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Opinions and Noses
Part 1 - Everyone has them
September 2020

M
y new sailing friends often solicit opinions on the ‘the best boat’. Everyone enjoys these conversations. Mostly, folks like what they have, advocating for the choices already made. Understandably, brand loyalty often drives choice.

During conversation, choices under scrutiny are usually defended. Judgements (intended or not) are passed. Particularly when one individual in the conversation champions a different boat or system choice.

john rahm
Captain John Rahm
I navigate these hazardous conversations by re-directing towards capabilities rather than possessions, likes or logos. Boat manufacturers make trades, balancing cost with capability.

So, with that focus, I offer these useful thoughts for your next happy hour conversation. From back to front…

I demand a boat with a stern swim platform or a sugar scoop stern with a fold down ladder. This requirement is a deal breaker for me. Climbing out of a dingy and up an amidships ladder can be an athletic event. Laundry, groceries, dogs etc. are easier over the stern. Of course, in heavy seas, you must go up the side because the rodeo is at the stern. Bonus; stepping off the stern onto a floating dock is a luxury.

I like davits with the biggest manageable rigid inflatable boat (RIB). If your boat is the house, the RIB is the car. Some anchorages are rough and far. A good ride will keep you dryer and safer.

I like a lifting arm for the dingy outboard motor. I’ve seen outboards dropped into RIBs/water. Four stroke engines are heavy and hernia operations are expensive and debilitating. Choose wisely.

I like auxiliary generators. Expensive and labor intensive, obviously, but your significant other will enjoy heat and air conditioning away from pier. Most importantly, generators allow you to seal up the boat during the summer. Here, and in other tropical climates, you are part of the food chain; insects will try and eat you down to the bone.

wood boat
This is not my idea of fun boating.

I like less wood. Folks who believe ‘real boats are made of wood’ need counseling. Or, ‘When the boat is wood the men are iron’ (ridiculous). I prefer smooth hulls, not the faux wood presented by planked fiberglass. A smooth white hull makes for better cleaning, waxing and repairs.

More tankage is better. Water, diesel and black water holding tanks; more is better. Some new big boats, (name withheld, but manufactured in France) come with 200 liter/53 gal fuel tanks. Those boats have less range capability. Another big boat, (name withheld, beige hulls, manufactured in Largo, Florida) holds 1136 liters/300 gals. Both boats are about the same size, but have a huge difference in range capabilities. During an offshore overnighter from Oriental, the French boat may not reach Charleston, South Carolina. The beige hulled Florida boat has a 900 nautical mile range and can easily motor from Oriental to Key West. Again, the same two boats – one holds 1136 liters/300 gals of fresh water, the other 330 liters/87 gals. The difference is capability (and cost).

I like fresh water flush for heads. Raw water is nasty with bacteria. Raw water systems require more labor/treatment to keep the boat from smelling like a port-a-john. Admittedly, the supply of raw water is good. Folks are reluctant to flush with their drinking water. A famous website owner/editor, (name withheld but website named after a small town wharf) tells me pooping in one’s precious supply of drinking water is just plain crazy. Valid point. But I refuse to change my preferences. (I’ll still get published.)

A toilet next to a bottle of Perrier water.
Captain Rahm has sanitary needs that not all sailors have.

Fewer thru hulls are better. What drains where matters; above and below the waterline matters. Boats without deck drains, (only toe rail cut throughs) have streaks down the hull from rainwater and deck dirt. Our boat had 26 through hulls. Yes twenty-six, not a misprint. We were always concerned about that number.

Microwave, (need shore power, an inverter or auxiliary generator). Cooking underway can be a real sport. Having the capability to re-heat quickly can be a real advantage. Microwaves are a good segue into inverters.

A stout inverter with a big battery bank is a good capability. Even if equipped with a generator, an inverter will conserve your diesel. Inverters are a good segue into solar panels.

Solar panels with the best available charge regulator will conserve your diesel and range capability. Three panels at 150 watts apiece will provide over 30 amps, like you’re plugged in to shore power.

You or your significant other will appreciate a windlass with controls at the helm. And an anchor wash down. Storing mud in the anchor lock is a really bad idea. Some anchor lockers drain the length of the boat (read inside to the bilge pump). Some anchor lockers have dedicated bilge pumps not suited for muck. Once mud comes into the anchor locker, it is difficult to remove. Yikes.

‘Real sailors don’t have enclosures’. Apologies, I like to be warm enough and dry. My California born and bred wife also likes to be warm and dry. (Captains should keep Admirals content.) While in the Marine Corps I learned, ‘There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.’ But I’m over that. An enclosure gives you a comfortable all weather capability. Speaking of dry…

A dry bilge with excess storage is better. One boat, again remaining nameless but with beige hulls manufactured in Largo, Florida, always has a wet bilge (and mildew). Another boat, remaining nameless but manufactured in France by a company founded by Henri Amel, has a bilge so dry it is suitable for toilet tissue storage. Nice.

I will end this article on toilet tissue. However, as usual, I have more to say and will be back with more.

Fair Winds,
Captain John Rahm


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Captain's Blog on TownDock.net is all about making your time on the water enjoyable. Captain John Rahm teaches sailing and boat handling at Third Wave Sailing.