10 Best Center Cockpit Two Stateroom Sailboats For Under $200,000

Originally published on July 20, 2010, this list of best sailboats has been my most popular post. I think that is because it confirms what the majority of cruisers are looking for. I am republishing it with minor updates. Thanks for all the great feedback I have received, and please continue to check into my far flung yachting world for a new post every Wednesday.

Name This Center Cockpit Bluewater Passagemaker.

I always thought a SailNet article about the most common cruising sailboat was dead-on. I especially liked how the article mentioned Rob Jordan, my father, and maybe that is why it rings so true. The article argues that the most popular sailboat is 45-feet in length, a center cockpit, and cutter rigged. That makes me wonder: what are the choices in this range? The below list consists ten of the best center cockpit, around 45-foot sailboats for the average cruising couple. I did not limit the list to only cutters. Such a couple usually has a budget of between $100,000 to $200,000 and can comfortably handle a boat in the 40 to 50 foot range. They have some sailing experience including chartering, lake racing, and maybe owning a smaller sailboat in the 30 to 40 foot range. The couple is retiring and moving on to experience the cruising lifestyle full-time.

This center cockpit about 45-foot length combination provides the optimal size and accommodations for a couple cruising. This combination is usually paired with a cutter rig, fin keel, and skeg hung rudder. I have purposely not included designs which have old fashioned, full keel underbodies like a Westsail 42 because of the performance trade-offs. I have avoided sailboats that I consider aesthetically unappealing. Please comment below with any suggested additions or retractions. I have listed the sailboats in alphabetical order of brand name.

  1. Amel Maramu 48: Nuanced design of French yard Amel. Later versions have in-mast furling units instead of standard rig. Has a cult like image that people love or do not.
  2. Brewer 44: Extended version of the Ted Brewer Whitby 42. A much better design and build.
  3. Gulfstar 44: Dick Lazzara design. Mark I versions with an athwartship king aft or Mark II versions with a centerline queen. Nice performance.
  4. Hylas 44: German Frers beauty and Queen Long quality. Early ones had a smaller cockpit and offset berth aft. Look for shoal draft versions of 5′ 5″ and swim platform extended 45.5’s.
  5. Irwin 43: Roomy Ted Irwin design with raised quarterdeck. Debatable blue water reputation, but let’s face it – most your time will be dockside. Large galley and refrigerator.
  6. Kelly Peterson 46: Extended version of the Doug Peterson designed, Jack Kelly built 44-footer. Avoid the Formosa ones. Draft is a bit deep at 6′ 6″.
  7. Mason 44: Sweet lines on this classic looking PAE Mason designed, Ta Shing built cruiser. Bigger sister of Mason 43.
  8. Norseman 447: Another quality built Ta Shing cruiser with excellent performance and low maintenance exterior. Designed by Robert Perry.
  9. Pearson 422: Rare sistership to the 424. Perfect liveaboard interior on Bill Shaw design and above average performance.
  10. Tayana 42 CC: Comes in less popular aft cockpit versions. The interiors are custom and really vary in layout. While I admire the design, aesthetically I think her stern is a bit too beamy.

This list is of course in no way all encompassing. If you sail a yacht or admire one that would fit in this list please feel free to offer it for consideration below.

23 Replies to “10 Best Center Cockpit Two Stateroom Sailboats For Under $200,000”

  1. You are the first person I have ever heard say the Irwin 43 is a bluewater sailboat. Do you think it is built tough enough to go off shore?

  2. Thanks for the note and good point about the suspect build quality of Irwins. My experience is via survey/seatrials. On the last Irwin we sold, the surveyor advised for the prospect to reject the boat based on a cursory inspection. The main issue was the chainplates which was not necessarily a build related problem. The problem with Irwin Yachts is that their quality was inconsistent. They could build two sailboats side by side in their Tampa Bay yard. One would come out terrible and the other perfect. They were just so sloppy with the details like backing plates, cleat sizes. Most manufacturers have eras of good construction and bad, but Irwin was haphazard. Now 20 years later, all the little build issues should be worked out. I think bluewater is too strong a word, but Irwins deserve more respect.

    Where are you planning on going?

  3. your website and information is fantastic. is the mason 44 a center cockpit? what about the steven/hylas 47 in the top 10. am looking for a nordic 44, but alas, you have not done a review on her or cant find that review. thank you for all your great information as it is very helpful. wish you were my broker. david

  4. Yes, the Mason 43/44 has the aft cockpit/aft stateroom arrangement with nice, traditional lines. I put the 47 on the three stateroom list. Thanks for your kind comments.

  5. RE: Irwin 43
    After much research we purchased an 85 Irwin 43 for an extended cruise. The layout of the boat was very appealing because of the large deck, cockpit and light interior. When purchased, our surveyor warned us of the build quality issues but found no problems with the hull, chain plates or deck. After a year of ownership we just had our Irwin hauled and inspected, everything is in great shape.

    We find the Irwin 43 to be a pleasure to sail. As expected we can’t sail into the wind so well, but all other points of sail are good. In 25 knots with 7-10 ft trailing seas we were very comfortable. We were surprised to win in our class in the 125 mile Newport to Ensenada race.

    We’ve had to re-caulk the ports on the deck as well as replace some of the port lights at the bow. Additionally, we had to caulk under the cap rail because of some seepage at the deck to hull seal. My understanding is that this is pretty standard for boats of this age.

  6. Richard, first of all thanks for posting this information, it is extremely helpful to find actual reviews for cruising sailboats that are semi-affordable. My husband and I are looking to purchase a boat for cruising. We found an Amel Maramu but it needs some work and as we are financing the boat the bank rejected the survey (we are very sad). We looked at an Iriwn 43 from 1988 recently; however, there isn’t much information available on the web reviewing these boats. Given the inconsistency in build, is there a way to tell that the build is suspect prior to getting a survey? Also, are they suitable for passage making? We are hesitant to shell out funds for haul outs, surveys, etc as these fees add up fast and we’ve already lost this investment on the Amel.



  7. Thanks. I tell myself that at least I am trying even if my prose is not always that great.

    In regards to the specific Irwin you mention, I have no way to assess her condition or vouch for her seaworthyness. The only way to determine her quality is to get a survey. Based simply on build and design, the Amel is a superior passagemaker while the Irwin is superior dockside. But an adequately equipped Irwin 43 can certainly do excellent bluewater work. Simply read Paul West’s comment on this same article.

    Sorry to hear about your troubles with the Amel. We are representing a Maramu here in Fort Lauderdale. If you still have interest in an Amel, I can attest to her condition. I have not seen any local Irwins. I am happy to give my honest appraisal of any local boat.

    All my best.

  8. It looks like a Hylas 44 though the red colour of the canvas above deck is confusing me.

  9. yes the irwin a very nice offshore sailor i shoot from the carolina’s to the bahamas no questions asked enjoy the season and return comfortable  and dry.

  10. Please create a similar list for same customer who may have up to $400,000 to pay!

  11. Some years ago, a big Irwin sank  while on passage from North Carolina to the Abacos after a large wave pushed in her fixed ports and flooded the boat. For this reason I would avoid the boat for serious bluewater work.

  12. I have a 1989 49′ Taswell You can get them for under 400,000. They are awesome boats and I highly recommend it.

  13. We looked at most of the boats on your list before we found our cruising boat.  We purchased a 1995 Morgan 45 by Catalina (not the 44.4 Nelson Marek) and there are things about this boat that many on your list do not have.  We found little information out there on the CM45 and area still scouring the internet to find info good or bad.  We love our boat more every day and she is everything we want in a cruising home.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the CM45.

  14. This is a fabulous post! Thank you! And do keep updating – it’s such a generous gift to the rest of us. 🙂 Thank you so much.

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