Sailboats For A Serious Ocean - Notes and Thoughts on "The List"
Contessa 32 - A classic, incredibly well proven boat that is close to my heart. I sailed Gigi across the Atlantic and around Cape Horn. My book Cape Horn to Starboard is being reprinted this year. Arguably the most loved production boat of all time in England. Noted for extreme seaworthiness and the sweetest motion afloat. Also noted for small living space and very wet on deck.
Pacific Seacraft 34 - Another deceptively capable design by Bill Crealock. The hull shape blends tradition with what was at the time, 1980, a more modern underbody. It's a study in moderation and drawn with a keen eye for staying on good terms with Neptune. Well proven offshore boat. Construction has a better reputation that it probably deserves, but the design makes it work. Prices are finally coming down.
Pretorien 35 - Designed by Holman and Pye, among the all time best cruising boat designers, and who are, sadly not well known to most American sailors. Designed in 1985, this boat combines the elements of modern hull form with sound compromises that have served offshore sailors well - skeg hung rudder, fine entry, and seaworthy cockpit. Built by Henri Wauquiez, it's one of those boats that's becoming a cult classic, helped no doubt by the popularity of Hal Roth's book, How to Sail Around the World. Roth chose a Pretorien for his last cruising boat. This nimble fin keel nimble boat is expensive but worth it.
Cape Dory/Robinhood 36 - No list of serious sailboats would be complete without a Carl Alberg design. He designed many boats and the Cape Dory 36, which later morphed into the Robinhood 36, is a fine example of a capable bluewater cruiser. I am not a fan of full keel boats in general, however the moderate proportions of the CD 36, handsome sheer, balanced rig and stout construction easily persuaded me to include this boat in the book. Well proven and widely available, it's a good choice for serious sailing.
Valiant/Esprit 37 - This is a great looking boat designed by Robert Perry. Perry's designs are well represented in my collection of serious sailboats. Sometimes called the Nordic 37, and later known as the Valiant 39, this hull shape is fast and seaworthy. The size is easily managed by a couple, and is ideal for single-handing. It's a no nonsense passsagemaker, well built and very easy on the eyes. It is also a good value.
Prout Snowgoose 37 Catamaran - Okay monohull sailors, come to terms with the fact that cats are not only here today, they've been here, crossing oceans for decades. This is particularly true of the Prouts, and especially the legendary Snowgoose. While not as roomy or as sexy as most of today's wide load cruising cats, the solid, nimble Snowgoose has been everywhere, from Cape Horn to Greenland. When a Snowgoose in good condition turns up on the market it does not linger, savvy sailors realize these boats are great values.
Alajuela 38 - The pedigree of this boat traces an arc through Colin Archer, Wm Akins, the success of the West Sail 32 and finally through Don Chapman and Alajuela Yachts in S. California. Three things are true about the Alajuela 38, it's beautiful, it's surprisingly fast, it's well loved by a cult following and yes, did I mention it's beautiful? It is. Some have called the A 38 a refined Westsail 32. That's not quite right. Sure it's a double ender but it is a different animal. It's lean and graceful, not stout and pugnacious. Don't get me wrong, I love the Westsail 32, truly, but the Alajuela will sail circles around it. Always interesting boats on the used market - and that's not always a good thing. The kit boats on the market undermine value but that also means that there are some steals out there. So much for not liking full keel boats
Privilege 39 - This is the serious, affordable bluewater catamaran. These boats are out there, everywhere. They are roomier and more modern than the Snowgoose. Originally developed by Philippe Jeantot, the famous single-hander, the Eric le Ferve designed boats they were intended for serious sailing from the get go. They feature mostly solid bridge decks, solid hulls below the water line, cutter rigs and smaller cockpits. Although plenty went into charter service, many did not and it is not unusual to find models well fitted out for cruising.
Freya 39 - This is one of my favorite boats on the list. Designed by Trygve Halvorson, the Freya 39 is famous in Australia where it was first built. It is still the only boat to win three straight Sydney Hobart races, 63' 64' 65'. It's fast, really fast, and very seaworthy. Jim Gannon in Northern California built it as a semi-production boat in the late 70s and early 80s. Not too many around, there are also steel and still wooden Freyas out there. Pam and her late husband Andy, Wall sailed their Freya around the world and then back and forth across the Atlantic. I run into them all over the world. I've seen Freya's in Horta, Corfu and Tahiti in the last couple of years.
Passport 40 - Another Bob Perry design. The Passport 40 has the seakeeping traits of the Valiant 40 but it's faster downwind and a lot more comfortable below. It is also beautifully fitted out below and the interiors with the Pullman cabin are just about perfectly laid out for a cruising couple with room for occasional guests. The cutter rig usually includes a mobile cutter stay so that it can be sailed more nimbly as sloop. Some issues, Taiwan issues, but not too many. A definite deep ocean boat, and one of my favorites. For a video review of the Passport 40 that I did for Latitudes & Attitudes TV, please click here and then choose the format that works best for you.
Caliber 40 - Designed by Mike McCreary, the Caliber 40 does not fit neatly into categories, and that's why I like it. Think of it as a Sabre with chip on its shoulder, a bit more meat in the hull form and better tankage. It has a nice hull shape, yes, but it's been flattened forward and aft a bit, it looks perfect in profile, less so looking from the bow. Still, I like the shape and the compromises it makes. It has a great interior. I'd sail one around the world, and a few already have. Expensive yes, but prices are dropping. The LRC models are designed expressly for serious sailing.
Baba 40 - Oh boy, here he is again, Bob Perry. And here's another full keel boat, well sort of. A close inspection of the hull shape shows quite a bit of nuance. Yes, the rudder is attached to the keel, but the forefoot is truly cutaway. The hull has a lovely sheer. The rig is powerful, this boat moves nicely, especially on a reach. And it's beautiful. Form and function, hmm, I think that a beautiful sailboat often is a capable sailboat, I guess it all depends on how you define function. Built by Ta Shing, arguably the best Taiwan yard through the years, the Baba 40 and it's various offshoots including the Panda and Tashiba, are out there, from the Mediterranean to the South Pacific and beyond.
Hallberg Rassy 42 - If I had to say what is the most common boat that I encounter all over the world, most common quality cruising boat that is, I'd say without hesitation, Hallberg Rassys. These robust, practical Swedish cruisers are everywhere. The 42, is instantly recognizable with a broad cove stripe, moderately high freeboard and comfortable center cockpit design. Designed by German Frers and in production for more than a decade, the actual production runs of most HR models is surprising. Yes, these boats are expensive, but they are brilliantly designed for crossing oceans and living comfortably once you arrive. And they hold their value well, which makes the expensive part less of a negative.
Taswell 43 - This is one of the top quality boats on the list. Designed by Bill Dixon and built by Ta Shing, it's a gorgeous boat. The hull shape shows a large fin and full skeg, but like the Caliber some sections are flattened a bit for better interior floor volume, compromises most cruisers are happy to make. They might curse for awhile pounding upwind between Guadeloupe and Antigua but when they nose up to the wall in English Harbor the lovely interior below will make them forget all the noise. And this is not say that this boat is a pounder, far from it, but just more so than some of the other boats on the list. But the interior, particularly the finish, is stunning and the two cabin layout is very livable. The cutter rig is versatile and powerful and the sailing and deck gear is top quality.
Hylas 44 - Indulge me, this is the first of three Hylas models on the list. I can't help it. So much of the book is focused on how each boat stands up in heavy weather and I have vast experience aboard Hylas'. I was their main delivery skipper for years and also helped in the development of the 49. The 44 is a sweet boat. It's not as heavy as the other models, it's actually a fairly nimble boat. Designed by German Frers, it gets its stability from a near 50% ballast displacement ratio and very soft lines. It has a great ride in a seaway. Built by Queen Long in Taiwan, the construction is solid and fairly conservative. I sailed a 44 through Hurricane Bob years ago, and also endured a fierce north Atlantic gale on a delivery up to Newport RI.
Norseman 447 - Yes another Bob Perry design, and one of his most handsome. The 447 is well recognized as a great cruising boat. Many have circumnavigated. It was offered in both center and aft cockpit arrangements. While the center cockpit model is more popular I prefer the aft, but that's just me. I like to see the arc of the both sails when I steer, crazy, I know. Solidly built by Ta Shing, do you notice a certain trend here between designers and builders? I met a couple last year in Grenada that had done three circumnavigations in their 447 and their story of a riding out a monster monsoon in the Indian Ocean is part of the book.
Beneteau 456 - This is a great sailing boat, very well engineered and built, and often misunderstood. This sleek cruiser shares a name with today's Beneteaus and little else. One of the original First Series designed for the Admirals Cup, this is a fast, seaworthy boat that can stand up to a blow. My friend Steve Maseda, an accomplished sailor has sailed his boat all over the Atlantic including through a big blow off Hatteras a few years ago. I have logged a lot of miles aboard too, and love the way the boat handles. Just last weekend we had 25-30 knots in the Gulf Stream on the way to the Bahamas and no problems at all. Steve has a solent rig set up, a double headsail sloop as Perry calls it, and works brilliantly. If only there was a way to rig up a spray dodger!
Outbound44/46 - An almost new boat! I like the Outbounds a lot. My friends Dirk and Susan De Haan have their 46 in Nova Scotia and will head across the Atlantic this summer. Last summer they were slammed by a fierce 5 day gale. The boat stood up to he pounding, although they had issues with some gear choices. Yes, this is another story in the book. A Carl Schumacher design, this boat was designed as a performance cruiser. It has a fairly modern underbody but it's not twitchy at all and can carry loads too. One of the first boats to come out of mainland China, Outbound Yachts is one of the few modern success stories in the sailboat industry.
Hylas 46 - I thought about swapping this out for the Swan 46, also a Frers design. But I kept the Hylas for two reasons. As a capable and very livable center-cockpit it hits the target for what most cruisers are looking for today. Also, I have a good story about surviving Hurricane Mitch in a 46. That was one heck of a blow and the 46 handled it well. Like all Hylas models, the 46 is built like a rock with first rate gear. The design is definitely more modern than the Hylas' on the list, the 44 and 49. It's faster than either of those boats, but it doesn't always have the soft ride. I have plenty of offshore miles on this model.
Kaufman 47 - Any of you who know me or read my stuff know that Quetzal, my much loved boat, is a Kaufman 47. I have sailed her 66,000 miles in the last six years including four transatlantic passages. We've sailed the length and breath of the Med several times, around the Caribbean, and north to Newfoundland. The boat sails brilliantly. We've averaged 150 miles a day through it all, and don't motor much. Mike Kaufman's hull shape is a cross between a Beneteau 456 and a Hylas 49. I have always loved the low slung, powerful look of Kaufman and Ladd designs. Think of the Skye 51 and the Albin Nimbus as other examples. The Kaufman 47 is well balanced making it easy on the autopilot and also sails great with just a headsail, an effortless way to cross oceans. The hull has endured a pounding, including a punch on the chin from a nasty Italian tornado. We've ridden out three major deep-sea gales, major as in force 9 and 10 major. Oh yes, Quetzal has her quirks, but what boat doesn't. The Kaufman 49 is the same boat with a reverse transom. And there's no denying it that the Kaufman 47 was inspired by the S&S Swan 47. Side by side they're hard to tell apart. One way is the cockpit, the Kaufman's is much more comfortable.
Tayana 48 - Yes, another Bob Perry design. I can't help it, the man has been the dominant force in cruising boats since the 70s. This boat came to the list by way of my friends Andy and Melissa. Young, successful, intrepid, they decided to sail around he world. Only problem was they didn't know how to sail, and were definitely not what you'd call, "hands on." They bought a lovely 48 and took off. They soon realized that all of the bells and whistles on board were more of a nuisance than help, and they almost gave up early on. But the boat was sound, and seaworthy and they pressed on. Today they are Sri Lanka, about 2/3 of the way around. They give their boat, Spectacle, a lot of credit! The 48 is a bit of chunky cruiser, maybe not Perry's best looking design but certainly one of his most capable and comfortable boats.
Hylas 49 - It's about time I add a Sparkman and Stephens boat to the list. The Hylas 49 is one of my all time favorite boats - period. It is amazingly seaworthy. I have logged more than 50,000 offshore miles aboard a variety of 49s, and have weathered some serious blows, the 49 puts the S in serious. And yet it is also very comfortable below with three private staterooms. I have written a lot about the Stevens 47 and the Hylas 47, and the 49 evolved from both. It took most of the unfriendly features of those boats and improved them but kept the incredibly ocean friendly hull shape. Built by Queen Long in Taiwan, it's solid. And because it is still in production, it is continually being improved. Today's boats include a fair bit of Kevlar in the layups for example. Also, it maintains it's value because Hylas is still viable. This is a terrific blue water boat - so long as you don't try to sleep in the center-line queen berth in a gale.
Amel Maramu 53 - These are among the most accomplished cruisers afloat. Very much in demand, Amel builds just one model and if you want a new one you can expect to wait a couple of years, even in these trying times. Fortunately there are plenty of used boats to consider. If you're not familiar with the Super Maramu, as they are called, you will either love it or hate it when you see it. Standard features include a fixed dodger over the cockpit, roller furling sails, and engine access from the cockpit. While the hull shape is certainly seakindly, and the ketch rig reasonably fast, it's he clever design features that distinguish the Amel. From built in leeboards to ingenious tank tenders, to a wine locker in the bilge, these boats are meant for serious cruising. Like the Hallberg Rassys, I see Amels all over the world.
Sundeer 56/60 - I am not sure I agree with Steve Dashew's design premises but nobody is as relentlessly innovative. And nobody puts his boats to the test like Dashew. He hates to sail slow, and although he never admits a mistake, I admire his fresh thinking. His Deerfoot series began the trend toward true performance cruising, performance as defined by double digit speeds and 200 mile plus days. The Sundeer 56/60 and the 64 are his idea of production boats. They were designed to be efficient two-person cruisers, fast and comfortable but not meant for carrying a lot of people. The easily balanced hull shapes move well without flying huge canvass, and many have completed circumnavigations. While fast upwind, the flat narrow forefoot will pound in a seaway. Of course this when you crack off and let speed make your VMG more efficient anyway. I don't want a Sundeer but they intrigue me and they've proven themselves where it counts, at sea.
Bowman 57 - The Bowman is the anti-Sundeer. Think of it as a Contessa 32 on steroids, they make nice bookends for the book. The Bowman is one of the most capable and accomplished fiberglass boats ever built. Only the Ocean 71 has a track record as impressive. Just look at the hull shape, sweet, powerful, and deep. I chronicle Roger Swanson's "Flying Cloud," a 1975 57. Swanson has sailed around the world three times, around Cape Horn three times, to Antarctica and on his third try, through the fabled Northwest Passage. He's an amazing sailor and Flying Cloud is one tough boat. And yet, it's also beautiful. Interestingly, few sailors want boats like this today. They are not roomy in the way a modern 57 footer is, and the not as user friendly. But if you want a boat that can sail anywhere anytime and you're dreaming of serious passages, these British built boats designed by Holman and Pye just may be the best value out there.