Affordable Sailing

We have over 100 boatowner’s boat reviews on our website that are compilation of reviews printed in SOUTHWINDS over the years. One is on a Westerly Centaur 26—and I have to admit, I am impressed with this couple and their boat. Here is how boat owner Jack Mooney begins his boat review:

“Many readers of SOUTHWINDS are cruising wanna-bees, who can’t see their way clear to spend tons of money for a “cruisable” boat. Then, there are others, like Sandy and I, who are willing to make compromises that allow us to enjoy the cruising life on a limited budget.”

This boat review brought me back to the late ’60s and early ’70s, when I first started reading about cruisers, I remember the average boat length chosen for long-distance cruising was in the low 30s—meaning 30- to 35-feet long. World-famous cruisers and authors Eric and Susan Hiscock sailed their 30-footer, Wanderer III, around the world in 1952. They eventually moved up to a 47-footer when they could afford it, but they thought the boat too big.

I also remember that Lyn and Larry Pardey cruised extensively on their 24-footer for many years, eventually moving up nine years later to a boat barely under 30 feet.

This is to name only two of the many early cruisers in those days who sailed small boats, and most chose that length so they could get out on the water sooner rather than later. Later meaning when they had a lot more money and could afford a bigger boat. But small boats also have lots of other advantages. Compare cleaning a 30-foot sailboat compared to a 40-footer. It’s two to three times the work—a geometric increase in time for just 10 more feet. The cost of maintenance makes a similar jump. There’s also sailing and motoring advantages. Sail or motor a 30-footer into a dock and then try it with a 40-footer. Big difference. But the one that bugs me the most is the idea of scrubbing the decks on your hands and knees on a 40-foot boat—unless you are wealthy and can hire someone else to do it.

This holds true for day sailing or cruising. How do you want to spend your spare time while anchored in the Bahamas, diving for lobster or maintenance?

In today’s economy—and in recent years—we see middle-class Americans getting squeezed out of the cruising market, with everyone always thinking of larger boats. Maybe it’s time to rethink this bigger boat issue and get out on the water. The biggest boat I ever owned was a 38-footer, although I have chartered boats up to 44 feet (which was fun with all that room for two couples), but the most fun boat I ever owned was the good ’ol Catalina 30—small, manageable and roomy. Not an ocean cruiser, but a great fun boat for short trips, day sailing, etc. Quick to clean, too.

Many will say, as they get older, that they like that extra size and comfort. You’ll have to read Jack’s boat review to see how he looks at the age issue. Go to the “Sailboat Reviews” page on our website to read Jack’s review, or go to the article in the issue online.