A guide to choosing a Blue Water Yacht


Over the coming weeks, Grabau International will take you through a variety of subjects which encompass choosing the right yacht for blue water adventures. The following guide is not written to dictate what to choose, or to supply a comprehensive encyclopedia of every option and variable, but simply a basic explanation of the main options and some guidance on what to look out for. Finding a yacht will always be a battle of your head over your heart, so the purpose of this guide is to give your head some questions to ask in the hope that an amicable compromise can be made with your heart.

Part 1 – Introduction

If it feels right, it is right; a very simple statement to make, but one which holds true. The beauty of sailing is that almost any type of yacht can be used to do almost any type of sailing. The key is what works for you and your crew. Tradewind sailing is generally relatively easy on a yacht, although particular consideration must be given to the steering and rig, both areas which can suffer accelerated wear through the continual rolling motion of an ocean swell. Everything from a stripped-out racing yacht to a long-keeled steel-hulled motorsailor will get you across the Atlantic, albeit with differing levels of excitement, speed and sense of security.

So what is a ‘blue water’ yacht?

There is no agreed definition of a bluewater yacht as the term means different things to different people. To some, it means a yacht of a sturdy build which can safely navigate any sea condition with the minimum of fuss. To others it means a yacht capable of travelling at speed over great distances, whilst yet another opinion is that it means a yacht fitted out with equipment suited to long passages and warm-climate cruising. Calculations such as STIX (stability index), AVS (angle of vanishing stability) and the EU’s Recreational Craft Directive CE certification level can help to define those yachts suited to serious offshore adventures, but the reality is that most modern yachts over 32 feet are now categorised A – Ocean (“capable of “extended voyages where condition may exceed wind force 8 (Beaufort scale) and wave height of 4 metres (13.0 feet)”).

Returning to our original statement of ‘If it feels right, it is right’, this highlights a trend amongst the bluewater fraternity to choose a yacht which fits in with what the you actually want (with modifications then made to make her suitable for long passages at sea or anchoring away from the luxuries of shore power) rather than what the established ‘old guard’ might advise as suitable. Circumnavigating aboard a shiny new production yacht is no longer a silly idea and heaven forbid, some people have even crossed oceans with lifting keel yachts which appear to completely fall out of favour when the STIX and AVS calculations are introduced.

Picking a yacht capable of taking you through a ‘perfect storm’ is of course a great option for the totally risk-adverse, but thanks to massively improved weather-routing software, faster hull shapes, easily-handled sail plans and good old fashioned common-sense; safe bluewater passages can be made aboard pretty much anything that floats.

Stay tuned for Part 2 which will cover Hull Shape.

Blue Water Yacht

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