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The best bluewater sailboats (we analyzed 2,000 boats to find out)

By Author Fiona McGlynn

Posted on Last updated: May 16, 2023

We analyzed two-thousand bluewater sailboats to bring you a list of proven offshore designs

BEST BLUEWATER SAILBOATS

What are the best bluewater sailboats?

This was a question we asked a lot of experienced cruisers when we decided to sail across the Pacific. We needed a boat after all, and we wanted to buy the best bluewater sailboat we could afford.

We heard a lot of strong opinions.

Some sailors thought it was reckless to go offshore in any boat that didn’t have a full keel.

Others prioritized performance, and wouldn’t dream of going anywhere in a slow boat like the Westsail 32 (a.k.a. a “Wet Snail 32”).

Opinions like these left us feeling confused like we had to choose between safety and performance.  

If we learned anything from these conversations, it’s that what makes a bluewater boat is a hotly debated topic!

However, there’s a way to cut through all the opinions and get to the bottom of it. The solution is….

We analyzed just under 2,000 boats embarking on ocean crossings (over a 12 year time period) and came up with a list of the ten best bluewater sailboats.

Where did we get our data?

The data for our best bluewater sailboats list comes from 12 years of entries in the Pacific Puddle Jump (PPJ), an annual cross-Pacific rally. We took part in 2017 and had a ball!

You can read about the methodology we used to analyze this data at the bottom of the post.

What do we mean by “best”?

We know, that word is overused on the internet!

Simply, based on our data set, these were the most common makes and models entered in the PPJ cross-Pacific rally. There were at least 10 PPJ rally entries for every make of boat on our top 10 list.

So, these boats are 100% good to go?

No! A bluewater boat isn’t necessarily a seaworthy boat. Almost every cruiser we know made substantial repairs and additions to get their offshore boat ready, adding watermakers , life rafts, solar panels, and more.

Also, you should always have a boat inspected by a professional and accredited marine surveyor before buying it or taking it offshore.

But my bluewater baby boat isn’t on this list!?

There are hundreds of excellent bluewater yachts that are not on this list. For instance, we sailed across the Pacific in a Dufour 35, which didn’t even come close to making our top 10 list.

Choosing the right boat is very much an individual journey.

Where can I find these bluewater boats for sale?

We recognize that a top 10 list won’t get you very far if you’re shopping for a bluewater boat (especially if you’re looking in the used market).

So, to help you find your perfect boat, we’re going to create a big list of bluewater boats that you can use to refine your search on Yachtworld, Craigslist, or any other places to buy a used boat .

Sign up for our newsletter to get our big list of bluewater boats list as soon as it comes out.

We’re also working on a series of posts by size class. For example, if you’re looking for a smaller boat, you can narrow it down to the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet .

Takeaways from our analysis

There were no big surprises on an individual boat level. All of these makes are considered good cruisers, some of them are even best-selling designs! However, there were a few things that caught our eye.

“Go simple, go small, go now” still holds water

We were thrilled to see the smallest boat in our roundup at the very top of the list! Westsail 32 owners can take pride in their small but mighty yachts (and ignore all those snail-sayers).

While undoubtedly there’s been a trend towards bigger bluewater cruisers in recent years, small cruising sailboats seem to be holding their own. 60% of the monohulls on this list were under 40 feet (if you count the Valiant 40 which sneaks just under at 39.92 feet).

Cat got our tongue

So, we knew catamarans were a thing, but we didn’t fully appreciate HOW popular they’d become!

50% of our top 10 bluewater boat list consists of catamarans—a good fact to toss out the next time you’re trying to garner a happy hour invite on the party boat next door (which will undoubtedly be a catamaran).

Still got it!

We’ve got good news for all you good old boat lovers! 60% of the boats on our list were first built before 2000.

While these older models are less performance-oriented than modern designs, cruisers value these boats for their ability to stand up to rough seas and heavy weather. It just goes to show that solid bones and classic looks never go out of style.

Alright, without further ado, let’s dive into our list of the 10 best bluewater boats!

The 10 best bluewater boats

best bluewater sailboats

1. Westsail 32

The Westsail 32 is an iconic bluewater sailboat

The Westsail 32 is one of the most iconic bluewater cruisers and 19 have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

In 1973, this small cruising sailboat garnered a 4-page spread in Time magazine. The article inspired many Americans to set sail and the Westsail 32, with its double-ender design, set the standard for what a real bluewater cruiser should look like.

There were approximately 830 built between 1971 and 1980.

This small boat has taken sailors on ocean crossings and circumnavigations. Though considered “slow” by some, the heavily-built Westsail 32 has developed a loyal following for her other excellent offshore cruising characteristics.

If you’re interested in small bluewater sailboats, check out our post on the best small sailboats for sailing around the world .

2. Lagoon 380

Lagoon 380

The Lagoon 380 is a reliable, solidly built catamaran and considered roomy for its size. We counted 18 of them in our data set. With over 800 boats built , it may be one of the best-selling catamarans in the world. Like the other boats on this list, the Lagoon 380 has proven itself on long passages and ocean crossings, winning it many loyal fans.

3. Lagoon 440

Lagoon 440 is a bluewater catamaran

18 Lagoon 440s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

Why leave the comforts of home, when you can take them with you? The Lagoon 440 is a luxurious long-range cruiser, offering beautiful wood joinery, spacious accommodations, and a deluxe galley. Oh, and you have the option of an electric boat motor !

SAIL and Sailing Magazine have both done in-depth reviews of the Lagoon 440 if you want to learn more.

4. Amel Super Maramu (incl. SM 2000)

Amel Super Maramu is a popular bluewater sailboat

If you follow the adventures of SV Delos on YouTube, you probably know that the star of the show (SV Delos— in case the title didn’t give it away ) is an Amel Super Maramu. These classic bluewater sailboats can be found all over the world, proof they can go the distance.

We counted 16 Amel Super Maramus and Super Maramu 2000s in our list of PPJ entries.

Ready to join the cult of Amel? Read more about the iconic brand in Yachting World.

5. Valiant 40

The Valiant 40 is an iconic bluewater cruiser

When I interviewed legendary yacht designer, Bob Perry, for Good Old Boat in 2019, he told me that the Valiant 40 was one of the boats that most defined him and marked the real start of his career.

At the time, heavy displacement cruisers were considered sluggish and slow, especially in light winds.

Perry’s innovation with the Valiant 40 was to combine a classic double ender above the waterline, with an IOR racing hull shape below the waterline. The result was the first “performance cruiser”, a blockbuster hit, with over 200 boats built in the 1970s.

It’s no surprise we counted 16 Valiant 40s in our data set.

Cruising World magazine dubbed it “a fast, comfortable, and safe cruising yacht,” and there’s no doubt it’s covered some serious nautical miles.

It’s worth noting that there were blistering problems with hull numbers 120-249 (boats built between 1976 and 1981). Later models did not have this problem. Despite the blistering issues, the Valiant 40 remains one of the most highly thought of bluewater designs.

6. TAYANA 37

The Tayana 37 is a top bluewater boat

The Tayana 37 is another hugely popular Perry design. The first boat rolled off the production line in 1976 and since then, nearly 600 boats have been built. Beautiful classic lines and a proven track record have won the Tayana 37 a devoted following of offshore enthusiasts.

12 Tayana 37s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009. Read more about the Tayana 37 in this Practical Sailor review .

7. Lagoon 450

The Lagoon 450 is one of the best bluewater sailboats

If this list is starting to sound like a paid advertisement, I swear we’re not on Lagoon’s payroll! This is the third Lagoon on our list, but the data doesn’t lie. Lagoon is making some of the best cruising sailboats.

The 450 has been a hot seller for Lagoon, with over 800 built since its launch in 2014. While not a performance cat, the Lagoon 450 travels at a reasonable speed and is brimming with luxury amenities.

At least 12 owners in the PPJ rally chose the Lagoon 450 to take them across the Pacific. It’s no wonder SAIL had so many good things to say about it.

8. Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46

Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 Bluewater Sailboat

There were 11 Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46s in our data set.

Fountaine Pajot released the Bahia 46 in 1997, a sleek design for traveling long distances. Its generously-sized water and fuel tanks along with ample storage for cruising gear are a real plus for the self-sufficient sailor.

According to Cruising World , “Cruising-cat aficionados should put the Bahia 46 on their “must-see” list.”

9. Catalina 42 (MKI, MKII)

Catalina 42 bluewater boat

10 Catalina 42s (MKI and MKII) have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

The Catalina 42 was designed under the guidance of the legendary yacht designer and Catalina’s chief engineer, Gerry Douglas.

One of Catalina’s philosophies is to offer “as much boat for the money as possible,” and the Catalina 42 is no exception. According to Practical Sailor , Catalina aims to price its boats 15% to 20% below major production boats like Hunter and Beneteau.

Practical Sailor has a great in-depth review of the Catalina 42 .

10. Leopard 46

Leopard 46 bluewater sailboat

Since 2009, 10 Leopard 46s have embarked on Pacific crossings in the PPJ rally.

Leopards have won legions of fans for their high build quality, robust engineering, and excellent performance.

The Leopard 46 also boasts something of a racing pedigree. It was built in South Africa by Robertson and Caine and designed by Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, who came up with the record-breaking catamaran Playstation / Cheyenne 125 .

Read more about the Leopard 46 in this Cruising World review .

Methodology

What the data is and isn’t.

The PPJ data was a real boon because it reflects a wide range of cruising boats: small, big, old, new, expensive, and affordable. We think this may be because the PPJ is a very financially accessible rally—the standard entry cost is $125 or $100 if you’re under 35 (age or boat length!).

We did look at data from other (pricier) rallies but found that the results skewed towards more expensive boats.

Needless to say, the data we used is just a sample of the bluewater boats that crossed the Pacific over the last 10+ years. Many cruisers cross oceans without participating in a rally!

Entries vs. completions

The data we used is a list of the PPJ entries, not necessarily the boats that completed the rally. In instances where we saw the same boat entered multiple years in a row, we assumed they’d postponed their crossing and deleted all but the latest entry to avoid double counting.

Boat make variations

The world of boat building and naming can get pretty complicated. Sometimes a manufacturer changes a boat’s name a year or two into production, other times the name remains the same but the boat undergoes a dramatic update.

For the most part, we’ve used SailboatData.com’s classification system (if they list the boats separately, then we have also), except where there are two separately listed models that have the same LOA, beam, and displacement.

Fiona McGlynn

Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.

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Best Single-Handed Bluewater Sailboats

Best Single-Handed Bluewater Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Sailing alone in racing or time on the water is a great experience. Finding the best single-handed blue water sailboat for those needs can be a tough task.

Regardless if you have a cruiser or racing sailboat, a single-handed one can offer many opportunities versus larger boats. So what are some of the best ones on the market?

The Hunter Channel 31, J/109, and West Wight Potter 19 are great budget-friendly, single-handed sailboats. Moving up in price, you can look at Hanse 371, Jeanneau Sunfast 3200, and even a Dehler 29. Depending on the size and the amount of features it has will determine what they are worth.

While the budget will play a role in finding the right single-handed boat for you, there are plenty of other factors to consider. These range between comfort, stability, and useful features.

According to experts in sailing, most prefer comfort over price as long as it is justifiable with the amount you are paying. As long as it is not too far over your budget, you could consider a slightly higher-priced boat if it has a few more bells and whistles to make your life easier.

Table of contents

‍ 12 Single-Handed Sailboats to Consider

Whether you are planning to cruise around or going out for the day sailing, there are a handful of sailboats to consider. You want to choose one that is best operated alone and would not need additional hands to make it work.

{{boat-info="/boats/rs-sailing-rs-aero"}}

For a fun day out at sea, it is hard to pass up on a quality dinghy . This one, in comparison to other dinghies, is fairly light and takes hardly any time to set up.

The RS Aero is one of the more technologically advanced dinghies for one individual to use. This one in particular has amassed a handful of awards for the best performance overall.

Due to its popularity and quality, these range between $10,000 to $15,000. If you find it any cheaper than that, it could be worth the investment.

2. Beneteau Oceanis 62

{{boat-info="/boats/beneteau-oceanis-yacht-62"}}

If you are feeling a bit adventurous or feel confident in your ability to handle a large boat by yourself, then try out the Beneteau Oceanis 62 . This boat is slightly over 60 feet, so it is recommended that you have all your ducks in a row before setting sail.

Thankfully, the boat was designed with ease of use in mind. So this could easily be operated by one person if they have some experience with it.

If you purchased this one for the family, then you can still have the added benefits of taking people with you. But if you decide you want to be by yourself, that is an option too.

This boat is valued around $600,000, so it is arguably one of the more expensive options for just a single handed sailboat. But if you are looking for a family boat, you are killing two birds with one stone.

3. Hunter Channel 31

{{boat-info="/boats/hunter-channel-31"}}

This British made sailboat debuted in 2001 with a twin keel, making it a great choice for solo sailing. While it has a rich history in racing, the design has gone through slight adjustments over the years to make it a solid cruiser.

With its incredible handling and quick turns, this sailboat has excellent handling. The hull structure allows it to have a low center of gravity and provide it with increased stability compared to other racing boats.

The deck layout, in combination of the self-tacking jib and tiller steering, allow this boat to be one of the best on the market if you can find it.

You can usually sail these fractionally rigged and reef with ease from the cockpit. For around $35,000, you are getting a great deal on a boat that has everything you need.

{{boat-info="/boats/j-boats-j109"}}

If you are not quite ready to venture out alone or want the availability to take people out with you, then the J/109 is a great sailboat to look into. These were first built in 2004, so you should be able to still find them today.

If you decide that you want to take it out by yourself, you could look into going offshore and into areas where other boats have difficulty reaching. You might be able to get it to plane on open water, but it is a little heavy.

With its asymmetric spinnaker, you should be able to jib from the cockpit with light wind. Even in heavier winds, this boat offers great stability.

Due to its high standards of construction and long term stability, these boats are still valued around $60,000. If you can find one a little less for that, it could be a steal.

5. West Wight Potter 19

{{boat-info="/boats/west-wight-potter-19"}}

This boat design has been around since 1979, which prioritized safety and handling. Those factors alone make it a quality solo handling boat.

This sailboat has grown on many over the last three decades. People have probably overlooked it due to its name, but you should definitely check it out if you find one.

The slight design changes over the years have turned this into a tough little boat. It has a Bermuda rigged sloop and can handle various conditions.

With its lifting keel, it allows it to navigate shallow waters. This boat might be one of the more versatile options out there if you plan on sailing in shoal drafts.

For the price, it is hard to beat something less than $10,000. If you are wanting a newer version with upgraded features, you could be spending around $25,000.

6. Hanse 371

{{boat-info="/boats/hanse-371"}}

For a mid-sized cruiser, it will be hard to pass up a Hanse 371 if you come across it. This boat design is geared towards single handed sailing, with a perfect mix of older and newer technology.

It has a furlong and self-tacking jib, along with an autopilot feature making it easy to use for one person. For a boat that was built around 2000, it was well ahead of its time.

Even though the boat is a bit larger than some others for solo sailing, you will have plenty of space to move around. With the large galley and quite a bit of cabin room, you will feel like you are in a mansion.

The look and handle of this boat is favored by many, which is why it still holds its value. You can potentially find ones for sale around $60,000.

7. Jeanneau Sunfast 3200

{{boat-info="/boats/jeanneau-sun-fast-3200"}}

From the first glance at this boat, you can see that it has a traditional look compared to other sailboats. Since it is smaller and lighter, it makes it easy to handle through many conditions.

The boat was originally designed to be a racer, so you have stability and strength in addition to speed. These were built around 2008, but still offer some of the best technology you will find today.

For space, you will have plenty of room just for yourself. There are two double cabins, galley, and a head compartment.

This fractional sloop, along with the keel, can provide easy sailing in either direction of the wind. You can comfortably have the mast around 60 percent to reach a comfortable speed.

This boat is still modern, so you will see these a little bit more often than some others. You will likely find them for about $160,000 but you get all of the latest technology and a boat that is built to last.

8. Tartan 3700

{{boat-info="/boats/tartan-3700"}}

The Tartan 3700 is another quality boat that you can live on and comfortably cross the sea with. Thanks to the self-tacking jib, it allows the boat to be used easily by one person.

This boat was originally designed in the 1970’s, but still has value today. It has been proven to be a great boat to cover long distances and with multiple people on board.

Even though this one might be a little bit older in comparison to other single handed boats, the price still ranges close to $150,000. Rest assured, there is still quality and reliability with this sailboat.

9. Dehler 29

While this boat is not as popular in America, the Dehler 29 is a popular German sailboat. This boat is starting to become popular as more sailors look for single handed boats.

In 1998, this boat earned the honors for boat of the year and sailing boat of the year in the Cruising World Magazine. Since then, it still performs with quality since day one.

Since it is equipped with a tiller, you can steer this boat with ease. This offers one of the best opportunities to steer a boat without having to have an extra set of hands.

For the price, you can still find these on the market for slightly under $60,000. This is what you will pay for top quality German sailboats.

10. Rhodes 19

{{boat-info="/boats/oday-rhodes-19"}}

The Rhodes 19 is another classic style sailboat that many will gravitate to when they see it. Not only is it perfect for solo sailing, but you can have a few people on board if you enjoy family time.

The hull design is meant to be forgiving on the water, allowing it to easily handle heavier conditions. Since day one, this boat’s design has stood the test of time whether you are experienced or a newbie when it comes to sailing.

You can sprit rig this boat or simply use a Bermuda rig to help push you along with the wind. Since it has a low center of gravity, you do not have to worry about stability with this one.

Depending on your location, you can still find these for about $20,000. Assuming it is in good condition, you might find them slightly higher priced.

11. Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20

{{boat-info="/boats/pacific-seacraft-flicka-20"}}

This boat has a strong history of solo sailing , simply because having more than one or two people would be uncomfortable. These were very common around the 1980’s and there were roughly 400 of these built. If you can find one that was built in the late 90’s, that would be your best bet.

The reason this boat deserves some attention is that you can potentially find it for a great price and live on it. This boat is also towable, making it easy to take with you no matter where you go. For just under $20,000, you can find plenty in good condition.

{{boat-info="/boats/vanguard-laser"}}

The Laser is a specific boat that you have probably seen in the Olympics. This small boat is simple and ready to go exploring for solo sailing.

This is arguably one of the most popular single handed boats out there. If you want the simplest option for sailing by yourself, look no further than a Laser.

This boat can use various rig types, so whichever method you prefer. Most use cat rigging since there is no headsail and just one mainsail. It also helps that this boat is easy to set up, making it desirable for solo handlers.

For the price point, you cannot beat $7,000 compared to other single handed boats. Due to its popularity and quality, you might have to pay a little more.

Why You Should Solo Sail

Solo sailing is an experience like no other and even replicates similar adrenaline rushes in other sports. If you are not seeking the thrill, there are boats drained to take it a little bit slower on the water.

Regardless of your skill level, you should consider the experience at least once in your life. The beautiful thing about this is, it does not have to be the perfect boat to get it done.

There are even plenty of sailors that have sailed on much larger boats or ones that were designed for more people. It all depends on the adventure you are trying to seek, but there is clearly not another like it when sailing on your own.

Features to Look for in Single-Handed Boats

When solo sailing, there are plenty of features that can separate one boat from another. These can make a big difference in how your adventure goes for the day.

The conditions at sea are often unavoidable and something that everyone has to deal with. Whether you are solo saling or with a crew, everyone has to be aware of tough conditions.

If you sail alone, you are required to do everything in order to make it back safely. Having something with an automation system will be huge for solo sailors.

If you have a quality boat, the next best thing would be automation systems on board to help your life sailing much easier. Some of these systems include autopilot, electric windlass, roller furling, and even a radar.

Other sailors might want lines that run to the aft, a wind vane, or a hydraulic system for the bow or stern. Basically anything that you can do with a click of a button to reduce manual labor.

While this is an obvious option, you do not want to forget about stability. No matter how fast the boat is or how many cool features it has, those will be useless if you have issues with handling.

You want a boat that has wide beams and shorter waterlines. While this limits some speed, that is a much better trade off than having nothing at all.

Easy to Use

When picking out your single handed sailboat, you want one that is easy to use. If there are too many features that are required to get it going, you either need more experience or that boat is not right for you.

Try finding one that only requires a few steps in comparison to other ones. You might have to pick one that is a bit smaller in order to get used to it all, which is all you really need since your are by yourself.

Many sailors will have their preferred sails when going out on the water. A unique sail design that you could look for is the Bermuda sail with a gaff sail.

This allows you to have more sail area on a shorter mast. It also allows you to have better control and less heeling force that is common for longer sails.

It does make sense to choose the one that is right for your boat and what is most comfortable to you. After you find the right boat for you, you should strongly consider the sails it has.

Rigging Type

When it comes to solo sailing, the gaff rig is one of the best rig types. Even though the Bermuda is the most common, you lose some windward capabilities since it is lower.

The gaff rig makes the most sense because it is easier to use and has the best downwind performance. Each sailor will have their preferred rig type, but in solo sailing, the gaff stands out the best.

Price Point Makes a Difference

You do not have to break the bank when deciding what boat is best for solo sailing. There are boats that can fit within any budget, and you just have to know what you are looking for.

Just because a boat is priced over $100,000, does not guarantee that it is the best on the market. Depending on the brand, how many features it has, and how big the boat is will determine the price.

Some of the best single handed sailboats are priced less than $20,000. It all depends on the type of adventure you are seeking and how much money you are willing to spend.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Better Sailing

What Makes a Good Blue Water Cruising Sailboat

What Makes a Good Blue Water Cruising Sailboat

Before we get started, to analyze the features that make a good sailboat, I’d like to have you all take a seat please— and stop sharpening those knives! That includes you, sir, with the calloused hands and wood shavings in your beard! 

For some reason, boat talk can bring out the ogre in some people, which is too bad. One of the great things about sailing is the incredible diversity of sailboats to do it in: big sailboats, little sailboats, wide sailboats, skinny sailboats, monohulls, multihulls, wood sailboats, fiberglass sailboats, steel sailboats, aluminum sailboats—even sailboats made of cement! The number of sailboat types that continue to be built and sailed, even today, is truly incredible.

My own “breakthrough” in appreciating boat diversity came a few years ago on a bareboat charter cruise on Lake Erie with my wife. As I’ve intimated elsewhere, there was a time when I wanted nothing to do with any boat that wasn’t either a racer or an old classic with heartbreaking overhangs. Then along came this charter aboard a 34-footer of the type I had always dismissed as being the epitome of a soulless “plastic” cruiser.

In fact, I had barely set foot aboard that little trim vessel before I realized how wrong and even downright ignorant I’d been. The marina was as crowded as a shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving, but we backed that handy little sloop out of her slip and turned toward the channel pretty as you please. A couple of hours later, a line of thunderheads rumbled in from the northwest, and we had to reef down for a bit of a squall, but again, there was no problem—despite some hail and about 35 knots of wind.

That night we relaxed in the comfortable cockpit, slowly working our way through a bottle of wine. Then we went below for a good night’s rest in the boat’s spacious aft stateroom. The next morning we awoke refreshed, had breakfast, and then headed back out onto the lake, ready and eager to do it all over again. In short, we had an absolutely fantastic time, and the boat performed splendidly in every way. It really was a revelation, both the quality of the boat and the realization of my own pig-headedness. 

This is not to say that all boats are good for all purposes. Deepwater cruisers need to meet certain criteria that make them markedly different from top-flight racers. The same goes for daysailers and coastal cruisers. The point is, each design has to be judged on its merits and in the context of the boat’s intended purpose. Assuming the builder has successfully executed the design, whether or not the boat is a good one ultimately depends on the sailor.

What Makes a Blue Water Sailboat

>>Also Read: Sailing Pre-Departure Checklist

What Makes a Good Blue Water Sailboat?

When it comes to crossing oceans with a sailboat, you obviously need a sturdy, reliable boat in the event you meet serious winds. The ideal bluewater cruiser, however, can’t be simply a waterborne tank—otherwise, it will take forever and a day to get anywhere, and you’ll be sitting duck for any storm heading your direction. In addition, the ideal cruising boat needs to take care of its crew on days when it isn’t blowing stink—days that far outnumber the stormy ones. It also needs to provide a comfortable place to rest and relax at the end of a day’s sail—not a trivial consideration, as even the most dedicated cruiser spends substantially more time at anchor or tied to the dock than out on the briny. Even an aggressive circumnavigation schedule will generally allow the crew two days in port for every day of sailing.

Finally, a bluewater cruiser needs to be both seaworthy and sea-kindly in its design and construction—that is, it must be able to both stand up to the rigors of heavy weather and spare the crew undue fatigue in the course of a typical passage. This is a boat that sails well but doesn’t require tremendous effort to keep it in trim. It’s a boat that tracks well—i.e., it’s steady on its helm—and has easy motion, so the crew doesn’t get banged up every time the weather starts kicking up some waves.

Here Is A Short List of Characteristics That Make a Good Offshore Sailboat

Structure and equipment installation.

To be truly seaworthy, a boat must be structurally sound and its equipment correctly installed. The hull-to-deck joint must be well made, and all bulkheads and other interior structural elements should be securely bonded to the underside of the deck and inside of the hull. Equally important, items like hatches, rudder bearings, and steering gear need to be robustly constructed and robustly installed, so they can withstand the force of a crashing sea.

On deck, a deepwater cruiser should have tall stanchions set in sturdy bases. It will often have bulwarks—or at the very least, toerails—to brace your feet against if you ever find yourself sliding down the deck when the boat is on its ear. There should be plenty of sturdy handrails along the cabintop so that you never have to make any kind of “leap of faith,” lunging from one handhold to the next when moving forward to the mast or foredeck. There should also be adequate side deck space between the cabin trunk and the bulwarks or toerail so that going forward isn’t a struggle. And, of course, the side decks and foredeck should be surfaced with aggressive nonskid. Beware of stylishly molded cabin trunks—their gracefully curved surfaces can be treacherous in rough weather.

What Makes a Good Offshore Sailboat

>>Also Read: Cruising Sailboats – Parts and Features

Hull Design

The hull of a good cruising sailboat should have relatively low freeboard (distance from the waterline to the upper edge of the deck) to minimize the impact of windage in extreme weather. It should also have a moderate beam, a bit of forefoot beneath the waterline, and a full keel or a moderately proportioned fin keel to help with heaving. The cockpit should be large enough to be comfortable in normal conditions but not overly large. If you’re ever pooped, a too-large cockpit will hold that much more water, the weight of which can depress your stern and make you vulnerable to being pooped again.

All deepwater boats should have a bridgedeck “step” of sorts between the front of the cockpit and the companionway leading below, so water from a flooded cockpit won’t slop into the cabin. The cockpit should also be equipped with large drains to allow water that comes aboard to leave as quickly as possible.

Finally, a blue water cruiser must have a safe limit of positive stability (LPS)—at least 120 degrees, although higher is better—to prevent it from capsizing in heavy seas. LPS is the heel angle at which the hull and keel stop resisting the capsizing forces of the wind and waves and actually abet them until the boat is completely inverted. In addition, the LPS dictates how stable a boat will be when it’s upside down—in other words, how easily the boat will re-right itself. As Calder explains, a sailboat with an LPS of 100 degrees will, in theory, remain inverted for about 5 minutes before it’s righted again by wave action.

A sailboat with an LPS of 120, on the other hand, should right itself in about 2 minutes. A sailboat with an LPS of 140 will theoretically pop right back up almost as soon as it goes over. Think about how long you can hold your breath—and about how long your hatches, hatchboards, vents, and portlights will hold when the boat is upside down in surging conditions. A couple of minutes could make all the difference in the world. For the record, many sailors believe that an LPS of 115 degrees is acceptable on an offshore boat.

What Makes a Good Cruising Sailboat - Cruising Sailboats Hull Type

>>Also Read: Full Vs Fin Keel On Sailboats

Comfort and Ease of Sailing

Many of the features that make for a seaworthy boat also make for a seakindly one. A sailboat with a moderate length-to-beam ratio, a bit of forefoot, and a full keel or moderately proportioned fi n, for example, not only heaves-to well but also tends to track better. Granted, the boat might not be the fastest thing on the water, but what cruising sailor wants to continually tweak and trim to eke out that last fraction of a knot of boat speed anyway? Likewise, a solid masthead rig with a moderate sail area will get you where you want to go without springing any nasty little surprises.

In Nigel Calder’s (sailing writer) words, “On a cruising boat, it is a fundamental mistake to gear the concept of fast passage making to maximizing the absolute speed potential of a boat at the expense of ease of handling, comfortable motion, stability, security, and other highly desirable attributes. Exhilarating performance can be fun in the short term but extremely fatiguing in the long term. Instead, the goal should be to achieve good sustained performance in all kinds of conditions in an environment that is as relaxing and as much fun as it can be.”

A deepwater boat should have V-shaped sections in the bow that will allow the hull to slice through the waves on a beat or close reach, instead of slapping and pounding. It should also be stiff enough to carry sail, but not so stiff that it has a “snappy” motion when coming off a swell—which calls for a moderate L/B to ensure adequate but not too much form stability. In this same vein, a boat with a moderate to heavy displacement-to-length ratio—unlike a featherweight speedster—tends to pass smoothly through the waves instead of bouncing over them or simply bobbing on top of them like an oversized cork.

Offshore Cruising Sailboat Example

>>Also Read: Must-Have Boat Safety Equipment For Sailing

Accommodations

The list in this category is pretty exhaustive. An ocean is a big place, but for the crew of a sailboat on passage, it’s essentially no bigger than the boat’s LOA (Length Overall). Nonetheless, the shortlist includes adequate sea berths, a galley that can be safely used in a seaway, plenty of storage, and a cockpit that’s comfortable and safe for watchkeeping.

When it comes to sea berths, simpler is better. Each berth needs to be a little more than 6 feet long and located no farther forward than around amidships. The motion in a forepeak berth in any kind of seaway will make sleeping impossible. Berths should also be parallel with the boat’s centerline, not angled dramatically inward. Otherwise, either your head or feet will be higher whenever the boat heels while you’re trying to sleep. Finally, sea berths should be straight to avoid cramped shoulders or feet. This consideration may seem obvious, but many modern cruising boats are equipped with curved or angled settees—those seats in the saloon that double as sea berths underway— which look great at boat shows but can be absolutely miserable for sleeping.

In the galley, you need a cooking area that not only includes the necessary equipment for preparing meals—stove, microwave, oven, cutting board, and the like—but a layout that will make cooking safe and as easy as possible when the boat is sailing on its ear. The key is a wraparound layout, in which the counters form a U or G shape, so you can brace yourself against an opposing counter or in a corner and free your hands for cooking.

Sinks should be deep and as close to the centerline as possible, where the motion is less severe. Fiddles—the little walls or barriers surrounding the countertops to stop things from sliding off —need to be tall and perpendicular, not low and artistically rounded. The galley should be located as close to the companionway as possible for ventilation and ease of passing snacks or coffee to crewmembers on deck. A location near the companionway also puts the galley well aft, where hull motion is easier.

Bluewater Sailboat

>>Also Read: What To Wear When Sailing

You can never have too much storage. Extended cruising requires a tremendous amount of storage space—for everything from charts to food to spare engine parts and toothpaste—and unless your boat is 50 feet or longer, there’s barely enough room for everything. Not only that, storage space can be surprisingly scarce even in larger cruisers, as designers struggle to shoehorn in more and more accommodations per foot of LOA. The double-size quarter berths tucked under the cockpits of many newer boats may look great. Still, the only way to fit them in is to eliminate a voluminous amount of storage that is otherwise available under the cockpit seats.

Large staterooms in the bow take away hull volume that could otherwise house wet lockers for storing damp foul-weather gear, and “sugar scoop” transoms with those oh-so-convenient swim steps leave no room for lazarettes—those wonderfully spacious lockers located aft of the cockpit. Next time you’re at a boat show, do a quick inventory of that 45-foot beauty with the multiple heads and staterooms. See what’s behind some of those lovely cherry-finished doors, and tally up the total storage area—including those “cabinets” that are so tiny they’re essentially useless. You may be surprised that a “big” boat can actually have remarkably little room for putting things away.

The cockpit should be the right size to “enclose” the on-watch crew—usually one person unless the boat and crew are very large—so they don’t have to worry about being washed around in heavy weather conditions. A cockpit’s width and length are key; there are few things in this life more reassuring than tucking yourself in where the cockpit seat meets the cabin trunk and having your feet braced against the cockpit seat or seat back to leeward— an unrealized comfort if the cockpit is too wide. In addition, all the necessary control lines should be close at hand. The helmsman shouldn’t have to let go of the wheel or tiller when trimming either the main or the jib sheets. The cockpit should also have several strong points where you can secure a safety harness and easy access to jacklines without having to expose yourself to the waves.

What a Good Sailboat Cockpit Looks Like

What Makes a Good Offshore Blue Water Sailboat? – Summary

To reiterate, these are just a few features of a good cruising sailboat—albeit critical ones.  The real key that makes a good offshore sailboat is to find one that’s functional and moderate in the areas of sailing and accommodations; fast but not too fast; roomy but not too roomy; and in which everything has a purpose.  After all, crossing an ocean in a tiny sailboat is serious business—tremendously satisfying, but serious nonetheless.

Peter

Peter is the editor of Better Sailing. He has sailed for countless hours and has maintained his own boats and sailboats for years. After years of trial and error, he decided to start this website to share the knowledge.

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Blue Water Holidays

Blue Water Holidays

Blue water holidays is the uk’s leading specialist in small ship cruising, boating and touring holidays..

Based in the picturesque market town of Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales, our team of friendly experts has been booking the right holidays for our discerning customers for over 17 years, offering a wealth of experience and knowledge to ensure customers get the best value for money.

As the UK’s leading agents for all major river cruise lines and small ship, luxury and sailing cruises, we offer unique cruises and exclusive discounts. Visit our award-winning websites to find thousands of cruises, the latest special offers, unbiased advice, customer cruise reviews, detailed deck plans and images for thousands of river and small ships.

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We also offer the best collection of self-drive boating holidays in the UK and Europe, with thousands of boating holidays available from bases all over the UK, France, Portugal, Canada, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Germany and Poland.

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Yachting World

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Countdown to adventure: 5 skippers explain how to prepare for bluewater sailing

  • Elaine Bunting
  • June 8, 2020

Are you counting down to a big adventure? Five skippers tell Elaine Bunting about their plans and preparations to go bluewater sailing

bluewater-sailing-preparation-family-cruising-atlantic

Make life more fun for all the family onboard

For most sailors, preparing for an Atlantic or round the world voyage typically takes between a year and three years. According to the surveys we carry out annually with ARC rally skippers , that is the average time it takes to choose and buy a suitable boat, equip it, train up and get all the moving parts of work and domestic life aligned.

Right now, almost everyone’s plans are on ice, but this uncertain period of enforced stasis may actually be a good opportunity to take stock of your life goals and what you need to reach them. If you’ve always dreamed of sailing away or of a long voyage and a break from normal, striving life ashore, this could be the time to create more serious plans.

To find out how other sailors are planning their journey along the typical three-year ‘runway’ and what their challenges have been, we spoke to a five sailors at different stages. What follows is a snapshot of their choices and approach.

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Photo: Tor Johnson

Flexible plans

Tom and Clair Crean are from the UK but living in Switzerland, where Tom works as an IT consultant. Tom is from a sailing family – his father used to work for Westerly when they built cruisers and cruiser-racers in the UK.

They have been thinking and planning to leave for the last two years and when they came to look for a yacht for a budget of £50-60,000 it was Westerlys and Moodys from the Eighties and Nineties that Tom thought of, boats with a “centre cockpit for a decent aft cabin and solidly built.”

As with everyone we spoke to for this article, finding a good and well-maintained example of a particular type of used yacht was not easy and soon the Creans concluded that they “would never get 100%”.

Article continues below…

ideal-bluewater-yacht-arc-2018-fleet-credit-james-mitchell

How to pick your ideal bluewater yacht: ARC director explains all

I often chat with prospective bluewater cruisers at boat shows and seminars and am frequently asked: “What is the ideal…

first-atlantic-crossing-tips-credit-trystan-grace

Sailing across the Atlantic: Bluewater veterans share top tips for your first crossing

On the afternoon before we left the Canary Islands for the Caribbean for a transatlantic with the ARC, I struck…

The yacht they eventually bought three years ago is Moody Blue , a Moody 376, which they keep in the UK. “We were very lucky: the previous owner had bought the boat 30 years ago and had really looked after it, but not upgraded much so it was almost like it was out of the factory,” says Tom. However, the electronics and many other items were out of date and needed to be replaced, so the Creans began working through a long list.

“The engine had been replaced in 2012 and the sails were in good condition. The rigging had been replaced in 2014 and was all checked. We bought a new cruising chute. We had all the seacocks replaced with Tru Design fittings. They had been OK in the survey but when I was opening one, the handle snapped off in my hand.”

The Creans want their boat to be as inexpensive as possible to run, so they decided not to fit a watermaker or air conditioning. But new electronics, power generation and safety gear was a priority. They have a new Raymarine Axiom Pro MFD, a new radar, AIS and two new lithium batteries. To help with extra, sustainable power, they have a flexible solar panel and a Rutland 1200 wind generator. To reduce consumption, they’ve chosen Hydrovane self-steering gear.

bluewater-sailing-preparation-moody-376-side-view

Tom and Clair Crean’s bluewater sailing boat of choice is a Moody 376

Safety gear is among the more expensive categories but can’t be skimped on. Tom and Clair have a new four-person liferaft , and they bought an EPIRB, lifejackets equipped with McMurdo AIS PLBs and a YB Tracker. They are getting a quote for a Jordan Series Drogue and have bought a battery-powered angle grinder and bolt cutters. Tom adds that they have “lots of tools – the forepeak and saloon are full of boxes – and first aid kits.”

In parallel, the Creans are building up their own sailing experience. “This is our first proper boat,” says Tom. “I’ve sailed with my uncle, we bought a 8m cabin cruiser in Weymouth and we have chartered every year for the past 15 years; two weeks per year in BVIs and Croatia, sailing courses in Gibraltar and sailing in the UK. I first did an RYA Competent Crew course in the RAF in the Eighties, then the Day Skipper, then Yachtmaster. Clair has done the Day Skipper course.

“We’ve spent the last three years based in Portsmouth, learning to sail in a complicated area with tides etc. and sailing to the Channel Islands. That has given us more confidence. The longest passage we’ve made so far would be Alderney to Portsmouth, leaving in the early morning and arriving late at night. We have made two night passages before but our big test will when we leave and sail from Falmouth to La Coruña – we are going to do the offshore route as a test.”

bluewater-sailing-preparation-moody-376-tom-clair-crean

“I know it is a lifestyle I will enjoy,” says Tom. “When I’m on the boat is when I’m at my happiest – and with family. It is never boring. So I know for sure we will be very happy. But we are also realistic.

“It may get too much, I don’t know. Let’s get to La Coruña and then keep taking each stage. “From what we have read, the advice is to tell everyone you’re leaving – there are so many reasons not to go – but be flexible. We will just go, and anything we do will be great.”

Decluttering your life

Fergus and Chloe Bonner are unusual among sailing couples in that it is Angus who is the relative beginner and Chloe the more experienced sailor who has nurtured the dream of cruising. She already has around 50,000 miles of long-distance sailing behind her on a previous adventurous voyage from New Zealand to the UK via Alaska and the North West Passage .

“Chloe had this sailing background and when we got together ten years ago we often said it would be great to go sailing with children . Then our twins came along and it was full-on. We bought a house and we did the house up and even just going to work was quite hard.

“One summer we went dinghy sailing in Annecy and it re-fired that thought. But there was no way we could afford it. Then we started to look into it and read blogs. We started to look at how much rent we could get for our house and we curbed all our nonessential spending. Then I got a promotion – Chloe is a nurse and I work for a media company.”

bluewater-sailing-preparation-island-packet-40-mast-view

Fergus and Chloe Bonner chose an Island Packet 40 for their long-term cruising plans

They began searching for a boat with a strict budget of £100,000 in mind, and began reducing their outgoings and shrinking down their lives and belongings to reset in a more modest way. “We basically went through everything we had and started selling stuff,” says Angus.

“We’d done a lot of cycling and triathlons. I sold two bikes, Chloe sold a bike, we sold the turbo trainer. We sold snowboarding gear and even little things like bike components, children’s things. Anything. We started off with high-value stuff and went through the house to find things we didn’t need.

“When you start doing this you realise you don’t need them and I wondered ‘Why did I buy these things?’ We made about £10,000 and it felt like therapy getting rid of it. And it prepares you for life on a boat where you don’t have the money or the space.”

Besides decluttering physical items, they cut down on subscriptions that accumulate: “Strava, Amazon Prime, Ancestry, British Triathlon membership, gym membership… We just stopped going out, having meals out; typically, lunch was £60 for four of us. Now we don’t buy things we don’t need, even clothes. I take things up to my mum’s and ask her to repair them. It feels really good to be getting into that mentality, and to teach the boys skills to fix things.”

They began looking at brokerage yachts, starting their search on yachtworld.com and looking at what was in that budget. “There were hundreds of production boats and we started thinking: ‘Great there are loads and they have got a new chartplotter and so on’ and we probably looked at the wrong things.

After looking at Moodys and at the Ovni 435 – “amazing but realistically we couldn’t afford it” – they settled on an Island Packet 40 last November which they bought for £108,000. Their budget for preparing the boat was “in hindsight, quite naive,” he admits. They need a liferaft, EPIRB, satphone, auxiliary power such as solar power and arch and davits for a dinghy. There have been unanticipated expenses, such as replacing sanitation hoses.

bluewater-sailing-preparation-island-packet-40-cockpit

Educating on board can include navigation and maths…

“We thought we’d spend another £15,000. People bandy around numbers and some say you need an extra 15-20%. That’s nonsense. We thought the boat didn’t need a lot of work but we have had to redo the rigging, we have put in a new battery charger, we’ve rebedded all the chainplates, replaced all lights with LEDs, replaced some bilge pump piping, unstepped mast and redid all electrics – we have a spreadsheet of 100 items. We haven’t even started on things we need to go sailing long-term, such as the liferaft, solar panels and EPIRB.”

In fact, Fergus and Chloe haven’t even sailed their boat yet other than on sea trials. But Fergus did a RYA Day Skipper course last year and once they do get sailing, they’re thinking of getting an instructor to do one-to-one coaching and also help them master close quarters manoeuvring.

But he reveals: “The whole thing has been made much harder because we have two children in school and we don’t have relatives nearby. When we go on courses, it means they have to be aboard or we have to find somewhere to put them for a week. We have to, and do, involve them.”

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At anchor in the Caribbean – that’s the dream

Ultimately, their plan is to live on board for three or four years and home school their 6-year-old twins. “We will focus on the important stuff like reading, writing and maths and then learn as we go. How formal it will be I don’t know at this point. I would have to say that is low down the list. The focus is on getting the boat ready.”

When they do leave, hopefully next summer, they plan to sail to Gibraltar, the Canary Islands and across to the Caribbean before going through the Panama Canal and perhaps round the world. “But,” says Fergus, “it’s loose. A firm plan is going to change.

“We might get somewhere and get some work or come back. At the moment we’re learning, and that learning curve is huge – I feel like I’m doing a doctorate. But it is amazing how much you can learn when you are really focussed on something.”

bluewater-sailing-preparation-oyster-foredeck-credit-Tim-Bishop

A crew on an Oyster take it easy on a transatlantic crossing. Photo: Tim Bishop

Learning new skills

Antony Smyth and his wife, Morgan Chambers, live in Canada and are planning to live on board. Antony, a former management consultant, quit work three years ago, but Morgan is still working. Their goal has been to have a boat as a “mobile hotel” for themselves, family and friends, and sail across the Atlantic and slowly make their way through the Panama Canal and Pacific to reach Smyth’s native New Zealand.

“It has taken decades to get away,” he says, “We have been working up to this for 30 years, but it’s easy because we both have had good jobs.”

The couple previously owned a Westerly Oceanlord, and co-owned a 41-footer they kept in the Greek islands, and the choice of yacht and route for this long plan was a conundrum. “These are hard decisions,” he says, “what kind of boat, multihull or monohull? Where do we go? Are the kids interested? Would friends come if they were invited? You could spend years thinking about it.”

bluewater-sailing-preparation-westerley-49-cockpit

In the end, they decided to buy a second-hand Westerly 49, one of only 12 ever built. They chose it because the design has dual owners’ cabins with a walk around. They paid £110,000.

“The boat we bought had been a cottage for five years, so everything needed doing. We’ve fitted a bow thruster, repainted it, reconditioned the steering, replaced all the wiring, got new rigging, new sails and new running rigging, replaced lots of internal fittings… knives, forks, the lot. I’m not what you call handy, but the learning has been great, the 12V DC electrics, fibreglass – and it has been hugely enjoyable to do it.”

They may rent their house if they are away for a long time, and the plan is to start in La Rochelle and sail perhaps up the west coast of Britain to the Baltic first, before going further.

bluewater-sailing-preparation-westerley-49-side-view

An ever-expanding budget

Nick Deacon and Michele Cruwys have sailed all their adult lives. The time, they feel, is right now to go – Michele recently retired from her job as a consultant paediatrician and Nick, who runs the product development side of a small software company, will retire in the next year or two. Their children are grown up and finishing university.

They previously owned a Grand Soleil 43, which they sold last year. Like others we spoke to, finding the right used yacht was difficult and took a couple of years of searching among brokers and travelling to inspect boats.

“Finding the boat was really tough; locating a boat that was within budget and in reasonable condition. We were quite fussy. We wanted a higher-end, well-made boat and had excluded more mass produced production boats so it was the Oyster, Najad, Hallberg-Rassy end of the market. It is hard to find boats in good condition – some are being set with unrealistic prices and the ones we saw in Europe were pretty beaten up.”

Finally they bought a Najad 511 lying in Sweden. “It was a tiny bit bigger than planned but we went for it and we bought it in October. It was brought back from Sweden by a delivery crew and I joined the captain for the first part,” says Nick.

Their current plan is to leave the UK next May and sail across the Atlantic with the ARC 2021. “Then we will potter around the Caribbean and South America for a year or so and, if all is going well, go through the Panama Canal into the Pacific and continue round the world.”

bluewater-sailing-preparation-najad-511-cockpit

Their boat was built in 2004 boat so has needed “a fair bit” of upgrading and maintenance. The couple have replaced the standing rigging, bought all new sails, a full set of Raymarine instruments, MFD and Autohelm, AIS, installed SSB radio, refurbished the watermaker and overhauled all the hydraulics.

“It’s an ever-expanding budget,” admits Nick. “For example, we knew we would need to have the rigging replaced to comply with the insurance terms, but we have uncovered a few surprises. The refurbishment we’ve done since we bought the boat would, I guess, be somewhere around £60,000.”

Life is not so simple

Richard Glen is planning and preparing for his big escape, but he doesn’t know for sure when it will be. He already has the yacht to sail away on, a 1979 Ron Holland-designed Swan 441, and plenty of experience from years of RORC racing and cruising. But getting to the point in life when he could go is not something within his control.

bluewater-sailing-preparation-swan-441-anchored

Richard Glen’s Swan 441 at anchor in Turkey

“The boat side is quite straightforward as we have taken advice from World Cruising Club and the ARC to get the boat ready so we’re OK on that. It’s the home life that is far more difficult,” he confesses.

“In 2017, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I have become her full-time carer. That is quite a challenge. So although we had this plan it is all rather based on the state of my mother. So I can’t say we are definitely going, though the boat is definitely ready to do the ARC+ next year and then World ARC. My mother is 91 and apart from Alzheimer’s the rest of her life is pretty bulletproof. It’s a conundrum to balance your life along with caring for someone else’s.

“I’m a one-man band, a landscape architect. I used to work for British Waterways designing marinas. I did put various things in place: for example, I bought property to provide rental income in case my business income dropped off, which is what I have been living off while I’m a full-time carer.”

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Richard Glen’s Swan 441 on passage in the Mediterranean

Richard plans to go sailing with his wife and daughter, who will be 12 this month. He says they have made the decision that “she will learn more by having these adventures than being in school and it would be far more fulfilling for her”.

“We’ve discussed the situation where she could be doing her O-levels but is it better to have these opportunities when they come along,” he explains. “We’ve always been delaying it and you could always do that and never get round to it. It’s not simple, and that’s the big challenge in going off long distance sailing.”

Richard’s boat is based in Marmaris in Turkey and over the last year he has been getting it ready and renewing equipment. He has replaced all the navigation electronics, getting a Raymarine MFD fitted and AIS. He is debating whether to buy a Watt&Sea hydrogenerator.

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Photo: Tim Bishop

He will have the rigging replaced and is going to get a new No 1 headsail. “We already have normal heavy 1oz and asymmetric spinnakers and we have a staysail, yankee and No 3 but it would be good to have the larger genoa,” he says. Living on board could, he believes, be done “quite frugally but we would have to go through that transition period of thinking we are on holiday. So it would theoretically be OK provided we acted sensibly.

“We don’t need cars and other paraphernalia but we would have mooring, docking and maintenance so money would be going in other directions. But I haven’t done a huge amount of calculations on that. It might actually be cheaper than living at home, with care and carers and so on.”

From a personal perspective, he says: “Over the years I have done a lot of thinking about it and my training is up to date, with Ocean Yachtmaster and navigation, sea survival, first aid courses, etc. I have also done a lot over the years around yacht maintenance with Hamble School of Yachting.

“We’ll go through everything underwater such as seacocks and cutless bearing and we can at least be listing these things this year and it gives us a year to prepare for November next year.”

First published in the May 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Blue Water Sailing School

Planning Your Journey

Students in our sailing classes live aboard a yacht for the duration of the course. It’s important to come prepared with all the necessary equipment and documents, just as you would for any other sailing voyage.

Below you’ll find a list of the equipment you’ll need for class. You should also take a look at the terms and conditions of enrollment, and consider buying travel insurance to protect your investment and yourself.

What to Bring

  • Deck shoes — soft soled, non-marking shoes. These do not have to be marine deck shoes. Tennis shoes, Teva or similar sandals are fine.
  • Lots of T-shirts and shorts
  • Lightweight long pants
  • Set of warm clothes — although normally warm, we can have quite cold temperatures in the winter. Please bring warm clothes if coming November through April. Heavy fleece or wool sweaters/jackets and pants and a light weight set of long underwear are recommended. Although you will probably not wear them, if needed you will wish you had them. The Virgin Islands are warmer in the winter and do not require more than a sweater/sweatshirt/pants.
  • Long sleeve shirts for sun protection
  • Hat with strap for sun protection
  • Sunglasses with strap
  • Beach towel (one bath towel is provided by Blue Water)
  • Foul weather gear — you do not need to purchase of a set of marine foul weather. You will need a jacket and pants that will keep you dry in case of rain or spray. This could range from offshore foul weather gear to a cheap set from Wal-Mart. In our warm climate a light set is better than a heavy set. Ponchos are not suitable. Seaboots are not necessary.
  • Sailing gloves — fingerless leather gloves, similar to weight lifting or bicycling gloves
  • Sun screen, SPF 15 or above, lip balm
  • Sea sickness medication — if you feel you need sea sickness medications please consult your doctor. The most effective medications, such as the Scopolamine patch, are prescription. Over the Counter medications such as Dramamine and Bonine can also be effective, but usually cause drowsiness. Please test all medications before arriving to check for possible side effects.
  • All prescription drugs must be in correct, labeled bottles
  • Optional: snorkel gear and fishing gear
  • U.S. citizens — A valid passport will most likely be required for return to the U.S. Please see this State Department web page for details.
  • Non U.S. citizens — Valid passport and, if required, visa (check with your consulate). Persons who are not US or Canadian citizens may require a visa for the Virgin Islands. See Worldwide Visa Guide
  • For Bermuda and transatlantic trips — Valid passport
  • ASA logbook, if ASA student or member
  • Optional: fishing licenses, required in Florida and the Bahamas, are available locally.

All Courses

  • ASA workbooks and other materials received from Blue Water
  • Personal notebook, pencil, erasers, pencil sharpener

Course C: Advanced Coastal Skipper and Course C+ Cat: Advanced Catamaran Skipper

  • These trips will go to the Bahamas; see document requirements above.
  • These courses will sail in open water; a safety harness and tether is required. We highly recommend an inflatable harness, and one is required on our Offshore Passagemaking courses.
  • Optional: Other personal safety gear such as personal strobe, personal EPIRB , knife, etc.

Note: You will not be allowed to take CO2 cartridges on a commercial flight. Options are to ship the CO2 cartridges to us before the course, or to buy the cartridges here. This should work if you have a vest that is sold by West Marine, the store that is near our marina. If you have another vest, please check with West Marine to see if they have the size cartridge you need.

Celestial Navigation Courses only

  • Sextant — Plastic with micrometer drum is satisfactory
  • Digital watch
  • Nautical Almanac ( NOT Reed’s) for the current year
  • Sight Reduction Tables HO 249 (0 – 29 Latitude)
  • Universal Plotting Sheets

Most of the specialized marine gear, such as sailing gloves, can be obtained at local marine stores, or at online stores such as West Marine or SailNet . There is also a marine store (West Marine) within walking distance of our marina.

Please pack your gear in soft bags, as space is limited.

Useful Links

  • Information about passports from the U.S. State Department
  • Flight delay information from the Federal Aviation Administration
  • The State Department’s tips for traveling abroad
  • World Time Clock — current date and time in all the world’s time zones

We actually went somewhere (Key Largo), rather than returning to the dock each evening. The course was made to be an adventure, as well as simply instructional. The weather was “made to order” — sun and gentle breeze Saturday through Wednesday, then Force 8 for our ‘foul weather instruction’ on Thursday.

I thought it was an excellent, challenging course. It definitely wasn’t a “cruise.” The instructor expected a lot from the students. I like that.

I have nothing but the utmost praise for your entire operation and the quality of the instruction that I received. Al Hatch is a consummate instructor and brings to this activity a love and a passion that is genuine and expansive. I hope to be able to return to Blue Water to experience some of the higher-level courses of instruction, and I certainly would have no trouble at all recommending your company to anyone.

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These Russian stone carvings date back to 12,000 BC. WHAT??!

blue water travel sailing

With its gracious, broad and tree-lined boulevards, well maintained turn of the 19th to 20th century buildings and a lively riverfront, the city of Khabarovsk is often called the most European city in Asia. Nothing in the tranquil city hints of a history that goes beyond the middle of the 19th century, but a short road trip along the Amur River is enough to unfurl a treasure trove of petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings) that are believed to date back to 12,000 BC.   

Khabarovsk's city center

Khabarovsk's city center

The Khabarovsk Krai, which has about 789,000 square kilometers of territory, is one of the most sparsely populated places on the planet. These vast swathes of emptiness are visible when one drives on the highway that connects Khabarovsk with the industrial city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

The Nanai village of Sikachi-Alyan on the Amur River

The Nanai village of Sikachi-Alyan on the Amur River

75 kilometers north of Khabarovsk and just off the highway and on the right bank of the Amur is the Nanai village of Sikachi-Alyan, where the petroglyphs are located. Residents call the village the ‘home of angry spirits’, thanks to the mystical occurrences that many have claimed to witness there.  

History on the rocks 

The area has about 200 petroglyphs, with a significant number being well preserved. The petroglyphs are easily accessible, as they are near the water’s edge on basalt boulders. 

Petroglyphs of Sikachi-Alyan

Petroglyphs of Sikachi-Alyan

The best time to visit the area is actually early or late winter (despite the brutal cold), since the overflowing waters of the Amur hide them in the warmer months. Floods and ice floes have also caused considerable damage to many of the petroglyphs. Locals say some of the boulders have been turned upside down. 

The carvings that date from different periods depict hunting scenes, animals, such as elk, horses and mammoths, shamans and shamanic masks and even people sitting in boats.

blue water travel sailing

Russia’s Far East is believed to have been one of the last habitats of mammoths before they became extinct. Among the best-preserved petroglyphs of Sikachi-Alyan, there is one engraving that clearly depicts a mammoth, while another shows a mammoth with an unknown creature. There’s also a large depiction of a beast with a tail.   

Svetlana Onenko, a local historian who is also the curator of the indigenous people’s ethnographic museum and cultural center in Sikachi-Alyan, says the very existence of the mammoth depictions proves that the petroglyphs date back to around 12,000 BC. She adds that the ancient dwellers of this area probably also hunted mammoths.  

A Nanai hunter (L); an ancient stone carving showing a mammoth

A Nanai hunter (L); an ancient stone carving showing a mammoth

The older images, dating to the Paleolithic age, were carved out using stone tools. It should be noted that some archaeologists argue that the wild horses depicted in some of the petroglyphs did not exist in the Amur Region even in the Neolithic age.  

blue water travel sailing

The newer carvings, including those of shamans and shamanic masks were used with more modern tools. These images are sacred to the Nanai and other indigenous groups who live in the village with a total population of just 300. Onenko says the members of the indigenous community are descended from the people who carved out the petroglyphs. Some European anthropologists, however, believe that the indigenous people were more recent settlers, who moved to the area around 2,000 years ago from Manchuria.  

An abode of Shamanism  

Neo-Shamanists visit the area from different parts of the world and take part in rituals, which some suspect as being influenced by a cult. Such is the belief in Shamanism in this area that the museum, which has a large number of indigenous artefacts, crafts and ancient Chinese coins, keeps its Shamanic objects in a designated space that is ritually blessed. “Shamanic objects are believed to possess a powerful (and potentially dangerous) energy,” Onenko says. 

A Sikachi-Alyan's shaman

A Sikachi-Alyan's shaman

Locals claim to spot mystic occurrences near the so-called Starukha (Eng.: “old lady”) rock formation. According to indigenous legends, human beings did not die at one point of time, but their population grew so large that there wasn’t enough food for everyone. So the earth’s spirits decided that people, like animals, would also have to die.

The Starukha rock formation

The Starukha rock formation

The Starukha was apparently the first human being to face death and ended up turning into that big (and apparently haunted) rock. 

First Russian visitor 

While the Nanai and other indigenous groups were aware of the existence of the petroglyphs for centuries, the outside world came to know of them only in 1859, a year after the foundation of the city of Khabarovsk.

This “discovery” was made by Richard Maack, a geographer, naturalist and explorer who set out on an expedition of the Amur and Ussuri valleys. Maack, who was born in the Russian Empire’s Baltic governorate of Livonia, studied natural sciences at the University of St. Petersburg and undertook several expeditions to Siberia and the Russian Far East in the 1850s. 

A portrait of Richard Maack (L); and his drawing of an indigenous people's house

A portrait of Richard Maack (L); and his drawing of an indigenous people's house

Maack’s main area of interest was botany and six previously unknown plants that he collected by the Amur were named after him. His expedition north of the newly-founded Khabarovsk led him to Sikachi-Alyan, where he spotted the petroglyphs. There are less than a handful of surviving copies of Maack’s book titled, ‘Travel on the Amur river made by order of the Siberian department of the Emperor’s Russian Geographical Society in 1855’, which contains a wealth of information.  

Russian archaeologists, scientists and historians took a great interest in the petroglyphs in the 20th century. In the 1930s, archaeologist Nikolai Kharlamov photographed them in detail. Three decades later, ethnographer and historian Alexei Okladnikov went on several expeditions to the area and wrote about the petroglyphs in detail in two books. His findings suggest that the artwork of Sikachi-Alyan had some resemblance to its counterparts from South East Asia, Polynesia and Australia.  

Alexei Okladnikov (L) inspects the petroglyphs

Alexei Okladnikov (L) inspects the petroglyphs

The petroglyphs of Sikachi-Alyan are now among the most visited sites in Khabarovsk Krai. The Russian federal government was declared the legal owner of the petroglyphs in 2018 and efforts are underway to better preserve them, as well get the rock formations listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. 

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Cities [ edit ]

Map

  • 48.483333 135.066667 1 Khabarovsk — the capital and major regional center (population 570,000)
  • 50.55 137 3 Komsomolsk-on-Amur — a good sized city that is the steel center of Far Eastern Russia
  • 59.383333 143.3 4 Okhotsk — First Russian settlement in the Far East (17th Century) and former headquarters of Vitus Bering, discoverer of the Bering Strait and Alaska; located in the region's far north
  • 53.15 140.733333 5 Nikolaevsk-on-Amur
  • 49.083333 140.266667 6 Vanino
  • 48.966667 140.283333 7 Sovetskaya Gavan
  • 48.748889 135.646111 8 Sikachi-Alyan — a small village of the Nanai people with a museum of local culture, opportunities for fine Nanai dining, and 13000 year old Nanai cliff drawings

Other destinations [ edit ]

  • 57.104283 138.257106 4 Dzhugdzhursky Nature Reserve
  • 48.204944 134.858911 5 Bolshekhekhtsirsky Nature Reserve
  • 48.10582 135.136973 7 Vladimirovka , located miles and miles away from Komsomolsk, a native village of Negidals.

Understand [ edit ]

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Geography [ edit ]

Khabarovsk Krai occupies a long swathe of Russia's Pacific coastline, a full 2000 kilometers of it, going as far south as Sakhalin and north to Magadan Oblast . At nearly 800.000 km², it's Russias fourth largest province. In the north, taiga and tundra prevail, deciduous forests in the south, and swampy forests in the central areas around Nikolaevsk-on-Amur . As a testament to its size there are more than 50 thousand lakes to fish in, more rivers and streams than you would care to count, and several mountain ranges intersect the region, including the northern reaches of the Sikhote-Alin mountains shared with Primorsky krai. The highest point is Mount Bery, towering nearly in fact, three quarters of the area is occupied by mountains and plateaus.

Biodiversity [ edit ]

The diversity of purely North animals like brown bear and sheer South representatives like Eastern softshell spiny turtle (Trionix) is backed by the legend that God would mix the rest of seeds and animals when somebody told him about missing spot on Earth.

One can encounter pine-tree and wild Far-Eastern grape which came definitely from the South. Its blue round berries with sour taste are cultivated in gardens to produce home wine.

Like Trionix many species are listed in the Red Book.

Culture [ edit ]

Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1975 film Dersu Uzala, based on a book by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev, describes the friendship of a Russian explorer and his Nanai guide named Dersu Uzala. (Wikipedia)

Aboriginal culture within small enclaves across the krai are Nanai, Ulchi, Manchur, Orochi, Udege, Negidal, Nivkhi, Evenki and varies in each settlement.

Facts [ edit ]

Talk [ edit ].

See Russian phrasebook .

Get in [ edit ]

Khabarovsk is a major transportation hub for the entire Russian Far East and will likely be any visitor's first stop by either the Trans-Siberian Railway or via Khabarovsk's international airport ( KHV  IATA ).

From China there are two entrance routes: one begins on the border with the Heihe - Blagoveshchensk crossing point, the other from Fuyuan town on Amur river. Another possible way is one from Sakhalin, where international ferry operates between Russian Korsakov and Japan's Wakkanai . A one-night bus trip along the federal highway Vladivostok-Khabarovsk is an option for a traveller, if the train carriage by some odd reason is not preferable.

Do [ edit ]

Fishing and hunting in the wild are the major attractions for local villagers, town and city dwellers as well as trekking routes to taiga plains and mountains untouched by humans are favourite activities for all sorts of tourists. Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk mountain bike clubs are all at it. Taiga forest roads are always abuzz with mosquitos in summer and the best seasons for visiting are May and September when the air is not so stifling and the sun is just warm. Winter attracts regional skiers and snowboarders to the ski bases "Holdomi" and "Amut Snow Lake" near Komsomolsk and "Spartak" slopes near Khabarovsk.

Eat [ edit ]

Local food follows traditional Russian cuisine featured with salted bracken, mushrooms, Korean and Chinese and even European dishes served in theme restaurants of two big cities. Don't forget to taste pancakes with a spoonful of linden, wildflower, buckweat honey or a season caviar stuffing.

Stay safe [ edit ]

Snakes and bears are rare attackers in the wild, lest provoked. More dangerous are infectious ticks which are active most of all in spring. Use spray against ticks.

Go next [ edit ]

Khabarovsk is the hub for regional air travel with important flights to Russian destinations Anadyr , Irkutsk , Krasnoyarsk , Magadan , Moscow , Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky , Yakutsk , and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk , as well as international flights to Niigata , Japan and to Seoul , Korea . There are no direct flights to/from the US .

The next major stops to the east on the Trans-Siberian Railway are Ussuriysk and Vladivostok ; to the west, Birobidzhan .

There is a regular ferry from Vanino (the terminus of the Baikal-Amur Mainline ) to Kholmsk , Sakhalin .

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