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.
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.
- 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.
- Brewer 44: Extended version of the Ted Brewer Whitby 42. A much better design and build.
- Gulfstar 44: Dick Lazzara design. Mark I versions with an athwartship king aft or Mark II versions with a centerline queen. Nice performance.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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″.
- Mason 44: Sweet lines on this classic looking PAE Mason designed, Ta Shing built cruiser. Bigger sister of Mason 43.
- Norseman 447: Another quality built Ta Shing cruiser with excellent performance and low maintenance exterior. Designed by Robert Perry.
- Pearson 422: Rare sistership to the 424. Perfect liveaboard interior on Bill Shaw design and above average performance.
- 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.