Small Boats and Big Boats – Advantages and Disadvantages
Please feel free to comment with any additions you think could be added to these lists that would help to define the title. This is a work in progress. Thank you.
Small Boat Advantage
- Light wind sailing – Small Boats get to sail more often than big boats. Most winds are so light that big boats hardly get moving, while a small boat will be going over 60% hull speed. On the ocean, big boat’s sails tend to flop around in light winds due to the wave and swell motion, while the small boat sails on by. This just became very apparent to me while buddy boating with a Niagara 35, which ultimately needed to motor most of the time.
- Lower maintenance costs – Smaller gear means smaller prices. Smaller boats have less gear which means less to maintain.
- Lower moorage costs – Moorage is typically charged by the foot. Length Overall (LOA). Sometimes you will get charged for the Length of the slip rather than the boat, regardless of the boat length.
- Lower initial cost? – This is variable and is dependent on many factors.
- It’s easier to find a space at a dock – The only space available may be right-sized for a smaller boat.
- Shallow draft for shallow water anchorages – More “gunkholing” opportunities.
- Sailing in and out of anchorages. A small boat is more nimble and can be easier to maneuver in crowded and small anchorages.
- Easier to single hand – Boat and sail management is easier because the loads are less. Docking and transiting locks can be easier.
- No re-entrance fees when returning to the US from Canada – 30 feet is the cutoff length for being charged a processing fee.
- For sailboats, lower vertical clearance – Going under fixed bridges, lines and trees can be easier. Drawbridges may not need to be opened.
- Possibilities of using an outboard motor – An outboard motor can be much less expensive and easier to purchase, replace and service. The entire propulsion system has the potential to be replaced completely anew for less than $4000US in 2018, tax included, without the help of a high-cost technician. I remove my outboard by myself at the dock and do my maintenance in a workshop where it is much easier to work with much less chance of accidental water pollution. Gasoline is relatively inexpensive and very common (though a bit more dangerous.) Depending on the installation, they can create less vibration and noise within the boat during operation.
- You may be able to raise and lower the mast on your own.
Small Boat Disadvantage
- Choppy anchorages are tenuous.
- Pitching (hobby-horsing)
- Space – You always need to move something to get to something. The Navigation table doubles as the stove top.
- All chain anchor rodes may be too heavy for the bow. Nylon rodes are more subject to chafe.
- Load carrying capabilities. Will you be able to carry enough supplies and water for long offshore passages?
- A lack of amenities and limited power consumption/charging capabilities. For example, Head size and holding tank size. No oven. Limited Berths.
- Slower travel as defined by the vessels hull speed.
- An outboard motor, due to its location hanging off the stern, adds extra weight at the extreme end of the boat which can contribute to trim issues, hobby-horsing, and ventilation in short, steep seas. The latter is problematic for the health of the motor as well as a loss of motive power at a time when you may need it most. This can often be mitigated by the angle of approach to the waves, speed and knowing the performance characteristics of your particular boat. Having highly flammable/explosive gasoline on board requires special care.
Big Boat Advantage
- Space – A boat of twice the length has more than twice the volume.
- Stability – A well designed big boat is inherently more stable to breaking seas and high winds.
- Heavy wind sailing – Big boats can typically carry more sail in stronger winds due to stability.
- Amenities – More room to have more things.
- The potential for a powerful inboard motor whose weight and motive power is more centered in the boat. Many inboards are diesel, a less flammable/explosive fuel. A well-maintained diesel inboard can last for decades.
Big Boat Disadvantage
- Higher maintenance costs – more boat means more things, bigger gear and more of it. The more you have the more it will cost to maintain.
- Higher moorage costs – Moorage is based on Length Overall (LOA.) That being said, there will be considerably more living area per foot.
- Difficulty finding moorage space – Bigger slips will need to be available.
- Deeper draft – Requires deeper waters.
- The necessity for a powerful inboard motor. They are often installed in a fashion where it is difficult to service and clean. They can be expensive to service and are more dependent on a high-cost technician. They often create intense vibration and noise throughout the boat. Diesel can be smelly. Unless you purchase the boat new, the advantage of the longevity can be lost due to poor maintenance by the previous owners (remembering the high-cost technician and difficulty in servicing,) the age and the harsh operating conditions. The cost to replace the entire propulsion system anew will likely cost at least $20,000US in 2018 after tax. This is regardless of the size of the vessel.
Here is a new Beta motor. This is in US dollars and does not include the shaft, propeller, and its accessories. It does not include the exhaust system, the intake system, the fuel tank, motor mounts, electronics, delivery, installation or taxes. What else am I leaving out? If you were to spend the time and money for a new engine, why wouldn’t you update the whole system? Even if it is compatible?
- More difficult to single-hand – Boast handling may require more crew. If a sailboat, this can be mitigated by multiple masts and different sail plans. There is also specialized gear to help a single-hander handle the higher loads. These will all increase your purchase and maintenance costs significantly.