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

"Go small, go simple, go now!"
-Lin & Larry Pardey

Iconic cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey are well-known among cruising enthusiasts for the above statement. Can it really be that easy? Grab yourself a small boat, outfit it properly but simply for offshore work, and get going while your dream and your body is still alive! Lin and Larry not only made the statement, they lived it. If you're looking to do the same, maybe some of the micro- or pocket-cruisers I've listed below can serve as your "go small" portion of the equation.

Going small and choosing one of these or several other pocket cruisers will lead to trade-offs. Of course first and foremost you'll be giving up length, both on deck and at the waterline. This often leads to less storage space, less weight capacity, and slower sailing. But the upside is presumably less maintenance (less paint, less wood, fewer systems) and more affordable expenses. For example, replacing the sails or rigging on a 20 footer will be substantially less than doing so on a 45 footer. Furthermore, many boatyards and marinas charge by the foot for storage, dockage and labor. My point is, realize what the trade-offs are before investing in the "go small" mantra.

1. Flicka 20: When I first got into sailing I was drawn to the Flicka because of her diminuitive size, offshore reputation, and the intrepid sailors who choose her as their ticket to adventure. It seems there's always someone blogging an account of an epic journey aboard a Flicka 20. This little sailboat has so many bluewater passages, ocean crossings, and storm survival stories to her credit that it's truly hard to believe the spec sheet when you see her length on deck (LOD) listed at 20' and waterline length at 18'2". This offshore cruiser is tiny!


Designer Bruce Bingham was inspired to draw the Flicka 20's endearing shape by old wooden sailing workboats he saw in Rhode Island. He kept the size small in hopes of making the design an attractive option for cost conscious would-be home builders. A few of the plans sold and several homebuilt Flickas came to life in the early 1970's. Nor' Star Marine eventually purchased a Flicka hull plug and produced several boats through about 1977, many of which were finished off at home by buyers. Pacific Seacraft acquired the molds when Nor' Star went under and produced over 400 finished Flicka 20's.

Marquesas anyone? Flicka will get you there.

What I find most striking about the Flicka 20 is her seaworthy design, excellent construction (PSC versions), and the amazingly roomy accomadations that will have you thinking you're aboard at least a 25 footer when you see the cabin. At 6,000 lbs., Flicka is also heavier than many cruisers nearly 10 feet longer. She reportedly will make 4-5 knots and can handle some really nasty conditions with a competent helmsman. You won't find a saltier looking boat at any size, let alone something under 25 feet. If you're the type of person (like me!) who can happily spend hours just staring at a salty boat and who tends to make several glances back at your own boat as you leave the dock because you simply can't resist, the Flicka will warm your heart. Knowing that she can take you safely around the world is just another perk. A quick look at Yachtworld.com reveals 5 Flicka's available for purchase from $20k-$30k (at the time of this posting), but prices are often much higher for those with offshore gear (windvane steering, etc.) and a trailer. Visit the excellent Flicka20.com owner's site for much more information.

2. Allegra 24: If you like the Flicka, you'll find an additional 4 feet of Flicka-inspired length to like on the Allegra 24. The Allegra looks a lot like the Flicka. This is not by happenstance, as one of the Allegra co-designers happens to be Bruce Bingham's father. The Allegra design keeps the Flicka's beam but stretches her length so more deck, cabin, and waterline length are available.  Of course this translates to more creature comforts, more storage, and more sailing speed. Many Allegra sailors attest that this boat can fairly easily exceed her hullspeed.

Allegra 24 w/ cutter rig
While Allegra was sold as both a bare hull (for home builders) and as a kit that could be completed by any number of yards/builders on a custom basis, there are many finely finished examples out cruising the seas. This isn't always the case with home-built or kit boats. I think the level of finish on the Allegra's I've seen for sale is a testment to their owner's passion. Yachtworld only shows one Allegra currently on the market. Her asking price is $48k. [Note: I almost included the Pacific Sea Craft Dana 24 in this list, but decided against it since PSC was already represented w/ the Flicka and the Allegra is similar. Still, it's worth your time to check out the Dana if you like this style of boat.]


3. Tom Thumb 24: The Tom Thumb 24 may well be the most interesting boat on this list, which is a true feat considering the unique niche that most of these pocket cruisers occupy. At first glance, the Tom Thumb 24 looks a lot like the Flicka or Allegra. But look close at those hard chines and you'll realize she's made of steel. Of course steel sailboats aren't all that uncommon, but finding one this small definately is. Conventional steel boat design would have many believing a 24-footer would be too heavy. That's where ingenious designer Grahame Shannon and monocoque construction comes in. Grahame designed the Tom Thumb 24 to be built frameless and instead use interior plywood furniture for stiffening structures. This is a common constuction technique with modern fiberglass boats, but steel boats typically have a heavy steel frame inside. Grahame's frameless steel skin and wood cabin kept the design light enough to actually sail quite well. You can still purchase the design plans for your own Tom Thumb 24 (or larger!) today from Bruce Roberts Yacht Design and be cruising in a truly unique boat tomorrow.

Tom Thumb 24 slicing nicely through the chop

4. Nor'Sea 27: The Nor'Sea 27 is the largest boat on my list, so what's so "pocket" about this pocket cruiser? Consider that one day the Nor'Sea 27 can depart the middle of the United States and be ripping down the interstate at 55mph (on a trailer, of course) and the next she can be headed offshore from San Diego harbor enroute to the Marquesas thousands of miles away. This bluewater sailboat was conceived from the beginning as a trailer-sailer. Designer Lyle Hess was challenged to build a trailerable bluewater boat and he delivered. Hess is quoted as saying; "Any boat that points her bow out to sea should be designed so that the crew need not worry about a safe return - no matter what tricks the weather may play". And so it is with the Nor'Sea 27. If that isn't enough lure, take a peak below decks and you'll see fine craftsmanship and very cruiser-friendly layouts. She's available in both aft and centercockpit configurations with lots of space and plenty of berths. Center cockpits usually look funky in small sailboats, but amazingly Hess makes the Nor'Sea 27 gorgeous in addition to being trailerable and bluewater capable. What's the trade-off? Price. New complete boats are still available from Nor'Sea for about $170k, but they've been in production since 1977 so the pre-owned market is an option with prices starting in the $30k's.

Center cockpit Nor'Sea 27

5. Falmouth Cutter 22: I find it fitting that a bluewater pocket cruiser takes its' name from one of the deepest natural harbors in the world, a harbor that is also famous for being the starting point of Francis Chichester's epic circumnavigation and the homeport of Charles Darwin's HMS Beagle. It takes a very big small sailboat to live up to the Falmouth name, but the Falmouth Cutter 22 does so and then some. Maybe this shouldn't come as a surprise since the Falmouth Cutter was designed by Lyle Hess, the designer of the Nor'Sea 27 above and the better known Bristol Channel Cutter 28.

Falmouth Cutter 22 in action

Inspired by 19th century working pilot boats who's primary purpose was to carry heavy loads in just about any sea condition, Hess drew the FC22 with historically beautiful looks and a hull shape that's proven itself for more than 100 years. This boat is old world seaworthiness and charm meets modern construction techniques and building materials. She's got a good turn of speed considering her short waterline. And like the old pilot boats that use to ply the waters of the North Sea, she'll make sure her crew makes it home through gale and hail. My favorite feature may well be that the FC22 is extremely accommodating down below for an ambitious cruising couple or a solo sailor.

Are you sold on the FC22? Get ready to pay the price for true love, because it doesn't come cheap. While the Falmouth Cutter was originally built by the well-respected Sam L. Morse Co. in California, she's now available as new construction from Cape George Marine Works in Washington for around $175k.  Yes, you read that right...$175k for a 22 foot sailboat!  If that's above your budget but you're still smitten, you can try the brokerage market on Yachtworld where two early 1980's FC22's are currently available for about $50k. No matter your choice of new or used, Lin and Larry Pardey's very similar Hess-designed 24 footer Seraffyn has proven that this an extremely capable pocket yacht for satisfying the most ambitious cruising plans.

So there you have it, 5 little yachts that can take on the world or simply draw admiration and longing stares at your local dock. 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, stayed tuned as I'll soon be posting about potential bluewater boats for those on a shoestring budget.

19 comments:

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    1. 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?

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  2. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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  6. 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.

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    1. 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.

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  7. 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.

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

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

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  9. what about the Catalina 22 ?

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    1. 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.

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  10. My little hurley 22, can she make the mark?

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