How Big of a Sailboat Can One Person Handle?

How big of a sailboat can one person handle

However, there isn’t any limit to how big a sailboat or how small you’d choose to use. It will always depend on your skill and experience as well as your courage to have that good sea-keeping ability while sailing. 

Generally, a skilled sailor will be able to operate a boat under 28 feet or 8 meters without systems and under 4 feet or 14 meters if with systems. You can go single-handed sailing but if your boat’s manufacturer included a cabin for a crew, then bringing one can be a good idea. 

Take note that length is not really an issue when it comes to cruising short-handed sailing. The only limit is your capacity to safely handle the amount of sailcloth. It all goes down to your experience and ability.

Another consideration is stability. A large boat tends to be more stable and operation can be done from the cockpit. Compared to a smaller boat, a bigger one can be easier to handle by a single person. However, you have to be careful about docking as you are sailing using a large boat.

Is my boat size good enough?

Is my boat size good enough

When you start sailing, one of the things you need to consider is the size of your sailboat. You might dream about having a grand, beautiful boat. However, sailors know that being practical by choosing a smaller boat can have better outcomes as it will be easier to handle. 

If your boat is too big, it can lead to a lot of problems that can even cause you to lose interest in sailing. Everybody has different ideal boat sizes and here are some that you can consider before choosing the perfect boat. After all, having the largest boat can make it difficult for you to steer seagoing passages compared to those sailing with smaller boats.

What activities will you do onboard the boat?

What activities will you do onboard the boat

You may dream about having exciting adventures just like what you’ve seen in the movies. Having those bigger boats drifting freely on the water can get you all hyped up. But this might not always be the case. 

You have to know whether you are sailing for the day or you are sailing to cross the ocean. You must take the choosing of your sailboat seriously because the prices can differ greatly depending on what you need. 

If you choose to just do daytime sails, a 10 to 15 ft sailboat will be enough. If you opt to sail in the open ocean, you can buy a bigger boat about 30 to 35 feet because it has an ideal space for fuel storage, storm equipment and can also accommodate food and water provisions. Meanwhile, if you want to feel safer and more secure, you can go for a  45 feet sailboat. 

You can also consider other kinds of boats like a houseboat if you want a stabler larger vessel. However, if you’re alone and use a large size sailboat, space may be too big for only one person.

Although you believe that bigger is better, also think about practicality and disposal expenses should the day come when you would want to change your boat.

Boat factors to consider for solo sailing

Boat factors to consider for solo sailing

If you chose to cross the oceans, which will take longer, you have to think about the downtime handling. You cannot securely anchor when you are in the middle of the ocean, so you have to choose a boat that has a navigator installed.

You can find a lot of sailboats that are equipped with a navigating system, but of course, not every boat has a great autopilot system. If you want a more stable boat, choose a larger one. It is also recommended to put a wind vane or automated systems on your sailboat. By doing so, it can navigate more efficiently. 

Aside from getting the sailboat measuring size, you also want to consider the speed, maintenance, and storage to know which one is best for you. Sailing alone can be very exciting but as time goes on, you will also realize the capacity you need in order to help you out especially when necessary. 

If you choose a smaller vessel, expect that its navigating abilities will be less compared to what a larger boat can do. Should you choose a bigger one, its navigating abilities may be adequate for your needs. In addition to that, because larger boats are now usually well-equipped, you need less time and upgrades.

Does my boat have enough storage? 

Sailing alone can be very enjoyable but it can also be hard. Imagine leaving your things, even the valuable ones unattended will cause you to worry as someone might steal your stuff. Just locking the cabin doesn’t do the job because it can be easily accessed either by breaking into the cockpit or in some cases, it can be easily found in the deck. 

When you are single-handling your boat, you must be concerned about your storage space, especially in highly populated areas. That is why it is usually recommended for single-handlers to use boats around 35-45 feet in size because it has an ideal capacity for storage that would last up to a week.

For safer storage, it is recommended to have your stuff packed in cubes. Also, you can have your space well organized for better and bigger storage capacity.

Can you dock and anchor alone?

Can you dock and anchor alone?

Docking and anchoring for a single handler will not be the most enjoyable part of the trip. This is when a decent size of the boat makes all the difference. 

In order for this to be easier, it is advised to use a 35-45 feet sailboat that has self-navigating features. This will make it easier to control and move around the docking line. You will also encounter fewer problems as it can fit into many different slips. If you consider these features, it can surely save you time and money when docking. There are also many techniques when docking including:

  • Using multiple anchors and bridles. 
  • Anchor in some mangroves when it’s about to rain or when the winds are blowing strong.
  • Keep in mind that the lines should never be tied to the stern.

Sailing faster with the right vessel size

Sailing faster with the right vessel size

When you’re sailing alone, you need speed in order to reach your destination quicker, especially when it looks like a rainstorm is coming since it can be dangerous.

So, if you want the speed of your boat to be fast, choose a longer boat. Its shape will give you a faster and smoother ride. The weight of your supplies also contributes to the speed of your sailboat. If you want a faster boat, you have to minimize the things you bring during the trip. 

More tips on how to make you sail faster

  1. Be sure to sail where there are more winds. The wind will give force to the boat so it speeds up.
  2. Remember to avoid the lanes where there are a lot of boats. Of course, you will be obstructed and this will result in your boat becoming slower. 
  3. If you want a smaller boat, choose a long one or maybe a slender one. This ensures that you will achieve great speed.
  4. Choose the lighter vessels. Slender ones are often light that is why sailors prefer these to use in boat racings. The only downside is, the space for storage is inadequate and because the size is small, it may not be ocean-worthy.

Does boat size really matter?

Does boat size really matter001

Do you really want to sail a bigger size sailboat? If so, you have to consider why you want to go for a big one rather than starting with a smaller one. Perhaps, a solo sailor might find it more exciting to sail a 50 foot boat. This is perfectly possible and you can go even sail solo.

However, it may get a little awkward when you’re in a sail area with a large boat and you’re all alone. That is why if you don’t really have a reason why you’re sailing a big one except for an ego boost or to just to feel confident, better sail using a sailboat measuring just right for you or go for a 45 feet boat.

Meanwhile, if you really have a good reason why you need a larger boat, then give it a go. Some really good reasons to go for larger sailboats include planning to live on it or if you are thinking of breaking a world record and do multi-day sail or even a week trip crossing oceans, then you’re probably right in getting that big boat.

Nevertheless, if you just one so you’d have enough storage space, then your reason seems pretty legit.

The size of the boat is an important factor as far as solo sailing is concerned. No matter how big the vessel is, if you cannot completely commandeer, then your efforts will simply put to waste.

Use a 35 to 45 feet vessel with bow thrusters when you do your solo sailing while applying your nautical skills. Aside from the skills, your determination, strength, and fitness will also play a part in your journey. 

How Much Sail Can You Manage?

How Much Sail Can You Manage

Typically, a sailor can manage a sail measuring around 300 feet up to 400 feet. Anything that goes above that can be difficult especially when the weather becomes bad. If you plan to increase the length of your hull, you can choose a boat that has smaller sails. 

If you are planning to sail solo, things might get difficult for you even if automation systems are installed in your boat. There are some jobs on-board that can be easier done if you have a companion or a crew with you.

These include docking or catching dock lines as well as anchoring and mooring. Getting in and out of the ship can also be easier if a crew is with you especially when you dock at a crowded marina. It is also easier to sleep knowing that another person is standing watch while you are unavailable. 

What systems should be in my vessel?

What systems should be in my vessel

If you’re going single-handed sailing using a 35 feet size sailboat or something over than that measurement, you should probably consider having the right systems equipped. These include having a radar to keep you on the right track, a hydraulic bow thruster with a remote, an electric windlass as well as a roller furling.

You also have to make sure good autopilot systems are installed and to have lines running aft system as well as a wind vane and engine spares for smooth sailing.  

Developing great single-handing sailor skills

Developing great single-handing sailor skills

Practicing how to dock is a great way to develop your sailor skills. You can start docking, then repeat and repeat it again one more time. Give yourself time until you are able to maneuver in tight spaces effortlessly.

This will also allow you to walk up and down the entire length of the hull. Aside from docking, you also have to develop anchoring skills as you will need this to keep your vessel in place. You also have to get the steering configuration right so you won’t have a hard time mastering turns. Some boats have self-steering arrangements that can help you steer your way easily. 

Comparing vessel sizes

Comparing vessel sizes

So you probably have the best idea of which vessel size suits you best after reading the first part of our post. Continue reading as we compare vessel sizes and their features to better equip you with knowledge. This will help you determine which one to really go for.

In terms of storage, a 35 feet vessel is unlikely to have enough storage space if you are planning to go sailing for more than a week. Meanwhile, for week trips, the ideal size of the vessel should be between 35 feet to 45 feet as you will be able to bring all that you need with ample storage within the boat.

However, you might think that 50 feet or bigger vessel can accommodate a week trip more. You may be right but you have to also realize that it is not suitable for a single-handed sail.

Now let’s compare vessel speed according to their sizes. A 35 feet vessel tends to go slower unless its length is exceptional. A vessel sized between 35 to 45 feet will have no problem when it comes to speed while bigger ones tend to slow down due to their weight but can accelerate depending on the winds.

A single-handed boat measuring 35 feet can be easily docked or anchored considering its size. Smaller boats have this advantage compared to those over 50 feet which can be harder to park as slips may not always be available.

Well, 35 feet to 45 feet vessels can also be easily parked with some occasions wherein slips may not be available as well for these sizes.

Lastly, let’s compare sea rides according to vessel sizes. The 35 feet vessel can make you experience a rough ride on open waters while the next-sized vessel can handle it well. Furthermore, a vessel 50 feet and over can do smoothly on open waters but can be slow except when favorable winds are on the blow.

Get ready for a single-handed boat race

Get ready for a single-handed boat race

Did you know that a lot of sailors made history? This is the very reason why single-handed racing has become popular these days. Let’s check back on memory lane and remember the races that happened back then. 

Here are some achievements sailors achieved throughout the years. In the year 1965, Robin Lee Graham set sail from Southern California on an around-the-world trip. He was only 16 years old at that time when he sailed his 24-foot sailboat named Dove. 

After 5 years, he became the youngest to do a solo circumnavigation. In 1967, 58-year-old nursery owner and fruit merchant, Alec Rose set off on a solo circumnavigation. He finished his journey on July 4, 1968, and was given the knighthood title the next day. He later wrote a book about his journey. 

Moving forward to modern times, it was The Silverrudder Race that was established in 2012 in the Danish town of Svendborg that grew quickly from 15 contestants to 400 sailors in just a span of years! This shows how many people are interested in joining vessel races. This is also the reason why it became the largest single-handed race in the world. 

Currently, there are 450 signed participants. This race involves all sailboats with 6 categories. This includes keelboats – small, medium, large, and extra-large. This race is like an endurance test for the skipper, the one who is in charge of the boat. It is because this race uses different sizes of boats and there is no handicap rule. 

Frequently Asked Questions about sailboat size for single-handed sailing

Frequently Asked Questions about sailboat size for single-handed sailing

How big a sailboat can one person handle

A sailboat measuring between 35 and 45 feet (10.5 – 14 meters) with a good amount of sail area, easy reefing, and well-working assistive equipment can be ideal for one person to handle. However, bear in mind, the ideal sailboat size can vary depending on the sailor’s experience level and the boat’s configuration.

Can one person sail a 40-foot sailboat?

Yes, a 40-foot sailboat is the maximum size for one person to be able to single-handedly control safely. Generally, a sailing vessel measuring up to 40 feet can be a great choice for easy steering and good sea-keeping ability.
These types of vessels may not be the largest boats, but these are equipped with assisting self-steering arrangements. It also has tolerable sailing speed, as well as good storage capabilities for all your baggage. So yes, a solo sailor can sail a 40-foot sailboat.  Meanwhile, there are also other boats designed to allow single-handed sailing.  

Can one person sail a 50 ft sailboat?

It is possible for one person to sail a 50 ft sailboat, but it can be challenging and requires a high level of skill and experience. It is perfectly possible to sail anything over 50 feet solo, but it becomes more uncomfortable quickly.
Despite the advantages of having a big vessel, single-handers may encounter difficulty especially when docking and anchoring experience referring traffic. This is when having a crew comes in handy even when your vessel has well-working assistive equipment.

What is a good size sailboat to live on?

A sailboat size of at least 30 feet can already be considered liveable. A shorter boat, however, can cramp even just one person on board the boat. Take note that the bigger the boat and the fancier its features, the greater the cost of ownership will be.
For most people, an ideal liveable boat measures 35 feet to 45 feet.

Can you single hand a 30-foot sailboat?

As we noted earlier, sails using vessels measuring between 35 and 45 feet are the sailing sweet spot if you want to do it single-handedly. This is because such sailboats do offer almost everything that you need to sail without any assistance. However, you may decide to go for smaller vessels but this would mean that the storage capabilities go against you.

YouBoat Size Article Conclusion

That’s a Wrap!

After learning different information about how the size measurements of one person handle vessels work, you are now ready to decide which one you’d go for. Remember that even as these solo or one-person handle boats can be sailed alone, it will always be safer to have someone along with you if your vessel has some extra room. Furthermore, keep in mind that you are navigating open waters and a high degree of keeping yourself and your crew safe should be your top priority.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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