October 22, 2009

What happens at 27 feet

BOB K7 ZULU BRAVO left a comment with my last blog in which he wondered why I seem to have a tendency to like boats around 27-28 feet. He wanted to know what is compelling about that length for me.

Well, it’s difficult (since I own a 27-footer) to protest that I like many different kinds of sailboats from 11 feet to about 35 feet. That’s true, but the fact is that I do prefer my boats on the smaller side. I like the feeling of being in control without having to rely on others for brain power or muscle power, and as I am not over-endowed with either, the smaller the boat, the safer I feel.

But there are limits, of course. There are the usual compromises. Small size means small accommodation. My wife and I toughed it out on a delightful little Santana 22 for several years of exploration in the Pacific Northwest. It was like camping on water in a fiberglass pup tent. Wonderful for young people, but more of a challenge and less inviting as the bones get creakier and the sinews less flexible.

Designers will tell you that interesting things happen when a boat gets to about 27 feet overall. It’s then big enough for four full-length berths. It can accommodate a decent full-size head compartment. It has room for a cabin table and a permanent, if somewhat constricted, galley. And, joy of joys, you can stand up in the darned thing to put your pants on. It has headroom.

At the same time, it’s small enough to singlehand with comparative ease and, when properly designed and built, it’s plenty big enough to sail around the world. There are compelling reasons why one of the longest production runs in the history of yachting, if not THE longest, is the Catalina 27.

The price of buying and maintaining a boat looms large in my equation, too. I don’t believe I could afford anything larger than a 26-year-old 27-footer. The Internet and communications technology have badly affected journalists like me. Unlike the big song companies, I don’t get a royalty every time someone downloads my product. My De-Naming Ceremony is free all over the Net, for example. Sometimes I don’t even get a credit, never mind a check.

Which brings me to Bob’s second query: “Having read these columns for some time now, are you contemplating a book compiled of them in the future?”

I’d love to turn them into a book Bob, with nice line illustrations, too, but think about it: who is going to pay for a book when they can get all these columns free on my blog?

Too many people these days equate First Amendment rights and freedom of speech with free access to the sweat and blood of writers and researchers. It can’t last. Things have got to change. But that’s cold comfort for those of us trapped in the crossfire right now. My mother was right. I shoulda been a plumber.

Today’s Thought
Small things are best: Grief and unrest
To rank and wealth are given;
But little things On little wings
Bear little souls to Heaven.

— F. W. Faber, Written in a Little Lady’s Little Album.

“Mom, is it true that we’re dust before we’re born?”
“Yes, dear, I believe so.”
“And is it true that we’re dust after we die?”
“Yes, dear. Why do you ask?”
“Well, I just looked under the fridge, and somebody’s either coming or going.”


Nikolay R. said...

Morning John,

I think you're right - there's a lot to be said about boats between 25 and 30 feet. As an enthusiastic reader of your books (bought and paid for - all the credit goes to you) as well as the Pardey's, "go simple, go cheap, go now!" more or less sums it all up, and boats in that size range are generally your biggest bang for your buck.

And although the Pardey's proverb is somewhat geared towards long term cruising folk, taking heed and listening to their advice has enabled me to purchase my first boat a great deal sooner than I expected (a Tartan T30). Despite the fact that I will not be going cruising for more than a weekend for some years to come, reading your books John, as well as the Pardey's has taught me a great deal about seamanship and self reliance under sail; this is why I now look at every piece of gear that's on my boat, as well as any potential additions, from a different point of view - mainly, can I fix it when it breaks (not if, but when) and that includes my roller furling headsail for those of you who are in awe of the 'convenience' it offers (in fact, roller furling for both mains and head sails has had some of the worst track records when it is heavily relied upon in adverse conditions such as the TransPac and Fastnet races).

Interestingly enough, the smaller the boat, the less superfluous gear can fit on it, and thus eliminate many a headache for years to come to be replaced by wonderful afternoons under the gracefully wind filled canvas.

Jodi Chamberlain said...

Hi John
I discovered your blog between purchases of the following books: 20 Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, Small Boat to Freedom, and The Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge.

See! This blog is promoting book sales!

I'm not yet a boat owner. Like you I'm no plumber. My purchase will need to be safe, strategic, and cheap. I still have a lot of reading to do before I make the big commitment.

Write On!


Anonymous said...

Same here, I had previously bought "20 Small Boats to Take You Anywhere" and the "Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge" (great books, by the way) before I came across your blog.

Reading your blog let me led me to appreciate your writing style and to buy "Small Boat to Freedom."

Thanks for the blog, keep going!


Leatherman23 said...

To answer your question "Who would buy a book that they can read online?" I woould! I firmly believe that a person is worth their days labor. Consider at least one copy sold if you print your blogs. I will put it right next to my copy of Monkey Butt.

Anonymous said...

John, No Tophat 25 an Australian old fibreglass from a British timber design. Maybe the folk oat is sort of close.