The Best Boats for Globe Girdling
To define the best boats for sailing around the world, owners detail what worked and what didn't.
Over the years, I’ve conducted a number of surveys to try to find out if there’s such a thing as an ideal cruising boat—only to conclude that the ideal vessel is a chimera. While a particular boat may be perfect for one sailor or one particular voyage, the same boat might be totally unsuitable for another. Besides using the surveys as the basis for my books, including my newest, World Voyage Planner, the purpose of the voyage-planning survey was to find out the essential features of a boat fit for a trip around the world.
The 57 cruising mariners who participated sail vessels measuring 33 to 74 feet in length and fashioned from plywood, fiberglass, aluminum, and steel.
Among the group, 27 had sailed around the world, several of them more than once. Their ages ranged from the late 20s to the early 80s, while their cruising spanned the entire world, from the tropics to Antarctica, the Mediterranean to the Northwest Passage.
The boats were as diverse as their owners, from production boats to state-of-the-art yachts, including both monohulls and multihulls; in all, a perfect sample of today’s cruising scene. This was also reflected in the makeup of the individual crews, with 32 boats being sailed all, or most, of the time by couples. Their rich fonts of knowledge and experience made them ideal informants on all the essential aspects of voyage planning.
There’s no doubt that the choice of boat can seriously affect the quality and enjoyment of a voyage. Many factors can make a boat unsuitable for a long voyage, but size—a boat that’s too large for easy handling by a shorthanded crew or too small to be comfortable—is the most common problem. Other factors include limited storage capacity and a lack of speed on long passages. Comfort is indeed a major aspect, and this has a bearing not only on the wellbeing of the crew but on safety itself.
As important as size and comfort may be, the most essential consideration when choosing a boat for a long voyage is safety. Many boats on the market may be perfectly suitable for weekend sailing or short cruises but may not be up to the demands of a voyage in tough ocean conditions.
A common reason for some people setting off with what would turn out in the long run to be an unsuitable boat is that it was the boat that they happened to own at the time, and, whether for reasons of finance, lack of foresight, or sentiment, they decided that it would do. By the time their mistake became obvious, it was too late to put it right, and they either chose to carry on regardless or ultimately cut short and even abandoned the voyage.
As the choice of the right boat is such an important factor, participants in the voyage-planning survey were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with their boat. They were also asked to point out any design features missing on their boat that would’ve made a considerable contribution to the quality and enjoyment of their voyage and to name any specific piece of equipment that they would’ve liked to have had. To complete the section on the choice of boat, they were asked to make a comment or give some useful tip to someone preparing for a long voyage.