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Old 06-05-2015, 03:55 PM   #1
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Single Hander Boat Size

I realize this question is a bit general so I'll narrow it as much as possible. If you were a single hander and had your choice of boat size, how big of a boat would you feel safe handling by yourself.

Now for some narrowing....... I have two goals, I would like to do the Great Loop and I would like to also head down to the Bahamas. My guess is a smaller boat would be better for the Loop vs. maybe something a little larger for the islands?

I read a this article about 48' Kadey Krogen and a single hander captain. It sounded doable but difficult. It also sounded exciting.

Thanks for your thoughts,

Ken
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Old 06-05-2015, 08:19 PM   #2
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More than length, I feel it's a function of boat layout. Do you have walkarounds? Side door or doors? Access at water level to the stern lines? A lower helm with quick dock access? If I had a FB helm only, I'd want steps instead of a ladder for safe and quick dock access.

I have a 34 LRC with full walkarounds, a stbd door and double aft doors to the cockpit and a cockpit with great dock access. Not a problem single-handing. Sometimes I think it's easier than my Sea Ray runabout. I suspect a KK42 would also be a relatively easy boat to SH due to its layout. A Krogen Manatee and some aft cabins might be a different story without walkarounds or a cockpit.
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Old 06-05-2015, 08:56 PM   #3
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To me its more about the ability to get a vessel where you need it and keep it pinned while you and/or others can secure it.

So engine configuration and thrusters can make the difference in crew and deck access.

Size isn't nearly as important as manuverability and access.
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Old 06-05-2015, 09:07 PM   #4
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To me its more about the ability to get a vessel where you need it and keep it pined while you and/or others can secure it.

So engine configuration and thrusters can make the difference in crew and deck access.

Size isn't nearly as important as manuverability and access.
I would agree, I SH my 44 regularly but I have to plan ahead for dockage. If the wind is taking me off a wall I'm trying to lay on and there is no one on the dock to take the line I've left in place then there is no way I can get from my bridge to the rail in time. If I'm going into a slip then no issues as the boat is held captive.
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Old 06-06-2015, 01:06 AM   #5
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Agree that size is not the issue for single handing but it certainly will have significance in other areas. Both large and small have their pros and cons. A good compromise would be a seaworthy boat 32-38 feet. A diesel powered lobster type would do well on the loop and to the islands. Good on fuel at 7-8K and able to do 12-18K when needed. With modern technology a single hander can control a boat from any position on the boat and even a short walk down the dock. I have single handed many sail and power boats for over 50 years with and without the technology. My present boat at 52 feet LOA has the full package. Bow and stern thrusters-twin engines and wireless remote. This package makes docking and tight quarter maneuvers much easier since I can walk on my wide decks to the critical places and see close up and personal what's going on. I can step off the stern platform with a line tie it down while I have compete control. I can then walk forward on the dock and maneuver the bow in so I can leisurely take the bow line from the rail and tie it down. This type of control is not essential but it sure makes it a lot less stressful. On my sail boats all I have is a motor and tiller and a good amidships spring line and that also works.
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Old 06-06-2015, 01:16 AM   #6
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I would agree, I SH my 44 regularly but I have to plan ahead for dockage. If the wind is taking me off a wall I'm trying to lay on and there is no one on the dock to take the line I've left in place then there is no way I can get from my bridge to the rail in time. If I'm going into a slip then no issues as the boat is held captive.
To the OP look at M bevins boat picture then look at a lobster boat. All credit to mbevins for being able to single hand his boat. If you want a easy SH you need low free board wide decks a big cockpit with easy access to the dock. A helm control in the cockpit would be a big plus and many working and cruising LBs are so equipped. What you don't want is no side decks high freeboard and house covering most of the boat with a helm 15 feet up in the air.
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Old 06-06-2015, 01:35 AM   #7
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I don't think single handing safety is a function of boat size. I think its more a function as others have indicated of how the boat is set up, and its not just docking.

Consider pulling an anchor in a breeze. Often times in breezy conditions we need to get under power rather quickly after the anchor lets go. A boat thats set up so the person running the windlass can quickly get to the helm is a pretty good idea for a single hand person.

Docking with the wind blowing you away from the dock is a worst case scenario for anyone single handed or not.

Having a boat that you can very quickly get to a mid boat line and cleat will allow one person to get a boat snugged up against a dock in fairly challenging conditions.
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Old 06-06-2015, 04:28 AM   #8
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You are getting some good comments. A couple of more:

It would be difficult if you have to dock from the flying bridge. Too many steps to handle the lines.

A high bow such as on my Krogen 42 makes it difficult to handle lines after leaving the pilot house.

Single engine boats frequently rely on dock lines when pulling into the dock and when leaving. Thus if you have a single engine a bow thruster becomes important.
If you are adding one, consider hydraulic and possibly a wireless remote. Watched a guy dock a 63 footer standing on the side deck with a remote in hand (he had a stern thruster as well.)

Sight lines. If I dock from the pilot house of my Krogen 42 I cannot see to the stern. Dangerous if I have to abort. (I dock from the flying bridge - Admiral handles the lines.) So check the sight lines.

I have recommended the Nordic and American tugs as good single handing boats in the past. Take a look at those in the 30+ ft range.
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Old 06-06-2015, 06:01 AM   #9
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As others have mentioned, layout offsets some of size. My 35' downeaster is very easy to single hand even though it only has the traditional helm inside the cabin. This requires that you move quickly out of the cabin to grab the first dock line or work the anchor.

My substantially larger 45' trawler has a starboard stern docking station which makes docking a bigger boat much easier. Also the trawler has anchor windlass control in the pilothouse making anchor dropping and pulling easier than my smaller boat.

Both boats are single screw with very large rudders. The smaller is easy and agile. The larger has a bow thruster which can help to offset some of the size. As with most boats, the operator's experience and familiarity with the boat will be the biggest limiting factors.

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Old 06-06-2015, 06:16 AM   #10
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The nature of the boat must be predictable.

Usually you will need to put it alongside a dock and then step off and attach a midship line with no help.

If the boat is handy , and you can get the shore line aboard ,,size , up to 60-65 ft

In certain situations you must make a Command Decision , NOT to attempt to dock unaided.
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Old 06-06-2015, 07:46 AM   #11
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BINGO -FF That is a Command Decision that is too often overlooked or not exercised.
I routinely operate a 52' single screw and agree with all of the above comments. I can go from the wheel house to a mid ship (port side) line in about 4 seconds. Locking has been the most troublesome but pre-placement of fenders and lines are critical.
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Old 06-06-2015, 07:57 AM   #12
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I'm new to bigger boats, and my recommendation would be get something with at least one side pilothouse door so you can easily step out and tie a spring line off your amidships cleat.

My boat only has the rear door in the pilothouse, so when I'm single handing at the dock with no dock assistance (and it's windy) it requires some quick scampering to get a line tied. I do have full, large walk around side decks however so that makes my scampering easier. 😄
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Old 06-06-2015, 08:47 AM   #13
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The point about ergonomics has been well made here. I, a not very adept big klutz, have single handed my Hatteras on numerous occasions, because the visual and physical ergonomics are excellent. Just took practicing some basic rodeo skills and preparation.

As for size, the smaller the better if you are doing extended solo cruising. "Don't buy the biggest boat you can afford, buy the smallest boat you can be comfortable in". Hundreds of 20-something footers, center consoles mostly but also "walk around" cabin boats go over to the Bahamas to fish and hang out all the time. Just pick your weather.

If I was going to be doing the OP's cruising plans by myself, I'd likely go with an outboard powered "walk around" fishing boat in the mid-to-high 20's. I'd include Rosbouroughs and C Dorys and TomCats in that group as well as the Grady Whites of the world. Though you can get around easier and faster in the GW style walkarounds when docking and mooring. Easy and cheap to get serviced anywhere (and easy to DIY service), speed available when you need it, comfortable place to sleep, etc. Cheap dockage, can be pulled out of the water with a forklift or trailer.
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Old 06-06-2015, 09:40 AM   #14
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........ buy the smallest boat you can be comfortable in"..
The OP's goals are the "Great Loop" & "Bermuda." Both require "sleeping aboard." Comfort on board is a big one to me....If I'm not comfortable, I can't enjoy the cruise.
Once you get to know your boat and have it set up properly, most boats can be single handed.
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Old 06-06-2015, 09:45 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by FlyWright View Post
More than length, I feel it's a function of boat layout. Do you have walkarounds? Side door or doors? Access at water level to the stern lines? A lower helm with quick dock access? If I had a FB helm only, I'd want steps instead of a ladder for safe and quick dock access.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
To me its more about the ability to get a vessel where you need it and keep it pinned while you and/or others can secure it.

So engine configuration and thrusters can make the difference in crew and deck access.

Size isn't nearly as important as manuverability and access.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ksanders View Post
I don't think single handing safety is a function of boat size. I think its more a function as others have indicated of how the boat is set up, and its not just docking.

Consider pulling an anchor in a breeze. Often times in breezy conditions we need to get under power rather quickly after the anchor lets go. A boat thats set up so the person running the windlass can quickly get to the helm is a pretty good idea for a single hand person.

Docking with the wind blowing you away from the dock is a worst case scenario for anyone single handed or not.

Having a boat that you can very quickly get to a mid boat line and cleat will allow one person to get a boat snugged up against a dock in fairly challenging conditions.

Yep, agree. Size is a secondary consideration.

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Old 06-06-2015, 11:40 AM   #16
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For now, my boat doesn't have any cleats amidship or even part of the way along the sides and I singlehandedly just fine most of the time.

It is all what you get used to. On the assistance towboat, I have numerous cleats and still tend to use a bow or stern line first when docking.

Not right or wrong or best...just technique.

Side decks are nice but still a funation of technique. Speed from helm to lines and reachability to dock is more important for me...even if through the interior.
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Old 06-06-2015, 11:48 AM   #17
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It is all what you get used to..... still tend to use a bow or stern line first when docking.

Not right or wrong or best...just technique.
Me too!
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Old 06-06-2015, 12:02 PM   #18
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I realize this question is a bit general so I'll narrow it as much as possible. If you were a single hander and had your choice of boat size, how big of a boat would you feel safe handling by yourself.

...
I am a single hander and I did have my choice of boat size. I picked a Krogen 54 - single screw and hydraulic bow thrusters. I agree with the other comments - size isn't the big issue. Like others I have easy access to the midship line (via the pilothouse door). I can be tying up that line in a matter of seconds after stepping away from the helm.

Mine wouldn't be the right boat for the Great Loop however - too much draft in both directions!

Good luck

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Old 06-06-2015, 12:16 PM   #19
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Great loop single hander

I just bought a boat after considering the OPs criteria for a long time.

I wanted the smallest boat capable of long range cruising that had twin diesel engines. I ended up with a 34 Mainship Pilot. Although it's a new boat to me, I have single handed her a couple of times and it seems very easy to do. So far, I am very pleased. She does have a bow thruster, which I didn't really think I needed. But it adds to the convenience.
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Old 06-06-2015, 12:40 PM   #20
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Quick access from helm to where lines are handled. Good visibility from helm to bow and stern.

And sometimes wind and/or current are telling you "don't even try".

In the Islands, lots of anchoring with dink use.
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