Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Cruising Boats - 6 February, 2016
Yesterday, I talked about the fact that I have no idea what constitutes a cruiser. From that, I have to then elaborate and say I
have no idea what constitutes a "cruising boat." Having been out here for a while, I am beginning to think that the term means
- a boat.
Suzanne belongs to several cruising and sailing oriented groups on Facebook (I like to pretend that I have no interest in
Facebook, but Suzanne actually fills me in on what is going on when I need a jolt of gossip). A few days ago, a woman in one
of her groups laid out a scenario that she was considering and asked what sort of boat she should get. Suzanne read it to me
and asked my opinion. I gave her my thoughts.
Now, my number one rule on opinions is that the only unbiased opinion is your own. So, understand that my opinion on what
would make a good boat in her case was based on my prejudices and experiences and might be totally incorrect for her. My
recommendation, given that she was talking about going ocean sailing but was usually going to be single-handing, was that
she consider a small, full keel, heavy displacement boat, like a Westsail or a Bayfield, preferably the 32 foot version of each
But, as I said, this is my opinion. Both of these boats may be totally wrong for her. Perhaps she is very tall or very short.
Perhaps the people she thinks that will come visit her when she goes away will be large people. Perhaps she has a treasured
collection of "Finkelstein figurines" that she can't bear to travel without and she needs storage space for them. There simply
isn't enough information in a few paragraphs to tell enough about a person to give a true assessment of what their needs are -
and most people don't know what their needs truly are until they have lived on a boat for a while.
OK, so rather than looking at what the person needs, suppose we look at the boats. Surely there are some characteristics
that make a cruising boat different from other types of boats.
Not if you look in the marinas and mooring fields. In Vero Beach alone, I have seen boats that are over 60 feet and under 30.
I have seen catamarans, full keel, fin keel and no keel. I have seen ketches, sloops, cat boats and power boats. I've seen
boats made last year, and one I am not sure was built in the last century. I've even seen home-built boats.
Our first boat together was a MacGregor 25, a swing keel centerboard sloop that we kept on a trailer at a marina. To this day,
Suzanne still considers that the most fun boat we have ever owned. We learned a lot of sailing from that boat - mostly by
doing the wrong thing and saying "wow, we shouldn't do THAT again!"
I read a lot about MacGregors while we owned it. I read about the guy who sailed his MacGregor from San Diego to Florida.
He had it taken aboard a freighter when he went through the Panama Canal, but other than that - he sailed. In the ocean. In
a boat with a fold-down mast.
I hear all the time of people getting rescued off center cockpit fishing boats 100 miles offshore. That doesn't mean the boats
are unsafe, it means that people got themselves into unsafe conditions. If the conditions are right, 100 miles offshore is just
as safe as one mile. That's the key to taking a little boat offshore - go when the conditions are right.
Another issue that people take into consideration - or should at least - is that most "cruising" boats spend more time at anchor
or moored then they do underway. It is your home, you have to live with and in it. For every person who bought a boat that
couldn't handle bad weather and should stay inshore when it occurs, there is probably another person who bought a
"blue-water cruiser" and has never left the ICW.
Don't get me wrong - blue-water cruisers are good boats, for blue-water cruising. But some of the things that make a good
"blue-water" boat - like a small cockpit, small hatches and minimalist systems - do not make for good entertaining or living.
Spending days in a small, dark cabin, waiting out a thunderstorm, with no refrigeration or air conditioning and minimal fans,
can quickly become a reason to take up melon farming.
So, what makes a good cruising boat? It is really simple. Start with a cruiser - whatever definition of that you want - and have
them pick out a boat that makes them happy. A good boat fits you like a well-worn college sweatshirt. It is comfortable and it
reminds you of happy times. Once he, she or they have found the boat, have them add or remove systems that they think
they need to make them more comfortable, safe and secure. Don't over-do it and stay in the budget, but prioritize and make
sure the things that are "really important" - whether that means a RADAR, a queen-sized master bed or an ice-maker - are
Then -- throw the dock lines off and go where you will. Take the weather and the season into consideration, but go.
Whatever you take will be your perfect cruising boat....