boats all under 30 feet covering a wide range of initial investment.

Serenity: 1969 Columbia 27. Investment $10,000 maybe

Sailed by Chas Serenity left Norfolk headed for Bahamas. Bryce was a passenger who paid Chas a small fee to teach him about offshore sailing. Bryce got a full lesson and then some.

Serenity or
What's Left of Her
Lands in St. Augustine

About 160 nautical miles offshore this intrepid pair ran into unexpected weather: 50 knot winds and 30 foot seas. The 27 foot Columbia handled beautifully in these overwhelming conditions. The boys did admit that that standing sideways in the cockpit for 3 hours at a stretch with the keel out of the water from heeling grew a bit tiresome. Chas: "After the 3rd or 4th knockdown you learn the boat really is going to come back upright and then everything is ok".

Sure it was Chas.

After a day of sailing at a 60 degree angle of heel the sails blew out. The boys started the engine and headed for land.

In the business of sailing when your string of bad luck looks like its turning around you just did not look closely enough. Serenity's prop shaft found an interminably long fishing line which snaked around the shaft choking the life out of the engine. Waves and wind were so fierce they were afraid to go over the side to cut the line off.

Serenity found and foundered on a shoal. For 24 hours these two guys sat on their boat and were bashed onto the shoal.

Conditions improved enough to allow them to dive on the shaft and cut the fishing line free. Once again they headed for safety of land. They ran out of fuel.

Here is what we helped land at the dock:

Connie talks to Bryce and Chas about their Harrowing Experience



The genoa was tatters, the main was torn in half, the headstay was broken and the mast seemed to be held up by the foil from the furling.

The boat was late 1960's with no improvements or upgrades. Sails may have been original and are being replaced with used sails from Sailor's Exchange in St. Augustine. Nothing seems to have been done to this boat since it was new.

But the boat, a 27 foot 35 year old poorly maintained Columbia, kept them safe and saw them home.

Whisper: 1972 C&C 30 Investment $25 - 35,000 (my guess)

Victor and Marilyn are a pair of septuagenarians out of Green's Harbour, Nfld. ('If you can say underSTAND you can pronounce NewfoundLAND' says Vic). We met them as they sailed into St. Augustine harbour. They waved to us as they passed the stern. The Budget Committee is an inveterate waver and so we had to visit.

Victor owned the Home Hardware store in Green's Harbour until he retired and sold out. In anticipation of retiring he started sailing and bought the C & C 30. Victor found ocean racing and took it on with a passion and Marilyn was quick to tell us that no one wanted to be on the boat when Victor started giving orders: especially her sister, "poor dear, she nearly dieeeed of mortification and apoplexy and her only just out of therapy the poor little thing"

Victor repowered installing a small diesel in place of the old Atomic 4 fitting to the original C&C's. Then he took the rudder off and studied it. Not liking the design at all he built his own rudder with "stainless tabs that run right to the hind end. Even if my rudder falls away I still has a rudder" says Victor.

Not satisfied with the internal layout Victor redesigned his C&C and then came down to Ontario to talk to George Cuthbertson, designer of his boat and one of the Cs, specifically about what Victor saw to be the shortcomings. George and Victor got on famously.

Everything on the boat is made by Victor. The cockpit table is a pine plank which Vic and Marilyn have varnished into a piece of furniture. Unadorned save for the varnish it is a clever cockpit table and then some. It fits the narrow space beautifully. Likewise the rest of the boat has been reconstructed by Vic using materials at hand - no expert carptentry, no electronic wizardry - just careful attention to the job at hand by determined amateurs.

For our friends back in Bayfield: Victor knows Jake very well and discussed design of the Bayfield line with Jake at length. Vic told me a bit of the story behind Jake's own Bayfield "For Sale".

Victor and Marilyn are headed for Cuba and sadly will leave before us. Marilyn had a little notebook full of all the stuff she had gleaned from all the cruisers she met along the way and it was a compendium of knowledge all of it accurate according to the bits we had researched. Our research found itself sadly lacking in the presence of Marilyn's unrelenting questions.

We would have had a much better time with them as companions.

Babykiller B: Bertram 30, investment - I won't guess online but more than a base 6 figure amount.

Frequent readers will be familiar with Babykiller B and its unique owners, Randy and Donna. The Bertram was not designed as a cruising boat. But Randy liked the attributes of the Bertram, starting with its design philosophy and build quality.

Randy knows power boats. He wanted a quality built efficient design with proven speed and comfortable layout. Randy likes his creature comfort and Donna utters faint protest. Sometimes the protest is actually mute. Donna loves the boat and approves of its enhancement by Randy.

The Bertram is an offshore fishing boat fast and pretty stable. It's twin 370 hp Cummins diesels bring it to a comfortable cruise of 25 knots burning only 15 gallons an hour which is exceptional.
Randy likes to go fast as well.

The Bertram is not in its native form a comfortable living platform. It is a fishing shack that floats: one room with as much space devoted to freezers for fish as for living for humans.

Randy started with this and removed the offensive bits left by prior owners who were fishermen. The rusted fridge was turfed, the cushions sterilized the carpeting removed and replaced. New canvas, air conditioning, new LED lighting, new sound system (2 actually), high capacity inverter/charger, second battery bank, 25 inch flat screen tv, electric induction stovetop and a latte machine all followed.

This boat is a palace.

He kept the outriggers - those long pole things that fishermen use to keep their lines in place 10 or 15 meters from the side of the boat. Neither he nor Donna fish.

It is Randy's custom to hide the boat's true nature (and the nature of everything else he owns). To the casual observer Babykiller is an ok Bertram 30 fishing boat, certainly nothing special down here.

So: What's the Point

These 3 boats are all under 30 feet in length. Each boat is now in Florida and all headed for Cuba and/or the Bahamas.

Each boat is truly unique as are their owners and the three of them cover a broad spectrum of required investment.

The point I guess is that it does not take a big boat to do this stuff. It takes a sailor. If you really just don't want to do it you will never have a boat big enough or sufficiently well equipped. If you want to do it you just go. Recalling Serenity my advice to those who are not sure if they want to go cruising is not to.

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