Why do they do that?

From my office windows, I can watch the annual migration of boats in the ICW, 90% plus are powerboats. But – every day and twice on weekends, I see ‘cruising’ sailboats outfitted with all of the ‘stuff you must have’.


Now, I’m only speaking of those items that may be noted from outside the vessels, not what has been installed in the non-visible locations. Those items for comfort and safety which the cruiser simply must have if they are to enjoy that lifetime dream of sailing over the horizon to some far distant exotic paradise. Well, at least that is the way those items have been sold to the boat owner and his/her partner in the adventure.

First and perhaps the biggest faux-pas in my estimation anyway, are dinghy davits on boats less than about 60 ft LOA. I have seen them on boats between 30 and 35 ft long. Sure, the davits do provide a convenient way to carry the required dinghy, required if the cruiser actually anchors out although most seem to stay in marinas. Almost always the dinghy being carried is an inflatable type, some with rigid bottoms but many without. What’s so hard about deflating the bloody thing and lashing it on deck until needed?

MY primary objections to davits on smaller boats are safety related:
ONE) On many of the boats when the dinghy is hoisted and secured for motoring along, it obscures the crew’s vision sternwards, so in the ICW such boats are often surprised when that obnoxious pro-skipper delivering a sportfish comes blasting up to the stern.
TWO) The weight of the davits, dinghy and dinghy motor depresses the stern of the vessel affecting the handling under power.
THREE) and most important if the small cruising sailboat with davits does go out into the ocean. The davits with dinghy and motor secured, substantially raises the centre of gravity of the craft which decreases the VAS as it is known by a few folks who read geeky papers. VAS = Vanishing Angle of Stability, also known as the Angle of Positive Stability or the Oh, my gawd!, the mast is in the water. We’re all going to die!! heel angle.

Here’s a shot that shows some of the problems one will encounter when sailing with a dinghy in the davits.

boat with davits

The photo shows another of my pet peeves – lots of fuel jugs on deck. If the owners of the boat in question are using the fuel containers properly, we see three gasoline (red) and one diesel (yellow). I have seen boats less than 35 ft LOA with 12 of these 5 gallon containers on deck. Does not make it easy to move from the cockpit to the foredeck. Each of the fuel jugs when full will weigh between 30 and 35 lbs. Add ’em up and then think about how much weight that is, located several feet above the CG and the centre of flotation – whoops, the WAGTD! angle is even worse

Now add in a bicycle or two, four or more fenders and one has to wonder what the folks onboard such a craft do when they come into the dock or try to pick up a mooring on a breezy day, much less how it affects the boat’s motion at sea.

Finally, on my list of things you should do without if you want to actually sail across blue water safely, full cockpit enclosures. WTF? If you have one of these on your boat, I must ask why you didn’t buy a powerboat, you know, a nice Grand Banks or similar? The first time I saw such a contrivance was a boat on Lake Ontario. Could not believe what I was seeing because you couldn’t sail when all of the curtains were up, the crew could not trim sails because they were unable to swing the jibsheet winch handles in a full circle and nobody in the cockpit could see the main at all and only the bottom portion of the headsail. Sitting in the bar at the National YC, I asked a friend what the hell the owner of such a structure was thinking about to have it installed. “Black flies” was the answer. I in my freshwater cluelessness, answered, “Whaaa?”

In Georgian Bay and the North Channel, beautiful cruising grounds by the way, the local insects just love to feast on humans so the local sailors countered with full screen cockpit enclosures, kind of like a screen porch on your old country house. So, when I see one of these boats passing by, 9 times out of 10, it will be flying a Canadian flag or its homeport will be in Michigan.

UPDATE: (sort of )
reading thru my browser bookmarks recently and came upon an article written by Jon Eisberg for Cruising World in Sept, 2004. The following paragraph is rather obviously relevant to what I have posted here.

To a very real extent, the ICW is increasingly defining how many East Coast sailors are going off cruising. Most of the ICW boats I see are better performers under power than under sail. Maximizing a cruising boat for 1,000 miles of motoring cramps its sailing style and fortifies habits that sailors carry well beyond the ICW. Many ICW boats have decks awash in gear that inhibits on-deck movement; monstrous S.U.V.-dinghies swing from arch/davit configurations that appear to defy gravity. To actually sail some of these vessels would barely be worth the effort.

Jon Eisberg has run the ICW more than 200 times. He divides his income-making days between car racing photography and yacht deliveries on the East Coast of the US. His non-income producing days are spent on his Allied Chance 30-30, Chancy.


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