I was recently asked this question and answered that no boat is larger than the sea. More and more people are telling me my boat is too small. I think that their is a brainwashed category of people that think small sailboats are unsafe. There is common theory that a perfectly operating large boat will always be safer than a perfectly operating small boat and while I can agree on this in theory in reality it isn’t always true.
A friend of mine who is regarded as one of the most knowledgable and able sea men in the region used to always tell me my boat was too small and too simple to be safely sailed long distance. While I think I have proven him wrong I always thought that his multimillion dollar 50′ fully equipped custom built cruiser was a poor choice and unsafe for many reasons that don’t really matter. When his boat sunk after hitting a reef it went down so fast he couldn’t get to his deck mounted life raft to deploy it and it went down with his ship. His dinghy trailing behind him literally saved his life.
In this instance my boat is substantially safer for a few good reasons. First and foremost my shallow draft would have never hit the reef in the first place my draft being literally a third of what his was. More importantly not having radar, a depth sounder or a sophisticated satellite navigation system I have to pay attention at all times. I do this by reading the water and my charts often. Even when it’s really scary I love the simple act of navigation and with my shallow draft I have put Sookie in many places that no one in thier right mind would venture with even a six foot draft. I have also found many hidey holes that simply are not accessible to larger ships.
I think money is the biggest safety factor in that most people with large boats simply can’t afford to maintain them properly or at least that’s what I see with my eyes everywhere I go. Smaller boats still cost a bloody fortune but not a tenth of what the larger ones do both in terms of money but also in time.
I have a rule that if I can’t fix it with my own two hands, I don’t have it on the boat. With the exception of that beautiful new motor hanging off the back of my boat I can blindly maintain, fix and or rebuild anything on Sookie in the dark with one hand tied behind my back and I know that I have the tools because I uninstalled and reinstalled every single thing on the boat.
So back to the question of safety. If you can’t hand pull your anchor, manhandle your sails in a gale, navigate without electricity, or sail your boat on and off an anchor in thirty knots of wind you might rethink how long your larger boat is safer than my small sailboat. Things on boats fail often and it’s rarely in good weather or close to a chandlery, so depending on how you look at it both large and small boats are safer to some degree.
I’ve been spastically wanting a boat just a few feet longer so I can have guests aboard, room for a heater, a winter shower and more stores but the longer I look the more I realise I simply don’t like any boats more than Sookie. I try to find a way to love these larger more sophisticated craft and while I certainly admire them to the end of the world I just can’t fall in love with them. I’ve been afflicted with two feet itis but I think it’s mostly from listening to the joneses and all of thier reasons why my boat is too small.
The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use.