Size matters! Is there a cure for 10-foot-itis?
Date Posted: September 4, 2023
Source: Captains Chris & Alyse Caldwell

Do you dream that your 24' (7.31 m) trailer boat will somehow transform into a 34' (10.36 m) cruiser? Or maybe you already have a 32' (9.75 m) cuddy cabin and are looking to trade up to something in the mid-40s range? Size matters when finding your perfect boat. "10 foot-itis" is a term you may joke about during docktails, but this is a real condition that many boaters can't seem to shake. We can help you recognize the symptoms and prepare for your likely future with a bigger boat.

From Thirty-Something to the Fabulous Forties

Our personal experience with 10 foot-itis started in our former homeport of New Orleans. We owned a 34' (10.36 m) Downeast cruiser and were happy with our single-engine boat. Even without a bow thruster, we learned how to maneuver in close quarters. Practice creates muscle memory, which also builds confidence.

We spent many fun weekends cruising locally, but as time went on, our local day trips stretched into far-away adventures. The longer travels far from our home marina had us wondering if a bigger boat would suit us better. The simple answer: Yes.

Moving up in size means moving up in beam, too, especially with a cruising catamaran.

We looked longingly at the newer, larger yachts like kids in a toy store. Our 10' (3.05 m) jump brought us to a 44' (13.41 m) trawler with twin engines, a generator and more of everything. The difference when increasing livable space is immediately evident and appreciated. The bigger boat gave us two staterooms, two heads and showers, a larger aft deck, larger saloon and galley and a better ride in the seas. So yes, it was good decision for us.

Every long weekend we set out in our mini armada with the smaller boats pulling up the rear. No doubt the smaller-boat captains in our flotilla were fighting off the 10 foot-itis bug themselves. A few succumbed despite their valiant efforts, while other hearty specimens managed to treat the symptoms down to only 2 foot-itis, which is a much more manageable transition. After a month-long cruise to test the big idea in our head, we were hooked. We loved the month away from the land-based world. Now our future plans included long-range cruising.

With the larger trawler rigged for everything short of crossing oceans, we did it. We sold the house and moved aboard full time, along with our two Labrador Retrievers. We said goodbye to New Orleans and took off at 7 knots, never looking back… well, maybe just to check that we were still in the channel.

Considering Insurance Coverage

We innocently stepped up the boat ladder 10' (3.05 m) at a time. Unknowingly, our gradual jumps in boat size gave us a history for the insurance company for future consideration. Starting with a 14' (4.27 m) skiff, we transitioned to a variety of boats including a 26' (7.92 m) cuddy. Our next trade up to a 34' (10.36 m) lobster boat wasn't so dramatic, but even that morphed into owning a 44' (13.41 m) trawler.

That, along with our professional mariner background, never raised a question about our insurability. We simply called our insurance broker and they upped the covered value. But that is not the norm anymore.

Let's talk what the norm is now. Today the pleasure marine industry includes many first-time boat owners buying big boats right from the start. These new owners have never experienced 10 foot-itus. The lack of experience in bigger boats — or any boat in some cases–may be a concern when trying to get insurance or a boat loan.


In aircraft there is the term "time in type," meaning how much time do you have in a particular type of aircraft. If you want to progress from a single-engine Piper to a twin-engine Cessna, training will be required in the larger twin-engine aircraft before you can be licensed to operate them. Boats have similar progressive steps, not from single to twin engines, but from a smaller, more maneuverable boat to a larger, more complicated boat.

Big boats respond differently than smaller boats and are more system intensive, requiring continued maintenance. A larger, heavier boat takes longer to get moving and requires more effort to stop. This addresses concerns with docking a larger boat in tight quarters. Of course, thrusters would be helpful but the insurance underwriter's computers may not have that factor in their underwriting algorithm.

What is the Solution?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure so don't wait to find an insurer until you are ready to purchase your dream boat. Start thinking about the type and size of boat that will fit your needs and desires. We believe that the best solution is to hire a training captain … even before you buy the boat. Meet with a training captain to discuss the realities of the boat you are considering and put together a plan to present to the lender and insurer.

Many insurance companies have checklists or time requirements that a training captain can document for you. This will put you miles ahead when starting your boat search. Many lenders and insurers create profiles of owners and you need to be in the "good risk" category. If you don't have experience to offer for historical data, then training is essential. A professional training captain can also help you learn to own and operate your new boat, whether it's your first boat or your first big boat. After training is complete, the captain can provide a letter of confidence to your insurer that you are a good risk as a boat owner and operator.

Size Matters

Reflect on your cruising goals, whether they include a local vacation, spending a season on Chesapeake Bay, completing America's Great Loop or traveling north and south as a snowbird. And don't forget to consider the Bahamas. After deciding where you want to cruise, you can better determine the type of boat that will bring you joy. Are you planning to be a full-time liveaboard without a home address or a long-term cruiser occasionally returning to a land residence? Will you have frequent guests or are you a solo sailor? There's a cure for 10 foot-itis but first you need to recognize your symptoms, define possible solutions and explore insurance options.


Captains Chris & Alyse Caldwell are USCG 100-ton Masters and Cruising Coaches who offer Personal Boat Training Online or Onboard your boat anywhere! The Caldwells help build your cruising confidence with hands-on training, with their training videos and through two-day seminars filled with tons of tips for the boater who loves learning and now remote learning. If you have additional questions for Captains Chris or Alyse, please email them at [email protected]

Comment Submitted by Robert A Morrissey - September 11, 2023
I am just the opposite! In our later years I want to stay close to my familiar home waters where I know what the bottom is made of and where the fish, shrimps, and crabs are located and the best times of year, which is critical. We have ventured far and wide in our RV's but now want to explore the River systems in Georgia northeast Florida and the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Tight lines and Fair Seas
Comment Submitted by Gary Haring - September 6, 2023
Whatever size boat you choose make sure you use it. So many boats sit in their berths never going anywhere. You see them in the marinas never slipping a line. I call them the sad ones. Big plans have an way of falling to life's pressures and this includes boats. The larger the more effort it takes to use. Speaking from personal experience, I would rather have a smaller boat I can use more often than a larger one that is so burdensome to take out that it limits its use. Once I had the itch all they way up to an 80 foot trawler that only got away once or twice a year while in my 27 footer years I took dozens of trips a year. Had just as much fun too. I now have a 44 foot powercat that seems to fit nicely but I feel my oats when it comes time for maintenance so my next boat will be shorter and faster. Sure my wife will miss the 900 square feet of Air Conditioned interior space but she's a trooper and that is what they make hotel rooms for. Not that you asked but my advice; live your dream just make sure it doesn't turn into a nightmare.
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