Blue Water Cruising Boats
16 March 2020
This subject comes up often on FB and other sailing and cruising forums. If you want a passionate (perhaps heated) discussion among sailors, just ask what they recommend for a blue water boat. The term is used to categorize a boat capable of sailing across oceans.
Lisa and I went to a seminar at Chicago's Strictly Sail show (now Strictly Sail and powerboats and RV) about choosing a blue water boat. The speaker was sponsored by Blue Water Sailing Magazine too. The short version is that he recommended full keel, skeg hung rudder boats that were all manufactured before 1980. Not one current production boat or even one after 1990 made the list.
The speaker painted romantic images of a salty, heavy boat plowing through seas with a variety of sails to suit the conditions. The speaker proclaimed with misty eyes, “This boat will look after you.” Strangely enough, he owned a Jenneau and it was not on the list.
We were even warned by a broker that Uproar was “not a blue water boat.” Thank God we did not buy an approved blue water boat! Uproar is a bit of a hermaphrodite. Beneteau First series are their racing or performance boats. In the 90's the First series boats had full interiors and came with standard rigs or tall rigs. Uproar is a standard rig but with a deep, lead keel. She is neither pure racer nor pure cruiser. She sails beautifully and fast. We so enjoy sailing Uproar even in light winds.
Back to the approved, blue water boats. They are heavy, they are old and the lore of the blue water boat has kept prices up relative to their age. But if someone buys one of these 40+ year old boats, they may be buying just a well built shell and need to replace everything else. We have heard the horror stories of cruisers who are constantly fixing their old boats. Newer boats are not immune from this but chances are that newer boats have guts that still work.
Did I mention slow? We met a couple in Marquesas who took 54 days to complete the passage we completed in 23 days, in a boat of similar size. Who was safer? They were out there twice as long as we were and exposed to whatever dangers exist on the ocean during that time. Uproar carries only 40 gallons of diesel. We were told that wasn't nearly enough. Most boats our size carry well over 100 gallons. But we can sail in much lighter winds so seldom need to use our engine. We do carry 20 extra gallons of diesel on long passages just in case.
We do see blue water boats out here cruising but they are far in the minority. Beneteau is the world's largest manufacturer of cruising boats and there are plenty of them out here. The real deviation from the “approved” list are catamarans. None of the old salts recommend a catamaran but about 1/3 of the boats out here are cats. Their owners have crossed the same oceans we have, quite safely and in comfort. They also can't be beat for living space, area for solar panels and convenient dinghy storage.
If you are wanting to go cruising, don't fall victim to the conventional wisdom that you need a blue water boat. Sail on as many boats as you can and buy a boat you love. It will not take care of you, that is your job! But it will take you across oceans to places of your dreams.