So, what’s been going on? Thinking, planning, dreaming. That’s pretty much it. No sailing whatsoever. I moved down to Malta in October and my newly converted junk rigged sailboat is back home in cold and snowy Finland. I’m am toying around with a myriad of different options regarding where to go from here.
I initially bought the boat I have now because that was the most boat I could get for the little money I had at the time. It suited me well for my coastal cruising, and with a bunch of improvements, mainly in strength (reinforcements) and safety (reserve buoyancy like watertight compartments) I could easily had imagined myself traveling around the world single-handed. Now however I’m facing a scenario where I would be bringing along a person of the female species. Because of that I’ve tried to figure out various ways of making a future waterbound co-habitation more enjoyable.
What I would like in a boat, for a couple going cruising comfortably… before I go any further with that I want to point out that contrary to what some people believe (that post actually spurred me into writing this one), comfort does not (necessarily) equal high tech. That linked article tries to make the argument that if you want simplicity, and as you have a fridge at home, shouldn’t you be content with just an ice box at home as well? My answer is a simple yes, you should. Why not? People don’t realize how many items don’t really require refrigeration. Cross that off the list immediately. Hot showers? I actually didn’t have hot water at all at home when I grew up. I used to heat water on the kitchen stove and then wash myself in the sink. It’s a matter of perspective. People choose and get used to their own level of comfort. I think “modern” people are somewhat spoiled.
Back to the point. My ideal cruising boat for a couple would have a comfortable bed. I enjoy sleeping. I also enjoy lying in bed. I also enjoy spending time with the opposite sex in bed. So there are a few reasons why I would put this one high up on the list. A forward V-berth is more or less out of the question. I spent my childhood summers in there and that worked fine when I was 6-12 years old but now when I am the captain and can choose where I sleep I would definitely pick an aft cabin with much less motion. A compromise would be something like the Sunbird 32 has, a midships double berth. Also, I would prefer to have the berth laid out so I would not have to crawl over the pillows to get into bed. That way I can feel more comfortable about having dirty and smelly feet. Comfort! There you have it. Low tech comfort.
The boat should also have the possibility to sleep a total of four people when needed. And those sleeping spaces could perhaps work as sea berths as well (for example main saloon settees with lee cloths).
A comfortable working environment
Another thing that’s important for my ideal cruising sailboat for a couple is two separate workspaces. I work in front of my computer so I need a space for a laptop and a mouse for more precision based work. You could argue that a shared saloon table is the ideal low tech solution, but I really enjoy my privacy, and with the little amount of privacy you get on a small boat I would prefer to try to maximize it. A chart table would work for me to use as a workspace. The other workspace could be either the saloon table or a dedicated one, depending on the general arrangement.
Food is something humans need and if you intend to live aboard a boat you will want to have a decent galley. Something that has space for all the pots and pans, as well as one that is comfortable to use in a seaway. So an L- or U-shaped galley is more or less necessary in my opinion. I could go into more detail here with types of fuel for the stove, two or four burner etc but let’s not get too tied up in details, otherwise this post will never end. Let’s continue with the interior.
No holes in the hull please
Running water and through hulls. I will not accept any through hulls beneath the water line. I’ve sailed enough with through hulls I couldn’t trust 100% and it’s not a very comfortable feeling. It’s easy to do without them, and have peace of mind (which is another word for comfort). A composting head is an obvious solution for your p & p requirements. Doesn’t smell, doesn’t require any stinky maintenance, doesn’t leak and doesn’t require flowing water. Simple and easy. And good for the environment! I do currently have a sea water foot pump in my galley and it’s nice to have, when it works (it currently doesn’t), but you can as well use gravity-fed day tanks stored on deck, which I plan to be able to use both for seawater, freshwater and shower. Yes I would like to have some sort of shower. I’m comfortable that way.
This is still partly related to through hulls but for simplicity’s sake, let’s start by saying no diesel. Yes you could have a gravity fed fuel tank to get rid of one of the things that could break (fuel pump), but there are still so many things that can go wrong and need uncomfortable and expensive repairs. I currently have an outboard but I very rarely use it. It’s only used for getting in/out of tight spots in marinas and when becalmed in busy shipping lanes. Never when anchoring or otherwise bobbing about. If I’m becalmed I’ll wait it out. If I’m in a hurry I’ll just accept that I’ll be late. If I find myself at a job where that’s not tolerated I’ll switch jobs. I’ve also had an oar on deck that’s allowed me to paddle in/out of marinas in light weather. Works okay with a 3 ton boat even if you only do a third of a knot. Going engineless is not completely crossed off my list but it’s not that far up either. If you think paddling, rowing or sculling are uncomfortable activities then you are just not looking at it the right way. It’s good exercise.
The Torqeedo electric outboards are nice and relatively inexpensive. For exmaple the 3 hp one would be perfect for my current boat and would also move a larger boat at slow speeds when becalmed. That’s what I’m currently considering. I might even go as far as to break the no through hulls rule and install a prop shaft for a proper electric motor but we’ll see. I haven’t looked that much into electric motor systems yet. Outboard in a well is an option but would require me to store gasoline onboard which is something I would try not having to do.
Production boat or build your own?
At this point, even before getting to the other points, I have realized that the only way I would be able to fulfill all my requirements would to design and build my own boat. Unless I do that I will have to compromise on some points and I’m definitely prepared to do that. To which extent, I don’t know yet. Let’s continue for now.
Minimal cockpit, maximum space down below
Comfort. Doing maintenance on a boat is not what I would refer to as comfort. Painting the bottom is not comfortable. So ideally I would want to have an as small boat as possible. Less boat, less maintenance. In this regard I’m willing to compromise some other areas too. One of them is the cockpit. I would like to have a flush decked cockpit with minimal or no footwell at all. This would give the aft cabin the much needed room for “recreational activities” and actually make the space livable, which is rarely the case on boats smaller then, say, 40 feet. I never use the footwell when sailing anyways and it’s a hazard in huge seas when pooped. Its benefits are when in an anchorage or harbour. But there you can just sit on chairs or boxes or similar.
Yes please. All LED lighting. Powered by solar and wind. Best of both worlds. When it’s sunny and calm the panels will take care of the electricity generation. In rough weather the wind generator will do the work. When sailing in beautiful weather they will both get their chance to show what they got. And with two systems there is redundancy.
Just browse through my older posts and you’ll get the picture. A comfortable and simplistic, as well as efficient rig is what I’m going for.
Optimally I would have a transom mounted rudder with tiller steering. Simplicity, ruggedness and ease of service. Again, comfort. The flipside would be a slight degradation in performance compared to a spade rudder on a skeg. But life is full of compromises. Regarding keels I have too many conflicting thoughts so I’m going to put off writing about it now. That said I have considered full keel (as I do now), fin, centerboard, daggerboard(/s) as well as leeboards. They all have advantages and disadvantages.
Side note regarding simplicity/complexity/comfort
Again, a point relating to comfort and simplicity/complexity: If I have advanced systems that make my life more comfortable while cruising, they will also cost more money to buy initially, which means I have to work longer (not comfortable) to get them, as well as work longer to keep them maintained. So simple systems and comfort go hand in hand in my opinion, as more simple systems enables you to go cruising earlier and for a longer period of time.
This is turning into a bit of a rant but if you’ve read so far, let’s continue.
Clean. High bulwarks. I have medium bulwarks (10 cm / 4″ perhaps?) on my current boat and it’s so nice to be able to do stuff on deck and not having to be afraid of dropping things and having them immediately fall overboard. Also I want good sturdy grab rails everywhere. When I move around the boat in a seaway I like to hold on to things. And when things get really rough your movements will be more crawling than walking so handles on the coachroof will do fine. Lifelines? Not really interested. I had them removed from my current one and the deck immediately felt more spacious and comfortable to move around, plus it had the added benefit of me instinctively moving more carefully on deck. Win-win. I did re-install them because of my SO for the perceived safety. How else were I to get her to come sail with me?
Lots of it. I currently carry three anchors and I wouldn’t mind having more. If my boat is large enough that I need a windlass I would definitely have one that works manually. Either all manual or electric that can be operated manually. I would certainly not feel comfortable on a boat which an electric windlass that could fail and leave me in a very uncomfortable situation. I’d rather take the free exercise of working it manually.
Wind vane, no doubt about it. An autopilot requires electricity, costs money to acquire as well as to replace when it breaks. And it will break. Good wind vane self-steering gear will work for decades without any more than basic maintenance. And they get their power from the wind so they are more than less fool proof in any weather.
One debated subject is GPS vs. celestial navigation. Given that we now have the American GPS, the Russian Glonass, the EU is in the midst of launching Galileo and the Chinese have their own system as well, the name of which currently slips my mind (edit: BDS). I would say that there is certainly enough redundancy to rely on satellite navigation alone (my two latest phones have had both GPS and Glonass). Of course there could be a solar storm or World War III but then you’d have a lot more serious issues to deal with. I do know the basics of celestial navigation and am able to take noon sights but I don’t think I would feel the necessity to keep a sextant on board. Backup GPS devices? Yes, definitely. Plenty of them.
I’m still undecided on this point. Ok, ferro-cement is out of the question. A classical wooden yacht is also way out of my comfort zone, because of the upkeep including varnishing etc. But plywood+epoxy/GRP, GRP, aluminium and steel are all more or less options that I’d consider, all of them have their advantages as well as disadvantages.
I think I have made my point by now. You probably aren’t even reading anymore. But if you are… well thank you for showing interest in my thoughts. I hope to see you out in the world one day, let’s chat more then!