Top 10 Favorite Affordable Bluewater Sailboats
As you peruse my list, you'll notice that they're all bluewater cruisers. You won't find any modern designs, fin keels, spade rudders, sugar scoop transoms, carbon fiber rigs, or plumb bows. What you will find are long keels, heavy displacements, tons of teak (Since I don't own them yet I don't have to varnish them!), many canoe sterns, and salty good looks. It's a shame that very few of today's manufacturers build a salty looking sailboat with true offshore abilitiy in a small, affordable package. Luckily I'm proud to be smitten by the treasures of a bygone era. As always, feel free to share your thoughts and your own list of favorites or others you think I should add to mine.
Top Ten Affordable Bluewater Cruisers (according to SailFarLiveFree.com)
10. CSY 33: With a production run of only 57 boats, it's not surprising that many people aren't familiar with CSY's smallest sailboat. Her swoopy sheerline and sharp bow beckon me. And just in case you thought all those new fancy deck saloon (DS) designs from the likes of Jeanneau were new and novel ideas, just remember that CSY built this little 33 footer way back in 1978.
9. Shannon 28: Walt Schulz, Shannon 28 designer and Shannon Yachts founder, has since moved on to bigger and more modern yachts like the Shannon 53HPS. But I think he did his finest work with the Shannon 28, just the second model ever offered from Shannon. She's the smallest boat on my list, but was just too seaworthy and beautiful to leave off the list. I love the reverse transom and transom-hung rudder. And have you seen Shannon's craftsmenship? Just in case you think 28 feet is too few to offer any choice in cabin layout, Shannon gave you three options with names that speak of this boat's purpose: Passagemaker Layout, Cruising Layout, Offshore Layout. I'll take mine in the Cruising Layout simply because I love the lounging space provided by the u-shaped settee.
|Shannon 28 s/v Peace, completing a single handed transatlantic crossing|
8. Valiant 32: How far into this list did you think you'd get without running into a Bob Perry designed boat? This one is like a mini-Valiant 40, which is one of the most well-known and proven offshore boats and a member of the American Sailboat Hall of Fame. Just like the 40, Perry designed the 32 to have classic looks you'd expect from a 1970's era world cruiser (canoe stern, etc.) but with a more modern underbody. She's got a long modified keel approaching the look of a fin keel with a skeg hung rudder. The Valiant 32 delivers vintage double-ender aesthetics without the sometimes sluggish sailing of a fullkeel.
7. Fuji 35: There's just something about a clipper bow and a ketch rig that magically transports my mind to the South Pacific. And if you're going to make the long sail to the South Pacific, you might as well be coddled in a gorgeously warm and wood filled cabin like that of the Fuji 35. The Fuji 35 was also available with a cutter rig, but it looks perfectly balanced to my eye with a mizzen mast.
|Welcome home (Fuji 35 cabin)|
6. Alajuela 38: At first glance and without knowing the length, it might be easy to confuse the Alajuela 38 with the Westsail 32. But I assure you, she's a different animal. She's really a closer cousin to the Ingrid 38, which I would have included if it weren't so similar. Have you ever seen a longer keel than that on the Alajuela 38? I bet she tracks like a freight train. And how about that massive rudder? This boat is the very definition of a "stout cruiser".
5. Tayana 37: The Tayana 37 is the second Perry-designed boat to make my list, and deservedly so as many far-flung anchorages around the globe have hosted a T37. This boat is in many ways Bob's answer to the Westsail 32 hysteria of the 1970's. While Bob Perry himself thought the ketch option added speed and balance, I like the look of the more common Tayana 37 cutter. There were a lot of these beauties produced (~650) so finding one with a price and configuration to your likely shouldn't be a problem. Heck, there's a even a pilothouse version for those who sail in cooler climates.
4. Pacific Seacraft Mariah 31: Here's another boat that seems to be a response to the Westsail 32. Pacific Seacraft (now under new ownership) still produces some very desirable bluewater cruisers today, but the Mariah (not to be confused w/ the newer PSC 31) is vastly different than her modern day siblings. Pacific Seacraft co-founder and Mariah designer Henry Morschadt put together what was known in the 1970's as "the most expensive boat of its size" but now ironically represents somewhat of a bluewater bargain. Even today the Mariah is still thought of as one of the best built, sturdiest bluewater boats around. This reputation is largely due to the 3 inch hull thickness at the bilge and 1 inch thickness above the waterline. If you've ever replaced a thru-hull fitting on your own boat, you'll understand that 3 inches of fiberglass is insanely thick. No one wants to run aground, but you couldn't find a boat better built to take a hit with her full keel, transom hung rudder, prop aperture, and that thick hull.
|A good look at Mariah 31's transom hung rudder|
3. Westsail 32: This boat is already legendary in this blog post, let alone to the cruising community. In 1973, Time Magazine ran a feature about the cruising life with accompanying photos of a Westsail 32 somewhere over the horizon. The Westsail Corporation smartly coined the phrase "Westsail the World" and the cruising boom was on. If you dreamed of remote palm-covered islands and had the gumption to act on your vision, the Westsail 32 was your ticket to paradise. The Westsail's design pedigree is strong with the likes of William Atkin taking credit for the hull's inspiration and William Crealock (of Pacific Seacraft fame) getting credit for the deck design and layout. This is the Lebron James of cruising sailboats: You either love the Westsail 32 or hate it. Many criticize it for being unnecessarily slow and heavy, mocking it with the "wet-snail 32" moniker. But I dare say Westsail fans far outnumber the critics. The 32's seakeeping abilities, strong construction, and reputation for safe passages is nearly unmatched. Remember the movie The Perfect Storm? If you recall, there's a brief mention in the movie of a true story about a sailboat that was caught in that perfect storm, yet somehow survived after being abandoned by her crew. That boat was the sailing vessel Satori, a tough little Westsail 32.
|The Westsail 32's full keel means business (photo by johantheghost)|
|My kind of math: Baba 30 + tanbark sails = boat porn|
1. Han Christian 33 Traditional: This is the way a boat should look; like it's ready to take on the world and be your steady dance partner even in the sloppiest of seas. Remember the almost perfect Baba 30 above? The Hans Christian 33 Traditional sails in and adds to all that I love about the Baba with the addition of a very family friendly and liveable cabin layout. The HC33t features what amounts to luxury accommodations for an affordable bluewater cruiser. The forward cabin features a head, sink and full stall shower in the forepeak. That's followed immediately by a pullman berth (perfect for moms and dads!). The salon is just as functional and well thought out. Dedicated nav station? Check. Dinette with seating for 5? Check. Functional and sea-safe galley? Check. Fully enclosed aft stateroom with sleeping for 2? Check. All of this is presented with typical Hans Christian curves carved from hardwoods. On the outside she looks like a massive ocean canoe or Viking ship with a snooty bow and squat stern. The massive bowsprit supports the headsail, leaving room on the bow for the staysail. And look at those shin-high bulwarks around the rail! The underbody is equally beautiful. It features a long full keel with a cut-away forefoot and a fully protected prop and rudder. I dream about this boat. This boat has literally appeared in my day and night dreams multiple times. And I'm pretty sure the latitude on the GPS read 0 in every one of them.
|So functional, so beautiful!|
|HC33t coming at you|
|HC33t sailing far, living free!|
Looking for more information on bluewater sailboats? Check out this guest post Bob Perry wrote for SailFarLiveFree.com to get his view on double-enders. And read about 50 years of cruising sailboat evolution by Ted Bewer here.
Also, see these related blog posts:
- Blue Water on a Budget: 5 Budget Cruisers for Crossing Oceans
- Go Small and Go Now: 5 Pocket Cruisers to Take you Anywhere
- A Proper StinkPot: Top 5 Pilothouse Motorsailers
Great post... Most of these boats are slow for their waterlines and, for me at least, speed is a factor in safe passagemaking due to the ability to avoid and dodge weather. I want the ability to easily make 7+ knots in all conditions. (I don't take this as a compromise to seakeeping.)ReplyDelete
One quirk of the HC33: The teak decks were fastened from the bottom up (e.g. through the deck) and the heads were then glassed over. (Not joking.) The tips of the screws pricking your feet is the first clue your decks need replacing. From my dock neighbors entire summer (3 full days per week) this is a truly massive problem to fix and delayed their cruising dream by a year.
timone - Great comments, thanks! I agree, there's a definate choice to make between speed and tank-like toughness. My personal preference for bluewater is a a heavy full keeler, though this may change with experience. Maybe I'm too wrapped up in the asthetics of these classic designs.Delete
Good tip on the HC33. I'm leary of teak decks on any boat due to maintenance issues and would prefer any of the above boats without teak decks.
You are on to something with these large dispacement boats. power or sail . they are the bestDelete
Semi-bunk. We sailed a Cal 40 all over the SoPac; not the ideal cruiser but certainly seaworthy. Most of our class of 2008 were fin keel, and some form of spade rudder. With the exception of the Valiant and the Tayana, most of these clunkers are better suited to the dock.Delete
Our family sailed the East Coast and Caribbean for two years and I loved our Lord Nelson's teak decks. The teak is first to dry after the morning dew. A small leak disappeared as it swelled in the warm humid tropical weather.Delete
To me to "dodge weather" when you are in the mid of an ocean has little meaning, unless you have a really fast boast like those racers who do the Volvo ocean race. If you are short handed a slow boat will give you a better chance to rest during a storm, which is paramount for safety, while the fast one will wear you out.Delete
A massive...and very expensive problem to fix.Delete
Even ocean racers get caught at sea in bad weather and more the a few have capsized and demasted. No sail boat can outrun the weather. Even motor yachts with huge Diesel engines that can motor at 20-30knots get caught at seas in bad weather. And many times sailing away from shore and weathering the storm at sea is safer then trying to enter a harbor once the blow is there. Many inlets are risky when the current and winds create breaking waves that can swamp a small craft or force it on to the rocky shore attempting to enter. There are times going further away from shore is safer then attempting entry into the harbor. Having a boat that will ride out a storm safely is worth losing a few knots on passage.Delete
Great list! Not sure the HC33 meets your $50k criteria though. I have yet to see it under $75k in decent condition.ReplyDelete
Hahn - True enough, finding a HC33t for $50k is a difficult proposition. But the boat is s so beautiful and so well made that I had to include it, even if finding a good one may mean spending $25k more.Delete
Yes the Baba 30 would fit the Boat Porn listing ! I'll tell my wife that's what I'm doing as I sit with blurry vision @ 2am ! Looking at Porn !!ReplyDelete
Agreed, the Baba 30 is really beauty. The canoe stern is perfectly in proportion with the rest of the boat and makes for a really sweet profile.Delete
Our good friend has a HC33 and we have a W32. Its amazing how close they are in sailing ability. I think the W32 tracks a tad better and the HC33 is just a hint more nimble, but they are very close in our limited experience.ReplyDelete
We really love the HC33's pullman berth in the center of the boat but at the same time we don't enjoy the forward head nor do we like the table layout on the HC33 which requires a lot of people to get up if the person furthest in the booth needs to get out.
Its a toss up between the HC33 and W32 about interior layout overall. We love the little quarter berth "room" in the HC33 but at the same time you sacrifice a lot of space in the engine room. The W32 gives you a lot better access to the motor. If push came to shove, I'd take the HC33's extra berth instead of the berth in the center of the W32 factory layout.
The cockpits are very close in size (read:small). The HC33 has a rounded cabin top that makes sitting on the edges of it more of a pain, but the W32 requires drop boards or water will run into the cockpit.
The W32 does win in price competition though. No comparison there.
Just wanted to add some thoughts to your post.
Great comments, thanks for sharing Tate. It's always good to hear from someone who has hands-on, side-by-side comparison experience. I agree the forward head on the HC33 isn't ideal, but I do like that it has a stall shower. If price isn't an issue, maybe the real way to decide between the W32 and the HC33 is the size of the crew. The W32 might be the choice for 2, while the HC33 might be better for 3-4 based on having two private sleeping quarters.Delete
Downeaster 32' is a clear contender here, and also wins as most beautiful ;-D and very stable.ReplyDelete
Also possibly the largest interior per length? Great head room.
Agreed, the Downeaster is a real looker and a lot of boat for 32 feet, particularly given their value pricing on the used market.Delete
I owned a Downeast32. Roomy yes,slow?, yes! Very slow. Had 7 people on her for an overnighter. Storage everywhere. Lots of rear deck space.Delete
I wouldn't say the Downeaster 32 is merely a contender, but possibly an outright winner in the category of "Affordable Bluewater Sailboats",.. ,much more so in fact than 10 boats mentioned in this article,.. at least from the prices I've seen. I honestly don't understand why something like HC33 even gets a mention,.. beautiful? definitely!!!,.. but affordable??!!,, hmm,. not so much.Delete
Fair enough. I included the HC33 because it's one of my all time favorites and the definition of "affordable" is subjective. As I've defined it here, ~$50k. Yes, that's a stretch for the HC33, but I've seen a few approaching that price point. As for the DE32, she's a capable beauty too.Delete
No mention of the Nor'Sea 27.... Should be on the list for sure. :)ReplyDelete
I didn't include the Nor'Sea 27 here, but it is in my list of favorite pocket cruisers to take you anywhere.Delete
Hello, I appropriate your reviews. Our family own CSY-33. Now a day, sailing is a completely new sport for me and I wasn't sure what to expect but I've definitely got the bug.ReplyDelete
thanks all, @Nadia Brightman :)
Glad to hear you're enjoying your CSY 33!Delete
My wife is 5'9" and I 6'3". Which of these wonderful boats would have sufficient headroom and a nice sleeping double for a couple like us?ReplyDelete
This is a great post. I just restored a little Hunter 25 and plan to sell it to get something bigger. It's nice to dream!ReplyDelete
I second the comment about the Downeaster. I love double enders and clipper bows. How about a Bayfield!
Thanks Dan. I like Bayfields (and other Ted Gozzard designs) too, but they're outside my top 10. Thanks for reading.Delete
Bluewater Offshore Cruising SailboatReplyDelete
New French-built cruiser with a distinctly American look.
Here’s an interesting design from Group Finot for Beneteau. I find interesting the fact that this design is not especially “Euro” in its styling. In fact, it’s sort of American looking and good looking too. So, let’s examine this profile in detail.
The transom is traditionally raked as opposed to reversed. This eliminates the standard swim step we see so often. But Beneteau has countered this with a drop-down platform that extends about a foot beyond the transom. This platform is raised and lowered by block and tackle. A sliding flush-deck hatch covers the steps when they are not in use. This is an elaborate and very well thought out transom detail that will allow you to bring your dinghy up next to the boat without threatening the gelcoat on the transom edge.
This traditionally raked transom really drives the look of this boat. It certainly affects the character of the sheer. I would have liked to see a bolder sweep to this sheer, but it’s fine as is. Note how the tip of the transom is at the waterline. This, combined with the short bow overhang, produces a long sailing length. I think the designers have done a good job of blending the deck structures with the hull.
The D/L of this design is 183. L/B is 3.38, making this a moderately beamy boat on the lighter side of medium displacement if we choose 200 to be the middle of current D/Ls for cruising boats. The keel is a bulbed fin giving 5 feet, 11 inches of draft. Note the deep forefoot on this design and the straight line to the canoe body profile. All in all this is a handsome and moderate hull.
The interior shows a two-head, two-stateroom layout with the galley in the passageway to the aft cabin. The galley is spread out fore and aft, but it looks to me like there is still plenty of working room. The aft cabin has a large double berth and symmetrically arranged lockers and settees. Why settees? Well, they look good and occupy volume that is not much good for anything else due to the shape of the hull.
There is a head with shower stall adjoining the aft cabin. The saloon has a dinette, which to my eye looks on the minimal side. I suppose you could seat four for dinner if you had to, but it would be a tight squeeze. The forward stateroom has a double berth with the toe end cut away to make room for the forward head. I’m not sure how this berth would work for a couple. Obviously, the biggest advantage to center-cockpit boats is the separation of the sleeping accommodations. There is space below the cockpit for the engine room.
Putting the cockpit in the middle of the boat allows the designer to place the mainsheet traveler at the end of the boom and place the traveler where it will not interfere with the cockpit layout. This rig is well forward and shows swept spreaders with forward lower shrouds. Unfortunately, the sailplan we have is not carefully drafted so it doesn’t do much for the look of the boat. The photos also show a staysail. This is a very nice looking boat.
The windshield is fixed and, while obtrusive in the drawing, looks just fine in the photos. I’m not too keen on the wheel position. It is a bulkhead-mounted wheel offset to starboard, much like we see on cruising catamarans. This means you will sit in one position at the wheel without the benefit of being able to turn 90 degrees or change sides.
This wheel arrangement does free up the rest of the cockpit and puts the helmsman securely under the dodger. A teak-capped bulwark adds a rich look to the deck.
Beneteau’s boats always deserve a close look. The company obviously puts a lot of market research into its new models. In this case the company has given us a well-designed boat with some unusual features. This is one boat I’ll definitely board Beneteau Wave Rider 42CC at Annapolis.
I wonder if the keel will stay attachedDelete
I've saled from the Med to Australia on my own Beneteau Oceanis 42cc and plan to continue the circumnavigation via cape Town to the Caribbean in April 2015. We love our Bene layout... Fun to sail . The center cockpit is Ideal. The aft deck spacious and the aft cabin just wonderful. A huge engine room accommodates all our gear.water maker. Genset. Tools....Delete
Hey, I think a strong case could be made for Bayfield 32 cutters, beautiful boats and pretty bullet proof as well. speed is a bit of an issue! great post!ReplyDelete
I single-handed a Bruce Roberts 31 (schooner-rigged) across the Atlantic and back . I was 70 yrs.old, the boat did the work. Also, list the Dreadnought 32 (Tahiti ketch in heavy fg).ReplyDelete
I'm intrigued by many of the Roberts designs and metal boats in general, but I don't have any experience with either. The Dreadnought is another really cool and unique double-ender with a lot of character...often available for a bargain price. Thanks for sharing.Delete
Yeah how about some feedback on the Alberg's. They seem worthy & affordable too. Please respond, thx. LReplyDelete
My first true-love in sailboats was the Pearson Triton 28, of course designed by Carl Alberg. As my experience and taste evolved, I began to prefer canoe sterns and slightly more modern designs. The biggest fault I can find with Alberg designs is that many seem to have very narrow beams, making them tight for family cruising. The narrow beams can also contribute to a tender boat. However, Alberg did a fine job of making his designs very sexy with swoopy sheerlines and long overhangs. The Triton, 35 and 37 are all capable and proven offshore boats.Delete
The HC33 shown, Sabbatical. is for sale @ $95,000. Ouch.ReplyDelete
Agreed, that's a steep price. I've seen 2 33t's that needed a little TLC sell near $50k. In general, the HC 33t probably has the highest average price of any in my list, but its' such a sweet ride!Delete
You forgot the Allied Seawind 32 for $25,000ReplyDelete
Good call! The Seawind II (32') is but one of several Gillmer designs worthy of any "best affordable bluewater cruisers" list. Others include the Southern Cross 28/31/35, Weatherly 32, Aries 32 and Roughwater 32. Perhaps it's time I write a sequel to this post to include the many good recommendations from the comments. Note - I did include the Southern Cross 28 in my post called "Bluewater on a Budget: 5 Budget Cruisers for Crossing Oceans."Delete
there is one you may have over looked! tanzer 10.5 pilot house! not the fastest but with it's swing keel it is a fun wide nice sailing boat!! and great for the island'sReplyDelete
I like the Tanzer 10.5, but is she bluewater capable? Definitely a unique look, in a good way. And Tanzer has a good reputation for affordable quality and decent sailing performance.Delete
This is almost the identical boat to a Southerly 10.5 which has made many ocean crossings. Definitely bluewater capable. I own hull # 11 built in 1983 and she has sailed completely around the world spending a lot of time in the South Pacific. She has a righting angle of 140 degrees with the lifting keel up. The hull to deck joint is glassed over on the inside during production resulting in a absolutely solid boat with no joint leaks. The amount of storage is phenomenal for those long passages. I have had her out in 50 knots with no issues. The self tending jib makes single handing easy, and with the keel down to 6.5 feet she handles well.Delete
Could an old Irwin 37 MK I be upgraded so she can be blue water capable?ReplyDelete
I suppose anything COULD be upgraded to bluewater capable, but at what cost? The I37 is known for it's roominess and affordability, but not necessarily offshore capability or robust construction. Irwin's can be fine boats (I owned one for 5 years), but they would not be my choice for bluewater. If you're simply considering passage from Florida to the Bahamas, or some island hopping in the Caribbean, then there are plenty of Irwin's with that under their belt, but an ocean crossing or a run to Bermuda in an I37 should be carefully considered. For more info and specifics about the I37, try Jack Horner's review here: http://www.boatus.com/boatreviews/sail/Irwin37.aspDelete
What about the Irwin 42 Ketch? Is it what you would consider blue water worthy?Delete
What, no mention of the Bill Garden designed Fast Passage 39?ReplyDelete
Love the Fast Passage 39 and Garden's original s/v Bolero! Thanks for the addition.Delete
Aah there I am trying hard to decide which one to choose........except I couldn't afford even a model version! So I content myself by saying that at nearly 60 and with no experience wòrth talking about I'm way to old to start now. Youtube and some of the wonderful sailing videos help a bit!ReplyDelete
Tashiba 31 is heavy duty double ender good for ocean crossings don't you think? I like the cutaway forefoot.ReplyDelete
One of Bob Perry's personal favorite designs, or at least he thinks highly of it. It's also one of his last full keel designs. “I think the Tashiba 31 and 36 mark the best boats I ever designed with modified full keels. The boats were fast, close-winded, stiff, and well balanced. I constantly got calls from owners telling me how they had “beat” a local contemporary design.” (from Yacht Design According to Perry).Delete
Why no mention of the Cabo Rico 34?ReplyDelete
James - The Cabo Rico 34 is certainly worthy of this list. In fact, so is the Tiburon 36, the first boat built by Cabo Rico and perhaps a bit more affordable than the 34. The Tiburon is a Crealock design and eventually became the CR 38. Thanks for the addition!Delete
Another good boat is the Gulf 32. Solid build, good tankage, though at this age the 75 gal fuel tank needs serious inspection. William Garden feels it is one of his finest, safest designs!ReplyDelete
A boat that is not so well known in European and N.American circles is the Oswald Berckemeyer designed Miura 32.Built strong to cope with South African waters it has been said (though I am not sure how true) that more circumnavigations have been carried out in Miura's than any other class of boat.I owned a Corrida which is the 36foot version of the boat (also designed by Berckemeyer) and I took this boat across the Atlantic without a worry. Strong and fast - I loved that boat.ReplyDelete
Hi Mike. I am trying to find drawings, specs and photos of the Corrida 36. Very little available online. Can you point me to anything you are aware of? Thanks.Delete
Did any one mention a DownEast 32? They may be fat and slow, but so is the WestSail 32. Any one agree / dissagree?ReplyDelete
Hey I did a post at Urban Nomads about your excellent blog. Check it out here: http://urban-nomads.net/great-boat-living-websites.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the helpful tips!
The Southern Cross 31 / 35 / 39 really should be on this list. Excellent heavy displacement boats that will take you anywhere.ReplyDelete
Agreed. I'm a fan of Southern Cross sailboats and Gilmer designs.Delete
What is your position on an Island Packet 320?ReplyDelete
I've never sailed a 320, but I do like IP's in general for their salty style, solid construction and seaworthiness. I particularly like the 320's rig - a cutter is nice for having headsail options and the Hoyt staysail boom keeps things simple. IP's tend to command an upper tier price and aren't known for speed, but if you can get beyond those two factors, the 320 looks to be a nice size and layout for a cruiser.Delete
I love your list. Mine would be very similar, but might include the Endeavour 37. It's hard to beat the price!ReplyDelete
I sailed our HC 33 from Alaska to New Zealand on a 5-year cruise. We loved how she handled in heavy weather. We are in the 50+knot "club" and our HC did great while other cruisers suffered dearly. While she isn't fast, she tracked well, and behaved at anchor or hove to. Yes, the teak deck is something to consider, but overall, not a deal breaker in the big picture of off-shore cruising. We sold our HC in New Zealand because I had to return to work. I miss her every day. I am plotting to get another bluewater boat. At this point my short list is another HC or perhaps an Island Packet or Pacific Seacraft. If I were rich, it would be a Najad. These choices are based on our years sailing with other cruisers. While boats are so incredibly expensive, the bottom line is safety at sea, getting parts in exotic locations, and the cost of repairs. The better you are equipped before leaving home port, the less likely you are to have life-threatening problems or serious repairs in expensive locations.ReplyDelete
You missed Acapulco 40, so likely never read "One Wave at a Time" by Ed Atkin - regards, MattReplyDelete
Thanks for the kind word for the Fugi 35. Here's one you can have for under $50k. Needs a little work but is a great boat.ReplyDelete
I don't see Corbin 39ReplyDelete