Question: We are a couple aged 60 and 62 considering a 52’ motorsailer for extended cruising to Alaska, Hawaii and beyond. We have attached some details on the boat and would like your opinion of its suitability for our plans. The #1 reason we like the motorsailer concept is the raised and fully enclosed pilothouse, the layout (galley and saloon area) and the large engine.
A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
by John HarriesReading Time: 2 minutes
Previous: At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
- The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way
- Is It a Need or a Want?
- Buying a Boat—A Different Way To Think About Price
- Buying a Cruising Boat—Five Tips for The Half-Assed Option
- Are Refits Worth It?
- Buying a Boat—Never Say Never
- Five Ways That Bad Boats Happen
- The Two Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
- Learn From The Designers
- You May Need a Bigger Boat Than You Think
- Sail Area: Overlap, Multihulls, And Racing Rules
- 8 Tips For a Great Cruising Boat Interior Arrangement
- Of Cockpits, Wheelhouses And Engine Rooms
- Cockpits—Part 1, Safe and Seamanlike
- Cockpits—Part 2, Visibility and Ergonomics
- Offshore Sailboat Winches, Selection and Positioning
- Choosing a Cruising Boat—Shelter
- Choosing A Cruising Boat—Shade and Ventilation
- Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a New Voyaging Boat
- Cyclical Loading: Why Offshore Sailing Is So Hard On A Boat
- Cycle Loading—8 Tips for Boat and Gear Purchases
- Characteristics of Boat Building Materials
- Impact Resistance—How Hull Materials Respond to Impacts
- Impact Resistance—Two Collision Scenarios
- Hull Materials, Which Is Best?
- The Five Things We Need to Check When Buying a Boat
- Six Warnings About Buying Fibreglass Boats
- Buying a Fibreglass Boat—Hiring a Surveyor and Managing the Survey
- What We Need to Know About Moisture Meters and Wet Fibreglass Laminate
- Offshore Sailboat Keel Types
- US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 1, How We Shopped For Our First Cruising Sailboat
- US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—Part 2, The Boat We Bought
- US$30,000 Starter Cruiser—How It’s Working Out
- Q&A, What’s the Maximum Sailboat Size For a Couple?
- At What Age should You Stop Sailing And Buy a Motorboat?
- A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?
I think the real question is where do you want to go with the boat. A motorsailer or trawler might be much better in the Pacific Northwest because of the light air and climate. In the Caribbean the constant wind and warm, outdoor living really favor a sailboat.
I have just turned 70 and I am preparing my new boat (new to me) to sail to the south pacific. During my life time I have put in cruising time on both sail and power boats. About 60K miles sail and 20K miles power. I just went through the same question and decided to go with a light weight sailboat with a long waterline and simple systems and all the lines lead to the cockpit. She is 46 feet with a 39 lwl and only displaces 19,000 pounds. The light displacement means I only need to handle the size sails you would expect on a 38 – 40 boat but I have the speed of a 46 foot boat.
I think the biggest mistake older people make when selecting a boat it that of trying to duplicate their home on the water. Basically a smaller boat requires less muscle especially if you are new to cruising. When everything is going right a big boat is not a problem, young or old.
If you buy a sailboat get one with a good powerful engine and plenty of fuel. Most cruising has 50% powering on average.
Thanks for a great comment. I could not agree with your more on every point.
The only thing I would add is that those that want to go the motor boat route would be better off if they applied the same logic that you have to your sailboat acquisition. In my opinion, short fat trawler yachts make no more sense than short fat sailboats.
What boat did you buy?
I bought an Etchells / Pearson 46 which had been in use by a major university. If you know what an Etchells 22 looks like imagine the same shape hull in 46 feet. She was built in 1972 using high tech methods, as a racer with modest cruiser comforts to be campaigned by the owners of the Pearson Yacht company. She was a big time winner, on both coasts back in the 70’s. She is still very fast but her PHRF rating is 57 which means she has to race against much longer boats. I am in the process of fitting her out as a long distance cruiser to be run by two senior citizens.
Your boat sounds way-cool. I raced E22s for several years and loved the boat!
Sorry about the late comment. Re: the EP46, do you know if she is the ex-Tantrum or perhaps Hokulele? They didn’t build many, but the construction was very advanced for the time.
I think I might know your boat. Did you buy her in the San Francisco bay area? If so you snatched her up before I got around to coming out to take a look. Congratulations!
re motorsailors: I’ve never seen a monohull motorsailor that didn’t appear to be the product of a union between a giraffe and a hippopotamus—guaranteed to be a terrible motor boat and a miserable sailboat.
The catamaran platform is by far the best basis for a successful motorsailor. The weight penalty of engines large enough to drive one at 18 knots rather than 10 is minimal. The necessary design features are two easily driven hulls and retractable daggerboards to clean up the underwater drag. Doesn’t hurt to have a rotating wing mast and an aerodynamic cabin profile instead of the vertical windows made popular by Lagoon and copied by most condomarans. In a mid-50′ catamaran with 100+ hp per hull you have an added safety factor that shouldn’t be discounted even if you rarely motorsail. Let’s say you are sitting in the lagoon on St. Martin with a cat 4 Cape Verde hurricane potentially two days away. You can be 350-400 miles south enjoying a roti in Trinidad the next day instead of becoming a billiard ball for all the inadequately anchored boats in the lagoon.
I’m enamored of many of the decisions which motorsailers allow, such as a forward facing & protected position while keeping watch, good access to engine spaces and technical gear, and the possibility of nice views from living spaces while at anchor or underway.
There are designs like Chuck Paine’s Steadysailer as drawn by Ed Joy which do this in a narrow hull, or an ugly-duckling aluminum pilothouse now for sale in Hawaii named “Minke” which I find intriguing. If choosing this route, its really just an acknowledgment that much of the while time underway many cruisers ARE motorsailing, and that these priorities make sense. If you can tolerate/assume the lower performance under motor, then the sailboat you buy is simply better set up for the anticipated cruising style.
It would also be important to minimize the complexity and expense of the sailing rig and ensure it’s reliability by downsizing the size of the sailplan in order to be somewhat cost-effective. The expense of the rig is largely to promote comfort, extend range and provide occasional moments of quiet travel. If these are important, then the design criteria make sense.
Notably, comfort in the Steadysailer is also achieved by using outriggers, adding expense, unique hazards and becoming really cumbersome when sailing a beam reach. At anchor though, they could eliminate rolling in many circumstances.
Minke is quite an interesting vehicle, since it uses keel-cooling in one of its two keels, which are shallow and provide for drying out on its hull. It has a Alaska fishery type of anchor reel on the bow, and no paint topsides. Someone lucky will certainly find that boat just their type and scarf it up!
I agree the Steadysailor is an interesting boat. (I have been aboard and inspected her in detail). That said, in my opinion, she has some real issues including poor visibility from the wheelhouse and a horribly cramped engine room, as well as a very complicated and awkward rig.
By the way, none of this was really Ed Joy’s fault, but rather the result of the original owner trying to cram too much into the hull, a common problem with custom boats.
As to motorsailors in general, each to their own, but if staying with sail, I would rather have a boat that really sails and still delivers the visibility etc that you detail, like a Boreal, or some of Paine’s pilot house sailing designs. And if leaving sail behind, I would choose a motor boat that is really optimized for that function like the Artnautica LRC. To me, trying to do both in one hull will always be an awkward compromise. For example “Minke” while interesting is very slow under both power and sail.
I purchased Minke and will be sailing her to Alaska this summer. It sails much better than typical motor sailors as the hull is more sailboat than motor sailor but it does lack in sail to displacement ratio. It is certainly a well built vessel but 100-125nm per day may be her best effort by sail or motor. It will do well in the PNW but will need ventilation down south. The waist high rail and full decks for and aft are nice underway too. No doubt the best feature is its livability at anchor.