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S&S Swan General - Small boat or big boat, which is best? (and living onboard)
25 April 2020 - 11:39
#1
Join Date: 04 February 2014
Posts: 18

Small boat or big boat, which is best? (and living onboard)

I’m sure nearly everyone has been through a similar decision, ‘should I get a bigger boat?’

 

Have been sailing a swan 38 for 7 or 8 years, absolutely love it and very reluctant to change, however the kids are getting bigger (10 & 13) and the boat is starting to feel a bit small when we are living aboard for 6 week during the summer. The size is no problem for shorter periods.

 

Have been thinking about the S&S swan 48 for a while, for various reasons I prefer this to the models in-between those sizes.

 

I would be interested to hear the thoughts of others here who have made a similar move up in size. Any regrets? I’m specifically interested in the suitability of the 48 for med cruising, which is the plan for the next couple of years at least. I realise the boat is perhaps more suited to ocean sailing but the young crew are not!

 

My main concerns are:

Draught and length prohibiting access into small harbours, inlets, some marinas etc. I quite enjoy being able to squeeze into tiny harbours in the 38, is that likely to be an issue in the med with a 48? I can imagine a 2.4m draught being a bit of a pain...

 

Sail handling It looks like the main on a 48 is approaching 30kg, is that easy enough to bounce up most of the way without a winch? Also we use spinnakers a lot, every opportunity. Hoisting and retrieving (down the hatch) is dead easy with 1 adult and 2 kids. Is that likely to change on a 48 due to the bigger loads etc?

 

Cost everything will cost more and that is a concern as we have limited funds. The cost increase for berthing, storage, sails etc. appears to be disproportionate to the size increase.

 

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

25 April 2020 - 12:35
#2
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Dear Pete,

in 1999 I bought the boat I have been dreaming since I was a child: the S&S Swan 38, and I told to myself "I will never sell her, this is my dream boat"!. 16 years later my wife told me "...we should think about a bigger Swan". That was on December 28th. On January 15th I signed the deal for Vanessa, a S&S Swan 47 (thanks to Lars!).

I tell you that I still think the 38 is the perfect boat, I have been looking after to my 38/067 "Only You" for 16 years and I still think she is the most beautiful Swan ever, safe, easy to handle (we sail just the two of us -and the dog, but unfortunately the dog is too lazy to help-), reliable, but of course sometime a bit small.

The first time I jumped onboard Vanessa I thought I did a mistake to buy such a big boat, I was not used to handle sails and manoeuvres so heavy and to handle a big boat in small marinas (actually this is my wife's task, she is extremely good in manoeuvring ). That lasted...a couple of hours! The first sailing we did with Vanessa was in a force 7, but me and my wife did not really realized it was a very windy day! The boat is dry (I mean...dry compared to the 38!), comfortable and much more easy to handle than the 38. When I go on the deck to reef the main I feel much more safe and comfortable on the 47 than on the 38, when the sea gets rough (aha, the Med its famous choppy sea between lazy calm days) you feel 100% comfortable and safe.

Draught: Vanessa is a CB version, which means 1.8 m. draft, just fantastic, anyway I would not worry about the 2.4 in the Med, you can go nearly everywhere.

Sail handling: see above. I found a very useful Andersen elecrtic winch for the main halyard (by the way, Andersen have and agreement with S&S Swan Association, and we have a dedicated price list) which of course gets life very easy. I ordered my new main with traditional battens (not full batten) and I have no lazy jack, not a problem to perfectly fold the main, you just need some technic.

Cost: unfortunately this is the negative point!

Looking forward to reading other Members experiences!

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa) 

25 April 2020 - 20:22
#3
Join Date: 01 March 2007
Posts: 139

Dear Pete,

When I bought my 47, my children were in the age range 8 - 13, we kept her at home in SW England and cruised the west country, Scilly Isles, Brittany. I only sailed offshore with them when they were a few years older, the loads when sailing can get huge, and I always wanted to have at least 1 strong crew, particularly for night sailing.

Now she is in the Med, I sail her solo a fair bit and with up to 5 at a time. I agree with a lot of what Matteo says regarding deck work, it is reassuring to have the space to move around. In my experience, hoisting the mainsail is mostly about the track on the mast and the cars on the sail - I have a fairly new rig with wheeled cars on the fully battened sail, and I still enjoy the challenge of hoisting by myself, which if the conditions are good , I can still do.

Unlike Vanessa, my 47 is a fixed keel with 2.4 draught, and I have not had any problems with depths in harbours , marinas. Manoevering is one of those things you just need to practice and get used to how the boat behaves, using any wind or current to assist. Side winds can cause problems when reversing slowly, but we seem to manage ok. I have found the Italian marineros to be fantastic at helping in marinas, other countries less so!

The 48 is one of the prettiest of the older designs I think. I have been on a couple which were very beautiful. The 2 things which I did not like was getting into the companionway hatch with the spray hood up - it is a small space to duck through which I found challenging with my dodgy knees, and the headroom in the pilot berths is much less than in the 47. But they are a connoisseurs yacht, and proven on the race course.

Hope this helps

Best regards

Rob

Sarabande 47/029

26 April 2020 - 13:45
#4
Join Date: 17 November 2016
Posts: 26

Pete, we have been sailing Swan 47 "Till" for 3 seasons. Last summer we vacationed with our 2 children (6 & 8) and all the sailing and anchoring was done singe-handed.

In my experience, the heavy #1 Genoa is un-manageable for 1 man to carry on board. I am able to deal with the #2 genoa. For racing, I have a #1 North 3Di which I can actually carry alone. This might be a good option for a furling #1 in the future.

The storage space in the forepeak is more than enough for all our cruising needs. There is also plenty of space below the helmsmans seat but unfortuntely access is not ideal.

I agreee with the other comments, having previously sailed a CS36, that the additional workspace on deck gives a superior feeling of security as well as the bridgedeck access to the boom makes folding the mainsail easy.

Good luck in your search.

Douglas

Till at anchor

2 Swan 47's at mooring

26 April 2020 - 13:51
#5
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Dear Douglas,

your wind socket looks very good (as far as I remember is similar to the "Hiscock" one), could  you please post more detailed images if possible?

thanks a lot!

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

26 April 2020 - 14:26
#6
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

I found this old photo, which I shot onboard 65/007 Alpha Centauri in 1999, in Thailand, unfortunately I do not have a higher definition image.

This wind socked, I remember, was very good, and I am planning to have one made for Vanessa!

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

26 April 2020 - 22:26
#7
Join Date: 04 February 2014
Posts: 18

Thanks for the replies folks, it is interesting that everyone mentions the increased feeling of security on deck, not something I had really thought about, although it seems obvious now. The feedback on scaling up seems positive though which is encouraging.

 

Very jealous that your co-pilot is able to manoeuvre in close quarters Matteo! 

Rob it is funny you should mention getting into the companionway with the spray hood up, we had one fitted last year for the first time and it is a real squeeze getting under on the 38, so much so we rarely use it. Was hoping that might be less of an issue on a larger boat :/

27 April 2020 - 12:15
#8
Join Date: 17 November 2016
Posts: 26

Matteo, I will post an image once I take one. I searched and I don't have any better ones right now. It's a 3-sided dacron square sock with a square plywood on top. The bottom of the dacron hooks to the hatch sail hooks. Normally I also have a line to direct it in to the wind tied to the forestay.

Douglas

27 April 2020 - 13:16
#9
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Thanks a lot dear Douglas!

@ Pete: the 47 was built with the aft entrance, as we have on 47/069 Vanessa (see photo below) or just with the sliding hatch, which of course is more safe (I think Rod Stephens preferred this one) as you have no risk to have water coming in from the cockpit.

The aft entrance gives you more comfort when going down below, more air circling on the aft cabin, and, which is the most important thing, the dog can go in/out without any help from us!

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

27 April 2020 - 19:50
#10
Join Date: 04 February 2014
Posts: 18

Your boat looks beautiful, amazing condition. I definitely prefer an entrance from the cockpit like yours. Our dog can manage it's front legs going up the steps but I have to stand behind and work it's back legs :)

27 April 2020 - 21:05
#11
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

she loves the S&S Swans!

29 April 2020 - 07:18
#12
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Dear Pete,

the below pic illustrates the second option, the one preferred by Rod Stephens (there is a third one, with no sliding hatch at all, but I think this is peculiar of 47/017 only, which is a racing version of S&S Swan 47)

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

Aft sliding hatch of 47/050 Ilmatar

47/017 My Low

29 April 2020 - 20:26
#13
Join Date: 04 February 2014
Posts: 18

Interesting. I think you have the best configuration for sure. I imagine the washboard would stop most water making it's way down below anyway. 

29 April 2020 - 20:58
#14
Join Date: 01 March 2007
Posts: 139

Hi Pete,

Sounds like you are taken with this aft companionway, it certainly transforms the access to the cockpit. I modified the aft entrance on Sarabande to a very similar design to that on the excellent photo of Vanessa. As Matteo says, this is a departure from the original design, but you can bring the mainsheet to a winch within reach of the helm which I think is an improvement.  However, OSR ( Offshore Sailing Regulations) require a secure watertight washboard in the cockpit, openable from inside and out. If ever you you experience your cockpit waist high in water, and I have, you realise the importance of this regulation. I fabricated an 2nd "ocean" washboard made of aluminium with rubber seals, and strong internal clamps and a master lever which works from both sides. When cruising we use a lighter split alternative made of plexiglass which is great to see through and to adjust airflow. Just for information, if you are considering this.

Rob

Sarabande 47/029

29 April 2020 - 21:20
#15
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Dear Pete,

if I am not wrong, it was in 2016, when we were trying to catch Rob's Sarabande, at the Swan Cup (of course we could not, he and his boat are too fast!) on a reach, in a very windy day, and our boat was so "pressed" that water started to overflow into the cockpit from the limber holes; our fixed washboard is just about 10 cm, so it was not very nice to see the water coming in (our feet were covered with water). Rob's secured washboard looks the best solution!

By the way, see the below photo. My previous dog onboard the 38, every time she wanted to come out or to go down below she needed our help (but she was just about 10 kg. your black beauty looks a bit more heavy!)

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

30 April 2020 - 17:23
#16
Join Date: 24 April 2020
Posts: 10

Rob

Any chance you can post a photo of your ocean washboard as we  will have to meet Cat 1 offshore regs next year for Bermuda race so if you  have a soluttion  that already works that would be most helpful.

 

Thanks vm/A

30 April 2020 - 19:37
#17
Join Date: 01 March 2007
Posts: 139

Adrian,

Thats difficult I am afraid, as the washboard is onboard in Greece, and I am locked down in UK, I have no photos and for now have no idea when I will be back out there. 

The vertical opening was cut out, so the washboard, which is slightly V shaped, will slot down into a groove, fabricated into the cockpit opening. Both the Flexiglass ( in 2 parts) and the Ocean board ( in 1part) fit and fill the gap, with the original horizontal sliding hatch closing the top. 2 downward Cam levers lock the sliding hatch to the Alu board, for complete security, but to specifically address the Cat 1 requirements we designed a single lever, operable from both sides which engages a single lock between the two, and prevents the horixontal hatch being slid open, and the washboard coming out.  It is a simple bespoke lever designed by me and fabricated by the workshop in my home port in Cornwall. It passed a safety inspection before the Cat 1 AZAB race in 2015.Not easy to describe in words, and a picture would say it all, but regret I do not have one right now! The washboard itself is a one piece aluminium sheet 5mm, with a teak ply inner face and varnished. It is shaped to precisely fit the cockpit opening. Rubber tubing was glued in place to complete the seal, but this is not that successful, and the aluminium fit is good enough to keep say 90% of the water out? In the case of a knockdown, or a breaking wave filling the cockpit ( I have had the latter) I am confident it would prevent the boat from flooding.

On the Cat 1, on our 47 we discovered that the 2 cockpit drains did not meet the rules as the cross section of the opening was too small to allow the flow out required, BUT, by removing the 2 SS rings on top of the drain, which are only held by gelcoat, we increased the diameter of the opening to meet the requirement. Wierd but true!

Best

Rob

Sarabande 47/029

 

 

30 April 2020 - 22:28
#18
Join Date: 24 April 2020
Posts: 10

Rob

Thank you for the prompt reply and best wishes that you can get to Greece this summer - we are all in this strange netherworld hoping for some kind of sailing season.

i am glad to have focused on DH racing for the ast 15 years as I only need to concern mysef with one crew !

I will take a closer look at the problem and work through your solution when I can finally actually get to the boat.

Best/A

01 May 2020 - 10:34
#19
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1396

Pete

Looks like your dog could be a Newfoundland? They like water, here a neighbor has one, and every time the dog sees water, he wants to take a swim.
Once his family wanted to take a swim themselves, and tied the dog to a tree to prevent him from joining. No problem for the the dog, he pulled the leash apart, and was in the water in a second
 
Matteo, I would suggest this post treats matters closely related to living on board, would you agree?
Kind regards
Lars

01 May 2020 - 10:40
#20
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 797

Dear Lars,

yes, I definetly do! 

(Title modified)

Fair winds!

matteo (47/069 Vanessa)

01 May 2020 - 11:18
#21
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 126

Dear all,

living aboard was one of the factors that made us decide for a 48 rather than a 47. Yes, the 47 is a slightly more modern design, points higher to the wind, and the centerboard-reduced draught is something I am often envious of. Still, I would prefer the 48 anytime.

Before buying, we reasoned that living aboard would mean a lot of time spent in the cockpit (the 48 is roomier here). In case of rain, you'd be confined to under deck and you would need the feeling of space in the saloon (the 48 offers much more of this). Also, you would want more ventilation (the 48 has a companionway with a small washboard that can stay open most of the time). The pointier bow and stern section of the 47 have their drawbacks in technical aspects as well.

Besides, every time I find myself envious of the centerboard, I look at the beautiful spaceship stern of the 48, mentally compare it with a 47 ... and smile.

Greetings from Vellamo (48/039),
Martin

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