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BETTY smacks cruising the Estuary janholthusen


cruising boats and designs

Countless designers and sailors have spent much of their time and ingenuity on the search for the perfect cruiser. Many have tried designing, building and improving it. And after a few years they started from scratch. Does the perfect boat for cruising exist at all or does it depend on some period trend or on our individual tastes and preferences?

To some degree every cruiser will fit the following five self explaining criteria: living & storage space, speed, seaworthiness, ease of handling, building & maintenance costs. One can assume that a boat which incorporates all of these criteria to an equal amount is the Perfect Cruiser. But another in no way measurable aspect in choosing a particular design over others is our personal taste, which will be left out of the equation here.

Here I will try to fit the many different designs of cruising boats into six different categories, according to their dominant features, while most of them are of the fore-and-aft monohull type with relatively high freeboard:

the working boat cruiser - especially in the very early years, but also in later times working boats were easy to buy second hand - making them reasonably affordable - with very seaworthy designs. Because of their origins they usually carry the gaff rig. (25-50 feet with relatively short overhangs, full length keel, rigged as cutter, ketch or yawl.)

the cruiser racer - since many designers of cruisers have earned their reputation and spent most of their time building racing boats, their designs have been influenced to a greater or lesser degree by this work. Here speed is the dominant feature resulting in sleek hulls of great beauty.(*) (25-42 feet with relatively long overhangs, short keel, rigged as sloop or yawl.)

the large cruiser yacht - here space is the premier issue and speed is a byproduct of the long waterline and large sail area, resulting in the need for a larger crew. As the size of every piece of equipment grows, so do the purchasing and the maintenance costs. (> 42 feet with relatively long overhangs, long keel, rigged as cutter, ketch or schooner.)

the family cruiser - due to the series production of cruisers and the resulting cost savings this is the most common type of design found today. Since most cruisers sail as a couple - sometimes with children - space and comfort of accommodation is a premium. Resulting in probably the most balanced design of them all. (25-45 feet with short overhangs, short keel and skeg rudder, rigged as sloop or cutter.)

the multihull cruiser - only in recent years the catamaran or trimaran has grown in popularity as a cruising design. Its main assets of speed and the ability to cruise in shallow waters is offset by its lack of stability after a certain degree of listing and by the berthing cost in today's crowded marinas. (25-42 feet, rigged as sloop or cutter.)

the micro cruiser - here the main aspect lies in the all around affordability, ease of handling and the ability to cruise in shallow waters. The disadvantages of very cramped quarters and little seaworthiness have had little effect on the popularity of the design. (<25 feet with short overhangs, full length keel, rigged as sloop or cutter.)

A few examples to illustrate some of the best designs

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the working boat cruiser


LOA 36'9" 11,2 m

Beam 14'2" 4.3 m

Draft 4'2" 1,27 m

tonnage 12,7 t

Sailarea 1161 sq ft 108 qm

launched 1893

Joshua Slocums famous rebuild of a Fairhaven fishing sloop from 1801. Many replicas exist.

Joshua Slocum's Spray in Australia  

model of the Spray

Spray rigged as cutter
Boadicea CK213
Boadicea racing 2007    

cutter rig

LOA 30 ft 9,1 m

Beam 10 ft 3,1 m

Draft 4 ft 1,4 m

tonnage 10,8 t

Sailarea 700 sq ft 65 qm


launched 1808

lines plan of Boadicea
This Essex oyster smack, built in Maldon in 1808 and based at West Mersea, is one of the oldest boats afloat in the British Isles.
Colin Archer Designs

Colin Archer

Colin Archer is often associated purely with pilot boats, but he started with building yachts. In 1867 he built his first yacht, ‘Maggie’, and she was in the Archer family for many years. Other known cruising yachts built by Colin Archer are 'Venus' and ‘Storegut’, built for Wilhelm Wolf who won a lot of prizes with her. Colin Archer built 70 yachts in total.



Colin Archer based designs of cruisers come in many different types and sizes:

LOA 30ft - 45ft

Beam 10ft - 15ft

Draft 4ft - 8ft

and materials:





Dream Ship Dream Ship
  Colin Archer  
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LOA 45' 13,7 m

Beam 13' 3,96 m

Draft 7'6" 2,28 m

tonnage 29 t

Sailarea 985 sq ft 90 qm


launched 1906

Mischief of H.W. Tilman


Mischief at Malta

Sea Breeze
Sea Breeze
In January 1954 she came to the notice of Bill Tilman: "I was put in touch with a man who owned the right type of boat - 'Mischief' built at Cardiff in 1906, was originally a Bristol Channel pilot cutter 45ft long. Her only known history to me was her first entry in 1927 when presumably her life as a working boat came to an end and was bought to turn her into a sailing yacht. Since then she has had nine owners and the latest had brought her to Malta."


LOA 40' 12,2 m

Beam 10'2" 3,1 m

Draft 7' 2,13 m

tonnage 19,5 t

Sailarea 900 sq ft 82 qm


launched 1865

Orion rigged as a yawl   Orion rigged as cutter
R.T. McMullen - "She was built for me by Mr. Inman, of Lymington, in 1865, and rigged as a cutter; was lengthened 6 feet by the stern in 1873, and rigged as a yawl. The alteration made her 19 1/2 tons builders’ measurement. The keel is of elm; frame, oak; skin, teak; fittings, above and below, mahogany; keelson, iron; fastenings, copper and Muntz’s metal. The reasons for sailing so often in bad weather are that the ‘Orion’, although small, is a vessel that can be relied upon in any emergency, and that it would seriously interfere with the most pleasurable part of the cruise to be wasting time in waiting for fair winds and smooth water. Her buoyancy and exceeding liveliness in a heavy sea make her very uncomfortable below..."
the cruiser racer




LOA 43' 3" 13,2 m

LWL 31' 5" 9,6 m

Beam 10' 8" 3,25 m

Draft 6'1" 1,85 m

tonnage 18 t


Torch, a 'Fishers Island 31' sloop built by the Herreshoff Co.

Sidney Herreshoff used the half-model for 'Alerion' by Nathanael G. to create the 'Fishers Island 31' in 1926. Four of the class were built at Herreshoffs from 1927 to1930.


It was a work of great ingenuity and there have been few all around better designs ever produced. The boats are beautiful to look at, contain reasonable accommodation, and are outstanding sailers.

  Kelpie, a 'Fishers Island 31' sloop built by the Herreshoff Co.
Dyarchy II


LOA 43'9" 13,37 m

LWL 38' 11,58 m

Beam 12'3" 3,73 m

Draft 7'4" 2,25 m

tonnage 24,2 t

Sailarea 1400 sq ft 131 qm


Dyarchy lines plan
dyarchy reaching
This 1939 design, of which nine have been built (two of steel), is one of Laurent Giles & Partner's most famous and revered. A traditionally constructed long keel gaff cutter, she has been widely reviewed and one can scarcely open a design or cruising book without finding mention of her.
Firecrest in Paris


LOA 39' 11,9 m

LWL 31'6" 9,6 m

Beam 8'6" 2,49 m

Draft 7' 2,13 m

tonnage 12 t

Sailarea 950 sq ft 88 qm


Firecrest was an English racing cruiser designed by Dixon Kemp and built by P. T. Harris at Rowhedge, Essex, in 1892. She was long and narrow - what was then called "a plank on the edge" - with a deep keel and three and a half tons of lead for ballast.
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Sparkman & Stephens 'Finisterre'


LOA 40' 12,1 m

LWL 30' 9,2 m

Beam 11'3" 3,42 m

Draft 7'5" 1,20 / 2,20 m

tonnage 11 tons

Sailarea 820 sq ft 75 qm


launched 1950

Sparkman & Stephens Tango

S & S Tango Plan

Whisker, designed by K.Aage Nielsen    


LOA 41' 12,5 m

LWL 28'6" 8,6 m

Beam 11'3" 3,43 m

Draft 7'6" 2,29 m

tonnage 20,5 tons

Sailarea 840 sq ft 78 qm


lines plan of Whisker



    The yawl Whisker was designed by Aage Nielsen in 1955 as a well balanced racing cruiser
Lion Class


LOA 35'2" 10,75 m

Beam 8'9" 2,67 m

Draft 5'6" 1,67 m

tonnage 7,2 t

Sailarea 750 sq ft 70 qm


launched 1956

Siandra, the 35' Arthur Robb designed Lion-class sloop sailed by Jamie Morrison and Niki Perryman. The Lion class design enjoyed many successes around the globe including overall victory at the 1958 and 1960 Sydney to Hobarts races.
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the large cruiser


LOA 55' 16,7 m

LWL 43' 13,1 m

Beam 15' 4,57 m

Draft 7'8" 2,33 m

tonnage 45 t


launched 1906

Jack London's Snark    
the Snark quayside
Jack London built his ship with money earned writing stories for magazines: "The Snark was partly built in San Francisco. The morning her iron keel was to be cast was the morning of the great earthquake. Then came anarchy. Six months overdue in the building, I sailed the shell of her to Hawaii to be finished, the engine lashed to the bottom, building materials lashed on deck. Had I remained in San Francisco for completion, I'd still be there. As it was, partly built, she cost four times what she ought to have cost."
  Dorade Dorade    


LOA 52' 15,85 m

LWL 37' 11,35 m

Beam 10'2" 3,12 m

Draft 7'6" 2,32 m

tonnage 19 t

Sailarea 1075 sq ft 100 qm

launched 1931

Dorade, designed by Olin Stephens
Dorade with Olin Stephens at the helm
One of the first yachts designed by young naval architect Olin Stephens, Dorade was a racing cruiser ordered by his father. Her inspired design helped launch the careers of both Olin and his brother Rod Stephens, one of the premier yachtsmen of the mid-century. On July 4, 1931, Dorade sailed the Transatlantic Race with a crew that included the Stephens brothers. Dorade swept the field of ten boats and arrived two days ahead of any other entrant; on corrected time her margin of victory was four days. Later that summer, Dorade won the Fastnet Race.


LOA 42' 12,8 m

LWL 37' 11,28 m

Beam 10'2" 3,72 m

Draft 7'6" 2.07 m

Sailarea 980 sq ft 93 qm


the launching of Saoirse

A gaff ketch with gunter mizzen designed by Connor O'Brian, the owner and built by the Fishery School of Baltimore, Ireland in 1922.

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  Wander Bird     No.5 Elbe


LOA 85' 25,3 m

Beam 19'7" 6 m

Draft 13' 3,66 m

tonnage 52 t

Sailarea 5200 sq ft 492 qm


launched 1883

No.5 Elbe   launch of pilot schooner No 5 Elbe
No. 5 Elbe back on the river Elbe
Built as pilot schooner 'No. 5 Elbe' to the design of Gustav Junge at the yard H.C. Stülcken & Sohn in Hamburg, Germany in 1883.  Bought by Warwick M.Tompkins and reconditioned as a cruiser for a journey to S.F. in 1932.
Gipsy Moth IV


LOA 53' 16 m

LWL 38'6" 11,8 m

Beam 10'4" 3,18 m

Draft 7'6" 2,3 m

tonnage 12 t

Sailarea 854 sq ft 79,4 qm


launched 1966

Gipsy Moth IV

'Gipsy Moth IV' was designed by John Illingworth and Angus Primrose. She was built by Camper & Nicholsons at Gosport and launched in March 1966.


One of the most unforgettable pictures in the history of small boat passage-making is 'Gipsy Moth IV' rounding Cape Horn. An almost wingless ‘moth’, the ketch runs the last of her easting down under spitfire jib alone. To port and starboard are horrifying white craters: the death of two giant waves, one and a half times the length of the 53ft hull.

  Gipsy Moth IV rounding Cape Hoorn
Pen Duick VI


LOA 73' 22,25 m

LWL 61'6" 18,8 m

Beam 17'4" 5,3 m

Draft 11'2" 3,4 m

tonnage 32 t

Sailarea 2795 sq ft 260 qm

aluminum alloy

Pen Duick VI Pen Duick VI with reefed mainsail
The sixth Pen Duick was designed by Eric Taberly for IOR (International Offshore Rule) races, in particular the first Whitbread, the fully-crewed round-the-world race held in 1973/74.
the family cruiser
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LOA 34' 10,6 m

LWL 27'6" 8,5 m

Beam 10'9" 3,29 m

Draft 5' 1,52 m

tonnage 12 t

Sailarea 635 sq ft 60 qm


The plans for Islander had been published by "Rudder" magazine". She was a Seagoer class yawl designed by Frederick William Goeller, Jr.

Islander with Harry Pidgeon  


Islander under sail


Harry Pidgeon's Islander on the hard
Vertue Class
Vertue XXXV


LOA 25'3" 9,1 m

LWL 21'6" 6,55 m

Beam 7'2" 3,1 m

Draft 4'6" 1,4 m

tonnage 4,2 t

Sailarea 315 sq ft

two Vertues racing

  Vertue XXXV
diagrammatic sketch of Vertue XXXV

39 qm


The designer J. Laurent Giles started the class with the gaff rigged 'Andrillot' in 1936. The 35th 'Vertue' was built by the yard E.F. Elkins Ltd. of Christchurch, England in 1949.
Nordic Folkboat

traditional Nordic Folkboat

Folkboat Rococo



LOA 24'1" 7,5 m

LWL 19'8" 6 m

Beam 7'1" 2,2 m

Draft 3'8" 1,15 m

tonnage 1.950 t

Sailarea 250 sq ft 24 qm

launched April 22, 1942


GRP Folkboat  
The drawings for the design of the Nordic Folkboat class was by Tord Sunden of Sweden in September 1941. A prototype was completed by Arendals in Göteborg by Christmas of 1941.


LOA 30'6" 9,32 m

LWL 25'3" 7,7 m

Beam 8'2" 2,5 m

Draft 5'2" 1,57 m

tonnage 4,7 t

Sailarea 430 sq ft 40 qm

From builder and designer Nigel Warington Smyth for his own personal use,, the sloop Restive was built by Stebbings in Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex.

sail plan of Restive  


lines plan of Restive
Newport 29




LOA 35' 6" 10,8 m

LWL 29' 8,84 m

Beam 10'4" 3,17 m

Draft 5' 1,52 m


Enlarging 'Alerion', Nathanael Herreshoff designed the Newport 29's in 1914, though it was a full-keeled hull and not a centerboarder.

Newport 29   Mischief, gaff rigged Newport 29 1914
Newport 29 - footers have occasional been hailed as the best all around design ever created by Nathanael Green Herreshoff or any other designer, certainly it is one of the most beautiful .
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  Wanderer III      


LOA 30' 9,23 m

LWL 26'6" 8 m

Beam 8'6" 2,56 m

Draft 5' 1,52 m

Sailarea 600 sq ft 56 qm

Wanderer III 1955   lines plans of Wanderer III
interior plan of Wanderer III
For 'Wanderer III' Eric and Susan Hiscock went back to designer Jack Giles and he drew up an enlarged Vertue, 30' overall. Like all Giles boats, she was quite narrow.
Vindö 30


LOA 30' 9,11 m

LWL 23'3" 7,1 m

Beam 8' 2,45 m

Draft 4'3" 1,3 m

tonnage 3,5 t

Sailarea 320 sq ft 30 qm

launched 1963


Vindö 30   Vindö 30 drawings
The Vindö 30 was introduced during the first half of the nineteen-sixties by Carl Andersson of Sweden, and she was made of wood at first. After a couple of years she was built in GRP instead.
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the multihull cruiser




LOA 23'6" 7,2 m

LWL 20'3" 6,2 m

Beam 16' 4,9 m

Draft 2' 0,6 m

tonnage 3,4 t

launched 1954


Tangaroa at Falmouth 1955   sail plan of TangaroaRongo
catamaran Rongo
James Wharram and two German girls, Ruth and Jutta, sailed from Falmouth in their homemade catamaran, 'Tangaroa'. The story of their stormy crossing of the Bay of Biscay, their winter in northern Spain living off the proceeds of magazine articles, and the dangers encountered in their unusually rough trade wind passage to Trinidad. In Trinidad, they built a 40ft catamaran Rongo, sailed her to New York and then across the North Atlantic back to Britain (the first catamaran successfully to do so).
Caravel II



trimaran Caravel II
Tiki 31
Tiki 31 by James Wharram
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the micro cruiser

Bawley Storm with reflections

7 ton Bawley-type cutter, built by Bundock Brothers at Leigh-on-Sea in 1910, owned by Maurice Griffith in the 1920s.


LOA 25'6" 7,8 m

LWL 24' 7,3 m

Beam 9' 2,75 m

Draft 3'6" 1 m

tonnage 7 t

Sailarea 450 sq ft 42 qm

launched 1910


  drawing of the Bawley Storm
    Bawley-type cutter Storm
Shoal Waters


LOA 16'6" 5 m

Beam 6'1" 1,84 m

Draft 1'2"/3'9" 0,35/1,15 m

tonnage 0,5 t

Sailarea 110 sq ft 10 qm


launched 1964

Shoal Waters Shoal Waters dried out on the beach
Shoal Waters and A.C. Stock
The pocket cruiser 'Shoal Waters' is a study in functional simplicity. For a start, it has neither an auxiliary engine nor sophisticated electronic navigational aids. There's sitting headroom – just – in the cabin but there are two cushioned bunks and a small galley. A centreboard rather than a fixed keel allows her to dry out upright on muddy tidal flats, rather than having to anchor in deeper, more open waters – or, worse, moor alongside a commercial marina pontoon.
Centreboard Cruiser / Jollenkreuzer

Jollenkreuzer R742

Jollenkreuzer with spinnaker




15er LOA 6,50 m Sailarea 15 qm

20er LOA 7,75 m Sailarea 20 qm

25er Blitzjollenkreuzer LOA 8m Beam 2,4m Draft 0,3m / 1,4m Sailarea 25qm

30er LOA 9,00 m Sailarea 30 qm

Jollenkreuzer R433

20er Jollenkreuzer R433

Sailing boat with cabin, but without ballast keel.



LOA 25'9" 7,9 m

Beam 8' 2,45 m

Draft up 1'2" 0,36 m

down 5'6" 1,68 m

tonnage 1,9 t

Sailarea 322 sq ft 30 qm


launched 2007




  lines plan of Wadkrabber
Centreboard yawl 'Wadkrabber', designed by Arend Lambrechtsen, conceived by Hans Vandersmissen, built at Nijman Jachtbouw, Middelburg, Holland.
Sopranino of Patrick Ellam and Colin Mudie


LOA 19' 5,8 m

LWL 17'6" 5,4 m

Replica of Sopranino  
Sopranino, the famous first example of an offshore mini cruiser/racer, and the foundation of the present day highly successful Junior Offshore Group fleet. Sailed across the Atlantic in 1952 by Patrick Ellam and Colin Mudie she was found in a poor state in the USA, purchased for $1 and returned home to be restored to sail again.


LOA 18' 5,5 m

In 1931 a Latvian, Fred Rebell decided to emigrate to the United States by single-handedly sailing the Pacific Ocean on a tiny boat christened the 'Elaine'. He arrived in California in January 1933, and Rebell is credited with the first recorded west-east, lone crossing of the Pacific, using a homemade sextant.
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gaff rigged

Bermudan rig

As the earliest fore-and-aft rig, the gaff cutter is a classic. Because of the large sailarea it is most effective when reaching and on a downwind course (a spinnaker is not absolutely necessary). Today's cruisers often employ the rig for its versatility.

  cutter cutter bermudian cutter

The gaff rigged sloop was popular only in America and the first bermudan rigged boats were sloops in the Caribbean. It took two decades before the bermudan sloop was finally accepted in Europe. But much better performance when close-hauled and easier handling made it the most used rig by far.

  sloop gaff-rigged sloop sloop

The yawl has a small mizzen aft of the steering. On early yachts this sail helped to split the total sailarea, but cruising sailors like it for its trimming capabilities and more choices to reduce sails in strong winds. This at the cost of slightly reduced performance when sailing close-hauled.

  yawl gaff yawl bermudian yawl

When the cutter grew in size, the main sail became increasingly difficult to handle. One solution was to reduce it and rig a mizzen. A ketch has the mizzen mast located before the steering and the sail is larger than that of the yawl. Also the complexity of the rig is somewhat increased and the windward performance is reduced significantly.

  ketch gaff ketch ketch

Because of the prevailing winds on the east coast of America, the schooner became the choice of rig for larger boats there. Here the larger main sail is abaft of the schooner sail and there are many possibilities of additional sails between the two masts. The rig wants an experienced skipper and more hands and never really caught on in Europe.

  schooner schooner bermuden schooner

"My reason for holding up ocean racers as examples for cruisers is that being first and foremost

a cruising man I have done just enough racing to understand that the ideal ocean racer is the

ideal cruiser. Yachtsmen are generally divided into two groups, purely racing and purely cruising

men, neither being able to see the merits of the other vessel. These ocean racers are cruisers as

developed by racing men. Combining, as they do, the knowledge of cruising and racing men, they

are interesting and instructive, and besides this, they have to face every sort of weather in

their races across wide oceans." Uffa Fox in 'Sailing, Seamanship and Yacht Construction'


This page is dedicated to the many cruisers who have inspired me and who have given me confidence to be building this chapter on cruising. Trusting their advice i am going on cruises aboard my little ship again and again. Thanks goes to everyone who sent me pictures and information.  Without your help this site would not have been possible!  Please keep sending your material, and i will keep improving the pages!

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