4 Types of Pocket Cruisers


The upcoming release of Steve Wystrachs outstanding documentary film Manry at Sea:In the Wake of a Dreamabout Robert Manry, the former copy editor who sailed across the Atlantic in a 13-foot sailboat, got me thinking again about the virtues of small cruising boats. In my view, there are at least four main types of pocket cruisers. Manrys modified lake boat fits somewhere in between the first two.

Types of Pocket Cruisers

Estuarine Elves-These are the maritime equivalent of the pop-top camper. The poster children are the popular West Wight Potters. The Victoria 18, the Sanibel 18, the ComPac Eclipse and other small catboats with any kind of cabin fall into this category.

These are boats that can creep up the lakes, creeks, and rivers of North America and still manage bay chop. They have enough cockpit space for family daysailing, but also offer a place to sleep, eat and be cozy when its wet and cold.

Trailer Sailers – These are small cruiser/racers like the Rhodes 22, San Juan 21, Catalina 22, Hunter 23, Tanzer 22, that can be Friday-night raced around the cans with other vintage boats, but also cruised.

Like the Estuarine Elves, these are easy to trailer fairly quick to rig and launch, but with longer waterlines, more sail and more efficient hull shapes, they generally perform better. There are too many boats in this category to list.

Auxiliary Pocket Cruisers – These boats can be trailered, but they require vehicles with big towing capacity and take much longer to rig. They usually have more ballast, built-in tanks, and can be equipped with inboard auxiliary engines-something you rarely find in the two smaller categories. Trailerability, in this case, means hauling the boat down to the Keys or Mexico for the winter, not down to the local ramp on a Sunday.

These can be fixed-keel boats like the Contessa 26, the Pearson Ariel, and Cape Dory 25D (both Carl Alberg designs); or swing keels like the Paceship 26 (also available with fixed keel), Yankee Dolphin 24, the Nimble 24, and the Lyle Hess-designed Balboa 26. Although some boats in this category have circumnavigated, going offshore in these boats requires a special breed of sailor.

Bahama-Mamacitas – Multihulls like the Corsair F-24, the Wharram Tiki 21, and the semi-custom trimarans like PS contributing editor Skip Allens new custom Wildflower probably could be shoehorned into the above group, but that would surely incite the wrath of the multihull crowd, so Ill give them their own group here.

Microships – Generally these are fixed-keel boats with hefty ballast- displacement ratios that make them capable of cruising offshore. They are trailerable, but with displacement pushing 10,000 pounds, they require a powerful tow vehicle. Some, like the Bill Crealocks Dana 24, have circumnavigated. Bruce Binghams Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, or Hesss Falmouth Cutter 22 are other examples of small boats that pop up in far flung ports.

If you have a favorite pocket cruiser, drop me a line at practicalsailor@belvoir.com.

For more preview of the film, check out the trailer on Vimeo. For more information on the film and related projects visit www.robertmanryproject.com, andclick the subscribe button for information on ordering DVDs and Blu-Ray.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at practicalsailor@belvoir.com.