Monday, 9 December 2013

The second time around: looking for our dreamboat

We’ve had our first visit by a perspective buyer this week, which makes me realize that it’s time to start thinking seriously about our next boat.  Having been through this before not so long ago, I know that this task is a labyrinth riddled with false starts and wrong turns.  It reminds me of Somerset Maugham’s famous quip about writing:  “There are three rules to good writing.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

But one must be brave and start somewhere and the conventional wisdom says one must start by defining the navigational program, which should help narrow down the boat choices.  Or not. 

The first problem is that our sailing dreams are of the “leasing with an option to buy” sort.  We’d like to sail around the world (trade winds route is good enough for me) but we’re just not courageous enough for that yet.  So the idea is to head down into the Med, gain some experience and confidence with multi-day passages and foreign waters, and if all goes well, buy the dream and head off over the horizon. 

This complicates boat choices, though.  A full-time live-aboard world cruiser is not the same as a fair-weather Mediterranean cruiser.  Should we aim for the low end of the spectrum and work our way up, or go straight for a world cruiser as the better long-term investment?  There are knowledgeable people out there who say that almost any boat rated for offshore cruising is capable of crossing oceans these days, and it is often said (because it’s true) that navigational programs are more limited by the crew than by the boat. 

I’m a firm believer that one shouldn’t make things harder than they have to be, no matter how fun it is, so let me be honest about my dilemma.  I WANT a new 40-foot Hallberg-Rassy or Najad but can’t afford them without selling the house (which I haven’t entirely ruled out.)  

Hallberg Rassy 40
See how clear things can be when you address the root cause?  Now the problem has been reduced to figuring out how to fall in love with a lesser boat. 

If you read our post about boat shopping the first time around, you will no doubt appreciate the maturing process that has taken place since that time.  Earlier, we decided that boat choices should be driven primarily by lust.  Now we know better.  Sort of.   

Because safety is a major concern of ours, I’ve spent the last week calculating capsize ratios for a handful of different boats and reading the available naval architecture blogs, which have now convinced me that the capsize ratios thus calculated are a lot of bunk.  Next, I started going blind staring at the stability index numbers (STIX, SSSN, and AVS) produced by the British Royal Yachting Association for hundreds of boats, and in the end, realized that any boat that meets the Category A criteria is, by definition, safe for offshore sailing.  In saying this, it’s important to know what Category A means:  Unlimited Ocean Cruising, adequate to withstand up to force 10 gale (55 knots, 102 km/hr, 63 MPH) with average waves of 7 meters height and eventual wave heights up to 14 meters.  After having pounded through a long afternoon of 4 meter seas with a force 8 gale last summer, I don’t want to get anywhere close to the maximum for the rating.  This is certainly not to say that all Category A boats are created equal but they all should be safe enough for what we intend to do.

The exercise has been a useful one, however, since I have now convinced myself that I am not going to be able to calculate my way out of a difficult choice.  Putting all our dreams and desires into the magic box and turning the handle has only produced sausage in my mind, not the miracle solution I was looking for.  Compromises must be made. Back to square one. 

What is it about Spray that makes her inappropriate for our future sailing program?  I’ve mentioned these before so I’ll only highlight:  too small to live aboard 6 months of the year comfortably, too physical, too low in the water, too light, too low on tankage.  But after a little reflection, I realized that it’s equally important to list the things we love about her to try not to lose those elements in this process.

  • Robust construction with quality materials.
  • Seaworthiness.
  • Lots of stowage space for her size.
  • Respectability.  Every time we pull into port, people come up to us and tell us what a great boat she is.  It’s become like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.  “What kind of boat do you have?”  “A Dehler 34.”  “Oh, great boat.”  Same thing, every time.  Nice !
  • Small.  What the ?!  I know, I know - it’s crazy !  We’re selling her because we want to buy a BIGGER boat.  But I like the fact that we can pull into ports and not have to worry about finding a place to park her. I like that I can step down gently from her decks onto the dock and physically coax her svelte four tonnes into place without bow thrusters.  I like that people don’t see us as a bling-bling couple of retirees in a flashy plastic bimbo palace.

This makes one thing clear.  We need a boat that’s small on the outside and big on the inside.   

But wait …seriously now, maybe it means that we could be happy with a boat well under 40 feet if the layout is good, in which case, maybe we could afford an older, smaller version of the HRs or Najads?  To be continued…

3 comments:

francis Courteaux said...

Hum..; Dehler 34 is a fast and easy bot to drive you and your dreams all over the world. She is happy to follow the wind and give you in return happiness
Hallberg-Rassy or Najad are slow boaters, yes they are large but also heavy, so hard to drive. The engine will be used many times.
A good idea should be to rent such a boat in atlantic and Mediterranean seas, to get the good idea.
The best boat for me is Dehler 38 for example to keep the pleasure to sail, or a classical travelling sail boat
You can read this, in french, for the Halberg Rassy Dream
http://www.hisse-et-oh.com/articles/641-reflexion-sur-le-bateau-de-voyage-conseils-et-bilan

MH said...

Merci Francis !
Of course I read the HEO article even before I wrote the recent post. We met Serge and Dominique very briefly at our sailing association meeting (AMCRE) several years ago. Serge said they felt very secure on their Bavaria 38 (but really wanted a Hallberg-Rassy !). The Dehler 34 is certainly capable of going around the world but with the low freeboard we don't feel particularly secure (our problem, not the boat's !) You are definitely right about the trade-offs between weight and sailing ability. What do you consider a classic traveling sail boat ?

francis Courteaux said...

hi,
a tipical sail boat to travel arround the world should be a lifting keel aluminium cruising Yachtlike the Allure 39.9 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmX9N5SezaQ