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.

Related Articles

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.

by this author

Best Sailboats

Most Recent

What Does "Sailing By The Lee" Mean? | Life of Sailing

What Does "Sailing By The Lee" Mean?

October 3, 2023

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings | Life of Sailing

The Best Sailing Schools And Programs: Reviews & Ratings

September 26, 2023

Important Legal Info is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.

Similar Posts

Affordable Sailboats You Can Build at Home | Life of Sailing

Affordable Sailboats You Can Build at Home

September 13, 2023

Best Small Sailboats With Standing Headroom | Life of Sailing

Best Small Sailboats With Standing Headroom

December 28, 2023

Best Bluewater Sailboats Under $50K | Life of Sailing

Best Bluewater Sailboats Under $50K

Popular posts.

Best Liveaboard Catamaran Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Best Liveaboard Catamaran Sailboats

Can a Novice Sail Around the World? | Life of Sailing

Can a Novice Sail Around the World?

Elizabeth O'Malley

June 15, 2022

Best Electric Outboard Motors | Life of Sailing

4 Best Electric Outboard Motors

How Long Did It Take The Vikings To Sail To England? | Life of Sailing

How Long Did It Take The Vikings To Sail To England?

10 Best Sailboat Brands | Life of Sailing

10 Best Sailboat Brands (And Why)

December 20, 2023

7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat | Life of Sailing

7 Best Places To Liveaboard A Sailboat

Get the best sailing content.

Top Rated Posts is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies. (866) 342-SAIL

© 2024 Life of Sailing Email: [email protected] Address: 11816 Inwood Rd #3024 Dallas, TX 75244 Disclaimer Privacy Policy

best coastal cruising sailboat

How to choose the best coastal cruising sailboat?

Selecting your family cruiser for coastal cruising and port-hopping.

Coastal cruising enables you to get closer to the shores and explore all treasures that coastline has to offer. This kind of navigation requires an easy-to-handle yacht, whatever the weather conditions, also offering some real comfort to all crew members over a few days and nights onboard (day sailing trips, weekends, etc.).

RM Yachts are remarkable in that area, making them part of the best coastal cruising sailboats you can find, thanks to the variety of appendages that are available:

  • Twin-keel sailboats: this type of keel is great for grounding. Playing with the tides, you can envisage to spend a night on a beach, being fully stabilized without the need of cranes.
  • Lifting keel sailboats: this appendage is greatly appreciated by coastal cruisers looking after a reduced draft. You can get closer to the shore, and explore hidden coves and creeks, for magic nights at mooring!

What is the best size of sailboat for coastal cruising?

When choosing a cruising sailboat , its length is part of the factors to take into consideration. Beyond moorings, coastal cruising also means sometimes to find refuge in harbors or marinas. Average-sized sailing yachts, from 29ft to 35 ft, will easily find space between two pontoons, maneuvering at ease in close quarters.

Find the best coastal cruising sailboat for your journey in our range:

  • RM890+: fast yacht of about 29-30 feet
  • RM970: our 32-footer and great family liveaboard
  • RM1070+: a beautiful 35-footer, also ideal for bluewater cruising

Keep in Touch' Restons en contact

We will send you RM Yachts News (Only) to make sure you are up to date. Recevez (seulement) nos infos, pour être sûrs de ne rien rater !

  • FR - Français
  • EN - English

What's the Best Size of Sailboat for Coastal Cruising?

Size matters when it comes to sailboats, as with many other things. With sailboats, this will determine how comfortable your sailing experience will be or how many people you can bring along. If you're planning for coastal cruising and pondering what the best size sailboat is to make it a comfortable experience, this article can help you explore your options.

A sailboat between 30 and 40 feet is considered an ideal size for coastal cruising. Boats in this size range are large enough to offer comfortable accommodations for several people, yet small enough to be easily handled by a couple or a small crew. They are also more affordable than larger sailboats.

Monohulls and catamarans are the two most common types of sailboats used in coastal cruising, but there are many other types of sailboats you can choose from. Let's learn which other sailboats can be deemed suitable for this boating activity.

  • For solo cruising, the best sailboat size is around 24 to 30 feet. If you're with your family or friends, opt for sailboats with a 35 to 45-foot range.
  • The Sun Odyssey 349 is one of the most notable and multi-awarded cruisers due to its innovative design and exceptional performance. This 35-foot boat has a modern touch and can accommodate up to six people, making it an ideal choice for family vacations or weekend getaways with friends.
  • While the best size for a cruising sailboat is within 30 to 40 feet, it should be comfortable, accommodating, easy to handle and maneuver, stable, and, of course, safe to sail.

best coastal cruising sailboat

On this page:

Choosing the right sailboat size for coastal cruising, types of sailboats for coastal cruising, specific sailboat models suitable for cruising, consider these when choosing the best sailboat size for cruising.

The size of your sailboat can determine how comfortable your sailing experience will be, how many people you can bring along, and whether or not you can sail alone. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right size of sailboat for your coastal cruising needs:

Enough to have a comfortable sailing experience but with less amenities
Good for family sailing and has more amenities and storage space
Best for solo sailing

If you want to sail comfortably and have enough space to bring along some friends or family, a 30-foot sailboat might be the minimum size you should consider. This will give you enough room to move around and sleep comfortably, but you may have to sacrifice some amenities or storage space.

If you plan on sailing with your family, you may want to consider a sailboat in the 35-45 foot range. This will give you enough space to comfortably accommodate a family of four or five, with amenities like a galley, head, and storage space. However, keep in mind that larger sailboats can be more expensive to maintain and require more crew to operate.

best coastal cruising sailboat

If you plan on sailing alone, you'll want to choose a sailboat that is easy to handle and has enough space to accommodate your needs. A 24-30 foot sailboat can be a good choice for a solo sailor, as it is small enough to handle alone but still has enough space to be comfortable. Keep in mind that smaller sailboats may not be as stable in rough waters and may require more skill to operate.

Coastal cruising is an exciting way to explore the world by sea. It takes you from port to port along the coast, allowing you to explore different destinations and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. Your cruise can be a short one or a longer one, depending on your preferences.

You can choose to explore a specific region or travel along the entire coast. This water activity is ideal for those who want to experience the joy of sailing while also enjoying the comforts of a cruise ship.

Below are several types of sailboats available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Monohulls and catamarans are the most popular for coastal cruising

Monohulls are traditional sailboats with a single hull, while catamarans have two hulls. Monohulls are known for their stability in heavy seas and their ability to sail upwind efficiently. On the other hand, catamarans are more stable at anchor and offer more living space.

Sloop is also ideal for coastal cruising

The sloop is the most common type of sailboat and is ideal for coastal cruising. It has a single mast, a mainsail, and a mainsail and jib. The sloop is easy to handle, making it a great choice for beginners. It is also versatile and can be used for day sailing or extended cruises.

Ketch offers more sail area which makes it good for coastal cruising

The ketch is a two-masted sailboat with a mainmast and a shorter mizzenmast. It is a popular choice for coastal cruising because it offers more sail area and better balance than a sloop. The ketch is also easier to handle than a schooner, making it a great option for solo sailors or small crews. If you plan to solo sail, you can find the best sailboats for solo sailing here .

best coastal cruising sailboat

Schooner is ideal for coastal cruising but will require a larger crew

The schooner is a two or more-masted sailboat with fore-and-aft sails on both masts. It is a classic sailboat design that is ideal for coastal cruising. The schooner has a large sail area, which makes it fast and efficient. However, it can be more difficult to handle than other types of sailboats, and it requires a larger crew.

There are a variety of sailboat models to choose from if you are planning coastal cruising. Here are a few specific models to consider, as well as their sizes:

Up to 6 Coastal cruising, longer trips
Up to 6 Coastal cruising, open waters
Up to 6 Coastal cruising, shallow waters
Up to 6 Versatile cruising, advanced technology
Up to 6 Highly maneuverable cruising, advanced technology

Catalina 30 is perfect for longer trips to the sea

With its spacious interior and comfortable cockpit, Catalina 30 is perfect for weekend getaways or longer trips. The Catalina 30 has a moderate draft, making it suitable for shallow waters, and its sturdy construction provides a smooth ride in rough seas. This sailboat is also easy to handle, even for beginners.

The Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 is perfect for sailing in open waters

The Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 is designed to be fast and agile, making it perfect for sailing in open waters. It has a spacious interior with plenty of storage space, and its modern design provides a comfortable living space. This sailboat is also easy to handle, even for single-handed sailing.

The Hunter 36 can easily navigate through shallow water

The Hunter 36 is a versatile sailboat that is perfect for coastal cruising. With its shallow draft, this sailboat can easily navigate in shallow waters, making it ideal for exploring coastal areas. This boat has a spacious interior with plenty of headroom, and its large windows provide plenty of natural light. It is also easy to handle, even for beginners.

The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is a versatile cruiser equipped with advanced technology

The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is a popular sailboat model that has won numerous awards for its innovative design and exceptional performance. It is a versatile cruiser that can comfortably accommodate six or more people depending on the specific configuration and options chosen by the owner, making it an ideal choice for family vacations or weekend getaways with friends.

best coastal cruising sailboat

The boat features a spacious cockpit, a modern interior, and a sleek hull design that provides excellent stability and speed. It is also equipped with advanced technology, including a GPS navigation system and a high-performance sail plan, which makes it easy to handle and maneuver in different wind conditions.

Bavaria Cruiser 37 is a highly maneuverable sailboat suited for cruising

The Bavaria Cruiser 37 is a popular sailboat model that combines comfort, performance, and style. This boat has a spacious and modern interior with ample headroom, providing a comfortable living space for up to six people.

The boat's cockpit is also spacious and well-designed, with plenty of seating and easy access to the helm. It is also a highly maneuverable boat, with a responsive rudder and a powerful sail plan that allows for excellent speed and stability. It has advanced technology, including a GPS navigation system and a state-of-the-art engine, making it easy to handle and operate.

If you're looking for some of the best and cheapest beginner sailboats for ocean cruising, you can try reading this article .

best coastal cruising sailboat

Several factors to keep in mind when picking the best sailboat size include the following:

Check if the cabin is comfortable and accommodating enough

The sailboat should have enough space to accommodate you, your family, and any guests. The cabin space should be comfortable and spacious enough for movement when coastal cruising.

An aft cabin can provide privacy and a comfortable place to sleep for guests. Try to consider also if there's sufficient living space for dining, lounging, and socializing. Private spaces on board are also necessary for privacy and alone time.

You can check this article for a long list of cruising essentials which you may want to consider while choosing a sailboat.

Check if the sailboat is easy to handle and maneuver

A sailboat that is easy to handle and sail means it should be small enough that you can handle the sails on your own. A sailboat with a fin keel and a spade rudder is a good choice , as it will respond quickly to your commands and be easy to steer. You could also check if there is a roller furling jib and a lazy jack system for the mainsail as these will make handling the sails a breeze.

Maneuvering in tight spaces can be challenging, so you may want to consider having a sailboat that is easy to handle in close quarters. A sailboat with a bow thruster or a stern thruster will make docking and maneuvering in tight spaces much easier.

Opt for a sailboat with a wide beam and a short waterline that will be stable and easy to control, even in choppy waters. Additionally, a sailboat with a self-tacking jib will make handling the sails even easier , as you won't need to worry about adjusting the jib sheet.

Inspect for safety and stability

A sailboat that is not stable or seaworthy enough can put you and your crew at risk, especially when dealing with rough seas or unexpected weather conditions. You will need to look for sailboats with a good reputation for seaworthiness and make sure to inspect the boat thoroughly before purchasing.

best coastal cruising sailboat

While smaller sailboats may be more affordable and easier to handle, they may not be as stable as larger ones. On the other hand, larger sailboats may be more stable but can be more difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.

When it comes to hull type, a double-hulled sailboat (catamaran) is generally more stable than a single-hulled one . The wider the surface area, the more stable a boat will be.

Try to look for a sailboat with a heavier keel or more ballast as it tends to be more stable than one with a lighter keel or less ballast. However, the catch is that a heavier sailboat may not be as fast or as easy to handle as a lighter one.

Consider your crew and guests

When choosing the best sailboat size for coastal cruising, you may need to consider the number of crew and guests, sleeping arrangements, space on board, and experience level. The sleeping arrangements and space on board should be comfortable for everyone.

A sailboat between 25 and 35 feet is suitable for small crews or families, while a sailboat between 35 and 45 feet can accommodate more or less six people (depending on the layout and design of the boat) . If sailing with inexperienced crew or guests, a smaller sailboat is recommended, while a larger sailboat may be suitable for experienced sailors.

Leave a comment

You may also like, 13 best beginner sailboats with cabin (for any budget).

Have you ever thought you couldn't afford a sailboat with a cabin? Think again. In this article, you will find 13 beginner sailboats that will suit your budget. …

best coastal cruising sailboat

Are Catamarans Safer than Monohulls? - Not Always

best coastal cruising sailboat

Catamaran vs Monohull in Rough Seas: Which is Better?

best coastal cruising sailboat

Can a Catamaran Capsize? The Surprising Answer

Gaff rigged white schooner

17 Sailboat Types Explained: How To Recognize Them

  • Newsletters
  • Sailboat Reviews
  • Boating Safety
  • Sails and Rigging
  • Maintenance
  • Sailing Totem
  • Sailor & Galley
  • Living Aboard
  • Destinations
  • Gear & Electronics
  • Charter Resources

Cruising World Logo

10 Affordable Cruising Catamarans

  • By Phil Berman
  • Updated: May 24, 2024

Orana 44

So, you want to get a catamaran , sail off into the sunset, and capture some magic with your lover or family for a few years. You have no ambition to sail around the world or to live aboard forever, but think a one- or two-year sabbatical might be life-changing. You’d like to sail the US East Coast, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, perhaps the Med—or up and down the West Coast and on to Mexico and Central America. You have $300,000 or less to spend and want a catamaran you can sell at the end of the journey without consuming a bottle of Tylenol to blunt the pain. 

The good news is that this is quite achievable. The bad news is that there is a vast wave of baby boomers who are all looking for the same thing—and for right around the same price. This makes finding a good deal on a great used catamaran a lot of work, even working with a broker. But, it’s possible. You just need to keep an open mind.

The other good news, which might seem surprising, is that an older catamaran, besides being more affordable, might sail just as well—or even better—than the same-size new cat that will cost considerably more. Yes, the older model might have less room inside and lack the latest condo-on-the-water styling, but it was designed and built before the current trend to supersize the newer generations of multihulls at the expense of sailing performance.

Here’s my advice to the cat hunter on a budget: Don’t get too hung up on the length of the boat. Instead, focus on the spatial and payload requirements you seek and which can be achieved within your budget. And best not get too focused on must-have features—what I jokingly call “surround-sound beds.” Catamaran designs and interiors have gone through massive changes in the past 10 to 20 years, and most older designs simply cannot compete with the new ones in terms of space and high-end amenities.

None of the cool cats I have in mind are over 47 feet. This is not because there aren’t bargain boats out there that are 47 feet and longer, but because any larger multihull that you can buy for $300,000 or less will most assuredly need a significant refit or is either very old or very odd. Buying a fixer-upper is, to my mind, the most dangerous thing a budget-minded consumer can do. It’s just too easy to underestimate the cost of yacht refits and repairs due to the extremely high prices charged in most boatyards. 

RELATED: 20 Best Cruising and Sailing Destinations

Nearly any cat you buy over 10 years old is fully depreciated. What we were selling a Lagoon 440 for eight or 10 years ago is nearly the same as what they sell for today. The difference between a good deal and a bad deal is tied solely to a yacht’s condition and refit history. As they joke in private-equity circles, “Any idiot can buy; you deserve congratulations only when you sell.”   

So, when your search gets underway, focus on ­condition—it is far more important than the year, brand or features you might crave. And when you find the cat of your dreams, the best way to remove financial-downside risk is to get a great survey and to choose the newest, smallest cat that will work for your agenda, not the oldest and biggest.

– CHECK THE WEATHER – The weather changes all the time. Always check the forecast and prepare for the worst case. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

And a word of caution: Your problem will be knowing a good deal from a bad one after the survey is over if you are not well-schooled in pricing. Besides steering you toward potential boats to consider, this is where a broker, working on your behalf, can provide knowledgeable advice. It’s been my experience that this is the point when so many yacht sales come apart: a dispute over the value of a given yacht when the survey results come in. All too commonly we see buyers reject yachts they should have accepted and purchase cats they should have rejected. Remember, a used yacht is a used yacht—not a perfect yacht. A catamaran need not be perfect to remain a perfectly good deal. Here, then, are 10 cool cats to ­consider in the ­$300,000-or-less range:

1. Fountaine Pajot Orana 44 (above)

Fountaine Pajot had the misfortune of tooling up this boat just before the global financial crisis, so not that many of them were built between 2007 and 2012. But these were the first of the larger-space charter cats in this size, but not yet so porky that they still could not sail decently. In the three-­cabin owner’s version, they designed the living space very nicely; even in the four-cabin version, the aft starboard bed was very well-done. 

During this period, Fountaine Pajot had problems with the resin it was using, which led to blistering on the hulls and undersides. Affected models therefore had new bottoms done at approved shipyards throughout the world. Make sure the one you are considering had this done or that it doesn’t show evidence of significant blistering. Honestly it is only cosmetic, but it will impact resale if not repaired. Many consumers think blisters are the end of the world; frankly, they are not.


2. Catana 431

Built in France by a long-­standing yard, the Catana 431 was always a very viable vessel because it is big enough to go anywhere, but not too large for a competent owner to handle. And because the 431 has good underwing clearance and daggerboards, it sails smartly to windward. 

That said, there are a few things to watch for. The primary bulkheads on many of these boats were not tabbed on the outer ends, and over time tended to distort. Often this led, or will lead, to a costly replacement of some bulkheads. So be careful to survey these areas properly. 

The 431′s furniture is all foam-cored and handmade, but the banding on the outer edges in some cases slowly starts to peel, which allows moisture to infect the wood veneer. This can create a somewhat unsightly appearance in the cabinets and drawers. It is only a cosmetic issue, but it can make the interior feel a bit worn out. 

During the period when the 431 was being built, Catana used a distributive electrical card system, and the boats had several modules, each a zone, to which electricity was run. If one thing in a zone stops working, the only solution is to jury-rig a wire from that nonworking item back to the main breaker panel. Replacing the modules or getting them repaired can be done, but it is getting harder by the year. For this reason, the best 431 is a boat that someone else had rewired at some point along the way.


3. Lagoon 470

If you need a larger escape pod, the Lagoon 470 is one of our favorites. This model of older Lagoons was built at CNB’s yard in Bordeaux, France, and the build quality was high. The 470 was the first design to have the more-vertical windows that are a Lagoon signature, and ample saloon headroom. The 470s are also old enough that the hulls were not so supersize that it compromised sailing performance. They have decent underwing clearance, so they are not persistent pounders to windward. Many were built with a galley-down layout, some in galley-up style. You will always pay more for an owner version of this or any model. 

The big thing you have to concern yourself with on Lagoons of this vintage is that the hulls and decks are made with a balsa core, so it is not uncommon to find moisture problems, especially around deck fittings or hatches. This can sometimes require rebedding or recoring areas, and this sort of repair, in North America, can be a costly undertaking. Make sure you get good moisture-meter readings near all deck fittings and, of course, on the hulls. Hulls, however, tend less often to have moisture issues because there are few fittings through which water can enter the core. Were that to happen below the waterline, it is a real mess that must be repaired immediately and properly.

– CARRY A BEACON – Satellite beacons such as EPIRBs or PLBs allow boaters to transmit distress signals and their exact coordinates from anywhere on the planet, no cell service required. It may be the best $400 you ever spend. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard


4. Privilège 435

Back when the Privilège 435 was built, Privilège catamarans were constructed by Alliaura Marine in France, and they were truly the Mercedes of the multihull world at that time. While not a performance cat by any means, the 435 was a super-solid yacht, built with great care and the finest components. The 435 is large enough to go anywhere but small enough to handle easily. 

The largest negative of this model—and many cats of this vintage—is that the saloon windows slope dramatically, so the interior gets very hot unless the windows are covered most of the time. When they legalize growing pot on catamarans, here’s the perfect greenhouse for it! Seriously, if you should buy a used 435, you really have to get strong sunblocking external UV covers, as well as interior blinds or shades to inhibit heat buildup. 

Some of the 435s were laid out with the galley down in one hull, and these days most people want a galley-up arrangement, where cooking and food preparation are done in the saloon. A three-cabin galley-up owner version will be far more sought after and cost more than a four-cabin galley-down version. 


5. Leopard 46

This was the first of the Morrelli & Melvin collaborations with South African builder Robertson and Caine and the charter companies owned at the time by TUI Marine to create a catamaran that could be sold both into charter under the Moorings brand and also privately as a Leopard, so effort was made to design a boat with good sailing performance. Gino Morrelli did a good job creating a lot of underwing clearance, the 46 has a powerful rig, and yet its interior still offers spacious sleeping areas and nice flow from the cockpit to the saloon. These can be bought as ex-Moorings charter boats for less than $300,000 but are more costly in the sought-after Leopard owner version.

Because these are balsa-­cored boats, you must inspect deck fittings carefully for moisture incursion. Some of the earlier ones also experienced structural problems on the aft bulkhead and over-door-frame areas between saloon and cockpit. Also, during this period, the windows in the main saloon had a tendency to leak and, when they did, required rebedding or replacement. This was a costly job, so check this out carefully during survey.

Knysna 440

6. St. Francis 44/Knysna 440

If you wish to spend under $250,000, the older Saint Francis 44 and Knysna 440 are worth a look.

Back in 1990, Duncan Lethbridge started St. Francis Catamarans in South Africa with the St. Francis 43. The boat was meant to be a fast, strong bluewater voyager—and it was. The 43 was made with foam core, keeping the structure light, and it was very strongly built, with a powerful rig. The 43 loved to sail. And so too did the St. Francis 44, an updated version of the original. 

The boat did have a couple of negatives, however, the first being its sloped windows that built up interior heat. And the boat wasn’t a great fit for tall people, having less than 6-foot-2-inch headroom in the hulls. Also, the engines were installed amidships, which made the boat noisy inside under power. It also made the amidships areas of the hulls too narrow to have centrally located heads and showers, which in turn meant the only layout available was a four-­cabin, four-head design. In the forward cabins, the heads and showers had to be far forward; in the aft cabins, the heads and showers were located far aft.

St. Francis sold the tooling for the 44 to Knysna Yachts in 2004, and Knysna raised the headroom in the saloon and moved the engines aft to each stern. The hulls remained fundamentally the same, but the design was improved nicely. 

The largest negative of both the Saint Francis 44 and the Knysna 440 is that they have very low underwing clearance. Things can get pretty noisy when pushing against ­washing-machine seas. 

But you cannot have it all and still pay less than $250,000 in a midsize cat; compromises must be made. And these boats do sail quite smartly compared with many in their size range.

Lagoon 440 catamaran

7. Lagoon 440

This was the most popular catamaran ever made, and it started the catamaran flybridge craze, which helped to convert many powerboaters to sailors. 

What I like about the 440 is that it is an infinitely better sailer than some of its peers, and has decent underwing clearance, vertical windows, and nice cabins for sleeping and living. While the aft cockpit is rather small, the saloon is quite large.

Flybridges are a bit of a love-hate thing. There is no question that in a cat of this size, the windward performance suffers a bit due to the boom positioned so high off the water. When piloting, the skipper is separated from those on the bridgedeck. Part of the reason flybridges are so popular in charter is that most of the parties take place up there while sailing and at anchor. In private ownership, however, it is seldom that everyone is hanging out on the flybridge during a long passage. 

As always with Lagoons, these are balsa-cored boats, so a careful survey is in order. Pay attention also to bulkhead ­tabbing to make sure they have not separated from the hulls.

Because so many of the 440s were built to go into charter, there are a lot of four-cabin, four-head models for resale. These will sell for considerably less on the ­brokerage market than a ­coveted three-cabin, ­private-owner model.

– CHECK THE FIT – Follow these guidelines to make sure your life jacket looks good, stays comfortable and works when you need it. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Leopard 40 catamaran

8. Leopard 40

When you get into the 40-foot size range, a four-cabin layout can become pretty cramped and claustrophobic below, but the three-cabin owner version of the Leopard 40 is a very nice pocket cruiser. A Morrelli & Melvin design, the 40 has good underwing clearance and nicely shaped hulls. Not a large cat, per se, and less-suited for significant distance sailing than others because its payload is limited, the 40 is still well-suited for a couple and a child or two for near-coastal and ­island-hopping action.

Manta catamaran

9. Manta 42

If you are searching for a cat in the $200,000 range, the Manta 42s were well-built in Florida, and their electrical systems were very well-done compared with many other multihulls of that era. While many of the features on the boat are quite dated, these Mantas sail very well, and easily, and have been popular with coastal cruisers for two decades. 

The largest negative of the Mantas is that people taller than 6 feet will find the saloon headroom right on the edge, and the berths are not especially large. Also, forward visibility from the saloon windows is not particularly panoramic, so the interiors are a bit darker inside than current-­generation catamarans.

Lagoon catamaran

10. Lagoon 410

The Lagoon 410 was quite a popular cat in its prime, and for good reason. It offers lots of visibility thanks to its vertical windows, good headroom for a cat of its size, nice berths, and a workable, though smallish, galley-up design. The 410 has decent underwing clearance, can sail nicely over the waves, and its singlehanded operation is super easy. In the three-cabin owner’s configuration, it’s just a very cool little cat.

As always, a balsa-core boat must be surveyed carefully, especially on deck, for moisture incursion near fittings and hatches. It can be costly to repair rotted core and to rebed deck fittings. But find a dry one, and it should definitely be counted as a contender for a buyer with a limited budget. 

Phil Berman is the president of the Multihull Company and the founder of Balance Catamarans. He has managed the sale of more than 900 catamarans.

  • More: catamaran , lagoon , leopard , multihulls , print june july 2020 , Sailboats
  • More Sailboats

Little Harbor 44 on the water

For Sale: 1983 Little Harbor 44

Nautor Swan 28 on the water

Sailboat Preview: ClubSwan 28 by Nautor Swan

Vision 444

Sailboat Review: Vision 444

Lagoon 43 catamaran

Sailboat Preview: Lagoon 43

Vision 444

When the Wind Goes Light

Lagoon 43 catamaran

Sailor & Galley: Ice Cream, Anytime

  • Digital Edition
  • Customer Service
  • Privacy Policy
  • Email Newsletters
  • Cruising World
  • Sailing World
  • Salt Water Sportsman
  • Sport Fishing
  • Wakeboarding


My Cruiser Life Magazine

25 Best Sailboat and Catamaran Manufacturers (By Type)

Asking a sailor to pick the best sailboat brands is like asking a car enthusiast to pick the best sports car. Boaters are connected to their boats and share a personal attachment to them that goes beyond the practical. Boats are close to living things. For millennia, sailors have personified their vessels and labeled them “she.” Whatever pronouns you choose to use with your boat, there is no doubt that he or she will earn a special place in your heart.

So how does a humble writer go about breaking down the “best” sailboat manufacturers? Is it of all time? Or are only companies still producing boats today? We must set some limits, and they will no doubt seem arbitrary–but here they are.

First, we are dividing this list up to cover coastal cruisers, luxury monohulls , voyaging bluewater cruisers , cruising catamarans , and performance catamarans. Yes, there is some overlap between these categories. For example, many big “coastal cruisers” have crossed oceans, and many seawind catamaran brands are more than capable cruisers.

So what makes a boat “the best.” The best boat for you is not going to be the best boat for the next guy. There’s simply no way to define what the best manufacturers are going to be. The reason we chose these boats are specified below. It’s not arbitrary, but, at the same time, you don’t have to agree with them.

Finally, nearly all of the brands listed below have one thing in common—you can still buy a new vessel from their yard. In the world of boating, it’s not uncommon to purchase a vessel that has been out of production for decades. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of great manufacturers who went out of business during major economic downturns. Building boats is always a tricky business, but with the economy suffering no one buys new boats.

Table of Contents

5 best coastal cruiser sailboat makers, 5 best luxury sailboat manufacturers, 5 best voyaging bluewater cruising boats, 5 best cruising catamaran manufacturers, 5 best performance cats.

Best Sailboats Manufacturer_Where you make it

Coastal cruisers are entry-level sailboats built affordably so that nearly anyone can buy one. Another term that gets used is “production boat.” A production boat is designed to be mass-produced in an assembly-line-like factory for maximum cost savings.

The alternative is the custom or semi-custom built voyage yachts. Every element of the build is overseen by expert shipwrights. So the implication is that the production yacht has less quality—but this argument doesn’t always hold blue water if you can forgive the metaphor.

The manufacturers who make the most popular production coastal cruisers also make some larger yachts capable of crossing oceans. But one thing about these boats needs to be made clear—while some can be modified, improved, and outfitted to cross oceans, they do not leave the factory ready to do so.

And while some of them look very sharp, they do not contain the gorgeous hardwood joinery and craftsmanship that fills the hulls of hand-built yachts. These brands make their boats appealing to the mass market, and that market is not the voyaging bluewater cruisers or the luxury yacht.

So are they the “best sailboat brands?” If you’re looking for the best, most affordable coastal cruiser you can get, then yes—these are the best boats for you. However, if you’re looking for the best built, the best outfitted, or the best engineered or designed—then you’d best keep reading farther down the list!

Catalina Yachts

Catalina builds simple sloops ranging in size from fun 12.5 Expo dinghy to their 545 Flagship. There are more Catalinas in the world than any other types of sailboat . The company was founded in California in the mid-1970s.

Of the many wonderful models that Catalina has made popular, the Catalina 30 was an all-around winner. The beamy 30-footer has a cavernous interior that makes it a great entry-level liveaboard. The Catalina 38 is a popular racer/cruiser designed by none other than the famous Sparksman and Stevens (S&S).

Beneteau & Jeanneau

The French marine conglomerate Groupe Beneteau makes many different labels of boats, but their two most popular production sailboat brands are Beneteau and Jeanneau. They also make the Lagoon catamarans. 

Like Catalina, the company makes production boats at an attractive price. They are roomy and comfortable to stay on or even liveaboard. In addition, Beneteau’s are known for their distinctive lacquered wood interiors, which add an air of sophistication to an otherwise average boat. 

Beneteau has a long history. The company was founded in 1884 and has been building fiberglass boats since the mid-1960s. Notable models include the Beneteau Oceanis series, especially the models made after 1995. The most famous Jeanneaus come from the Sun Odyssey lineup.

Hunter Marine (Marlow-Hunter)

Hunter is another American builder and is Catalina’s primary domestic competitor. It is based in Florida and was formed in the early 1970s. Most Hunters have been racing boats or small trailer-sailors , but over the years, there have been quite a few larger liveaboard boats and long-range cruisers. They currently make boats from 15 to 50 feet long.

Dufour catamarans are another French company that makes larger cruising boats. The company was founded in 1964.

Bavaria Yachts

Bavaria Yachtbau is the largest German shipyard. The company makes sail and powerboats, as well as the French-made Nautitech catamarans. The company was founded in the 1970s and was acquired by US investors in 2007. Their monohull sail designs range from 31 to 57 feet long.

If the coastal cruiser category is reserved for the Fords and the Toyotas, let’s look at a few Cadillacs and Lexuses.

The boats below take things up a notch. These are beautifully designed boats with hand-built cabinetry and upgraded fixtures. They’re going to come with everything you need to cruise the boat in style.

Boats in this category are more likely to be built on a semi-custom basis. In other words, these yards might only be putting out a handful of boats per year. If you’re the first owner, you can likely visit and watch your sunreef yachts progress from fiberglass molds to rigging and launching.

Finally, the build quality of these yachts is generally exceptional. The designs usually come from the drafting boards of world-renown sunreef yachts designers, and their timeless beauty shines in every port they visit.

Best Sailboats Manufacturer_Where you make it

Morris Yachts

If you’re looking for a sailboat that’s also a work of art, Morris Yachts has the one you’re looking for. The company is based in Maine and produces semi-custom boats built to order. All boats are made by hand by expert craftsmen. Since it first opened in 1972, the company has made about 300 boats.

Their present offerings range from the M29 to the M42, but they have built hulls larger than that in the past. The most famous Morris boats, like the 36-foot Justine, were designed by renowned yacht designer Chuck Paine.

Island Packet

Island Packet has always made sturdy blue water cruisers with old-school looking (although technically updated) full keels. Some people may argue that IPs are production boats not quite worthy of the “luxury” title, but it is undebatable that the quality of their boats is above average.

Packets are built-in in Largo, Florida, near Tampa, and their shallow drafts and large living spaces make them perfect for living aboard in Florida or the islands. The first Island Packets rolled off the assembly line in 1980.

IP’s one-piece hulls do not feature the bolted-on keel and fractional rigs so common on many production boats now. Instead, you will find a robust design that is seaworthy and comfortable at sea.

Oysters are recognized worldwide as one of the most beautiful high-end cruising boats you can get your hands on. They focus on larger ocean-capable yachts with luxurious and cavernous interiors.

Oyster is a British yacht builder founded in 1973. Their claim to fame is the unique deck salon layout, which features large central windows around the living space that make the space feel much larger and more comfortable. The company is also known for its excellent attention to detail and outstanding build quality.

Hylas make sailboats ranging from 46 to 70 feet long. They are built in Taiwan by Queen Long Marine and were introduced in 1984. Most of their designs were created by renowned naval architect German Frers, although their first designs came from Sparksman and Stevens.

Tartan Yachts

Hailing from the Great Lakes port of Painesville, Ohio, Tartan has made sturdy and beautiful yachts since 1971. The company’s current lineup features everything from a tiny 24-foot day sailor to an ocean-capable 53-footer.

Tartans are set apart from other production boats by their beautifully crafted interiors. Thoughtful designs make these boats great cruisers and liveaboards.

Some boats are made as an accessible weekend cruisers for everybody, and some are exclusive showpieces that light up the harbor with their polished teak. Others are built tough to take on the elements at sea.

These boats are some of the best-built examples of marine engineering out there. These boats don’t come cheap, but that’s because their makers pay special attention to creating vessels strong enough to take on anything. They spend extra time making super-thick and strong hulls, and they use the best most robust equipment throughout the design.

The hull designs come from the drafting boards of world-renown naval architects. Their designs are heavy and built for a comfortable motion on big seas. In most cases, rudders are skeg-hung for extra security, and props are well-protected behind long keels.

These boat manufacturers routinely crop up on the lists of vessels that have circumnavigated successfully. These boats can cross oceans, and their crews never worry about their safety at sea.

Unfortunately, Texas-built Valiant Yachts ceased operations in 2011. The company built a series of canoe-sterned offshore sailboats from the drawing board of Bob Perry. The Valiant 40 is regarded as one of the best modern offshore sailing vessels. Many have circumnavigated, and the owners are a tight-knit group who love their boats.

Pacific Seacraft

Pacific Seacrafts are built in Washington, North Carolina. Many of their designs came from designer Bill Crealock, including the salty but comfortable PS 34 and PS 37. Other well-known models include the tiny 20-foot Flicka and the 24-foot Dana, both of which have serious offshore cred not given away by their diminutive statures. 

Pacific Seacrafts are hand-built and regularly recognized as some of the best sailboats available. Build quality and thoughtfulness in design are second-to-none.


Hallberg-Rassy is a Swedish shipyard that makes very sturdy and capable bluewater cruisers since 1943. Over the years, the company has made everything from small 24-footers to the flagship HR 64. Their best-known yacht was the smaller HR 35 Rasmus, of which they built 760 hulls. The 44 and 50 are their most popular current models.

Amel is the French maker of extremely well-regarded and modern bluewater ketches. This once common rig configuration, with two masts, reduces sail size to keep the lines more manageable on larger vessels. They also allow for more sail configurations to suit a broader spectrum of ocean conditions.

Famous sailing YouTubers SV Delos sail an Amel. The motor boats are large and capable of any voyage you can imagine. They feature thoughtful designs, including fully motorized sail control and a comfortable and protected center cockpit.

Winner of many best boat of the year awards, Passport yachts make spacious and comfortable offshore sailing machines. The first Passports were launched in 1979. The company is based in Annapolis, Maryland. Some of their early models, which Bob Perry designed, are excellent used sailboat options. Today, the company makes boats from 48 to 61 feet long.

And now for something a little different—the sailing catamaran categories. Sailing catamaran brands have become wildly popular in the sailing world because they are so comfortable to live on and offer a significant performance advantage over monohulls. Whether tucked safely in a marina or living off the grid by a tropical beach, sailing catamarans represent a fantastic upgrade to boat life.

You can argue about whether sailing catamarans or monohulls are the best sailboats all day long. But there will always be a place for each one, and there will always be people who love one but not the other.

The best catamaran brands below are the big and comfortable ones that most people will consider the “best” ones to cruise and live on. However, there are two types of sailing catamaran sailors—those that choose these boats because they have wonderful living space and those that choose sailing catamarans for the performance. If you’re the second type of person, you’ll want to move on to the next section about performance catamarans.

Best Sailboats Manufacturer_Where you make it

Antares Catamarans

The Antares began life as the PDQ 44. It’s a stout sailing catamaran with a few uncommon features that set it above most cruising catamarans—it has a high bridge deck for smoother rides, and it features maintenance-free traditional shaft-drive engines. The company currently builds boats in Argentina and is launching a hybrid model for the 2022 model year.

Knysna Yachts

The Knysna 500 is one of the most beautiful sailing catamarans that you’ll ever lay eyes on. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of these semi-custom boats in the world. The factory in South Africa has only made about 100 of these boats, but they’re well worth taking the time to seek out. Their overall craftsmanship and attention to detail are unmatched in the sailing catamaran industry.

Nautitech Catamarans

The French-built sailing catamaran arm of Bavaria Yachts, Nautitech catamarans makes boats that blend beautiful living spaces and solid offshore performance. Current models range from 40 to 54 feet long.

This Australian manufacturer of fast cruising cats has focused on performance while offering comfortable sailing catamarans suitable for cruisers. The Seawind 1000, first offered in the 1990s, set the standard for the small, simple, yet capable cruising catamaran. They currently produce boats from 38 to 52 feet long.

The Big Three— Lagoon , Leopard , and Fountaine Pajot  

The three big names in cruising cats can’t be left out, but they aren’t particularly distinct enough to warrant individual shout-outs. Each company makes production cruising and charter sailing catamarans of average build quality. In car terms, these companies are making the Honda Civics of the sailing catamaran world. In monohull terms, these companies are Beneteau, Catalina, or Hunter.

Fountaine Pajot and Lagoon are French-built, while Leopard catamarans come from South Africa. All of the companies began gaining popularity in the late 1990s, and all of them are popular in the charter boat market. They all compete with one another closely, and their designs follow distinct trends. They often have functional layouts that are pleasant to liveaboard, but their build qualities are mixed.

One of the most common advantages that sailing catamaran companies want you to know about is their performance. Foot-by-foot, sailing catamarans are faster than monohulls. Regular cruising cats can still be sluggish in light winds, though.

But companies below take performance to another level. State-of-the-art rigging, sails, and weight-savings composites turn some of these boats into rocket ships. The vessels are big enough and outfitted well enough for voyages of any length. Many have circumnavigated. In short, these performance cats can move.

Catana is very similar to Lagoon or Fountaine Pajot—French-built charter sailing catamarans with lots of living space. However, the company’s designs feature retractable daggerboards instead of the more common mini-keels. This gives them better downwind performance and an advantage on big seas.

Regardless of the actual performance of the vessels, Catanas are built with sailing in mind. Aft helms provide a beautiful clear view of the sails and the conditions.

If you’re looking for a floating rocketship, Gunboat has your number. These carbon fiber-built miracles of space-age technology regularly zip along at speeds higher than the true wind. Carbon hulls and masts and the latest in rigging technologies make them tick.

They’re as fast as race boats but comfortable liveaboards, too. In their words, “Life is too short to sail a slow boat.” Since they opened in 2002, Gunboat has made fewer than 40 boats, ranging from 48 to 90 feet long. They’re made in La Grande-Motte, France.

The now-famous Outremer is featured on the YouTube channel Sailing La Vagabonde. It’s a fast boat. Current designs range from 45 to 55 feet long. Like all boats in this class, these are fast cats that still maintain enough space for comfortable living at sea. Outremers are built in France, and the company has been making performance catamarans since the 1980s.

HH Catamarans

Awarded several best boat the year awards by Cruising World and Sail magazines, the HH is a thoroughly modern take on the traditional cruising catamaran. More emphasis is placed on speed and performance, using daggerboards and super light composite construction. HH Cats are built in Xiamen, China. The company currently offers HH44, HH50, and HH88.

The sleeper of the performance cat category is Maine Cat, hailing from Lincolnville, Maine. Their boats are built lightweight with a focus on light air and upwind performance. Daggerboards are used along with simple, intelligent designs.

Of the boats on the performance list, the MC 30 is the smallest sailing cat offered. It features an impressive feature set, however, and a unique combination of traits. For one thing, these boats are designed to be straightforward and light instead of filled with luxuries. For more living space, the MC 41 offers speed and space with none of the frills. 

best coastal cruising 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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

best coastal cruising sailboat

  • New Sailboats
  • Sailboats 21-30ft
  • Sailboats 31-35ft
  • Sailboats 36-40ft
  • Sailboats Over 40ft
  • Sailboats Under 21feet
  • used_sailboats
  • Apps and Computer Programs
  • Communications
  • Fishfinders
  • Handheld Electronics
  • Plotters MFDS Rradar
  • Wind, Speed & Depth Instruments
  • Anchoring Mooring
  • Running Rigging
  • Sails Canvas
  • Standing Rigging
  • Diesel Engines
  • Off Grid Energy
  • Cleaning Waxing
  • DIY Projects
  • Repair, Tools & Materials
  • Spare Parts
  • Tools & Gadgets
  • Cabin Comfort
  • Ventilation
  • Footwear Apparel
  • Foul Weather Gear
  • Mailport & PS Advisor
  • Inside Practical Sailor Blog
  • Activate My Web Access
  • Reset Password
  • Customer Service

best coastal cruising sailboat

  • Free Newsletter

best coastal cruising sailboat

Pearson 37 and 37-2 Used Boat Review

Keep an eye out for corroded exhaust and signs of water intrusion, which could lead to expensive repairs in the future.

DIY Survey Checklist for Used-Boat Buying

best coastal cruising sailboat

Valiant 40: Reshaping the Cruising Hull

best coastal cruising sailboat

Bristol Channel Cutter 28: Circumnavigator’s Choice

Irwin Vise-Grip Wire Stripper. (Photo/ Adam Morris)

Best Crimpers and Strippers for Fixing Marine Electrical Connectors

600-watt solar panel system on Summer Twins 28 sailing catamaran Caribbean Soul 2. (Photo/ Clifford Burgess)

Thinking Through a Solar Power Installation

best coastal cruising sailboat

How Does the Gulf Stream Influence our Weather?

A lithium conversion requires a willing owner and a capable craft. Enter the Privilege 435 catamaran Confianza.

Can You Run a Marine Air-Conditioner on Battery Power?

best coastal cruising sailboat

Practical Sailor Classic: The Load on Your Rode

best coastal cruising sailboat

Anchor Rodes for Smaller Sailboats

best coastal cruising sailboat

Ground Tackle Inspection Tips

best coastal cruising sailboat

Shoe Goo II Excels for Quick Sail Repairs

When starting lights up the tester, that means your spark plug is good. (Photo/ David Corrao)

Dinghy Outboard Diagnostics

This Perkins M20, 3 cyl, 18hp diesel engine is cleaned, inspected and antifreeze flushed after a winter on the hard. Due to proper prep for both winter and spring, it is now running smoothly. (Photo/ Marc Robic)

Spring Season Engine Start-Up for Winterized Engines

best coastal cruising sailboat

Solutions for a Stinky Holding Tank

best coastal cruising sailboat

Diesel Performance Additives

With a few inexpensive materials and a bit of patience, you can redo the vinyl lettering on your boat yourself. (Photo/ Marc Robic)

Vinyl Boat Lettering DIY Application and Repair

Little things that are hardly necessary but nice to have start in the galley.

Those Extras you Don’t Need But Love to Have

Hidden Maintenance Problems: Part 3 – Gremlins in the Electrics

best coastal cruising sailboat

Three-Model BBQ Test

best coastal cruising sailboat

Alcohol Stoves— Swan Song or Rebirth?

best coastal cruising sailboat

Living Aboard with an Alcohol Stove

best coastal cruising sailboat

Preparing Yourself for Solo Sailing

best coastal cruising sailboat

How to Select Crew for a Passage or Delivery

best coastal cruising sailboat

Preparing A Boat to Sail Solo

best coastal cruising sailboat

Re-sealing the Seams on Waterproof Fabrics

best coastal cruising sailboat

Chafe Protection for Dock Lines

Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

Waxing and Polishing Your Boat

best coastal cruising sailboat

Reducing Engine Room Noise

best coastal cruising sailboat

Tricks and Tips to Forming Do-it-yourself Rigging Terminals

marine toilet test

Marine Toilet Maintenance Tips

  • Sailboat Reviews

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

Practical sailor reviews nine used boats over 35 feet and under $75,000..

best coastal cruising sailboat

In a search for a budget cruiser, Practical Sailor examined a field of used sailboats costing less than $75K and built between 1978 and 1984. We narrowed the field to boats with sufficient accommodations for four people and a draft of less than 6 feet. One way to approach a used-boat search is to look for sailboats with informed, active owners associations and high resale values. Practical Sailor’s quest for recession-proof cruisers led us to the Allied Princess 36, Bristol 35.5C, Endeavour 37, S2 11.0, Freedom 36, ODay 37, Niagara 35, C&C Landfall 38, and the Tartan 37. The report takes a more in-depth look at the Tartan, C&C Landfall, and Niagara.

Let’s say you’re looking to buy a boat for summer cruising along the coastal U.S. or on the Great Lakes, one that, when the time is right, is also capable of taking you safely and efficiently to Baja or the Bahamas, and perhaps even island-hopping from Miami to the West Indies. Like most of us, your budget is limited, so a new boat is out of the question. Let’s set more specifics:

  • Passes a thorough survey by a respected surveyor and has been upgraded to meet current equipment and safety standards. (These are old boats, after all, prone to all sorts of potentially serious problems.)
  • Fun to sail inshore (which means not too heavy and not too big).
  • Sufficient accommodations and stowage to cruise four people for two weeks.
  • Popular model (active owners support group for help and camaraderie) with decent resale value
  • Under $75,000.
  • Monohull (multihulls violate the price cap, anyway).
  • Draft of less than 6 feet (for the islands, mon).

In the February 2008 issue, we examined 30-footers from the 1970s , which is just above the minimum length for the Big Three: standing headroom, enclosed head, and inboard engine. Too small, however, to satisfy our new criteria. So we need to jump up in size. As we culled through the possibilities, we found a fairly narrow range of boat lengths and vintages that satisfy the criteria. Of course, there always are exceptions, but basically it is this: 35- to 38-footers built between 1978 and 1984. Bigger or newer boats that meet our criteria cost more than $75,000.

Heres the list of nine models we came up with: Allied Princess 36, Bristol 35.5C, C&C Landfall 38, Endeavour 37, Freedom 36, Niagara 35, ODay 37, S2 11.0, and the Tartan 37. All were built by reputable companies in the U.S. or Canada, with underwater configurations ranging from full keels with attached rudders to fin keels and spade rudders. Displacements are mostly moderate.

Below we present notes on six of the finalists. Details of our 3 favorites are linked to the right of this page.


Allied Yachts developed an excellent line of cruising sailboats in the 1960s, including the first fiberglass boat to circumnavigate, the Seawind 30 ketch, which later was expanded to the 32-foot Seawind II. The handsome Luders 33 was the boat in which teenager Robin Lee Graham completed his historic circumnavigation. Arthur Edmunds designed the full-keel Princess 36 aft-cockpit ketch and the larger Mistress 39 center-cockpit ketch. None of these boats are fancily finished, but the fiberglass work is solid and well executed. They’re ocean-worthy, and affordable. The Princess 36 was in production from roughly 1972 to 1982. Wed look for a later model year; prices are under $50,000.


Bristol Yachts was founded by Clint Pearson, after he left Pearson Yachts in 1964. His early boats were Ford and Chevy quality, good but plainly finished, like the Allieds. Over the years this changed, so that by the late 1970s and early 1980s, his boats were between Buicks and Cadillacs in overall quality. This includes the Ted Hood-designed 35.5C. Its a centerboarder with a draft from 3 feet, 9 inches board up to 9 feet, 6 inches board down; a keel version also was available (named without the “C”).The solid fiberglass hull was laid up in two halves and then joined on centerline. It had an inward-turning flange on the hull, superior to the more common shoebox hull-to-deck joint. The 35.5C is very good in light air, but tender in a breeze. Pick one up for around $60,000.


The Endeavour Yacht Corp. was founded in 1974, and its first model was a 32-footer, built in molds given to it by Ted Irwin. Yup, the Endeavour 32 has the same hull as the Irwin 32. Its second model was the Endeavour 37, based on a smaller, little known Lee Creekmore hull that was cut in half and extended. Its not the prettiest boat in the world, and not very fast, but heavily built. Owners report no structural problems with the single-skin laminate hull. It has a long, shoal-draft keel and spade rudder. What helped popularize the Endeavour 37 was the choice of layouts: an aft cabin with a quarter berth, a V-berth and quarterberth, and a (rare) two aft-cabin model. Production ended after 1983. Prices are around $50,000.

After the Halsey Herreshoff-designed Freedom 40 that reintroduced the idea of unstayed spars, several other designers were commissioned to develop the model line-up. These included David Pedrick and Gary Mull; the latter drew the Freedom 36, in production from about 1986 to 1989. While the early and larger Freedoms were ketch rigged, models like the 36 were sloops, which were less costly to build and easier to handle. To improve upwind performance, a vestigial, self-tacking jib was added. Thats the main appeal of these boats: tacking is as easy as turning the wheel. The 36s hull is balsa-cored, as is the deck. Balsa adds tremendous stiffness, and reduces weight, which improves performance. The downside: Core rot near the partners on this boat could lead to a dismasting and costly hull damage. Interior finishing is above average. These boats sell right at our price break: low to mid-$70s.

This low-profile family sloop was second only to the ODay 40 in size of boats built by ODay under its various owners. Founded by Olympic gold-medalist George ODay to build one-designs and family daysailers, subsequent ownership expanded into trailer sailers and small- to medium-size coastal cruisers. Like the others, the 37 was designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates. The center-cockpit is a bit unusual but some prefer it. The cruising fin keel and skeg-mounted rudder are well suited to shallow-water cruising, and the generous beam provides good form stability. The hull is solid fiberglass, and the deck is cored with balsa. Owners report it is well balanced and forgiving. Early 1980s models are on the market for less than $40,000.

Built in Holland, Mich., the S2 sailboat line emerged in 1973 when owner Leon Slikkers sold his powerboat company, Slickcraft, to AMF and had to sign a no-compete agreement. The 11.0 was the largest model, introduced in 1977. The designer was Arthur Edmunds, who also drew the Allied Princess 36, though the two are very different. Edmunds resisted some of the bumps and bulges indicative of the International Offshore Rule (IOR), but still gave the 11.0 fine ends, and a large foretriangle. Two accommodation plans were offered: an aft cockpit with conventional layout of V-berth, saloon, and quarter berth and galley flanking the companionway; and an unusual center-cockpit layout with V-berth forward immediately followed by opposing settees, and then galley and head more or less under the cockpit. The master suite is in the aft cabin, of course. The hull is solid fiberglass and includes the molded keel cavity for internal ballast; the deck is balsa-cored. Overall construction quality is rated above average. Prices range from about $30,000 to $50,000.

NIAGARA 35: a handsome cruiser with Hinterhoeller quality.

Austria-born George Hinterhoeller emigrated to Canada in the 1950s and began doing what he did all his life: build boats, first out of wood, then fiberglass composites. He was one of four partners who formed C&C Yachts in 1969. He left in 1975 to again form his own company, Hinterhoeller Yachts. The company built two distinct model lines: the better known Nonsuch line of cruising boats with unstayed catboat rigs, and the Niagara line. About 300 Niagara 35s were built between 1978 and 1995.

Niagara 35 sailboat

Canadian naval architect Mark Ellis designed the Niagara 35 as well as all of the Nonsuch models. He gave the 35 a beautiful, classic sheer with generous freeboard in the bow, swooping aft to a low point roughly at the forward end of the cockpit, and then rising slightly to the stern. The classic influence also is seen in the relatively long overhangs; todays trend is to lengthen the waterline as much as possible, with near plumb bows, discounting the old belief that overhangs were necessary for reserve buoyancy. So the Niagara 35 has a somewhat shorter waterline than the others in our group of nine, but as the hull heels, the overhangs immerse and sailing length increases. The short waterline also accounts for the 35s moderately high displacement/length ratio of 329. There is a direct correlation between the D/L and volume in the hull, and for a cruising boat, there must be sufficient space for tanks and provisions. Unfortunately, tankage in the 35 isn’t that much: 80 gallons water, 30 gallons diesel fuel, and 25 gallons holding tank.

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

The cruising fin keel is long enough for the boat to dry out on its own bottom should the need arise, like drying out against a seawall in Bali to paint the bottom. (Sorry-just dreaming!) The spade rudder seems a little unusual for a cruiser. When asked about it, Ellis said that it provides superior control to a skeg-mounted rudder, and that skegs, which are supposed to protect the rudder, often aren’t built strong enough to do the job. Circumnavigator and designer/builder/developer Steve Dashew agrees that offshore, in nasty conditions, spade rudders are the way to go.


George Hinterhoeller and his associates at C&C Yachts were early advocates of balsa-cored hull construction, because it reduces weight, increases panel stiffness, and lowers costs. The worry, of course, is delamination of the core to the inner and outer skins should water penetrate through to the core. This is why quality builders remove balsa coring wherever through-hulls or bolts pass through the hull or deck, and fill the area with a mix of resin and reinforcements. Hinterhoeller was such a builder, but core integrity still deserves close inspection during a pre-purchase survey.

All bulkheads are tabbed to the hull and deck with strips of fiberglass, and this is an important detail for an offshore boat. Many mass-produced boats have molded fiberglass headliners that prevent tabbing bulkheads to the deck; rather, the bulkheads simply fit into molded channels in the headliner, which do not prevent them from moving slightly as the boat flexes in waves.

Hardware quality is good. One owner described the chocks and cleats on his Niagara as “massive.” Hatches are Atkins & Hoyle cast aluminum, which are about as good as you can buy. And the original rigging was Navtec rod. Owners report no structural problems.


With its moderately heavy displacement, conservative sailplan, and relatively large keel, the Niagara 35 is not a speed demon, and does not point as high as a boat with a deep, narrow fin keel. But thats not what were after here. The 35s specs are just about what we want for a versatile cruising boat. Owners say performance picks up quickly as the breeze fills in. If the sailplan were larger, for improved light-air performance, youd have to reef sooner, and reefing is work.

The long keel has another advantage, and that is improved directional stability over shorter keels, which means less effort at the helm. We tend to think that a powerful below-deck autopilot can steer any boat, but autopilots struggle, too. A boat thats easy for the crew to hand steer also is easy for the autopilot to maintain course.

A lot of Niagara 35s were equipped with Volvo saildrives rather than conventional inboard diesel engines. Advantages of the saildrive: improved handling in reverse and lower cost. Disadvantages: potential corrosion of aluminum housing and not as much power. Various inboard diesels were fitted: Westerbeke 27-, 33-, and 40-horsepower models, and a Universal M35D, all with V-drives. Owners rate access somewhat difficult.


Two interior layouts were offered: the Classic, in which the forepeak has a workbench, shelves, seat, and stowage instead of the usual V-berth; and the Encore, which has an offset double berth forward, and quarter berth and U-shaped galley aft. The saloon in the Classic, with settees and dining table, is farther forward than usual; the head and owners stateroom, with single and double berths, is aft. Both plans have their fans.

Headroom is 6 feet, 4 inches in the main cabin and 6 feet, 2 inches in the aft cabin. Berths are 6 feet, 7 inches long; a few owners say berth widths are a bit tight. A couple of thoughts on the double berths offered in these two plans: V-berths are subject to a lot of motion underway and so do not make great sea berths, but at anchor, ventilation via the forward hatch makes them far more comfortable than a stuffy aft cabin, where its much more difficult to introduce air flow. Offset double berths do not waste outboard space like V-berths do, but the person sleeping outboard must crawl over his/her partner to get out of bed.

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

Thirty-year-old boats should be surveyed thoroughly. Nothing lasts forever, but boats well maintained last a lot longer. Pay particular attention to the balsa-cored hull and deck. If either has large areas of delamination, give the boat a pass, because the cost to repair could exceed the value of the boat.

A few owners expressed concern about the boats handling off the wind, which surprises us somewhat. A test sail in lively conditions should answer that question.

We much prefer the inboard. If you prefer the saildrive, look for signs of corrosion and get a repair estimate.

Niagara 35 Conclusion

The Niagara 35 is a handsome, classically proportioned cruising sloop from one of the best builders of production boats in North America. It is not considered big enough these days to be a circumnavigator, but certainly large enough for a couple to leisurely cruise the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, and South Pacific. We found asking prices ranging from around $54,000 to $89,000, with most in the $60,000 range.


As noted, George Hinterhoeller was one of four partners who formed C&C Yachts in 1969, at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The others were Belleville Marine, Bruckmann Manufacturing, and the design firm of George Cuthbertson and George Cassian. From the beginning, the emphasis was on performance. Indeed, the 40-foot Red Jacket won the 1968 Southern Ocean Racing Circuit (SORC).

C&C 38 sailboat

In 1973, Cuthbertson retired to his Ontario farm, citing burn-out. Eight months later, he was back as president of C&C Yachts, telling staff that they ought to pursue more multi-purpose racer/cruiser models. C&C became the dominant boatbuilder in North America, with models ranging from the C&C 24 to the C&C 46, with models just about every 2 feet in between. The Landfall cruiser series was introduced in 1977, with the Landfall 42. It was followed by the Landfall 35, 38, and 48. Production of the 38 ran from 1977 to 1985, with about 180 built.

The C&C Landfall 38 is directly related to the earlier C&C 38. We wrote in our original 1983 review that the older hull design was “…modified with slightly fuller sections forward, a slightly raked transom rather than an IOR reversed transom, a longer, shoaler keel, and a longer deckhouse for increased interior volume.” The spade rudder is not everyones first choice on a serious cruising boat, but it does provide superior control. And the Landfalls have a higher degree of finish inside, along with layouts more suited to family cruising.

The Landfalls perform very well, thanks to lightweight construction and speedy hull forms. The Landfall 38s displacement/length ratio of 272 is the lowest of the three compared in this review.

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

Notable drawbacks: a V-berth that becomes quite narrow forward, and as noted in the 1983 review, “a hull that rises so quickly aft that C&Cs normal gas bottle stowage at the end of the cockpit is eliminated.” This on a cruising boat no less, where a hot meal is often the highlight.

Like nearly all the C&C designs, the Landfall 38 is attractively proportioned with sleek lines and a modern look, even several decades later. It appears most dated in the raked bow, but this better suits the anchoring duties on a cruising boat anyway.

Materials and building processes used in C&C Yachts are very similar to those of the Niagara 35, namely because of Hinterhoeller. Practices he established at C&C continued after he left, at least for the short-term. So what we said about the Niagara 35s balsa-core construction also applies to the Landfall 38, where it is found in the hull, deck, and cabintop.

The hull-deck joint is through-bolted on 6-inch centers, through the teak toerail, which gaves the Landfall series a more traditional look than the distinctive L-shaped anodized aluminum toerail Cuthbertson designed and employed on the rest of the C&C models. The joint is bedded with a butyl tape, which does a good job of keeping out water, but doesn’t have the adhesive properties of, say, 3M 5200. On the other hand, if you ever had to remove the deck-heaven forbid!-it would be a lot easier.

Deck hardware is through-bolted with backing plates or large washers, although some of the fasteners come through on the underside, where the core transitions into the core-less flange. We also saw this on our old 1975 C&C 33 test boat. It means two things: water migrating down the fastener after the bedding fails can contact a little bit of balsa, and uneven stresses are placed on the fastener, which above deck can cause gelcoat cracks.

Proper bronze seacocks protect the through-hulls, and hoses are double-clamped for added security. The mast butt is not deep in the bilge where it can corrode in bilge water, but rests on two floor timbers in the sump, above any water that would typically collect.

The external lead-ballast keel is bolted through the keel sump in the hull. Its run is flat, and the boat can sit on its keel, allowing it be careened against a seawall for bottom painting, prop repairs, or other work in locales where boatyards are rare.

In our earlier review, we noted that the engine compartment has no sound insulation, despite its proximity to the owners berth, but gluing in some lead-lined foam is within the capability of most owners.

Despite being 2,000 pounds heavier than the C&C 38, the Landfall 38 is still a quick boat. Its old PHRF rating of 120 is just a little higher than the Cal 39 at 114, and less than the Tartan 37 we’ll look at next.

The mast is a little shorter than that of the C&C 38, but as with most boats of the IOR era, the Landfall 38 has a large foretriangle of 385 square feet. A 150-percent genoa measures 580 square feet, which is a handful for older crew. Roller furling with maybe a 135 percent genoa would be a logical way to minimize the effort required to tack this boat.

Strangely, the Landfall 38 did not come standard with self-tailing winches; a highly recommended upgrade. The main halyard, Cunningham, and reefing lines are led aft to the cockpit, while the headsail halyards run to winches on deck near the mast.

The boat is stiff and well balanced. Owners like the way it handles and appreciate its speed.

The standard engine was a 30-hp Yanmar diesel. The early Yanmar Q series had a reputation for being noisy and vibrating a lot. At some point, C&C began installing the Yanmar 3HM which replaced the 3QM. Power is adequate. The standard prop was a solid two-blade. Engine access leaves a lot to be desired.

The interior is pushed well into the ends of the boat to achieve a legitimate three-cabin accommodation plan. The standard layout was a V-berth forward with cedar-lined hanging locker. The berth narrows quickly forward so that tall people might not find enough foot room. Moving aft, there is a dinette and settees in the saloon, U-shaped galley and large head with shower amidships, and a double berth in the port quarter, opposite a navigation station. In rainy or wild weather, youll want to close the companionway hatch and keep weather boards in place so that water doesn’t spill into the nav station. Installing Plexiglas screens on either side of the ladder will help.

Oddly, there is no place to install fixed-mount instruments outboard of the nav table; that space is given to a hanging locker, but could be modified. Other than this, about the only other shortcoming is that the toilet is positioned so far under the side deck that persons of average size cannot sit upright. And, the head door is louvered, which compromises privacy.

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

There is not a lot to complain about with the Landfall 38 that we havent already said: the V-berth forward is tight, theres no sitting upright on the toilet, theres no place to install electronics at the nav station, and the nav station and aft berth invite a good soaking through the companionway.

Construction is above average, but have a surveyor sound the hull and decks for signs that the fiberglass skins have delaminated from the balsa core. Small areas can be repaired, but our advice is not to buy a boat with widespread delamination.

Landfall 38 Conclusion

The Landfall 38 is an excellent family boat and coastal cruiser. Its popularity in the Great Lakes region is not surprising. Island hopping to the Caribbean is also within reach, but any longer cruises will likely require more tank capacity and stowage. Standard tankage is 104 gallons water and 32 gallons of fuel. Prices range from around $55,000 to $65,000.

TARTAN 37: shoal draft and S&S styling.

In the early years of fiberglass boat construction, the major builders-Columbia, Cal, Morgan, Tartan, and others-commissioned well-known naval architects to design their models. Today, this work is more often done by a no-name in-house team over which the company has more control. Tartan Yachts of Grand River, Ohio, relied almost exclusively on the prestigious New York firm of Sparkman & Stephens; they’d drawn the Tartan 27 for the company’s antecedent, Douglass & McLeod, and were called on again to design the Tartan 37, which had a very successful production run from 1976 to 1988.

Higher Porpoise sailboat

The Tartan 37 has the modern, clean, strong lines that typified S&S designs. The bow is raked, and the angle of the reverse transom is in line with the backstay-an easily missed detail that nevertheless affects the viewers impression of the boat. Freeboard is moderate and the sheer is gentle. In an early review, we wrote: “Underwater, the boat has a fairly long, low-aspect ratio fin keel, and a high-aspect ratio rudder faired into the hull with a substantial skeg.” In addition to the deep fin keel, a keel/centerboard also was offered. A distinctive feature is how the cockpit coamings fair into the cabin trunk. Its displacement/length ratio of 299 and sail area/displacement ratio of 16.1 rank it in the middle of the 9-model group (see table, page 9), so while it looks racy, its not going to smoke the other nine.

From its beginning, Tartan Yachts set out to build boats of above average quality, and this can be seen in both the finish and fiberglass work. Some unidirectional rovings were incorporated in the hull laminate to better carry loads; like the vast majority of boats of this era, the resin was polyester. Vinylester skin coats, which better prevent osmotic blistering, had yet to appear. Some printthrough is noticeable, more on dark-color hulls. The hull and deck are cored with end-grain balsa, which brings with it our usual warnings about possible delamination. The hull-deck joint is bolted through the toerail and bedded in butyl and polysulfide. Taping of bulkheads to the hull is neatly executed with no raw fiberglass edges visible anywhere in the interior. Seacocks have proper bronze ball valves. One owner advises checking the complex stainless-steel chainplate/tie rod assembly, especially if its a saltwater boat.

Shortcomings: Pulpit fasteners lack backing plates. Scuppers and bilge pump outlets have no shutoffs.

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

Under sail, the Tartan 37 balances and tracks well. As noted earlier, its not a fireburner, but not a slug either. Its no longer widely raced, but the few participating in PHRF races around the country have handicaps ranging from 135-177 seconds per mile. The Niagara 35 now rates 150-165, and the C&C 38 126-138.

The deep fin-keel version points a little higher than the keel/centerboard because it has more lift, however, the deep draft of 6 feet, 7 inches is a liability for coastal cruising.

Because of the large foretriangle and relatively small mainsail, tacking a genoa requires larger winches and more muscle than if the relative areas of the two were reversed. For relaxed sailing, jiffy reefing of the main and a roller-furling headsail take the pain out of sail handling.

The 41-horsepower Westerbeke 50 diesel provides ample power. Standard prop was a 16-inch two blade. A folding or feathering propeller reduces drag, thereby improving speed. Access to the front of the engine, behind the companionway ladder, is good. Unfortunately, the oil dipstick is aft, requiring one to climb into the starboard cockpit locker-after you’ve removed all the gear stowed there.

The layout below is straightforward with few innovations: large V-berth forward with hanging locker and drawers; head with sink and shower; saloon with drop-down table, settee, and pilot berth; U-shaped galley to starboard; and to port, a quarterberth that can be set up as a double. To work at the navigation station one sits on the end of the quarterberth. This plan will sleep more crew than most owners will want on board, but its nice to have the option. Pilot berths make good sea berths but often fill with gear that can’t easily be stowed elsewhere.

The fold-down table, like most of its ilk, is flimsy. Underway, tables should be strong enough to grab and hold on to without fear of damaging it or falling-thats not the case here. And the cabin sole is easily marred trying to get the pins in the legs to fit into holes in the sole.

Finish work in teak is excellent, though this traditional choice of wood makes for a somewhat dark interior. Today, builders have worked up the nerve to select lighter species such as ash and maple.

Eight opening portlights, four ventilators, and three hatches provide very good ventilation.

The standard stove was alcohol, which few people want anymore, owing to low BTU content (which means it takes longer to boil water), the difficulty in lighting, and almost invisible flame. Propane is a better choice, but there is no built-in stowage on deck for the tank, which must be in a locker sealed off from the interior and vented overboard. (You could mount the tank exposed on deck, but that would not complement the boats handsome lines.)

Affordable Cruising Sailboats

Theres not much to pick at here, but we’ll try. Centerboards come with their own peculiar set of problems: slapping in the trunk while at anchor, broken pendants and pivot pins, and fouling in the trunk that inhibits operation.

Often what sets apart higher-quality boats from the rest of the fleet is the cost of materials and labor in making up the wood interior. They look better than bare fiberglass, work better because they have more drawers and stowage options, and are warmer and quieter. The unnoticed flip side is that the joinerwork tends to hide problems, like the source of a leak. When all the fasteners are neatly bunged and varnished, it takes courage to start pulling apart the interior!

Checking engine oil is unnecessarily difficult, and to operate emergency steering gear (a tiller) the lazarette hatch must be held open, which could be dangerous. Lastly, the companionway sill is low for offshore sailing; stronger drop boards would help compensate.

Tartan 37 Conclusion

The enthusiasm for this boat is strong. In fact, theres a whole book written about it, put together with the help of the Tartan 37 Sailing Association (link below). You’ll pay in the mid- to high-$60s, which ranks it with the Niagara 35 and Freedom 36 as the most expensive of our nine. While Tartan 37s have made impressive voyages, and are as capable as the Niagara 35 and C&C Landfall 38, like them, its not really a blue-water design. We view it rather as a smart coastal cruiser and club racer. Good design and above-average construction give it extra long life on the used-boat market.

Classic Cruisers For Less Than $75,000

ALLIED PRINCESS36'0''27'6''11'0''4'6''5,000 lbs.14,400 lbs.604 sq. ft.30916.2
BRISTOL 35.5C35'6''27'6''10'10''3'9/9'6''7,000 lbs.15,000 lbs.589 sq. ft.32215.5
ENDEAVOUR 3737'5''30'0''11'7''4'6''8,000 lbs.21,000 lbs.580 sq. ft.34712.2
FREEDOM 3636'5''30'7''12'6''4'6'' or 6'0''6,500 lbs.14,370 lbs.685 sq. ft.22418.6
O'DAY 3737'0''30'4''11'2''4'9''5,370 lbs.14,000 lbs.594 sq. ft.22616.4
S2 11.036'0''28'3''11'11''5'6'' or 4'8''6,000 lbs.15,000 lbs.632 sq. ft.29717.2
C&C LANDFALL 3837'7''30'2''12'0''4'11''6,500 lbs.16,700 lbs.648 sq. ft.27215.9
NIAGARA 3535'1''26'8''11'5''5'2''5,500 lbs.14,000 lbs.598 sq. ft.32916.5
TARTAN 37 (CB)37'4''28'6''11'9''4'2''/7'9''7,500 lbs.15,500 lbs.625 sq. ft.29816.1

Niagara 35 Sailnet Forum

C&C Photo Album

Tartan Owners

Tartan 37 Sailing Association



Great article, but why did you leave out your namesake build – Camper Nicholsons Nicholson 35. Very similar to the Niagara 35, except that it trades the (less than useful – my opinion) quarter berths for two GIGANTIC cockpit lockers. And I find the transverse head on the Nic a civilized alternative to telephone booth head/shower combinations.

While the Nic claims 6 berths, you’ll never find that many on ours. Cocktails for 6, dinner for 4, sleeps 2 is our mantra

This is great information and a good guideline to go by. Thanks for the heads up on theses vessels.

Every time Practical Sailor does a review of boats in the 35- to 38-footers built between 1978 and 1984, they always leave out the Perry designed Islander Freeport 36 and 38. Many people are still cruising in these great boats, and among Islander Yachts designs this one is a wonderful cruiser.

I was also sad to see that. We sail a ’79 I-36, and it is stiff, fast, forgiving, and a very comfortable cruising platform. While many of the 800+ built are ready for the wrecking ball, there are some excellent, well cared for boats available. They are lovely sailors.

Couldn’t agree more, with Islander Freeport 36 & 38 raised coachroof that opens up all sort of possibilities and transom based swim ladder, her utility is unmatched.

These are all nice boats. I have sailed most of them. I owned a Tartan 37 for 4 yrs. As A US Sailing Cruising instructor, I have sailed and cruised hundreds of boat. This is one of the best balanced and behaved boats that I have sailed. She will sail on jib alone with no lee helm and sail main alone with minimal weather helm. Few boats will do this. She tracks quite well in a seaway. There are only 2 instances that you need to put the centerboard down: clawing off a lee shore or racing upwind. Otherwise she is just fine with board up. I have not had problems with the board slapping in a rolley anchorage. I keep the board up tight all the way and no problem. And my boat a 1983 had a built in propane vented locker. Also my dipstick was forward port and easy to reach, but not so for the filter so I remote mounted it forward. S & S did a great job on this design. And a 4 foot draft is wonderful and special feature for a boat that sails so well.

Surprising that the author did not address the obvious question, “if you had to pick one of these for a bluewater cruise, which one would it be?”

I too would appreciate the author’s response to this question.

Every time I star liking one of these I see the word ‘balsa’

Why did you not look at the Catalina 36. They are sea kindly; easy to repair and get parts; there’s a lot of them; and newer ones are in the price range you are talking about.i.e. my 2002, well fitted, is $72500.

Good article, thanks.

Pearson 365 conspicuously missing from this list.

Excellent article with factors that almost all of us who own vintage older cruising sailboats have considered at one time or another. However, when making my choice and before putting my money down, I also included PHRF as a factor. Without degenerating into a large discussion of pros and cons of PHRF (or any other indexes of performance), I think that you should consider performance in the equation. While livability is important (and I am a comfort creature), the ability to run away from a storm or handle tough conditions, is also important, you don even mention it. Paraphrasing Bill Lee, “faster is fun”. After weighing all of the factors discussed above, and adding considerations for performance, I purchased a 1984 Doug Peterson designed Islander 40 for $65,000 and am still in love with the boat 15 yrs later. It still is a “better boat than I am a sailor” and is also very comfortable. The only drawback is that it draws 7’6″ which in SF Bay, is not a problem. On the “right coast” that might be a problem, but on the “correct coast” it has not been.

Hate to be picky but you left out of this old list a high quality design and blue water capable cruiser designed and made by quality Canadian company–Canadian Sailcraft, namely CS 36 T. A Sailboat 36.5 feet with all the necessary design and sailing numbers needed to be attractive , safe, and fast.

No one likes to see their favorite boat left off a list like this, but it must be done. But my Ericson 38 has almost none of the cons of the boats in this article, and most of the desireable pros. After 13 years of ownership, it hasn’t even hinted at breaking my heart. Great design pedigree, glassed hull/deck joint, ahead of its time structural grid, points high, extremely liveable interior, and the list goes on…so much so that I’m glad I didn’t buy ANY of the boats in the article instead.

Missing are the CSY 37 and 44. Ernest M Kraus sv Magic Kingdom CSY 44 walkover cutter

Very useful article. Thanks! I’d love to see the same framework for a selection of length 40′-50’ft coastal cruisers.

I know that it is hard to include all boats, but you missed a boat that fills all the requirements. I’m speaking about the Bob Perry designed and Mirage built 35. It has all the capabilities and handling characteristics that you would want in a capable cruiser and the speed of a steady over-performing racer-cruiser. It has 6’5″ headroom and all the standard features that are a must in a strong well built beauty with 5 foot draft, light but rigid and strong. Great for the Chesapeake bay or other depth challenging bodies of water.

Great publication through the year’s. Still miss my print version to read on rainy day. Owned a Cal 27 T-2 and Irwin Citation over the years. Sailed on the Chesapeake. The Irwin ended up in Canada. JA

We have a Swallow Craft Swift 33. The boat was made in Pusan Korea in 1980. For a 33′ boat it is cavernous. We live aboard 1/2 the year. I thought it might be a boat you would be interested in looking at. I call it a mini super cruiser.

How about the Pearson 367?

Surely this is a joke. I’ll put the Nonsuch 30 Ultra against anyone.

Good article, but another vote for the CS36T. No better value for an offshore capable, fast cruiser and built to last.

Great article

The list looks familiar to the list I was working with back around 2004. Back then the prices were even higher of course. To fit my budget, I got a great boat… Freedom 32. That is a Hoyt design from TCI. All I really gave up was some waterline. Below deck, the boat is as roomy as many 35-36 footers due to the beam. I find it to be a great boat for me. I do not see a move up to the sizes on this list to improve my lot. I could be tempted by a Freedom sloop over 44′ but that is retirement noise.

which edition of month/year of the PS Magazine is this covered in please, it would be great to know?

A great article, but what about the Young Sun 35 Cutter! a great offshore boat that I have sailed single handed from Canada to Hawaii and back, single handed, in rough conditions, but which was an incredible 30 days each way. Overall 40 ft. and 11 ft. beam. I believe also built by Bob Perry!

I was sorry to see you left out any offerings from Cape Dory, a Massachusetts-based company that offered sturdy cruising yachts up to 45 feet, many of them designed by Carl Alberg. We’ve enjoyed our Cape Dory 30 cutter on both coasts since the 1980s.

I would be very interested to know what this article would suggest today. For $75,000, should it be a smaller Catalina/Hunter/Beneteau less than 20 years old or would you still recommend an older and maybe larger boat?

LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply

Log in to leave a comment

Latest Videos

Hanse 410: What You Should Know | Boat Tour video from Practical Sailor

Hanse 410: What You Should Know | Boat Tour

Sailboat vs Fishing Boat - Rules of the Road video from Practical Sailor

Sailboat vs Fishing Boat – Rules of the Road

Catalina 445: What You Should Know | Boat Review video from Practical Sailor

Catalina 445: What You Should Know | Boat Review

How to Wax and Polish Your Boat video from Practical Sailor

How to Wax and Polish Your Boat

  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell My Personal Information
  • Online Account Activation
  • Privacy Manager


A site for sailors, by sailors, 20 affordable cruising sailboats, 20 cruising sailboats that you can afford, part 1 of a 4 part series on affordable cruising sailboats.

Are you looking for a safe, stable, affordable, blue-water or coastal cruising sailboat for you and your partner with room for a couple of small children? Here’s a list of 20 older boats that meet my guidelines for a good cruising sailboat.

They’re all proven sea boats, they have a draft of less than 1.5 meters (5 feet), they have tiller steering, they are of fiberglass construction and are reasonably available on the used boat market. Among these boats you’ll find a range of boats from cruiser/racer designs to traditional heavy boats more suited to comfortable cruising in heavy weather far offshore.

Your initial choices amongst these boats will depend on the type of sailing you intend to do. Most coastal cruiser designs are not really suitable for heavy offshore work but are more than satisfactory for shorter cruises closer to shore where more facilities are available. That said, there have been many intrepid voyages, including circumnavigations, made in cruiser/racer designs.

At 25 to 32ft overall, you’re going to have to accept some compromises. Headroom is one. Many of these boats do not have full standing headroom. On long voyages this can become a serious problem, but for a short coastal cruise, or a weekend trip on the lake, the lack of headroom is less of a problem.

These boats can be relatively inexpensive, and if the purchase price reflects the condition of the boat you will get many years of sailing pleasure at a very reasonable cost, assuming you have the time and inclination to make the repairs and improvements that these older boats will undoubtably require.

You can get some idea of current prices for these boats at the following sites.

Nada Guides

If you don’t have the time, inclination and expertise to do the upgrade work, then my heartfelt advice to you is to find a boat that has already been completely restored and pay the premium in the price. I know from personal experience that having a partly restored boat sitting on the marina or in your yard is a deeply unsatisfying experience. You feel you should be working on the boat every spare minute and it’s hard to enjoy any other relaxation until the boat is finished.

So my advice? Pay the price, get on the water as soon as you can and go sailing.

See my review here Cal 30 Review

Pearson Vanguard article

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

Yachting Monthly cover

Sailing America: 10 of the best spots to cruise in the US

  • Steve Walburn
  • May 6, 2022

Sailing America opens up wide and varied cruising grounds, taking in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as temperate and tropical locations to explore under sail. Steve Walburn shares his 10 best spots

Sailing America: Santa Catalina, one of California’s Channel Islands, offers cruisers wildlife, dive sites and Mt. Orizaba, its highest peak. Credit: Getty

Santa Catalina, one of California’s Channel Islands, offers cruisers wildlife, dive sites and Mt. Orizaba, its highest peak. Credit: Getty

From the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to the Gulf of Mexico, America boasts the world’s eighth-longest coastline.

Throw in an abundance of freshwater sailing in the Great Lakes, along with myriad tropical destinations accessible from US waters, and the United States presents nearly endless cruising opportunities for visiting sailors.

A yacht with a coloured sail cruising past Chicago Automated lighthouse on Lake Michigan while cruising america

Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes, offers plenty of sailing, including Chicago Harbor, guarded by the automated lighthouse on the northern breakwater. Credit: Getty

Whether you sail across the Atlantic or fly to the States and charter a boat, UK cruisers will find sailing adventure as varied as the country itself.

With both major coastlines stretching north and south, there is always year-round cruising at one latitude or another.

Starting in the Northeast during summer and working clockwise around the country, here are ten great destinations to set sail in the New World and beyond.

Penobscot Bay, Maine

Sailing America - a large double masted wooden sailing yacht cruises past a lighthouse at Casco Bay

Maine has a strong boat building heritage and you will see plenty of examples as you cruise the bay, including Casco. Credit: Getty

With its craggy coastline and rich maritime heritage, Maine may be the ultimate US cruising ground.

From Casco Bay in the south to the Bay of Fundy in the north, a labyrinth of wilderness islands, picturesque villages, and secluded anchorages await adventurous mariners.

Roughly in the middle of that ragged coast are the celebrated waters of Penobscot Bay.

There Maine’s tradition of wooden boat building thrives in places like Brooklin Boat Yard and Center Harbor.

Pink granite outcrops and evergreen forests line the scenic coast.

Gunkhole in a private cove for a day or two, then grab a mooring ball or a slip in any of dozens of Penobscot Bay harbors.

Excellent hiking and camping await on islands such as Warren Island State Park, where in summer the lush maritime woodlands are ripe with wild blueberry and raspberries.

Sailing America: Getting to Penobscot Bay, Maine

Peak Maine cruising season is July through August. During that time, the prevailing wind is a light southerly of about 5 knots.

The bay’s 20-mile breadth poses little difficulty entering either west or east Penobscot Bay.

However, a big tidal range, frequent fog , and a gauntlet of lobster pots make for challenging sailing.

Granite headlands call for vigilance against underwater ledges and obstructions.

Provisioning opportunities can be limited, so stock up in ports such as Rockland or Camden before venturing out.

Bareboat charters are available through Johanson Boatworks in Rockland ( ) and Northpoint Yacht Charters in Rockport ( ).

Buy Waterway Guide—Northern Edition 2022 at Amazon (US)

Buy A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast by James Bildner at Amazon (US)

Buy A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast by James Bildner at Foyles (UK)

Buy A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast by James Bildner at Amazon (UK)

Buy Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast by Hank and Jan Taft at Amazon (UK)

Sailing America: Newport, Rhode Island

Sailing America - an aerial view of Newport Harbour in Rhode Island, with boats anchored in the bay

The harbour at Newport is usually crowded but there are plenty of places to anchor in the bay. Credit: Getty

Newport, Rhode Island, is arguably the capital of US sailing. Nautical influences on this classic New England town range from the world’s largest fleet of 12 Metres to the Golden Age of Sail.

Consistent winds in relatively protected Narragansett Bay make for pleasant sailing in a light chop. The local climate is warmed by proximity to the Gulf Stream, and the sailing season can run through October.

Downtown Newport offers world-class dining, haul-out and repair facilities, and a bustling city centre full of diverse American architecture.

The Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame are in nearby Bristol, and the famed Newport International Boat Show is in September.

Just outside Narragansett Bay lie the famed cruising grounds of Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block Island, all within a day’s sail.

The entrance to Long Island Sound (and New York Harbor via the East River) is about 40 miles south.

Sailing America: Getting to Newport

Narragansett Bay is divided into three sections: West Passage, East Passage, and the Sakonnet River. Conanicut Island lies in the middle and offers shelter on either side during strong southerly or northeasterly blows.

There are various mooring fields in all three sections of the bay, with popular anchorages off the east shore of Aquidneck Island.

Upon entering the bay from Rhode Island Sound, Newport Harbor is just beyond a relatively narrow channel south of Castle Hill Lighthouse at the mouth of East Passage.

The water widens inside, with plenty of room to maneuver until you enter the harbor proper, which is usually crowded with moored vessels.

Sail in a 12 Metre regatta with .

Bareboat in Narragansett Bay through

Buy A Cruising Guide to Narragansett Bay and the South Coast of Massachusetts by Lynda Morris Childress, Patrick Childress and Think Martin at Amazon (US)

Buy A Cruising Guide to Narragansett Bay and the South Coast of Massachusetts by Lynda Morris Childress, Patrick Childress and Think Martin at Amazon (UK)

Buy A Cruising Guide to Narragansett Bay and the South Coast of Massachusetts by Lynda Morris Childress, Patrick Childress and Think Martin at Foyles (UK)

Sailing America: Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay from the air showing the harbour and boats. It is one of the best spots for those wanting to go sailing America

Spring and fall are the best times to cruise Chesapeake Bay. Credit: Getty

Chesapeake Bay is the largest inlet on the Atlantic Coast.

Its massive watershed drains six states and the District of Columbia, but the saltwater ecosystem is confined primarily to Virginia and Maryland.

With more total shoreline than the entire US west coast, scores of major cities and small towns line the bay.

The upper reaches are highlighted by Annapolis, Maryland, famous for its sailing heritage and annual boat show.

Baltimore Harbor is a little farther north, and Washington DC is just to the west on the Potomac River.

In contrast to the west side of the bay, the Eastern Shore is mostly farmland, with endless creeks, bays, and narrows offering a gunkholer’s delight.

Popular small ports on the eastern side include St. Michaels on the Miles River and Oxford on the Tred Avon River.

The southern bay is home to busy Virginia ports such as Virginia Beach and Norfolk, the site of a huge US naval station.

Sailing America: Getting to Chesapeake Bay

Offshore sailors enter the bay at the 17-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel connecting mainland Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore.

For inshore travellers, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway joins the bay with protected North Carolina waters farther south.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal connects the upper Chesapeake Bay to Delaware Bay. Both stretches are important ICW corridors for snowbird cruisers migrating with the seasons.

Mid-summer brings stifling heat and humidity, but spring and fall offer pleasant sailing in temperate climates.

Bareboat rentals with Waypoints Annapolis ( ).

Buy Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholers Guide by William Shellenberger at Amazon (US)

Buy Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholers Guide by William Shellenberger at Amazon (UK)

Buy Cruising the Chesapeake: A Gunkholers Guide by William Shellenberger at Waterstones (UK)

Buy Waterway Guide Chesapeake Bay 2022 at Amazon (US)

Buy Waterway Guide Chesapeake Bay 2022 at Amazon (UK)

Beaufort to Beaufort, The Carolinas

Beaufort, North Carolina. A cruising yacht sails pass a superyacht while sailing America

Beaufort, North Carolina is a good base for exploring the Outer Banks to the north

A cruise from Beaufort, North Carolina, to Beaufort, South Carolina, features the historic ports of both cities, as well as the antebellum city of Charleston, SC.

On the northern end lies Beaufort, NC (pronounced Bō-fert), with its quaint waterfront, maritime history museum, and quick access to the wild Outer Banks.

Beaufort’s immediate neighborhood includes the pristine Rachel Carson marine reserve, Shackleford Banks and its herd of wild horses, and Cape Lookout National Seashore, the southern terminus of one of the longest undeveloped coastlines on the Atlantic seaboard.

South Carolina’s identically named town (pronounced Bū-ferd) is home to classic Lowcountry marshes graced with vibrant green spartina grasses and an afternoon light that is downright ethereal.

In between lies Charleston, a sprawling seaport of historic antebellum homes, world-class restaurants, and graceful southern charm.

Sailing America: Getting to Beaufort to Beaufort

It is roughly 350 miles between the Beauforts, which can also include stops at salty towns like Wilmington, NC, and Myrtle Beach, SC. Well-travelled sections of the ICW connect all three cities.

Extra caution is advised when entering or exiting any of the inlets that bisect the mid-Atlantic barrier islands, especially on strong southeasterly winds or at low tide.

Frying Pan Shoals off the cape at Bald Head Island extends well offshore and deserves a very wide berth.

Transient boat slips are available in all three harbours through Safe Harbor Marinas ( ).

Buy Waterway Guide Atlantic ICW 2022 at Amazon (US)

Florida Keys

Yachts anchored at a palm covered Wisteria Island in Key West

There are hundreds of islands to cruise in the Florida Keys including Wisteria Island in Key West. Credit: Getty

The Florida Keys are often perceived as simply a jumping-off point for passage to the Caribbean , but they offer excellent cruising in themselves.

Charter a boat in Miami, and you have more than 800 islands and islets stretching 150 miles from Key Biscayne to Key West.

Beyond that lie the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas island groups, both US territories and the centrepieces of a US national wildlife refuge and a national park.

The 70-mile passage from Key West to Dry Tortugas is a popular trip accessible to most intermediate-level cruisers.

The Keys are also home to the only barrier coral reef in North America, and the third largest in the world.

Ashore any of the Keys you will find a kitschy, flip-flop vibe unlike anywhere else in the States. And best of all, the Keys are indeed a great staging area for any itinerary that takes you deeper into the Caribbean.

Sailing America: Getting to the Florida Keys

Most marine areas from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas are protected by the 3,800-square mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

There are mooring balls located up and down the reef. Contact the sanctuary for a free map of mooring ball locations ( ).

If anchoring , keep in mind that much of the Keys is marl bottom, which can make getting a good anchor set difficult.

When in doubt, use the clear waters to dive on your anchor. Bareboat charters are available through Miami Yacht Charters ( ).

Buy Waterway Guide Florida Keys at Amazon (US)

Buy Waterway Guide Southern 2022 at Amazon (US)

Buy Waterway Guide Southern 2022 at Amazon (UK)

Continues below…

A yacht sailing over the horizon

How to sail across the Atlantic and back

Confined to quarters during the pandemic, many sailors are itching to slip their lines and sail for the sun. Elaine…

A small yacht sailing offshore

Offshore sailing skills: All you need to know

Will Bruton finds out what coastal cruisers should consider before taking their small yacht on an offshore adventure

best coastal cruising sailboat

Exploring the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

Stephanie and I had left Cape Verde on the 6 January 2020, on a blustery and wet morning almost exactly…

One of the delights of sailing Mexico - A national park, Isla Isabel, 15 miles off the west coast of Mexico, is a major breeding area for frigate birds, brown and blue-footed boobies

Sailing Mexico: a fiesta afloat

Sailing Mexico was the start of Joshua Shankle and Rachel Moore's plan to circumnavigate the world. They find bustle and…

US Virgin Islands

Sailing America - the USVI offer many cruising grounds. A couple on the deck of a yacht sunbathing while anchored

St John is a popular sailing destination in the USVIs, but you can find a quiet anchorage, off Hawksnest Bay. Credit: Getty

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) offer classic cruising in cerulean water against a backdrop of green volcanic islands.

Distinct from the flatter and more arid Bahamas to the north, the USVI is a tropical paradise lying at the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

In addition to the group’s three main islands, there are scores of smaller islets and cays scattered throughout the archipelago.

They are renowned for sandy white beaches and lush tropical forests. Maho Bay on St. John is one of the more popular destinations, known for the opportunity to snorkel with green and hawksbill sea turtles.

There are numerous national parks, monuments, and marine preserves throughout the islands. More than half of St. Thomas is a US national park.

Point your bow toward the USVI, and you will end up at the centre point of the entire Virgin Islands archipelago, with the British VI lying due east and the lesser-known Puerto Rican VI to the west.

Sailing America: Getting to the US Virgin Islands

There are several ways to sail to the Virgin Islands. A rhumb line from the US mainland at Miami is known as the Thorny Path due to the labyrinth of islands, reefs, shoals, currents, and upwind slogs complicating the route.

This nearshore passage is best handled in short hops over a long period of successive weather windows. That means taking several weeks instead of days.

The alternative is known as the I-65 Expressway, so named because it takes you east of Florida offshore to longitude 65°W.

From there you sail south across the trades in true offshore conditions. Or you can just fly into St. Thomas and charter with Waypoints USVI ( ).

The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands 2022 by Simon Scott at Amazon (US)

The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands 2022 by Simon Scott at Amazon (UK)

Channel Islands, California

Yacts mooring at Avalon harbor at Catalina island

All moorings at Avalon harbor on Catalina, one of the Channel Islands, are allocated on a first-come, first, serve basis. Visiting yachts should stand by the harbor entrance to be assigned a mooring. Credit: Getty

California’s Channel Islands consist of eight major islands divided into a northern group and a southern group.

Cruisers visiting southern California will find either destination a short sail off the mainland.

Characterised by arid, rugged terrain and abundant wildlife, this pristine area presents challenging sailing that rewards mariners with stunning scenery in remote anchorages.

A menagerie of whale, dolphin, sea lion, and seal species inhabit these waters, most of which are encompassed in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

Onshore you will find scattered beaches, sea caves, and excellent hiking in places such as the Pelican Bay Trail on Santa Cruz Island. Flora and fauna range from cacti to buffalo.

Because much of the Channel Islands are protected or private, you may need a permit to go ashore.

When you are ready to regroup in port, check out the scenic town of Avalon on Catalina Island.

At a population of only 3,460, it is the most developed town in these otherwise pristine islands and a great place to re-provision, shop, or dine out for a night or two.

Sailing America: Getting to the Channel Islands

The closest of the Channel Islands is less than 15 miles from the mainland, but the entire archipelago is known for ocean swell, confused seas, and strong winds.

To the north, Point Conception is sometimes referred to as the “Cape Horn of the Pacific” due to frequent gales that threaten seas in the northern group.

And the downslope Santa Ana “Devil Winds” blowing offshore from the mainland are a force to be closely monitored

All the islands offer plenty of anchorages, but relatively few are fully protected.

Perfect your anchoring technique and ground tackle before setting sail to the Channel Islands.

Charter or bareboat from Santa Barbara Sailing Center ( ).

Buy the Cruising Guide to California’s Channel Islands by Brian Fagan at Amazon (US)

Buy the Cruising Guide to California’s Channel Islands by Brian Fagan at Amazon (UK)

Buy the The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California: Golden Gate to Ensenada, Mexico, Including the Offshore Islands by Brian Fagan at Amazon (US)

Buy the The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California: Golden Gate to Ensenada, Mexico, Including the Offshore Islands by Brian Fagan at Amazon (UK)

San Francisco Bay, California

Yachts sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge under a blue sky

It is best to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge on the slack before the flood. Credit: Getty

When you have had your fill of California’s wild coastal islands, head north for some urban cruising in beautiful San Francisco Bay.

Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge is a milestone for any mariner.

Host of the 2013 America’s Cup, the bay is a colourful mix of cityscape and nature, from local green spaces to surrounding recreation areas, parks, and mountains.

Hip and progressive, America’s iconic west coast city reflects cultural influences ranging from the Beat Generation to nearby Silicon Valley.

At the nautical epicentre are Aquatic Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, including its flagship Balclutha , a 301-foot square-rigger built in 1886.

Take a couple of days or a couple of weeks to cruise past the exhilarating port cities lining the bay, and you’ll find plenty of sightseeing—and wind—to keep any sailor entertained.

Sailing America: Getting to San Francisco Bay

Most cruisers chart a counterclockwise route through the bay, always mindful of the powerful winds running through the narrows under Golden Gate Bridge, a long fetch known as The Slot.

Notorious for fog and chill ocean winds, even in the peak of summer bay sailing is a bracing experience.

Major shipping lanes, stacked seas, and strong currents add to the challenge (and accomplishment) of sailing in San Francisco Bay.

Some of the more popular anchorages include Clipper Cove, Richardson Bay off of Sausalito, Ayala Cove at Angel Island State Park, and Aquatic Park Cove on the northern edge of the city.

Bareboat or skippered charters are available through Spinnaker Sailing ( ).

Buy Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay by Bob and Carolyn Mehaffy at Amazon (US)

Buy Cruising Guide to San Francisco Bay by Bob and Carolyn Mehaffy at Amazon (UK)

San Juan Islands, Washington

Cruising America: yachts anchored at an orange red sunset in the San Juan islands

Lummi in the San Juan Islands offers a sheltered anchorage, with a view of Mount Baker, an active volcano. Credit: Getty

What Maine sailing is to America’s northeast coast, the San Juan Islands are to its Pacific Northwest.

This archipelago of temperate rainforests scattered between Washington State and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, offers some of the best cruising in North America.

Situated above the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Salish Sea, the islands also mark a starting point for passages farther north along the magnificent BC coast and up the Inside Passage to Southeast Alaska.

The San Juans are former British territory charted in 1792 by Royal Navy officer George Vancouver, after whom many of the region’s most prominent landmarks are named.

Today, the islands are a serene outpost of sparse human inhabitation coexisting with towering fir and hemlock trees, black-tailed deer, sea otters, shorebirds, migrating waterfowl, and America’s highest concentration of its national symbol, the bald eagle.

Pods of resident orcas roam the myriad passes and inlets in pursuit of salmon and seals.

Cruisers needing to stretch their legs ashore will find pebble beaches and excellent hiking on nearly every island.

Sailing America: Getting to the San Juan Islands

You can spend a week and see plenty of the San Juans or spend years and still not see it all.

These compact islands are a labyrinth of passages, coves, and bays that make for world-class anchorages.

There are 11 Washington state marine parks in the San Juans, all of which offer moorings, campsites, and other essential facilities.

Underwater rocks and strong tidal flows abound, so large-detail charts and tide tables are a must. Shore-tying skills are also critical in anchorages that are too confined to permit standard anchoring.

Charters are available from San Juan Sailing ( )

Buy Waggoner Cruising Guide 2021 Volume 2 at Amazon (US) Buy Waggoner Cruising Guide 2021 Volume 2 at Amazon (UK) Buy Waggoner 2022 Cruising Guide

Hawaiian Islands

Yachts anchored a Kauai in Hawaiian islands; a rainbow is over the anchorage and the rich green hills can be seen in the distance

Yachts can only stay 72 hours in a single anchorage before moving on in Hanalei Harbor on Kauai, and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. Credit: Getty

Although Hawaii is more than 2,000 miles from the American mainland, no US cruising guide would be complete without a nod to this storied Pacific destination.

Surrounded by steady trade winds, Hawaii offers year-round sailing in azure waters against a backdrop of lush volcanic islands.

Cruising sailors share the waters with humpback whales, spinner dolphins, monk seals, manta rays, green turtles, and a kaleidoscope of reef fishes.

Onshore, these isolated islands present a spectrum of micro-climates determined by altitude, wind, topography, and weather patterns.

The result is a rich diversity of ecosystems ranging from tropical forests to desertscape and alpine slopes.

The state is also among America’s most culturally diverse because of its central location between North America and East Asia. Its state flag still incorporates the Union Jack.

Sailing America: Getting to the Hawaiian Islands

The trade winds in Hawaii average about 15 knots from the east. However, wind accelerating through the passes between islands can make things very spicy.

The leeward or western side of the archipelago offers calmer seas most of the time.

Sailors depart for the Hawaiian Islands from all corners of the Pacific, including Mexico , Australia, New Zealand, and Alaska.

And, of course, you can always sail across from the US mainland. But that is a whole other story!

Bareboat options are limited in Hawaii due to the challenging conditions.

For a skippered charter, check out Yacht Charters Hawaii ( ) or Honolulu Sailing Company ( )

Buy Cruising Guide to the Hawaiian Islands by By Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy at Amazon (US)

Buy Cruising Guide to the Hawaiian Islands by By Carolyn and Bob Mehaffy at Amazon (UK)

Buy Charlie’s Charts: Hawaiian Islands by Charles and Margo Wood at Amazon (US)

Buy Charlie’s Charts: Hawaiian Islands by Charles and Margo Wood at Amazon (UK)

Sailing America: Hidden Attractions

Museum hopping.

Herreshoff Marine Museum's Hall of Fame is a must visit. Credit: Getty

Herreshoff Marine Museum’s Hall of Fame is a must visit. Credit: Getty

Herreshoff Marine Museum and America’s Cup Hall of Fame

Brothers Nathanael and Francis Herreshoff are America’s most celebrated naval architects.

They built everything from canoes to torpedo boats but are best remembered as the authors of hundreds of sailing designs, five of which won America’s Cup titles.

Located in Bristol, RI, the museum is easily visited during a cruise of Narragansett Bay.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Immerse yourself in Chesapeake Bay’s nautical history by sailing to St. Michaels, Maryland.

The local maritime museum consists of 35 buildings and 85 vessels, including the last working log-bottom bugeye, Edna Lockwood, a Chesapeake Bay oyster dredger declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

North Carolina Maritime Museums

This network of state history museums is dedicated to the story of North Carolina’s rich nautical history.

One of the best in the system is in Beaufort, NC, where you will find colorful exhibits of maritime history ranging from pirate ships to wooden skiffs.

San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park

Encompassing 50 acres, this US National Park Service facility is one of the west coast’s most important nautical history centres.

Among other attractions, it includes a museum, a fleet of six historic vessels, and a research centre housing thousands of photographs, articles, books, artwork, and naval drawings.

Bonus Cruising Grounds

The lighthouse on the Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is a good place to stop for cruisers sailing up and down the Intracoastal Waterway, with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico. Credit: Getty

The Great Lakes

Straddling the US and Canadian border, the world’s largest group of inland lakes presents myriad freshwater cruising opportunities.

There is even access from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The grandaddy of them all, Lake Superior, offers stellar freshwater sailing around Isle Royale National Park, The Apostle Islands, and St. Ignace Island (in Canadian waters).

Gulf of Mexico

Oil and gas development and a relatively homogenous coastline tend to steer cruisers away from the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet America’s best white-sand beaches are found along the Gulf Coast. If you are cruising the tip of Florida, consider tucking around to its southwest side.

There you will find shallow-water cruising along the edge of Everglades National Park, 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and the sugar-white beaches of Sanibel Island, Captiva, and Pine Island Sound.

Sailing America: What you need to know

A visa and a red passport

Credit: Getty

All temporary visitors to the US are required to have a passport, but not necessarily a visa.

Visit the US State Department website ( Travel.State.Gov ) and search ‘Visa Waiver Program’ for a list of participating countries.

Whether you clear in at the helm of your own vessel or plan to charter for a few days or weeks, here are some additional tips to keep in mind.

Clearing In

Cruising sailors must clear in at an official port of entry. A list of ports is available on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website ( ).

Arriving sailors should have the standard portfolio of passport and visa (if required), boat registration, insurance documentation, crew lists, free pratique, and port clearance from their previous destination.

Keep these and other documents well organised and backed up by photocopies or stored in the cloud. Have your boat stamp at the ready and maintain the vessel in inspection condition.

While cruising, monitor VHF 16 as a listening channel. Visit the US Coast Guard Navigation Center web page for additional VHF radio channel information.

There you will find a wealth of cruising resources, including links to the frequently updated Local Notice to Mariners available by region.

Another great resource is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) United States Coast Pilot Series.

This free downloadable booklet gives a written summary of all navigation standards, hazards, and highlights throughout the country.

Find the guides online here .

Bareboat Chartering

Bareboat charter requirements vary according to location and company policy.

In general, the US standard is certification from either the American Sailing Association (ASA) or US Sailing.

The ASA bareboat certification is course 104, which can be obtained only after completing the organisation’s basic keelboat and coastal cruising courses.

Be ready to produce a sailing resume with at least 80 hours of experience.

Consult your charter company to find out whether other credentials, such as the International Certification of Competence, are acceptable.

The bottom line is to conduct your research specific to the location you plan to visit.

Regardless of experience or coursework, the decision on whether to rent a boat to you will ultimately be up to the individual charter operator.

Enjoyed reading this article?

A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price .

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals .

YM is packed with information to help you get the most from your time on the water.

  • Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
  • Impartial in-depth reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
  • Cruising guides to help you reach those dream destinations

Follow us on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

The Tourist Checklist

The Sailing Capital of the U.S. Is a Perfect East Coast Getaway — With Historic Charm, Tasty Seafood, and Scenic Harbor Views

Maryland brims with charm and history. Nestled on the East Coast, it’s known for its stunning waterfronts and delicious seafood. Crabbing and sailing are local pastimes, thanks to the Chesapeake Bay.

As one of the original 13 colonies, Maryland played a key role in the nation’s early days. In 1791, it donated land to form Washington, D.C. This gesture highlights its historical significance.

Annapolis, Maryland

Annapolis, Maryland’s capital, captures the state’s essence perfectly. This city hosts the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy and features a delightful, walkable downtown. Its cobblestone streets and historic buildings transport visitors back in time.

Sailing is central to Annapolis life, with regattas and boat shows filling the calendar. The city’s vibrant waterfront is perfect for a leisurely stroll or dining on fresh seafood.

Annapolis blends history, culture, and maritime adventure. Whether you’re exploring historic sites or enjoying a day on the bay, it offers a rich and engaging experience.

Best Things to Do in Annapolis

Annapolis, with its rich history, tasty seafood, and scenic harbor views, is a perfect East Coast getaway. Whether exploring historic sites or enjoying a day on the water, there’s something for everyone.

U.S. Naval Academy

Explore the U.S. Naval Academy : Visit the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy. Take a guided tour to learn about its history and significance. Marvel at the impressive architecture and serene grounds.

Stroll through Historic Downtown : Walk along the cobblestone streets of downtown Annapolis. Enjoy the charming colonial buildings and vibrant shops. Stop by cafes and boutiques for a unique experience.

Maryland State House

Visit the Maryland State House : Step into history at the Maryland State House. It’s the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use. Admire its beautiful dome and learn about its role in American history.

Enjoy the Waterfront: Annapolis is known for its scenic harbor views. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront. Watch boats sail by and soak in the picturesque scenery.

Chesapeake Bay

Go Sailing: Annapolis is the sailing capital of the U.S. Charter a boat or join a sailing tour. Experience the thrill of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

Tour the Banneker-Douglass Museum: Learn about African American history at this museum. Discover inspiring stories and significant artifacts. It’s a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Attend a Festival: Annapolis hosts numerous festivals throughout the year. Enjoy the Annapolis Boat Shows, seafood festivals, and more. These events offer fun and entertainment for all ages.

Best Time to Visit Annapolis

Annapolis during Spring

Spring and fall are the best times to visit Annapolis. In spring, the city blooms with vibrant flowers. The weather is mild, perfect for outdoor activities. You can enjoy the annual Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show in April.

Fall offers crisp air and beautiful foliage. The Annapolis Boat Shows in October attract sailing enthusiasts. Fall is also great for exploring historic sites and enjoying waterfront dining.

Summer is lively with festivals and events. However, it can be hot and crowded. Winter is quieter but offers holiday charm and off-season rates.

Overall, Annapolis shines year-round. Whether you’re sailing, exploring history, or savoring seafood, there’s always something to enjoy. Plan your visit around the activities you love for the best experience.

Where To Stay in Annapolis

Annapolis offers a variety of accommodations to suit every traveler. From waterfront luxury to historic charm, there’s a perfect place for everyone. Whether you prefer a room with a view of the harbor or a cozy historic inn, you’ll find comfort and hospitality in Annapolis.

The Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

The Annapolis Waterfront Hotel

The Annapolis Waterfront Hotel offers stunning harbor views. Located right on the waterfront, it provides easy access to downtown attractions. Guests enjoy luxurious rooms, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant. The hotel’s nautical decor and friendly staff make for a memorable stay.

Historic Inns of Annapolis

Historic Inns of Annapolis

Historic Inns of Annapolis combines three charming properties: the Maryland Inn, the Governor Calvert House, and the Robert Johnson House. These inns offer a unique blend of historic charm and modern amenities. Each property features beautifully restored rooms, elegant furnishings, and convenient locations near key attractions. Guests appreciate the cozy atmosphere and personalized service.

The Westin Annapolis

The Westin Annapolis

The Westin Annapolis is perfect for those seeking comfort and convenience. Located in the heart of the city, it’s close to shopping, dining, and the U.S. Naval Academy. The hotel features spacious rooms, a fitness center, and an indoor pool. The on-site restaurant serves delicious local cuisine. Guests love the Westin’s modern amenities and attentive service.

Where to Eat and Drink in Annapolis

Annapolis offers a diverse culinary scene. From hearty breakfasts to fresh seafood and fine wines, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy the local flavors and warm hospitality at these top spots.

Iron Rooster

Iron Rooster

Iron Rooster is a must-visit for breakfast lovers. This cozy spot serves breakfast all day, with a menu full of comfort food. Try their famous homemade Pop-Tarts and delicious chicken and waffles. The friendly atmosphere and hearty meals make it a favorite among locals and visitors.

Cantler’s Riverside Inn

Cantler's Riverside Inn

For a true taste of Maryland, head to Cantler’s Riverside Inn. Located by the water, it’s famous for its fresh seafood. Enjoy steamed crabs, oysters, and other seafood delights. The rustic setting and waterfront views provide an authentic and relaxed dining experience.

Vin 909 Winecafe

Vin 909 Winecafe

Vin 909 Winecafe is perfect for a casual yet refined meal. This charming eatery offers a seasonal menu with local ingredients. Pair your meal with a selection from their extensive wine list. The wood-fired pizzas and creative small plates are a hit with guests. The cozy atmosphere and excellent service ensure a delightful dining experience.

Getting There

Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Airport

Reaching Annapolis is easy and convenient. Fly into Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Airport, just 30 minutes away. Rent a car or take a shuttle from the airport. Annapolis is also accessible by car via US Route 50.

For a scenic arrival, consider coming by boat. The city’s harbor welcomes sailors with open arms. Once in Annapolis, use local transit or explore on foot. The city is compact and walkable. Enjoy the charming streets and historic sites as you stroll. Annapolis is the perfect blend of accessibility and adventure.

Final Thoughts

Annapolis, the Sailing Capital of the U.S., captivates visitors year-round. Whether you’re exploring cobblestone streets, enjoying fresh crab cakes, or sailing the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis promises memorable experiences. Its rich history, vibrant culture, and welcoming atmosphere make it an ideal destination. Plan your visit and discover why this charming city is a beloved destination for both relaxation and adventure. 

All products and listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best Cruise Ships in the World: The Gold List 2024

By CNT Editors

Best Cruise Ships in the World The Gold List 2024

Consider Gold List the answer to the question our editors get asked more than any other: What are your favorite places to stay? Our 30th annual iteration of the world’s greatest hotels and cruises captures nearly a year’s worth of work: This collection represents hundreds of hours of researching, scouting, and impassioned debating by our team of editors in seven cities across the globe. But more than that, it reflects our ongoing love affair with the places where we stay, which often become our gateways to entire destinations. Read on to inspire your next cruise.

See the full Gold List here .

Oceania Cruises' Marina is one of 12 ships chosen by our editors for 2024.

Best Cruise Ships in the World The Gold List 2024

Celebrity Beyond Arrow

Cruise ships often get compared to floating hotels or resorts, but here’s one that feels like a floating Vegas show. Applause, please, for the glittering peacock made from Swarovski crystals and the Magic Carpet platform that shimmies up and down the ship, cantilevered over the water for some of the best seats in the house, while in the Martini Bar, a troupe of bartenders juggle shakers to the sound of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Beyond is one of the largest ships in Celebrity’s Edge class, and all that space is used to maximize the drama. A whole corridor is filled with a glowing installation of bronze sculptures reflected in infinity mirrors; a favorite anchorage was Eden, a beautiful, biophiliac bubble for hiding away in, watching the ship’s wake through triple-height windows and dawdling in swivel chairs that resemble green carnations. As for the cast, there are some stellar performers: Kelly Hoppen designed most of the interiors; Daniel Boulud’s debut signature restaurant at sea, Le Voyage, has an impeccable, globe-trotting menu alighting on Brazilian moqueca and tamarind prawns. But top of the bill is Captain Kate McCue, the first American woman to captain a cruise ship. A captain hasn’t been this synonymous with their ship since the days of Merrill Stubing; follow her social media for a glimpse into the art of ship navigation. During our short, prelaunch cruise, we had an itinerary that involved looping round and round the Isle of Wight—a short trip, but one that was big on sheer spectacle. Three-night sailings from $300 per person. —Rick Jordan

Delfin II. Amazon

Delfin II Arrow

The Amazon River has the opacity of chocolate milk and is almost deathlike in its stillness—which is wild when you consider how much life thrives there. It was on a nine-day journey through Peru with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic that I learned this, as we spent five of those days exploring the jungle by boat. Our chariot: the Delfin II , a Relais & Châteaux vessel with 14 thoughtfully appointed staterooms.

Most days began with a crack-of-dawn skiff ride soundtracked by the squall of jewel-winged, dusky-headed parakeets. The photographers pulled out their football lenses and the birders gasped from behind their binoculars as naturalists pointed out an elegant snowy egret picking its way through a mudbank, a neotropic cormorant spreading its gothy black wings like a vampire, and the somber Jabiru stork, the largest flying bird in South America, standing like a dour English butler on a naked tree limb. Also flagged were capuchin monkeys, giant river otters, flamboyant bromeliads, and—after dark—scores of caimans and capybaras.

We spent one muggy morning in a Kukama village, where indigenous women wove raffia bowls and cooked catfish, and another morning paddling the river—an outing which culminated with a pod of pink river dolphins leaping from the water mere feet from our kayaks. (Even our seen-it-all naturalist, Sandro, clapped like a schoolgirl.)

This deep in the Amazon jungle, there were no other tourists. When we did see signs of human life, they were usually fishermen or park rangers. And because there was no Wi-Fi on the Delfin II and a near total blackout on cell reception, downtime was spent attending lectures on Amazonian ecology, sampling native fruits (how the aptly named ice cream bean hasn’t been pitched on Shark Tank yet, I’ll never know), and buddying up to the ship bar, where I made fast friends of fellow guests. (Expedition cruises always draw a fascinating lot; my cohort included a microbiologist, metaphysical transcendentalist, and one of the earliest Apple employees.)

The highlight of the trip, however, was hiking through the jungle with a local tracker who showed us a brown-throated three-toed sloth, Goliath bird-eating tarantula, junior anaconda, and a century-old strangler fig. When we finally emerged from the bush, we were treated to a spectacular tangerine-and-charcoal sunset punctured by bolts of lighting. It was surreal and intense, just like everything else in this untouched corner of the world. Eight-day sailings from $5,730 per person. —Ashlea Halpern

best coastal cruising sailboat

Ritz-Carlton Evrima Arrow

Ritz-Carlton’s first foray into cruising, the Evrima is a hotel-at-sea experience that might just be the antidote to all the big ship itineraries. Think ultra-small ship luxury (at half the capacity of the Seabourns and Regents) with plenty of scenery options to choose from—the European Mediterranean (routes from Turkey to the Canary Islands) from spring through fall, and the Caribbean (San Juan to St. Barts) in winter—and a younger crowd than most of the luxury cruise market; mostly culture lovers with a dearth of cruising experience who can't wait to get ashore to the Côte d’Azur village restaurants. The 624-foot ship is the first in a fleet of three emerging over the next few years, and it still feels spacious with 149 suites, two pools, a cigar humidor, six bars (the interior Living Room and top-floor Observation Lounge, The Bar, and bars located at the Marina Terrace, the Pool House, and Mistral), a beauty salon and spa deck, water-level marina terrace with water toys, and a fitness center. The 246 staff range from deck crew to your cabin’s personal concierge, all of whom are dubbed the ship’s Ladies and Gentlemen—but titles feel almost superfluous aboard Evrima , where everyone from the tender drivers to dining leads will pause to actually get to know you and recall your name and story (and even your drink order) to make the entire experience feel organic and warm. It’s almost like you’re spending the night in someone’s home, which just so happens to be a 624-foot mega-yacht. And the Evrima itinerary has plenty of free time and overnight ports of call in its sailings, so you can head ashore for a day, or even an entire evening late into the night—gallivanting, dining, and imbibing with the new friends you'll no doubt meet onboard. Seven-night sailings from $5,800 per person. —Shannon McMahon

Image may contain Furniture Bed Room Bedroom Indoors Cushion Pillow and Interior Design

Oceania Marina Arrow

Is there any Marina passenger who doesn’t wish—even for a second—to confine himself to his stateroom on debarkation day? Perhaps only the smarty pants who booked their next cruise before this one ends. Otherwise, how can an epicurean cruiser (that’s Marina ’s crowd) not pine for another shot at the new wine list starring 80 highly coveted, hard-to-snag labels, including swoon-worthy Super Tuscans? You’ll long for one more brag-worthy chance to sip The Mascot, a label from Harlan family pedigree (think cult fave Harlan Estate); the Polo Grill’s deft sommelier knows exactly which prime steak pairs best. Despite eight compelling complimentary restaurants (Red Ginger’s signature lobster pad thai is still a must-devour), Marina vibes far more than great meals. Work up a sweat storm playing pickleball on deck 16 or braving core conditioning in the gym. Melt into a marine detox wrap (I love the juniper and lemon scent) at Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center, then sink into the spa terrace’s bubbling hot tub. Get down and dirty in the artist loft by painting a Venetian mask and playing Impressionist. In the hands-on culinary center, learn to cure a fish or preserve a lemon. Come May 2024, Marina debuts a splashy redo. Fall in love again with revamped avocado toast—bravo to the taco-spiced shrimp topping—in the new wellness-driven Aquamar kitchen. Where you lie your head hardly matters. An entry 291-square-foot stateroom starring a four-pillow, soft-sheet bed feels mighty spacious and sports Bulgari shampoo. That said, the top-to-bottom penthouse suites’ glam reno is beyond covetable, from the expanded bath to a boatload of enviable perks. Ten-day sailings from $1,999 per person. —Janice Wald Henderson

best coastal cruising sailboat

Trollfjord Arrow

Who better to guide you through Norway’s most remote reaches—including the Svalbard archipelago, the northernmost inhabited islands on the planet—than a Norwegian cruise company that knows the area’s every crag and fjord? Hurtigruten is an Oslo-based line whose ships have traversed these waters since 1893, ferrying freight, mail, and passengers to the communities along the rugged coast. In 2023, to celebrate its 130th anniversary, the company’s flagship, the newly refurbished, 500-passenger MS Trollfjord (named for a fjord in the Vesterålen archipelago) began sailing two hybrids of its original 34-port Norwegian Coastal Express, calling at several of the towns and villages on the original route. From September through April, the North Cape Express (a 13-day, 16-port itinerary) sails from Oslo to the North Cape and then south to Bergen. In the summertime, the Svalbard Express’s eight-day journey begins in Bergen and progresses north, with extended port calls and excursions in seven towns before entering the Arctic Circle and pulling into Longyearbyen, a mining town on Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s main island. On both routes Trollfjord offers its (mostly European) passengers an uncommon way to explore the region, with uniquely Nordic cultural touches to connect them to the country. There’s a pre-boarding spread of Norwegian fare in the ship’s departure lounge, and Trollfjord ’s three restaurants prioritize Scandinavian cuisine (salmon, reindeer, and lingonberries, oh my!) and the food culture of the indigenous Sámi people. The ship’s 277 staterooms and 12 suites (with walk-in closets, corner bathtubs and floor-to-ceiling windows) offer a cozy retreat from the sometimes-harsh weather. And typically Nordic diversions such as aquavit tastings, oceanview saunas and polar plunges leave you in no doubt about where you are and who you’re sailing with. 10-day sailings from $3,082 per person. —Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Cruise Ship Regent Seven Seas Navigator

Seven Seas Navigator Arrow

Imagine the most luxurious hotel you’ve ever stayed in. That’s precisely what stepping onboard the Regent Seven Seas Cruises Navigator feels like. And while the opulence and grandeur shine through every square inch of space, it’s worth mentioning that the staff are what make the experience memorable, remembering your name, preferences, likes, and dislikes from the second you step afoot the eight-deck vessel.

The 248 ultraluxe all-suite accommodations feel like your home away from home—despite their capacious interiors—and your personalized steward makes sure of that with thoughtful touches from the moment you check in. Thanks to a revamp in 2019, the ship feels pristine with a new library—complete with a faux fireplace—and sleek state-of-the-art furnishings (including the cruise line’s bespoke mattresses and bed linens) in each of the rooms. However, what makes the Navigator stand out from its counterparts is its intimate size, as it’s the smallest in Regent’s fleet. Everything onboard feels just an arm’s reach away, and you’ll quickly bond with fellow passengers after spending the day together on one of the complimentary shore excursions, such as tours by local guides, cooking classes, and other intimate adventures.

During my Mediterranean voyage, days were spent immersing ourselves in new cities, whereas nights began with a freshly shaken ice-cold martini followed by an exuberant dinner, with a stop in the Seven Seas Lounge for whatever was on tap that night, ranging from cabaret to karaoke. At the end of the journey, I left wanting more and with a suitcase full of clean clothes, thanks to one of the many attentive touches onboard: the included laundry service. 10-night sailings from $3,360 per person. —Rachel Dube

best coastal cruising sailboat

Seabourn Ovation Arrow

“We are not the Rat Pack,” quips Andrew Pedder, the witty Yorkshire-born captain of Seabourn Ovation. He's referring to himself and the other senior officers, for any guests who may have wandered into their impromptu panel session instead of the musical show taking place later that evening. The Q&A—which covers everything from the prettiest ports to the number of Champagne bottles typically consumed during a seven-day voyage—is part of a last-minute program of activities arranged for an unexpected sea day when it’s too windy to dock in the South of France. This is mid-October, on one of the ship’s jaunts around the Mediterranean for the season, and no one seems to mind the change of plan (although when we do explore, all the islands we visit—Menorca, Corsica, Elba—are blissfully tourist-free). It simply means more time for spa treatments, soaks in the outdoor hot tubs, and afternoon tea in the observation bar. Even then, it only feels like there are 60 passengers onboard, rather than 600. The restaurants are excellent, from Sushi, where you can sit at the counter watching the Japanese chefs at work, to poolside Earth & Ocean for Tandoori-style rotisserie chicken and Madras-style white bean cassoulet. Suites are spacious, each one with a balcony. West End–standard entertainment includes a magician and a chart-topping classical singer. But what makes this ultraluxe ship really memorable is the relaxed, on-point service by staff who remember your name and coffee order, or even a familiar face from a sailing five years ago. Seven-day sailings from $2,649 per person. —Emma Love

The Restaurant Silver Endeavour

Silver Endeavour Arrow

Silversea is defined by its far-flung itineraries and exceptional onboard service (think Moët Champagne as you take in an iceberg calving in Antarctica). But the 220-passenger Silver Endeavour, new to the fleet and already a classic, raises every bar. Rooms start at a spacious 356 square feet and have luxury perks like pillow menus and a personalized bar, making them the best in all of Silversea’s array of ships. As far as food goes, premium Ars Italica Osetra caviar is complimentary and around-the-clock, though the Dover sole paired with a label from the rare wine menu at La Dame would have you believing you were in Paris. And the signature Otium spa celebrates pampering as much as it does wellness—don’t skip on the oxygen-boosting Golden Radiance facial. You may find yourself at any given hour glimpsing ice walls through the Drake Passage and remembering that the best part about this ship is the awe-inspiring places it dares to take you. 10-day sailings from $13,150. —Janice Wald Henderson

best coastal cruising sailboat

Scarlet Lady Arrow

Although new to the cruise industry, Virgin Voyages has already begun to set itself apart from its predecessors. When first stepping on the Scarlet Lady, cruisers are met with a rousing, upbeat staff that serve as gurus around the ship and are experts on everything from beauty to juicing. While the Scarlet Lady takes you on a familiar route around the Caribbean, the on-shore excursions available are what make this sail memorable. Take a leap of faith on daring outings such as the Waterfalls of Damajagua in Puerto Plata, where guests make their way down seven of the 27 natural slides and waterfalls. After the exhilarating experience, travelers can sit down with locals and come together over Dominican staples such as pollo guisado, tostones, and mangú. You can always get local delicacies while docked, but while onboard, you must snag a reservation at the Test Kitchen. It’s an experimental dining experience where the menu always evolves. You go in only seeing a small card with ingredients listed for the night’s meal, but everything else is up to the imagination. One might find cucumbers puréed and frozen into ice cream as dessert, or beets formed and prepared like steak. While en route to the next port, the hard reset one does at the Redemption Spa leaves your body feeling anew; it’s impossible to come back from vacation feeling the same as when you departed. On any Virgin Voyages ship, you’ll love the indulgent atmosphere, whether you’re catering to your sweet tooth by narrowing down your favorite gelato of the day, grabbing a drink at one of the five bars that stake claim to having the largest tequila supply on the seven seas, or finally getting that tattoo you’ve been thinking about for ages after visiting the ship’s tattoo parlor, Squid Ink. Seven-day sailings from $2,100 per person. —Paris Wilson

cruise ship restaurant

Queen Mary 2 Arrow

Six days sailing from England to New York across the vast Atlantic had the potential to bore me to stupefaction, but it turned out I had nothing to fear. “The ship is the destination,” said an entertainment director for Queen Mary 2 , who oversees a program that makes this cruise liner the undisputed hub of creative and intellectual stimulation on the high seas. Where else can you attend the annual Literature Festival At Sea, meeting top fiction and nonfiction authors like the late PJ O’Rourke, Bernadine Evaristo, and Louis de Bernières? And where else can you visit a planetarium, watch a Royal Shakespeare theater production, or hear guest speakers discuss artwork investments and the history of airport drug mules?

In between spa massages and table tennis rallies, I nourished my mind in the mahogany library before nourishing my body at the Princess Grill and Queens Grill restaurants, scarfing dishes like croquette of suckling pig, paired with excellent vintages and followed by mango panna cotta. On the final stretch of the journey, as dolphins leapt over the horizon and the Statue of Liberty loomed into view, my heart sank a little—New York City awaited, yet I didn’t want to disembark. That’s quite an achievement. Seven-day sailings from $1,389 per person. —Noo Saro-Wiwa

cruise cabin

World Navigator Arrow

During my first few hours aboard the Atlas Ocean Voyages World Navigator, I felt a bit like I had inadvertently crashed a family reunion: Seemingly everyone else aboard this Arctic expedition had just sailed to Antarctica on the Navigator six months before, so several crew members and guests spent much of embarkation day hugging and catching up. With a maximum occupancy of 196, it’s already an intimate ship, but the fact that the relatively young brand, which debuted in 2019, could develop such an impressive number of repeat travelers in such a short spell speaks volumes. Many told me they were drawn to Atlas because of its eco-friendly bona fides (the new-build ship makes use of hybrid engines from Rolls-Royce designed to leave minimal impact), but the creature comforts on board certainly help. While the star attraction of such an expedition voyage is what lies beyond the decks—access to remote Antarctic fjords that larger vessels can’t dream of traversing, or spotting polar bears loping along pearly glaciers in the Arctic—I made the most of my time in between Zodiac expeditions. The multi-jet shower in my stateroom was sublime after damp and rigorous treks, the heated massage beds in the only L’Occitane Spa at sea are a dream, and the Arctic summer’s 24 hours of sunshine made the Dome observation deck a prime perch to cozy up with a book at any time of day or night. There was neither internet nor cell phone connectivity during my entire eight-day journey sailing thanks to the remote latitudes (though Atlas guests now have access to full Starlink satellite coverage), which meant this was the longest I’d been offline since the 1990s—and yet somehow, drifting through the surreal landscape in this cosseting bubble, I didn’t miss scrolling or chatting with the outside world one bit. Seven-night sailings from $4,749 per person. —Sarah Khan

best coastal cruising sailboat

Westerdam Arrow

A passenger who is well below senior age dances the robot to classic rock, to R&B, to country music, and to disco hits as talented singers and a live band perform most nights in the Rolling Stone Lounge, on Holland America Line’s Westerdam . His mechanical movements are a source of amusement and encouragement; if he can take over the dance floor, so can we with our own moves. The 1,916-passenger Westerdam is beloved as a traditional cruise ship, with its smaller-than-mega-ship size, deep blue hull, wraparound outdoor promenade deck, and details such as fresh flowers all around, celebrating the 150-year-old cruise line’s Dutch roots. Tradition does not mean staid. There’s rock and roll. There’s a trendy top-of-ship pickleball court.

On an Alaska cruise, my husband and I start our days with a jolt of caffeine via the baristas at Explorations Central, the ship’s cushy, contemporary, forward-facing observation lounge, before heading off on adventures such as joining other passengers in synchronized paddling a large canoe to see the ancient yet diminishing ice of Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier. Back on the ship, we indulge in excellent burgers, topped with Gouda and applewood-smoked bacon and served in fast-food wrapping from a stand at the covered Lido pool. We enjoy sustainable Alaska seafood—grilled salmon, fennel-crusted halibut, fried cod—in between cocktails made with local gin, served on real glacial ice. From the veranda of our classic aft cabin, mesmerizing views of the ship’s wake, seemingly endless forest, and a distant, blue-tinged glacier clear our brain. We’re ready for more of the dancing man. Seven-day sailings from $379 per person. —Fran Golden

By signing up you agree to our User Agreement (including the class action waiver and arbitration provisions ), our Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement and to receive marketing and account-related emails from Traveller. You can unsubscribe at any time. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Thinking of booking a cruise? Here are the lines you should — and shouldn't — sail with.

  • Before you book a cruise , it's important to understand that not all cruise lines are equal.
  • Each cruise line has amenities, entertainment, and experiences tailored to specific cruisers.
  • Carnival is good for families, Virgin Voyages for solo adults, and Cunard for mature travelers. 

Insider Today

I am a very, very avid cruiser. Last year alone, I spent 73 days on cruise ships .

I've sailed with most major lines, from kid-focused Disney Cruise Line to the sometimes-naughty Virgin Voyages. When people ask me which cruise ships I recommend , my answer isn't so straightforward.

Each cruise line is unique, offering amenities, entertainment, and experiences tailored to specific cruisers. What you book will depend on your needs, wants, budget, and what you'd rather avoid.

So, I've done some research about popular cruise lines and combined my personal experiences to help you decide which cruise line to book with.

After all, this is kind of the year of the cruise , with travelers predicted to set sail at some of the highest rates in years throughout 2024.

Here's what you need to know about some of the major cruise lines before you book your next trip.

Editor's Note: Price ranges were calculated at the time of publication based on available listings on each cruise site. Cruise pricing is per person, based on double occupancy and the cheapest stateroom/fare available. Prices were calculated before taxes, port charges, and other fees. Itineraries with added tours built-in were not included when calculating this information.

Carnival Cruise Line

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $ | Prices range from $156/pp for a two-day getaway from Sydney to $3,273/pp for a 10-day Alaska cruise

Ideal for: Budget travelers, intergenerational groups, families, and partiers

Skip if: You're looking for a high-class, elegant experience or a quiet, laid-back vibe

Highlight: All Carnival cruises come with itineraries loaded with fun activities. Some ships have especially exciting features like the first roller coaster at sea, SkyRide zip-line-style aerial bikes, and themed parties.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like to wear a tux or ball gown or have a quiet cruise experience.

Launched in 1972, Carnival Cruise Line is one of nine cruise lines owned by parent company Carnival Corporation & plc. It's the company's largest cruise line, with 27 ships. Its cruises typically range from two days to 29 days.

Carnival Cruise Line offers year-round cruises in Australia, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico and seasonal cruises in Alaska , Bermuda, Canada, Europe, Hawaii, and New England.

Celebrity Cruises

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $233/pp for a three-night Key West & Bahamas cruise to $6,912/pp for a 7-night Galapagos cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and solo travelers

Skip if: You're looking for a slower-paced classic cruise

Highlight: All Celebrity Cruises come with amazing outdoor spaces like The Lawn Club with real grass on the top deck of Solstice Series ships and the Rooftop Terrace on Millennium Series ships. You also won't want to miss the Magic Carpet , which allows guests to hang out while suspended above the ocean on some ships.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who want to attend lectures about their ports of call.

Celebrity Cruises began sailing in 1997. There are 16 ships, which sail on itineraries ranging from three to 19 nights to nearly 300 ports of call in 70 countries.

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$$ | Prices range from $249/pp for a two-night cruise from Southampton, England to Hamburg, Germany, to $19,158/pp for a 111-night World Voyage

Ideal for: Sophisticated travelers and mature cruisers

Skip if: You're looking for a high-energy cruise, hoping to travel with children , or craving adventurous activities

Highlight: All Cunard cruises come with white-glove service. You won't want to miss Cunard's famous 3:30 p.m. afternoon tea, gala evenings, and fine dining arranged by stateroom grade.

Possible cons: This is a very formal cruise with strict dress codes. You won't find water slides or pool parties here.

Founded in 1840, Cunard offers a classic cruise experience with cruises ranging from two to 116 nights.

Its four ships sail to Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.

Disney Cruise Line

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$$ | Prices range from $422.40/pp for a two-night cruise from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia, to $5,592/pp for a 12-night Mediterranean with Greek Isles cruise

Ideal for: Disney adults , families, and intergenerational groups

Skip if: You don't want to vacation around a bunch of children and you crave peace and quiet

Highlight: All Disney Cruise Line cruises come with heaps of Disney magic in the way of special events and details. You won't want to miss character meet and greets, pirate-themed parties with fireworks, and passengers trading pins and leaving treats inside decorative pouches hung on stateroom doors.

Possible cons: There is a significant child population on most of these cruises and not much adults-only entertainment. Dinners in the main dining can get loud, and, just like at the theme parks, there can be many queues for activities and other offerings.

Disney Cruise Line first set sail in the 1990s and has five active ships, with the new Disney Treasure set to debut in December. The line has sailings all around the globe, and most range from two to 15 nights.

Holland America Line

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $94/pp for a one-day Pacific Northwest cruise to a $27,399/pp for a 132-day Grand Voyage

Ideal for: Music lovers and sophisticated world travelers who appreciate European hospitality and smaller ships

Skip if: You're young, traveling with children, or want to party

Highlight: All Holland America Line cruises come with a dose of Dutch hospitality and elegance. During my cruise with the line, I enjoyed the Dutch cuisine and Music Walk , which features live performances at B.B. King's Blues Club, Rolling Stone Rock Room, and Billboard Onboard.

Possible cons: The line takes its formal nights really seriously and attracts an older crowd.

Holland America Line has had ships sailing the globe for over 140 years. Its 11 ships cruise to more than 425 ports of call on seven continents, and cruises range from one to 118 days.

MSC Cruises

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $ | Prices range from $80/pp for a three-night Mediterranean cruise to $46,149/pp for a 116-night World Cruise

Ideal for: Budget travelers, families, intergenerational groups, big groups

Skip if: You're looking for lots of food options or top-tier entertainment

Highlight: All MSC Cruises offer great value — and good pizza

Possible cons: The cruise fare does not include many dining options, and the evening entertainment skews old-school and a bit more basic than some other cruise lines that do Broadway-worthy shows.

MSC Cruises has 22 ships, with one more projected to join its fleet by 2025. The line has sailings all around the globe, and most range from two to 118 nights.

Norwegian Cruise Line

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $79/pp for a one-day Australia cruise to $4,379/pp for a 10-day European cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and solo cruisers

Skip if: You're looking for structure, ballroom dancing, and fancy dinners

Highlight: All Norwegian Cruise Line cruises offer freestyle dining. You won't want to miss its Broadway-level shows and generous drink package, which is often offered complimentary.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like formal dress codes, and some dislike the à la carte pricing.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been sailing the world for over 57 years. Its 19 ships visit 400-plus ports on seven continents, and cruises typically last one to 25 days.

Princess Cruises

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $127/pp for a two-day Australia Seacation to $24,098/pp for a 98-day World Cruise

Ideal for: Mature solo travelers, couples, and retirees

Skip if: You're looking for lots of activities and party vibes. Princess Cruises tend to attract an older crowd, and the shows and activities reflect this. There aren't many events offered each day. On the three cruises I sailed with Princess, the entertainment was primarily musicals, piano players, and singers backed by an orchestra. There were only a handful of children on each cruise.

Highlight: All Princess Cruises offer Discovery and Animal Planet-exclusive shore excursions — and many have an excellent onboard lecture series.

Possible cons: This is not a cruise line for those who like to party, love water slides, or have teenagers.

Founded in 1965, Princess Cruises has 16 ships that sail to 330 destinations worldwide on itineraries from three to 111 days

Royal Caribbean

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $196/pp for a two-night Hong Kong cruise to $8,266/pp for a 13-night Arctic Circle cruise

Ideal for: Couples, families, and intergenerational travelers

Highlight: All Royal Caribbean cruises come with fun activities and a broad range of entertainment options. Some have the Ultimate Abyss , the tallest slide at sea, or the glass capsule North Star , the tallest viewing deck on a cruise ship. You won't want to miss the Oasis Class ships' seven distinctly themed neighborhoods and Royal Promenade, a mall-like thoroughfare with shops, restaurants, and lounges that runs the length of the ship.

Possible cons: Many of its ships are mega-ships, so this isn't the line for you if you want a more intimate trip.

Founded in 1968, Royal Caribbean sails to about 240 destinations on six continents. Cruises range from two to 22 nights.

Royal Caribbean has many of the world's largest cruise ships in its fleet of more than 20 vessels.

Virgin Voyages

best coastal cruising sailboat

Cost: $$ | Prices range from $415/pp for a four-night roundtrip cruise from England to Amsterdam to a $3,072/pp for a 13-night Canada, Carolina, and Miami cruise

Ideal for: Child-free travelers, health enthusiasts, the glamorous, and those who don't like strict rules

Skip if: You want a classic cruise, need structure, or can't handle playfulness (and, sometimes, naughtiness)

Highlight: All Virgin Voyages are child-free, and everyone gets unlimited WiFi, access to group fitness classes, and gratuities included in their fare. You won't want to miss its famous Scarlet Night, 20 eateries (every venue is considered specialty dining), and eclectic shows like "Untitled DanceShowPartyThing."

Possible cons: There aren't traditional song-and-dance shows, assigned dining times, and nightly portrait photography

Virgin Voyages has been sailing its "Lady Ships" inspired by superyachts since 2021. Three nearly identical ships are currently in service, and a fourth one is set to set sail later this year.

Virgin Voyages sails to about 100 destinations in Australia, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom on cruises ranging from three to 16 nights.

best coastal cruising sailboat

  • Main content

best coastal cruising sailboat

These 3 lesser-known cruise lines offer amazing voyages on sail-powered ships

There is nothing quite as magical — or romantic — as a cruise on a sailing ship.

To stand on the deck of a vessel topped with dozens of billowing sails, propelled through the waves by the power of the wind alone, is to go back in time to an earlier age of travel, when crossing the world's oceans was as adventurous as it was challenging.

It's an experience that's all about the feeling of the wind in your hair, the lean of the vessel (known as the heel) as it's pushed by the wind and the sway from the waves (which is actually smoother than what you get on a motor ship).

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

In contrast to what you'll find on so many motor-powered ships, cruising on a masted ship is about the simple thrill of traveling across the sea and not about all the many attractions you'll find on board.

Only a handful of small cruise brands — so small that you might never have heard of them — offer trips on sailing ships. Here, we look at the three biggest players in this niche subset of the cruise industry.

Sea Cloud Cruises

If it's an authentic, old-style sailing experience you want, then Sea Cloud Cruises is the line for you. The Germany-based company operates three large sailing ships where the sails are unfurled by hand, just as they were on sailing ships centuries ago.

On the biggest of these three vessels, the 136-passenger Sea Cloud Spirit , 18 deckhands scurry high into the rigging on sea days to manually untie and prepare the sails, an amazing sight. Unveiled in 2021 , it's a full-rigged, three-masted sailing ship of the sort that hasn't been common on the world's oceans for more than a century.

Related: Why Sea Cloud Spirit is a sailing vessel you'll want to try

Sea Cloud Cruises' two other vessels — Sea Cloud 2 and Sea Cloud — are smaller but offer a similar show as the sails are set by hand the old-fashioned way. The former is a 23-year-old, three-masted barque propelled by 23 sails (five fewer than Sea Cloud Spirit); the latter is a 93-year-old, four-masted barque with 30 sails and a storied past.

Now configured to carry 64 paying passengers, Sea Cloud was originally the private yacht of Postum Cereals heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband, the famed financier E. F. Hutton. At the time, the vessel was the largest private yacht in the world. It later served the U.S. Navy as a weather ship during World War II, after which it became the presidential yacht for the Dominican Republic. It only began sailing as a cruise vessel in the 1980s.

If you have money to spare, you can still book Post's opulent private quarters on Sea Cloud, now its owner's suite. It'll set you back around $5,000 per day per couple. Her husband's slightly smaller quarters are also available to book at a similar rate.

Post, the wealthiest woman in the U.S. during her lifetime, notably also built Mar-a-Lago, the massive estate in Florida that is now the official residence of Donald Trump.

Sea Cloud Cruises is the most all-inclusive and upscale of the three brands listed in this story, with pricing to match. Expect to pay nearly $1,000 per person per day or more for many sailings.

Sea Cloud Cruises' three vessels offer a diverse array of sailings in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Canary Islands and Morocco, the Caribbean or along the west coast of Central America.

Related: Cruising Costa Rica, Panama with Sea Cloud Cruises

Windstar Cruises

Founded in the 1980s, Windstar Cruises got its start as a sailing ship line. While it now operates traditional motor-powered ships, too, voyages on sailing ships are still a big part of its business.

Three of the Seattle-based brand's six vessels — Wind Spirit, Wind Star and Wind Surf — are sailing vessels, and they all offer a similar yacht-like, small-ship experience.

Two of the three vessels (Wind Spirit and Wind Star) are particularly intimate, measuring 5,407 tons and carrying just 148 passengers with every berth full.

Related: The 2 types of Windstar ships, explained

The line's third sailing vessel, Wind Surf, is nearly three times the size at 14,745 tons. It's one of the biggest sailing ships in the world (only a sister vessel that sails for Club Med is bigger). Wind Surf carries 342 people, an enormous number for a sailing ship.

Unlike on the vessels operated by Sea Cloud, the sails on Windstar's sailing ships aren't unfurled by hand in the old-fashioned way but by the push of a button from the bridge. It's a fully automated system that is much more modern, if less dramatic.

Still, the experience of slicing through the waves by the power of the wind alone on Windstar ships is as glorious and romantic as it is on the Sea Cloud ships.

Windstar Cruises is less all-inclusive and pricey than Sea Cloud but still offers a relatively upscale experience. Its dining program is done in partnership with the food-focused James Beard Foundation, which also brings James Beard Award-winning chefs to the ships regularly for food-themed itineraries.

For an extra $89 per person per day, passengers can also make the experience more all-inclusive with included Wi-Fi, unlimited beer, wine and cocktails, and gratuities (three things that aren't included in regular fares).

The line's three vessels typically spend nearly all of their time sailing in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or along the west coast of Central America.

Related: Read more about Windstar's itineraries

Star Clippers

Like Sea Cloud and Windstar, Star Clippers operates three sailing vessels that are among the biggest and most elegant sailing vessels in the world.

The belle of the ball at the line is Royal Clipper, a stunning five-masted ship that is billed as the largest square-rigged ship in the world. Its enormous array of 42 sails has a sail area of 56,000 square feet — significantly more than the sails atop any of the Sea Cloud or Windstar vessels. (Only Sea Cloud Spirit comes relatively close with a sail area of 44,100 square feet spread across 28 sails.)

Built to resemble Preussen, a legendary tall ship of the 19th century, the 24-year-old Royal Clipper shares the spotlight at Star Clippers with two smaller sister vessels, Star Flyer and Star Clipper.

Carrying 166 passengers apiece, the smaller vessels were designed to resemble the speedy clipper ships of the 19th century, which were known for their narrow profile and large sail area. Each vessel has a sail area of 36,000 square feet spread across 16 sails, a large amount for the size.

When it comes to the setting of sails, Star Clippers vessels offer a level of old-style authenticity that is in between the ships of Sea Cloud and Windstar. Like on Sea Cloud vessels, the sails are pulled into position by a team of deckhands using hand power and winches to tighten the "sheets," or ropes.

Unlike on Sea Cloud vessels, the deck hands don't climb high into the rigging to untie and prepare the sails for winching. That part is done automatically at the push of a button from the bridge, as it is on Windstar vessels.

In one key difference, though, Star Clippers lets passengers harness up and climb into the crow's nest of its vessels — a thrilling experience. Just be prepared for your knees to go a bit wobbly as you get to the top; it's way up there.

Star Clippers sailings are the most affordable option among the three sailing brands, in part because the onboard experience is less all-inclusive and upscale.

The three Star Clippers vessels mostly operate sailings in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and along the west coast of Central America.

Bottom line

It's still possible to get a taste of what traveling the world's oceans was like in the days before motor power. Three small cruise companies — Sea Cloud Cruises, Windstar Cruises and Star Clippers — offer voyages on large sailing ships that are as majestic as anything that has sailed the seas in centuries past.

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
  • Top ways cruisers waste money
  • The ultimate guide to choosing a cruise ship cabin

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



  1. The Best Cruising Sailboats and Their Fundamental Qualities

    best coastal cruising sailboat

  2. Twelve Top Bluewater Cruising Boats

    best coastal cruising sailboat

  3. Best coastal cruising sailboat: how to choose (size, keel, etc.)

    best coastal cruising sailboat

  4. Nor'Sea 27 Sailboat : A Small Cruising Sailboat to Take You Anywhere

    best coastal cruising sailboat

  5. 43 of the best bluewater sailing yacht designs of all time

    best coastal cruising sailboat

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

    best coastal cruising sailboat


  1. EP22

  2. Introducing The New Tartan 4700

  3. Fast cruiser with plenty of appeal | J⧸45 review | Yachting Monthly

  4. Retired, Part-time cruisers, Chesapeake Bay and beyond

  5. Boat for Sale

  6. Top 20 Classic Cruising Sailboats


  1. 13 Best Cruising Sailboats in 2023 & Why They're Better

    Island Packet 420. Fountaine Pajot Saona 47. Lagoon 450F. Bavaria Cruiser 46. One aspect that sets these sailboats apart is their focus on innovation and performance. Let's take a closer look at the 13 best cruising sailboats of 2023 and explore what makes them stand out from the rest.

  2. 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.

  3. 10 Best Used Cruising Sailboats & Liveaboards

    Tayana Vancouver 42. Tayana Vancouver 42 Dave Backus. Ta Yang, builder of Tayana sailboats, has been building capable cruising boats forever, it seems. The Robert Harris-designed Tayana Vancouver 42 has been a mainstay of the serious cruising fleet since the day it was launched in 1979, and is still in demand today.

  4. Experts' Pick: 25 Sailboats Under 40'

    Catalina 275 Sport. Catalina 275 Sport Billy Black. "This is a complete package; it's a good sailing boat and well-thought-out. It's definitely ready for prime time," says Boat of the Year judge Ed Sherman. Click here to read why the Catalina 275 Sport won Best Pocket Cruiser in 2014.

  5. Best Pocket Cruiser Sailboats, Small Cruising Sailboats

    Balboa 26. Balboa 26 Courtesy Of Matts G. Djos. First splashed in 1969, the Balboa 26 continues to enjoy a strong following among budget-minded cruisers. Built sturdy and heavy, all of the boat's stress points are reinforced. The spacious cockpit comfortably seats 4 and is self bailing, ensuring that sailors stay dry.

  6. 10 New Cruising Sailboats Under 35 Feet

    Dufour Grand Large 360. Dufour Grand Large 360 Jon Whittle. Dufour Yachts introduced its new 360 Grand Large model to CW's Boat of the Year team in 2018 as a coastal cruiser intended for a couple or perhaps a small family. With that in mind, judge Alvah Simon found numerous clever elements to praise within the boat's 35-foot-2-inch hull—a ...

  7. SAIL Top 10 Best Boats for 2023

    For almost 20 years, we've called this awards program SAIL Best Boats, but this year, we're refining and renaming this program to better and more fairly represent the boats we've selected. Restricting boats to categories and labels—such as Best Cruising Monohull 30-40 feet and Best Performance Monohull 40-50 feet—doesn't bring our readers the full picture.

  8. 2022 Boat of the Year: Best Midsize Cruiser (Under 40')

    Overall, judge Ed Sherman thought its stated purpose—"a family coastal cruiser"—was an honest and straightforward one. The Sun Odyssey 380 is the fourth boat in Jeanneau's line of cruising sailboats to employ the walk-around deck that has earned a host of awards and recognition in Boat of the Year circles. Rather than having to climb over the coaming to reach the deck, the side deck ...

  9. Shallow-water Beach Cruising in a Small Sailboat

    Another day, another adventure for this thin-water sailor. Beach-cruising or sailing-camping boats come in all shapes and styles, ranging from one-design sail trainers like the Flying Scot, Hobie 16 and Wayfarer 16 to more cruising-oriented craft, like the Hobie Mirage trimaran series, the NorseBoat line or the UK-built Cornish Shrimperseries.

  10. How to choose the best coastal cruising sailboat?

    Beyond moorings, coastal cruising also means sometimes to find refuge in harbors or marinas. Average-sized sailing yachts, from 29ft to 35 ft, will easily find space between two pontoons, maneuvering at ease in close quarters. Find the best coastal cruising sailboat for your journey in our range: RM890+: fast yacht of about 29-30 feet

  11. What's the Best Size of Sailboat for Coastal Cruising?

    A sailboat between 30 and 40 feet is considered an ideal size for coastal cruising. Boats in this size range are large enough to offer comfortable accommodations for several people, yet small enough to be easily handled by a couple or a small crew. They are also more affordable than larger sailboats. Monohulls and catamarans are the two most ...

  12. 17 Best Sailboats to Live On + What You Should Know First

    Coastal Cruiser Under 35 — Catalina 34/35. If you want to move aboard, you're on a budget, and you want the most space you can get, it's really hard to beat an older Catalina. Starting with the Catalina 30, these beamy boats have a surprising interior volume. They make great first liveaboards.

  13. 40 Best Sailboats, Types of Sailboats & Manufacturers

    30. Swan 44. A strong, robust cruising boat built for high-seas, blue water adventures, the Swan 44 was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, and the yacht's well-known Finnish manufacturers, Nautor Swan, produced 76 boats in a production run that lasted from 1972-1975.

  14. 10 Affordable Cruising Catamarans

    For this reason, the best 431 is a boat that someone else had rewired at some point along the way. Lagoon 470 Billy Black. 3. Lagoon 470. If you need a larger escape pod, the Lagoon 470 is one of our favorites. This model of older Lagoons was built at CNB's yard in Bordeaux, France, and the build quality was high.

  15. Coastal Cruising 101

    Coastal Cruising 101. Peter Nielsen. Updated: Aug 3, 2023. Original: Jul 27, 2015. Many sailors are surprised to find how easy a bluewater passage (usually) is compared to a long coastal cruise. The variables in an offshore passage are few. Providing you've prepared your boat well, done your homework and are heading in the desired direction ...

  16. 7 Best Trailerable Sailboats for Cruising

    Quick Setup Time. Towing Weight. 7 Best Trailerable Cruising Sailboats. Catalina 22/25 "Pop-Top". Com-Pac Horizon Cat for Classic Coastal Cruising. Marshall Sanderling — Small, Portable, Classy. West Wight Potter 19 — The Tiny Go-Anywhere Sailboat. Seaward 26RK with Retractable Lead Keel.

  17. 25 Best Sailboat and Catamaran Manufacturers (By Type)

    5 Best Coastal Cruiser Sailboat Makers. Coastal cruisers are entry-level sailboats built affordably so that nearly anyone can buy one. Another term that gets used is "production boat." ... Awarded several best boat the year awards by Cruising World and Sail magazines, the HH is a thoroughly modern take on the traditional cruising catamaran ...

  18. Affordable Cruising Sailboats

    A test sail in lively conditions should answer that question. We much prefer the inboard. If you prefer the saildrive, look for signs of corrosion and get a repair estimate. Niagara 35 Conclusion. The Niagara 35 is a handsome, classically proportioned cruising sloop from one of the best builders of production boats in North America.

  19. 6 great coastal cruising boats

    Elan 295. In many ways this 29-footer is a lovely size for coastal cruising - small enough to slip easily into the tightest of gaps in a marina, yet large enough to make sensible speed on passage, give a feeling of security at sea and provide civilised two-cabin accommodation. The 295 is easy to sail, with light loads in the deck gear, which ...

  20. Five Affordable Sailboat Cruisers that are Perfect for Sailing to the

    Catalina 38's typically range in price from $35,000 to $55,000. Browse all available Catalina boats for sale. The Sabre 38 was designated as a performance cruiser with fast passage-making capabilities. Sabre 38. Another timeless design is the Sabre 38, which takes it up a notch both in terms of quality and price.

  21. 20 Affordable Cruising Sailboats

    20 cruising sailboats that you can afford Part 1 of a 4 part series on affordable cruising sailboats Are you looking for a safe, stable, affordable, blue-water or coastal cruising sailboat for you and your partner with room for a couple of small children? Here's a list of 20 older boats that meet my guidelines

  22. 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.".

  23. Sailing America: 10 of the best spots to cruise in the US

    Santa Catalina, one of California's Channel Islands, offers cruisers wildlife, dive sites and Mt. Orizaba, its highest peak. Credit: Getty. Sailing America: 10 of the best spots to cruise in the US. From the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to the Gulf of Mexico, America boasts the world's eighth-longest coastline.

  24. The Sailing Capital of the U.S. Is a Perfect East Coast Getaway

    23 Best & Fun Things To Do in Nokomis, FL; This Is the Oldest Inland Town in Florida — and It Offers a Different Kind of Sunshine State Vacation; 23 Best & Fun Things To Do in Dixon (IL) The Sailing Capital of the U.S. Is a Perfect East Coast Getaway — With Historic Charm, Tasty Seafood, and Scenic Harbor Views; 23 Best & Fun Things To Do ...

  25. The Best Cruise Ships in the World: The Gold List 2024

    In 2023, to celebrate its 130th anniversary, the company's flagship, the newly refurbished, 500-passenger MS Trollfjord (named for a fjord in the Vesterålen archipelago) began sailing two ...

  26. Which Cruise Lines You Should Choose, Which to Skip: Frequent Cruiser

    Celebrity Cruises began sailing in 1997. There are 16 ships, which sail on itineraries ranging from three to 19 nights to nearly 300 ports of call in 70 countries. Advertisement.

  27. 11 Best Cruise Lines to Book in 2024

    Despite a rocky couple of years due to the pandemic, cruising is back, and it's stronger than ever.In fact, travel insurance comparison site reported a 41% increase in the number ...

  28. These 3 lesser-known cruise lines offer amazing voyages on sail ...

    Related: Why Sea Cloud Spirit is a sailing vessel you'll want to try Sea Cloud Cruises' two other vessels — Sea Cloud 2 and Sea Cloud — are smaller but offer a similar show as the sails are ...