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Old 03-10-2013, 12:48 PM   #1
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Boat Size Considerations

I searched the forum and found a few nuggets of info regarding this topic but decided to post to try to get a little more specificity.

We are not currently boat owners and have never owned a boat larger than 20ft. We intend to charter the larger boats to get a feel for what we like/dislike. Our current plan is to purchase in about 5 to 7 years to have our boat to use when we retire in about 11yrs. We may place the boat in the charter fleet until we retire where then we plan on living aboard about half the year with our intended cruising grounds in the Florida, east coast, Bahama's and Caribbean (maybe). For the 1/2 year of living aboard, we intend on being on the move to the destinations mentioned. It would just be my wife and I with a rare occasional guest couple.

My root question is how big of a boat? So I understand that is a personal preference thing but knowing what you all know and the pros/cons with regard to marinas, boat maintenance, accessibility to cruising grounds, is there a demarcation point for length? On the search I did, one post indicated 60ft as a point where anything above gets difficult to find marina slips. Another post on another forum suggests 50ft.

Thanks.

Wade
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:01 PM   #2
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Wade, you are facing a decision many of us have made and I think you already understand there's no one perfect answer. A lot of it depends on how much "personal space" you both want and need on a boat to make it a home for months at a time.

We haven't done much long distance cruising, but what we've done on the Columbia River has shown us that there isn't a problem with a boat our size in finding a slip. We belong to a yacht club and try to secure reciprocal moorage when we go, and that has worked out well.

I've seen and read about couples who spend months aboard their 35'-40' boat and love it. I think I'd get a bit claustrophobic on a boat that size. We had a 330 Sundancer and it got a bit small after about 7-10 days. That's part of the reason why we went to a much larger boat with a fly bridge. We just got tired of being "down in the cave" with the express cruiser.

If it's just the two of you with an occasional guest couple, I'd start with chartering a boat in the 40'-45' range and see how that feels. Then make future chartering decisions based on that experience.

I have two strong suggestions when it comes to buying a new boat....

#1, the perfect boat, like a great bottle of wine or a new car, or you wife, should bring a smile to you face as you walk up to her, and should make you take a look back over your shoulder when you walk away from her. If she doesn't light your fire, it's not the right boat for you.

#2, the wrong boat at the best price in the world, is still the wrong boat.
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Old 03-10-2013, 01:47 PM   #3
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At some level you have asked "how long is a piece of string?" but I understand that you have to start your search somewhere. Everybody's need for space is different. We came to Gray Hawk after 4 years living full time in a 40' by 8' motorcoach so our perception was that a 43 foot vessel was huge. Your experience coming from a large house (I assume) may be completely different.

I wouldn't want to try to live full time on a vessel any smaller than what we have but that could be modified by where you boat as well. We do most of our boating in the winter in the Pacific Northwet so its cold and wet and we stay primarily inside the cabin. If we boated where we could always use the outside living space then what we have might feel spacious or even more than what we need.

Our goal when buying Gray Hawk was to buy the shortest vessel that I could stand up in. I'm 6'7" tall so I needed that headroom in the galley, at the helm and in the head. Given that we had that headroom then we wanted the shortest vessel possible because all the operating expenses go up exponentially as you get longer - moorage and maintenance increase as the square of the length.
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Old 03-10-2013, 02:32 PM   #4
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Wade, you are facing a decision many of us have made and I think you already understand there's no one perfect answer. A lot of it depends on how much "personal space" you both want and need on a boat to make it a home for months at a time.

We haven't done much long distance cruising, but what we've done on the Columbia River has shown us that there isn't a problem with a boat our size in finding a slip. We belong to a yacht club and try to secure reciprocal moorage when we go, and that has worked out well.

I've seen and read about couples who spend months aboard their 35'-40' boat and love it. I think I'd get a bit claustrophobic on a boat that size. We had a 330 Sundancer and it got a bit small after about 7-10 days. That's part of the reason why we went to a much larger boat with a fly bridge. We just got tired of being "down in the cave" with the express cruiser.

If it's just the two of you with an occasional guest couple, I'd start with chartering a boat in the 40'-45' range and see how that feels. Then make future chartering decisions based on that experience.

I have two strong suggestions when it comes to buying a new boat....

#1, the perfect boat, like a great bottle of wine or a new car, or you wife, should bring a smile to you face as you walk up to her, and should make you take a look back over your shoulder when you walk away from her. If she doesn't light your fire, it's not the right boat for you.

#2, the wrong boat at the best price in the world, is still the wrong boat.
GFC - thank you for your thoughtful answer. Being a member of a yacht club is something I should consider.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobofthenorth View Post
At some level you have asked "how long is a piece of string?" but I understand that you have to start your search somewhere. Everybody's need for space is different. We came to Gray Hawk after 4 years living full time in a 40' by 8' motorcoach so our perception was that a 43 foot vessel was huge. Your experience coming from a large house (I assume) may be completely different.

I wouldn't want to try to live full time on a vessel any smaller than what we have but that could be modified by where you boat as well. We do most of our boating in the winter in the Pacific Northwet so its cold and wet and we stay primarily inside the cabin. If we boated where we could always use the outside living space then what we have might feel spacious or even more than what we need.

Our goal when buying Gray Hawk was to buy the shortest vessel that I could stand up in. I'm 6'7" tall so I needed that headroom in the galley, at the helm and in the head. Given that we had that headroom then we wanted the shortest vessel possible because all the operating expenses go up exponentially as you get longer - moorage and maintenance increase as the square of the length.
Thanks for your reply, Bobofthenorth. Understand what I was asking was kinda open ended. My intent though, since we're so far away from pulling the string on buying a boat, was to see if there were other parameters besides the livability/layout of the boat that I should consider. For instance, if the general experience is that 50 feet was the magic line and perhaps it's because beyond this length, generally the marina fees double or triple due to space constraints or that we would be required to tie up in the large yacht section, that would be good to know. I would then try to find something below 50 feet. I can't imagine living on a boat smaller than 40 feet but I guess I wouldn't know. So chartering will hopefully give us that taste.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:22 PM   #5
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You really need to spend several days cruising different boats before you, as a couple, can answer this question. It may not be apparent from looking at my boat, but I think Skipper Bob's dictum "Don't buy the biggest boat you can afford, buy the smallest boat YOU can be comfortable in" is some of the very best advice in boating. Bob and Elaine cruised tens of thousands of miles and lived aboard their Krogen 36 Manatee very happily. Our 56 Hatteras a little over 60 LOA) was perfect for us as our only residence for 5 years and cruising the area you foresee. We looked at boats as large as 70. We came from big houses on land; I am fairly large and klutzy, so space and good ergonomics at the helms, in the living quarters, engine rooms, utility room were a very important consideration. We had cruised boats over our lifetime from 32 to 49 feet and had chartered a lot prior to buying. And we know couples who have lived aboard vessels throughout that size range, some who were very happy in smaller boats, and some others who are unhappy in bigger ones. And vice versa.
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Old 03-10-2013, 04:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GFC View Post
Wade, you are facing a decision many of us have made and I think you already understand there's no one perfect answer. A lot of it depends on how much "personal space" you both want and need on a boat to make it a home for months at a time.

We haven't done much long distance cruising, but what we've done on the Columbia River has shown us that there isn't a problem with a boat our size in finding a slip. We belong to a yacht club and try to secure reciprocal moorage when we go, and that has worked out well.

I've seen and read about couples who spend months aboard their 35'-40' boat and love it. I think I'd get a bit claustrophobic on a boat that size. We had a 330 Sundancer and it got a bit small after about 7-10 days. That's part of the reason why we went to a much larger boat with a fly bridge. We just got tired of being "down in the cave" with the express cruiser.

If it's just the two of you with an occasional guest couple, I'd start with chartering a boat in the 40'-45' range and see how that feels. Then make future chartering decisions based on that experience.

I have two strong suggestions when it comes to buying a new boat....

#1, the perfect boat, like a great bottle of wine or a new car, or you wife, should bring a smile to you face as you walk up to her, and should make you take a look back over your shoulder when you walk away from her. If she doesn't light your fire, it's not the right boat for you.

#2, the wrong boat at the best price in the world, is still the wrong boat.
Perhaps the best answer ever given for this type of question.

We can especially relate to the "cave"comment. As liveaboards, having a great view from inside is one of the sweet joys.....and one that usually can't be realized from the interior of an express cruiser or sailboat. Also, large windows mean lots of natural light.

We have an aft cabin/cockpit configuration- big salon, sun deck, flybridge, and cockpit. Plenty of room to be comfortable, entertain, and maintain that all important "me" space.

The bareboat charter idea is a solid plan to learn ship handling, and to sample the wide variety of vessel types on the market.

Enjoy the ride!
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:07 PM   #7
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I think my question is being misunderstood. I appreciate all that have provided input. I absolutely understand that boat size and layout is dependent upon the individual and what they are going to do/what they need. I also understand that we need to experience different boats and that is our intent.

My thought is that if we are to look and charter various boats, we would like to be aware of the size that might start to incur costs that might be avoidable. So let me simplify my question: What is a size where the cost to stay at marinas goes up quickly and significantly? Is there a demarcation point? I've read there is but this figure varies from 50 to 60 feet. Do any of you have experience, or know from speaking to someone that this is true and what that size might be?

Thanks.

Wade
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:42 PM   #8
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We used to want a boat larger than what we have now. And we may someday get a boat larger than what we have now though there are only two contenders. But after 14+ years of owning this boat we have long since reached a definitive conclusion. Unless we decide to hire out ALL the maintenance other than engine servicing, we do not want a boat one inch longer than this one. We don't want to maintain one more inch of brightwork. We don't want to wax one more inch of hull and superstructure. While a teak deck is an absolute requirement for any cruising boat we might own, and I rather enjoy maintaining it, I don't want to maintain one more inch of decking than we have now. We don't want to pay for one more inch of moorage than we pay now. We don't want to insure one more inch of boat than we insure now.

The boat we have now is not our favorite make or model of boat, but it is ideal for the cruising we do now and intend to do in the future. We know every inch of the boat and its systems from the toilets to the radar because we've worked on or installed all of them. We paid cash for the boat so our "only" expenses are the ownership costs.

So unless we decide to acquire a turnkey operation where we simply show up and use the boat and hire everything else out, we have no reason whatsoever to get anything larger or smaller.

We may decide to do this, just as we have been contemplating having this boat totally overhauled from new engines to a complete paint job. But until we pull the trigger on either of those ideas, we feel we have the perfect combination of size, capability, and maintainability.

As I read in a Boys Life magazine story back in the 1960s, we adhere to the philosophy, "Buy the smallest boat you can afford." That philosophy has to be interpreted the correct way, but I think it makes more sense for a prospective boat buyer than anything else I've ever heard.
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:52 PM   #9
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I can't speak to marinas and dockage rates, but there is one thing we have noticed as you move from the 40's into the 50's and 60's. Starting in the 50's, many boats as designed assuming that you have hired crew on board. You start to find crew quarters, and segregated parts of the boat to ensure that the master doesn't come in contact with those unsightly workers. We found this to be quite a problem. In some boats, the only way into the engine room was via the outside, or some other inconvenient path. And the separation between quarters means that even though the boat got bigger, you the owner aren't benefiting from the increased space, unless of course you want a hired crew. We found very few boats 55' and above that were set up to be run by a couple and that, even though they could accommodate a hired crew, did not assume that was always the case.
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:56 PM   #10
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For us our 36 if more than enough. We moved up from a 20 jet boat to a 35 foot sloop to a 22' pontoon to our current boat. Big difference between 20 and 35 but I spent many years in the Navy. I have and have driven 50 foot utilities up to the USS Nimitz and a few in between :-). I jut don't want a big boat now for what we do. I still work and we have the entire Chesapeake Bay to explore in a comfortable slow trawler. Bigger boat = more work, that is you do your own work.
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Old 03-10-2013, 06:09 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Wadosan View Post
So let me simplify my question: What is a size where the cost to stay at marinas goes up quickly and significantly? Is there a demarcation point? I've read there is but this figure varies from 50 to 60 feet. Do any of you have experience, or know from speaking to someone that this is true and what that size might be?
I am unaware of any such cutoff as it relates to the specific situation you propose. Transient dock space is $xx per foot times whatever length you are prepared to admit to and can get away with claiming. In the summer in the Pacific Northwet $xx is $1.50 to $3 per foot. The larger the vessel the more difficult it may be to find transient moorage but I can't think of anywhere that we have put Gray Hawk where finding moorage for a 50-60 foot vessel would have been impossible.
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Old 03-10-2013, 06:28 PM   #12
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I fueled my boat yesterday and was talking with the attendant. We talked about larger boats and he pointed to a 60 footer tied up nearby and said that one takes on $15,000 of diesel every visit to the fuel dock.

How much boat one "needs" is directly proportionate to the limit on your credit card. I'm quite content on my little boat. Where we to live aboard part time we would up size to perhaps 36' to get a walk around berth and comfortable sized head and call it good.
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Old 03-10-2013, 06:32 PM   #13
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"Don't buy the biggest boat you can afford, buy the smallest boat YOU can be comfortable in" is some of the very best advice in boating.
IMO, that quote is absolutely correct and it only took me 7 boats and 11 years to really understand what that means. I've had a 54' 48' 42' 38' 35' 30' & a 29 footer. We presently got it right (for us) and have a 32 footer. Not big enough to live on, however. My experience says that a 45 footer with 2 staterooms and a fly bridge would fit the bill for a live aboard. (For us!) The costs really go up with a 50+ foot boat. Availability of slips and their cost, insurance, property taxes, (here in SoCal) diver's fees, maintenance, boat washers, fuel, etc. Of course, if so inclined and capable, you can do much of the maintenance, boat washing, waxing, diving, etc. yourselves.
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Old 03-10-2013, 06:53 PM   #14
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If you error in judgement make the error on the small side. But if you do you'll probably be plagued by "two foot itus" and be destined to get a boat too big anyway. Good luck.
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Old 03-10-2013, 07:11 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Wadosan View Post
I think my question is being misunderstood. I appreciate all that have provided input. I absolutely understand that boat size and layout is dependent upon the individual and what they are going to do/what they need. I also understand that we need to experience different boats and that is our intent.

My thought is that if we are to look and charter various boats, we would like to be aware of the size that might start to incur costs that might be avoidable. So let me simplify my question: What is a size where the cost to stay at marinas goes up quickly and significantly? Is there a demarcation point? I've read there is but this figure varies from 50 to 60 feet. Do any of you have experience, or know from speaking to someone that this is true and what that size might be?

Thanks.

Wade
OK, we have cruised extensively in the waters where you say you want to go, in a 60ftLOA, 5 ft draft, 18 foot beam boat. All those specs are important in introducing limitations. So is 23' Air draft (reducable to 18'9" via hydraulic arch) for convenience and in some places access to a nice spot via fixed bridge.

60 is one of those cutoffs, which really start about 50. Above 60 and in some cases 50, you eliminate some mooring fields, or severely limit the number of moorings in a given field that can take your boat. Garrison Bight in Key West comes right to mind, and it used to be a factor, and may still be at Ft Myers, Fernandina Beach, and Naples and Annapolis though it has been awhile since I have the latest info on those places , off the top of my head. Marathon has only 11 big boat moorings and the limit is 60 ft on those. You limit if not eliminate getting a slip at many marinas, and when transient end up on the face dock more often than not.. not always a bad thing but usually more exposed. Above 16' beam can be a gating factor as well. Above 4 ft draft limits you or puts more of a pucker factor into transiting some interior passages and secondary inlets, and how much comfort room you have in some anchorages.

So yes, the bigger and deeper you are the more cruising limitations on the eastern seaboard and the islands. That said, we have still managed to have a fabulous time, and we are avid anchorers and users of moorings. We are so glad we didn't get a bigger boat; there is a version of mine that I really had my eye on with a cockpit that adds another 5 ft and would have bounced us out of some of our favorite places. And we are also very glad we didn't get a smaller boat; we goldilocksed our way to just the right boat for us.
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Old 03-10-2013, 08:21 PM   #16
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This is my first chime in on this site, may I preface by saying, as I lurked in the shadows gathering the input from about. That I have enjoyed both the bantering humor and the kibitzing from those who have forgot more than most of the other members know. As to the right size vessel with a preference towards a trawler type and making the assumption of no long offshore cruising outside weather windows, my two american eagles worth on the subject are as follows:
1) Two staterooms, fore and aft for when the
Admiral throws you in the dog house.
2) Two heads and showers to keep peace all the time
3) Large salon with real sofa and easy chairs, want to feel at home
4) Big windows with plenty of ventilation
5) Flybridge with enclosure if no lower helm, but I always operate from flybridge
6) Twin diesel engines with much preferred old technology and cable controls
7) Generator and inverter systems
8) Extra Large swim platform or small cockpit
9) No vertical ladders and no more than 4 steps
with wide steps and soles if possible
10) Large covered aft deck
11) Large engine room with good access around all machinery
12) More storage than you think you need
Now for the items you are requesting:
13) Draft less than 4' with a full keel
14) Beam less than 15'
15) Air Draft less than 17'3"
16) Length less than 50' overall
17) Weight less than 15 tons
When boat size gets larger than these numbers, you start to limit
where you can go, where you can dock and where you can get
hauled out and then the costs rise quickly
I have owned and sold vessels from 9' to 66' and presently own a
44' Atlantic Double Cabin Trawler which I'm in the process of renovating
to suit my needs, she shall fit me nicely, at this time. I could go on and on,
but the Admiral has orders for me to take her out for dinner.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:18 PM   #17
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I fueled my boat yesterday and was talking with the attendant. We talked about larger boats and he pointed to a 60 footer tied up nearby and said that one takes on $15,000 of diesel every visit to the fuel dock.

How much boat one "needs" is directly proportionate to the limit on your credit card. I'm quite content on my little boat. Where we to live aboard part time we would up size to perhaps 36' to get a walk around berth and comfortable sized head and call it good.
CPseudonym:$15K translates to what...~3000 gal's of fuel? At 60 feet it must have been a Nordhavn! But I get your meaning...bigger the boat, more $$ to feed. A 50ft Marine Trader MY with twin Perks is about 5 gal/hr at about 6knts according to an owner. I'd like to see lower but I realize I probably won't do much better than that in that size range.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaHorse II View Post
IMO, that quote is absolutely correct and it only took me 7 boats and 11 years to really understand what that means. I've had a 54' 48' 42' 38' 35' 30' & a 29 footer. We presently got it right (for us) and have a 32 footer. Not big enough to live on, however. My experience says that a 45 footer with 2 staterooms and a fly bridge would fit the bill for a live aboard. (For us!) The costs really go up with a 50+ foot boat. Availability of slips and their cost, insurance, property taxes, (here in SoCal) diver's fees, maintenance, boat washers, fuel, etc. Of course, if so inclined and capable, you can do much of the maintenance, boat washing, waxing, diving, etc. yourselves.
Looking at your past boats, you've gone down in size and bounced back to a 32'. I guess I'm wondering in what order you've owned them? Smaller to longer? Or did you go up to the larger and then back down? Would be interested to know the path that led you to your current boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by manyboats View Post
If you error in judgement make the error on the small side. But if you do you'll probably be plagued by "two foot itus" and be destined to get a boat too big anyway. Good luck.
Yes I understand two-foot-itus. This plagued us in our 5th wheel RV. We started with a 25 footer, and then to a 29 footer, and now to a 35 footer. I'd like to avoid that with boats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
OK, we have cruised extensively in the waters where you say you want to go, in a 60ftLOA, 5 ft draft, 18 foot beam boat. All those specs are important in introducing limitations. So is 23' Air draft (reducable to 18'9" via hydraulic arch) for convenience and in some places access to a nice spot via fixed bridge.

60 is one of those cutoffs, which really start about 50. Above 60 and in some cases 50, you eliminate some mooring fields, or severely limit the number of moorings in a given field that can take your boat. Garrison Bight in Key West comes right to mind, and it used to be a factor, and may still be at Ft Myers, Fernandina Beach, and Naples and Annapolis though it has been awhile since I have the latest info on those places , off the top of my head. Marathon has only 11 big boat moorings and the limit is 60 ft on those. You limit if not eliminate getting a slip at many marinas, and when transient end up on the face dock more often than not.. not always a bad thing but usually more exposed. Above 16' beam can be a gating factor as well. Above 4 ft draft limits you or puts more of a pucker factor into transiting some interior passages and secondary inlets, and how much comfort room you have in some anchorages.

So yes, the bigger and deeper you are the more cruising limitations on the eastern seaboard and the islands. That said, we have still managed to have a fabulous time, and we are avid anchorers and users of moorings. We are so glad we didn't get a bigger boat; there is a version of mine that I really had my eye on with a cockpit that adds another 5 ft and would have bounced us out of some of our favorite places. And we are also very glad we didn't get a smaller boat; we goldilocksed our way to just the right boat for us.
Thank you for that. That's what I was looking for.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:31 PM   #18
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This is my first chime in on this site, may I preface by saying, as I lurked in the shadows gathering the input from about. That I have enjoyed both the bantering humor and the kibitzing from those who have forgot more than most of the other members know. As to the right size vessel with a preference towards a trawler type and making the assumption of no long offshore cruising outside weather windows, my two american eagles worth on the subject are as follows:
1) Two staterooms, fore and aft for when the
Admiral throws you in the dog house.
2) Two heads and showers to keep peace all the time
3) Large salon with real sofa and easy chairs, want to feel at home
4) Big windows with plenty of ventilation
5) Flybridge with enclosure if no lower helm, but I always operate from flybridge
6) Twin diesel engines with much preferred old technology and cable controls
7) Generator and inverter systems
8) Extra Large swim platform or small cockpit
9) No vertical ladders and no more than 4 steps
with wide steps and soles if possible
10) Large covered aft deck
11) Large engine room with good access around all machinery
12) More storage than you think you need
Now for the items you are requesting:
13) Draft less than 4' with a full keel
14) Beam less than 15'
15) Air Draft less than 17'3"
16) Length less than 50' overall
17) Weight less than 15 tons
When boat size gets larger than these numbers, you start to limit
where you can go, where you can dock and where you can get
hauled out and then the costs rise quickly
I have owned and sold vessels from 9' to 66' and presently own a
44' Atlantic Double Cabin Trawler which I'm in the process of renovating
to suit my needs, she shall fit me nicely, at this time. I could go on and on,
but the Admiral has orders for me to take her out for dinner.
John
Ok thanks. I'm trying to weigh out if I want twins or a single. Part of me wants twins for the redundancy but I also know that diesels are very reliable as long as they're taken care of and the fuel is clean. Double engines, double costs for the most part although I don't think it's linear like that. Also I hadn't considered the weight...some places can't haul out a heavy boat so would have to pick and choose. I can see the point.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:40 PM   #19
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Twins vs single = double face palm... Or is that single face palm???
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:42 PM   #20
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Here's a photo of the boat 60 footer was my speculation.



Click image for larger version

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Could have been larger for all I know.

Sent from my iPhone using Trawler
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