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Handling a 65' cat compared to a 50' cat


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Please, talk to me I'm a three year old (because that's the level of my intellect) and explain why, when talking about stupidly light, performance cats there's a huge difference in handling, in close quarters and at sea.

I have my own ideas but I want to hear from you lot who are infinitely more experienced, better looking and possibly more drunk than I am

Arigatoo

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I've crewed on gunboats 60' and over

you better know what you are doing when you try to dock one in any kind of big breeze.., not that I was ever near the wheel when that was happening: it is scary enough just to watch - especially when the docks are concrete.

the bows can blow around a bit

have someone ready with a spare fender- it's not always obvious where it is going  to be needed

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4 minutes ago, us7070 said:

I've crewed on gunboats 60' and over

you better know what you are doing when you try to dock one in any kind of big breeze.., not that I was ever near the wheel when that was happening: it is scary enough just to watch - especially when the docks are concrete.

the bows can blow around a bit

have someone ready with a spare fender- it's not always obvious where it is going  to be needed

So prep around docking. That's a good call. I think it will take a good appreciation of how much she blows off and a good understanding of wind and tide and very good spatial awareness.

What else though. I'm sure I'm missing something that more experienced people can help me with. I'm your standard male - I think I'm smarter than I am.

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2 hours ago, us7070 said:

also - depending on where the helm is.., you might want a spotter on each end of the boat, with some sort of radio communication device

Nothing to contribute about actual handling, but the thread about winning the boom height seems something also to visit, that's a lot of sail area high up, so docking upwind on those high bridgedeck boats will be "fun".  Seems bow thrusters would be a necessity.  Of course, could stand off and send dingy with docklines.  

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When moving around in tight areas always use the wind to your advantage, don't fight the wind or you'll simply start banging into things.

It's much easier to control a twin-screw cat with the bows pointed into the wind, and much easier to bail out under control if things go wrong.

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3 hours ago, soma said:

I think it really depends on the windage of the platform. Not all lightweight performance cats are the same. A GB62 has very tall bows and the bow knuckle isn’t in the water up front. She’s like a leaf on the water. A GB57, only 5’ shorter, has very low bows and a deep forefoot and handles completely differently.
 

There are lots of things you can do to minimize the difficulties. Some crews sail around with 3 furled headsails up, all the time. Ditch ‘em. That’s a sh**ton of windage. Put the max dboard down that the situation allows. Drive it hot. Don’t follow the old “don’t drive faster than you’re willing to hit something” rule. That’ll screw you. Drive or like you stole it. High aspect rudders and boards stall at low speed so you need flow to maintain traction. 
 

Its 100% doable for the layperson. But...a paint job on a nice 60’ cat is $150k. Mistakes are $$$. 

Great post, thank you.

I would attempt to design a low windage platform but I guess you can get lazy and leave furled sails up.

I guess I'm really asking is what is doable with a pair of experienced sailors?

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Background and short digression: my wife  gets seasick more at night. So our night shifts on passage were me - Sunset to midnight. Her - midnight to 3 am. Me - 3am to dawn. That made her comfortable and minimized night time on watch. So lots of time she stayed in bed if things got interesting unless I called her.

None of this bullshit "wake the other person if you are going on deck". That just makes the crew tired all the time, or they avoid doing required tasks (like moving our little genoa whisker pole after a gybe) for fear of waking the other person. If they are awake while you do something on deck and you fall in at night, you've got a _slightly_ better chance of finding them. I just treaded carefully on deck at night and was always clipped in. So...
 

I felt super comfortable on our 40' cat single handing it at night during a squall. I think that's a "worst case". OK, with the spinnaker up, at night, in a squall I needed one person to do a big ease while I snuffed it on the forward nets.

45' performance cat?  Sure

50' performance cat?  uhhh maybe.  I'd invest a lot more in ball bearing sail tracks and winches to handle the big loads.

55' cat?   way too big for me in terms of maintenance.  If you can afford to pay people to sand the bottom before painting, sure go ahead.

Soma has a lot more experience sailing big powered up cats. It's what you're used to that makes you comfortable.

I'd say for 95% of us an IMOCA 60 would scare us silly. But for people that have grown into them, it's what you're used to.

 

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I'm halfway between Soma & Zonker. Yes, two could handle a big cat: at sea with lots of room to plan & execute maneuvers. Close to shore, in a harbor, things can escalate beyond your control. Some other boat boat can do something that wasn't figured into your plans, a squall could blow in, harbor too full to allow you to moor, ect. And you would spend as much time fixing as sailing. You can electrify/automate a lot of equipment, but that just increases repairs & risk.

What would you do with all that space??

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I recently delivered "KINETIC" from Ensenada to SD. Three people. At sea, no problems. Docking at the shipyard, without the bow thruster (not working) was a bit of a worry as I needed one crew on each hull to call out distances & stand by with fenders. Made it OK, but stress levels were raised. We had dockside help to secure lines, without which it would have been a LOT harder. The only place to disembark off these big cats is the stern extensions - the topsides need rappelling gear to get down. Bringing the stern in tight risks loosing the bows downwind. Having a spring to motor against helped a lot, but in a big breeze I would not have attempted to dock there.

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17 hours ago, us7070 said:

also - depending on where the helm is.., you might want a spotter on each end of the boat, with some sort of radio communication device

Does anyone use a mast top camera for docking? And reef passage. And possibly finding good bottoms to anchor?

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another trck in a high windage cat is use reverse and manouvre backwards - gives better steerage reaction at slow speed (all this high speed stuff in close proximity invariably leads to crashes and tears)
you need to spend time to learn how to tide and wind walk the boat - practicing in a  large open space your  slow manouvering and see what way the boat blows off, and when not, how to use wind and or tide to glide sideways
really it is about understanding that you need water flow over the rudders and daggerboards for them to 'grip'   IMHO a twin engined cat be best be manouvered on the engines in confines

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10 hours ago, soma said:

Yup. Invaluable. I like 3 cameras - bow, stern, and anchor/mooring. 

Doesn’t that stray from super simple systems? How often would you have to clean the salt build up of the camera lenses?

in my opinion, any boat that needs cameras to be safely operated is a badly designed boat.

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1 hour ago, smj said:

Doesn’t that stray from super simple systems? How often would you have to clean the salt build up of the camera lenses?

in my opinion, any boat that needs cameras to be safely operated is a badly designed boat.

Camera systems have come a long way, and many chartplotters can accept input. Having properly sited cam's xcan eliminate having crew yell out distances to helm or use of talkies.

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13 hours ago, smj said:

Doesn’t that stray from super simple systems? How often would you have to clean the salt build up of the camera lenses?

in my opinion, any boat that needs cameras to be safely operated is a badly designed boat.

I hear what you're saying but a rear view camera has been available on cars and trucks for a long time.  Weatherproof and quite handy.

In theory (but quite low tech these days), cameras on board could be accessed remotely to keep an eye on your boat from home.

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13 hours ago, smj said:

Doesn’t that stray from super simple systems? How often would you have to clean the salt build up of the camera lenses?

in my opinion, any boat that needs cameras to be safely operated is a badly designed boat.

I safely parallel parked family loaded minivans for years with no camera. However, I very pleased when our Sienna came with a camera. So far 8 years of flawless operation in a harsh environment of wet, freezing, salt etc.  

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On 12/22/2020 at 4:05 PM, soma said:

 

If you’re starting with a blank sheet of paper, drop the cabin soles as deep as possible. Most cats set the sole at the waterline. Catanas soles are ABOVE the waterline. My Outremer 55 soles are about 18” BELOW the waterline. That translates to lower topsides, which means less boat/lighter boat, and a lot less windage. It reduces hull weight by +/-20% and reduces platform windage by 25%.  

How does a Outremer 55 place the soles 18" below DWL?  On a GB66 the max draft below DWL is 24".  If the sole was 18" below DWL the bilge would only be 6".  (not much room for tankage) and the sole width would only be 31".  

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Open ocean bigger is better IMHO. On Soma's boat you need big winches and electric is preferable to hydraulic.

Around docks, Soma is 100% correct on making sure that you are tracking on the boat and is a master at it. I'm almost never at a dock so I absolutely stink at getting onto and off a dock.

Windage on the bigger cats can make even a nice little 10 knot breeze  can give you fits.

Soma, where are you stick the cameras and what type do you recommend? Maybe worth looking into 

 

 

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Thanks everyone, some really good tips here. I love the camera idea. They're so cheap now and relatively maintenance free for a big benefit.

If going bigger it seems windage and ground tackle need attention. Makes sense.

Chris White said he felt 57' was the limit for an experienced couple and it seems Soma's experience on an O55 bears that out.

You guys are the best .... (insert_something_here) ...

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1 hour ago, tp#12 said:

Thanks everyone, some really good tips here. I love the camera idea. They're so cheap now and relatively maintenance free for a big benefit.

If going bigger it seems windage and ground tackle need attention. Makes sense.

Chris White said he felt 57' was the limit for an experienced couple and it seems Soma's experience on an O55 bears that out.

You guys are the best .... (insert_something_here) ...

This may or may not be helpful writing by Al Wigginton ex owner builder Dragonfly 65' Catamaran part of article from Latitude 38 article.

Al and Jill Wigginton
Building and Cruising a Big Cat
(Indianapolis, IA / Livermore, CA)

Some readers may be surprised to learn that prior to committing to the huge boatbuilding project, Jill's and my sailing experience consisted of a one-week charter and a few hours on a Hobie Cat and on a Laser. Our two primary considerations were that our cat be able to handle rough weather, and that she could be sailed by just the two of us. We chose the Kurt Hughes 60 design, and found Kurt to be very helpful during the construction process.

Just as we hoped, Dragonfly can take rough weather, and she's easy for just Jill and me to handle ­— in part because all the sail controls are at the helm station in the cockpit. Although it might seem counterintuitive to some, we've found that Dragonfly's immense size makes her easier, not harder, for the two of us to handle. Thanks to her size, she's more stable than smaller boats, and thus easier on the crew. In fact, if we were going to build another cat, she would be the same size or larger. What, some might wonder, about the high cost of taking such a big boat into a marina? Well, we rarely stay in marinas because we don't see the point. So having such a large and stable boat is an advantage.

After a couple of years of cruising the boat six months each year, there were a few things we decided to change. One was to add 4 ½ feet to the transom to make a convenient swim/landing platform. Another was to put a hardtop over the cockpit. The original soft-top had started to leak, and we needed to have a place to mount our 1,000 watts of solar panels.

If we had to do it again, we'd replace the 47-hp Yanmar diesels with 100-hp Yanmars, which only weigh about 100 pounds more. Their additional power would be great when the wind is blowing hard and we're trying to maneuver in close quarters or motor into a sea. We'd also love to have a rotating mast.

Dragonfly's original sails were Vectran, which gave great performance, but lasted less than four years before they started to delaminate. Since new Vectran or Spectra sails are out of our budget, we've had to go with less expensive Dacron, which doesn't give as good performance.

We sail from November through May or June, mostly in the Caribbean. During the hurricane season we leave Dragonfly in either Guatemala's Rio Dulce or Tarpon Springs, Florida. We do some charters each winter, either heading to or from the Caribbean, to help defray the cost of operating the boat.

— al 04/15/11

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They're optimized for high speed operation. Look at fast power boat rudder. They are tiny. At 20 knots you don't need much rudder area. 

At slow speeds like docking you use 2 engines and mostly ignore the rudder when you get close to the dock. 

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On 12/22/2020 at 9:26 PM, soma said:

I’d want super simple systems, though. All the modern systems are good until they aren’t. Hydraulics, halyard locks, networked electrical systems, etc are examples that I’d skip. I’d want a painted interior. I’d want minimum number of heads (2). No gen. As much solar, hydro, and wind power as possible. It’s the systems maintenance that’ll make a big boat too hard, not the sheer size. 

The above should be gold plated and hung inside the meeting rooms of all cat builders!

Docking:
When driving into a 'box' in strong crosswind conditions or other docking challenges (just one engine, etc) we deploy the dingy with a crew and a VHF. It goes in between the hulls just in front of the mast and acts as sidethruster.
By the way: Cats don't need bowthrusters (rotation is not the problem), but centerboard cats are a lot easier to handle with a sidethruster (sideways drift is the problem).

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6 hours ago, 5X-MOANA said:

The above should be gold plated and hung inside the meeting rooms of all cat builders!

Quote

agreed on that.


When driving into a 'box' in strong crosswind conditions or other docking challenges (just one engine, etc) we deploy the dingy with a crew and a VHF. It goes in between the hulls just in front of the mast and acts as sidethruster.
By the way: Cats don't need bowthrusters (rotation is not the problem), but centerboard cats are a lot easier to handle with a sidethruster (sideways drift is the problem).

Actually using a thruster and a single engine counteracts this side drift. Thruster going on the next boat, definitely. Will I use it, who knows!!!!

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On 12/24/2020 at 12:46 PM, soma said:

You got it right. No tankage below the floorboards, skinny floors. 39” wide at the widest. Bilge is 9” deep at the deepest. It’s actually a bit more than 18” below DWL. Water tanks are against the mast bulkhead and the fuel is forward of the aft bulkhead, super close to the engines. 

 

8 hours ago, 5X-MOANA said:

The above should be gold plated and hung inside the meeting rooms of all cat builders!

 

Agree but we would (and did) go much further than that.  Get rid of the complicated weight  and redundant diesels (we have one steerable EFI outboard).  Get rid of complicated steering systems  (we have tiller).  Cooking and on-demand hot water w propane which you can get anywhere easily and cheaply.  All sail handling by winches.  Not even a windless for the anchor.  Minimal electronics (auto pilot, radar, plotter, all lights LED, fridge/freezer biggest amp hog) and all 12V no 110; this equates to 1 batt for engine and 3 for house which also keeps boat light w minimal bank size.  Our generation is all solar (supplemented by outboard on rare occasion).  We go months without plugging in. Present limitation is water which could address w watermaker which would be most complicated piece of gear on boat but still fairly minimal in terms of overall boat maintenance needs. 

Was not sure we could make all this work in a 36 LWL / 45 LOA trimaran but we have and love the thing to death. Sailed more than 150 days last year.  Fast fun and comfortable with minimal maintenance can be done but you really really need to focus on that goal.  Not throwing stones here and no doubt he loves his as much as we love ours, but no way we could own even Soma's boat as its too complicated for Luddites like us.  But there are benefits to being a dedicated and focused luddite for sure!!

Now as for the thread subject... handling... to be candid we were scared when we acquired the boat.  Could a near 60 YO ma and pa handle it including the huge chute we refused to but on a furler (luddite).  The answer was yes and while we have the advantage of both of us having sailed (me raced and cruised her just cruised) and owned many boats together virtually our entire life.  .Heck I even occasionally single hand the beast

Underway - we know how to depower the boat and sails and we know the limits of ourselves and our sail handling gear and have pretty strict rules about when to reef and what sails in what conditions.  Most risky situation is downwind under chute (deck launched and retrieved) and that comes down if breeze gets over 20 knots or boat speed gets over 12 SOG.  From there we use screacher and start reefing main.

Maintenance - we sails tons and work very little now that we tore out the generator, AC/heat, windless, big batt bank and on and on.  The fun to work ratio is astronomically high and I really don't think we have given up much comfort.  Lack of AC can suck but when sleeping on nets its rarely an issue.  That said we just spent much of December in a tent backpacking Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain NP so we are maybe not the typical soon to be retired couple

Docking - The steerable outboard makes a world of difference and if worse came to worse we could also deploy and use the dink to assist (never got that bad).  The wing mast, furled jib and screacher (which lives hoisted) and big mainsail stackpack is a lot of windage but equally it makes the boat very predictable and you develop techniques.  In our case speed is our friend (I am sure we have freaked out folks with how fast we approach dock as is motoring in reverse.  I will likely jinx myself and regret saying this but we have yet to encounter a situation we couldn't deal with (it helps that we are not anal about cosmetics and don't mind a few dings or scratches... to ours not yours).  Finally as stupid as this sounds... and call me captain obvious... but the more you use the boat the better (did I mention more than 150 days last year).  Mid year my wife broke her foot so bad she barely avoided major surgery.  That forced her into the role of driving the boat in and out of the dock and me into line handling.  She was initially freaked (but not so much she wouldn't sail) and now 4 months later when she is all healed but still driving in and out of the docks she is fine.  What changed; just experience obviously.

All that said I can't imagine why anyone would buy a 60 foot cat (or tri or monohull).  Way more boat that we would ever need to do anything and because of the size you are forced into power assisted sail handling solutions and more complicated systems.  Just say no!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Damn it only took 13 days to jinx myself. Unexpected had 30 knots on the beam, water blown out so shoals everywhere and barnacles on every piling and not a spare line or bumper on the boat (stripped for winter). Bailed on the first attempt. Thought I had it in the second between puffs and just handed it to the wife for final approach while I grabbed lines when.... well you know. God sent the puff from hell. Thankfully only cosmetic damage and thankfully only to our own boat. All is well that ends in many Captain and Cokes. Yea.... docking. It’s a bitch LOL. 
 

That will teach me to talk about how easy it is to dock blah blah blah LOL

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I'm thinking it'd  be like going from the smallest B cup to a mid range D cup. Basically it's gonna take both hands per "hull" and there's two hulls so you're gonna need an extra 2 hands on deck - in a manner of speaking.  

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If you have all day...and you usually do, just stand off until the wind dies---if the forecast is no lulls, then send the dingy ashore while standing off.  Dingy carries passenger line with which to retrieve long dockline, then just reel it in.  No need to be macho with motors.  Takes a lot longer, but no repairs to slow you in the future.  Note, I don't own a big boat, but I used to park a submarine with LOTS of help.  

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Ha. You maybe used one of my company's tugs to help you dock the sub, unless it was a long time ago. A new batch of 6 is being built by Dakota Creek in Anacortes. This is #2 of 6.

For bonus points - which end is the bow?

image.png.f3d2a04cbb8c53df2dcd54676c8468a9.png

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The left end is the bow. That's where the fenders are for pushing and the deck winch (hard to see). The deckhouse is set aft so you can sneak in under the massive flare of aircraft carriers and container ships.  Also nice flat deck to work on.

The stern is to the right. Keeps the anchor away from the ship you are docking. When you are going somewhere (transit longer distances say >1m) you go astern the whole way. It goes about 11 knots astern and 12.xx ahead.

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The smoke stacks were the giveaway.

I've got a question for you guys. Are there any close quarters docking and handling situations where daggerboards up is actually preferable? Half way up?

When you have more windage on the bow than the stern, and you've got an off shore wind on the beam, the bow always loses and the boat wants to rotate...at least that has been my experience with deep drafted monos with high windage light bows. We used to use the coach boat as tug on the bow in these situations, similar to what 5xMoana described above. 

It seems like, in a way, if you lift the boards the boat might have slightly more uniform leeway, if that makes any sense.

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Boards max down (depth allowing) will dramatically slow drift & almost more importantly, give the boat a known, fixed center of rotation. This makes it much easier to plan maneuvers.  Boards up, boat slides sideways, pivot point moves depending on wind strength/direction. Like moving on ice - no traction at all.

   Even the c-board mono's I've driven were a LOT easier to dock board down.

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Thanks longy, I guess what I was thinking is docking alongside a pier in tight quarters where a combo of momentum and leeway might not be a bad thing. My experience with cat maneuvering is limited to a ten day charter of a Leopard 47, which had (I guess) stub keels...so more leeway than daggerboards. I recall generally approaching bow in first and then walking the stern in with the twin engines. A bit of leeway in that case wasn't a bad thing...of course you only have so much time until momentum and/or twin engines might start to lose to windage and you might have to regroup.

I have zero experience in the lengths being discussed, nor with daggerboards(on a big twin engined cat)...gonna give it some more thought and keep listening. I can see though from your answer that boards all the way up is a non starter.

 

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Cats have so little momentum & combined with high freeboards/windage you're not going to sideslip into a spot. I've been docking a 44' lite cat a bit, and if there's any breeze blowing off the dock, we get the stern in first ('cause you can step off the scoop) get a stern & spring line & power the boat in against the lines. At a complete stop, the breeze will still blow her sideways quickly, even with boards down. If we forget to put boards down, it's immediately apparent the first low speed turn - boat rotates, but does not really change direction

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5 hours ago, fufkin said:

I've got a question for you guys. Are there any close quarters docking and handling situations where daggerboards up is actually preferable? Half way up?

The only time I can think of is when it is too shallow for boards all the way down.

But to answer your question I never came across any, or if I did I didn't realise that I might have been better off with them up. Assuming two engines, your earlier comment about the bow blowing off shouldn't be an issue as you can just rotate the boat around the boards with differential power.

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4 hours ago, longy said:

Cats have so little momentum & combined with high freeboards/windage you're not going to sideslip into a spot. I've been docking a 44' lite cat a bit, and if there's any breeze blowing off the dock, we get the stern in first ('cause you can step off the scoop) get a stern & spring line & power the boat in against the lines. At a complete stop, the breeze will still blow her sideways quickly, even with boards down. If we forget to put boards down, it's immediately apparent the first low speed turn - boat rotates, but does not really change direction

Also to add,

If you're coming into a slip stern first into the wind, and if you need to bail out and try again, it's always easier and with more control to be set up to drive forward out of a tight spot. Twin-screw cat, of course, and boards down for grip. 

But with the windage of a cat, you really need to know what the winds doing in the docking area and always use the wind to help you.

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My wife is who drives, and she never wants any board down bc it resists the bow swing she is inducing with the opposed engines. She locks the rudders.

Generally she goes bows in. I put a fender on the bow to pivot on. On approach, line goes on post or cleat, then inboard engine in fwd, outboard engine in reverse, boat pivots right in to the hole. Has worked for us.

Suggest finding what works for your boat.

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We used the same technique though I would leave 1/2 boards down so the pivot point was probably a bit closer to midships than the stern while approaching. Once I learnt the power of a short bow line (or stern line) with twin engines I can't remember ever using a traditional spring line except to secure the boat after docking.

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Trickiest boat I ever drove was a 67' Phil Rhodes ketch with an offset prop. The drive train was literally installed at an angle in the boat with the engine one side of the centerboard case and the prop eventually exiting on the other side! Shallow draft, lots of windage, and behavior in reverse that was only predictable after a fair amount of experience. One Fall I drove that boat out of South Street Seaport in Manhattan twice a day for a month around NY Harbor while the boss took his entire company for a ride. Putting it on the dock in the dark coming out of 5 knots of current in the East River was fun! 60th time was just as interesting as the first.....

I find Boundless pretty easy to drive - the key, like with any boat, is to have a mental model of what she will and won't do, and never, ever, never try to make her do what she won't do. That said, with twins 25' apart, the range of what she'll do is pretty broad. And like with any boat over a few hundred pounds displacement, let the boat do the work - if you're straining your muscles, time for a new plan. Spring lines rule, both arriving and leaving. 

So my reply to the OP is the size of your boat, within reason, doesn't make much difference around the dock. What you can't do with a 65' cat you can't do with a 50' cat either. But the lines and fenders are bigger and heavier, more of a workout every time on and off the dock. And there are fewer spots available as your boat gets bigger.

Once you go to sea, bigger boats are easier if the deck equipment is appropriately sized and arranged - and electric/hydraulic helps a lot. Bigger boats make easier working platforms, and there's a scale thing too - the vast majority of conditions are under 25 knots/10'. Bigger boats really make that seem fairly quiet and flat. On a 30 footer it seems quite nautical. Extrapolate as desired. Of course there's always the - what about when it breaks? question; that's when you find out how good you are at using your lines, blocks and winches creatively to manage the loads around the problem. 

If you want to actually go cruising, after budget (your 65' cat will likely be close to double your 50' cat for total cost of ownership) I think the real limit on size is how clean and shiny you want your boat to be, inside and out. More than about 60' for a couple and you're just a total slave to the boat unless you're OK with a pigsty. How much time do you want to spend as a marine janitor during your cruise? And yes you can hire help in harbors to do some of it, but it's not as easy as it sounds. 

I've spent way too much time running boats 50' to 80', so I can go on like this for a long time.....hope this was helpful.

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6 minutes ago, mpenman said:

CapDave's boat is way too clean....he needs some kids to make him appreciate how easy it is to keep things clean!!!

Your kids are cleaner than our boat!

 

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8 hours ago, soma said:

I’ll lend him mine. 

I used to babysit my nieces & nephews; turned my back for a minute on my oldest nephew and he fell on his head - now at 33 he still blames me when he does something dumb. The rest of them took years to get over PTSD once they realized cows don't say cock-a-doodle-doo and horses don't say moo.

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