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Set me straight on this "bluewater" talk

Mar 27, 2012
Seaward Fox Washougal WA
I have been looking for my second boat for a while now. Am I the only one that struggles with the thought that humans have been crossing the 7 seas for thousands of years on anything they could find, but todays technology that costs a small fortune is said to not be capable of the task? I understand the price point building practices, built for chartering, and all the other arguments. I just can't wrap my mind around the thought that todays materials, research, and corrections from past mistakes, doesn't make for a vessel way more capable than previous vessels. Are we snubbing tomorrow's cherished "bluewater" prize today because it wasn't built in the 70's? Did sailors in the 70's trash talk new boats and designs only to find out today they were completely capable of the task? Will we be out of inventory in twenty years when all the 60,70, and early 80's boats are gone?

I like classic but am not a fan of constantly performing unnecessary maint. I also don't want to upgrade an older boat to make it new (been there with last boat 1984 Hunter). I would like a 32-36 foot newer model. Realize it wont have as many hand holds at sea, not the best for cooking while underway, etc, etc, etc. I just really struggle thinking a newer model boat (and yes I am talking production boat I can't afford modern boat built for crossings) just hitting the first "bluewater" wave and crumbling to Davey Jones Locker. But then again, I have never been in the middle of the ocean.

I know anyone can upgrade rigging and reinforce this and that, and it would most likely be necessary on any boat. I just can't help but think todays boats are more than capable and in twenty years I wonder which ones will be cherished "bluewater" cruisers :bang:
Jan 4, 2006
Hunter 310 West Vancouver, B.C.
Probably Just a Case of Philosophy .............

................... whereby everyone today wants a 100% guarantee that they're going to come back in one piece. I don't think this was the expectation years ago, maybe there was more self reliance coupled with a sense of adventure.

Chalk it up to evolution :confused: .
Nov 8, 2010
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Boats built now are much more specialized than they were in the 70s. Many as you note are designed for coastal cruising, becase that's what most people actually do. If you are actually looking for a modern (new) true blue water cruiser, you'll find boats that are WAY more capable than anything built in the 70s.

There boats are often from smaller custom yards, becase the typical buyer will have very strong opinions on what they want on the boat. Got the cash and want to leave tomorrow? get one of these.


On the other hand, Many modern coastal cruisers are very capable boats and with smart additions can (and have) circumnavigate.
Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
It depends on where you are going.

Lots of ships and boats have been lost in the history of sailing from causes such as storms, groundings, poor construction, bad luck, and bad skippers, etc. Take a look at the May issue of Sail magazine for the latest disaster on a ocean-going multi-hull--brand new. Abandoned at sea b/c the rudder system failed in heavy seas about 400 or so n.mi. into its maiden voyage from New England (I believe) to the Caribbean. So? Most boats and even most skippers are capable in fair weather and mild conditions. If you're a coastal cruiser, you normally would not expose yourself to harsh conditions, so would never meet that risk. A few hundred miles from harbor in bad weather or with other hazardous conditions about, what vessel do you wish to be in--a low-priced, late-model, production boat w/ plastic portlights and screwed on deck, or a high priced one with through-bolted deck, SS or bronze portlights, etc. One where the rudder can get bent or knocked off, or one where that is next to impossible? etc. Generally speaking, all other things being equal (age, condition, length), the "bluewater" boat will be more expensive than the "coastal cruiser" b/c it has more good stuff on it and is probably made better.
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Jul 27, 2011
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
Read About It

Actually, instead of opinions read about what can happen to sailboats (because it has) from survivors of lost vessels.

Start here.

Overboard!: A True Blue-water Odyssey of Disaster and Survival, Michael Tougias

But there are many published accounts out there about when, where, and how boats of all types fail at sea; and how their skippers get themselves into preposterous situations due to lack of forethought, experience, and humility in the face of a relentless sea.
May 24, 2004
CC 30 South Florida
Boats are more and more being designed nowadays for their intended use. What the majority of the people want today is a day sailer or coastal cruiser with a lot of household amenities and a large entertainment cockpit. As cost is an important factor in the design, materials and components are being matched to deliver a boat strong enough for the intended use. To deliver a stronger boat would require a larger unnecessary cost. A chain is just as strong as it weakest link; no sense in providing a stronger hull if the portholes are made of thin metal or plastic so the cost consideration is progressive.

In the past when fiberglass first came into use the manufacturers did not know how thick the material needed to be laid down so they ended overbuilding the hulls. Nowadays with all the past data and the use of computers they know exactly how thick or thin they need to do it for a specific design. In this sense technology is doing away with the all purpose boat. It remains that the best way to fit a boat for blue water is to get an older model hull and refit the rigging, portholes, hatches, larger water and fuel tanks, reinforce the rudder and upgrade the electronics. The newer wide stern designs will not have the comfortable large sea motion desirable in long offshore trips.
Jan 27, 2008
ODay 35 Beaufort, NC
Most boats are a lot more capable than the people on them. All kinds of historical events where the coast guard has removed people from boats that are floating just fine in severe weather because the crew can't take it. In Fastnet Force 10 a very famous book several people died in the race but very few boats sunk, that was back in '79. People were abandoning ship into life rafts and the boats were found floating days after the storm passed.
Oct 2, 2008
Island Packet 31 Brunswick, Ga
Most boats are a lot more capable than the people on them. All kinds of historical events where the coast guard has removed people from boats that are floating just fine in severe weather because the crew can't take it. In Fastnet Force 10 a very famous book several people died in the race but very few boats sunk, that was back in '79. People were abandoning ship into life rafts and the boats were found floating days after the storm passed.
I'll bet that the "I wish I'd of gotten a sturdier boat" goes up with the wind force and sea condition. I can only imagine!
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Nov 6, 2006
Hunter 34 Mandeville Louisiana
Stuff to ponder:
Quality engineering and construction are the key forces at Bavaria. All Bavaria yachts are built to Ocean category “A” – the highest European standard CE certification as well as the even more exacting Germanischer Lloyd certification. This additional certification requires independent surveying at all stages of the yacht building process. - See more at: http://www.bavariayachts.com/bavaria-sailboats.php#sthash.Zvzutbwp.dpuf
I think Jenneau and most other major current manufacturers build to CE Class A, Ocean standards.. soooo you can get a modern production boat that would be suitable for blue water.. ya have to decide what ya want and how your particular style of sailing is going to interface with a particular design. (yes, some North American manufacturers meet the Class A standard but may not have been inspected to it.. The ABYC is working toward some meaningful standards (see some of MaineSail's posts) .. but ya gotta know what ya want and what you are looking at.
Aug 20, 2010
Oday 27 Oak Orchard
Interesting in that I have been corresponding with a fellow on here who's stock Oday 27 1970's has been back and forth accross the Atlantic several times. A good boat well handled is better than a great boat poorly handled. Kon Tiki wasn't exactly 'bluewater' 'ABCD' 'Lloyds' or other certifications either. The Titanic was though.
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Nov 8, 2010
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Yes but in very different ways.

In the 70s fiberglass sailboats were still new to the market; boats before that where wood and very expensive.

And the number of people sailing grew exponentially in the 70s, from a very small base who could afford boats earlier.

Boats of the 70s where typically of the same design (CCA) model of the older wood boats, just much less expensive to buy and maintain.

Anyone that ragged on new sailboats in the 70s was afraid of fiberglass, or a snob that didn't want ordinary joes to 'spoil' their sport.


Mar 26, 2009
1976 formosa 41 yankee clipper santa barbara. ca.(not there)
1970s was the decade of formosa / ct / hardin and the solid deep heavy trade wind sailing designs. also.
Oct 9, 2008
Bristol 29.9 Dana Point
Any sailboat capable of sailing out of an ocean harbor safely can be sailed offshore.

As long as the weather is fair. And the boat is capable of stowing the needed supplies; food, water, parts, safety gear, etc.

If the weather kicks up, you'll be in trouble. Or at the very least, miserable. Then you'll find yourself saying, "Crap, the ocean is so big, and my boat doesn't like big oceans".

Most boats can be coastal cruisers, if the weather is fair, and there is a safe harbor whithin running distance. Offshore, you're at the mercy of the weather. You can run, which can be effective, but you can't hide.

This is when you need a boat designed and built to safely sail the weather. there's a reason that the ports are metal and reinforced, the cockpit capable of brushing off a poop, the rigging stout, the toe rail high, the hull thick, the rudder hung off a skeg or the keel, the keel heavy and long.

If the destination is a couple days away IE: Bahamas, or skipping down to the lesser Antilles, you have the luxury of weather forcasting and window shopping. This is another venue for your average coastal cruiser.

Last, you have to ask yourself the deep question, "Am a ever really going offshore?" If the answer is, "Probably not", then a coastal boat with the needed performance and creature comforts will be just as much fun if not more so. In the used sector, Catalina\pearson\ericson\cal, etc boats in good repair do a great job in this category, as do others.
Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
The boat I had in mind is the Cal 40. I think it is the boat credited with a revolution in yacht design. See here for details http://www.cal40.com/history.php. But it wasn't a 70's boat really having been introduced in 1963 according to the above. I have a few other examples in mind but don't remember enough details to post.


Mar 26, 2009
1976 formosa 41 yankee clipper santa barbara. ca.(not there)
jansen lapworth and wenk designed in 1960s to make cal yachts. jensen wenk built 24 ft pre cal boats with centerboards.. cute lil pocket cruisers. actually came with built in backgammon and chess/checkerboards. my son had 1958 i bough t for him in 1992. lapworth joined jensen to make cal jensen. that name was shortened to cal in mid 60s.
until 1970 one could buy a wood lapworth.

jensen-wenk was 1955-1960s, early.
built in costa mesa california.

there werent many cal 40s and they were awesome sailors and cruisers. i dont know the story on the 40.
Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
Another example would be Bill Lee's Merlin which was a departure from conventional wisdom in that is was more narrow and significantly lighter than the it's competitors. I believe it also had more width further aft than was the norm. Probably helped it surf down those swells on the way to Hawaii. In any event it was a very successful design that changed conventional wisdom.
The other is Finnestre. It won the Bermuda race, I think, 4 times. But was also a cruising boat. Maybe someone else can post more details.