Does Size Really Matter?


Well, I guess it all depends on what you are measuring.  When it comes to bank accounts, the bigger the better; when it comes to debt, well I think you get the idea.  How about when it comes to boats that you want to live on or cross seas and oceans in?  The bigger the better might not always be true.  Bigger boats cost more to maintain, to berth, to transit the canals, to fuel and to power.  Bigger boats take up more room when anchoring in a crowded harbor.  They usually have a deeper draft, which would add to the limitations of where you could cruise.  Parts for bigger boats seem to cost a lot more.  However, bigger boats do have many benefits such as – the longer the waterline of a boat, the faster the hull speed; the larger the salon and the cockpit are, the more comfortable they are – and the more people you can invite over for happy hour.  There is more storage space so you can bring along a lot more of that personal “stuff” you just can’t live without.  Having a bigger boat usually means having a bigger galley, for people like me who love to cook. That means I can bring along all my favorite pots, pans, serving platters, wooden bowls, cooking utensils, dishes and silverware.  The list of advantages and disadvantages of boat size could go on and on, and I am sure that every boater reading this will each have their own opinion.

When we began looking for a full time live aboard/sail around the world boat we read a lot of “how we did it” books. We talked to other sailors who had done a lot of cruising and really tried to figure out how to find what would best suit Jon and I and our five to seven year plan.  We had already decided that the boat could be no less than 42 feet.  After all, we would be together night and day, every day, for years and years.  When we laid eyes on Beausoleil, it was love at first sight.  While she did have many of the items on our “must have” list, she was a little bigger than we planned (60+ feet LOA) and needed a lot more work than we had saved for.  Now, six years into living aboard and working on her from stem to stern, we can’t imagine crossing oceans or living aboard on anything smaller.

LillaMySince we have been cruising we have met people with every size of boat you can possibly imagine.  There was, for lack of a better term, a “bubble boat” (looked like a small geodesic dome placed on a floating platform with an outboard) in the northern part of Florida in the ICW.  We met a couple from Canada that had been living aboard their 25 ft sailboat full time (in snowy, cold Canada) on their way to spend a few years in the Caribbean.  We met another couple in the Bahamas who have two 17 ft sea kayaks; they spend their winter months paddling from island to island carrying only the belongings they could fit into a backpack or place in the kayak, which also holds their pup tent in which they camp each night.



On the other end of the spectrum we have seen some very large mega yachts.  These mega yachts usually tend to be power boats which belong to the rich, and sometimes even famous (i.e. Tiger Woods’ yacht called “Privacy” in Palm Springs moored on a dock near where we anchored).  One day here in Grenada, as we were sitting in the cockpit of Beausoleil drinking our coffee and feeling quite “large” we were circled by a beautiful 75 ft Gunboat (no, it didn’t have guns on it – it is a make of catamaran called a Gunboat).  These sailboats are sleek, beautiful and look fast even when they are motoring through the harbor at five knots.  We commented on how small it made us feel, and then watched as they anchored near a 35 ft sailboat.  The next morning when Jon was on deck he yelled down, “Shawna, you have to come see this!”, as the largest sailing catamaran ever built, Hemisphere, was motoring into the harbor.  It anchored next to the Gunboat.  We hiked up one of the mountains that overlooks the harbor and took photos. This really put the “size” discussion into perspective: there is Beausoleil at 60+ feet, the Gunboat at 75 feet, and then there is Hemisphere, measuring in at 145 feet.  Hemisphere makes all the other boats in the harbor look like toy boats.

A few days after Hemisphere left the harbor, a small boat plastered with sponsor stickers sailed in and dropped anchor.  We looked at each other and wondered aloud what the story with that little boat must be.  Later that day at a social gathering we were introduced by friends of ours to the couple aboard that boat.  They built this boat by hand – it was only 5 meters in length (that is less than 16 feet!).  He sailed over from Portugal to the Canary Islands, then to Martinique in a single-handed race.  She flew in to meet him here in the Caribbean.  They are living aboard, anchored off our starboard side.  The boat is big enough for the two of them to sleep, has a very small galley and a navigation area.  I don’t believe either of them can actually stand up inside the boat.  They are going to spend a few months exploring the Caribbean islands, head to Bermuda, then to the Azores, and finally to Europe.  Yes, the two of them in that 15 ft sailboat in the high seas!  They posted on their website, “We want to prove that high seas sailing can be inexpensive and available to broad circles.  We will see if two persons can live peacefully in the very limited sailboat space in high seas.”  When we asked them why, she said, “I wanted to sail around and drink beer”, to which he replied “I thought I had better build a sailboat then”.  I guess she should have been more specific – or just maybe – size doesn’t really matter as long as you are doing what you love…

Top of Grenada
Top of Grenada



Shawna, a former Key West resident lived aboard S/V Beausoleil, a 1979 Formosa 51 Ketch, with her husband Jon until December 2011 when they set sail to begin “living their dream” of circumnavigating the globe. She wrote to us each month with stories of their journey. She currently resides in North Carolina, awaiting the next adventure.

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