Choosing a boat for a sea cruise is not a decision to be taken lightly. I did research on the subject on dozens of gatherings, talking to hundreds of skippers. Everyone you talk to will have a different point of view on which boat is the best and why, but few question the importance of doing things right.
Whatever your budget, there is a confusing range of choices and a number of important decisions to make, one of which could seriously compromise the pleasure and success of your trip. The following elements can serve as a checklist for the first few days, but also to help experienced ocean sailors to decide the essential elements of safety, comfort, performance and functionality, looking at the hull, deck, deck and interior.
Hull, keel and rudder
Deciding the size of a boat is not only the most important choice, but also the most difficult, and it is here that the most serious mistakes are made. Some choose a boat that is too big for their needs, too difficult to handle with short hands and more expensive to manage and maintain. Electric winches, reels and bow thrusters have made larger boats easier to handle, but ask yourself this: "Can I sail on this boat with my partner or, in an emergency, alone?"
But having said all this, my research shows that more shipowners complain that their boats are too small. It is well known that lack of space or privacy can have a negative effect on morale and lead to friction between the crew for a long passage.
Monohull against multihull
Deciding whether to choose one or two hulls can be an even more difficult choice than size. As for the three hulls, I am still convinced that the trimarans are able to navigate on sea passes with a small family crew.
At the beginning there were similar doubts about the suitability of catamarans for offshore sailing, but their design has improved considerably, the architects thought a lot about their safety, while the builders did their best to produce sturdy boats and suitable for navigation. Their growing popularity among long haul cruisers is the best proof. Since they have many advantages compared to a monohull of the same length, I have an open mind on the theme of one or two hulls.
However, those who plan to travel by catamaran for a long journey should carefully choose their itinerary to minimize the risk of encountering dangerous weather conditions. Always observe the safe seasons and be aware of the weaknesses of a catamaran. Catamarans are much less lenient than monohulls when weather conditions deteriorate. A catamaran must be helped to overcome extreme conditions, while a well-found monohull can be hooked and left to itself.
According to various search and rescue authorities and data collected by the RCAF and other offshore organizations, more cruise ships have been abandoned over the past 30 years because of the helm than for any other reason. A recent example is the Dove II yacht, which lost its rudder 400 miles east of Barbados while crossing the Caribbean in December 2016. The crew, a couple with children and another crew, was not able to improvise an emergency government system and had to be rescued, abandoning the boat.
The rudders are an essential feature of the design that should dictate the choice of the boat. The suspended rudders have gradually migrated from the regatta to cruise ships and, not protected by at least one partial drift, are extremely vulnerable. If you can not avoid a boat with this type of rudder, at least insist that the underside of the rudder is sacrificial, as this is where it is most likely to be hit by debris. Regardless of the type of rudder, there must be an appropriate emergency emergency steering system that is easy to install and known by all crew members.
On my Garcia Exploration 45, Aventura IV, a boat that I helped design according to my exact specifications, both aluminum rudders are supported by its fins. As a further protection, the upper part of the rudder blades is made of lightweight composite material that folds and compresses without causing damage to the hull itself. This is exactly what happened in a collision with a large piece of ice in the Arctic and the rudder continued to function normally for several thousand miles until repairs were made.
Keel, draught and displacement
In all my research on the subject of the ideal draft and the type of keel, there was a consensus that a fixed keel may be more suitable for oceanic passages, while shallow draft, if with a shorter keel and a bulb or central arrangement, it was better on the cruise. My last two boats had a center and I can unequivocally state that from a safety and comfort point of view, a center works perfectly, both exploring shallow areas and along the way.
The trip should be a serious consideration for those interested in sailing performance, which I know too well for personal experience. At nine tons for its 36 feet, my first Aventura was on the heavy side and an indifferent sailor with light winds.
I was determined to get a boat with a lighter displacement for my third Aventura. In fact, Aventura III designed the 9.5-ton displacement for a 43-foot projector was as close to perfection as possible and I always made sure to keep its weight at a reasonable level.
As with moving, unless the hull material is placed at the top of the priority list, or if you order a One-Off, this is another decision that can be made by you. In most cases the boats are built with the most appropriate equipment that the architect and the builder have agreed upon. For a long journey, the manufacturer could be persuaded to put some extra force in critical areas, so it is useful to discuss it as soon as possible during the process, so that these changes can be made during the initial construction phases.
Metal bodies, whether in steel or aluminum, are attractive due to their inherent strength, but there are also disadvantages for both materials. Steel hulls and bridges require a good initial preparation for painting and careful maintenance throughout the life of the boat. In the case of aluminum shells, some people may be worried about the risk of electrolyte reaction. This is totally unjustified: modern leagues and construction methods have taken this into account.