Ideal Cruising Yacht
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There is probably nothing like 'the ideal cruising yacht', but after more than 14 years of doing it, we will stick our necks out and give our opinions.

- A feature on Long Passages


An ideal cruising yacht depends on composition, age, and fitness of the crew, area to be visited and a thousand other factors.  Compromises are always necessary; between size and cost, features and simplicity, sailing performance and comfort, and many other factors.  Our opinions reflect our experience:  2 people, reasonably fit but not athletes sailing in the mid-latitudes and tropics.  With those few caveats, here goes:


42 to 48 feet - big enough to be comfortable hanging out in anchorages for days at a time and handling off-shore storms, yet small enough that 2 people can lift and carry the mainsails, fend it off a dock in 15 knots of wind and lift its anchor by hand if necessary. Of course size costs, both when it is bought and when one pays marina fees and buys equipment.


Each type of rig has its advantages and disadvantages; our choices, in priority order:

  1. Cutter - Simplest rig to take offshore; an equipment arch on stern is usually needed for the radar and antennas.
  2. Ketch - Flexible sail combinations, each sail is easier to handle, rigging is more complex, cannot sail as close to the wind as a cutter; mizzen is good place for radar and similar stuff.
  3. Sloop - Some people use these, but we prefer to have an inner forestay - thus a cutter.
  4. Schooner - We would normally not consider this rig, but a recent model seems very appealing and the owner is very happy with it.
  5. Yawl - No significant advantages for off-shore cruising.


1st: Steel or Aluminum, 2d: Fiberglass  (GRP) - The comfort of having metal between us and coral reefs would be a great comfort factor although fiberglass runs a close second because of its durability and lack of corrosion problems.  The ability to fasten items to the decks by welding without the need for drilling holes in the deck make metal a more water-tight design.


Hard Dodger/Pilothouse A solid cover to the companionway and hatch with a protected steering station to make off-shore passages safe and comfortable.
Deck non-skid All decks should be covered with a light-colored non-skid material, preferably built into the deck mold. 
Solid Hull/Deck joint If fiberglass construction, the hull/deck joint must be thru-bolted and sealed and shown to be completely water-proof. 
No Bowsprit Headstays should end on the deck and be accessible from there.
Fore and Aft Headstays   Twin roller furlers on the bow that can deploy a working jib/yankee (90%) and/or high-cut genoa (125%), plus an inner forestay for a staysail.
Aft Head A head at the base of the companionway so that foul-weather gear and wet people do not have to track salt water through the cabin is essential.
No Exterior Wood   Teak on deck is pretty, but a maintenance chore that detracts from other pleasures of cruising.
High Toe-rail The toe-rail should be at least 4" high so that when heeled over in strong winds a crew member on the lee rail has something solid on which to stand.
High, Solid Stanchions Stanchions, and their lifelines should be 30" high, and securely fastened to the toe-rail with no possibility of introducing leaks below as they are bent and twisted by crew members or rogue waves.
Fuel Adequate for 1000 mile range against light headwinds, with all fuel in tanks below decks. Tanks must have inspection plate and cleaning port.
Water   200 gallons.  Tanks must have inspection plate and cleaning port.
Muted colors below The area below decks should be soft colors, not stark white nor all dark wood.
Leak prevention Every item fastened to the deck or coachroof would have to be examined to determine that it was watertight.
Adequate storage below Storage space should be adequate to stow all items we can identify plus leave 20% empty for collection of new items, souvenirs, etc. Big storage items include laptops, sleeping bags, luggage for land trips, sweaters, liquor, food for long off-shore passages. 
Adequate living space Living quarters should be adequate so that each person has a private place to work or read (e.g. main cabin and a stateroom).  The main cabin should be adequate to seat 6 people for a meal.
Good/comfortable bed The main sleeping quarters should have 1 queen sized bed, with comfortable mattress and adequate ventilation for sleeping in anchorages and marinas.
Easy to sail/balance on all points of sail It must be possible to set up sails so that it has no excessive weather helm or any lee helm under all sailing conditions. 
Adequate freeboard The cockpit should stay dry in any condition other than outright storms - 4' is probably right.
Storage for big items There should be storage space, below decks, for the 3 biggies: Liferaft, Dinghy, and Outboard.
Accessible engine and mechanical systems   One should be able to get to all sides of the engine for repairs, maintenance, stuffing box adjustments, etc.  Plumbing equipment such as pumps, hose, filters, etc. should be reachable without dismantling cabinetry.
Adequate electrical system   This means:
  • Breakers on all main circuits
  • Meters to show state of charge of all batteries
  • At least 500 amp-hours on house battery(ies)
  • Separate engine-starting battery
  • Wired to accept either 110VAC or 220VAC, 50 or 60Hz main power, with outlets of each type inside the yacht
  • Transformer to convert from the main power to the alternate voltage if needed.
Hull insulation The hull, particularly above the waterline, should have a modest amount of insulation to minimize condensation in lockers in cool weather,  1" is adequate.
Accessible space  in ice-box All areas within the ice-box should be accessible from the top, and it should be compartmented in such a way that removal of some items does not cause the rest to collapse.
Separate shower stall The head should have a separate shower stall and drain sump pump.
Twin anchors  Bow to be configured to carry 2 anchors, nominally a Bruce or CQR plus a Danforth or Fortress, at the ready, plus an electric windlass that could be used for either anchor. (Long Passages has a manual windlass)

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