The Blue Water Debate is Dead

Just before I was permanently banned at Cruisers Forum, I started yet another incredibly popular and timely thread there called:

Production Boats Fit For Blue Water

Now, this title was not a question. It was an answer. It was the declaration that, indeed, the “blue water debate” that had been raging on various sailing forums for years – was finally dead.

Here is my opening post in that thread:

Up until now, it’s been a never-ending debate. And I’ve enjoyed discussing it in some other threads like “The Yard Guys”, “Production Boats and The Limits” and “Rudder Failures”. But I thought it best to cut to the chase. So here it is:

Modern Category A “Production Boats” – also referred to in forums as “BeneHunterLinas” and “Bleach Bottles” and other interesting names – are built for and perfectly suited to bluewater cruising. Period.

Now – there is a lot of debatable minutiae in there, and a lot of subjective viewpoints surrounding it, which is why the debate has continued way past its “sell by” date – but that’s fact. “Production Boats” are NOT just “coastal cruisers” as some would have us believe. There’s far too much evidence out there to debunk these kinds of claims.

My point in starting this thread is simply to provide some factual accuracy to what can be very silly and misleading arguments. So, I’d like this thread to be dedicated to examples of the many production boats out there very happily and safely cruising blue water. For instance, you have years of very reliable information from the ARC as to how various boats perform, you have members around here like MarkJ who has circumnavigated on his Bene and is still going, and you have many other sailors out there like Michael of Sequitur who have successfully taken their “Production Boats” to some very challenging places (e.g. – Cape Horn). Then you also have very knowledgeable guys like Polux who can walk you through the design and construction advantages of 150 different modern boats.

Now, if you are one who believes that ONLY the “traditional bluewater brands” are suited to this type of cruising, you should probably find another thread. This one ain’t for you.

But, if you’re considering a boat for off-shore cruising, and have an even remotely open mind, hopefully you’ll find some good facts in this thread as it goes to help you make a rational decision. Because when weighing cost and safety – you can easily go down an expensive, or even dangerous path, if you only hear one side of the story.

Ever since I joined most of the major sailing forums in 2008, there has been a very misguided, yet never-ending drumbeat of sentiment that has held that “production boats” – or “BeneHunterLinas” as many like to call them – do not belong off-shore in “real” blue water. According that crowd, they are “light coastal cruisers” or “dock queens” or “anchor condos”. “Real blue water”, they’ve said, belongs only to boats like Bristols, or Hans Christians, or Cabo Ricos, or Valiants, or Hinckleys, or Pacific Seacrafts, or Oysters, or Swans – you get the idea. And this sentiment is nowhere stronger than on Cruisers Forum. That’s why I decided to wade in and set things straight. Prospective boat buyers out there deserve better than this. So I decided to change the conversation.

Now, on most forums, you can usually find out which threads I participate in by going to a section and filtering the list of threads by “Replies” or “Views”. I’m usually in (and responsible for) the ones with the highest numbers of both. It’s just the way I roll. I’m forum gold. But let me help you by pointing you directly to a couple on CF where this particular debate played out:

The Yard Guys (started by me, very popular and educational, and nearing THE most-viewed and most-replied-to thread for the section – but locked due to some blue water goofballs getting angry)

Rudder Failures  (started by me, very popular and educational, and nearing THE most-viewed and most-replied-to thread for the section, but thus far getting evidence of far fewer examples of production boat failures than typically touted in these debates)

Beneteau vs. Hunter? (started by someone else, but one of the first I participated in regarding this question, very popular and educational, but locked due to some blue water guys getting angry, along with some hooliganism from the CF Moderators themselves)

So, I thought it best to just cut to the chase and start a thread with a very clear statement of the obvious.

Now, if you take the time to read through this thread, you’ll see that the tide in this debate has actually begun to change. Some of the loudest”anti-production-boats” voices are becoming more moderate, or are being dismissed altogether. And most of the “blue water arguments” are being shown, with specific evidence and facts, to be seriously overstated – or just plain wrong. That, of course, was my intent.

A couple of other CF threads where you see this same trend are:

Hunter sinks at Catalina due to bow cleat failure  (a silly thread started by a guy with a “BWC” – or Blue Water Chucklehead – agenda, but one that actually turned into something very informative)

Bavaria or Hunter Bashing (a good thread trying to discuss why these boats are always hammered on forums with so little reason to do so)

And finally, over at Sailnet, I went head-to-head with a guy I consider a friend – but who I thought was seriously pushing things from a factual standpoint. As you’ll see, it was a good-natured debate:

Production Boats and The Limits : Hunter vs. Morris

The bottom line is this:

These modern CE Category A rated production boats are every bit as fit for off-shore, blue water cruising as any traditional “blue water brand” you can come up with. Period. Tradeoffs? To a degree. There are always are. But these production boats are out there ripping it up all over the world.

So, that debate is over. It’s time to come up with a new one fellas. For example, have you seen the new Hinckley 50? That’s gonna give the BWCs serious heartburn – “liners” and “IKEA furniture modules” and “glued in bulkheads”, and “thin layup”, etc. Check out this thread started by one of our very own BFSers – JulieMor:

2015 Hinckley Bermuda 50

Feel free to hop into any of the above threads that aren’t locked and say your piece. I’ve done my job getting the ball rolling – so take it away! Or, better yet, comment below and let’s duke it mano-a-mano out with facts. I love a good clean fight!

See you out there!

10 thoughts on “The Blue Water Debate is Dead”

  1. I see the date of this article is 2015. I used to own a Beneteau (1997) and I liked the boat and thought it struck a good balance of design criteria (cost, seaworthiness, fun at anchor). I’ve always thought there was a certain “proof in pudding” to the fact that the ARC is rife with these production boats. Obviously, it can be done well and safely in these boats. My one concern is whether this is still the case in 2021. The Annapolis boat show just concluded and the designs seem to have become more…fanciful…in terms of safety in the event that the boat ever encountered something like a wave. More of a design concern than a construction concern (huge, wide open cockpits to fall out of, smooth swoopy fiberglass panels with nowhere to hold on, etc.). My Beneteau made some design concessions for interior volume and fun at anchor, but generally had things like handrails and whatnot that made the boat acceptable in a seaway. My current boat is a bluewater design and has much more robust systems, a vastly more sea-kindly motion, a safer cockpit and grab rails everywhere. It is also somewhat of a jungle gym to climb around, you get a lot of bruises from navigating small, narrow, steep passageways, and all that beefy equipment is hard to find and expensive to replace. Finally, at 42 feet, it would probably cost $500k to build this boat new. Beneteau could put 42 feet of boat under you for nearly half that cost. Over the years, my assessment is that production boats, properly fit out and equipped, should be fine for the job. I’m a little leery of the current 2021 production designs as they may have thrown all caution to the wind. On the other hand, the extent to which I see “responsible” “reputable” builders following design suit makes me question what’s actually going on. Maybe these newest designs are fine? Maybe the blue water builders couldn’t sell the old designs at the boat show anymore?

    1. Hey Matt – it’s been a long while since I’ve been on this blog. But I appreciate your comment. Good learning for others.

  2. Steve, I believe I read all of your Hunter topics twice. I’ve been looking for a sailbot with liveabord capability for some time and I always come across a 1988 Hunter Legend 40. At first glance, it looks perfect, but its reputation on the internet discourages me. My use would be to sail around Europe, but at some point I dream of being able to do an Atlantic crossing. Do you think this hunter can handle my needs?

    1. Thanks for the note Matias. As always, it depends on the boat itself and how sound and prepared it is. I would not have hesitated to take our own ’89 H40 across an ocean – in the right season, that is (just like you would with any boat). I would have done some additional work to it, like installing a water maker, new sails, etc. But the boat itself was perfectly capable of making that passage…as-built…also because it was so well maintained by previous owners and myself. Look back at ARC participant boats and that will give you a good idea of what production boats are capable of. Though it seems there aren’t as many Hunters in Europe – there have definitely been Hunters sailing across right alongside every other kind of boat.

      One other thing I’ll say is look at the features that the forum chuckleheads proclaim as best for offshore work and then compare those to the Hunter. I think you’ll find it measures up very well – but it also WAY faster than any of those old traditional boats.

  3. Evaluation the difference between an offshore build and a weekender/coastal, club racer is not determined by brand or materials. Most boats are hand made… not produced on assembly lines. What makes a boat strong is the strength of the hull material, its stiffness, and that is often related to how it is reinforced by bulkheads etc… and how the reinforcing elements are attached. Swans are well built and fiberglass hulls as are HR… and Catalina. Swans and HR cost more because of the fit and finish materials and so on… perhaps their rigs are oversized compared to weekend and club racers. There is no hard line which makes a boat off shore suitable. The criteria seems to revolve around doing well in very nasty conditions. These sorts of debates are usually not very informative.

    1. Hi Jeff – thanks for the comment. In general I agree. The problem is that brand HAS been used as the qualifier in most of these debates in the forums. That’s where the “BeneHunterLina” moniker got its start. And when that’s the level of thinking and debate, you’re right – it’s not very informative. Hence this article.

  4. Great blog post, Steve (and good summation of those crazy forum posts)! My wife and I have been to several boat shows and we’re alwyas dreaming about that go anywhere cruising boat. It’s probably a debate that will continue forever, but I like reading!

    1. Thanks Ray. I’m glad it was useful – or at least entertaining for you! Even though the debate is over – as you say, it’s definitely fun!

  5. The most invaluable point for you after all those long debates is if you learn something or not regarding production boats and the limits, since you are a Green Apple in boat ownership i think is good for you to take notes in the future and be more open minded …

    1. Robert, I listen very closely and very humbly to sailors that know what they are talking about. There are several of these men and women out there – including on the forums. When these people speak, I stay quiet and take Green Apple notes. But there are also lots of chuckleheads out there that are very loud and opinionated – and wrong. For those, I put away the notebook and throw down some smack.

      (PS – are you RobertSailor from CF?)

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