What Brand Boat Should I Buy To Go Cruising?

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I ran across your blog and downloaded and read two of your books already. I do have another question. I have 5 years experience coastal sailing and some off-shore and racing. What brand of 40′ or so boat would you recommend for an older couple for a couple year coastal cruise, Islands, South America and maybe Atlantic crossing. I notice you did your trip in an modified full keel but were considering a fin keel. The reason I asked is because I’ve been on two fin keel boats that grounded and suffered significant damage. What happens is that the keel tips pushing the back of the keel up into the middle of the boat cranking interior floors. Any way I am interested in your thoughts. Thanks.


Great question and thanks for reading my books.  Answering what boat to buy is really difficult since there are so many different things people want out of a boat and everyone has drastically different budgets.  I do have some favorites, as well as my own personal dream boat that I hope to buy in a few years for my retirement boat.

The main reasons for going with a fin keeled boat, I believe, are speed and windward performance.  I’ve sailed several full keeled, modified full keeled, fin keeled and bulb keeled boats and I think the main consideration for a cruising boat is the boat’s construction, how heavily the boat is built and builder’s reputation.  I think for a comfortable cruiser you can safely eliminate a lot of the lighter weight fin keeled and bulb keeled boats and steer toward the well known, well built brands with good reputations.

My retirement cruising boat of choice would be a Hallberg Rassy.  I don’t think you can go wrong with one.  They are incredibly well built and have a great reputation as a solid comfortable cruising boat that will take you anywhere in comfort.  They also hold their value well.  Granted they are a fin keeled boat but they have a larger, heavier and sturdier keel than what I usually think of when someone says “fin keeled”.  If you look at their reputation and construction detailing I think you can be very confidant in an HR in every situation but the hardest grounding.

Another thing to consider is that sailing is changing rapidly with new emerging technologies.  Construction materials and techniques are considerably better than they used to be making boats lighter, stronger,easier to sail and safer.  Consider too the role technology has played in navigation and what the odds are you should ever have a hard enough grounding to do significant damage.  We are now sailing with color chart plotters, radar and incredibly precise charts that will put your true position to within feet.  Competent sailors are running aground considerably less often than they used to because you should always know exactly where you are. That isn’t to say that you won’t “bump the bottom” but the chances of a hard grounding or running onto a reef are pretty minimal if you exercise some basic caution.

I would consider not only the keel’s shape and draft but I also think the shape of a boat’s forefoot is very important and dictates how much of a pounder she’ll be when going to weather.  Of course we’re talking about your retirement here so you shouldn’t be sailing to weather.  You should be sailing in trade winds with 15 knots of warm breeze off your quarter.  When you find yourself needing to go upwind turn the boat over to someone like me while you go visit friends on land.

Of course what you really wanted was a list of cruising boats I’d recommend so here are some of my personal favorites.  These are the boats I’ll be looking at for my next boat.  I’ll put them in a somewhat descending order based on budget, not that anything at the lower end of the spectrum is less seaworthy or won’t get you anywhere you want to go.  I consider Hallberg Rassy as the very top of my list.  Yes, there are more expensive, equally seaworthy boats but I wouldn’t buy a Swan or anything of that caliber because I’d prefer to put that money toward cocktails and cruising.

Some cruising boats I recommend, especially geared toward someone looking for a comfortable safe retirement cruiser:

Hallberg Rassy


island Packet



And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Morgan.  A Morgan OI won’t win any contests but for people on limited budgets they make great cruising boats that will take you anywhere.  They are very solidly built, have spacious accommodations, a full keel, they’re easy to handle and there are a lot of them out there all over the world.  For a budget of less than $50,000 I can’t think of a better 40′ cruising boat that will last a lifetime.


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Setup for fishing from a sailboat on passage

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Beginning the search for a Sailboat

Beginning the search for a boat:


After living aboard for 10 years, and circumnavigating, I’ve found everyone asks me what boat to buy, and what should they look for? Monohull or catamaran?  Fiberglass, aluminum, steel or ferro cement hull?  How big of a boat do I need?  How big of a boat can I handle?
I’ll be doing an in depth multi chapter section on buying boats, but people can start looking & dreaming about a new (or new to you) boat by looking at some of the most popular sailboats that people choose to cruise on or live aboard.  I recommend that you take a look at boats from all of the builders listed below before you even begin narrowing down your decision to a specific boat.
A great place to start a search is by seeing what’s most popular among other sailors with experience.  Consider what makes those boats popular and make a list of what you’re looking for in a boat.  Make a list of specific features that you like and the things you don’t like down to the smallest details.
I’ve compiled a short list of some of the most popular cruising sailboats that you should take a look at when you start your search for a boat, simply because they are some of the most popular, widely available sailboats built by boatyards with solid reputations.
  • Island Packet
  • Amel
  • Morgan
  • Peterson
  • Hallberg Rassy
  • Trintella
  • Catalina
  • Hunter
  • CSY
  • Moody
  • Sundeer
  • Dufour
  • Elan
  • Swan
  • Gunboat
  • Lagoon
  • Leapord
  • Privilege
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