By Tony Smith
What is the attraction with small boats, and cruising?
'Less is more' is a term sometimes mentioned in small-boat cruising circles.
I understand this term to mean you get more enjoyment from cruising in a small boat than you would in a big boat.
The reality of this can not be true, as the man or woman who owns a 200 ft yacht, fully crewed and cruises the worlds remote tropical islands is sure to be enjoying themselves (crew? just holla!).
Therefore 'more' must mean something other than a material gain in cabin size, sq foot of sail, or length of waterline.
Exactly what 'more' is will vary with each individual boat owner but if we put aside any financial restraints stopping us from owning that 200 ft liner, why do many of us enjoy owning a small cruiser?
For the purpose of this article I will refer to a small boat as being an open boat or cabin cruiser of around 20ft or less that has restricted headroom and cabin space.
Cost is a factor for most people when buying a boat, but this is only one reason people buy small, as I know of very wealthy people who choose to own a small boat.
If we accept there is only one potential negative of owning a small boat and that is its limited space inside the boat, we quickly move on to take a look at a few of the many pluses of actually owning a small boat: The ease of handling when sailing; the mast on most small boats can also be lowered and raised relatively easy. The ability to sail single handed; the enjoyment of being on a big sea in such a small craft, the ability to reach the most awkward of tight places and waterways. The trailer ability, the cosiness of the cabin, less time spent maintaining the boat, less equipment needed to be replaced.
The fun that is there to be had with a small boat is just the same in a £1000 GRP standard build as a £25000 hand built wooden classic, the only difference in cash terms I can see being mainly cosmetic.
Other more meaningful reasons to own a small boat may be to limit your carbon footprint, or to cleanse your spirit even with minimalist delight, by making do with a small cabin space, in which there is crouching room only and no running water or toilet facilities.
Perhaps to the yachtsman who cruises in bigger boats with space below for a six berth caravan all draped in net curtains that twitch in cul-de sacked marinas, this small boating caper may seem a hardship beyond belief. But it is only after trying something for a period of time that we realise how we can do without many things in life we have come to rely on, and how refreshing this can be. Of course, this can work both ways.
Cooking on a small boat presents a challenge that can be a pain or a pleasure. This is one area that I feel makes a big impact on the comfort level felt by the small boat skipper.
To arrange a small boat's galley to some kind of order could well involve taking ideas from that 30 ft yacht, or the kitchen 'in door's'. Personally I delight in seeing how people deal with this area in such creative ways.
There is another attraction to the small boat rarely mentioned that has similarities to the garden shed. Every man or woman who has a little shed at the bottom of the garden uses them for a million and one things, but one of them is escaping to a small world where everything seems to be manageable and in its place. The basic 6'x 4' wooden shed has to be the ultimate in minimalist sheds-ville. But Ive even seen net curtains screening tiny shed windows, and heavy duty electric cables disguised under cabbage and runner bean leaves, fed to wired in light bulbs and electric boiling kettles etc, yes you know who you are!
For some, this shed connection is felt in the small boat but with the freedom to roam the waves of an estuary or river, or length of coastline before pulling the boat up a peaceful beach and camping out under the stars. This is a tonic hard to beat and is another major draw for the small-boat cruiser. If you haven't already tried it I fully recommend it, small-boat cruising.
Shoal Waters minimalist cabin space. With full crouching headroom(while seated). The fully equipped galley is to port with kitchen utensils and tins of food stored in a milk crate. The bread larder is on the port side as are full tea making facilities. All surfaces are wash clean varnish and the luxury sleeping arrangements are to starboard, as is the red cushioned lounge area.
Spare tools used for close quarter creek sailing such as paddles and sounding canes are stored forward.
I carry two kettles on board, this one is also used to continue the ships long tradition of cooking steak and kidney pies in.