|Could you take your boat on a blue water voyage?|
At boat shows people are in the process of making a dream come true. They are comparing yachts, testing their family's enthusiasm and exploring their own expectations.
Obviously, sales people are not always the most objective consultants to respond to questions about the capabilities of a certain yacht. Yes, there is plenty of literature, but where to start?
What I like to suggest is that in order to adventure out to sea on longer overnight passages, two concepts are critical and must be well understood before venturing out to sea. The first concept is SEAMANSHIP, which is very much the human factor on board. It is a combination of art, knowledge and experience.
Wikipedia defines seamanship as "the art of operating a boat", an art that includes skill sets combining navigating the boat, weather forecasting, watch standing, boat handling, dealing with emergencies, S.O.S and fire fighting. Experience comes with sea time and yacht owners may spend a lifetime acquiring all these skills. It is what makes yachting a lifestyle, an experience which develops over time.
Fortunately in today's world there is excellent tuition in seamanship available at all levels. The RYA training programs are probably best known, but many countries provide similar training for new and experienced yachtsmen (and women!) wishing to hone their seamanship skills. There are also many opportunities to join organized ocean adventure trips such as the Clipper Cup where one can buy a bunk for a leg or all of the race. Other less drastic ways to gather sea time and seamanship experience are to charter a yacht with a competent crew skillful in coaching, or you can hire a coach to come with you on your own boat to train you and your crew the skills of seamanship.
There are quite a few rallies where one can participate once you have obtained the relevant skills and own the boat. These rallies allow you to be part of a flotilla, usually complemented with service back-up in the stopovers (e.g. ARC).
All of this is part of the yachting lifestyle and an ongoing personal challenge that will prepare you and your crew not only to what may be expected at sea but also to allow you to make some of the most fascinating explorations of your life!
The second concept is seaworthiness, which is related to the boat and her systems and their combined ability to safely survive heavy weather. The Lectric Law Library defines seaworthiness "as the ability of a boat to make a sea voyage with probable safety and that the boat should be tight, staunch and strong, properly manned, provided with the necessary stores, and in all respects fit for the intended voyage."
Obviously the human factor extends to seaworthiness just as much as seaworthiness extends to seamanship. The two concepts are not Ying and Yang but must fully integrate to provide the basis of safe ocean passage making. Remember that every chain is as weak as its weakest link.
Because of all the unknown elements of seamanship, people new to boating must be cautious about the selection of their yacht and make sure that the yacht they buy has the design and construction integrity commensurate to the degree of adventure they wish to have.
Do not buy a planing motor yacht to go on long range trips. Choose a displacement yacht with a long range capacity instead. There are various brands offering ocean going motor yachts suitable for blue water trips.
If you prefer sailing, do not buy a lightly built production sailing yacht to make a serious ocean passage. They are not made to do so no matter how well you equip them. Instead select a sailing yacht that is designed and constructed for heavy-weather sailing.
Do consider buying a pre-owned yacht that has already done a circumnavigation. There is a large selection of proven passagemaking yachts on the market and these yachts usually come with all equipment needed for such voyages and an experienced owner who can assist you to get started.
This way you have some budget to upgrade the yacht to suit your personal preferences. I bet that your investment will be a lot less then buying a new yacht, which subsequently needs to be kitted out. The big bonus is that your learning curve is a lot quicker, after all you bought a lot of experience with the boat—talk to an experienced yacht broker.
While there are a lot of experts able to assist you on what to buy for your intended voyage, in my experience few people know a lot about multihulls and yet it is the fastest growing segment in the 40-80ft range.
There is no doubt that multihulls, in particular the modern catamaran (both sail and power), offer advantages over their monohull sisters.
Multihull fans are quick to point out how fast multihulls circumnavigated the world, how these craft conquered monster storms and freak waves and how well they charter. While all these points are true, it begs the question how seaworthy are multihulls on blue-water voyages. One needs to take a closer look to the technical characteristics of a multihull to decide if a given multihull is suitable for a once in a lifetime adventure at sea. Over the last 25 years many new types of multihulls have emerged to the pleasure boat market. The earlier designs had their fair share of problems both from a construction point of view as their seaworthiness.
In the current marketplace, the catamaran (two hulls) has started to dominate the multihull pleasure market. Larger hull volume, bigger platform space and twin engine configurations have made catamarans the preferred choice to date. Both sail and power cats.
Well-known multihull designer John Shuttleworth describes the development of sailing catamarans as follows:
Although the above summary concentrates primarily on cruising designs, many of the design concepts have been derived from successful racing designs. Indeed, the racing designs which push the limits of performance to the edge, are an excellent test bed for cruising boats, particularly racers designed for the long offshore events like the OSTAR and the 2STAR, which are both predominantly to windward across the North Atlantic. In these races, ease of handling and motion, windward ability, structural integrity, and seaworthiness are of paramount importance. Today's boats benefit greatly from this racing pedigree.
It is without doubt that modern multihulls are exciting craft and provide a thrilling ride whether sail or power. In addition, they offer a much better social platform and accommodate bigger crowds.
Not having to carry ballast and lots of underwater resistance makes these boats particularly nimble. Modern hull design has improved efficiency, seaworthiness and for the power cats economic operation. Add the substantial gain in real estate compared to a monohull, and you have a winner.
Still the jury is out and not every expert is convinced about the seaworthiness of multihulls on blue water passage-making. The pros and cons will be continue to be a topic for discussion. Today most boats, power and sail, large and small, are designed primarily for coastal, protected waters. Anyone interested in taking their boat on long-distance ocean voyages must study the concepts of seaworthiness and seamanship to an advanced level to get a better understanding of the preparation required for such a voyage. Believe me, it will be a joy every page of the way!