Sail Far Live Free

Sail Far Live Free

Go small and go now 5 pocket cruisers to take you anywhere.

What, no Georgian 23? ;)

Gotta love those little Canadian sloops!

Or Bayfield?:)

I am a Bayfield fan (and even more so a Ted Gozzard fan), but I wasn't aware of the Bayfield 25 making any major bluewater passages. Do you know of any?

A bayfield 25 is built well enough BUT it’s shallow keel and light weight classify it more of a coastal cruiser. But that also makes it a great gunk holer. It’s a nice little boat for the Chesapeake and coastal areas. It lacks the deep keel and ballast to be comfortable offshore. The bayfield 29 is a bit more blue water but also it’s shoal keel at only 3ft 6 inches also gives it a comfort ratio a bit on the edge for a true blue water boat. BUT that said a bayfield 29 outfitted right will get the job done and with a good turn of speed over most listed here. It will reach its hull speed of 6.5-7 knots no problem and will point windward well enough. (It’s not got to compete with a fin keel 30 footer but it will be more comfortable. And it’s faster then a westsail32 (nick named the wet snail 32) I find most of the better pocket cruisers on this list are great for what that are but NOT the most boat you can get for your money today. Some great 30-32 foot blue water boats can be purchased for LESS then some of these. I just bought a great bayfield 29 for UNDER 3K that’s right 3 not 30. I looked at a foulmouth cutter that was available in my area it was rough really rough and they still were asking over 10K. It’s only benefit was it came with a trailer but what good doesn’t that do when Your offshore. I wouldn’t mind taking one on single handed adventure as the romance of the boat would add to the fun of the adventure but. Is it the best boat for your buck? No their popularity and reputation and (good ones are getting scarce) bring high prices.

It's amazing: after looking at all your boat reviews and choices, I realize we have exactly the same tastes and dream boats! And I enjoy your writing and musings! I'm very glad I happened upon your blog site! Bill Hinkel

Thanks Bill! I love writing about sailboats almost as much as I love actually sailing them.

I've owned a Flicka, Allegra, and FC all excellent boats.

Wow...that's an impressive resume! I bet you've got some great stories to tell.

What about the Halcyon 23? Any thoughts on that one? Great article by the way!

Sorry, I'm not personally familiar with the little Halcyon 23, but you can read a review reprinted from "Yachts and Yachting" originally written in 1970 here .

How about the Pacific Seacraft 25? If your talking about small salty sailboat (SSS) that can take you to the paradise. She prolly don't a standing headroom but sure does the perfect little sailboat. Just like HC33t.

Yup, I too like the PSC 25. She's not as roomy as either the Flicka or the Dana, but a typically a fair amount more affordable. And as you point out, no standing headroom. Still, a pretty boat with bluewater experience.

A very informative article, thank you very much. I find myself daydreaming to be on a boat, sailing around the world quite often and i'm trying to collect a budget, to buy a boat and take sailing classes. I love the design on the ships you posted. Are there any good pocket-cruisers with a steering wheel ?(i can't say i really like tillers :P). Again, thank you for compiling this list, you gave hope to a "wannabe" skipper.

My humble little Bristol 24 wants to know if she can join the group.

Yup, good choice. Humble and capable...just the right ingredients!

what about the Catalina 22 ?

A fine little coastal sailboat, trailer sailboat and "first" sailboat, but for all the things that the C22 is, she is definitely not a pocket cruiser that can GO ANYWHERE. Don't get me wrong, I love the C22 and our first boat (Helms 25) was very similar, but neither is suited for offshore work.

My little hurley 22, can she make the mark?

A Hurley can do anything! Ihave had a 24 since 1972 they are forgotten but they are great! Joe

Morris Frances 26.

Good recommendation! I love all of the small classic Morris boats like the Frances 26, Linda 28 and Annie 29. Chuck Paine has a way of making these small boats look larger than life!

Was expecting to see an Albin Vega 27 mentioned...

I included the Albin Vega in my "Bluewater on a Budget" post about affordable offshore cruisers. You can read it here:

Any thoughts on our west coast Brent Swain 26 welded steel boats? Truly budget cruisers!

I have built one, but yet to launch it I am getting a trailer for it, an advantage that I never thought of when I started building it. Not very many built, mine is a single keel version and I added a wheelhouse.

What about Cape Dory's?

Howard - Good suggestion. Both the CD22 and CD25 are worthy little pocket cruisers with classic Alberg looks. I haven't been aboard either and don't know of any that have crossed oceans, but I suspect someone's been offshore in these two little Cape Dory's and I have little doubt they could be good sea boats in the right hands, given their stout construction, full keels, etc.

The boats listed are priced such that one could buy a much larger, albeit not-so-primo boat for the same or lesser amount. I've seen decent cal 34s go for $8k. So why buy a pocket cruiser that goes for 30K? Smaller sails and reduced slip rent can only account for a modicum of savings

True enough, this is NOT necessarily a list cheap/affordable small boats, but rather well-built and capable small boats that can go offshore in the right hands. Some sailors simply prefer a small, simple sailboat to a larger more spacious (and sometimes more complicated) sailboat, even if the purchase price is similar.

West Wight Potter 14 #223. Mexico to Hawaii.

I'm contemplating buying a 26' Micmac for rougher waters.

A Vancouver 27 !!!!

hey you forgot a little boat from south africa called the flamenca 25 great little boat built for the cape of storms

A Flamenca would also sail circles around this list of boats. These traditional long keel boats are slow and without decent fouls, suck going upwind.

Would the Cascade 27 be a good pocket cruiser or is this just a coastal cruiser

I think it would be a excellent choice

Mmm. Some consistencies in your selections (apart from the obvious US of A bias), they all have square bows. Me thinks this is as much a beauty contest as a seaworthy small boat list. I'm afraid trailer and seagoing don't fit in the same sentence

Guilty as charged! Although I do disagree about trailer and seagoing...with both the Flicka and the Nor'Sea being plenty capable on both fronts.

Okay. On seaworthy, I sailed in 12 knots past a site where 2 friends were drowned, their yacht lost in a gale. So is my Folkboat, my sailing skill or patience to credit or was their boat any less seaworthy? An ocean crossing does not make a boat seaworthy, the sailing skill and weather and sea mix have as much to credit. I assert that a long heavy keel, stout rig and water tightness are compulsory if you want to lengthen the odds in your favour.

Nice article, I would however strongly suggest that you give a second thought about linking to It's a scam (most, if not all, of the plans are available for free elsewhere on the net and at least some pics are stolen from other boatbuilders). You don't have to take my word for it, just google around.

Thanks, and thanks for the suggestion...the link has been removed!

I am agree with you. Tks. An article about siling solo those smalls boats (in spanish):

How about a Privateer26 by Kenner ? Check the specs, and I think you'll find she's equal in important areas and prettier by far than most!

Having a love affair with traditional boats with genuine shear lines, I just stepped out of my Marshall 22, and into a totally unknown double ender called a Skipper 20. Why these trailer sailors dream have gone unnoticed is hard to fathom. With room for 4, 2' draft, 800#s ballast, and a cockpit larger than my Bristol 27' which includes a outboard locker has me spending the last 4 months making the 40 year old look like modern and updated, quality pocket cruiser. With the new genoa, 5.5kts up hill and down, and as dry as they get,, Where they been???

I just bought a Skipper 20 and am fixing it up, can you tell me how it handles in a heavy blow? I am planning to use it as a micro coastal sailer and would like to know as much about it's capabilitys as I can. Much appreciated, Richard.

What are your thoughts on a San Juan 7.7 with the keel shoe? Offshore sailong to Hawaii or the inside passage to Alaska.

What are your thoughs on a San Juan 7.7 with the keel shoe offshore? IE; Hawaii or the Inside Passage to Alaska.

We recently purchased a JJ Taylor Contessa 26, hull #262, Ophelia, and have trailered her to Malletts Bay in Lake Champlain, VT. We were extremely flattered to have a visit from Tania Aebi, who lives 35 min. from us and wanted to show her sister and daughter-in-law an example of the boat that she sailed round the world in the late '80's.

What about steel Tom Thumb 24 ???

For whatever reason, I'm a fan of the Bristol 24 (Paul Coble design). The baby Bristols are full-keeled and don't go upwind very energetically, but once the sheets are started they come into their own. Hulls are usually nearly bulletproof, and even if damaged, they are small and easy to fix... some have been gilded into mini-yachts, but I prefer sparse brightwork and light/white paint. They are very (very) sea-kindly for their size and although they heel to about 15-20 degrees, their nearly 50% ballast usually stops it right there... Mast-head rigged, they have a large main and can develop noticeable weather-helm, so one reef keeps the tiller loads modest. Thankfully they aren't very popular or well-known, so you can find bargains and even top-drawer examples probably will cost less than a modest commuter car... I'm now on my second one (after having a larger fin-keel... am returning to the B24); if possible, look for one with split lower shrouds... Oh, they have comfortable 5'11" headroom, or just a fraction more,,,

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The Ultimate Guide to Small Sailboats: From Dinghies to Ocean Cruisers

  • The Ultimate Guide to Small Sailboats: From Dinghies to Ocean Cruisers

Ahoy there, maritime enthusiasts! Are you tired of being a landlubber and ready to take on the open waters? Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about sailing into the sunset but thought that owning a sailboat was only for the wealthy or the experienced? The good news is that small sailboats are here to prove you wrong. Easy to maneuver, affordable, and incredibly fun, these little vessels offer a world of possibilities for novices and veterans alike. So, why not set sail on this journey and explore what small sailboats have to offer?

Types of Small Sailboats

Dinghies are like the hatchbacks of the sailing world—compact, practical, and surprisingly versatile. Usually measuring under 15 feet, they are the go-to boats for sailing newbies to cut their teeth on. Why? Because they're affordable and easy to manage. Think of a dinghy as your first bicycle—sure, you'll fall a few times, but the lessons learned are invaluable.

If a dinghy is a hatchback, then a daysailer would be your sporty coupe—ideal for a fun day out but not really for a week-long journey. These boats are a bit larger, typically ranging from 15 to 25 feet, and can comfortably accommodate 4 to 6 people. They're perfect for sailing close to shore, having a picnic on the water, or enjoying a beautiful sunset.

Looking for something a bit unique? The catboat could be your feline friend on the water. These boats are known for their single mast and mainsail, making them easier to handle. They’re the sort of boat that likes to lounge lazily in shallow waters but can also pick up the pace when needed.

Features to Consider When Buying

Hull material.

The hull is like the foundation of a house—if it's not strong, everything else fails. Generally, you'll find hulls made of fiberglass, wood, or even aluminum. Each material has its pros and cons. For instance, fiberglass is durable and low-maintenance but can be expensive. Wood offers a classic look but requires more upkeep.

Would you prefer manual or automatic transmission in a car? Similarly, the rig type of your sailboat affects your sailing experience. You might opt for a simple sloop with one mast and two sails or maybe a cutter with an additional headsail for better balance. The choice is yours.

Length and Beam

Here's where size really matters. The length and beam (width) of your boat will significantly impact its stability, storage capacity, and how it handles in different water conditions. It's not always that smaller is easier to handle; sometimes, a slightly larger boat offers better stability and amenities.

Advantages of Small Sailboats


Let's face it—owning a boat isn't cheap. But small sailboats make the dream more accessible. Not only are the upfront costs generally lower, but ongoing maintenance expenses like docking fees, cleaning, and repairs are also more manageable. It's the difference between owning a high-end sports car and a reliable sedan—both can be fun, but one is undoubtedly easier on the wallet.


Remember the first time you parallel parked a car? Now, imagine doing that with a 40-foot boat! Small sailboats shine when it comes to maneuverability. They're easier to steer, quicker to respond, and a breeze to dock, making them perfect for navigating through narrow channels or crowded marinas.

Low Maintenance

Less is more when it comes to boat maintenance. Smaller surface area means fewer places for dirt and grime to hide, making cleaning easier. Not to mention, smaller engines (if your boat has one) mean less complicated mechanical problems to solve. It's like owning a plant that only needs water once a week—low commitment, high reward.

Popular Small Sailboats

Remember the Volkswagen Beetle of yesteryears? Compact, easy to manage, and immensely popular—that's what Sunfish is to the world of small sailboats. Whether you want to race or just sail leisurely, this boat is a versatile choice that won't disappoint.

For those who crave a bit more adrenaline, the J/22 is like the sports bike of small sailboats. Known for its speed, agility, and performance, this boat is a favorite in racing circles. It's agile enough to make quick turns yet sturdy enough to handle a variety of sea conditions.

Catalina 22

If you're looking for the minivan of small sailboats—functional, family-friendly, and reliable—the Catalina 22 is for you. Ideal for weekend trips with the family, this boat offers a cabin for shelter, a cooking space, and even a small toilet. It's a floating home away from home.

Small Sailing Yachts for Sale

Where to buy.

Buying a boat can be like buying a car; there are various avenues available. You can go through dealerships, check out classified ads, or even explore online platforms like Boat Trader or YachtWorld. Just like you wouldn't buy a car without a test drive, make sure to do a sea trial before making a purchase.

Price Range

The cost of your new aquatic venture can vary widely depending on the size, brand, and features. You might find a used dinghy for as low as $1,000 or a top-of-the-line daysailer that costs over $20,000. Therefore, it's crucial to budget not just for the initial purchase but also for the ongoing costs like maintenance, insurance, and docking fees.

(To be continued...)

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small sailboat in the water small sailboat in the water next to the beach next to the beach in a summer sunset ready to sailing with the last breeze of the day

Small Bluewater Sailboats

Definition and features.

When it comes to small sailboats, not all are built for the big leagues, aka open-ocean sailing. However, some compact beauties are fully capable of taking on the mighty seas, and these are commonly referred to as "bluewater sailboats." These boats generally have reinforced hulls, deep keels for added stability, and more robust rigging systems. They also often come with advanced navigation and safety features like radar and autopilot systems.

If you're serious about open-ocean sailing but don't want a massive boat, brands like Nor'Sea and Pacific Seacraft have some excellent offerings. These boats might be small in size (often under 30 feet), but they are big on features and sturdiness, designed to withstand challenging sea conditions.

Boats for Cruising


A cruiser is like a comfortable sedan equipped for a cross-country road trip. Similarly, cruising boats are designed for longer journeys and typically feature amenities like sleeping cabins, cooking facilities, and even bathrooms. However, small cruising sailboats make these comforts available in a compact form, ensuring you don't have to compromise on luxury while also enjoying the benefits of a small boat.

The market offers various models to suit different cruising styles. If you prefer a classic, vintage look, the Bristol series offers some wonderful choices. Those who want a more modern flair might gravitate towards Hunter or Beneteau models. No matter your preference, there's likely a small cruising sailboat that fits the bill.

Very Small Sailing Boats

What makes them unique.

We're talking about boats usually under 10 feet, often even as small as 6 or 7 feet. These are the "motorbikes" of the sailing world—quick, nimble, and perfect for a joyride, albeit on water. What they lack in amenities, they make up for in sheer fun and the ability to go places bigger boats can't.

Very small sailing boats are perfect for specific types of water activities. You can use them for fishing, exploring secluded inlets, or just enjoying a peaceful day on the water. They are also excellent for teaching kids the basics of sailing due to their simplicity and ease of handling.

Small Ocean Sailboats

Ocean-capable small boats.

Yes, you read that right—there are small sailboats designed for ocean sailing. Unlike their cousins confined to more tranquil waters, these boats have features that make them seaworthy. However, don't assume that any small boat can be taken on an ocean voyage. Specific design features are essential for this kind of challenging adventure.

Essential Features

So what makes a small sailboat ocean-worthy? For starters, a strong hull designed to take on challenging sea conditions. You'd also want a deep keel for stability, a robust rigging system to withstand high winds, and multiple fail-safes like backup navigation systems.

Small Ocean Cruisers


Ocean cruisers in a small size offer the best of both worlds—they are versatile enough for both coastal cruising and open-ocean voyages. These boats are like your all-terrain vehicles, capable yet compact.

Pros and Cons

While adaptable, small ocean cruisers may lack some of the luxury or speed that larger yachts can offer. However, their versatility and ease of handling often make them a popular choice for those who like a variety of sailing experiences.

Small Cruising Sailboats

Ideal for beginners.

If you're a rookie in the world of sailing, a small cruising sailboat could be your best bet. These boats are typically easy to handle, straightforward to maintain, and offer enough amenities for short trips—making them an ideal starting point.

Popular Models

If you're new to cruising, a couple of models might catch your attention. The Compac 16, known for its easy handling and classic look, is often recommended for beginners. Another excellent option is the Catalina 18, which offers a bit more room without compromising ease of use.

Setting sail on a small sailboat opens up a world of opportunities—whether you're a seasoned sailor looking for a weekend thrill or a beginner aiming for a long-term commitment to the sea. Understanding the types, features, advantages, and options in the small sailboat market will help you make an educated choice. The sea is vast and welcoming, offering adventures and tranquility alike, and a small sailboat can be your perfect vessel for exploration.

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20 Best Small Sailboats for the Weekender

  • By Mark Pillsbury
  • Updated: August 4, 2021

In order to go cruising, most of us require a sailboat with a head, a galley, and bunks. The boat, likely a 30-footer and more often a 40-footer, will have electronics for navigation and entertainment, refrigeration if the trip is longer than a coastal hop, an engine for light wind, and, depending on our appetites for food and fun, perhaps a genset to power our toys and appliances.

To go sailing , however, all we really need is a hull, mast, rudder, and sail. To experience the pure joy of sheeting in and scooting off across a lake, bay, or even the open ocean, there’s nothing better than a small sailboat – we’re talking sailboats under 25 feet. You can literally reach out and touch the water as it flows past. You instantly feel every puff of breeze and sense every change in trim.

Some of the boats in this list are new designs, others are time-tested models from small sailboat manufacturers, but every one is easy to rig, simple to sail, and looks like a whole lot of fun either for a solo outing on a breezy afternoon or to keep family and friends entertained throughout your entire sailing season. This list is made up of all types of sailboats , and if you’re looking for a list of some of the best small sailboats for beginners, you’ll find exactly that here.

Any one of these popular boats could be labeled as a trailerable sailboat, daysailer, or even a weekender sailboat. And while most would be labeled as a one or two person sailboat, some could comfortably fit three or even four people.

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

If you have an eye for elegant lines and your heart goes pitter-patter over just the right amount of overhang beneath a counter transom, the Marblehead 22 daysailer, designed by Doug Zurn and built by Samoset Boatworks in Boothbay, Maine, will definitely raise your pulse. Traditional-looking above the waterline and modern beneath, the cold-molded hull sports a deep bulb keel and a Hall Spars carbon-fiber mast with a wishbone rig and square-top main. The 11-foot-9-inch cockpit can seat a crowd, and a small cuddy forward will let you stow your friends’ gear for the day.

Catalina 22 Sport

Catalina 22 Sport

Many a harbor plays host to an active fleet of Catalina 22s, one of the most popular small sailboats over the years, given its basic amenities and retractable keel, which allows it to be easily trailered. Recently, the company introduced the Catalina 22 Sport, an updated design that can compete with the older 22s. The boat features a retractable lead keel; a cabin that can sleep four, with a forward hatch for ventilation; and a fractional rig with a mainsail and a roller-furling jib. Lifelines, a swim ladder, and an engine are options, as are cloth cushions; vinyl cushions are standard. The large cockpit will seat a crowd or let a mom-and-pop crew stretch out and enjoy their sail. It’s clear why the Catalina 22 is one of the best sailboats under 25 feet.

Hunter 22

With its large, open-transom cockpit and sloop rig, the Hunter 22 makes a comfortable daysailer for family and friends. But with its cuddy cabin, twin bunks, optional electrical system, opening screened ports, and portable toilet, a parent and child or a couple could comfortably slip away for an overnight or weekend. Add in the optional performance package, which includes an asymmetric spinnaker, a pole, and a mainsheet traveler, and you could be off to the races. The boat features a laminated fiberglass hull and deck, molded-in nonskid, and a hydraulic lifting centerboard. Mount a small outboard on the stern bracket, and you’re set to go.

the Daysailer

Not sure whether you want to race, cruise or just go out for an afternoon sail? Since 1958, sailors have been having a ball aboard the Uffa Fox/George O’Day-designed Daysailer. Fox, who in the 1950s was on the cutting edge of planning-dinghy design, collaborated with Fall River, Massachusetts boatbuilder O’Day Corp. to build the 16-foot Daysailer, a boat that features a slippery hull and a small cuddy cabin that covers the boat roughly from the mast forward. Thousands of Daysailers were built by various builders, and they can be found used for quite affordable prices. There are active racing fleets around the US, and new Daysailers are still in production today, built by Cape Cod Ship Building.

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

Easy to rig and trailer, the BayRaider from England’s Swallow Yachts is a relative newcomer to the small-boat market in the United States. Nearly all of its 19 feet 9 inches is open cockpit, though a spray hood can be added to keep the forward sections dry. The BayRaider is ketch-rigged with a gunter-style mainmast. The topmast and mizzen are both carbon-fiber, which is an option for the mainmast as well. The BayRaider can be sailed with a dry hull in lighter conditions or with 300 pounds of water ballast to increase its stability. With the centerboard and hinged rudder raised, the boat can maneuver in even the thinnest water.

$28,900, (904) 234-8779,

12 1/2 foot Beetle Cat

Big fun can come in small packages, especially if your vessel of choice happens to be the 12 ½-foot Beetle Cat. Designed by John Beetle and first built in 1921, the wooden shallow draft sailboat is still in production today in Wareham, Massachusetts at the Beetle Boat Shop. With a draft of just 2 feet, the boat is well-suited for shallow bays, but equally at home in open coastal waters. The single gaff-rigged sail provides plenty of power in light air and can be quickly reefed down to handle a blow. In a word, sailing a Beetle Cat is fun.

West Wight Potter P 19

West Wight Potter P 19

With berths for four and a workable galley featuring a cooler, a sink, and a stove, West Wight Potter has packed a lot into its 19-foot-long P 19. First launched in 1971, this is a line of boats that’s attracted a true following among trailer-sailors. The P 19′s fully retractable keel means that you can pull up just about anywhere and go exploring. Closed-cell foam fore and aft makes the boat unsinkable, and thanks to its hard chine, the boat is reportedly quite stable under way.

NorseBoat 17.5

NorseBoat 17.5

Designed for rowing and sailing (a motor mount is optional), the Canadian-built NorseBoat 17.5—one of which was spotted by a CW editor making its way through the Northwest Passage with a two-man crew—features an open cockpit, a carbon-fiber mast, and a curved-gaff rig, with an optional furling headsail set on a sprit. The lapstrake hull is fiberglass; the interior is ply and epoxy. The boat comes standard with two rowing stations and one set of 9-foot oars. The boat is designed with positive flotation and offers good load-carrying capacity, which you could put to use if you added the available canvas work and camping tent. NorseBoats offers a smaller sibling, the 12.5, as well; both are available in kit form.

$19,000, (902) 659-2790,

Montgomery 17

Montgomery 17

Billed as a trailerable pocket cruiser, the Montgomery 17 is a stout-looking sloop designed by Lyle Hess and built out of fiberglass in Ontario, California, by Montgomery Boats. With a keel and centerboard, the boat draws just under 2 feet with the board up and can be easily beached when you’re gunkholing. In the cuddy cabin you’ll find sitting headroom, a pair of bunks, a portable toilet, optional shore and DC power, and an impressive amount of storage space. The deck-stepped mast can be easily raised using a four-part tackle. The builder reports taking his own boat on trips across the Golfo de California and on visits to California’s coastal islands. Montgomery makes 15-foot and 23-foot models, as well. If you’re in search of a small sailboat with a cabin, the Montgomery 17 has to be on your wish list.

CW Hood 32 Daysailer small sailboat

With long overhangs and shiny brightwork, the CW Hood 32 is on the larger end of the daysailer spectrum. Designers Chris Hood and Ben Stoddard made a conscious decision to forego a cabin and head in favor of an open cockpit big enough to bring 4 or 5 friends or family out for an afternoon on the water. The CW Hood 32 is sleek and graceful through the water and quick enough to do some racing, but keeps things simple with a self-tacking jib and controls that can be lead back to a single-handed skipper. A top-furling asymmetrical, electric sail drive and Torqeedo outboard are all optional. The CW Hood 32 makes for a great small family sailboat.

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

Shallow U.S. East Coast bays and rock-strewn coasts have long been graced by cat boats, whose large, gaff-rigged mainsails proved simple and powerful both on the wind and, better yet, when reaching and running. The 17-foot-4-inch Sun Cat, built by Com-Pac Yachts, updates the classic wooden cat with its fiberglass hull and deck and the easy-to-step Mastender Rigging System, which incorporates a hinged tabernacle to make stepping the mast a one-person job. If you want a personal sailboat ideal for solo sailing, the Sun Can is a great choice. Belowdecks, the twin 6-foot-5-inch berths and many other features and amenities make this cat a willing weekender.

$19,800, (727) 443-4408,

Catalina 16.5

Catalina 16.5

The Catalina 16.5 sits right in the middle of Catalina Yachts’ line of small sailboats, which range from the 12.5 to the 22 Capri and Sport, and it comes in both an easy-to-trailer centerboard model and a shoal-draft fixed-keel configuration. With the fiberglass board up, the 17-foot-2-inch boat draws just 5 inches of water; with the board down, the 4-foot-5-inch draft suggests good windward performance. Hull and deck are hand-laminated fiberglass. The roomy cockpit is self-bailing, and the bow harbors a good-sized storage area with a waterproof hatch.

Hobie 16

No roundup of best small sailboats (trailerable and fun too) would be complete without a mention of the venerable Hobie 16, which made its debut in Southern California way back in 1969. The company has introduced many other multihulls since, but more than 100,000 of the 16s have been launched, a remarkable figure. The Hobie’s asymmetric fiberglass-and-foam hulls eliminate the need for daggerboards, and with its kick-up rudders, the 16 can be sailed right up to the beach. Its large trampoline offers lots of space to move about or a good place to plant one’s feet when hanging off the double trapezes with a hull flying. The boat comes with a main and a jib; a spinnaker, douse kit, trailer, and beach dolly are optional features.

Hunter 15

Novice sailors or old salts looking for simplicity could both enjoy sailing the Hunter 15. With a fiberglass hull and deck and foam flotation, the boat is sturdily built. The ample freeboard and wide beam provide stability under way, and the heavy-duty rubrail and kick-up rudder mean that you won’t have to worry when the dock looms or the going grows shallow. Both the 15 and its slightly larger 18-foot sibling come standard with roller-furling jibs.

$6,900/$9,500 (boat-show prices for the 15 and 18 includes trailers), (386) 462-3077,

Super Snark

Super Snark

Under various owners, the Snark brand of sailboats, now built by Meyers Boat Co., has been around since the early 1970s. The Super Snark, at 11 feet, is a simple, easily car-topped daysailer that’s fit out with a lateen rig and sail. Billed as unsinkable, the five boats in the company’s line are built with E.P.S. foam, with the external hull and deck vacuum-formed to the core using an A.B.S. polymer. The Super Snark weighs in at 50 pounds, and with a payload capacity of 310 pounds, the boat can carry two.

$970, (800) 247-6275,

Norseboat 21.5

Norseboat 21.5

Built in Canada, the NorseBoat 21.5 is a rugged looking craft that comes in a couple of configurations: one with an open cockpit and small doghouse, and another with a smaller cockpit and cabin that houses a double berth for two adults and optional quarter berths for the kids. Both carry NorseBoat’s distinctive looking carbon fiber gaff-rigged mast with main and jib (a sprit-set drifter is optional), and come with a ballasted stub keel and centerboard. Because of its lightweight design, the boat can be rowed and is easily trailered.

$36,000 (starting), 902-659-2790,

Flying Scot

Flying Scot

Talk about time-tested, the 19-foot Flying Scot has been in production since 1957 and remains a popular design today. Sloop rigged, with a conventional spinnaker for downwind work, the boat is an easily sailed family boat as well as a competitive racer, with over 130 racing fleets across the U.S. Its roomy cockpit can seat six to eight, though the boat is often sailed by a pair or solo. Hull and deck are a fiberglass and balsa core sandwich. With the centerboard up, the boat draws only eight inches. Though intended to be a daysailer, owners have rigged boom tents and berths for overnight trips, and one adventurous Scot sailor cruised his along inland waterways from Philadelphia to New Orleans.

RS Venture

Known primarily for its line of racing dinghys, RS Sailing also builds the 16-foot, 4-inch Venture, which it describes as a cruising and training dinghy. The Venture features a large, self-draining cockpit that will accommodate a family or pack of kids. A furling jib and mainsail with slab reefing come standard with the boat; a gennaker and trapeze kit are options, as is an outboard motor mount and transom swim ladder. The deck and hull are laid up in a fiberglass and Coremat sandwich. The Venture’s designed to be both a good performer under sail, but also stable, making it a good boat for those learning the sport.

$14,900, 203-259-7808,

Topaz Taz

Topper makes a range of mono- and multihull rotomolded boats, but the model that caught one editor’s eye at Strictly Sail Chicago was the Topaz Taz. At 9 feet, 8 inches LOA and weighing in at 88 pounds, the Taz is not going to take the whole crowd out for the day. But, with the optional mainsail and jib package (main alone is for a single child), the Taz can carry two or three kids or an adult and one child, and would make a fun escape pod when tied behind the big boat and towed to some scenic harbor. The hull features Topper’s Trilam construction, a plastic and foam sandwich that creates a boat that’s stiff, light, and durable, and shouldn’t mind being dragged up on the beach when it’s time for a break.

$2,900 (includes main and jib), 410-286-1960,

WindRider WRTango

WindRider WRTango

WRTango, a fast, sturdy, 10-foot trimaran that’s easy to sail, is the newest portable craft from WindRider International. It joins a line that includes the WR16 and WR17 trimarans. The Tango features forward-facing seating, foot-pedal steering, and a low center of gravity that mimics the sensation of sitting in a kayak. It weighs 125 pounds (including the outriggers and carbon-fiber mast), is extremely stable, and has single-sheet sail control. The six-inch draft and kick-up rudder make it great for beaching, while the hull and outriggers are made of rotomolded polyethylene, so it can withstand running into docks and being dragged over rocks.

$3,000, 612-338-2170,

  • More: 21 - 30 ft , Boat Gallery , day sailing , dinghy , Sailboat Reviews , Sailboats , under 20 ft
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The Best Beginner Sailboats for Ocean Cruising (under $25,000)

You have fallen in love with sailboats and can't resist the call any longer. I feel ya. The upfront cost is quite something, right? Both in money and skill level. Well, your dream isn't necessarily that far away. Let me show you a few of the best sailboats capable of crossing vast oceans, boats that are beginner-friendly and that won't cost over $25,000.

So what are the best beginner sailboats for ocean cruising?

Cape Dory 28

Let's have a closer look at these. You want to know more about these to pick the right one for you. Read on!

On this page:

Westsail 28, a beginner boat is easy to handle.

Please don't think that just because a boat is labeled here as a 'beginner-friendly' it means that it is lesser in terms of performance or capabilities. It just means that due to the layout, construction, or overall design it is easier to handle and more forgiving.

A good ballast ratio can be an example of that, making the boat stable. A user-friendly cockpit layout where all the lines are within reach from the helm is another example. These things don't decrease performance, they simply increase handling ease.

An affordable boat doesn't have to be cheap

Similarly, don't think a cheap boat is not seaworthy. Seaworthiness is again more about design rather than anything else.

It also doesn't mean you will get a low-quality boat. Sure it won't be new or large, but as far as build quality goes, no compromises have to be made.

An ocean cruiser is stable and comfortable

Stability is important. Waves get bigger out there, and some coastal cruisers may not be prepared for that.

Storage and long term comfort. An ocean cruiser needs to accommodate you for more than a week, as island hoppers do. That means enough storage and layout such that allows for a long term stay.

The matter of buoyancy calls for attention too - you want to be able to load the boat with all you need for a few weeks' stay and still have it perform well.

We made sure that all the boats mentioned below tick the right bluewater boxes.

Let's get into it, shall we?

small ocean cruiser sailboat

The name of the game here is good quality. Which is an incredibly important aspect for a beginner. They say long passages are often more about maintenance than about actual sailing skills. And you want to do as little maintenance as possible.

As far as construction ethics of production boats go, Sabre 28 is hard to beat. All the elements that need to hold something, like cleats, are backed by a solid steel plate here, bolted through, there is no exposed fiberglass, everything is gel coated… it isn't an exaggeration to claim you will not find many production boats of this build quality.

Below the deck, you will find solid six feet of headroom, closed off V berth in the front cabin, and space for (theoretically) four more of your mates.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Now let's see some negatives. Even despite the generous sailing area of this boat, performance is its possible downside. You won't break speed records. This means that your longer passages will require better planning and more supplies. Not a problem per se, but something to keep in mind.

Also, this boat was designed as a coastal cruiser and it shows. Not that it couldn't undertake a proper ocean passage, but purely practically speaking, for instance, its tanks are rather small, as the designers expected frequent refills.

On that note - pleasure cruisers often favor the cockpit space, decreasing the under the dock space. They also don't necessarily try to use the space with the utmost efficiency in mind. And since long crossings will require long stays, you will feel this isn't a huge boat.

But all in all, expect a boat solid on all sides, and jaw-droppingly well built. It will set you back as little as $3,000 and as much as $30,000 on the other side of the spectrum. With a below $25,000 budget, you will have absolutely no issues finding one.

And if you start comparing with similar models and can't help but feel it is a bit pricier per foot, know that this is due to the extraordinary build quality. You will get a lot for your money.

We will talk about the 28 model but if you go two feet up in size to the Cape Dory 30, you will be able to get it for about the same price.

Just as the Sabre above, Cape Dory is solidly built. It is simple, robust, no cut corners, no little luxuries, straight to the point. Which is what you want from a reliable boat, if you don't have much experience.

Another mark up goes for sturdiness stemming from its full keel. As is the case with full keels, they make the boat robust, if you run aground, it isn't such a big deal as you are less likely going to damage the boat, and the propeller is better protected.

Similarly, if the weather gets tricky, full keels are more stable, they track better and thus handle easier, all of which is a big plus for someone who is just learning the ropes.

Below the deck, you will find a V berth, heads, sink, plenty of storage space, and generally as much space as you would expect from a boat this size. It's a looker, genuinely nice place to be at, both outside and inside.

A word of warning that keeps popping up - owners of the older models say the fuel tanks don't age well on this boat. They tend to rust, so be sure to check that out and be ready for a replacement.

There were quite a lot of these models built during its production lifespan, which means there is no shortage of used Dories - something that drives the price down and makes this boat start at around $10 000 on average. The most expensive ones are generally around $30 000, so if you spend the $25 000 on it, you will not be far away from the top of the line.

Long story short, this is a cute little boat that will most definitely have your back and is quite forgiving when under sail - partially to its full keel. It won't house many people, I wouldn't go on it with more than two, if the passage is long, but how big of a crew do you need anyway, right?

We are stretching the limit with this one since the prices start a bit above $20 000 and go easily to $50 000. So with our limit, you will not have an incredible array of options - but it will be enough to get you in the game, and what a game this is!

First of all, it's a full keel, so expect all the benefits listed in the Cape Dory above. Second of all, it's a nice looking boat that has a cozy feeling inside and outside. This is important since it isn't the fastest one. Especially in lower winds, it has been described by some owners as a 'wet snail'.

So go for this one if you are a person in no rush, but one for whom the journey is the destination, as the cliché goes. And as mentioned before, pay attention to the higher amount of supplies you will inevitably need for longer passages.

Once you are on it, prepared to take it slow and comfy, it will warm your heart. The interior is lined with hardwood, pretty little round windows with cast bronze rims, wide hull that has space and comfort in mind, rather than racing.

In other words, it's a pleasure cruiser, but not a coastal one, rather one sturdy enough to circumnavigate the world.

It was born from a genuine market need since it's larger and older sister, Westsail 32, was quite successful but too expensive for many. The manufacturers listened and thought the 28 into existence, describing it as a “hearty little offshore cruiser”.

After this boat was rolled out, about a tonne was added to the ballast, the rudder was enlarged, and to make up for the extra weight, nearly a hundred square feet of sails were added. This happened after about seven models were released, so you can see that it was a work in progress to the last moments.

What this tells you is that it is no engineering miracle, but a boat that listened to people and was made for them. Which resulted in something that won't win races, but will win hearts. I should sell that as a slogan.

This boat has fiberglass molded wine bottles. That tells you all you need to know about this french boat. And it can be yours for as little as $7,000.

Dufour 29 stood at the forefront of European racer-cruisers, it contributed to paving the way for this particular class. It's a beamy boat, so you will get more space than you would expect. And it has a front cabin only, which allows for quite a lot of space back - the cockpit lockers are immense.

The storage space is one of its largest strengths, which helps with longer passages. Since it probably won't be more than two or so people, you can bring as much as your heart desires.

The downside is that although this boat is built to last and the quality shows, it usually features Volvo engines, which means pricey parts. So although the upfront cost isn't necessarily large, the engine will inevitably break with usage and need significant investment.

A nice thing is that although we are talking about a French brand, most of these specific models were exported to the US, so if you live out there, you won't be hard-pressed to find one. And you will stand out from all the Catalinas.

And last but absolutely not least, here is this little hero. We have mentioned it in our article 'The Cheapest, Smallest Boat to Sail Around the World' and the title alone should tell you why it deserves to be here.

You can get it for as little as $3,000 and I'm not talking about a worn-down one that needs months of work before being sailable - I mean a fully functioning one. The most expensive one I saw was for $7,000 and it was so polished and kept up it was a joy just to look at it.

Aside from the price, it's benefit is in the way it's built. It knows it is a small boat and it is on a mission to squeeze as much from the space as possible. It doesn't waste space on being a weekend cruiser but intends to serve as a liveaboard, or at least a boat capable of housing its sailor for weeks on end.

This means you will get a toilet, proper dining table, space for two people (comfort) or four (if you really like each other), and storage space for a circumnavigation.

As is the case usually, it doesn't come without its drawbacks, be it an engine that has a habit of choking itself or mast fitting that tends to give up on life if stressed. But trust me that if you invest in a top of the line model and spend a couple of thousand on refitting and tinkering with everything you can think of, you will end up with a boat cheaper than most of the above and in a bulletproof condition.

So you see it isn't out of reach for the average Joe to get into sailing. Both when it comes to price or skills. So if the idea has been dormant in your head, wake it up. You'll thank yourself.

Jon Stivers

Re: The Cape Dory 28. Yes, full-keel boats track better when going forward, but are more difficult to control in reverse than fin-keel boats. Docking is very challenging for beginners, no matter how well the boat handles. When you test drive a boat, make sure you include going forward and reverse under power.

Thanks for the article, cheers.

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Best Blue Water Sailboats Under 40 Feet

19th jan 2023 by samantha wilson.

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What is a blue water sailboat?

What to look for when choosing a cruising sailboat under 40 feet, what are the advantages of small blue water sailboats, what are the disadvantages of small sailboats.

  • Best blue water sailboat models under 40 Feet

The term blue water sailboat doesn’t refer to a specific style of boat in the same way that a ketch or schooner does. In fact, a blue water sailboat could be either of those and many more. But when we talk about blue water sailboats, they have shared characteristics that make them suitable for, you guessed it, blue water sailing. Making long, open sea voyages such as crossing the oceans requires a boat that is solidly-built and can tackle heavy seas and inclement weather conditions. Blue water sailboats are able to be self-sufficient and lived on for extended periods of time, and to offer safety and comfort.

In a previous guide we looked at the different types of sailboats , focusing on identifying them by their hull type, rigging and uses. In general, smaller blue water sailboats under 40 feet tend to be cutters , sloops or ketches . Catamarans and trimarans too are becoming increasingly popular as long cruising vessels, although these tend to be larger than 40 feet. In fact, while there are manufacturers producing some excellent, sturdy and compact blue water sailboats under 40 feet, they tend to be a minority and most ‘small’ sailboats designed for long-range cruising are usually above 50 feet. 

blue water sailing

So what other characteristics should you be looking for in a small ocean sailboat? 


The material of the hull is probably the most crucial aspect, as it needs to be solidly built and able to withstand harsh seas as well as any collisions with floating objects. Hulls made from steel, strong fiberglass or carbon fiber tend to be the most popular. With a brand new sailboat you can be assured of a sound hull, however when buying a used sailboat under 40 feet the most important aspect is to ensure that the hull is strong and durable. 

The type of keel also makes a big difference, as deep V hulls with an encapsulated keel will make your boat less likely to capsize or lose its keel. Keel sailboats under 40 feet with skeg-hung rudders are considered the best small sailboats for open ocean cruising. While in the past it tended to only be monohull boats which were used for blue water sailing, there are now several manufacturers offering catamarans and trimarans which are strong enough to cross oceans. 

While the rig itself doesn’t necessarily denote whether a sailboat is more blue water worthy, it needs to be able to be manned by the number of crew on board as well as less crew if anyone is injured. The most important aspect is to think of the manageability of the rig. 

Ocean-going sailboats tend to have small cockpits to keep water out. While traditionally they used to have an aft cockpit there are more center cockpit blue water sailboats around these days. They need to have good drainage as well as offering the helmsman easy reach of the headsail, staysail and mainsail sheets.


Whether you’re sailing solo or with a small crew, having the ability to set an auto-pilot is an important characteristic of a blue water boat. From tiredness to accidents or illness, there might come a time when you need to set the autopilot when under power or windvane when under sail. 

A compact cabin, galley and head with plenty of handholds and safe storage are vital to spending long stretches of time at sea. There needs to be enough space to ensure you are able to be self-sufficient for long periods of time. This includes everything from provisions to safety equipment , power systems, water makers, fuel storage and two anchors. 

Ability to heave-to:

The act of heaving-to involves pointing the bow into the wind and fixing the helm and sail positions. This essentially stops the boat in the water and is a hugely important maneuver during storms to prevent capsizing and allows the crew to take shelter inside. Some sailboats are more able to perform this than others. 

Having a way to communicate an emergency is vital, and your blue water sailboat should have a satellite phone and radio installed. A radio will allow you to connect with passing vessels, while the satellite phone is your only means of true contact with land. On deck, safety is paramount, and additions such as granny bars by the mast, safety rails and of course a harness mean you’ll be staying on board in lively conditions. 

Ability to Store or Make Water:

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink is not a phrase any sailor wants to utter. So it’s imperative that your sailboat has enough storage capacity for long voyages, as well as the ability to make fresh water for drinking and washing in. Consider that two people on a three week voyage will require around 50 gallons of fresh water (allowing for a 20% contingency). Space – and weight considerations - is always a premium on small sailboats, so you need to make sure there are enough water tanks. You’ll also want a water maker which are powered by motors and generators. AC water makers can produce around 20 gallons a day, while DC water makers which use a lot less power, produce around 12 gallons of water a day.

Good Navigation Systems:

Ok, we’re going to say how important navigation systems are on your boat, and that’s true, but in fact you don’t want to reply on electronic navigation systems alone if you’re out in the middle of the deep blue. Having paper charts on board (in digital format preferably to save on space in a small boat) and knowing how to navigate using them is imperative. 

small sailing yacht

There are thousands of models of liveaboard sailboats under 40 feet on the market, but certainly not all of them are suitable for crossing oceans. We’ve seen the general characteristics of what to look for when choosing a blue water sailboat, but what are the pros and cons of a smaller boat versus a larger model?


Smaller tends to mean cheaper and so affordability is a major factor when buying a blue water sailboat . Whether you’re in the market for a new or used blue water sailboat under 40 feet, there are some excellent deals to be found. It means that long-held dream of sailing across the world can happen now, rather than saving for years. The other bonus is that smaller, simpler pocket cruisers will be cheaper and easier to maintain. 

Easier to Sail:

The simpler the rig and the less systems on board the easier the boat will be to sail (and to care for). You’ll need a smaller crew meaning cruising boats under 40 feet tend to be popular with couples and solo sailors. 

Less Spacious:

It goes without saying that smaller boats have less space. While manufacturers are finding ever-more ingenious ways to equip small sailboats with everything their larger counterparts have – and there are some clever ways you can maximize storage space in a boat – realistically space will be at a premium, meaning the number of crew and the amount of comforts you can have on board will need to be minimal.

They Tend to be Slower:

As a general rule, the smaller the sailboat, the slower it will be. While this isn’t always a bad thing if you’re in no hurry to get anywhere, it’s worth considering that out-running bad weather can be trickier in a small boat. 

Less comfortable:

A smaller boat can make for a less comfortable ride, especially in bigger seas. 

Best blue water sailboat models under 40 Feet

If you’re in the market for a cruising sailboat under 40 feet the options can seem dizzying. With so many to choose from it’s hard to know where to start. There are thousands of excellent used boats on the market, with reputations for reliability, safety, comfort and build. Here however we’re going to take a look at some of the manufacturers making the best bluewater sailboats in 2023 . With a solid reputation and excellent craftsmanship, they make a good place to start your search. 

Beneteau’s Oceanis 40, Oceanis 38.1 and Oceanis 34.1.

Beneteau’s reputation shines through in this smaller range of ocean-going yachts. At the top end of the under-40 foot range is the Oceanis 40 , with a hull designed by Marc Lombard and a huge amount of deck and interior space for its size. The Oceanis 38.1 offers surprising comfort and speed, with the ability to be sailed with a small crew, while the smallest in the range is the Oceanis 34.1 pocket cruiser, with cleverly designed spaces and a modern hull design. 

Beneteau sailboats for sale

blue water sailboat beneteau

Photo credit: Beneteau

Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey 349 and Sun Odyssey 380:

For over 60 years Jeanneau has been crafting motor and sailboats which push the boundaries and the Sun Odyssey range is the perfect example of that. The Sun Odyssey 349 and Sun Odyssey 380 are the smallest in the range, offering high performance sailing you would expect of a much larger model. With an iconic inverted bow, huge interior spaces and fine-tuned handling, they are popular models for long distance cruising. 

Jeanneau sailboats for sale

blue water sailboats jeanneau

Photo credit: Jeanneau 

Hallberg-Rassy 340, 372, 40 and 40C:

The range of Swedish-built Hallberg-Rassy small blue water yachts is one of the most impressive of any manufacturer. Boasting four yachts under 40 feet, they put their nine decades of expertise into both center cockpit and aft cockpit ocean-going cruisers and have the awards to show for it. From the Hallberg-Rassy 340 , which manages to pack everything you could need in a long-range cruiser into an ultra-compact package, to the award-winning 372 which manages to be even faster than the already fast Hallberg-Rassy 40 . They offer incredible handling, expansive oak interiors, generous cockpits and modern rigs.  

Hallberg-Rassy sailboats for sale

blue water sailboats hallberg rassy

Photo credit: Hallberg-Rassy

SeaWind Catamarans’ 1160, 1190 and 1260:

It’s uncommon to find blue water catamarans under 40 feet, but SeaWind has crafted no less than three compact, sturdy cats that can cross oceans in safety and comfort. With huge interior spaces across its double beam, you get much more living space than you would in a monohull of the same size, as well as robust seaworthiness, great sailability and all at an attractive price. 

Seawind sailboats for sale

blue water sailboat seawind

Photo credit: SeaWind  

Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.


More from: Samantha Wilson

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13 Best Small Catamarans For Cruising 2024

The best small catamarans for cruising are affordable and comfortable, making great sailboats for a number of different purposes. If you’re looking for the best small catamarans to start your cruising life then look no further!

When searching for a catamaran for our adventures we scoured the internet for any and all information we could find on just about every size, shape, and model!

Although in the end, we opted for a bigger catamaran, in the hopes of having more family and friends on board, we did heavily research the best small catamarans as an option.

One of the best small catamarans for cruising out at anchor.

Each small catamaran has different pros and cons. As with every sailboat, there will be compromises, but hopefully, this post will help you firm up what you’re really looking for in a multihull and find the right smaller catamaran for you!

Here are what we consider the best small cruising catamarans out there, costing anywhere from $40,000 to $300,000. You can also read up on the average costs of sailboats here.

Why choose a small catamaran for cruising?

The downsides to small multihulls for cruisers

The best small catamarans for ocean sailing

The best small catamarans for coastal cruising

Why Choose A Small Catamaran For Cruising?

a small multihull on an ocean passage, cutting through the water.

The main advantage to choosing a small catamaran for cruising has to be the cost. Not only are smaller sailboats cheaper to buy initially, but they are also cheaper to maintain and to dock in marinas or dry storage.

Why buy a small catamaran over a monohull? This isn’t the post to go into the pros and cons of multihulls vs monohulls, but a few of the main reasons you might prefer to buy a small cat over a bigger, cheaper monohull is the living space and the comfort underway and at anchor.

Living on a sailboat is very different from taking the boat out for a sporty sail every now and again. Having a catamaran over a monohull means you won’t be heeling or rolling at anchor half as much, you can leave out your coffee cup, and you have the space you need to spread out a little.

A small catamaran will enable the more comfortable lifestyle you’re seeking at a more reasonable price tag. So what’s not to love about small cruising multihulls?

The Downsides To Small Multihulls For Cruisers

a sailboat with its sails up, goosewinged.

Of course, just with everything in sailing, there are always compromises to be made when it comes to small multihulls.

One of the biggest downsides for cruisers is the weight issue smaller catamarans present. You won’t be able to carry half as much as you would on a larger catamaran or monohull, which might be a problem if you live onboard full time.

The other negative is that smaller boats usually aren’t quite as seaworthy as larger ones. You might find you’re limited to coastal cruising if you choose a small catamaran, so make sure you have your cruising intentions in mind before you buy.

the sails of a sailboat against the blue sky.

Another big thing to look out for when it comes to choosing the right small cat for you, is the bridge deck clearance. This is often worse on smaller catamarans, and can cause nasty slamming in any sort of sea, both when sailing and at anchor.

With these downsides in mind, we’ve split this post into the best small catamarans for ocean sailing and the best for coastal cruising. Obviously this is a little subjective, as many people have sailed around the world in much smaller and less seaworthy vessels!

The Best Small Catamarans For Ocean Cruising

#1 wharram tiki.

  • Suitable for: Bluewater sailing
  • Fixed Keels
  • Draft (max): 2.08′
  • Engines: Single outboard, though some versions have twin inboards
  • Price: Roughly $100,000

small catamarans sailing with the sunset behind

We have lusted after the Wharram catamarans since our adventures began and would have opted for one of these if we had found one for sale this side of the pond.

Designed by the legendary James Wharram, these small multihulls are pretty unique. They are based on the Polynesian catamaran design, and the plans enable you to self-build these boats if you have the time, money, and space for a project of this magnitude.

If you aren’t keen on taking on a project then you can commission a boat builder to complete the design for you, or buy one second-hand. The advantages of having one made yourself are that you can tweak things to your personal taste, and you can even contact the Wharrams themselves to see if they can adjust the designs for individual requests.

The Wharram catamarans have a lot of charm dues to their traditional design, and the old-fashioned appeal continues inside the boat too. You won’t find the same huge hull space as some of the modern design catamarans now have, but the outside entertainment space is perfect for entertaining.

One of the best small multihulls for ocean cruising

These small catamarans don’t have an inside space across the hulls, so all of your inside living space is below. If you’re used to monohulls then this won’t be a problem but if you like the idea of a galley-up then these boats aren’t for you.

Wharram catamarans, especially the Tiki 38, have great reputations as around the world, bluewater boats. They have fantastic bridge deck clearance so slamming is minimum and they sail well.

Most models have a double cabin and two singles, a galley, a head, and a small salon area below. They are smaller catamarans than many newer 38ft multihulls but this does make them more affordable.

small catamarans in the Caribbean with a beautiful white sand beach behind

A big appeal for us was the fact these boats are designed to be self-made. Although a secondhand model could potentially come with a lot of problems (get a decent survey before you buy!) it does mean that almost everything onboard can be self-fixed. This is a huge bonus if you plan on sailing your small catamaran around the world.

Another thing we loved about these smaller catamarans is the fact they have outboard engines, which we felt would be easier to maintain and replace if necessary. This is a personal choice though so consider this before you get your heart set on one!

One of the downsides to the Tiki 38 is that there aren’t many of them around. These are unique boats and they don’t come on the market frequently. When they do, they tend to be scattered all over the world so you’ll have to be prepared to travel to find one!

#2 Prout Snowgoose 37 : Small Catamaran For Ocean Cruising

a sail on a cruising catamaran and the ocean in the background.

Prout catamarans are a popular choice for cruisers, and you’ll find many owners who have circumnavigated in them. The Snowgoose is no exception. Prout no longer exists as a company, as it was bought by Broadblue in the 90s.

Broadblue still makes catamarans today, and they have very similar features to the original Prouts, though obviously they are far fancier and have all the benefits of a more modern design!

The Snowgoose is a great small multihull to go for as you get quite a lot of space inside and out. We weren’t sure about the berth in the salon area, but it might make a great space for a baby or small child while underway!

The compromise in the Prout Snowgoose is the bridge deck clearance and this was something that put us off these smaller cruising catamarans. A low bridge deck clearance makes the boat slam in waves, both at anchor and underway.

#8 PDQ 36 : A Small Catamaran Without Too Much Slamming

  • Suitable for: Bluewater
  • Draft (max): 2.82′
  • Engines: Twin inboard or outboard
  • Price: Over $100,000

small ocean cruiser sailboat

These small catamarans have an excellent reputation among cruisers because of their solid build and use of decent materials. They come with either outboard engines for coastal cruising or inboard engines designed to withstand offshore use.

If you like the sound of the PDQ 32 but need a little more room then you’ve got that here! It’s also a boat that people have crossed oceans in, though you might want to consider something more tried and tested like the Prout Snowgoose or the Wharram if you’re planning longer ocean sails.

The boat has three cabins, a galley, salon and head, but there’s a more spacious feel compared to the smaller model. Again, the bridge deck clearance is good so you shouldn’t experience too much slamming.

#9 Lagoon 380 : One Of The Most Popular Small Multihulls

small ocean cruiser sailboat

  • Fixed keels
  • Engines:  twin diesel engines
  • Price:  from $100,000, used

The Lagoon 380 is one of the most popular catamarans out there, and you’ve probably already spotted a lot of them in your search! This is a great option if modern cats appeal to you, as it’s pretty ‘with the times’ as far as smaller catamarans go!

There are lots of different layouts of this boat available all over the world. Some were built for charter with numerous berths and others were commissioned for couples or families with differing cabin and head options.

This is a proven catamaran from a reputable company, but obviously with so many of these boats out there, they come in a range of conditions. Make sure you get a thorough survey done before purchase!

Lagoon 37 TPI

  • Draft (max): 4′
  • Engines: Twin inboard diesels 
  • Price: Over $100,000 USD 

This is the smallest catamaran built by Lagoon, and unfortunately there aren’t many of them out there. These boats were built mainly for the charter market, and have a smaller rig than some similar sized catamarans.

There are two big queen-size forward doubles port and starboard and a smaller double in the starboard hull aft. The galley and salon are designed to be simple and timeless, with none of the fancy trims you’ll find in the newer Lagoons.

As this boat was intended for charter it probably wouldn’t make a great ocean-going vessel. For starters, it isn’t designed to carry too much in the way of provisions. That’s not to say it won’t be a suitable bluewater boat with a few tweaks. Sailors who have circumnavigated in them have increased sail area and added folding props to get more speed from the vessel.

#11 Catalac 9M/30

small ocean cruiser sailboat

  • Draft (max): 2.5′
  • Engines:  two outboard engines or one diesel engine
  • Price:  from $50,000

The Catalac 9M is a little different to a lot of the catamarans on this list, as it was built for sailing in the North Sea! This is a great small catamaran for anyone wanting a boat built to be safe!

The bridge deck clearance is reasonable but the boat is light, which can make it more prone to slamming. The unique feature of this small sailboat is the hard dodger, designed as somewhere safe and dry to stand in bad weather.

It sails well, though like a lot of catamarans there is technique involved in getting it to tack smoothly. Once you’ve got the hang of though, this boat will make good speeds for its size.

The Best Small Catamarans For Coastal Cruising

  • Suitable for: Coastal
  • Draft (max): 3.62′
  • Engines: Twin inboard
  • Price: Up to $300,000 for a newer model

The Mahe 36 is the smallest of the Fountaine Pajot range, and these small catamarans can go for a heafty budget if you find a newer model!

This tiny multihull packs a lot into a small space, and because of its modern features, you’ll feel like you’re in a much bigger boat when you step aboard.

This boat is a fast mover, with an ok bridge clearance and some attractive upgrades compared to their last small catamaran design. Most notably the full-length hard top bimini which has the reviewers raving!

If you have the money to splash out on a newer, more expensive small catamaran then this should definitely be on your list to consider! Although they come with a large price tag, these small catamarans are considerably cheaper new than some of the bigger models.

#4 Gemini 105Mc (34ft)

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Centreboards Draft (max): 5′ Engines:  Single inboard Price:  from $80,000

The Gemini 105Mc is still in production in the US, which speaks to its popularity. Obviously if you buy new you’ll pay a much higher price! This is one of the smallest catamarans on the list, but it’s still a great option for coastal cruising (or some have even successfully completed ocean passages on them in relative comfort).

For a small multihull this boat sails pretty well and is fast for a coastal cruiser. The living space is decent with good headroom. It has two double cabins and a master bedroom, and the interior finishes are nice too.

A big negative to this boat is the bridge deck clearance which really isn’t amazing, but as we said at the start, there’s always a compromise! This is a sporty-looking little catamaran that’s a good contender for the top smallest catamarans out there!

#5 EndeavourCat 36

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Fixed keels Draft (max): 3′ Engines:  two inboard Price:  from $100

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Designed and built by Endeavour Catamaran, these American built boats are great cruising catamarans. A big advantage to this little multihull is that it will fit into most monohull slips, so if you anticipate using marinas a lot then this might be the small catamaran for you!

This isn’t a slow boat, and owners report speeds of 8-9 knots. Bear in mind though that the narrow beam does make it less suitable for any offshore passages. It has good interior space with 6′ standing headroom throughout, three double cabins, and a decent-sized galley below. The salon area can seat 6 people comfortably.

This cat is great for single-handed sailors, as all the lines lead to the cockpit and the main and jib are completely self-tacking.

#6 Prout Event 34

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Suitable for: Coastal/bluewater Fixed keels Draft (max): 2.72′ Engines:  Single inboard Price:  from $30,000

These multihulls are quite hard to find, but if you like the Snowgoose but are on a tighter budget then they might be just what you’re looking for. They share lots of features with the Snowgoose and look very similar, only smaller!

There are three cabins, one head, a salon, and a galley, only they are rather squeezed in compared to the larger model. Personally, we thought there was plenty of space for a smaller sailboat but it’s worth seeing them in person if you’re keen on this model.

They do have the same downsides as the Snowgoose though, with limited headroom and low bridge deck clearance. These boats are known for their slamming!

Coastal Engines:  twin outboards Price:  from $80,000, used

small ocean cruiser sailboat

The PDQ 32 is a great budget option catamaran and should be cheap(ish) to buy second hand and maintain. With two outboards that are easy to replace on a smaller budget, you’re looking at some of the usual pinch points on a boat becoming a lot more affordable!

This small catamaran only has two cabins, so sleeps less than a lot of the boats on this list, but it is roomier than you’d imagine inside with a decent galley and salon area. It has decent bridge deck clearance so shouldn’t slam too much in any waves.

This isn’t a boat for longer passages as it is a little small (and perhaps underpowered) to face serious weather. If you’re searching for something to potter around in then this is a fun boat to sail and live in!

#12 Dean 365

small ocean cruiser sailboat

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  • Suitable for: Coastal cruising
  • Draft (max): 3′
  • Engines:  one or two inboard
  • Price:  from $45,000, used

These South African catamarans are great little coastal cruising catamarans that are hard to come by anywhere other than South Africa!

They’re pretty tiny, but have enough space for a galley, 3 or 4 cabins, and 1 or 2 heads. Some of the designs even have a bathtub, which speaks of their liveaboard suitability rather than their sail performance!

These boats are some of the smallest multihulls on this list, so don’t expect much in terms of headroom or bridge deck clearance. That being said, if you’re looking for a tiny catamaran to live on and you are prepared to compromise on sailing ability then these are a solid choice.

We have heard that the build quality can vary somewhat with these multihulls, so make sure you do some solid research and get a good surveyor when buying one of these. If you get a good version then they can make really solid boats.

#13 EndeavourCat 30

the lines of small catamarans tied off to a cleat

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Fixed keels Draft (max): 2.1′ Engines:  single or twin outboard Price:  from $70,000

This is a boat built for comfort over all else, so if you’re looking for a budget catamaran to live in then take a look at the endeavourcat 30. Some people don’t like the boxy design, but we quite liked how it looked in the water. I guess it’s personal taste!

This sailboat has two double cabins, a decent sized galley and salon for the size of the boat, and a head. The bridge deck clearance is low so that’s something to bear in mind before you buy, but the headroom is good (another reason why this would make a good liveaboard catamaran).

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration when searching for small catamarans for cruising, and helped you to find your dream boat!

We’re passionate about helping people live this incredible cruising lifestyle, so if you’re planning your dream liveaboard life make sure you check out our guide on how to run away to sea, with everything you could possibly need to know before, during, and after starting this adventure of a lifetime!

small ocean cruiser sailboat

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Such small mention of probably the best catamaran for overall cruising, focusing on ease of helming, speed and livability. Simple rig, great ergonomic features, style and definitely a pedigree on the water. The FP Mahe duo! Sea proven. Most delivered on their own bottoms from France. Wide beams and light. Beautiful interior arrangements and easy to maintain. I’m confused about so little mention of probably the best entry level and beyond real cruiser out there.

You forgot the edelcat 35. Great boats, and have circumnavigated!

I wonder why Broadblue 346 is not on the list.

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  • Search Search Hi! We’re Emily, Adam and Tiny Cat, liveaboard sailors travelling the world on our 38ft sailboat and writing about it as we go. We hope we can inspire you to live the life you’ve always dreamed, whether that’s exploring the world or living a more simple way of life in a tiny home. Find out more. Patreon
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My Cruiser Life Magazine

What Is a Pocket Cruiser Sailboat? – Best Small Boats Under 30 feet 2022

If you want to go on a daysail this week, a week-long vacation over the holidays, and then sail to the Caribbean next year, a pocket cruiser might be the boat for you. Pocket cruisers provide big-boat features with all of the comforts of home but in a small package. Go the distance in a small, easy-to-handle, budget-friendly yacht.

Table of Contents

What is a pocket cruiser sailboat, what makes a great pocket cruiser, budget-friendly pocket cruiser sailboats.

  • Functionality 
  • Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20 

Falmouth Cutter 22

  • Pacific Seacraft Dana 24 

Cape Dory 25D

Contessa 26.

  • Morris Frances 26 

Albin Vega 27

Sail away in a pocket cruiser.

pocket cruiser sailboat

Different articles and authorities list different requirements for pocket cruisers. In any case, a pocket cruiser is small, capable, and suitable for the cruising couple who puts a focus on simplicity. A pocket cruiser is a tiny cruising sailboat that can take you out for the weekend or a season. 

In many ways, the pocket cruiser is to sailboats what the tiny house is to home-ownership. It has all the same parts as a regular-sized house, but everything is smaller and requires a different mindset to enjoy.

For this article, I’m choosing to define a pocket cruiser as a boat with these features.

  • Under 30 feet
  • Seaworthy, ocean-going vessel
  • Sleeping accommodations
  • Enclosed Head / Toliet facilities

A pocket cruiser should look salty and ready to take on the world’s oceans. The best pocket cruiser sailboats look like they would be home in a postcard sent from the Caribbean, South Pacific, or wherever the boat took her crew. Often these salty sailboats were inspired by hardworking historical vessels and modernized. 

Pocket cruisers often feature opening bronze windows, opening hatches, and teak trim. Lyle Hess designs like the Falmouth Cutter and Nor’Sea 27 have beautiful nautical details. However, some pocket cruisers are more stripped down and focused on speed and easy maintenance. 

Pocket cruisers should have all the necessities for cruising life. These necessities include comfortable sleeping accommodations for at least two people, a functional galley, and a head.

Pocket cruisers should be at home daysailing or blue water sailing.

Is a Pocket Crusier Right for You?

If you are just getting started in cruising, a pocket cruiser can give you a taste of the good life. These smaller boats are affordable, functional, and just plain fun to sail.

The best small cruising sailboat designs are budget-friendly and can fit in a less expensive slip. The purchase price on an older 25-foot boat is likely much less than a comparably maintained but much bigger boat. Everything about a smaller boat is less expensive. For example, replacing an engine or rigging will be more affordable. In addition, the smaller size and fewer complexities make it more likely you can handle maintenance and projects yourself. 

Maintenance on a boat becomes exponentially more challenging and expensive the longer the boat gets. If your pocket cruiser needs to have its portlights re-bedded, you might be able to tackle that project right away and complete it in the weekend. If a cruising boat twice the size needed the same attention, the project might stretch out for weeks. 

Many marinas have a waitlist for slips that can accommodate full-size cruising boats with deeper draft requirements. But those same marinas often have a few slips for smaller boats with shallow drafts. These “less appealing” slips are often available without a waitlist and at attractive prices. 

Instead of saving for years to afford a larger cruising boat , you might be able to afford a smaller cruising boat sooner and start having fun right away.


Pocket cruisers are small and delightful, and you’ll want to take your boat out for daysails, weekends away, or long-term cruises. Bigger boats are harder to maneuver in small marina fairways. Bigger cruising boats often don’t leave the slip for a daysail because it seems like too much trouble. However, if you have a small boat, you’re more likely to take her out for the day. This functionality and usability mean you’ll use and enjoy your boat more.

Pocket cruisers are easy to provision and take out for longer jaunts too. Because pocket cruisers have all the comforts of home, there’s no reason you can’t take your micro cruiser long distances. A pocket cruiser is like a Swiss Army Knife or a Tardis. like the perfect sailing knife . It can do anything and take you anywhere.

Best Small Boats Under 30 feet

The biggest requirement for a pocket cruiser is its small size. While cruising boats are getting bigger and bigger, these pocket cruisers retain their charm and functionality. Boats under 30 feet might not suit those who travel with an entourage or need a walk-in closet. However, they are just the ticket for those seeking a simple life on the open water.

Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20

At 20 feet, the Pacific Seacraft Flicka is the smallest bluewater sailboat on our list. This boat is built solidly and has crossed the world’s oceans. The first Flicka’s were home-built from plans, and Pacific Seacraft built the later models. Pacific Seacraft built their Flickas with fiberglass. The mast can be easily removed for trailering. 

The Flicka is 24 feet long overall, has an 18-foot-long waterline, and a three-foot, three-inch draft. Most Flicka’s have a nine-horsepower Yanmar diesel inboard. 

The Flicka features a v-berth forward, a settee opposite the functional galley, and a head. 

As a small, heavy displacement boat, the Flicka isn’t a racer. She usually cruises between four and five knots but can go six knots in the right conditions. Some sailors report the boat pitches and can have a lot of onboard motion in challenging conditions. 

The Flicka is an attractive boat that fits all the attributes cruisers look for in a pocket sailboat. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Marco Coda (@carpediemsailtraining)

The Falmouth Cutter 22 is so small it could be considered in the micro cruiser sailboats category. This yacht is built to go anywhere, and you’ll want to go everywhere in it. It looks like a traditional sailboat and would be perfectly at home in a period-piece movie. 

While the Falmouth Cutter has traditional looks, the boat’s hull is fiberglass. This construction lends modern strength and durability to the boat’s classic looks. The Falmouth Cutter was designed by Lyle Hess, famous for designing small bluewater boats. Lyle Hess designed the 22-foot boat Seraffyn for Lin and Larry Pardy. These legendary sailors and authors Lin and Larry Pardy sailed around the world in the 1970s. Lin and Larry’s book  Cruising in Seraffyn made Lyle Hess’ pocket sailboat designs immensely popular. 

small ocean cruiser sailboat

  • Used Book in Good Condition

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

The Falmouth Cutter was inspired by traditional working sailboats operating in the challenging waters around Falmouth, Cornwall in England. These cutters had to be small, fast, and carry large loads as they worked the challenging shores.

The forward cabin features a double berth, a hanging locker, and a head. The galley is aft with a two-burner stove, sink, and icebox. The aft area also houses a chart table. The saloon has two settees. Some owners install an outboard engine to free up interior space used by the standard inboard engine. 

The Falmouth Cutter was first built in 1980. It’s 22 feet long on deck with a 20.5-foot waterline. The length overall is 30.5 feet when you include the impressive bowsprit. It has a three-and-a-half-foot draft. Most come with a seven-horsepower Yanmar diesel inboard. 

The Falmouth Cutter offers a comfortable ride. They are beloved by their owners, and few are on the market at any one time. Used Falmouth Cutters are pricey when compared to other 22-foot sailboats. However, if you want to be the most popular small seaworthy boat in the anchorage, these pocket cruisers are worth the price. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by VanBerkum Sail Co (@vbsailco)

Pacific Seacraft Dana 24

The Pacific Seacraft Dana 24 was designed by Bill Crealock. The boat debuted in 1984, and over 200 Dana’s have been built since then. The Dana is 27’3″ long overall, 24′ 2″ on deck, and has a waterline length of 21′ 5″. This sturdy boat has an eight-foot, seven-inch beam and over six feet of standing headroom in the cabin. 

The Dana has a v-berth forward, an inviting salon, an efficient galley, and a private head. The floor plan is open, and the interior feels spacious. The interior features rich teak panels for a cozy feel. 

Bill Crealock designed boats that were “ designed to deliver crews to their destinations in comfort, good shape, and refreshed .” While Crealock designed dozens of the world’s best cruising sailboats, the Dana is one of his best pocket cruiser sailboat designs. 

The Dana is cutter rigged and can sail at speeds up to six-and-a-half knots in the right conditions. The Dana 24 is a beautiful example of a pocket cruiser built to go bluewater sailing in comfort and style. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Seabear (@dana24_seabear)

The Cape Dory 25 is a daysailer and weekender boat designed by George Stadel. The Cape Dory 25D is one of the best pocket cruiser sailboats designed by Carl Alberg. 

The Cape Dory 25D features a large head in the forward area instead of a v-berth. The salon is comfortable and spacious and features a 5’11” headroom. Each salon settee can be used as a berth, or the cushions can be arranged to make a large double berth. A quarter berth rounds out the sleeping accommodations. The galley is small but functional. 

The Cape Dory 25D has excellent ventilation with opening brass ports and overhead hatches. 

The Cape Dory 25D is 25 feet long, and has an eight-foot beam, a 19-foot waterline length, and a three-and-a-half-foot draft. It has an inboard Yanmar seven-and-a-half horsepower engine. 

The Cape Dory 25D is popular with Carl Alberg fans looking for small cruising sailboats. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by ⛵️ S/V Delilah ⛵️ (@sailingdelilah)

The Contessa 26 is another small boat that’s famous for its offshore capability. Tania Aebi circumnavigated in a Contessa 26 and described her experiences in her book, Maiden Voyage.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

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The Contessa 26 was designed by Jeremy Rodgers and David Salder in the 1960s. Around 650 Contessa 26 sailboats are cruising today. In 1984, the boat became known as the J.J. Taylor 26, but most people stick with the Contessa 26 moniker regardless of the production date.

The Contessa 26 is 25.5 feet long with a 21-foot waterline. It has a seven-foot, six-inch beam and a four-foot draft. The Contessa 26 has a six-and-a-half or seven horsepower inboard engine. The Contessa 26 was hand-built using fiberglass and known to be strong and sturdy. 

The Contessa 26 has three interior layout options. Each layout features v-berth sleeping accommodations, a head, galley, chart table, and salon seating. The interior is small but safe. The cockpit is suited for offshore work. 

The Contessa is easy to single-hand and is popular with cruisers looking for a bluewater sailboat in a small package. 

View this post on Instagram A post shared by B E N S A X T O N 🇬🇧OLY (@saxton_ben)

Morris Frances 26

The Morris Frances 26 is a beautiful pocket cruiser, perfect for taking the family on a day sail or cruising long-term. Like all Morris yachts, the Frances was designed by legendary designer Chuck Paine. 

Chuck Paine wanted to design a boat “ capable of yearly cruises to and among the Caribbean islands, small enough to fit my limited budget, but large enough to survive a gale at sea. ” This description perfectly describes the best qualities of pocket cruisers. 

The Morris Frances 26 is 26 feet overall, with a 21.25-foot waterline length. She has an eight-foot, four-inch beam and a three-foot, 10-inch draft. The Frances 26 was built in America by Morris Yachts. The Frances 26 was built by Victoria Marine in England, later called Victoria Yachts. The Frances 26 had a flush deck, while later Victoria 26 versions had a larger coachroof and greater interior space. 

The Frances 26 has accommodations for four. It is usually Bermuda rigged as a cutter or sloop.

The Nor’Sea 27 is another Lyle Hess-designed boat. This rugged cruiser has completed at least four circumnavigations and hundreds of ocean crossings. About 450 Nor’Sea 27 sailboats have been built. The Nor’Sea is a trailerable sailboat, making it possible to move the boat to new cruising areas without sailing the whole way.

The Nor’Sea 27 was originally built in 1977 by Heritage Marine. The company was sold and renamed Nor’Sea. The 27 ft long boat has an eight-foot beam and a three-foot, ten-inch draft. The length overall increases to 31 feet when you include the bowsprit.

The Nor’Sea is available in two layouts. Buyers can choose between the popular center cockpit boat with an aft cabin or an aft cockpit with a convertible dinette. In the popular aft cabin model, there’s a forward dinette, a small galley, a private head, and an aft cabin with two berths. 

The Nor’Sea 27 is hand-laid and molded-in lapstrakes giving this small yacht a traditional look. If you can’t get enough of Lyle Hess-designed small cruising boats, check out the Bristol Channel Cutter 28. 

The Albin Vega 27 is a well-known ocean voyager. Over 3,000 Vegas were built, and several have circumnavigated. John Neal sailed his Vega from Seattle to the South Pacific and wrote about the voyage in Log of Mahina .

small ocean cruiser sailboat

The Albin Vega 27 is 27 feet long, with a 23-foot waterline, eight-foot beam, and three-foot, ten-inch draft. Vegas is equipped with 10 or 13-horsepower diesel inboard engines. 

The Albin Vega 27 features a v-berth, head, and salon with two single bunks. The galley is located over the companionway steps. The interior is small but seaworthy and will suit a couple or a small family. 

The Albin Vega 27 is an affordable cruising boat that can cross oceans while keeping its crew safe and comfortable.

Albin Vega 27 Boat Sails into the Record Books

Jarle Andhoy sailed a Vega to the Arctic and shared his voyage on Norweigan TV. Matt Rutherford circumnavigated the Americas in a Vega and created a documentary film, Red Dot on the Ocean , about his solo voyage.  

During his cruise, Rutherford earned several Guinness World Records.

Pocket cruisers are so appealing — you’ll want to sail away in one. The good news is, that these boats were built to do just that. 

In the words of several famous sailors– go simple and go now .

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

Great review of pocket cruisers, Matt! It’d be cool if factories produced a few of these today. Cheers.

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Home » Blog » Travel » Small sailboat, small budget, BIG adventure

Small sailboat, small budget, BIG adventure

By Author Guest Post

Posted on Last updated: December 4, 2021

small cruising sailboat

“I’m a twenty-year-old sailor, but I would identify as an old salt.” says Cooper VonAchen. Cooper is preparing to sail from California to Mexico and the South Pacific, but he’s gone about it differently: namely without a big boat, fancy electronics, complicated systems, or even a marine head! “I preach simplicity and truly voyaging under sail… not your diesel.” Today, he shares how he equipped his small sailboat with old technology so he could afford to go cruising while he’s young.

The ultimate “Go small, go simple, go now” cruising philosophy

People tell me there are all kinds of things I “must-have” in order to go cruising: an electronic chart plotter, autopilot, etc.… But when I hear people launching into this ever-growing list of items, I find myself thinking, “That would be nice, but I want to go now.”

Being only twenty years old, I haven’t had a lot of time to work and save for the ideal cruising machine, “Go small!” people told me. However, I quickly discovered that “small” doesn’t always mean affordable.  For example, a Dana 24 is an amazing small cruising sailboat, but you would be hard pressed to find one for under 30K.  A 28 ft. Bristol Channel cutter can easily cost upwards of 100K dollars!  How about one of the handful of small bluewater boats that fall into the category of “Go small, go simple, go now,” but cost an outstanding amount of money?  How does someone young and broke afford one of these “small” sailboats?  You can’t.

My solution was to go small in size and price. That may sound like complete idiocy; everyone would love to find a sweet little boat and pay next to nothing for it. I bought my Canadian Sailcraft 27, a rugged, wide-beamed, seaworthy design (and the cutest boat you’ll ever see in an anchorage or marina) for 8,000 dollars.  I would say that is next to nothing for a small cruising sailboat.  All of her standing rigging is brand new, she has a lightly used Yanmar diesel, there isn’t any delamination or water in the decks, and she came with a full set of sails, including a brand-new mainsail.  You can’t ask for much more than that for $8,000.  But this took constant searching and looking for a boat that was in my price range and wasn’t complete junk.

Looking for a cheap sailboat? Check-out How to find cheap boats for sale on Craigslist  and the best places to look for used boats.

This wasn’t a one-off however. There are numerous small sailboats out there that aren’t considered to be bluewater cruisers that can easily get the job done. The Newport 30 MKII is a great small sailboat that has made several pacific crossings to and from California and Hawaii.  If it can do that, then why not take it farther.  You would be surprised what some of these “coastal cruising” boats are capable of.  People have taken homemade rafts across the Pacific for crying out loud. You can take a small sailboat with stainless rigging and a fiberglass hull and do the same thing, with great comfort and safety.

Now, the second part of the famous Pardey saying is “go simple.” Simplicity is key my friends. Simple works and doesn’t break easily. Simple will allow you to get to a destination and enjoy it rather than “fixing your yacht in paradise”.  Go simple on the electronics.  Do you really need a wind indicator, a knot meter, and electronic chart plotter, a big screen GPS, an expensive and power-hungry autopilot?  No, you don’t.  You actually don’t need any of these things to enjoy cruising.  What you do need is good sails, a sound hull, a handheld GPS, plenty of water and food storage, a good anchor with plenty of chain, paper charts, a reliable dinghy, and a means of self-steering. A simple list. Many go small, but few go simple.

Editor’s note: Lin and Larry Pardey have written dozens of books on cruising including this classic “Cost Conscious Cruiser”  with tons of great cost-saving tips.

Think about trying to fix your marine head in an isolated island chain.  How do you fix the absolutely disgusting problem of a malfunctioning head and blocked holding tank system?  Believe me, I know how bad this can be… and you don’t want to know.  I’m not saying rip out your head and holding tank and make a composting bucket head like I did, but just think about other examples.  What if your water pump breaks in your galley and you can’t get water out of the sink without siphoning it out of the holding tank? Why not just install manual pumps in your galley and head to eliminate the issue from ever arising?  I know this can be a pain, pumping away just to get water out of your faucet, but time not wasted on fixing your boat is time spent enjoying the places you worked so hard to be.

Now I don’t need to go into detail on exactly how I outfitted my small cruising sailboat, less electrical more manual systems, because you can just apply this ideology into your own outfitting process. In any place where you can eliminate complexity and cost, do so.

Self-steering is a tricky subject. It is very hard not to spend large amounts of money on self-steering gear. Whether it be an electric autopilot, or a wind vane, you are going to spend money on self-steering. Unless you are as crazy as me and just can’t wait until you have the funds to purchase such a device. I went with the sheet-to-tiller method of self-steering. Now you experienced Yachtsman are going to turn your nose up at such an outrageous choice of self-steering gear as there are only a handful of people crazy enough to use this method to steer their boat across oceans. If you do not know what sheet to tiller is, you effectively use the tension in your sails to apply negative feedback into your boat, more or less keeping it on course without anyone touching the helm. This method is wonderful for one reason alone, it cost roughly 100 dollars for a system that can keep your boat on course.  Now there are many downsides to such a decision. First, this system only works with a tiller, not a wheel. Second, any time that the power or direction of the wind changes, you are adjusting the self-steering gear. So effectively you have to adjust your boat every hour or so to keep it on course.  That means if you are single handed, you only really have an hour at a time to sleep at night during a crossing or an overnight sail.  t forces you to sail your boat more, which if you enjoy sailing, is not such a bad thing.

Many cruisers would also like to talk about dinghy choice, hard or inflatable?  Outboard or rowing?  But what do you think I chose?  I chose a hard dinghy that can row well.  Cheap Outboard motors break down constantly and good luck finding parts in remote atolls. Oars don’t stop working.  A hard dinghy can take a beating and continue to float and get you and your crew to shore.  Inflatables spring leaks and need to be patched all the time.  UV radiation can deteriorate the fabric of inflatables causing you to replace your tender every couple of years.  That does not fit into my philosophy of simplicity.

Editor’s note: We used a rigid Costco Kayak as our tender for our entire 8 month Pacific Crossing. Inexpensive and indestructible!

I think you can extrapolate the rest my outfitting process just from my self-steering choice alone… minimal. I only chose exactly what I will need, not what I want, or what will make life as easy as possible, but what will give me the most time to enjoy cruising. Because if you are working on your boat or working to pay for it in the first place, you will never truly enjoy what the cruising life has to offer because all of your time is being eaten away by what many would consider vital necessities.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Follow Cooper’s story on his blog  https:// theadventuresofcaptaincooper.  and Instagram @cooper_vonachen

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  • Cruising News

Pocket Cruisers That Sail Far

It is not the size of your boat that matters, it is the size of your dreams  (published June 2018)

Today’s cruising fleet is made up of boats that are much larger than they were only just a decade ago. There is a lot to be said for the comfort and speed of larger cruising boats. And with all of the modern sailing gear and electronics available to us, big boats are much easier to handle than they used to be. But they are also much more complicated and thus more prone to need maintenance and repairs than small, simpler boats of yore.

Small boat cruising now includes boats up to about 35 feet and it is worth noting that some of the largest builders of production sailboats have very few models in the 35 and under category that could be considered a boat you could live aboard. Smaller weekending boats and daysailers are more common in their range.

POCKET CRUISERS The term “pocket cruiser” was coined a generation ago to identify the many small but capable cruisers that were launched at the beginning of the fiberglass age of boat building. Boats like the Pearson Triton, Tartan 27 and Catalina 30 were all considered perfectly suitable boats for a family to cruise for a week or an entire summer.

The early fiberglass pocket cruisers were often designs based on hull shapes that had evolved from the days of wood construction so they had long overhangs, attached rudders and narrow beams. They were cramped and tended to heel over hard in a blow. If the leeward rail went under, you knew it was time to reef.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Today’s boats are designed to sail fairly upright and use beam and even chines to provide a lot of initial stability. Sailing flat is more comfortable for everyone onboard and is faster than pushing the boat too hard and burying the rail. It means the boats can be sailed efficiently without heavy crew on the rail which means a couple can still get great performance without having to bring the whole neighborhood along. Plus, because the deigns are quite light, you end of reefing early and often, which takes the sweat out of managing your pocket cruiser when the breeze picks up. Some companies will even offer in-mast furling on their smaller boats, and that simplifies sailing even more.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Catalina’s 315, built in Florida, is an American classic among the fleet of pocket cruiser. Light and powered with an ample rig, the boat sails very well and is a real pleasure to handle. Catalina continues to build “American Style” into their boats so you will find solid joinery below decks and a lot of traditional features that set them apart from the fleet. Details like solid wood doors and louvers on cabinets turn the little 31-footer into a properly fitted out yacht.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Seaward Yachts are also built in Florida and are part of the Island Packet company with was recently bought by Darrell and Leslie Allen. The Seaward 26 and 32 are unique boats with swing keels and kick-up rudders. The boats were designed in Florida for the shallows of Florida’s west coast and the Bahamas across the Gulf Stream and in those waters they are ideal. But, the designs have also proven popular in the Chesapeake Bay, Southern New England and the Great Lakes. The 26 is a roomy little weekender while the 32 is a cruising boat that can be your home for long cruises.

Germany has become a world leader in production boat building in the last decade and three companies–Hanse, Bavaria and Dehler–have small cruisers that are modern pocket cruisers. The Dehler 29 is one of the most popular racer-cruisers in Europe with large well-established fleets that get together to both race and cruise. The Dehler brand is not that well known in North America but the boats and the builder behind them are first class.

Hanse has quietly but steadily built a market for their boats in North America that now accounts for a significant slice of new boat sales. The Hanse 315 is a perfect little cruiser that is fast, easy to sail, roomy and affordable. It even has twin wheels. Hanse is a high volume builder but they do not skimp on materials, hardware and the quality of the workmanship.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

The Tartan 101 and 115 started life under the C&C brand, which is also owned by Tartan. When the company decided to split off the C&C brand, they renamed and re-engineered the two designs to meet traditional Tartan style and construction. Both boats are fast racer-cruisers that have done well in fleets all around America. But, they are also great little cruising boats that will be the right combination of qualities for couples or family who want the best of both worlds.

NOTABLE SMALL BOAT VOYAGES Since the early days of yachts there have been many great adventures and cruises in pocket cruisers so it is fair to say that it is not the size of your boat that matters, it is the size of your dreams. Here are some of my favorites.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Also in the 50s, Englishman John Guzzwell succumbed to the call of the sea. With a modest budget, he built a 21-foot Laurent Giles design that he named  Trekka  and in this little boat he set off from his home in British Columbia around the world. In 1959, after many adventures and several years, he returned to B.C. as the youngest solo circumnavigator in the smallest vessel to sail around the world.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

Also in the Seventies, Yves Gelinas set off on his Alberg 30, Jean-du-Sud , from St. Malo in France with the intention of sailing non-stop around the world via the five great southern Capes. While he had to make a stop to repair his mast, he finished his circumnavigation in Canada having sailed 28,000 miles alone. Gelinas is the inventor of the elegant and simple Cape Horn self-steering windvane and his prototype steered his boat around the world in all conditions.

In the Eighties, young Tanya Aebi convinced her father that instead of attending university she would get a much better education if she sailed solo around the world. Her father agreed and took the tuition money he had saved and bought her a 26 foot fiberglass Folkboat design named  Varuna . Learning as she went, Tanya spent two years cruising around the world in the classic tradewind route via Panama and Suez. She returned to her home port in New York City to a hero’s welcome and her book,  Maiden Voyage, remains a best seller 30 years later.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

More recently, in 2011 and 2012, young Matt Rutherford sailed a borrowed, 27-foot Albin Vega sloop north from his home in Maryland to the Northwest Passage. His mission was to complete a non-stop circumnavigation of the America via the NW Passage and Cape Horn. The grueling and arduous adventures took him 10 months yet he prevailed. And along the way he raised $130,000 for a local Maryland charity.

small ocean cruiser sailboat

He is currently, at age 75, sailing a Moore 24 racing boat around the world and has thus far got to Australia. It is his hope, he writes, to complete his sixth solo circumnavigation before he leaves this planet.

Author: Blue Water Sailing

The 18 best small cruise ships sailing the world

Heidi Sarna

In a world where gigantic megaships draw all the attention, I've always found small ships to be the best.

I've sailed on more than 125 cruise ships of all sizes, but my favorites have never been the big "floating resorts."

I'm drawn to the intimacy and instant community that develops between a small number of passengers and crew cruising together. I enjoy the serenity of small-ship cruising, with no lines to wait in or crowds to contend with on board.

I also gravitate to the off-beat itineraries small ships offer because they focus on unusual and remote places that only small vessels can access.

Who needs the bustling Caribbean when you can explore Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean; lesser-known Greek Islands like Skopelos and Skiathos; French Polynesia; or the Galapagos Islands?

For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

People often ask me which are the best small ship cruises, and that question is difficult to answer.

The new high-tech expedition ships, outfitted with the latest hardware and design touches, are incredibly appealing. However, I also adore certain older small ships for their heritage and atmosphere.

Of course, the best small ship for you may depend on where you wish to sail and whether you're looking for a relaxing yacht-like experience or a rugged adventure.

If you're like me and find that bigger isn't always better, this list is for you. Here are 18 of the world's best ocean-going small cruise ships, both older and new. Each carries fewer than 400 passengers and all are ideal for your next intimately sized travel adventure.

Lindblad Expeditions: National Geographic Resolution and National Geographic Endurance

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 128 passengers. Best for: Gadget-loving adventurers.

Lindblad Expeditions has been a leader in small-ship expedition cruising since 1966 when company founder Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered expeditions to Antarctica, Easter Island and the Galapagos.

Today, the line's fleet of small ships explores nearly the entire planet, always with an impressive lineup of experts and photographers along for the ride.

Lindblad's newest 128-passenger ships, National Geographic Resolution (2021) and National Geographic Endurance (2020), were built for hard-core exploration in the polar regions they call home.

They sport a striking X-bow design (an inverted ship bow design for fuel efficiency), a polar class rating of PC 5 Category A (a notch above most Antarctica cruise ships), and a dynamic positioning system that keeps the ships hovering quietly in place.

Passengers can utilize each ship's fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks and stash of snowshoes and cross-country skis that aid in exploration.

High-tech toys, such as a remotely operated vehicle and underwater video camera, hydrophone, remote-controlled aerial camera and video microscope, allow guests to view footage of undersea life wherever the ships may be.

The ships also feature a gym, yoga studio, spa, ocean-view saunas, library and two dining venues. On deck, two infinity hot tubs offer amazing views.

All cabins are outward-facing (and 12 are single cabins, a rarity) with an "expedition command center" that includes a tablet, multiple electrical and USB outlets, a TV, a barometer and a National Geographic Atlas.

Cruise fare covers wine and spirits, excursions and excursion gear.

Related: These are the best Antarctica cruise ships

SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream I and II

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 112 passengers. Best for: Yacht enthusiasts seeking the sun.

SeaDream Yacht Club 's 40-year-old ships may not be new, but they're still some of the prettiest classic luxury yachts afloat. Suites don't have balconies. However, they're spacious, recently refurbished, and feature wood details that evoke a classic nautical feel.

What the ships lack in modern touches, they make up for in experience and service. The food is excellent and served both on the romantic outdoor decks and inside the cozy restaurant.

The line's iconic weekly beach barbecue on a remote stretch of sand, complete with Champagne and caviar in the surf, is a cruise highlight on all itineraries. An open bar contributes to the social atmosphere on board, and watersports from a stern marina when conditions are right are a great perk for active travelers.

The SeaDream twins winter in the Caribbean and summer in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Related: Why it's easier to meet new people on a smaller cruise ship

Sea Cloud Cruises: Sea Cloud I

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 64 passengers. Best for: History buffs and sailing ship lovers.

The one-of-a-kind, four-masted Sea Cloud was originally commissioned as a private luxury yacht by multi-millionaire Wall Street titan E. F. Hutton in 1931. Hutton's extravagant heiress and businesswoman wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post, oversaw the ship's interior design, outfitting it in marble, mahogany and gold-plated fixtures.

After passing through various owners, Sea Cloud I has spent the last several decades offering casually elegant windjammer cruises to old-ship lovers from Europe and North America.

Passengers choose from 10 original cabins, including Post's own suite with its Louis XIV–style bed and nightstands, marble fireplace and bathroom, chandeliers and intricate moldings.

Sea Cloud winters in the Caribbean and summers in Mediterranean, visiting the Greek Islands, Italy and the Canary Islands.

Related: Big vs small cruise ships: Which will I like better?

UnCruise Adventures: Wilderness Legacy

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 90 passengers. Best for: Sporty cruisers who love quirky ships.

Constructed in 1983, UnCruise Adventures ' Wilderness Legacy is truly a one-of-a-kind quirky ship. Its throw-back style exterior harkens back to a 20th-century steamboat.

The ship attracts a loyal fan base thanks to its roomy size and cabins that open onto covered promenade decks (rather than a central interior corridor). It even features a hot tub on deck and an elevator, a rarity on older small adventure ships like this.

The portable, custom-made "sea dragon" platform at the stern makes for easy access to kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming, activities popular with UnCruise's sporty fans. The adventurous can also enjoy hiking, bushwhacking and cycling in some ports.

Fares include everything from wine, beer and spirits to daily excursions.

The largest ship in the UnCruise fleet and built for coastal cruising, Wilderness Legacy spends its time in Alaska's Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park, as well as on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Related: The best Alaska cruises for every type of traveler

Star Clippers: Royal Clipper

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 227 passengers. Best for: Sailing enthusiasts with a penchant for the past.

Star Clippers' handsome five-masted tall ship Royal Clipper is considered the largest square rigger in service. Modeled after the great 1902 German clipper Preussen, the ship is a real throwback, with lots of wood and brass features and nautical-style elements.

Royal Clipper also has impressive modern niceties for a ship of its size, including three small pools and an aft marina for easy access to complimentary water sports. It also offers a small gym and spa.

In the winter, Royal Clipper island hops around the Caribbean, sailing round trip from Barbados to some of the lesser-known islands. During the summer, it cruises the Mediterranean along the French and Italian rivieras and explores the coast of Croatia and the Canary Islands.

Windstar Cruises: Wind Star and Wind Spirit

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 148 passengers. Best for: Romantics and foodies.

Windstar Cruises ' 148-passenger four-masted motorized yachts are beloved for their upscale yet casual sailing vibe and great food in partnership with the James Beard Foundation.

Standing on deck when the sails are unfurled is one of the more romantic moments you'll likely experience on any ship.

The expansive wooden sun decks on Wind Star and Wind Spirit make you want to be on topside as much as possible to enjoy the yachting life. Each has multiple dining options, both indoor and on deck, including a weekly barbecue on deck under the stars.

Both have a stern marina for easy access to water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding.

The cozy cabins aren't huge, but they are well-appointed with wood details and nautical flair. Suites are a combination of two cabins.

Windstar offers both cruise-only and all-inclusive fares. You can build an a la carte vacation or pay upfront for an easy trip that includes an open bar, unlimited Wi-Fi and included crew gratuities.

Wind Spirit is stationed in the islands of French Polynesia, sailing year-round out of Tahiti through February 2024. Wind Star is its globe-trotting sister, focusing mostly on the Greek Islands in the summer and Costa Rica and Panama in the winter.

Related: The 2 classes of Windstar ships, explained

Ponant: L'Austral

small ocean cruiser sailboat

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 264 passengers (200 in Antarctica). Best for: Chic Francophile foodies.

Ponant has been busy launching six new ships in its impressive Explorers series. However, L'Austral (with sister ships Le Boreal, Le Soleal and Le Lyrial) is my favorite ship in the fleet.

Why? L'Austral is the ideal size for a small ship — intimate but still large enough for amenities such as a gym, spa and show lounge.

Its gorgeous tiered stern decks feature a lovely outdoor pool area at the back of Deck 6 with a perfect stretch of deck for sunbathing and scenery watching and an open-air bar above for stunning views.

With Ponant's French pedigree, it's not surprising that food is a cut above, especially the desserts, cheeses and wine. I had the best chocolate mousse of my life on L'Austral. Dine outdoors on the pool deck or in the elegant indoor restaurant. Enhance your evening with complimentary wine (mostly French), Charles Heidsieck Champagne, beer and spirits.

L'Austral explores both polar regions and spends time in the Mediterranean, cruising along the coast of Croatia and around the smaller, less touristy Greek Islands like Amorgos, Milos and Delos.

Emerald Cruises: Emerald Azzurra

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­100 passengers. Best for: Travelers seeking intimate luxury.

Emerald Cruises' new Emerald Azzurra (and soon-to-debut sister Emerald Sakara) is one of the smallest luxury cruise ships afloat and a good choice for travelers who want something more intimate than what Silversea or Seabourn offer.

The ship's six gleaming white-tiered decks sport a futuristic pyramid-like profile that turns heads when it arrives in port.

Emerald Azzurra features a watersports platform at the stern for convenient access to kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and riding SEABOBs (electric underwater scooter-like jet skis). Inside, you can avail of a small gym and spa.

Choose from open-air and indoor dining for your meals. Wine and spirits are included, so take advantage of two impressive outdoor spots for a drink and stunning views — the Sky Bar at the top of the ship and the chic infinity pool at the stern of Deck 3, adjacent to a lounge and cafe.

Itineraries focus on the Mediterranean during the summer, with mostly one- to two-week cruises that call on ports along the coasts of Croatia, Albania, Italy, France, Turkey and the Greek Islands. It spends the winters in the Caribbean.

Explore these destinations in depth with included excursions.

Scenic Cruises: Scenic Eclipse

small ocean cruiser sailboat

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 228 passengers (200 in polar regions). Best for: Design fans with wanderlust.

An impressively kitted-out expedition ship, Scenic Eclipse has an ice-strengthened hull with a C6 rating suited for polar cruising, including navigating the Northwest Passage. High-tech features include a GPS dynamic positioning system to maintain a location without dropping anchor.

The Australia-based line's debut into ocean cruising had Scenic Eclipse drawing attention with impressive additions like a pair of six-passenger helicopters and a five-passenger submarine (both offered at an additional cost), as well as kayaks, zodiacs and e-bikes. (Sister Scenic Eclipse II is set to debut soon.)

The ship's sleek angled silhouette makes for a handsome profile. The eye-catching interior is sophisticated, with a stark black, gray and beige color palette, lovely wood details, white Carrara marble surfaces and bold art.

Passengers can enjoy a relatively large spa and fitness area, plus multiple dining venues, including Asian, Japanese, French and Continental restaurants. Wine and spirits are included in the fare.

While small luxury ships typically have fancy owners' suites, the pair of top accommodations on Scenic Eclipse is on another level. Each measures over 2,000 square feet with a huge forward-facing teak-lined terrace, complete with a large whirlpool tub.

Scenic Eclipse cruises to nearly every corner of the world, including French Polynesia and the Pacific Islands, Australia, the Indonesian archipelago and Antarctica. The cruise fare includes excursions.

Related: These cruises cost $30,000 and have no set itinerary. Here's what to expect

Silversea Cruises: Silver Endeavour

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­200 passengers. Best for: Intrepid travelers who demand the utmost luxury.

Silversea Cruises is a pro at luxury small-ship cruising — the line has been at it for more than 30 years. With Silver Endeavour, it achieves the perfect mix of ultra-luxury surroundings with tough-as-nails expedition hardware for its focus on polar cruising.

On board, many rooms are veranda suites measuring 356 square feet (including a private balcony), all with marble baths. The largest Grand and Owner's suites are massive multi-room affairs with huge private verandas. The passenger-to-crew ratio is one-to-one; service is excellent.

For dining, there are four main restaurants, including an Italian and a French-inspired venue. The Grill is an eatery enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass for the best views in the house.

There's an impressive spa, salon and gym with panoramic ocean views and several lounges for drinks (always included) and lectures.

Near the well-stocked library is the Expedition Study, where the 20-member expedition team is accessible for questions. Outdoor deck space includes the forward-facing bow area with an outdoor hot tub.

With its PC6 ice-class rating, Silver Endeavour spends November through April in Antarctica and the rest of the year in the Arctic, including Greenland, Arctic Canada, Iceland and Norway. Excursions are always complimentary.

Related: The best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity

Seabourn: Seabourn Venture

small ocean cruiser sailboat

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 264 passengers. Best for: Travelers with high standards for luxury and special itineraries.

Seabourn 's new Seabourn Venture (and upcoming sister Seabourn Pursuit) are on par with Silver Endeavour and Scenic Eclipse when it comes to pairing top-of-the-line luxury and pampering with incredible itineraries.

Elegant interiors include a main restaurant, several lounges and bars where drinks are all included, a plush lecture hall, a cafe for coffee and snacks, and spacious balcony suites that start from 355 square feet (including the balcony).

The windowed fitness center and spa area includes an ocean-view sauna and the infinity pool at the back of Deck 5 boasts killer views.

Not just a pretty ship, Seabourn Venture is tough, built to PC6 Polar Class standards for a focus on expedition cruising in the polar regions. The ship carries two submarines, as well as a fleet of double sea kayaks and 24 Zodiacs that can accommodate all guests at once.

Seabourn's large expedition team leads daily complimentary excursions, such as Zodiac sightseeing tours, shore walks, hikes, snorkeling and kayak outings. Also, accomplished guest lecturers give onboard talks.

Like Silver Endeavour, Seabourn Venture will spend the year in the polar regions, with long repositioning cruises in between, such as a 51-day Antarctica, Atlantic and Northwest Africa voyage from Buenos Aires to Malaga, Spain.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Seabourn cruise ship

Atlas Ocean Voyages: World Navigator

small ocean cruiser sailboat

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 196 passengers. Best for: Travelers craving luxury and lots of open deck space.

World Navigator is a deluxe expedition ship sporting a 1B Ice Class-certified hull and the latest technologies, such as a GPS-based dynamic position system to minimize movement and noise.

Multiple dining options include the main restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the ship's wake and a steakhouse on the Lido Deck. For cocktails, head to either of two piano bars, the Dome Observation Lounge or the Atlas Lounge, just outside the lecture theatre.

The Atlas Ocean Voyages ship has terrific outdoor spots for remarkable views (not hogged by a helipad or stern and aft suite balconies), including a close-to-the-water spot on Deck 5 forward and a "secret" arc of deck on Deck 6 aft.

You can also take in the scenery from the ship's shallow pool and two adjacent hot tubs.

Don't miss the spa, even if you don't book a massage. It features an appealing seating area facing the sea and an ocean-view sauna. Walkers and joggers keep fit on the top-of-ship track.

World Navigator's itineraries focus on the polar regions, but the ship visits Europe and the Canary Islands while repositioning.

Landings and Zodiac safaris are included on Antarctica cruises, but excursions are not included on other itineraries. All non-polar cruises offered from April through October are called Epicurean Expeditions (with one complimentary wine- or food-focused experience per cruise).

American Queen Voyages: Ocean Victory

small ocean cruiser sailboat

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 186 passengers. Best for: In-depth Alaska cruises for nature lovers.

Newcomer Ocean Victory is large for a small cruise ship, which allows it to offer more on its Alaska expeditions.

Its sizable expedition team, which can number 18 on select voyages, comprises seasoned authorities in a wide range of fields, such as geology, whale communications and photography. Team members lead complimentary excursions on sea kayaks and 18 Zodiacs so passengers can experience glaciers, icebergs and wildlife up close.

In place of an observation bow with direct views of the water, as many similar ships offer, Victory has a pair of viewing platforms on each side of the ship, thanks to its distinctive X-bow design. These platforms are cantilevered directly over the water for great views of bergy bits and potential marine life.

The American Queen Voyages ship offers three dining venues, plus multiple bars and lounges (drinks are included in your fare).

Like any good expedition ship, Ocean Victory has one lounge dedicated to lectures with large flat screens to view presentations. You'll find an ocean-view fitness center, a small spa and an outdoor pool with two hot tubs.

Ocean Victory's 11- and 12-night Alaska cruises depart between May and September. The ship sails between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sitka, Alaska. It visits destinations such as Frederick Sound, Endicott Arm, Tracy Arm, the Waterfall Coast (Gut Bay), Misty Fjords National Monument and Fiordland (Kynoch Inlet) in Canada's Inside Passage.

Your fare includes a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay.

In winter, Ocean Victory sails in Antarctica for Albatros Expeditions.

Related: Looking for nature and adventure on an Alaska cruise? Choose a smaller ship

Swan Hellenic: SH Vega

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 152 passengers. Best for: Cruisers looking for unique itineraries including Africa and South America.

Swan Hellenic's compact, well-laid-out SH Vega is built for expedition cruising with a PC5 ice-strengthened hull.

The interior has a contemporary, Scandinavian-inspired low-key design ethos. SH Vega is nearly identical to its younger sister, Minerva. The third, slightly larger sibling Diana is set to debut in May.

When returning from a frigid Antarctica excursion, you will appreciate the fireplaces (yes, that's right) built into the walls of all cabins. They're electric but quite realistic, with flames and crackling sounds.

When the weather's good, skip the main restaurant and eat at the buffet, which is set up at the back of Deck 7, adjacent to the attractive (and heated) infinity swimming pool. Vega also has a small gym and a spa with an ocean-view sauna.

The expansive Observation Lounge takes up most of Deck 7 and is the spot for expedition lectures. Thirteen Zodiacs and eight kayaks take guests on water adventures and ashore.

Don't miss the little observation point called the Swan's Nest all the way forward on Deck 6. You play out your Jack and Rose fantasies there.

SH Vega cruises the Arctic region (visiting Greenland, Iceland and northern Canada), South America, the coast of Africa (including South Africa, Namibia and Angola) and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Cruise fare includes a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay and one excursion in each port.

Viking Cruises: Viking Octantis

small ocean cruiser sailboat

How small? 378 passengers. Best for: Expedition cruisers with an academic bent.

Among the larger ships on our list, Viking 's new 378-passenger Viking Octantis (along with sister Viking Polaris) was designed to explore the polar regions with some pretty cool features, including a large two-level garage called the Hangar.

Inside are not only Zodiacs and kayaks but a pair of six-passenger submarines and military-grade speed used to shuttle cruisers on excursions.

The ship is equipped for scientific inquiry with a remote-controlled underwater robot, baited underwater camera and a FerryBox system for collecting water samples, which you can view under a microscope in the ship's science lab. Weather balloons are released on every cruise to capture info on temperature, humidity and wind speed.

For decidedly less academic pursuits, Viking Octantis has a fitness center and a spa that includes a lovely indoor pool with sea views, plus a sauna, snow grotto (with snowflakes descending gently from the ceiling through chilled air) and outdoor spa tub.

Four dining options include Manfredi's Italian and several attractive lounges, such as the windowed Aula auditorium for lectures.

Viking Octantis spends part of the year in Antarctica and the rest of the year cruising the Great Lakes and Canada, with a handful of repositioning cruises in between.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

  • The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
  • 15 ways cruisers waste money
  • The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin


5 Best Cruising Sailboats In 2024

Best Cruising Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

January 2, 2024

The appeal of owning a cruising sailboat is one that deep down almost everyone shares.

Even someone who has no intention of ever sailing can see the appeal of owning such a vessel.

So much of the appeal is tied into the possibilities , the sense of wonder that owning such a boat bestows on its owner.

‍ Whether you are making a voyage from one coast of the United States to the other or plan to make your way around the globe, a decent cruising sailboat is a must. Not all sailboats are built to withstand the high seas and high winds of the open water.

Sure, they may do well enough when hugging the coastline, but sailing far and away over the horizon is a completely different animal.

This article will help you know what to look for in a cruising sailboat and which specific boats you should look into buying. There are hundreds of great options on the market, these 5 are just some of the best.

Table of contents

What are cruising sailboats?

Cruising sailboats are ones that are designed to be used over long distances.

They are bigger, stronger, and far more stable.

If you imagine a typical small sailboat such as a wayfarer you are looking at a pretty solid boat.

Good quality, great for beginners, very safe, very affordable.

But, it is simply not going to cut it out at sea for long.

People have used the wayfarer to sail from the United Kingdom to Norway.

But, people have also done that in a kayak.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should or that you would even want to if given the opportunity.

A cruising boat is meant to be liveable for long periods between making land.

Typically, cruising just means a multi-day trip.

In reality, it can be far longer.

Reid Stowe once sailed his self built 70-foot schooner for over three and a half years.

This is an extreme example, no one lives on their boat that long, but it gives you an idea of the possibilities.

To be able to spend so much time on a boat requires that it be of an adequate size to accommodate everything you would need.

If a sailboat is capable of housing you for a few days, technically it can be classed as a cruising sailboat .

Typically, cruising sailboats can reach speeds of ten knots.

This is needed to be able to make it from one point of land to another before supplies run out.

This is not a technical requirement to be “classed” as a cruising sailboat, just a practical one.

What makes a sailboat good for traveling long distances?

While, yes, a sailboat capable of traveling for multiple days without making land could be classed as a cruising sailboat. There are some criteria that it needs to hit to be considered a good choice. Your sailboat needs to not only be capable of making the journey but doing it safely. Here are some important things to consider when deciding if a sailboat would be suitable for cruising:

A boat that is not going to be stable is not ideal for cruising. When sailing for multiple days chances are you are going to crossing through rough seas and dangerous waters. If you don’t have a boat that can stand up to these conditions you are going to be in trouble. A good way of assessing stability is width and hull type. If a boat has a very wide, or multiple, hulls you can assume it is going to be quite stable.

The bigger the boat the better, not only for stability but for comfort. If you are going to be essentially trapped on your boat for several days it is a good idea to have as much room to move about as possible. Both in the cabin and on the deck. If you are stuck inside because of bad weather for several days every extra square foot you have is going to be a blessing. Size matters to when you consider how many people you can bring on your voyage. They don’t just require their sleeping quarters/bunk they need space to move around.

Strength matters. A strong hull will help you withstand even the roughest conditions. Some boats are built with metal reinforcing on their hulls, some aren’t. If given the choice, you would do well to choose the former. Strength doesn’t just mean material but the overall build of the boat. If a boat doesn’t have a strong mast, the sail is more likely to come down. A sailboat without a mast or sail is much more likely to capsize.

Being able to travel long distances is not only limited by the strength or sturdiness of the boat but how much storage it has. If you plan to be sailing for 7 days you will need 7 days worth of supplies. If a boat doesn’t have the storage to accommodate this, you won’t be able to make the journey. Just because a boat is larger doesn’t mean it will have more storage room.


More than anything, what makes a sailboat suitable for cruising is having an experienced skipper. There is a big difference between sailing for multiple days and multiple hours. Make sure you are capable of making the voyage before you think about whether your boat can.

What do people find so appealing about sailing long distances?

There is such a romantic notion of being able to sail wherever you please, whenever you please. Being able to make long voyages is so much more exciting than shorter ones. The chance to cruise from country to country is such an exciting opportunity that few people in the modern era have. Sailing from country to country used to be the only way to get around. Now, everyone uses planes. Sailing brings people back to their ancestral roots in a way no other form of transport does. There may not be new lands to discover on behalf of our countries, but there are new lands to discover for ourselves. Reading about, hearing about, or watching documentaries on places is not the same as exploring them for yourself by sea.

The sense of adventure and discovery is like nothing else. Who doesn’t dream of making the journey around the world? Most people will never do it, but the dream is still there. Most of all though, long-distance cruising is exciting . The adrenaline from making the dangerous trip through open sees is truly exhilarating. Whether you are racing or cruising along at your own pace, there is always a sense of danger when out at sea. Some people love it, they crave it, but it isn’t for everyone.

Is sailing long distances dangerous?

Sailing long distances may be romantic, it may be exciting, it may be freeing, but it is also one of the most dangerous things you can do. When you are out of contact with the rest of the world, out at sea beyond the help of those onshore, the potential for danger is huge. You don’t know what will happen, you don’t know what could go wrong. No matter how experienced, how skilled, or how brave you are there is the potential for disaster. There are things you can do to improve the odds. Being a great sailor is one, making sure you have the best cruising sailboat possible is another. You don’t have to spend millions or even hundreds of thousands on getting a great sailboat. Some are far more affordable than you might expect.

What are the 5 best cruising sailboats?

There are so many fantastic sailboats out there that finding the right one might feel impossible. The choice is overwhelming, even with the above guide on what to look for in your boat there are still almost endless choices. Luckily, this article is here to help. This section will give you a good selection of cruising sailboats at various price points. Which one is best for you will likely depend on a mixture of preference and budget. While none of these boats are exactly cheap, they won’t break the bank like some of the other options on the market.

Prout Snowgoose 37


If you are looking for a reliable sailboat look no farther than the Prout Snowgoose 37. This large catamaran makes use of its double hulls for increased width and stability. It is easy to steer, handles well, and is pretty spacious. There are more roomy catamarans on the market but none are as strong as this one. It is built to be sailed long distances in rough conditions. Its fiberglass hull makes it light and nimble all while retaining its strength. It is a slightly older model, but one that will serve you well. It is British made so finding one in the States can be a little tricky. If you do find one though you would do well to jump at the chance to purchase it.

Price: Less than $100k


The Corbin 39 is a beautiful blue water sailboat. It is a very rare boat with a proud history. Only a handful of these boats were finished to completion in the factory, the majority were sold as kits and built by the boat’s owner. Because of this method of production, this model can vary drastically on the inside. The interiors are all expressions of their owner’s creativity, and craftsmanship. This means you may want to have a proper look around inside the boat before purchasing one. The outside, especially the hull, is likely to be the same from boat to boat as they were sold as a piece. If you don’t mind potentially having to remodel the interior this might be the boat for you. The Corbin 39 is a rather large boat, the deck is huge and is perfect for transporting multiple passengers. You may have to shell out some more cash for renovations but the boat itself is second to none.

Price: $80k

Tayana Vancouver 42


Finding one of these cruisers isn’t going to be too hard, as quite a few were made, but it is important to note they were made almost 40 years ago. Some models were made in the early 2000s, but not many. This double-ended hull cruiser is incredibly strong, it has a cast iron ballast and can withstand even the very worst weather conditions. This boat is strong, rugged, but not very quick. If you are looking for speed this is not the boat for you. The hull is fiberglass so you know you are getting a sturdy boat, but the trade-off from the iron ballast means this boat is heavy and slow to maneuver. This double sail cruiser costs anywhere from $80-$100 grand depending on how old the model you are looking at is. The older ones are a bit cheaper, at the expense of being a little worse for wear.


This 40-foot cruiser is a jack of all trades type of craft. If you are looking for a very solid middle of the pack choice this is the one for you. It does everything well but excels almost nowhere except in size. The Nordic 40 is very large for the price you are paying, so you are certainly getting your money worth here. This vessel is sturdy, strong, light and nimble. It is capable of moving very quickly and agilely through the water in a light breeze but is more than capable of resisting tougher conditions. If you are looking for a cruiser that is good for living on, not just sailing on, this could be the one for you. Its extra size means extra storage and living spaces. It has a great shower, huge fridge, plenty of counter space and decent sized sleeping quarters.

Pacific Sea Craft 34


If you are looking for the perfect cruiser for you and your significant other, the Pacific Sea Craft 34 is just what you are looking for. It has a solid fiberglass hull and is capable of reaching decent speeds. The 34 may be slightly smaller than some of the other options but it still has plenty of storage, six and a half feet of headroom, and is simply stunning to look at. This sailboat is incredibly well designed, its 13,500 pounds of displacement make it strong and sure in the water without losing its agility.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea about what to look for in a sailing cruise boat. There are so many great options on the market, the ones mentioned above are just a good starting point. If you take the time to find the right boat for you , you won’t regret it. Buying a cruising sailboat is a huge commitment, it is important to be sure of your choice before you make the purchase. Good luck with your hunt for the perfect cruiser!

Thinking of living on a sailboat? Read up on the 10 Best Sailboats To Live In.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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The Best New Small-Ship Cruises to Book in 2024

A uthentic. It was Merriam Webster's top searched word for 2023 and one that has dominated the travel vernacular in recent years. And while many would not necessarily associate the word with ocean cruising , the growth in popularity of small-ship cruises-particularly sailings with 500 guests or fewer-indicates that in the cruising world, passengers are seeking a more intimate, less crowded, and yes, arguably more authentic sailing experience.

Take expedition cruising , for example. As the number of adventure-focused ships and yachts has exploded in recent years, these cruises are no longer just about extreme voyages in polar regions. They are also about offering a deeper look into the culture, food, history, and environmental fragility of remote wonders of the world.

Although there isn't a huge number of new small ships being introduced, there are a few notable vessels that have either recently launched or are launching this year with a focus on the idea that smaller is not just better, but more sustainable, too. These new small-ship cruises bring with them some exciting and more immersive new itineraries to destinations both warm and wintry that have us ready to pack our bags and sail away.

Sea Cloud Cruises' "Sea Cloud Spirit"

  • Suggested itinerary: Reset your mind and body on an eight-night sailing through Spain's Canary Islands and on to Morocco on a special cruise featuring experts in restorative health. Pricing starts at $4,895 per person.

What's more authentic-and sustainable-than setting sail on a tall ship where the sails are hoisted up each day by hand? Although not technically new (it was launched in 2021), the 136-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit and its two sister ships, Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II , are upping their game in a push to introduce Sea Cloud Cruises' unique product to North American travelers. The German company has traditionally catered to German and British passengers. As part of its effort to expand its reach and appeal, Sea Cloud is adding wellness programs with daily onboard yoga and guest fitness gurus, in addition to special food- and wine-focused sailings with well-known chefs making appearances. Sea Cloud Spirit , the largest of the three-ship fleet with 69 cabins, was meticulously designed to pay homage to the original Sea Cloud , which was the world's largest private sailing yacht when Wall Street broker Edward Francis Hutton had it built in 1931 for his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post.

The Sea Cloud Spirit combines the experience of decades of traditional seamanship with the modern-day luxuries of a private yacht. Cabins range from 172-square-foot single cabins to 300-square-foot balcony suites with soaking tubs. There's a large fitness center and spa, which has a steam room, sauna, and thermal area for two; indoor and outdoor lounges; and a main dining area, plus a more casual bistro. The action, however, is out on deck, where passengers can stargaze at night or simply gaze in awe at the impressive sails blowing in the wind.

Atlas Ocean Voyages' "World Navigator"

  • Suggested itinerary: Go searching for Arctic wildlife on a 12-night cruise from Reykjavík, which sails along the eastern coast of Greenland and to Longyearbyen in the Svalbard archipelago, one of the world's northernmost inhabited areas and home to polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, and other Nordic wildlife. Pricing starts at $6,499 per person.

World Navigator , which sailed its maiden voyage in Antarctica this past November, is the third vessel to join the fleet of one of the newest players in small-ship expedition cruising, Atlas Ocean Voyages. The company's 100-cabin expedition yachts are almost identical and provide a hybrid of sorts between traditional expedition and luxury cruising. Cabins are spacious, almost all with balconies, desks, and seating areas. The bathrooms have glass-mosaic tiled showers with rain showerheads, wall jets, and even benches.

Everything on the ship-including the sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows-is designed to provide maximum views. The ships also have spacious pool decks with two hot tubs, a fitness center overlooking the sea, a spa, and water toys like kayaks and paddleboards. There's even extreme camping gear for those willing to brave an overnight under the stars in Antarctica. During North American winters, all three of Atlas's expedition yachts sail in Antarctica. With the addition of World Navigator , the company is launching more Arctic Circle cruises during the North American summers while also adding a host of new epicurean and cultural expeditions in South America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and northern Europe this year.

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's "Ilma"

  • Suggested itinerary: Spend a little extra time in port on a 10-day sailing from Barcelona to Lisbon, which has three overnight stays, in Palma de Mallorca and Malaga in Spain, and in Lisbon, Portugal, one of Europe's oldest cities. Pricing starts at $10,600 per person.

Another newcomer to luxury small-ship cruising is the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, which debuts its second ship, the Ilma , this year. With 224 suites, the ship is larger than the original Ritz-Carlton yacht, the 149-suite Evrima , which launched in October 2022. On the Ilma , all the suites will have private terraces, including a two-story suite with soaking tub; the coveted, 1,000-square-foot owner's suite has a private outdoor whirlpool. Even the smallest suites are not all that small, at 300 square feet, and come with a personal concierge and 24-hour room service. The yacht boasts what Ritz-Carlton says is the highest ratio of space per guest at sea.

And you can expect to find the same meticulous service standards that you would find at Ritz-Carlton resorts throughout the world as the line aims to impress hotel guests seeking a luxury hotel experience at sea. Onboard are five dining venues, including S.E.A., a European tasting experience designed by chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany; Talaat Nam, featuring Southeast Asian cuisine and a sushi bar; and Mistral, a casual come-as-you-are alfresco grill with a Mediterranean-inspired menu. Light bites are served at the marina at the aft of the ship, where you can also hop on a borrowed paddleboard. Oh, and did we mention there are two outdoor pools, too?

Book a terrace suite on the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection's newest vessel, Ilma , launching in 2024.

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Jail Cells? Morgues? Your Cruise Ship Has Some Surprises for You.

Here are five unexpected features on ships, some of which you hopefully won’t discover on your own.

A close-up photograph of three decks of a cruise ship's cabins, each of which has a balcony with a half wall of blue glass and two chairs.

By Ceylan Yeğinsu

Cruise ships have hidden features that many passengers, particularly first-timers, don’t know about. Some ships are as big as small cities, and while it’s relatively easy to familiarize yourself with a seemingly endless number of amenities — water parks, tattoo parlors, multiple restaurants — there is also an entire ecosystem, often below passenger decks, that is shrouded in mystery.

Here are five things that cruisers may not know about cruise ships:

There’s a morgue …

Cruise ships carry millions of passengers each year, and it is not uncommon for deaths to occur on board. Most vessels are required to have a morgue and additional body bags in the event of an emergency.

The morgue, usually a small stainless steel refrigerated room on the ship’s lowest deck, accommodates between two to 10 bodies, depending on the size of the vessel. When a passenger or crew member dies, officials on the ship will notify the authorities on shore and a medical team will assess the body and move it to the morgue, where it is kept until arrangements are made for repatriation. In most cases, the body will be removed at the next port of call, but sometimes will remain on board until the end of the voyage.

…and a jail

There are no police officers on cruise ships, but most vessels have small jails known as the brig, and unruly passengers could find themselves locked up if the ship’s security team determines that they have violated the cruise line’s code of conduct.

The brig, usually a bare-bones room with a bed and bathroom facilities, does not have iron bars like a traditional jail cell. It is used to detain guests who commit serious crimes like assault or possession of illegal substances. Drunk and disorderly passengers may be put under “cabin arrest,” meaning they cannot leave their cabin without a security escort.

Depending on the circumstances, most passengers put in the brig will stay there until they can be handed over to law enforcement officials.

Many ships don’t have a Deck 13

Many cruise ships do not have a Deck 13 because of the widespread superstition in Western culture that the number is unlucky. Ships with a Deck 13 typically use it for public areas, not cabins.

Some ships, like Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class vessels, have a Deck 13 because the vessels are used mainly for the company’s market in Asia, where the number is not considered unlucky. MSC ships also have a Deck 13, but not a Deck 17, because the cruise line’s founder is Italian and 17 is considered unlucky in Italy.

Cruise lines entertain other superstitions, like appointing godmothers to bless new vessels and ensure the safety of passengers and crew. They also hold naming ceremonies in which a bottle of champagne is smashed against the hull of a new ship for good luck. If the bottle fails to break, the vessel will, according to superstition, have bad luck. These days, cruise lines use mechanical devices to ensure that does not happen.

Hidden pools and facilities for the crew

There are typically more than 1,000 crew members on board large cruise ships, and while they spend most of their time serving passengers, there are several areas on the lower decks designated for them to unwind.

The facilities vary from ship to ship, but there are usually small pools in the ship’s bow exclusively for crew members, as well as restaurants, bars and recreational areas like game rooms and gyms. The designated bar, a central social hub for employees after they have finished their shifts, often hosts live music and events in the evening.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, has an entire “neighborhood” dedicated to its 2,300 crew members, with a clubhouse that has massage chairs and virtual balconies — large screens that show real-time views from outside — as well as a restaurant with portholes looking out to the ocean.

Most ships host A.A. meetings

With all-inclusive beverage packages and countless bars, cruise ships can be a tough environment for guests in recovery. Many cruise lines offer daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that are usually scheduled as “Friends of Bill W.,” a reference to William Wilson, who co-founded the A.A. program in 1935.

The meetings are usually held in a quiet place like the library, where guests can feel comfortable and maintain their anonymity. They are also open to other support group members, like Women for Sobriety and Narcotics Anonymous.

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

Ceylan Yeginsu is a travel reporter for The Times who frequently writes about the cruise industry and Europe, where she is based. More about Ceylan Yeğinsu

Come Sail Away

Love them or hate them, cruises can provide a unique perspective on travel..

 Icon of the Seas: Our reporter joined thousands of passengers on the inaugural sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas . The most surprising thing she found? Some actual peace and quiet .

Th ree-Year Cruise, Unraveled:  The Life at Sea cruise was supposed to be the ultimate bucket-list experience : 382 port calls over 1,095 days. Here’s why  those who signed up are seeking fraud charges  instead.

TikTok’s Favorite New ‘Reality Show’:  People on social media have turned the unwitting passengers of a nine-month world cruise  into  “cast members”  overnight.

Dipping Their Toes: Younger generations of travelers are venturing onto ships for the first time . Many are saving money.

Cult Cruisers: These devoted cruise fanatics, most of them retirees, have one main goal: to almost never touch dry land .

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So here we are, twenty eight years later, with more than 70,000 passengers that have traveled with us, some of them as many as 11 times over the years! We have survived wars, famines, bird flues, economic crises and Lord knows what else and yet, older but no wiser, we are still as passionate about our business as the day we started it! And with today’s mergers, acquisitions and big corporate and internet travel marketers, we are most proud of the fact that we are still an independent, family run operation whose customer satisfaction comes way before revenues and profit margins…and with your support, we hope to continue for many years to come!

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  6. Collecting marine debris with a small sailboat


  1. 5 best small sailboats for sailing around the world

    Vancouver 28. Photo credit: A sensible small boat with a "go-anywhere" attitude, this pocket cruiser was designed with ocean sailors in mind. One of the best cruising sailboats under 40 feet, the Vancouver 28 is great sailing in a small package. Hull Type:Full keel with transom hung rudder.

  2. What are the Best Small Bluewater Sailboats? Cruisers Top Picks

    The Pardeys are icons of small sailboat cruising. Having sailed over 200,000 nautical miles and circumnavigated both east and westbound on their home-built, engine-free, sub-30-feet cutters, they are among the most recognized sailors in the world. They're also known as "America's first couple of cruising.".

  3. Best Pocket Cruiser Sailboats, Small Cruising Sailboats

    What is a pocket cruiser? It's a small trailerable sailboat, typically under 30 feet in length, that's ideal for cruising big lakes, bays, coastal ocean waters, and occasionally bluewater cruising. Pocket cruisers are usually more affordable, compact, and offer a level of comfort that's comparable to bigger liveaboards.

  4. Go Small and Go Now! 5 Pocket Cruisers to Take you Anywhere

    As you can see in most of the examples above, a small cruising sailboat doesn't necessarily equate with a small purchase price. These are little boats for living large on a giant ocean. If you're hoping to spend time cruising or crossing a giant ocean but don't have the budget for one of these pocket cruisers, try these potential bluewater ...

  5. 11 Best Small Sailboat Brands: How to Choose Your Next Daysailer or

    The Best Sailboats Under 25 Feet. Pocket cruiser: Cornish Crabber 24. British manufacturer Cornish Crabber has been producing beautiful, traditional style small sailboats for decades, ensuring they honor their heritage both in the construction style and appearance of their boats. The Cornish Crabber 24 is the most iconic of their range and ...

  6. Best Small Cruising Sailboats

    613 sq ft. $150,000 - $200,000. 1. Catalina 22. cruisersacademy. If you're diving into the world of sailing with a keen eye on budget and size, the Catalina 22 checks many boxes. As a small cruiser that balances comfort, versatility, and affordability, it is considered a classic staple in the sailing community.

  7. The Ultimate Guide to Small Sailboats: Types & Tips

    Small Ocean Cruisers Adaptability. Ocean cruisers in a small size offer the best of both worlds—they are versatile enough for both coastal cruising and open-ocean voyages. These boats are like your all-terrain vehicles, capable yet compact. Pros and Cons. While adaptable, small ocean cruisers may lack some of the luxury or speed that larger ...

  8. Best Small Sailboats, Beginner and Trailerable Sailboats

    The boat is designed with positive flotation and offers good load-carrying capacity, which you could put to use if you added the available canvas work and camping tent. NorseBoats offers a smaller sibling, the 12.5, as well; both are available in kit form. $19,000, (902) 659-2790,

  9. The Best Beginner Sailboats for Ocean Cruising (under $25,000)

    Also, this boat was designed as a coastal cruiser and it shows. Not that it couldn't undertake a proper ocean passage, but purely practically speaking, for instance, its tanks are rather small, as the designers expected frequent refills. On that note - pleasure cruisers often favor the cockpit space, decreasing the under the dock space.

  10. Best Blue Water Sailboats Under 40 Feet

    The range of Swedish-built Hallberg-Rassy small blue water yachts is one of the most impressive of any manufacturer. Boasting four yachts under 40 feet, they put their nine decades of expertise into both center cockpit and aft cockpit ocean-going cruisers and have the awards to show for it. From the Hallberg-Rassy 340, which manages to pack ...

  11. 13 Best Small Catamarans For Cruising 2023

    With these downsides in mind, we've split this post into the best small catamarans for ocean sailing and the best for coastal cruising. Obviously this is a little subjective, as many people have sailed around the world in much smaller and less seaworthy vessels! The Best Small Catamarans For Ocean Cruising #1 Wharram Tiki.

  12. 10 Best Small Sailboats (Under 20 Feet)

    Catalina 16.5. jlodrummer. Catalina Yachts are synonymous with bigger boats but they have some great and smaller boats too such as Catalina 16.5. This is one of the best small sailboats that are ideal for family outings given that it has a big and roomy cockpit, as well as a large storage locker.

  13. What Is a Pocket Cruiser Sailboat?

    The Cape Dory 25 is a daysailer and weekender boat designed by George Stadel. The Cape Dory 25D is one of the best pocket cruiser sailboats designed by Carl Alberg. The Cape Dory 25D features a large head in the forward area instead of a v-berth. The salon is comfortable and spacious and features a 5'11" headroom.

  14. Small sailboat, small budget, BIG adventure

    For example, a Dana 24 is an amazing small cruising sailboat, but you would be hard pressed to find one for under 30K. A 28 ft. Bristol Channel cutter can easily cost upwards of 100K dollars! How about one of the handful of small bluewater boats that fall into the category of "Go small, go simple, go now," but cost an outstanding amount of ...

  15. Pocket Cruisers That Sail Far

    Today's pocket cruisers make the best use of fiberglass technology and offer much beamier and voluminous hull shapes with longer and thus faster waterlines. Boats like the Hanse 315, Beneteau 31, Jeanneau 349 or the Catalina 315 have the space inside of 40 footers from the old days. And the modern designs sail so much better, too.

  16. The 18 best small cruise ships sailing the world

    Windstar offers both cruise-only and all-inclusive fares. You can build an a la carte vacation or pay upfront for an easy trip that includes an open bar, unlimited Wi-Fi and included crew gratuities. Wind Spirit is stationed in the islands of French Polynesia, sailing year-round out of Tahiti through February 2024.

  17. 5 Best Cruising Sailboats In 2024

    The Corbin 39 is a beautiful blue water sailboat. It is a very rare boat with a proud history. Only a handful of these boats were finished to completion in the factory, the majority were sold as kits and built by the boat's owner. Because of this method of production, this model can vary drastically on the inside.

  18. Sail Cruiser boats for sale

    Cruiser sailing vessels pricing. Cruiser sailing vessels for sale on YachtWorld are offered at a range of prices from $9,553 on the more reasonably-priced side all the way up to $2,475,516 for the rare custom yachts.

  19. The Best New Small-Ship Cruises to Book in 2024

    And while many would not necessarily associate the word with ocean cruising, the growth in popularity of small-ship cruises-particularly sailings with 500 guests or fewer-indicates that in the ...

  20. Cruisers Sailboats for sale

    These sailboats have a minimum total sail area of 292 square feet, a maximum total sail area of 2,192 square feet and an average of 815 square feet. Boat Trader currently has 789 cruiser sailboats for sale, including 225 new vessels and 564 used and custom yachts listed by both private sellers and professional yacht brokers and boat dealerships ...

  21. Imperial Waterways of Russia

    Day 4: Cruising the Moscow Canal and Volga River - Uglich. ... which may be small but has extraordinary churches linked to the tsars. Choice of A visit to Saint Cyrill on the White Lake Monastery-OR- Goritsy "Village Day" Later, relax onboard as your ship cruises through the second-largest lake in Europe. Fed by 58 rivers, Lake Onega has 1,369 ...

  22. Ferretti Yachts 460 in Moscow & Moscow Region

    Technical data sheet of the second-hand Cruisers for sale. Second-hand Ferretti Yachts 460 with Volvo Penta D 9 6L engine, 14.35 m in length, and 4.34 m beam length. ... Boat not available. This boat has been sold or desactivated. Ferretti Yachts 460. Cruiser from the year 2008 - 14,35m length - in Moscow & Moscow Region (Russia)

  23. Moscow By Cruise Ship: NEW, Feature Video

    And yet on a Baltic cruise, 12 of us sailing on Silversea Cruises' Silver Whisper, spent a full day exploring Red Square, the Kremlin and other Moscow attractions. The shore excursion from St. Petersburg, where Whisper was docked, went for $999 per person, including the one-hour-plus flights to and from Moscow on a Boeing 737 (to) and Airbus ...

  24. Jail Cells? Morgues? Your Cruise Ship Has Some Surprises for You

    The morgue, usually a small stainless steel refrigerated room on the ship's lowest deck, accommodates between two to 10 bodies, depending on the size of the vessel.

  25. Value World Tours, Inc.

    Sure enough, the sailing along the mighty Volga departed in July of 1993 with 207 passengers on board. Boy, what a trip that was! First time cruisers…first western passengers aboard a Russian ship….crew that spoke no English…food that was limited to cabbage, boiled potatoes and cucumbers… a most memorable experience indeed!