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Old 12-01-2016, 09:51 PM   #1
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How big is too big for a first boat?

Greetings all. I've been watching the forum for quite a while and am preparing to jump into the boating world as a first time owner to complement my life-change plans (upcoming retirement, bought a place on the water with my own slip in the Thousand Islands, will cruise the st Lawrence and rideau etc). My wife is on board with the plans and we had really settled on a trawler style, requirements being a big covered aft deck for entertaining friends and family and separate private aft cabin so we can cruise for short overnight trips with other couples from time time. I've never owned a boat before (like so many I've dreamed about it for years) but we've looked a hundreds (online). We have been on enough (traveling far and wide to inspect several but never pulled the trigger) & haveidentified our needs carefully enough to have solidly settled on this layout and style.

My dilemma is this: I had more or less concluded my ideal starter size was going to be 34-37', a twin screw (easier handling from all I've read) but not necessary if a single came along with bow thruster. However due to circumstances a really clean low hours full keel twin screw 43 has come my way and the price is very attractive, similar to the nice (and a bit newer) 34-37's I had been considering, and I've been watching for a while for the exact perfect fit. Survey and inspection has checked out, the boat quality is not in question, it's a beauty. It "feels" right in that regard.

But I worry, is it too much boat as a starter? Then I convince myself maybe I'm buying my "second" boat instead of my first, and I'll adjust. From my reading on this forum and other sources I feel I'm dealing with relatively calm waters compared to some of the stories I've read from the more adventurous coastal and long distance boaters, but I can't help wondering if it's still too much to bite off for any first timer regardless of where you do your boating. I do love everything about the boat, Im not afraid of the maintenance and consider myself fairly handy with a good feel for machinery. But I have this nagging concern I may be underestimating the learning curve. I get it that the entire world of boating has so much to digest (protocol, manners, rules of the road, regulations, lifts, parking, anchoring, navigation, wind, weather, etc etc etc) for a newbie and the only way to really learn is at some point to just get out there and do it.

So, is learning on a 43 going to be significantly more difficult than a 34-36? I understand it's not only length I'm jumping up, but width & weight. I equate it somewhat to learning to drive in an Escalade instead of an Accord, yes parallel parking the bigger vehicle is going to be a lot harder so I may have to avoid the tight parking spots for a while. But then again maybe my analogy is all wrong. Comments from the experienced who have been there before me welcomed, many thanks in advance.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:14 PM   #2
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard, if I've missed you. The very FIRST thing I would suugest is some boating courses. I have no idea where Sewel is so either United States Power Squadron (USPS) or Canadian Power Squadron (CPS) offer basic and advanced boating courses and the winter is the best time to take one or two, or more. Should be a local chapter in your area.

Some days training with a qualified captain should allow you to handle a boat in the 32' to 42' range.

Seems you're going to be traveling in relatively protected waters BUT both draft (how deep) and air draft (how high) should be considered to afford access to as many cruising grounds as available.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:24 PM   #3
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If the 43' is the boat you really want, go for it. Having said that, take lots of time and learn how to safely operate it. Take a boating safety course, and not just an 8 hour class but rather an in depth class of 12 or so lessons. You may need to hire a captain for a trip or two to show you how to run the boat and maintain it. When you are ready to start running the boat, watch the weather closely and make a couple of short trips with good weather. When you get some experience, then try a trip with a little bit worse weather in order to gain some experience handling the boat in a bit of adverse conditions. Make some friends around the marina by helping other people with work on their boats. You will learn and then get some payback when they help you with yours.

I would not buy a smaller boat just to learn, you will loose too much money working your way up to the boat you really want. One problem may be getting insurance without any experience. That is why you need classes and maybe experience with a captain. Good luck with whatever you end up with.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:32 PM   #4
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I'm near Philly for now, closest major boating area being the south jersey shore near Atlantic City. Plans well underway for moving next spring to the 1000 islands. Winter boating courses? I'll look into it right away, never figured it was an option, thx good advice.

As for the boat, both draw and height clearance also fit my needs so no issues there.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:37 PM   #5
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Welcome


Some people don't and never will have the ability to handle a 18' let alone a 43' . Choice and style of boat are a major factor things like how easy is it to get to the bow to pick up a mooring rope ?
I have in the past single hand skippered a 47' with single engine walk around deck but needed 2 other to help me on a Sea Ray 28 .
How big do you really need ? when boat shopping we found on many boats the only advantage of a 43 foot over a 38 was it slept 6 more people the dinning living area on both were the same so were the engines fuel waste and water. Also ego has a major factor in boat buying decisions
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:42 PM   #6
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... Take a boating safety course,... You may need to hire a captain for a trip or two ....
The courses and training are already a common theme. I passed the basic online Canadian test for a pontoon boat I rented 2 yrs ago but I doubt that's not the same thing at all. If the deal concludes I've already planned a paid captain for the days needed to get her to home, wouldn't ever think to try it on my own.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:44 PM   #7
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Luke,
Think of the consequences of something going wrong. That's the equalizer.
If you run aground in your kayak. If you bump a big expensive boat w your big expensive boat. If you go way out on the water and your engine quits. Your throttle sticks in a crowded marina. Your engine catches fire. You're not attentive and hit a rock .. or deadhead.

Not great examples but we generally tend to learn how to deal everyday boating problems on smaller boats where the consequences of doing it badly are relatively small. Larger boats are more complicated and are full of systems that require understanding to operate safely. You may be a mechanic, electrical engineer and have worked in boatbuilding. In that case you'd be safe starting w a mid sized boat (read 25') but if you also were a truck driver and could operate a good sized bulldozer then perhaps you'd be safe w a boat like you describe. Maintaining the boat may be as big a deal as commanding the helm. Small boats are easy. Big boats no so much.

But even more important than the above is a natural tendency to take comand and be able to apply your attention w/o anxiety to the situation at hand. Thinking on your feet it's often called. If you see you're going to need a lot of power to get out of the way or stop the boat in reverse you'll act as needed.

So the answer to your question requires you to look within and access the situation honestly and then take command of yourself and make the decision.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:45 PM   #8
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Learning will be more difficult but so what. Are you the calm cool collected type who can shrug off latest docking disaster and repeat it all over again in three days? More importantly, is your wife the calm cool collected type? One of you must be. Optional for the other. There will be initial anxiety with any boat you buy considering your experience. Hopefully by retirement age we have all figured out there are a LOT of boats out there. We don't need the perfect one, just the one we like.

(and as Willy states, you must be able to make decisions under stress, sometimes in scary nasty dangerous circumstances with big waves, lightning crashing all around, raining so hard you can't see the bow, "Honey, could you start bailing right now, I think the pumps just stopped")
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:48 PM   #9
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Find a teaching captain that you and especially your wife is comfortable with.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:50 PM   #10
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Greetings,
Mr. L. "...basic online Canadian test..." Nope, not the same thing at all. Weeks of classroom work. Best money you'll initially spend. Hopefully you'll wait for spring to bring her to the 1000 Islands. A tad chilly at the moment. No ice YET!
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:52 PM   #11
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How big do you really need ? when boat shopping we found on many boats the only advantage of a 43 foot over a 38 was it slept 6 more people the dinning living area on both were the same so were the engines fuel waste and water. Also ego has a major factor in boat buying decisions
If I could have got a walk around king sized bed, a walk around engine room with 6 ft headroom, a galley better than most land based kitchens , ability to comfortably carry a month plus worth of water and not 1 but 2 full sized bathrooms in a 38 fter that was ocean capable I would have bought it.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:52 PM   #12
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Go for the boat you love. You only get one go around in this life so make it count. There is not a huge difference in handling a twin screw 36' vs 43'. In fact in that mid size range I find a heavier boat easier to pilot. Most everything except docking is exactly the same learning curve for both size boats. May as well learn the bigger boat. Even easier if you have a thruster.


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Old 12-01-2016, 10:58 PM   #13
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Go for the boat you love. You only get one go around in this life so make it count. There is not a huge difference in handling a twin screw 36' vs 43'. In fact in that mid size range I find a heavier boat easier to pilot. Most everything except docking is exactly the same learning curve for both size boats. May as well learn the bigger boat. Even easier if you have a thruster
What he said.

Oh how I'd love a thruster, for those few minutes once a month that I come into a fuel dock.
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Old 12-01-2016, 10:59 PM   #14
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First big boat I ran on my own, at 13, was 65', twin Gray Marines, but I grew up on the water and come from a maritime family.
If you get the boat before some boat handling schooling, find an experienced boater to come aboard and teach you. Or hire a captain to teach. Learn how spring lines work when docking. They make it easier.
Don't dock in winds or currents until you've got several dockings behind you. Read some boat handling books covering your power configuration.
I dock my boat alone more than with people aboard. You plan your docking, lines ready. Go slow. Don't get in a hurry. I rarely go above idle on my 83' w/twins when docking. Usually just moving engines in and out of gear as needed. New captains get in trouble most often using too much power. Bigger boats don't respond as quickly, so if you keep the power low, it's harder to have an accident.
I don't think the size difference you're looking at makes handling any different. Have good insurance and expect some minor accidents.
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:08 PM   #15
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Welcome...How big do you really need ?....
I have no idea, never done this before

A largish rear deck and aft cabin were mandatory for wifey but a 36 in the right style could fit that bill too. What I was trying to convey was the quality/condition/price part of the equation seemed to make sense to me when I compared to the smaller offerings - i.e. seems like a lot more boat for what seemed to me not a lot more money. I guess ego is in there too, but my gut feels very good about the quality/value, much more on the nervous side regarding the size.
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:13 PM   #16
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If I could have got a walk around king sized bed, a walk around engine room with 6 ft headroom, a galley better than most land based kitchens , ability to comfortably carry a month plus worth of water and not 1 but 2 full sized bathrooms in a 38 fter that was ocean capable I would have bought it.

I "live" in a 6 bedroom house 2 kitchens 4 ovens 4 fridges 6 bathrooms walk in chill room spa salt water pool also a unit on the Gold Coast a house on the water 5 other boats jet ski 5 cars and one Cocker spaniel dog and if we want to go out in the ocean we buy a ticket on the Queen Mary there are 2 of us and the dog we use the boat 3 days a week and 28' is big enough
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:17 PM   #17
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I have no idea, never done this before

A largish rear deck and aft cabin were mandatory for wifey but a 36 in the right style could fit that bill too. What I was trying to convey was the quality/condition/price part of the equation seemed to make sense to me when I compared to the smaller offerings - i.e. seems like a lot more boat for what seemed to me not a lot more money. I guess ego is in there too, but my gut feels very good about the quality/value, much more on the nervous side regarding the size.
I will be shot down but a 45 walk around trawler is a hell of a lot easier for 2 to handle than a 45 Gin Palace
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:25 PM   #18
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Sewell is in New Jersey, RT. No idea where, though.

Luke, I've been boating in stuff I could not stop with my body for about 25 years. And even a 280 lb Flying Dutchman sailboat (my first and continuing love in boating) can do you and others some harm beyond merely undue wetting.

Size really does not matter. I think you'd have the same learning curve on a 34' powerboat as on a 44'. It's nearly all in the training and some important bit in your own innate abilities.

It would be well, I think, to do the training first on a vessel you did not have to worry about and under the tutelage of someone in the know. Think of the freshman college kids out driving a Navy Yard Patrol boat in Annapolis; they did not walk onto campus and hop aboard a boat: The US Navy -- Fact File: Yard Patrol Craft - YP

And, don't be afraid to do it!
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:28 PM   #19
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Dumb question: bow or stern thruster? I assume bow?

How much do they run $$ installed? If it makes it so much easier maybe I have the marina put one on, put my mind at ease from day one & move on. I must admit I thought a thruster with a twin was kind of redundant, or dare I say it bad form & not for a "real" boater? Nothing inferred here, just trying to learn.

Sewell is what we locals call "south jersey" between Philly and Atlantic City, we'll be here until next spring when our new 1000 islands life style begins. ��
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Old 12-01-2016, 11:30 PM   #20
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My first was 52 overall. Still own her. Buy all you can and grow into it. Cheaper than trading up later.
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