Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 12:00AM - Comments: (19)
At the St. Petersburg Boat Show month last month, I had the pleasure of seeing delivery skipper and author John Kretschmer’s presentation on what he called “sailboats for a serious ocean.” I have reservations about any “ideal boat” list, but Kretschmer, who reviews boats for Sail Magazine and whose most recent book “Sailing a Serious Ocean” is available in our online bookstore, has the ideal background for this sort of work, and a list like this is undeniably helpful for wannabe cruisers who need a place to start their search.
I certainly wouldn’t limit my search to boats on such a list, but by paying careful attention to the pros and cons of each, you can find something that suits your own aspirations.
Here are the boats Kretschmer suggests: Contessa 32, Pacific Seacraft 34, Pretorien 35, Cape Dory/Robinhood 36, Valiant/Esprit 37, Prout Snowgoose 37, Alajuela 38, Privelege 39, Freya 39, Passport 40, Caliber 40, Baba 40, Hallberg Rassy 42, Taswell 43, Hylas 44, Norseman 447, Beneteau 456, Outbound 44, Hylas 46, Kaufman 47, Tayana 48, Hylas 49, Amel Maramu 53, and the Sundeer 60/64. For a brief capsule summary of each, be sure to check out his website.
The list is hardly definitive. There are plenty of good boats that aren’t featured, and some of these would be ill-matched for the wrong sailor—Kretschmer clearly pointed this out during his talk. I like how the list presents a good cross-section of the various shapes and sizes for a boat in this category. For example, Kretschmer includes the Prout Snowgoose and Steve Dashew’s Sundeer 60, boats that, notwithstanding their successful record at sea, fill an outlying niche.
If I were going to expand the list, one of the heavier-displacement microcruisers like those I blogged about would be a nice addition. Although I would be wary of promoting even the most formidable of this breed as well-suited for a “serious ocean,” John Neale of Mahina Tiare Expeditions includes one of them, the Dana 24, on his own list of recommend cruising boats. Neale’s much broader list of boats is accompanied by a very helpful discussion of design elements to consider.
What got me thinking about formidable cruising boats was our series of reports on sailboat construction, focusing specifically on structural details. Although there are plenty of excellent coastal cruisers on the market, once you start talking about offshore duty, scantlings (the dimensions for structural components) take on far more importance.
A few years ago we touched on this subject in our Mailport section, encouraging readers to suggest their own nominees for a list of what we called at the time, “tough boats,” vessels that were built to take a beating, requiring minimal care and upkeep.
Here are some of the boats that were suggested from our readers: Mariner 36, Cal 34, Morgan 43, Swan 43, Bermuda 40, Island Packet 26, Mariner 47, LeComte Northeast 38, Westsail 32, Dana 24, J/35, and the CSY 44.
I’d be interested in hearing of other nominees for this list, or other good resources for sailors looking for a short list of good offshore boats.
For those who are frustrated to find that their own ideal boat isn’t on anybody’s list, I wouldn’t be too miffed. The best line I’ve heard in a while on this topic came from Steve Callahan, the author of the survival classic Adrift, who gave a presentation at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show. When I asked Steve, who has sailed extensively on both multihulls and monohulls, what type of boat he preferred, he said, quite seriously. “Well, at the end of the day, the best cruising boat is the one that you are on.”