20 Affordable Cruising Sailboats

20 cruising sailboats that you can afford

Part 1 of a 4 part series on affordable cruising sailboats

Are you looking for a safe, stable, affordable, blue-water or coastal cruising sailboat for you and your partner with room for a couple of small children? Here’s a list of 20 older boats that meet my guidelines for a good cruising sailboat.

They’re all proven sea boats, they have a draft of less than 1.5 meters (5 feet), they have tiller steering, they are of fiberglass construction and are reasonably available on the used boat market. Among these boats you’ll find a range of boats from cruiser/racer designs to traditional heavy boats more suited to comfortable cruising in heavy weather far offshore.

Your initial choices amongst these boats will depend on the type of sailing you intend to do. Most coastal cruiser designs are not really suitable for heavy offshore work but are more than satisfactory for shorter cruises closer to shore where more facilities are available. That said, there have been many intrepid voyages, including circumnavigations, made in cruiser/racer designs.

At 25 to 32ft overall, you’re going to have to accept some compromises. Headroom is one. Many of these boats do not have full standing headroom. On long voyages this can become a serious problem, but for a short coastal cruise, or a weekend trip on the lake, the lack of headroom is less of a problem.

These boats can be relatively inexpensive, and if the purchase price reflects the condition of the boat you will get many years of sailing pleasure at a very reasonable cost, assuming you have the time and inclination to make the repairs and improvements that these older boats will undoubtably require.

You can get some idea of current prices for these boats at the following sites.

Nada Guides

If you don’t have the time, inclination and expertise to do the upgrade work, then my heartfelt advice to you is to find a boat that has already been completely restored and pay the premium in the price. I know from personal experience that having a partly restored boat sitting on the marina or in your yard is a deeply unsatisfying experience. You feel you should be working on the boat every spare minute and it’s hard to enjoy any other relaxation until the boat is finished.

So my advice? Pay the price, get on the water as soon as you can and go sailing.

falmouth cutterFalmouth Cutter 22 – LOA: 30’6” LOD: 22’ LWL: 20’10” Beam: 8’ Draft: 3’6” Displacement: 7,400 lbs. Ballast: 2,500 lbs encapsulated lead. Heavy traditional design pocket cruiser. 5’11” headroom under short cabin trunk. Expensive. See my review here


cape Dory 25Cape Dory 25 – LOD: 24’10” LWL: 18’ Beam: 7’3” Draft: 3’ Displacement: 4,000 lbs. Ballast: 1,700 lbs. Sail area: 264 sq. ft. 846 boats built 1972-82. Has an outboard well in lazarette. Headroom is limited to about 5’.




cape dory 26Cape Dory 26 – LOD: 25’11” LWL: 19’3” Beam: 8’ Draft: 3’7” Displacement: 5,300 lbs. Ballast: 2,400 lbs. Sail area: 304 sq. ft. Alberg design. 78 were built 1984-88. Most have an outboard motor. 5’11” headroom.





folkboatInternational Folkboat 26 – LOD: 25’1” LWL: 19’8” Beam: 7’5” Draft: 3’11” Displacement: approx. 5,000 lbs. Ballast: 2,750 lbs. iron. Sail area: 258 sq. ft. Many different versions built 1967-85. Inboard and outboard engine versions. Over 3000 built worldwide. High ballast ratio. Cramped accommodation


pearson arielPearson Ariel 26 – LOD: 25’7” LWL: 18’8” Beam: 8’ Draft: 3’8” Displacement: 5,120 lbs. Ballast: 2,300 lbs. lead. Alberg design. Outboard motor well in lazarette. Active owners association.





bristol 27Bristol 27 – LOD: 27’2” LWL: 19’9” Beam: 8’ Draft: 4’ Displacement: 6,600 lbs. Ballast: 2,575 lbs. internal lead. Sail area: 340 sq. ft. Alberg design. 337 built 1966-78. Outboard motor well in lazarette. Atomic 4 inboard optional. 5’10” headroom





cape dory 27Cape Dory 27 – LOD: 27’1” LWL: 20’ Beam: 8’6” Draft: 4’ Displacement: 7,500 lbs. Ballast: 3,000 lbs. Sail area: 365 sq. ft. General Alberg design. 227 built 1976-84.





tartan27Tartan 27 – LOD: 27’ LWL: 21’4” Beam: 8’8” Draft: 3’2” with board up, 6’4” board down. Displacement: 7,400 lbs. Ballast: 2,400 lbs. S&S design 700 built 1961-79. Shoal draft of 3’2”. Headroom 6ft.

See my review here





cape dory 28Cape Dory 28 – LOD: 28’1” LWL: 22’2” Beam: 8’10” Draft: 4’ Displacement: 9,000 lbs. Ballast: 3,500 lbs. Sail area: 404 sq. ft. Alberg design. 389 built 1975-84. 6’2″ headroom. Most had 15-hp Volvo diesels.




pearson triton 28Pearson Triton 28 – LOD: 28’6” LWL: 20’6” Beam: 8’3” Draft: 4’3″ Displacement 8,000 lbs. Ballast: 3,019 lbs. Alberg design. 700 built Plentiful and affordable





westsail_28Westsail 28 – LOD: 28’ LWL: 25’ Beam: 9’7” Draft: 4’4” Displacement: 13,500 lbs. Ballast: 4,200 lbs. Sister to Westsail. 32 Excellent heavy weather boat.






columbia 29Columbia 29
– LOD: 28’6″ LWL: 22’6″ Beam: 8′ Draft: 4′ Displacement: 7,400 lbs ir 8,400lbs on Mk11 models. Ballast: 3,120 lbs. early and 4,100 lbs. on MKII. Sail area: 382 sq. ft. Sparkman & Stephens design. 300 MKI and MKII versions built 1962-67 Outboard well and inboard engine options. 6′ headroom. Outboard well versions available.




cal 30Cal 30
– LOA: 30′ LWL: 24’6″ Beam: 10′ Draft: 4’6″ Displacement: 9,600 lbs. Ballast: 3,500 lbs. lead. Lapworth design Atomic 4 gas inboard was standard.

Cal 30 Review



cape dory 30Cape Dory 30 – LOA: 30 2″ LWL: 22’10” Beam: 9′ Draft: 4’2″ Displacement: 10,000 lbs. Ballast: 4,000 lbs. Sail area: 437 sq. ft. cutter. Alberg design. 363 built 1976-86. Tiller or wheel steering available.






pacific seacraft 31Pacific Seacraft 31 – LOA: 31’10” LOD: 30’6” LWL: 24’2” Beam: 9’10” Draft: 4’/4’11” shoal option/standard full keel. Displacement: 11,000 lb. Ballast: 4,4000 lb. external lead. Sail area: 485 sq. ft. sloop, 600 sq. ft. cuter. Crealock design. Excellent boat Expensive.




pacific vanguard 32Pearson Vanguard 32 – LOA: 32’6″ LWL: 22’4″ Beam: 9’3″ Draft: 4’6″ Displacement: 10,300 lbs. Ballast: 4,250 lbs. internal lead. Sail area: 470 sq. ft. Phil Rhodes design. 400 built between 1963-67 6′ 4″ headroom Atomic 4 inboard

Pearson Vanguard article



westsail 32Westsail 32 – LOA: About 40′ including bowsprit and boomkin. LOD: 32’ LWL: 27’6” Beam: 11’ Draft: 5’ Displacement: 19,500 Ballast: 7,000 lbs. Sail area: 629 sq. ft. William Crealock design 830 built 1971-80 6’2 headroom. Heavy, slow in light airs. Watch for home finished kits




contessa-26Contessa 26 / Taylor 26
– LOD: 25’6” LWL: 21’ Beam: 7’6” Draft: 4’ Displacement: 5,400 lbs. Sadler design. Built in Canada as the Taylor 26 Proven circumnavigator. 1983-90 boats the best choice.







norsea_27_Nor’Sea 27 – LOA: 31’ LOD: 27’ LWL: 25’ Beam: 8’ Draft: 3’10” Displacement: 8,100 lbs. Ballast: 3,100 lbs. Lyle Hess design One of the larger “trailerable” offshore cruisers.




flicka 20Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20
– LOA: 24’ LOD: 20’ LWL: 18’2” Beam: 8’ draft: 3’3” Displacement: 6,000 lbs. Ballast: 1,800 lbs.Sail Area: 250 sq ft. Bruce Bingham design 434 Flickas from 1978-94. 5’11” headroom. Slow in light winds.