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Old 08-14-2019, 08:08 AM   #1
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How large trawler can I single-hand?

Hi all - I have a 32 foot Nordic Tug that I've taken all over and used and loved enough to know that I'm in this for the long haul. Now looking to trade-up to a larger trawler-style boat to accomodate guests and family for longer outings. Here's my question - I often also travel alone and would like a boat that I can confidently dock by myself. How large a vessel can I reasonably do single-handed - right now I'm looking at everything from 37-48 feet. Any specific boat suggestions? Thanks!
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:13 AM   #2
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Why not just charter a few larger boats to see what you might be comfortable on?

My guess is that the comfort level will vary from person to person, and in part be due to how the boat is set up.

There have been some very interesting thread in the past on solo cruiising.

Jim
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:19 AM   #3
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Yes boat setup, especially for docking has a lot to do with how big. My 45' boat with a stern docking station works well for me. An aft cabin of the same size could be much more difficult for solo docking without dock personnel to help.

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Old 08-14-2019, 09:02 AM   #4
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I agree, only you really know what your abilities are, including agility, ability to focus, rodeo skills with lines and so on. I know guys who single hand 70 and 80 footers, a meaningless factoid when it comes to what you or I are capable of. As the movie punchline goes "a man has to know his limitations".
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:16 AM   #5
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There is single handling in no wind and then there is single handling in a blow. Some were around 50’ you loose sight of the boats corners. Some were around 30,000 lbs you loose the ability to push a boat around by your self. At what point do these factors add up to overwhelm you is anybody’s guess.

I have no problem single handling a Bayliner 47 but wouldn’t think about single handling my OA 54. The next guy will feel different.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:12 AM   #6
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If you are willing to anchor out and wait for conditions to favour docking, your own size limit will rise.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:15 AM   #7
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It's not just size, layout matters when single-handing. It can be tough to snag a buoy ring solo if the decks are high vs the low stern access you have on the N 32.

Thrusters at both ends are a big help too, look into that.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by koliver View Post
If you are willing to anchor out and wait for conditions to favour docking, your own size limit will rise.
This ^^
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
Yes boat setup, especially for docking has a lot to do with how big.
Does the boat have a bow thruster, stern thruster, pilot house with a side door, cockpit, etc.? Size does not matter as much as how the boat is set up and your own abilities.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:20 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by caltexflanc View Post
As the movie punchline goes "a man has to know his limitations".
Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, Magnum Force

One of my favorite quotes.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:24 AM   #11
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I have always wanted to be willing to (different than have-to) single-hand the boat in a variety of situations.

As such, I had a few "must haves" when we bought SCOUT.
  1. Full 360 degree walk-around, safe, side decks.
  2. At least one helm door with a readily-accessible cleat amidships
  3. Low-water access somewhere, at least at the stern/swim platform without a ladder involved
  4. As little windage as possible without too much compromise in living areas
  5. Reasonable control with bow thruster and/or twins

After a year of ownership and several solo operations, a success so far!
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:38 AM   #12
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I dock Sandpiper alone frequently.

40', 40,000#, single Lehman.

I get the boat up to the dock and climb down the portugese side with the midship line in my hand.

Once you get your new boat, practice docking a lot in a variety of docking scenarios.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:34 AM   #13
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I have been single-handling Spinner for two seasons now. 42 Nordic Tug, no fly bridge.

I added a stern thruster to go with the original bow thruster with a remote for both. If there is current or wind, no need for someone on the dock to grab a line because I can step off and keep the boat in place while securing lines.

Had a starboard side door created in the cockpit, hung a 2-step fender step below the starboard pilothouse door. Backup cameras to show the rear corners on the dual Garmins. Added a chain counter to simplify anchoring.

Other than that, it’s mostly standard stuff. Keep the lines and fenders in place to simplify preparation for docking.

I got back yesterday from two months out; the only difficult docking was at my home slip in La Conner, WA! (They are dredging; a giant barge was parked behind the dock and took up most of my maneuvering room. Add in 3 knots of current and it was not pretty!! Add in very tight slip with about two feet between me and my dock mate....)
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:03 PM   #14
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I single hand most of the time 38’, 25k pounds, side doors next to the helm, midship cleats right outside the doors, and a bow thruster. No problemo.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:07 PM   #15
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I strongly agree with those highlighting the importance of boat ergonomic design. When evaluating potential boats this should be a primary consideration. A physical walk through of what would be involved in various scenarios is invaluable. A boat should fit your capabilities, and if not an easy workaround should be available.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:21 PM   #16
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There are some things that make single-handing easier, but few things that make it impossible.


My boat doesn't have walk-around decks, has a high freeboard outside the PH, and has poor visibility aft from the PH. However, I am quite comfortable docking the boat solo in most conditions. Those conditions that are less than comfortable to do solo, are also less than comfortable to do with a crew. It just is a matter of setting the boat up to work for you as Sue mentioned with Spinner above.



I have bow and stern thrusters, one rear facing camera (that doesn't allow me to see the aft corners however), and I use a Fender Step outside of the PH door. I will also place dock lines where I will need them before I leave if I know I will be docking solo in a potentially tricky spot.


So, if you are comfortable with your NT32, I don't see any reason why you couldn't learn to be comfortable single-handing most trawlers in the 40-50 range with a little setup, planning, and practice.
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:07 PM   #17
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If I was single handing all the time my preference would be:
Pilot house with doors on both sides, side decks on the same level,and side decks low enough to step directly onto a floating dock without a ladder. With a few exceptions that says “tug” style yacht.
The worst in my mind for single handing is from a FB of a Europa style trawler or a lower helm that you have to run out to the stern cockpit to get to the bow.
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:28 PM   #18
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Old 08-14-2019, 01:34 PM   #19
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With the new dynamic positioning systems available on pleasure vessels, there is absolutely no limit. You just tell the thing to place you two feet off the dock/lock/wall/buoy and then run around getting lines in place before shutting down. Other than that, I agree with everybody else.
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Old 08-14-2019, 02:12 PM   #20
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I regularly single hand a 42' twin trawler. My 1st one was a 1977 42' Californian LRC. My current one is a 42' Europa-style Hardin.

I was scary and needed help on dock for my first dozen or so times coming in. After that, I was basically good, except for times with really heavy, especially burst wind, or heavy wind and heavy current mixes.

As a part-time boater, my skills get rusty when I dont use them regularly and those same situations can be a problem again -- but now I know enough just to wait it out for a bit and wait a bit for it to settle down. And, by the end of the season, I have the skill and confidence back.

-Greg
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