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Old 09-25-2013, 09:29 AM   #1
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Biggest Boat for Single Handing

Hey guys I am fairly new to the forum, which by the way is awesome!!!......I am planning on my retirement in a few years and am looking to embrace the cruising/liveaboard lifestyle. I have extensive boating experience in 22' to 28' foot center consoles, cuddy cabins, outboards, inboards etc. but no experience with trawlers...My question may be hard to answer due to it being dependent on many factors, but in general, based on your experience what do you consider to be the biggest boat that can safety handled singlehandedly?
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:42 AM   #2
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I am not an expert because it's unlikely I will ever single-hand long term, BUT I would suspect that it's less about size and more about access to the decks and surround from the helm. Look at pilothouse trawlers with big side doors and good all around visibility. Being able to quickly get out, throw a line or two, and get back to the helm, I would think is the biggest factor.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:07 AM   #3
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I can single hand the Eagle. As mentioned before its more of a factor of maneuverability of the boat and the helm being close/easy access to the dock. On bigger boats 95% of the docking is done at the helm. When out an about I set the Eagle on auto pilot and donít have to touch the helm for hours. The biggest probelm I have is staying allert/awake!.

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Old 09-25-2013, 11:16 AM   #4
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Single Handing a boat is all about docking. Once underway, unless a specific boat system requires two people, then most recreational boats can be single handed.

Docking only becomes a issue when dealing with a wind that blows the boat away from the dock. In calm conditions, or conditions where the boat is being blown into the dock, single handing a boat is no issue.

I have found on my boat which is, twin screw, 53' OAL, medium windage, that in all but the worst conditions I can get the boat safely into a slip by my self. I can depart a slip in almost any conditions drama free by planning the departure, and having the lines looped so that they can be quickly retrieved from inside the boat.
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Old 09-25-2013, 11:51 AM   #5
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It depends on what you are doing when you single-hand. We moor in freshwater and have to transit the Ballard Locks to get to salt. Single handing the locks in a 53 foot pilothouse such as ksanders--I used to own one--is pretty tricky. I could do it for the small locks when I had to, but that was pretty rare. I also wouldn't want to try single handing a docking or locking in strong currents or winds.
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:26 PM   #6
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I frequently single hand my 38' trawler. The lower station on the Starboard side is right inside the sliding cabin door and adjacent to the center cleat and railing opening so getting off and secured is fairly easy. The difficutly is wind or a particularly tight slip. I will stop outside the marina, drop fenders, get lines ready etc. make sure it's already to go well before I pull into the slip.
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:34 PM   #7
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Biggest Boat for Single Handing

Thanks for the feedback guys, you are actually confirming my suspicions, i.e. that most challenges would be in docking under adverse conditions and I'm thinking locks would be a challenge under any conditions...Also I can see where easy access from the helm to the deck/lines etc, is more important than boat size...thanks again guys for your thoughts and sharing your expertise...
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:39 PM   #8
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Single Handed Boating!

Regarding propulsion...

For single handed trawler operation I recommend twin engines because of their ease of maneuverability during close quarter operations. Actually, and for many reasons besides docking/handling maneuverability, I recommend twins for most midsized inboard boats (except deep draft, full keel/skeg, canoe back displacement hulls). If the trawler is single screw; stern thruster and even better yet bow and stern thrusters add a lot to maneuverability. No matter what boat with which type of propulsion it offers a lot comes down to the propulsion set up itself, i.e. rudder size, prop size and # of blades, keel depth/configuration, if twins – width separation between the props, thruster quality/use-duration... etc. Every boat has its own handling qualities and oddities!

Other important factors...

- Sail Effect: The more superstructure the more wind can move you around
- Quick, Easy Access and 360 Degree Visuals: Side decks, stern, bow
- Pilot Knowhow: Whatever the boat and its properties the pilot needs to understand how to best make use of its available operations
- Practice Makes Perfect: Happens in two ways; docking/using your boat over and again under various circumstances, or, actually spending time to practice what you need

If you have little to no experience in trawler handling, then before you purchase one, I’d recommend you either get trawler owning friends to relate their experiences to you or better yet to take you out and let you feel the handling qualities of their boat. A couple hundred dollars in fuel and a lunch/dinner or two may buy you much enjoyable experience on a couple types/styles trawler. You could also rent a trawler and hire a captain to come with you for instruction... or, go for the gusto and learn on the fly – by yourself! Whatever you do, as it seems you have been around the water for some time, I’m confident you will make the right decision in boat to buy and then begin years of enjoyment in the very comfortable and fun pleasure boating trawler world!

Best Luck! Happy Boating Daze!! - Art
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Old 09-25-2013, 12:58 PM   #9
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I single hand my Krogen 36 about 90 percent of the time. When it comes to handling in the fairway (between lines of boats), I appreciate the full keel and large rudder....and a bow thruster is a big plus as well. But even the best of us can have real problems with the wind and current. Part of the ease of single handling is "knowing" what to expect. One of the most experienced pilots I know called me from the middle of the St. Lucie River in Stuart, FL, asking me to catch a bow line as he charged full throttle against the 4 knot broadside current into the marina. It was just one of those times, and there will be those times.
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Old 09-25-2013, 01:10 PM   #10
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37' hull, 43' OAL, I don't like to do it, but have on occasion. The key is, as others have stated, be prepared, judge the conditions and don't be afraid to ask for help.
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Old 09-25-2013, 02:09 PM   #11
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I single hand my boat occasionally and it's not difficult until it comes to docking. If there's someone there to take a line it makes it a lot easier. My boat is 61' LOA and when the fly bridge windows are all up it makes for a bit of windage, but that can work in your favor. Twin engines will make it much easier for you.

If I'm alone on the boat I always get all fenders and lines set before I get close to a dock, and position the lines where I can grab them from the dock.
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Old 09-25-2013, 02:30 PM   #12
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I have noticed that how much power you have and how effectively your propeller engages the water makes a big difference at the dock. Large horsepower vessels "move" more as you engage and disengage the transmission, and overcome their inertia quickly. Low horsepower and smaller propped vessels learn to "finesse" their way and avoid adverse conditions (especially wind) when they can. A day at the docks watching other people handle different types of vessels is very enlightening.
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Old 09-25-2013, 04:40 PM   #13
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I'd recommend a boat with immediate deck access both port and starboard of the helm, a boat deck low enough so can can readily step onto the dock, and a boat deck circling the boat which can be quickly transited.

Like this:

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Old 09-25-2013, 05:48 PM   #14
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It all depends on how your controls are set up.
I single-hand quite often, getting fuel, going to the floating-dock for a hull clean and, in winter, going for a run to get everything up to temp every few weeks.

Pioneer(53') is much easier than the Rivieras we've had in the past because it has a single engine with bow-thruster and, most importantly, an aft steering station with throttle and bow-thruster controls. You only have two hands, and twin throttles, twin gearshifts and a bow-thruster can make for very busy docking.
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Old 09-25-2013, 09:47 PM   #15
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Often the question is asked..but the reality.... is yes you can...but should you?

Occasional single handling is different than planning on doing it full time.

Some boats are better set up for doing it full time and size is less of a consideration than layout and equipment.

If you can dock, lock, anchor, proceed out of danger while working someplace else other than the pilothouse, eat, pee, etc...etc by yourself then the boat I would say is OK to singlehand.
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Old 09-25-2013, 10:06 PM   #16
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How big can I go is probably the wrong question. With the right equipment you can probably dock a 70 footer unless something goes wrong. But then does one person want a boat that big.

One factor not mentioned so far is rear visibility from the pilot house. A single hander probably does not want to dock from a flying bridge. It is best to stay at deck level to hand off lines or jump onto the dock. Many trawlers have no rear vision from the pilot house. If anything goes wrong on your initial approach to a slip you will want rear vision. For this reason when I dock my Krogen I dock from the flying bridge.

Take a look at the 36-42 ft Nordic Tugs and American Tugs. Great pilothouses, go access to the deck and great visibility. These are single engine but you can add bow and stern thrusters. Single handling I would suggest you consider hydraulic thrusters so that you can lean on them until docked.

Good luck.

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Old 09-25-2013, 11:48 PM   #17
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I have no issues singlehanding our Cheoy Lee 46, even though as a "double decker" she has more sail area than our sailboat did! However, as my friend Capt. John Aydelotte said after a near miss docking my boat by myself in 35+ kt winds, "Don't press your luck. Sure you can singlehand her, but she's over 25 tons and that can get away from you in a hurry. You can't strong arm the boat in those situations like you might have with a 33-foot sailboat." He was right. Though I know I can do it, if the conditions are too adverse, I'm not going to press my luck.

So, as someone else mentioned, you can probably singlehand/dock a 70-foot in the right conditions, but in the wrong conditions a 45-foot boat might be too much!
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Old 09-26-2013, 05:27 AM   #18
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Mere size is not the question , how easy it is and how long it takes to get a midship line to a cleat is the question.

This assumes there is NO dock help , and the skipper has to get alongside to get the line ashore.

Our 50 ft is a snap,could easily be 90 ft, but out trailer toy a Regal 23 sucks , mostly it depends on the layout of the deck.
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Old 09-26-2013, 09:10 AM   #19
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Biggest Boat for Single Handing

Did I mention this forum is awesome......great insights and advice guys...I will be single handing the vast majority of the time and plan to do extensive cruising so this advice and insight are much appreciated. I definitley like the idea of a fly bridge and realize that the docking etc. will be better accomplished at the lower helm. Obviously access to the deck from the lower helm to both the port and starboard sides would be a greart advantage as well, such as is found in a pilot house design, but the problem I am seeing is most trawler layouts with a flybridge only have access to the starboard side from the lower helm, and as mentioned by Bay Pelican rear visability is an issue with these designs. Are there any manufactures/designers I should look at which meet the above criteria?
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Old 09-26-2013, 10:23 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irdiverdan View Post
Did I mention this forum is awesome......great insights and advice guys...I will be single handing the vast majority of the time and plan to do extensive cruising so this advice and insight are much appreciated. I definitley like the idea of a fly bridge and realize that the docking etc. will be better accomplished at the lower helm. Obviously access to the deck from the lower helm to both the port and starboard sides would be a great advantage as well, such as is found in a pilot house design, but the problem I am seeing is most trawler layouts with a flybridge only have access to the starboard side from the lower helm, and as mentioned by Bay Pelican rear visibility is an issue with these designs. Are there any manufactures/designers I should look at which meet the above criteria?
I single hand the majority of the time, and agree with most of what's been said. However, I don't know that it's that important to have access to both port and starboard sides. My helm is on the starboard side, and that makes it very easy to lean out the door and see how close I am to the dock. As a result, I always dock to the starboard side. If I end up in a situation where I have a port-tie slip, I back in.

I rarely walk the port deck, and now better appreciate some of the asymmetric house designs. Also, I love driving from the flybridge, but have never tried docking from it.

I also mostly agree with the midship cleat. On my boat, I can usually get a line on within seconds of coming to a stop. I say mostly because I'm often docking in currents, and contrary to what you're taught, I find it much easier when single handing to dock with the current. Two reasons. First my boat backs to starboard so with correct rudder position and throttle I can get the stern in and quickly get the stern line on. With the stern line on I can then take my time. A midship line will keep me from drifting away, but in a current, the boat will rotate on that line making it difficult to get the aft line attached. So when docking with the current, I get the stern line on first and take my time with the rest as the current pulls the boat into the dock.

I'm not going to re-open the twins vs single debate. I will say that it is important to have the tools (bow thruster in my case) to dock more precisely. You want to be as close to the dock as possible so that you have more time to do what would normally be done by your crew. Also, I rarely try and use spring lines for maneuvering when single handing. It just seems like too many things could go wrong. Another case for having a boat with good low-speed maneuverability.
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