Must-Haves on a Seafaring Sailboat

sailboat tipsIf you’re a sailor starting off, and are in the market for a sailboat, shop carefully and thoroughly. The first thing you might not realize is there are certain sizes, features and lengths you need to consider for a seaworthy vessel.
When you’re on the open seas with no coastline in site and your only life line is your radio, you want something that will resist inclement conditions and resisting listing or taking on water. Looking for a keel heavy enough to not only counter wind resistance but to right itself in the event of capsizing is imperative. This means going with a fixed keel, which are much more massive than the alternative retractable keel or dagger board.
Navigating a sailboat across open sea can be quite different than sailing bays, lakes or in natural harbors. Whereas you’re facing up to 6-8 foot swells in even the Great Lakes, you have to be prepared to conquer 20 foot swells on the high seas. Not only is counterweight crucial, but length (beam) is as well. The typical rule of thumb is the bare minimum seafaring beam is 30 feet. Anything less than this length, don’t plan to sail into unprotected waters.
Finally, you want to consider the vessels ballast ratio. If you have a vessel sitting too high in the water, it will move much quicker than one bogged down with ballast. However, if the boat will sit too low in the water, you will have speed very shy of its potential. Keep in mind, however, the longer the beam, the lower your required ballast ratio.
In spite of the importance of “buying by the numbers,” the primary factors when buying a boat is you’re in love with it. If a boat responds the way you want it to, gives you the speed you want and you are comfortable handling it, it should be at the top of your list. No one enjoys sailing a boat with perfect ratios on paper, but sails like a bog dog on the seas.

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