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Owning and Sailing Small Cruising Boats

Of all the types and classes of recreational sailboats, it's the small cruising boats that have the lion's share of the market - and it's not difficult to see why. 

Although the very smallest are the next step up from a day boat, with a cabin and living accommodation below, you can sail from place to place and cook, eat and sleep aboard for days at a time.

And for competitive types there's plenty of club racing events to keep their crew's sailing skills honed to perfection.

But just how should we define what makes a small cruising boat?

Let's say that it's a monohull sailboat with sufficient accommodation for two people, but one which can be easily handled by just the two of them without the aid of electrically powered sail handling devices.

On that basis we could say that small cruising boats start at around 25 feet (8m) and continue to a maximum overall length of around 42 feet (13m).

Now this won't suit everyone; there are those that cruise successfully in 20 footers, whilst others will raise eyebrows to hear a 42 footer described as small. But current trends in modern cruising boats suggest that a boat of this size is at the lower end of medium at best; definitely not large.  


Cruising Boats under 9m Overall

Cruising boats of this size are best suited for coastal and inshore passage making. This isn't just because of their limited ability to deal with the sea conditions that may be encountered offshore, but there'll be insufficient space for two people and all their gear, together with the essential spares and equipment for offshore cruising.

Typically, cruising boats of this size will be sloop rigged and tiller steered. Accommodation below is likely to provide a vee-berth in the forepeak with the saloon seating doubling up as sleeping berths. A small galley and a sea toilet will most likely take up the rest of the accommodation, with chartwork being performed on the saloon table.


Cruising Boats from 9m to 13m Overall

Allied Seawind cutter rigged ketch at Hog Island in Grenada

The cruising boats within this range are the ones that most cruising couples choose for blue water sailing. At the lower end of this range are the delightful little cruising boats like John Cory shown here, an Allied Seawind cutter-rigged ketch from the 1970's.

Those at the top end are likely to be cutter rigged variants of sloops and ketches, as dividing the sail area in this way makes sailing handling much easier for a short-handed crew. 

A sailboat of this type will be spacious below and well equipped for long-range cruising, probably fitted out with a watermaker, windvane self-steering gear, SSB radio, solar panels and a wind charger. Modern vessels of this type are most likely to be medium displacement, with fin keels and skeg-hung rudders.

Some sailors though, like the owner of the cedar-strip Reva 42 Calati shown below, are prepared to trade off some comfort for more performance and plump for really light displacement and a fully optimised waterline for maximum hull speed

A light displacement Reva 42 wood epoxy sailboat

There's little doubt that Calati would, in the right conditions, climb over her bow wave and exceed her theoretical hull speed.


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