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Old 01-01-2014, 10:53 PM   #1
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Single-Hand Cruising

So I have been reading and researching trawlers with the intent of basing in the S.E., do the loop, Bahamas, etc... In researching boats, I was wondering about this forum's opinion on what size is practical for single-handed boating. Although my standard complement is two (my wife and I), this means we need to plan on managing with one at times. We are both experienced on sail boats up to about 36 feet. Since we will be living aboard, we've been considering sizes from the mid 30s into the 50's. I'd like to go as large as reasonably possible while still meeting our budget, practical for the ICW/loop and manageable for one. Thoughts? Practical experience? Thank you.
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:20 PM   #2
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I've run our 48' from Marathon to Maine solo. It really depends on the boat and the operator not the length. Anchoring out takes less crew than docking, etc. Your personal comfort level is critical as well.
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:55 PM   #3
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Something like this would be more than sufficient. One would do alright with a bit shorter.





My Coot would do alright, although you probably should avoid the optional auxiliary sails if you're keen on the loop.
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Old 01-02-2014, 02:33 AM   #4
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Opinions will vary. In considering the question of what is an appropriate boat to do the loop single-handed I have focused on access to the dock from the steering station. This favors the pilothouse type trawler with full walk around decks. Getting down from a flying bridge is more difficult than walking out a port or starboard door. Some pilothouse trawlers do not have 360 degree visibility from the pilothouse. I would avoid these. The American and Nordic Tugs do.


Best arrangement I have seen for single-handling was a Nordic Tug (?) perhaps a 39 or 42 with both bow and stern thrusters.

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Old 01-02-2014, 05:33 AM   #5
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Boat size doesnt matter much , the layout is more important.

IF you can toss a midship line to a dock hand easily , thats about all you need .

Many boats will need an extra midship cleat installed , to be safer .
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:44 AM   #6
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.................... IF you can toss a midship line to a dock hand easily , thats about all you need .
There may be times when no dock hand is available. You'll have to be able to step onto the dock (with lines in your hands) or reach a piling or cleat from the boat. The tool mentioned in this thread:New Boat Toy might help.
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Old 01-02-2014, 09:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by rlbride View Post
So I have been reading and researching trawlers with the intent of basing in the S.E., do the loop, Bahamas, etc... In researching boats, I was wondering about this forum's opinion on what size is practical for single-handed boating. Although my standard complement is two (my wife and I), this means we need to plan on managing with one at times. We are both experienced on sail boats up to about 36 feet. Since we will be living aboard, we've been considering sizes from the mid 30s into the 50's. I'd like to go as large as reasonably possible while still meeting our budget, practical for the ICW/loop and manageable for one. Thoughts? Practical experience? Thank you.

Within reason, size is less important than layout. Quick access from helm to mid-ship's cleats for spring lines is one of the first things I'd check. I think there's at least one thread on the topic around here some place, and a search would likely find it...

For the Loop, you'll want to examine fixed air draft; I think max is something like 19'1" or thereabouts.

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Old 01-02-2014, 10:01 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by rlbride View Post
In researching boats, I was wondering about this forum's opinion on what size is practical for single-handed boating. Since we will be living aboard, we've been considering sizes from the mid 30s into the 50's. I'd like to go as large as reasonably possible while still meeting our budget, practical for the ICW/loop and manageable for one. Thoughts? Practical experience? Thank you.
You will most likely get a lot of opinions on this one, and probably some very good advice. I have been singlehanding for about 6 years now. First with a 39' sailboat, and now with a 36' trawler. With a good autopilot, the only real problems have been in docking with windy conditions or a strong current, or both. With a dockhand available, not usually a problem. But by yourself, if the boat is too large to easily pull up to the dock and hold with one hand while securing to the cleat with the other hand, then it can be a problem. For that reason, and only that reason, I think that 36' is about my limit for singlehanding. Just my opinion, and worth every cent of what it costs. :-)
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:10 AM   #9
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You will most likely get a lot of opinions on this one, and probably some very good advice. I have been singlehanding for about 6 years now. First with a 39' sailboat, and now with a 36' trawler. With a good autopilot, the only real problems have been in docking with windy conditions or a strong current, or both. With a dockhand available, not usually a problem. But by yourself, if the boat is too large to easily pull up to the dock and hold with one hand while securing to the cleat with the other hand, then it can be a problem. For that reason, and only that reason, I think that 36' is about my limit for singlehanding. Just my opinion, and worth every cent of what it costs. :-)

The irony is I really think the larger boats to a degree are much easier around docks. I have owned 17,27,36,48 footers and the weight and predictability of the larger boat make her much easier in docking situations. She is less effected by wind, waves, motion etc then the smaller boats. Everything near docks happens at a slower more predictable pace.
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Old 01-02-2014, 11:28 AM   #10
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The irony is I really think the larger boats to a degree are much easier around docks. I have owned 17,27,36,48 footers and the weight and predictability of the larger boat make her much easier in docking situations. She is less effected by wind, waves, motion etc then the smaller boats. Everything near docks happens at a slower more predictable pace.
Interesting, as I would not have thought that, but certainly do take your word for it.
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Old 01-02-2014, 02:09 PM   #11
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The irony is I really think the larger boats to a degree are much easier around docks. I have owned 17,27,36,48 footers and the weight and predictability of the larger boat make her much easier in docking situations. She is less effected by wind, waves, motion etc then the smaller boats. Everything near docks happens at a slower more predictable pace.
I agree, the mass of larger boats compared to smaller ones does put most docking items into seemingly "slow-motion"... however, tidal currents move big or little boats pretty much the same. Difference is small boats may be able to be temporally held against the current with arm power while looping lines to cleats, whereas larger boats may require more power than just arms... especially during single hand docking operations!

And, twin screw makes most docking considerably easy to accomplish! With twins as well as front and back thrusters then docking could nearly be done with a remote while you sat at the club house imbibing!
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Old 01-02-2014, 06:56 PM   #12
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I singlehand 60 to 70% of the time. On anchoring in current I don't leave the helm as I have a windlass switch at the upper helm, because of where I anchor & how the current can move the boat I wouldn't try it even with a windlass if I had to leave the helm. I agree a 360 view from the lower helm is a must for maneuvering near docks & other boats, especially if wind & current are a concern, I don't have thrusters & that I'am sure colors my opinion. Mine is 38' with twin diesel power & I don't think I would want anything bigger. Good luck
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Old 01-03-2014, 05:37 AM   #13
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>if the boat is too large to easily pull up to the dock and hold with one hand while securing to the cleat with the other hand, then it can be a problem.<

A problem that can easily be solved with mere currency.

Lots of cruising folks will chose a vertical capstan at the bow , and stick on a used sail geared winch at the stern to male line handling a non issue.

A powered self tailing winch near the midship cleat might just do the job.
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Old 01-03-2014, 07:57 AM   #14
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If you're seriously considering doing the "loop", you should join this group:

America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association

They can tell you a lot about what will work best on this cruise.

Several people have done the loop and written about it. A search on amazon.com will turn up a few books that can be pretty interesting.
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:52 PM   #15
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I was of the understanding that they really want you to have two on board when you lock, is this not the case?

Is locking single hand a problem? Any suggestions to make it easier?
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:56 PM   #16
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I was of the understanding that they really want you to have two on board when you lock, is this not the case?

Is locking single hand a problem? Any suggestions to make it easier?
It is certainly easier with two, but I've done a bunch of them singlehanding and never had a mishap. Just used a couple of snatch blocks so that I could stand in one place and control both forward and aft lines.
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:05 PM   #17
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I was of the understanding that they really want you to have two on board when you lock, is this not the case?

Is locking single hand a problem? Any suggestions to make it easier?
Not a real problem. It should be a breeze with your boat. Having access to the midship cleat, you can get control of the situation very easily. Also if no floating bollards (they will be there on most of the big lifts), you can ask the lockmaster for a slow ride. Most will accomodate.

David Carter just did a passel of locks solo last year. His thread gives a good account of what you would be faced with. Maybe David will pick up on this.
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:24 PM   #18
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I was of the understanding that they really want you to have two on board when you lock, is this not the case? Is locking single hand a problem? Any suggestions to make it easier?
The locks around my area #21 thru #25 have allowed me to float thru when singlehanding. On the 508 mile trip down last year we went thru 20 locks & we floated over half of them, this is on the upper Mississippi River.
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Old 01-03-2014, 06:01 PM   #19
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Great information, thanks guys.

I like the snatch block idea, can see that working very smooth.
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Old 01-03-2014, 06:09 PM   #20
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Great Bridge/Dismal Locks in Va just want you to hand a line that they loop around a bollard/cleat and you take back and tend up or down. They don't seem to care what you do as long as you look like you will stay relatively put.

Better a good single hander than many that pass through those locks.
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