Tips on getting started w/ trailer sailing?

Started by marke14, May 02, 2023, 03:35 PM

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Riley Smith

I'd say that I feel fortunate enough to have a truck. It'll STOP its load. And that's all I'm going to say on that :) About the boat part, consider a catboat. They're very dry and easy to sail, will carry a ton, and look cool while doing it. No, you're not going to be some rocket ship and win all the races, and beating is better done ashore waiting on a better wind. LOL! Just kidding on that one, but you WILL learn patience :) I swear my boat is at least twenty feet long but when you take a tape out it only says 12!!! The only time that water would have gotten in the boat, my wife was sitting at the front of the cockpit diverting it and smiling because it was as hot as Hades. And I'm at the tiller about to heat stroke out telling her to move and let me have some! (We were motoring into a good wind and bad chop.) Good luck on your decision!


First sail on my Mac 22 with my Grandson, he was concerned about the possibility of capsizing and sinking.

Fortunately, as we conducted our launch, a group of Lightning sailors were working on the masthead of one of their boats.  They had the halyard pulled down, and tied to a cleat, mast horizontal, and the hull still had some freeboard.  That impressed him, and he observed that we had a wider side deck than the Lightning.

Later, on the river, gusts became stronger, and we had several deep heels, and again, a question.  This time, I asked him to pull the main in tighter, and when we were really way over, just let go the sheet.  Whump, flap flap, we were upright again!  We repeated that again, that time, I released the tiller, and again, upright in a flash.

He was quite confident there after, and we sailed to the limits of what the wind gave us.

Such demonstrations are important in the introduction to a new crew, or new boat.


What I didn't see was a budget.

Now my story:  Retired 18 months ago to NE North Carolina to a place on a creek off Albemarle Sound.  Haven't had a sailboat in years.  Last sailboat I owned was a used Laser that DW would not let me sail in San Francisco Bay 15 years ago.  We did use it on Lake Tahoe, but DW did not appreciate the wet ride or the easy capsize/easy right.

The new place has a boat lift with a 1500lb load limit and fixed bunks with cross beams 10" below top of lift bunks.  Which limited draft, and board couldn't protrude more than 10" below hull when up.  Daggerboards are unacceptable in shallow NC sound waters, CB and rudder need to be able to kick up, boat needs to sail OK with part board and rudder.

Cockpit needed to hold 4+ chubby adults under sail.  Boat needed to be difficult to put rail under, and preferably never heel beyond 20 degrees when DW (and friends) are sailing with me.  At 68, I'm not as spry as I used to be, so constant weight shifting to prevent capsizing is out (I do remember riding trapeze as crew on a racing 470 - but that was almost 50 years ago).  Boat had to be easily single-handed when DW didn't want to go sailing.  Budget was $10K all in, including a trailer.

The Compaq Sunday Cat seemed to be the ideal fit, super easy to rig and trailer, but weight was getting close to max.  And I kind of wanted a sleeping space and porta potty for camp cruising.  The Sun Cat with the bigger cabin had a cockpit on the small side.  And both Compaqs were well over my budget, although used models were 2003 or later.

Swallow Yachts makes a 20ft Bay Raider and Bay Raider Expedition, the latter with a small cabin.  Water ballast keeps weight within my limits, makes trailering much easier, and gives enough righting moment to keep from going past 90.  Unfortunately Swallow is located in Great Britain, and less than 30 have come to the US.  No used examples are available, and new is well out of my budget.  Designed to be trailered and single-handed, fast and very capable.  7ft cockpit.  On paper, the best boat for my situation.

Settled on ODay Mariner.  Over 4,000 built so only the Catalina 22 is more readily available in the Eastern half of the country.  Stuart Marine still builds the Mariner, so parts are available, even if new is out of my price range.  CB fits entirely in trunk, kick-up rudder, true min draft of 10", easily beached.  I found a used Stuart model which has 300lbs internal ballast and a 70lb CB (ODay used a 165lb cast iron CB and 100lbs less ballast).  6ft cockpit plus 2+2 cabin with limited headroom.  Mariners have a great class association which provides a lot of excellent technical support, as well as class racing (PHRF rating also available).  Plenty of sail area with standard jib, even in light winds.  Needs reefing by 15kts of wind, especially single handing.  Boom clears sitting people, but not standing, but that makes reefing easier.    Cockpit is self-bailing.  Easy to rig for single handing, quite stable.  Readily heaves to with jib sheet tight to windward side, tiller to leeward.  With a Tiller Clutch, I heave to and comfortably go forward to mast to raise/lower sails while standing on CB trunk in cabin. Cost $6800 with 2019 galvanized trailer specifically built for Mariner. 
Downsides:  25ft mast is awkward and heavy, needs some kind of help for most to get mast up/down (I'm making a gin pole that I can use on the water or the lift, as well as on the trailer).  Centerboard trunk limits foot room in cockpit and makes movement in cabin awkward, cockpit seats are low without cushions, OK with cushions.

Fred W
Yeopim Creek, NC (near Hertford, NC)



I was in a similar situation last year. I'm a 6'3" tall guy so just physically fitting on most trailerable boats was an issue. My requirements for the boat were:
•    It had to be safe (self-righting, self-bailing with positive flotation)
•    Seaworthy enough to sail on Lake Michigan in the right conditions
•    Comfortable to sail and to sleep/sit in for overnight adventures
•    Single-handle-able
•    Easy to launch: Shallow draft with manageable mast & rigging
•    Total weight of towable rig less than 1500 lbs
•    Long sleeping births with room to roll over and put knees up – ideally with an opening hatch overhead.
•    Good ventilation in cabin
•    Cockpit seats long enough and wide enough to lay on
•    Room to sit up inside the cuddy and room to sit on a head out of the rain and insects
•    Rowable
•    Chain locker for pulpit mounted anchor for quick and easy anchoring

I built an Excel list ranking potential boats and the Peep Hen quickly floated to the top of the list. The Peep Hen is an odd-looking but cute little gaff-rigged cat boat that was designed by a 6'5" guy and has a 7' berth with 4' sitting headroom in the cabin. With its flat bottom and high freeboard it looked like it probably sails like a cork, but with so much else going for it I was willing to sacrifice sailing speed and a few degrees of pointing ability. The designer, Reuben Trane, designed all the Nimble "Hen" sailboats (Bay Hen, Mud Hen, Marsh Hen), the Florida Bay Coaster trawlers, as well as many other high-end motor yachts. He recently said, "Of all the boats and yachts I've done over my career, I still think the Peep is my best creation." It only draws 9" and the 25lb 15-foot unstayed mast can be raised/lowered easily on the water by one person so launching is as easy as possible. One person can get this little boat from arriving at the launch ramp to sailing in 10 min. All this in a 14' gaff rigged cat boat that weighs about 650 lbs. Even though my car is rated at 3500 lbs. towing capacity, I wanted a boat that wouldn't require a car with high towing capacity so that my options would be open for my next car. This whole rig with the trailer, motor, and a wee bit of stuff weighs around 1000 lbs, well within the towing capacity of even the smallest cars.


Quote from: marke14 on May 28, 2023, 12:33 AMBudget: as cheap as possible  8)

A person after my own heart! :)

Seriously though, I would be inclined to tell someone starting out to get something more ready to sail versus something that 'has potential' but needs much work.
Big dreams, small boats...


I am 100% with you there @Spot .  Although now I am pretty savvy with the usual fiberglass sailboat & outboard challenges, I am also not looking to take on a project boat.  I am totally willing to fix up and maintain an older boat.  Safety is paramount, aesthetics are much farther down the list.  Sailing efficiency / windward performance are in between the two somewhere.