Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Q&A - #83

I get questions ...

Hello Woody, My name is Brian, I am living aboard in Toronto Ont. Canada and am preparing my '87' Tayana 37(Bristol condition) for offshore cruising. I am at the stage of building or having a dodger made. Do you have any thoughts about using 1" plexiglass on deck and the height of & need for the dodger to be collapsible? What do you think of just windshields? I am looking for a relatively dry place for the radar screen, electronics and a wind break.
I also have never been to sea, I have only lost sight of land on an overcast day on Lake Ontario, but I have been in waves that were short and high enough for me to see the bottom of my keel peek out of a swell. Winds no higher than 25-30 knots. Right now I have no dodger and the boat is safe as safe can be but I sail solo and the radar is below waiting to be brought up and the inability to get out of the wind in the cockpit is very draining. Any ideas would be appreciated. Brian


Brian: I like those Tayanas. The dodger is very important. In the outfitting of Low Key for her extended voyage, I spent more money on the dodger than any other single piece of gear (which isn't saying much). Barring a sinking or dismasting, remaining comfortable in “exciting” conditions is my main priority. When you let yourself get chilled to the bone once, it can take days to recover. So let's keep you dry.

I’m not a fan of the windshield. Waves hit the bow of a sailing cruiser and head up and aft, dumping down and across the cockpit. Windshields just don't cut it. With them you will be getting some water, not just on you, but down the companionway too. I had the traditional soft dodger built. I don't get why disposable dodgers are so popular. When I go again, I will build a hard dodger. They last longer and you can attach stuff to them like handrails, solar panels and antennae. You can also build in stuff to the underside. I'm talking about speakers, out of the way. I personally think bright displays don’t belong in your field of vision.

Plexi is fine. I don’t think you'll need 1 inch though. If the only way to get your engine out is through the companionway (with a block and tackle from the main), then you will want to make the top removable or build in some other accommodation.

There are some things you should consider when figuring the height of your dodger. I'm not a fan of the full standing head room cockpit dodgers and biminis. I think it makes for a goofy look. The dodger should just be high enough so that coming in and out of the companionway is a comfortable motion. They built mine kinda low profile. It looks really kewl but looks don’t mean much when you are banging upwind and getting soaked. The height on mine is fine, but next time I will bring the sides further aft so that my favorite companionway bulkhead seat stays even drier. I may have to short crank the primaries or move them back but it will be worth it. As long as I'm dry I'm happy in any conditions … you know, within reason.

Capt'n Woody, I am in the process of buying my retirement sailboat (my 4th boat) and cannot find any information on cruising with a dog and what is needed in different countries as far as having pets on board... What papers are needed, etc... I will be cruising the Sea of Cortez for a couple of years and then heading through the canal to the Caribbean... I have looked all over the internet and haven't found much information.. I thought that it might be a good subject to include in L and A as there are a lot of people cruising (or going cruising) with pets... Also, how hard is it when coming back to the states.?? I appreciate your help. Thanks, Jack PS: Love the mag and your column....

Jack: You've got good timing. My friend Jes just finished her book on the subject. Check out: http://www.doggyondeck.com/

Woody, I just read your column in my Dec. 06 Lat & Att's mag, I am getting caught up while the snow is flying here in N.E Ohio. Great info, you help my dreaming. My wife Jennifer and I want to cruise the world once our youngest of 3 is off to college (4 years). We own a 523 Beneteau and boat fresh water on Lake Erie (when it isn't frozen). My question is do you believe a production boat is 1) as safe and 2) as enjoyable as a custom boat like a Cabo Rico, or a Swan? Beneteau claims our 523 is a blue water boat, and Cabo claims their boats have never rolled or sank. What do you think, are we going to need to make a change eventually?
I look forward to your reply. Dan


Dan: Every boat will roll if exposed to the right conditions and, unless there has been a drastic change in Beneteau's manufacturing techniques, Beneteaus are not what most of us would consider bluewater cruisers. Both Cabo Rico and Swan make solid boats, Swan sacrificing some weight for speed. Not everyone can afford a true offshore boat though.

Is your boat safe? I would say you would need to be more aware on your 523 then if you were in a Cabo or Swan or similar boat that was designed for the rigors of offshore work. Ideally you won’t be rounding the Horn, challenging a North Sea winter storm, or cruising the Caribbean in the summer in your Beneteau. I’m not saying she won't handle rough seas, I'm sure for the most part she'd be fine. But while I might try to stay out and weather a major storm in the Cabo or Swan, in the Beneteau, I'm checking the chart for the nearest sand beach or mangrove.

I got to sail on a 523 for a week in the Caribbean last year. That certainly doesn’t make me an expert, but during my inspection and subsequent coastal cruise, the words "bluewater boat" never came to mind. Catalina has a similar ad campaign. I cringe every time I see it. I think Catalina makes wonderful boats … for coastal cruising. In Beneteau’s case, I’ve seen them all over the world and I would take one anywhere, during the right time of year.

Will your boat be just as enjoyable as the other two? Absolutely, maybe even more so. With a lighter boat you are more likely to sail in lighter air or in closer confines or sail on and off moorings and anchors. The interior of the 523 is going to be more spacious than the other two, certainly a plus. In the end, it doesn’t matter what boat you end up with, your enjoyment will ultimately depend on your attitude. Now, where have I heard that before?

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