Load carrying and mast height clearance

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BridgeMast2 - mast height clearanceTouching a bridge, delivering your boat down the intercoastal waterway, can ruin your entire day! See below…

Load carrying and mast height clearance


Catamaran owners–You can’t do this (first picture), so you better know this (second/third picture) Monohull sailors may want an alternative as well!

The final clearance depends on Manufacturers accurate mast height off the water (Sometimes called air draft), and antennas that extend beyond this. A second, lesser factor, is the load carrying capacity. A high load carrying capacity is good for cruisers, but means you’re not going to appreciably sink the hull and increase the bridge height clearance more than an inch or two–and, of course, you can’t heel a catamaran to help.

Thoughts on bridges and the intercoastal

Of the Fountaine Pajot range, the Lucia 40 comes in at 63.3′ and is the only model that is “inter-coastal friendly” –This is exclusive of the antennas (see below). See a reliable antennae folding device-below. Note, The Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, as an option, can have an inter-coastal friendly mast also.SXLLM

Folding antennae–this is how we make 63.3″ really work!  Of course, it works on monohulls as well.

One idea of commercial system here. We’ll be exploring further–under $100 for 12V mount tested up to 85MPH wind, no problem. Video. (Diamond K90000LRMO Motorized Antenna)

What others have found

This can be important if you’re considering trips in the Inland coastal waterway–up and down the coast, or traversing Florida east to west–the mast height limit is 65′–this is considered the magic number.

However, what owners (and delivery captains) say that deliver their boats up and down the coast is that a part of the joy of owning a true, offshore cruising boat is you can sail outside and duck in if the weather turns bad. It’s much faster and you avoid the unreliable recorded depths of the intercoastal that occur because the Coast Guard dredging budget has largely been decimated.

So the 40 can do it. We can offer an intercoastal friendly mast on the 44–and even increase the boom length to get back the sail area–but at the end of the day, you might ask youself if you’re not better off just sailing outside?

Load Carrying ability

This is really a separate subject, but want to address it briefly. A load on the boat can depress the hull an inch or two–so this can increase bridge clearance very slightly–but this is a way more important subject than that…

What it is…


“Load capacity” is the measure of how much weight, in provisions and stores and everything else, short of the basic boat and it’s equipment, the boat can carry and still have the performance specified by the designer.

Most manufacturers don’t give you this, because their boats are generally designed for the charter trade where the boat sails in a 50-mile circle and isn’t really going anywhere.

Overloading the boat can dramatically decrease its performance not only because of dragging around excess weight but because the extra increased wetted surface encountered by sinking the hulls is tremendous–especially on a catamaran with two hulls. This extra “form” drag dramatically reduces performance, especially in the lighter wind range, but the extra immersed hull makes the hull start acting like a long keelboat, or a Hobbie 16 with knife-edge hulls and no center or daggerboard.

When you try to tack or maneuver under power, the boat resists turning. Under sail, you may have to turn on the motors or backwind the jib when trying to tack.

The answer, choose a boat with enough load-carrying ability to handle all that you want to have aboard. (Bigger, or larger volume hulls–are generally better for increasing load carrying). The Fountaine Pajot’s are known for their extremely good load-carrying capacity. Jeanneau’s are designed for folks planning serious cruising–who want to take their comfort with them…

Let’s look at this on catamarans where load-carrying ability is even more impactful.  (Of course, the idea applies to monohulls as well–but they have less immersed surface when loaded and so are affected to a somewhat lesser degree.)

Load carrying. Fountaine Pajot is built for serious offshore sailing/live aboard owners–not just for charters to sail in a 50 mile circle. For example, the Lucia 40 has a 6834# load carrying ability. Did you know that on a boat like this just the weight of equipment, fuel and water (before consumables) can add up to 5,000#–in fact, that’s about the total load carrying capacity for many of our competitors meaning they quickly become overloaded. Keep in mind, the load is somewhat of a fixed number (with slight variations for extra fuel and water) so all else being equal, a larger boat simply has more load carrying capacity–an important consideration when you’re choosing. You may not need a larger boat for more berths, but you may need it for better load carrying ability. I can provide you the numbers… Example below for the Lucia 40…

So how does this shake out?

Here’s an example for the Fountaine Pajot, Lucia 40–you can only imagine what happens on a lesser boat.



Bigger is better. Modern boats with more volume in the hulls is better. Boats designed for long-distance, offshore cruising are better. Working with folks that understand all of this, and offer custom commissioning with careful consideration given to total weight–is better.

All boats are compromises. The Fountaine Pajot 40 and 44, and the Jeanneau models under 54′ are vessels that could serve you well as a safe, good performing offshore live-aboard cruiser.

Eric Smith

Senior Sales Consultant, Partner
More from Eric >> Boat Business Webinars, Videos, Blogs, Learning center and more.

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