Small boats, small problems and just do it…

Of late I’ve been hearing the old Pardey mantra of “Go small, go simple, go now” a lot recently and, surprisingly, in a somewhat contentious manner.

That such a simple bit of reasoning can become contentious I find just a bit bothersome…

So, let’s break it down.

Go small
Sure, I get the fact that most folks when day dreaming about sailing off into the sunset tend to look at things through rose-colored glasses so see themselves in a sizable “yacht” with all mod cons, mucho bling to impress the neighbors, and an (apparently) unlimited source of income. Why not… daydreams are never about reality but all about wishes. My daydream boat of choice is a seventy-foot sharpie schooner in a world without tRump, where there is universal health care for all, wars do not exist, and I’m a better guitar player than Eric Clapton. Need I say more?
A good small boat, which these days is anything below forty-feet, is less expensive than a good big boat and the smaller the boat the less expensive it gets. Just simple math. 
Some more simple math is that a good smaller boat is going to be less expensive to maintain and run than a good bigger boat.
Of course, cost is not the most important factor albeit the most talked about and the really important thing is seaworthiness. Small boats get a pretty bad rap on the seaworthiness subject though, in my opinion, a completely undeserved one. A good small boat is as safe or safer than a good big boat. Anyone touting the advantages of big vs small on the safety front needs to rethink their old physics notes from college. Bigger does not equate with stronger or safer as a general rule.
One more thing on the whole small/big thing…
Most everyone talking about boat size is using the wrong yardstick and displacement makes a lot more sense when comparing boats. For instance, L&L’s Seraffyn at 24′ 7″ displaces five tons which is just a kiss more than our CAL 34.
Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that a smaller boat is going to be easier to sail and able to sail or anchor in places larger boats may have issues.
Go simple
There is a lot to be said for simple systems but the important points from where I sit is that simple systems are inherently safer and more trouble free than complicated systems and when (not if) something needs fixing they are easier and less expensive to fix. The bottom line is more complication equals more possible points of failure
Go now
Apparently there are any number of ways one can translate “go now” but I really doubt that L&L intended it to mean for folks to sail off unprepared into the sunset in unseaworthy boats but rather that life is short and if you want to do something it makes all kinds of sense to learn to sail and get to doing it ASAP in a boat that won’t kill you.
Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that procrastination and waiting for everything to be perfect are the two greatest killers of dreams (followed closely by listening to what “everyone says”) known to man. So the whole “go now” vibe just might be the most important part of the equation.

The thing is, I’ve never been a “fan” of L&L and my opinion is that they’re just like everybody else in that they get stuff right some of the time, get stuff wrong some of the time, and just like all of us are clueless more than they’d care to admit. That said, they are right more than they’re wrong in most things relating to boats and it’s important to keep in mind they were way ahead of the curve in terms of making cruising both a lifestyle and a means of making a living doing it.

Which is why I tend to recommend their books with the proviso that one needs to keep in mind that there is not one true path and that’s a goodly thing so always apply a certain level skepticism and common sense whatever the source.

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2 thoughts on “Small boats, small problems and just do it…”

  1. We're a family of 4 on a 30ftr cruising pacific. Weve been underway 4yrs now. Just wanted to comment on costs. Being small has been less expensive sometime but we've found many marinas have a 35ft minimums or a flat rate fee. Many times we pay same as a 60ftr on moorings or for checkins to new ports or anchoring fees. Many things are less expensive on a sm boat but overall big luxury boats and cruising rallies have driven up prices and humble small boats are becoming less the norm.

  2. Amen, Brotah!

    Two comments:

    RE Go Small and the Yardstick… I'd add that form-stable hulls eliminate a LOT of ballast, freeing up displacement for payload.

    RE Go Simple… Interesting to note that Tainter's theory (widely acknowledged, if not accepted) is that complexity (and its costs) are what drag whole civilizations into bankruptcy and collapse. How much more so our little micro-economies on board?

    RE Go Now… I've heard the phrase, perfect is the enemy of the possible. You hit the nail on the head!

    Dave Z

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