Most people are excited to hear about Aurelia’s spring voyage from San Diego to Hawaii until they hear that she’s only 24-feet long. Then they give me that “I know a really good doctor who could talk to you about this plan of yours” kind of look. There are numerous advantages (and a couple of disadvantages) of sailing small.
First the advantages; I’ll discuss some disadvantages in the next installment.
Paradoxically, a small boat is safer and easier when you are single-handing. Every line to pull, reef to tie, sail to haul or winch to grind is man-sized. Systems are much simpler. Tracing a faulty electrical line goes faster. There’s a shorter mast to climb if a halyard goes astray. If a spinnaker wraps around the headstay or goes into the water, it’s a much easier and safer problem for one person to solve.
And there’s a lot less physical effort to sailing a small boat, so even though a single-hander is on-duty 24/7, that duty is less exhausting.
Also, sailing a small boat, in my view at least, is simply a lot more fun than a big boat. You can use a tiller rather than a large wheel to steer, so maneuvering the boat is more tactile. The ride is more kinetic, more physical. More like surfing than sitting on an ocean liner. From the same cockpit position, you can reach all the control lines, so it’s possible to easily fine-tune the set of the sails and your angle into the wind for optimum performance, which is honestly the inner game and one of the more fun aspects of sailing.
A final advantage is cost. On a 24-foot boat, it costs about $2,000 for my sailmaker Tom to build a new mainsail for Aurelia. At this low cost, I can afford to have him triple-stitch every seam, using the best cloth, and personally inspect his crew’s work. The same sail on a boat twice Aurelia’s size would cost eight times as much. And so it goes for every bit of gear that goes on board. Aurelia is equipped sparingly but with the finest equipment — and with the finest workmanship — that is available on San Diego’s waterfront.