Better Sailing

Best Small Sailboats To Sail Around The World

Best Small Sailboats To Sail Around The World

While there are plenty of 30-35ft blue water cruising yachts currently on the used sailboat market, many of them are tired and need new standing rigging, sails, engine, etc. That said, there are good boats out there that have been loved and looked after. Those that are well used have most likely been well maintained, too, so don’t be put off by yachts that have crossed oceans or even circumnavigated before, as their owners will have had to keep them properly seaworthy. Sailing around the world is no easy task, so these boats should be in tip-top shape. 

Some might consider 30-35ft too small for bluewater cruising or for a circumnavigation (sail around the world), but that has been disproved over the years. Bigger might be better for coastal cruising with friends, but maintenance costs rise exponentially with every extra foot. A small sailboat should be more than enough to carry a couple off on the adventures of which they dream.

Nicholson 35

Now somewhat legendary, the tough and dependable Nicholson 35 first appeared in 1971, and between then and 1985, some 228 boats were launched. Built to Lloyds’ specifications with a hand-laid solid GRP hull, she boasts a fully encapsulated lead fin keel and full-depth skeg. She has an alluring sheer with nicely balanced overhangs, giving her bows a powerful go-anywhere look, while her low-profile coachroof blends pleasingly into the decks.

Compared to today’s modern cruiser, the Nic 35’s accommodation is somewhat limited due to her relatively narrow beam and pinched ends, but what there is has been used intelligently and makes for a good working environment on long passages. The need to pass through the heads to reach the forecabin can be inconvenient with guests on board. Still, for two people cruising, these minor irritations are more than compensated for with the high quality and solidity of the fittings and joinery and the availability of safe sea berths on passage.

The main saloon is comfortable with 1.88m/6ft 2in headroom. A U-shaped dinette makes a narrow but long double in port, and the 1.92m/6ft 4in-long starboard settee a great sea berth. However, many were fitted with one or two pilot berths above the settee backs instead of lockers. The galley boasts a huge coolbox, full-size gimballed cooker, deep sink, and plenty of stowage. A crash bar, bum strap, and bulkhead pole make it a great working galley at sea. Opposite is a large aft-facing chart table with instrument mounting space on a half bulkhead separating it from the watch seat and wet locker further aft. A few boats had a forward-facing chart table and roomy quarter berth instead.

The water tanks are under the sole above the keel, not under the saloon settees as with many modern crafts. Small portlights and hatches mean natural light and ventilation might not be so plentiful as on a newer boat, but then there is less opportunity for leaks. Her cockpit is business-like – not over wide but with high coamings to support the crew securely and keep them dry. She also has a high bridge deck to stop water going below should a wave find its way into the cockpit and very deep cockpit lockers. The mainsheet track is within reach of the helmsman, just forward of the pedestal, but getting to the primaries entails climbing over the seats from behind the wheel. Her masthead sloop rig has a keelstepped mast. It is stout and uncomplicated, with twin lower shrouds and a removable inner forestay for a storm jib.

Post-1975 models had a taller mast option (51ft as opposed to 45ft), increasing the sail area considerably. No doubt most will now have the control lines led aft into the cockpit for safer shorthanded sailing. Under sail, the Nic comes into her own. She has a very positive helm, although she can be prone to weather helm if overpressed. Her performance under sail is well mannered and drama free. However, her large (145%) genoa can take some sheeting in (don’t leave the inner forestay on). Her high bows part the waves with a gentle motion, and her deep, longish keel keeps her tracking dead straight in a following sea. She won’t break any speed records, averaging around 5 knots on a long passage, but she’ll always get you there safely and in comfort.

Nicholson 35 best small yacht for circumnavigation

Nicholson 35 Specs

>>Also Read: Best Sailboats Under 30 Feet

The Sadler 34 evolved from the 32, and while the 32 was a tough, capable seaworthy sailboat cable of sailing around the world. The 34 offers much more in the way of accommodation thanks to her wider beam. Apart from being pretty, the most notable feature of the 34 is her double-skinned hull, sandwiched with thick closed-cell foam, making her unsinkable and eliminating condensation thanks to the added insulation. She came with a deep fin, shoal fin, or bilge keels, and the post-1990 models had a Stephen Jones-designed, foiled fin keel with ballast bulb that upped upwind performance. Under sail, she is responsive and vice free with a comfy motion and predictable handling. While her pinched (in modern terms) stern might limit the width of the aft cabin, it works well at sea, allowing her deep full skeg-hung rudder to keep a good bite on the water.

The Sadler 34 is quite a powerful performer and, despite having a fairly high displacement, achieves excellent passage times due to her ability to soldier on through foul weather and rough seas. Her deep and secure cockpit is perfectly dimensioned so as not to get thrown around at sea, and yet it provides enough clear seating for dining alfresco with mates. Stowage is also good, especially in the full-depth locker to port. There are harness points in the cockpit, but the mainsheet track runs across the bridge deck, which can catch out the unwary if the traveler isn’t locked in place.

On deck, the layout is practical, and the side decks uncluttered. Her foredeck is set up ideally for regular anchoring with a twin roller stemhead fitting and big anchor locker. Her accommodation is spacious enough for four. Though it was called a ‘double’ aft cabin, it only really works as a single, roomy quarterberth. She has an excellent U-shaped galley where pretty much everything can be reached with ease. The chart table opposite faces forward with its own seat, and there’s room aplenty for instruments and pilot books. Her saloon is roomy, and the table and seating are large enough for six to dine in comfort.

To port, the heads have a basin and its own door, allowing access to the forecabin. But in shower mode, the entire compartment runs athwartships, which isn’t ideal, especially as the hanging locker is in the same enclosure. There’s a decent-sized vee berth forward, which makes an ideal owner’s cabin at anchor. Stowage is reasonable, although the water tank is under the starboard settee.

Sadler 34 Specs

>>Also Read: Best Sailboats Under 100k

Not unlike the Nicholson 35 in both hull lines and reputation, the Rival 36 is a tough, solid yacht designed for passagemaking in virtually all weathers and sea conditions. The 36 slotted between the slightly cramped 34 and the larger 38 ketch, with 78 in total being launched. Possibly a squeeze on such a tight budget, but you get a lot more space in the R36 than the older R34, and there’s a good chance you could find one that’s already equipped for bluewater cruising. She was offered as a masthead sloop or with a cutter rig option. Keel choice was between a deep lead-ballasted fin, a shallower Scheel keel, or a centerboard (R36C).

Under sail, she’s predictable and easily handled, although, like her predecessors, she’s not the fastest boat around. As with most heavy displacement cruisers, she’s designed more to get you safely across oceans than to race around the cans. Wheel or tiller-steered, she has a large, deep cockpit with high coamings and excellent stowage for deck gear. Access along the wide side decks is good, assisted One of a range of solidly built and well-found cruising yachts built by Northshore Yachts, the Vancouver 32 was designed specifically for serious passagemaking.

Full hull sections and short overhangs offer a high-volume yacht with excellent load-carrying abilities. Her fully encapsulated shallow keel contains nearly 3 tonnes of lead ballast, giving her an enviable ballast ratio of nearly 45%; a keel shoe extends aft to support the rudder and protect the prop from floating debris and lines. Only available with tiller steering and transom-hung rudder, she has an easily manageable masthead cutter rig with full shrouds and twin straight spreaders.

A smart teak-capped bulwark offers extra security going forward while large scuppers ensure rapid deck drainage. The interior is surprisingly spacious and comfy. The long quarterberth and port-side straight by high teak-capped gunwales and long handrails on the coachroof, and the foredeck big enough for handling the headsails and ground tackle, which can be securely stowed in the large, deep anchor locker when sailing. Below decks, she is warm and woody and retains the trademark Rival ‘keyhole’ bulkhead separating the superbly designed and well-appointed galley and navigation areas from the saloon. The twin-leaf saloon table has fiddles and can seat six for a meal, while the settees are straight and make comfortable 1.91m-long sea berths with lee cloths. Most had a pipe cot above as well.

Maximum headroom is 1.91m/6ft 3in, and stowage is good, thanks in part to the water tank being above the keel. With no double cabin aft and only a quarterberth, the forecabin provides a comfortable vee berth with ample floor space to dress, plenty of lockers to stow your clothing, and even a dressing table. The heads/shower compartment is also roomy, and Jack and Jill doors offer access from both saloon and forecabin.

Rival 36 - best used sailboats to sail around the world

Rival 36 Specs

>>Also Read: Best Sailboat Brands

Vancouver 32

One of a range of solidly built and well-found cruising yachts built by Northshore Yachts, the Vancouver 32 was designed specifically for serious passage making. Full hull sections and short overhangs offer a high-volume yacht with excellent load-carrying abilities. Her fully encapsulated shallow keel contains nearly 3 tonnes of lead ballast, giving her an enviable ballast ratio of nearly 45%; a keel shoe extends aft to support the rudder and protect the prop from floating debris and lines. Only available with tiller steering and transom-hung rudder, she has an easily manageable masthead cutter rig with full shrouds and twin straight spreaders. A smart teak-capped bulwark offers extra security going forward while large scuppers ensure rapid deck drainage. The interior is surprisingly spacious and comfy.

The long quarterberth and port-side straight settees make excellent sea berths, leaving the U-shaped starboard saloon settee (converts into double berth) and roomy vee berth forward for sleeping at anchor. A half bulkhead separates the galley/navigation areas from the saloon, with a support pillar on either side providing excellent handgrips. It’s a bonus having the quarter berths behind the ch

art table as it allows the off-watch crew to keep one eye on the instruments and chart. However, having the heads forward can result in a lot of water dripping off your oilies when going below in wet weather.

All that lovely solid hardwood adds to her weight (nearly twice that of a modern 32ft Bavaria). Most owners are more concerned with her superb oceangoing abilities, though. She sails predictably and undramatically, her high bows and fine balance ensuring she parts the waves with little spray and no slamming – ideal for long passages where many lighter boats can throw you about.

Vancouver 32 - Best Sailing Boat To Sail Around The World

Vancouver 32 Specs

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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Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere

John Vigor turns the spotlight on twenty seaworthy sailboats that are at home on the ocean in all weather. These are old fiberglass boats, mostly of traditional design and strong construction. All are small, from 20 feet to 32 feet overall, but all have crossed oceans, and all are cheap.

Choosing the right boat to take you across an ocean or around the world can be confusing and exasperating, particularly with a tight budget. Vigor sets out to remedy that in this book. He compares the designs and handling characteristics of 20 different boats whose secondhand market prices start at about $3,000. Interviews with experienced owners (featuring valuable tips about handling each boat in heavy weather) are interspersed with line drawings of hulls, sail plans, and accommodations. Vigor has unearthed the known weaknesses of each boat and explains how to deal with them. He rates their comparative seaworthiness, their speed, and the number of people they can carry in comfort. If you have ever dreamed the dream this book can help you turn it into reality.

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20 Best Small Sailboats for the Weekender

  • By Mark Pillsbury
  • Updated: August 4, 2021

In order to go cruising, most of us require a sailboat with a head, a galley, and bunks. The boat, likely a 30-footer and more often a 40-footer, will have electronics for navigation and entertainment, refrigeration if the trip is longer than a coastal hop, an engine for light wind, and, depending on our appetites for food and fun, perhaps a genset to power our toys and appliances.

To go sailing , however, all we really need is a hull, mast, rudder, and sail. To experience the pure joy of sheeting in and scooting off across a lake, bay, or even the open ocean, there’s nothing better than a small sailboat – we’re talking sailboats under 25 feet. You can literally reach out and touch the water as it flows past. You instantly feel every puff of breeze and sense every change in trim.

Some of the boats in this list are new designs, others are time-tested models from small sailboat manufacturers, but every one is easy to rig, simple to sail, and looks like a whole lot of fun either for a solo outing on a breezy afternoon or to keep family and friends entertained throughout your entire sailing season. This list is made up of all types of sailboats , and if you’re looking for a list of some of the best small sailboats for beginners, you’ll find exactly that here.

Any one of these popular boats could be labeled as a trailerable sailboat, daysailer, or even a weekender sailboat. And while most would be labeled as a one or two person sailboat, some could comfortably fit three or even four people.

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

If you have an eye for elegant lines and your heart goes pitter-patter over just the right amount of overhang beneath a counter transom, the Marblehead 22 daysailer, designed by Doug Zurn and built by Samoset Boatworks in Boothbay, Maine, will definitely raise your pulse. Traditional-looking above the waterline and modern beneath, the cold-molded hull sports a deep bulb keel and a Hall Spars carbon-fiber mast with a wishbone rig and square-top main. The 11-foot-9-inch cockpit can seat a crowd, and a small cuddy forward will let you stow your friends’ gear for the day. samosetboatworks.com

Catalina 22 Sport

Catalina 22 Sport

Many a harbor plays host to an active fleet of Catalina 22s, one of the most popular small sailboats over the years, given its basic amenities and retractable keel, which allows it to be easily trailered. Recently, the company introduced the Catalina 22 Sport, an updated design that can compete with the older 22s. The boat features a retractable lead keel; a cabin that can sleep four, with a forward hatch for ventilation; and a fractional rig with a mainsail and a roller-furling jib. Lifelines, a swim ladder, and an engine are options, as are cloth cushions; vinyl cushions are standard. The large cockpit will seat a crowd or let a mom-and-pop crew stretch out and enjoy their sail. It’s clear why the Catalina 22 is one of the best sailboats under 25 feet. catalinayachts.com

Hunter 22

With its large, open-transom cockpit and sloop rig, the Hunter 22 makes a comfortable daysailer for family and friends. But with its cuddy cabin, twin bunks, optional electrical system, opening screened ports, and portable toilet, a parent and child or a couple could comfortably slip away for an overnight or weekend. Add in the optional performance package, which includes an asymmetric spinnaker, a pole, and a mainsheet traveler, and you could be off to the races. The boat features a laminated fiberglass hull and deck, molded-in nonskid, and a hydraulic lifting centerboard. Mount a small outboard on the stern bracket, and you’re set to go. marlow-hunter.com

the Daysailer

Not sure whether you want to race, cruise or just go out for an afternoon sail? Since 1958, sailors have been having a ball aboard the Uffa Fox/George O’Day-designed Daysailer. Fox, who in the 1950s was on the cutting edge of planning-dinghy design, collaborated with Fall River, Massachusetts boatbuilder O’Day Corp. to build the 16-foot Daysailer, a boat that features a slippery hull and a small cuddy cabin that covers the boat roughly from the mast forward. Thousands of Daysailers were built by various builders, and they can be found used for quite affordable prices. There are active racing fleets around the US, and new Daysailers are still in production today, built by Cape Cod Ship Building. capecodshipbuilding.com

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

Easy to rig and trailer, the BayRaider from England’s Swallow Yachts is a relative newcomer to the small-boat market in the United States. Nearly all of its 19 feet 9 inches is open cockpit, though a spray hood can be added to keep the forward sections dry. The BayRaider is ketch-rigged with a gunter-style mainmast. The topmast and mizzen are both carbon-fiber, which is an option for the mainmast as well. The BayRaider can be sailed with a dry hull in lighter conditions or with 300 pounds of water ballast to increase its stability. With the centerboard and hinged rudder raised, the boat can maneuver in even the thinnest water.

$28,900, (904) 234-8779, swallowyachts.com

12 1/2 foot Beetle Cat

Big fun can come in small packages, especially if your vessel of choice happens to be the 12 ½-foot Beetle Cat. Designed by John Beetle and first built in 1921, the wooden shallow draft sailboat is still in production today in Wareham, Massachusetts at the Beetle Boat Shop. With a draft of just 2 feet, the boat is well-suited for shallow bays, but equally at home in open coastal waters. The single gaff-rigged sail provides plenty of power in light air and can be quickly reefed down to handle a blow. In a word, sailing a Beetle Cat is fun. beetlecat.com

West Wight Potter P 19

West Wight Potter P 19

With berths for four and a workable galley featuring a cooler, a sink, and a stove, West Wight Potter has packed a lot into its 19-foot-long P 19. First launched in 1971, this is a line of boats that’s attracted a true following among trailer-sailors. The P 19′s fully retractable keel means that you can pull up just about anywhere and go exploring. Closed-cell foam fore and aft makes the boat unsinkable, and thanks to its hard chine, the boat is reportedly quite stable under way. westwightpotter.com

NorseBoat 17.5

NorseBoat 17.5

Designed for rowing and sailing (a motor mount is optional), the Canadian-built NorseBoat 17.5—one of which was spotted by a CW editor making its way through the Northwest Passage with a two-man crew—features an open cockpit, a carbon-fiber mast, and a curved-gaff rig, with an optional furling headsail set on a sprit. The lapstrake hull is fiberglass; the interior is ply and epoxy. The boat comes standard with two rowing stations and one set of 9-foot oars. The boat is designed with positive flotation and offers good load-carrying capacity, which you could put to use if you added the available canvas work and camping tent. NorseBoats offers a smaller sibling, the 12.5, as well; both are available in kit form.

$19,000, (902) 659-2790, norseboat.com

Montgomery 17

Montgomery 17

Billed as a trailerable pocket cruiser, the Montgomery 17 is a stout-looking sloop designed by Lyle Hess and built out of fiberglass in Ontario, California, by Montgomery Boats. With a keel and centerboard, the boat draws just under 2 feet with the board up and can be easily beached when you’re gunkholing. In the cuddy cabin you’ll find sitting headroom, a pair of bunks, a portable toilet, optional shore and DC power, and an impressive amount of storage space. The deck-stepped mast can be easily raised using a four-part tackle. The builder reports taking his own boat on trips across the Golfo de California and on visits to California’s coastal islands. Montgomery makes 15-foot and 23-foot models, as well. If you’re in search of a small sailboat with a cabin, the Montgomery 17 has to be on your wish list.

CW Hood 32 Daysailer small sailboat

With long overhangs and shiny brightwork, the CW Hood 32 is on the larger end of the daysailer spectrum. Designers Chris Hood and Ben Stoddard made a conscious decision to forego a cabin and head in favor of an open cockpit big enough to bring 4 or 5 friends or family out for an afternoon on the water. The CW Hood 32 is sleek and graceful through the water and quick enough to do some racing, but keeps things simple with a self-tacking jib and controls that can be lead back to a single-handed skipper. A top-furling asymmetrical, electric sail drive and Torqeedo outboard are all optional. The CW Hood 32 makes for a great small family sailboat.  cwhoodyachts.com

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

Shallow U.S. East Coast bays and rock-strewn coasts have long been graced by cat boats, whose large, gaff-rigged mainsails proved simple and powerful both on the wind and, better yet, when reaching and running. The 17-foot-4-inch Sun Cat, built by Com-Pac Yachts, updates the classic wooden cat with its fiberglass hull and deck and the easy-to-step Mastender Rigging System, which incorporates a hinged tabernacle to make stepping the mast a one-person job. If you want a personal sailboat ideal for solo sailing, the Sun Can is a great choice. Belowdecks, the twin 6-foot-5-inch berths and many other features and amenities make this cat a willing weekender.

$19,800, (727) 443-4408, com-pacyachts.com

Catalina 16.5

Catalina 16.5

The Catalina 16.5 sits right in the middle of Catalina Yachts’ line of small sailboats, which range from the 12.5 to the 22 Capri and Sport, and it comes in both an easy-to-trailer centerboard model and a shoal-draft fixed-keel configuration. With the fiberglass board up, the 17-foot-2-inch boat draws just 5 inches of water; with the board down, the 4-foot-5-inch draft suggests good windward performance. Hull and deck are hand-laminated fiberglass. The roomy cockpit is self-bailing, and the bow harbors a good-sized storage area with a waterproof hatch. catalinayachts.com

Hobie 16

No roundup of best small sailboats (trailerable and fun too) would be complete without a mention of the venerable Hobie 16, which made its debut in Southern California way back in 1969. The company has introduced many other multihulls since, but more than 100,000 of the 16s have been launched, a remarkable figure. The Hobie’s asymmetric fiberglass-and-foam hulls eliminate the need for daggerboards, and with its kick-up rudders, the 16 can be sailed right up to the beach. Its large trampoline offers lots of space to move about or a good place to plant one’s feet when hanging off the double trapezes with a hull flying. The boat comes with a main and a jib; a spinnaker, douse kit, trailer, and beach dolly are optional features. hobiecat.com

Hunter 15

Novice sailors or old salts looking for simplicity could both enjoy sailing the Hunter 15. With a fiberglass hull and deck and foam flotation, the boat is sturdily built. The ample freeboard and wide beam provide stability under way, and the heavy-duty rubrail and kick-up rudder mean that you won’t have to worry when the dock looms or the going grows shallow. Both the 15 and its slightly larger 18-foot sibling come standard with roller-furling jibs.

$6,900/$9,500 (boat-show prices for the 15 and 18 includes trailers), (386) 462-3077, marlow-hunter.com

Super Snark

Super Snark

Under various owners, the Snark brand of sailboats, now built by Meyers Boat Co., has been around since the early 1970s. The Super Snark, at 11 feet, is a simple, easily car-topped daysailer that’s fit out with a lateen rig and sail. Billed as unsinkable, the five boats in the company’s line are built with E.P.S. foam, with the external hull and deck vacuum-formed to the core using an A.B.S. polymer. The Super Snark weighs in at 50 pounds, and with a payload capacity of 310 pounds, the boat can carry two.

$970, (800) 247-6275, meyersboat.com

Norseboat 21.5

Norseboat 21.5

Built in Canada, the NorseBoat 21.5 is a rugged looking craft that comes in a couple of configurations: one with an open cockpit and small doghouse, and another with a smaller cockpit and cabin that houses a double berth for two adults and optional quarter berths for the kids. Both carry NorseBoat’s distinctive looking carbon fiber gaff-rigged mast with main and jib (a sprit-set drifter is optional), and come with a ballasted stub keel and centerboard. Because of its lightweight design, the boat can be rowed and is easily trailered.

$36,000 (starting), 902-659-2790, norseboat.com

Flying Scot

Flying Scot

Talk about time-tested, the 19-foot Flying Scot has been in production since 1957 and remains a popular design today. Sloop rigged, with a conventional spinnaker for downwind work, the boat is an easily sailed family boat as well as a competitive racer, with over 130 racing fleets across the U.S. Its roomy cockpit can seat six to eight, though the boat is often sailed by a pair or solo. Hull and deck are a fiberglass and balsa core sandwich. With the centerboard up, the boat draws only eight inches. Though intended to be a daysailer, owners have rigged boom tents and berths for overnight trips, and one adventurous Scot sailor cruised his along inland waterways from Philadelphia to New Orleans.

RS Venture

Known primarily for its line of racing dinghys, RS Sailing also builds the 16-foot, 4-inch Venture, which it describes as a cruising and training dinghy. The Venture features a large, self-draining cockpit that will accommodate a family or pack of kids. A furling jib and mainsail with slab reefing come standard with the boat; a gennaker and trapeze kit are options, as is an outboard motor mount and transom swim ladder. The deck and hull are laid up in a fiberglass and Coremat sandwich. The Venture’s designed to be both a good performer under sail, but also stable, making it a good boat for those learning the sport.

$14,900, 203-259-7808, rssailing.com

Topaz Taz

Topper makes a range of mono- and multihull rotomolded boats, but the model that caught one editor’s eye at Strictly Sail Chicago was the Topaz Taz. At 9 feet, 8 inches LOA and weighing in at 88 pounds, the Taz is not going to take the whole crowd out for the day. But, with the optional mainsail and jib package (main alone is for a single child), the Taz can carry two or three kids or an adult and one child, and would make a fun escape pod when tied behind the big boat and towed to some scenic harbor. The hull features Topper’s Trilam construction, a plastic and foam sandwich that creates a boat that’s stiff, light, and durable, and shouldn’t mind being dragged up on the beach when it’s time for a break.

$2,900 (includes main and jib), 410-286-1960, topazsailboats.com

WindRider WRTango

WindRider WRTango

WRTango, a fast, sturdy, 10-foot trimaran that’s easy to sail, is the newest portable craft from WindRider International. It joins a line that includes the WR16 and WR17 trimarans. The Tango features forward-facing seating, foot-pedal steering, and a low center of gravity that mimics the sensation of sitting in a kayak. It weighs 125 pounds (including the outriggers and carbon-fiber mast), is extremely stable, and has single-sheet sail control. The six-inch draft and kick-up rudder make it great for beaching, while the hull and outriggers are made of rotomolded polyethylene, so it can withstand running into docks and being dragged over rocks.

$3,000, 612-338-2170, windrider.com

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Smallest boats: The bonkers world of Microyacht adventures

  • Elaine Bunting
  • November 28, 2022

What are the smallest boats sailors consider for crossing and ocean? For ‘microyacht’ voyagers, there's no limit. Elaine Bunting finds out why they put to sea in tiny vessels

small sailboat around the world

Often the smallest boats to cross oceans look much like a child’s crayon picture of a little boat on a big sea, certainly Yann Quenet’s Baluchon does. Baluchon is only 13ft 1in (4m long), with one simple sail and a stubby, blunt-nosed hull painted cherry red and ice cream white.

Baluchon is no toy, though. When Quenet sailed it back to Brittany in August, he had fulfilled his childhood ambition of circumnavigating in a tiny boat. Its simple appearance is emblematic of his philosophy. “I have loved little boats since I was a child,” he says, “and I am still a child at heart. Sailing round the world on a little boat is something I have dreamed about since I was a teenager.”

Quenet, now 51, has dedicated much of his adult life to designing, building and sailing microyachts. Whereas most of us progress in incrementally larger boats, Quenet’s craft have always been minuscule. He has created numerous self-build designs for plywood construction from a 9m gaffer to a 5m trimaran and a 6.5m gaff yawl (see them at boat-et-koad.com ).

In 2015, Quenet attempted to cross the Atlantic in a 14ft 1in (4.3m) plywood scow, but it capsized in a storm off the coast of Spain and he was rescued by a ship. After that experience he resolved to come up with a bulletproof self-righting microyacht suitable for ocean sailing, and went back to the drawing board.

His solution was a pram-style design that could be built in plywood in under 4,000 hours and would cost no more than €4,000. Baluchon is the result, a tiny boat to be sailed by one person for up to six weeks at a time and resilient enough to take anything the oceans throw at it.

small sailboat around the world

Yann Quenet’s 4m long Baluchon

Smallest boats getting smaller

The history of sailing across oceans in the smallest boats is a surprisingly long one. With a few exceptions (of which more later), it is not about breaking records. This is about stripping away everything complex and extraneous – including other people.

One of the most famous small boat voyages was nearly 70 years ago when Patrick Elam and Colin Mudie made several ocean passages in Sopranino , which was only 17ft 9in (5.4m) on the waterline. Elam observed: “I would not pretend that Sopranino is the optimum size. At sea she is near perfect, but could with advantage be a few inches longer to give a slightly bigger cockpit and a separate stowage for wet oilskins below. In harbour, she is too small (for comfort) and too delicate and vulnerable.”

Also in the 1950s, John Guzzwell consulted Jack Giles about the smallest boat practical to sail around the world and Giles drew the 20ft 6in (6.2m) Trekka , which Guzzwell built and circumnavigated in twice. Smaller still was Shane Acton’s 18ft 4in (5.5m) Shrimpy , a Robert Tucker design which he sailed round the world in 1972 despite having very little sailing experience when he left.

small sailboat around the world

Tom McNally planned to retake his small-boat Atlantic crossing record in Big C. Photo: Ajax News

In 1987, Serge Testa beat that by sailing round the world in his self-designed 11ft 10in (3.6m) aluminium sloop, Acrohc Australis . He broke the record for the smallest yacht to be sailed round the world, one that is still standing 35 years later.

This feat, together with Acton’s well-publicised voyages in the 1970s, ignited a lasting interest in small boat or microyacht voyages. Money is usually a factor in the choice of such small craft but overlaid by a streak of determined romanticism, the almost spiritual challenge of sailing a nutshell craft across a vast ocean.

Yann Quenet is not alone in creating self-build plans for aspiring micro-voyagers. New Zealander John Welsford also specialises in small boats such as the 18ft (5.5m) junk-rigged Swaggie – ‘a mighty, miniature long range cruiser’ – and a sturdy oceangoing 21ft (6.5m) gaff cutter, Sundowner (see jwboatdesigns.co.nz ).

As with Quenet’s little boats, Welsford’s designs are for plywood construction. The plans, he says, are detailed for “real beginners with very basic woodworking skills and a good attitude… the other skills will come as the project progresses.”

In his thinking, people can experience a deep sense of escape even through the process of building such a boat. “I anticipate a lot of builders will be people who find themselves trapped in a soulless desk job which condemns them to commuting for hours in heavy traffic, living in a thin-walled and crowded apartment and dreaming with longing of the freedom of the seas, golden sands and warm breezes.”

small sailboat around the world

John Guzzwell’s Trekka. Photo: Historic Images/Alamy

Perhaps unsurprisingly the small boat community attracts a mixture of adventurers, inventors, idealists and eccentrics. One of the less successful was the self-styled ‘Admiral Dinghy’, a former Hollywood B-movie star and retired dance teacher from the US whose longtime aim was to sail round the world in a 9ft 11in (3m) boat. He had scant ocean sailing experience and no money. He’d been building and tinkering with his tiny junk-rigged boat since 1975 and began preparing for a circumnavigation in earnest in 2009. But he had problems with his boat, never went offshore and has since vanished from the radar.

A small boat living legend

A mixture of naïve courage and inexperience appears characteristic of many of the smallest boat sailors. It’s easy to imagine a dichotomy at the heart of it: many of the ideas could be perilous in hands of someone inexperienced, yet how many seasoned sailors would contemplate voyaging in a tiny craft?

Someone who has, numerous times, is Sven Yrvind. A Swedish sailor and boatbuilder, now aged 83, he has been designing and sailing tiny yachts for more than 60 years. He built his first tiny open boat in 1962, and decades of experimentation and voyaging followed.

In 1969, he built a 15ft 7in (4.2m) boat and sailed to Ireland. In 1971, he built his first Bris (or Breeze) in his mother’s basement, its size dictated by the dimensions of the cellar and the door it would have to be taken out through. He sailed this 19ft 8in (6m) cold moulded epoxy double-ender across the Atlantic seven times in four years and went as far as Argentina and Tristan da Cunha. (I highly recommend reading his fascinating and entertaining account at yrvind.com/my-life-texts ).

small sailboat around the world

Yann Quenet completed a three-year world tour on his 4m Baluchon. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty

In his next boat, the 15ft 9in (5.9m) Bris II , he went much further, sailing south to the Falkland Islands in 1980, before rounding Cape Horn and going north to Chile.

Over the decades, Yrvind (his birth surname was Lundin but he changed it to the Swedish term for a turbulent wind) has continually experimented with tiny yachts. In 1986, he built a 15ft 8in (5.76m) double-ender and sailed it to Newfoundland. In his most recent boat, Exlex (Outlaw), he sailed to the Azores in 2018, and in 2020 from Norway to the Azores and Madeira, returning to Ireland, a voyage of 150 days.

Right now, he is working on Exlex Minor , a glassfibre sailing canoe design of 20ft 4in (6.2m) which he intends to sail round Cape Horn to Valdivia in Chile. This new boat has twin keels and 12m2 of canvas split between three square sails on freestanding masts.

His food, water and all his possessions for up to 150 days at sea amount to around 1 tonne. He stores 111 litres of water on board as he “doesn’t trust desalinators. They can break down.” At sea, his diet is a simple mix of oatmeal and almond flour – “like muesli” – and sardines. “I eat the same every day,” he says, “and at lunchtime, not any other time.”

“I am a health nut. I believe in running and eating once a day for a long life.”

small sailboat around the world

small-boat sailing legend Sven Yrvind. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

Yrvind’s way of life divides opinion. Many casual followers think his choice of yacht slightly mad, but the tiny boat community reveres him as a living legend. To him, it just makes plain sense. “My boats are very functional. If you go back to old magazines from the 1950s and 1960s, boats were not much bigger. Back then, a 30ft boat was quite a decent size. The Hiscocks sailed twice round the world in such a boat. Now 40ft is too small; it must be 50ft.

“And what is big enough? With a small boat, you don’t have a lot of problems with money. You go back to first principles. You also have a boat you can tow behind a car. I have been doing that down to France and Ireland. Or you can put it in a container. So small boats are really handy.”

small sailboat around the world

Yrvind in his 15ft 8in Exlex. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty

No room to stretch out

Smaller even than Sven Yrvind’s vessels are the record breakers’ boats, no bigger than a bathtub.

For many years, the record for the smallest yacht to cross the Atlantic was held by Hugo Vihlen, a former Korean War fighter pilot and Delta Airlines captain from Florida. In 1968, he crossed from west to east in the 5ft 11in April Fool . In 1993, his record was broken by Tom McNally, a fine arts lecturer from Liverpool, in his 5ft 4 1/2in (1.6m) Vera Hugh .

That prompted Vihlen, then aged 61, to go back out a few months later to recapture his record in Father’s Day , which was half an inch shorter than Vera Hugh . Vihlen crossed from Newfoundland to Falmouth in 105 days.

small sailboat around the world

Andrew Bedwell intends to take former record holder Tom McNally’s modified 1.1m Big C to a new Atlantic record. Photo: Paul Larkin Photography

Not to be outdone, McNally designed and built an even smaller boat for the record, the 3ft 10in (1.1m) Big C . His plans were shattered when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and he was unable to sail it before he died in 2017.

Next year, British sailor Andrew Bedwell hopes to break Vihlen’s 30-year record. As a sailmaker and experienced sailor, he knows exactly what he is getting into. Bedwell has previously sailed a Mini 6.50 to the Arctic and been round Britain in a Class 40 .

In 2018 he started reading up about small boats. “I had always had an interest in unusual challenges and things that were raw. I saw these boats and was amazed by them, and I started designing a vessel.”

He contacted Tom McNally’s daughter and was amazed to learn that Big C was still lying in her garden. “It had never been in the water, or fitted out. Sails had been made for it, but they had never been used.”

Lorraine McNally agreed to sell, and Bedwell worked out how he could modify it for him to sail across the Atlantic. He calculates that it will take him around 60-80 days to cover the 1,900 miles from Newfoundland to the Lizard, sailing at an average of 2.5 knots. It has twin headsails set on one furler, and external floats, or pods, that make it behave a little like a trimaran when heeled. Freeboard is only 35cm and “she really does bob like a cork”, Bedwell says.

The boat is so tiny he cannot stretch out in it. “When in there I have to sit. It is dead flat in the bottom and in calm conditions I can just about get into a foetal position – and I mean just. I’ve modified the hull so my hip can just fit into a recess.”

small sailboat around the world

Big C is a tight squeeze for British sailor Andrew Bedwell, and he could spend up to 80 days in it crossing the Atlantic from Newfoundland to the Lizard.

With the hatch fully shut the boat is watertight and airtight, but has only 40 minutes’ worth of air, so Bedwell is making two rotating air scoops at the bow.

When conditions allow, he might be able to stand up, or even go for a swim, but mainly “there is very little you can do with the lower body at all.”

Muscle wastage will be a major issue. To offset this at least partially, Bedwell will use a manual desalinator to make water. “We looked at putting in a generator to pedal but there isn’t space.”

His rationed food will amount to only 1,000 calories a day, “so I will lose weight and muscle mass, but I want a slow, slow decline.”

The food will all be the same. “It is a protein food similar to Shackleton’s pemmican, a clever nutritional bar made of fat and protein, salt and honey, with a little bit of paracetamol to thin the blood and ascorbic acid to preserve it and prevent scurvy,” he explains. “I will eat that for at least a month before I go, to get used to it.”

All 12 of the boat’s watertight compartments will be filled with it. “It will be moulded in bags and pushed into the hull. I will take food from the external pods to start with and work inwards, so increasing stability as we go.”

small sailboat around the world

Italian skipper Alessandro Di Benedetto returns to Les Sables d’Olonne in 2010 after a non-stop circumnavigation with his 21ft Mini Transat 6.50. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty

Bedwell’s planning sounds scrupulous. But… isn’t it the definition of suffering?

“Yes, very close to it,” he replies cheerfully. “If you said you were going to do this to prisoners, you wouldn’t be allowed to, it’d be against human rights.

“There’s not going to be any comfort in it whatsoever. Food and navigation equipment are the absolute keys. There’ll be no changes of clothes, for example, as there’s no room. It’s so tight. I can use some water to wash but it will be a flannel wash. l’ll do what I can to prevent saltwater sores but there’s not going to be any soap.”

When close to the finish of one of his voyages, Tom McNally was hit by a ferry. The hull of his boat split and he had to be fished out of the water almost by the seat of his pants. Bedwell says: “If I’m hit by a tanker I’m not going to survive that, but tech has changed. Tom didn’t have AIS but we have a standalone Class B transponder as well as a VHF with AIS receiver . I have a masthead light – the boat is so short it doesn’t need to be a tricolour.”

Bedwell says: “Planning this keeps your mind completely occupied as every single little detail has to be completely thought through.” He rejects any suggestion that he is ‘making a bid’ for the record or similar phraseology. “I am not attempting it. I’m doing it. My theory is if I’m just trying, I’m not really pushing myself.”

small sailboat around the world

Matt Kent’s 2017 solo Atlantic crossing attempt in the 42in Undaunted ended in failure.

Smallest boats, smallest problems

The micro-voyagers seem to share a different way of looking at the world, a can-do attitude galvanised by their repudiations.

“Human beings are very adaptable,” says Sven Yrvind. “Lawrence of Arabia lived simply in the desert and said wine takes away the taste of water. It is the same with comfort. It depends on your mindset and how you think, how you look at life. Some people go on holiday on bicycles and put up a tent. Some want a car and a caravan. I think when they get back the man with the bicycle is happier and has more to think about.”

“You can get spoilt,” he argues. “If you get something without fighting for it, you’re not so happy when you get it.”

Returning after 31,000 miles and 360 days under sail in his little yacht, Yann Quenet insists that a small boat is the best. “Small boat equals small problems. When there is no engine, there is nothing to go wrong, just a simple boat that is simple to sail.”

Andrew Bedwell explains how he gradually dismissed fripperies. “I’d had plusher boats, but hated it – all the cushions and wiring hidden behind panels. It’s just not me. I kept coming back to the simple things.” Like Sven Yrvind and Yann Quenet, he made the realisation that his sense of achievement might be in inverse proportion to boat size.

When people ask now about what he is doing with Big C , he tells them, without a hint of irony: “Everyone is different. I need something really big.”

If you enjoyed this….

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10 Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing (One Person)

10 Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 27, 2023

The idea of single-handed sailing or solo sailing appeals to racers and cruisers alike. But what are the best sailboats for solo sailing? Well, let's find out.

Whether you've been thinking of going for a day's sail without assistance or dreaming of a solo passage to Bermuda, the desire and the magic of venturing out alone at the sea is something that any sailor can experience. It doesn't matter if you're cruising or racing, solo sailing, of course, requires you to change your thinking as you'll be solely responsible for the entire operation of the boat. More importantly, choosing a well-founded boat is critical to solo sailing.

When sailing with a crew, things may seem a little easy because you share the responsibilities among the crew and support each other in case of anything. But what happens when you decide to venture out alone or sail single-handedly? Whatever motivates you to go out sailing solo, you should choose a good boat that you can perfectly operate single-handedly.

In this article, we'll highlight 10 best sailboats for solo sailing, their prices, their best rigs, and everything else that you might need to sail them comfortably and safely.

Table of contents

General Features of Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing

Here are the general features to look for when choosing the best sailboat for solo sailing.

The Availability of Automation Systems

The forces that you sometimes have to deal with when out sailing can be extreme, to say the least. It doesn't matter whether you're sailing solo or with a crew, it's always very important not to underestimate the power of the wind and tide. While you can do a lot on your own, having some automation systems in place is an important feature if you're planning to sail single-handedly. In other words, a good sailboat for solo sailing should have various automation systems to make your work a lot simpler.

So if you're planning to go solo sailing, it would be great to consider a boat with the following systems:

  • ‍ Autopilot for steering
  • Lines running aft (running to the cockpit)
  • Roller furling
  • Electric windlass
  • Hydraulic bow/stern thrusters with remote

Stability and Ease of Use

Again, the best sailboats for solo sailing are generally not known for their speeds. This is because they typically have wide beams and short waterlines, which are vital in providing stability thereby limiting their speeds. In short, the best sailboats for solo sailing usually sacrifice speed and additional performance for ease of use and stability.

Boat Features

When it comes to the structure of the boat itself, it's important to go for a boat that is close to the water, relatively small when compared to the wave height, and has lighter ballast, especially when compared to the displacement ratio. The idea here is that these features can combine to increase the boat's performance when you're sailing solo.

Additionally, a good solo sailing boat should be designed with a flat profiled aft bottom section. This is to ensure that the boat can come up on a plane when the wind conditions are breezy or marginal.

When it comes to the best sails for solo sailing, you can go for the unique sail design that combines both a Bermuda sail and a gaff sail. This can be essential in giving you a more sail area on a shorter mast than is possible when using either a gaff sail or a Bermuda sail. More importantly, the combination of a gaff sail and a Bermuda sail not only gives you a greater sail area on a shorter and easy to control mast but can also reduce the heeling force that's common in boats with taller and narrower sails.

Still on sails, it makes a lot of sense to choose easily operated sail controls. You certainly want a sail that one person can tuck a reef in quickly and be able to easily adjust the sheets. You should, therefore, prioritize the reefing and sail handling systems.

In terms of rigs, the gaff rig is arguably the best when solo sailing. Although the Bermuda rig is the most common, especially in modern sailboats, you can lose some windward abilities because of its lower aspects. As such, you can choose to use the gaff rig thanks to its ease of use and superior downwind performance.

10 Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing

There are numerous sailboats out there that can be easily and properly handled by a skilled and experienced sailor. To make it a lot easier for you, the following boats are great choices when solo sailing. Whether you're just looking to experience how it feels to solo sail or short-handed, they all offer easy, comfortable, and safe sailing.

Jeanneau Sunfast 3200

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

From the outset, it's easy to see that the Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 is designed with offshore short-handed sailing in mind. In addition to being a purist's sailing boat, this boat is a small and light boat that can be easily handled. Even better, it has the stability and strength to handle long passages and that's exactly why it was initially designed with the Trans-Atlantic race in mind.

With this boat, you can easily attain double figures in terms of speed even if you're sailing downwind. In essence, the Sunfast 3200 is designed with some of the latest technology to afford you the best strength-to-weight ratios. It has all the necessary features to allow you to easily adapt it to perform perfectly either as a cruising or racing sailboat. Some of its greatest features include the two double cabins, the chart table, a galley, and a head compartment.

This boat is particularly impressive when sailing off the wind and it's designed to ensure that it's functional and reliable even when solo sailing. This is perhaps because it's designed and set up for racing, so it can be great for you especially if you're looking for a coastal cruiser that can be easily handled.

Using the sloop Marconi can be the best way to go given that this vessel has a keel-stepped mast. Its maximum beam begins at 60% aft of the stem before extending to the transom, which can result in the sled hull being driven by a mainsail-heavy rig. This can then fly the masthead asymmetrical off a short sprit.

Given that the Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 is a very modern boat that's equipped with some of the latest boating technology; it comes with a base price of about $160,000. This is a vessel that's built by one of the world's premier builders and offers an intriguing blend of technology, reliability, functionality, practicality, and performance.

Having been the European Yacht of the Year for 2008, the Sunfast 3200 may just be the godsend boat for your solo sailing dreams.

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

If you're looking for a slippery cruiser-racer that's always ready to sail single-handedly, you might perhaps want to take a serious look at the Hanse 371. Introduced in 2003, the Hanse 371 is a mid-sized boat that was designed in a true blend of old and new boating technology. Thanks to its furling and self- tacking jib, the Hanse 371 becomes an instant single-handed sailing vessel that takes much of the strain out of your solo sailing adventures. That's not all; this boat is more popular as a result of its autopilot system. Press a few buttons and you'll be ready to go.

Although it's a little bigger and not one of the smallest boats out there, it can be a great option if you're planning to sail solo but on a vessel that offers a tremendous amount of space. Whether you love a boat with a shallow or deep center of gravity, the Hanse 371 has a commendable large galley and a spacious cabin layout.

Everything about rigging this boat is designed to be easy. Again, the jib on a roller furler is self-tacking. In essence, everything is standard and easy to use, which makes this boat a dream when sailing single-handed.

Already a classic that's known for its stylish interior, timeless look, and ultimate performance, the Hanse 371 is a coveted vessel that may cost you around $60,000.

Hunter Channel 31

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

Launched in 2001, the Hunter Channel 31 is structured with a hull and keel design that makes it easy to sail single-handed. This is a British-made vessel that has steadily moved from the racing scene to become a well-respected cruiser, especially among the solo sailing community. Thanks to its faultless handling and impressive turn of speed, the Hunter Channel 31 provides near uncomplicated sailing without losing its impeccable handling features.

Its well-balanced hull shape can either be structured with a low or deep center of gravity. It also has an efficient twin keel to give it more stability, which is perfect for solo sailing. This is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons why Hunter Channel 31 has proved popular among solo sailors trying to sail across narrow channels.

The Hunter Channel 31 is also designed with a great standard deck layout, as well as a non-compulsory self-tacking jib that comes with a single line mainsail reefing. That's not all; the tiller steering is also efficient if you're sailing single-handed as you can steer it with your legs while trimming sails.

It should, therefore, not come as a surprise that owners of the Hunter Channel 31 keep them for a long time, so finding them on the market will be a long shot. But if you're lucky enough to find one, you'll be getting a great vessel that will never let you down if you want to sail solo.

Like many Hunter designs, the Hunter 31 can be fractionally rigged given that it has a relatively large mainsail to give it a more sail area in light winds and a small headsail with a lower sheet load. In other words, you can efficiently and easily reef from the cockpit.

At about $35,000, the Hunter Channel 31 is quite affordable and is a great bargain in its category.

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

The J/109 is unquestionably one of the best single-handed or double-handed sailboats that money can buy. Whether you're looking for a coastal cruiser or a long-distance single-handed vessel, the J/109 will rarely disappoint. That's essentially why its single-handed offshore capabilities remain popular with sailors looking to make North Atlantic crossings.

Even though it is widely categorized as a planing sailboat, this vessel is too heavy for simple planing. Instead, this is a superb boat that offers an all-round performance. It doesn't matter whether you're solo sailing or sailing with a crew, its performance is always top-notch.

Thanks to its asymmetric spinnaker, you can easily jib it from the cockpit, especially in light wind. But when the wind is on the north of 20 knots, you can pole out the jib to give you a quick downwind speed. No matter which type of rig you choose to use, the J/109 offers a fair degree of control.

In terms of price, the J/109 is one of the relatively expensive sailboats out there, though this is compensated with the high standard equipment and outstanding quality of construction. For about $58,000, you can get a great boat that offers excellent solo sailing adventures.

West Wight Potter 19

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

Designed for safety and easy handling, the West Wight Potter 19 is a great sailboat for solo sailing. Although its name might not be one of the catchiest in the sailing scene, it's been around for over three decades and is steadily becoming a popular pocket cruiser. The original design draws inspiration from the U.K. but is currently built by the International Marine in California.

Over the years, this boat has seen several improvements even though its original look and features still attract a large and dedicated group of followers. This is not only a tough little boat but its hard-chine hull offers incredible stability. This makes it a very easy and ultimately forgiving sailboat. Whether you're looking to sail from California to Hawaii or across the Atlantic, the Potter 19 is outstanding for solo sailing.

This is a Bermuda-rigged sloop. Its sail plan is huge enough to propel the sailboat in various conditions. This makes it a perfect single-handed boat as you can easily set it up or take it down with no special equipment.

This is a remarkably affordable boat. At around $5,000 you can get a superb solo sailing sailboat. But if you want a new Potter 19 with additional features, you could pay about $25,000.

Beneteau 31

{{boat-info="/boats/beneteau-31"}}

As a small cruiser keelboat, this French-designed boat is primarily built of fiberglass and is perfect if you want a vessel that's great for solo sailing while still offering maximum space for comfort. Its galley is equipped with superb stowage and counter space and even a sit-down navigation station with a small table.

Maneuvering this boat under power is quite easy and is well worth it for any solo sailor who is in the market for a coastal cruiser.

It has a fractional sloop rig, which makes in-mast furling a great option. This makes it easy to handle but also powerful in light winds. If you're sailing the boat off the wind, bow pulpit and an optional asymmetric cruising chute can keep things lively.

The new 31 can cost around $115,000, which is quite expensive but certainly worth it if you want to cruise the world in this French masterpiece.

Catalina 315

{{boat-info="/boats/catalina-315"}}

This is a nifty pocket cruiser that raises the quality bar for solo sailors with extreme comfort and performance. With just a 9.45 meter hull, the Catalina 315 has more internal room than most classics and remains superb for solo sailing.

Although it's a much bigger boat, it has little but significant features that make all the difference. For instance, the split backstays are great for balance and functionality. This is one of the main reasons why it won the Cruising World's 2013 Boat of the Year Best Inshore Cruiser award.

With a masthead sloop, rigging the Catalina 315 is a lot easier as it is equipped with both an in-mast roller furling mainsail and a roller furling genoa.

Even though the Catalina 315 will exceed your expectations when sailing solo, it's a high-end sailboat that will cost you north of $175,000. But if that seems expensive, you can look for a used model, which will cost you slightly lower.

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

A boat that has become a staple in the Olympics Games, the Laser may be simple and small but a real-go to boat if you want a vessel that will rarely let you down for your solo sailing escapades. As one of the world's most popular single-handed sailboats, its main feature is its sheer simplicity. This might not be the best boat for you if you love those fussy, big boats. But if you're looking for an amazing boat with a two-part free-standing mast and a sleeved sail, the Laser should be on top of your list.

The fact that it has a lightweight hull and is easy to rig makes it one of the most popular racing sailboats in the world with over 200,000 boats in over 140 countries. This is undoubtedly a perfect boat that's specifically designed for solo sailing.

This boat can be rigged using various rigs, so you should go with whatever works for you. We, however, prefer cat rigging the boat since it has no headsail and only has one mainsail. This is a boat that is designed for speed, particularly in high winds. It's also easy to set up, which makes it a marvelous option for solo sailing.

For around $7,000, this is probably one of the most affordable solo sailing sailboats you could ever get your hands on. You should, however, keep in mind that its price may widely vary depending on their availability in your area.

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

A real classically-styled sailboat, the Rhodes 19 is an ideal family daysailer that can be perfect for you if you're a spirited solo sailor. Whether you're planning to sail in heavy weather or fast, the Rhodes 19 is designed with a forgiving hull and is an accomplished heavy-weather performer. For over 5 decades, and with more than 3,500 boats built, this sailboat has proven time and time again that it has the characters for both beginners and experienced sailors.

With a low center of gravity, this boat remains a classic beauty that's very fast, easy to trailer, and will get many compliments whenever you're solo sailing. No wonder it is still actively raced throughout the United States.

A simple sprit rig can work greatly on this boat but you can also consider Bermuda-Rigged sloop, which is efficient in propelling the boat in various wind conditions.

Its price may vary depending on your location but something around $20,000 will get you a sailboat that's still in tip-top condition.

{{boat-info="/boats/dehler-29"}}

If like most Americans, you have a soft spot for finely engineered German automobiles, the Dehler 29 can be a great option for your solo sailing escapades. Even though the Dehler 29 hasn't attracted a huge following in the American shores, it remains an excellently-structured German sailboat, especially for sailors looking for a stable, agile, adaptable, and comfortable sailboat.

Whether you enjoy a smooth and solo cruise on a breezy afternoon or is energized by speed, the Dehler 29 is one of the most adaptable sailboats. This is certainly why it has received numerous accolades in the boating scene including the 1998 Cruising World Magazine Boat of the Year, as well as Sailing World Boat of the Year award.

Given that it's a single-handed sailboat, you can tiller steer it and cat rig it with ease to give you easy maneuverability, confidence, and absolute versatility.

With powerful dynamics and maximum safety, the Dehler 29 is one of the best German-produced sailboats that will set you back around $55,000.

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Planning a Circumnavigation

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Amy

Plotting world circumnavigation routes is a lot easier than it sounds.  There are cruising boats LITERALLY all over the world.  There are boats in the Northwest passage (up and over Canada), in the Antarctic, and everywhere in between.  There are a few key things to take into consideration, but 95%* of circumnavigation routes follow the same general course.

Table of Contents - Click to Jump

Insurance Restrictions on Circumnavigation Routes

There are two major restrictions put on us by our vessel insurance; stay out of highly pirated areas and stay out of named storm zones.  Insurance restrictions come with the option to ignore them.  You can always go to these restricted places, BUT if something happens, your insurance will not be covered.  Another option is that you can pay significantly more to be covered in these places as well.  We have made the choice for ourselves to follow the restrictions set by our insurance.

By definition, piracy is the act of attacking and robbing ships at sea.  By that main definition, the Caribbean is one of the worst places for piracy.  Petty theft of boats and their tenders is a major issue in some parts of the Caribbean, and steps should be taken to protect yourself and your assets.

However, the piracy of the biggest concern is murder and kidnapping.  There are two main hotspots where our insurance will not cover us;  the Philippines and the Red Sea/Suez Canal (hereby referred to as simply Suez).   Again, people cruise literally everywhere in the world, and there are people who cruise the Philippines (2015 reports state 200 yachts).  The other side of the coin is true too.  Just because you avoid the Suez or the Philippines does not mean you will avoid being kidnapped or murdered.

It’s up to you to decide the level of risk you are willing to take when planning out a circumnavigation route.

Tropical Storms

In North America, it’s a hurricane.  South of the equator, it’s cyclones.  In Asia-Pacific, it’s typhoons.  Either way, your insurance probably has a word or two to say about where you spend tropical storm season.

Our insurance requires us to avoid certain parts of the world during storm seasons.  This is why there is a mass exodus of boats from the Caribbean every year.  Our insurance requires us to be north of roughly the Florida-Georgia line.  Now, that doesn’t mean we are safe from hurricanes, but it does mean if something happens, we will have the  privilege of consoling ourselves of our losses by applying for an insurance claim.

For those moving quickly, your primary concern is systems in the southern hemisphere.  Just make sure you are moving from east to west quickly enough to pass through the storm zone.

World circumnavigation routes, like ours, usually have you dipping out of these storm zones for the season. It’s a great time to haul your boat out for annual maintenance, like we did in New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand.

Tradewinds for Circumnavigating

Around the equator lies the doldrums.  This is typically an area with very little wind.  However, each ocean has a wind pattern.  In the northern hemisphere, winds circulate clockwise.  In the southern hemisphere, winds circulate counterclockwise.  This means that on either side of the equator lies a band of wind flowing from east to west.  This is why 95%* of cruisers plan their circumnavigation routes to sail from east to west.

Factoring the Wind into Outfitting Your Boat

Knowing where you will sail will help you determine what kind of sail performance you are looking for in a boat.  For someone doing a typical circumnavigation route, sailing east to west, you’ll be sailing downwind a lot.  Some monohull owners have complained to us about how uncomfortable their boat is sailing dead downwind.  Catamarans, however, typically perform best downwind.  We have a very smooth ride when we are traveling with the wind and waves.

Outfitting your sail locker also factors in where you are sailing.  For a downwind circumnavigation, spinnakers are highly useful – or so we hear.  We’ve not had terrible success with our spinnaker, but find our screecher to be very useful.  That could possibly be because we deviate enough from the standard downwind route.

For more about sail configurations in a cruising catamaran, read our Sail Trim blog post.

Those Who Sail West to East Circumnavigation Routes

There are a few who do sail the “wrong way”.  It can definitely be done and done fast.  However, you need to have a boat that sails well to wind.  While most catamarans sail well downwind, we do not sail well into the wind.  However, if your catamaran has daggerboards, you’ll sail much better to wind than a catamaran without daggerboards.

Circumnavigation Routes & Bottlenecks

This is why most circumnavigations follow the same basic route.  There are major bottlenecks to passing around the continents, so again, we’ve got the 95%* of boats funneling into one narrow part of the world.

Panama Canal

We paid $1300 to transit the Panama Canal because the only other option is to sail against the wind and waves around either North America or South America.  Taking one of the high latitudes routes is pretty dang extreme, takes a significant amount of time, and a toll on ship and crew.  Ushuaia, a port of call in Argentina, reported 64 boats in 2015, versus 1,079 boats transiting the canal – 95% transiting the canal*.

Torres Strait

The Torres Strait occupies the space between Australia and New Guinea.  It’s fairly small, just 650 nm between Thursday Island and Indonesia’s first port of clearance.

There are some cruisers (like our friends on S/V Field Trip) who are going over the top of New Guinea to get to Southeast Asia.  Getting any further north than that requires dealing with the Philippines – either through or around the top of the Philippines into the South China Sea.

Cape of Good Hope

Traveling around South Africa requires tackling the Cape of Good Hope, which is not to be taken lightly due to the challenges in the winds and currents.  The alternative is the Suez.  There used to be a rally passing through the Suez.  The other alternative is to hire private security, but that’s pretty complex.  Reports show 358 boats sailing through Cape Town verses 19 through the Suez – again, 95% choose Cape Town*.   I know the Mediterranean is a great cruising ground, but we decided if we want to cruise it, we’d rather cross the Atlantic twice than go through the Suez.

How Long Should a Circumnavigation Take?

Barring racing yachts who are smashing world records, it’s not uncommon to complete a circumnavigation in a year and a half.  This is a fairly straightforward and quick route.

The World ARC is a one and a half year rally that circumnavigates the world.  They have a fantastic route and schedule on their website.

Longer circumnavigation routes still use the same general track, but add on detours.   For example, we extended our South Pacific portion into two seasons by sailing south to spend cyclone season in New Zealand.

We’ve met sailors who have taken 15 or more years to circumnavigate. That’s a lot of detours!

Our Circumnavigation Route

Our sailing circumnavigation route took us four years and three months to travel all the way around the world. You can read the summary of our world circumnavigation for more details.

Book: World Cruising Routes

This is LITERALLY the bible of sailing around the world. If you have ever asked yourself (or, god help you, asked on a forum) “I wonder when the best time to sail from X to Y is?” the answer is in this book.

Even though we know our route, I’m still pulling out this book every so often to look up possibilities. It’s a great guide to planning your circumnavigation route overall and planning each individual passage.

Buy Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes .

Book: Cornell’s Ocean Atlas

This handy reference book is full of windgrams  – “a summary of wind direction and strength derived from the individual windroses along a specific ocean route “. Basically this means you can open a chart for a particular region and month and you will be able to tell where the wind “usually” blows from.

Buy Cornell’s Ocean Atlas .

Book Review: How to Sail Around the World Part-Time

  • Who: Linus Wilson and his wife, Janna
  • Available: Kindle, Kindle Unlimited or Paperback
  • Published: January 2016
  • Editing (scale of 1-10, 10 is best): 10

Linus Wilson has been cruising part-time on his 31-foot Island Packet. This is his second book, and in it, he details how one could sail a circumnavigation part-time. I agree – it is possible and might be the solution more potential cruisers should consider.

Wilson pulls a lot of statistics about sailing. Did you know fewer people complete a sailing circumnavigation every year than climb Mount Everest? An hour spent above base camp on Mount Everest is 264 times more dangerous than an hour sailing?

One question unanswered is how long it would actually take to sail the world part-time. Of course, it depends on how much time you dedicate every year, but hypothetically:

  • Year 1: the Caribbean to Panama, store in Panama
  • Year 2: Panama to French Polynesia, store in FP
  • Year 3: French Polynesia to Fiji, store in Fiji
  • Year 4: Fiji to Australia, store in Australia
  • Year 5: Australia to South Africa, store in SA
  • Year 6: SA to the Caribbean

Of course, you’d see a lot less than you would on a 6-year circumnavigation like ours, but you get it done in a fraction of the cost and less risk.

Bottom line: it was a short, interesting, and informative read. If you don’t want to full-time sail, or can’t convince your partner to full-time sail, consider how fulfilling a part-time adventure could be.

*Jimmy Cornell is the foremost expert on tracking cruising boats, and the statistics for this blog post were pulled from his article Where do all the boats go?

23 Comments

Wonderful article. I am from Goa, India. I wish you had come to Goa. I would have happily looked after your boat, and you could have travelled through India and enjoyed its majestic and diverse cultures and sites. I am 67 years old grandfather. I have been coastal and competitive sailing for the past 50 years. I am now planning to go on a circumnavigation on a Leopard 39 sailboat starting from Goa. Hoping to do it in 2 to 3 years. Your article and videos have inspired me. All the best. Thank you for your well written and detailed articles.

Wow, great to hear from you! It is amazing to us when we hear from people like you all over the world! We have some friends who visited Cochin last year on their boat, I think that’s a popular stop for cruisers. I know that formalities in India are complicated.

I have never been, but I love the food and the culture that I’ve experienced so far! I hope we get to visit someday.

Do sail down to Goa anytime you want. I will sort out all you entry formalities. Wish you all the best. Keep inspiring us with your wonderful sailing and videos.

Hi, how many miles is it when circumnavigating around the earth please? Captain cook did it in 60k, but is this because you cant just sail direct around the earth due to islands and storms etc?

Hi! Our circumnavigation was about 34,000 nm. You can read more about it here: https://outchasingstars.com/world-sailing-circumnavigation-summary/

Amy, when you and David are on a long passage, what kind of watch schedule do you keep? Assuming you’re both healthy (unlike your passage to St. Helena), what do you find to be a comfortable limit for the number of days at sea before exhaustion begins to set in?…or does it ever set in for you guys?

We do a soft 7-hour watch. The only actual watch is I do 7 pm to 2 am. Then David goes on watch while I sleep. When I wake up we switch, and he naps. Then when he’s up, I nap. By then it’s time to do the whole thing all over again! The worst night is the second. You’ve been tired, but not tired enough to sleep off your normal routine yet. But after the second night it gets a lot better. Exhaustion does not set in long-term – boredom does!

I really enjoyed reading your article, it’s very informative although that I don’t have a boat, it’s too expensive where I’m from, and it would take a fortune to be registered if it’s allowed in the first place, as authorities put a lot of restrictions for civil citizen to do so after military took over in 60s, for example we can’t camp as a first without a security permit bla bla bla that it raerly issued or thread fishing without a license and permit bla bla bla….etc, there isn’t a proper Marina for docking not even mention the amount of visas that it required. I love to sail one-day but till that time I’m really enjoy reading and watching. I’m from Egypt, and it makes me sad that sailors stop passing by, as we have a great shores, great diving spots, the Suez canal, and the right wind, but to be considered as unstable area for the Somalian pirates acts, and all the Egyptian governmental claims about fighting terrorist and repel ghost they imagine, this is horrible. It’s really tearing me that after around 8000 years on Earth people couldn’t yet handle their conflicts. I’m sorry to make it very long. Glad that some people had the privilege to try and be able to chasing stars and wind. Godspeed

Sarah, thank you for your comment! It’s amazing to us that we have someone reading from Egypt!

I recently read a memoir about a yacht who sailed through the Suez, and it sounded like they had a lot of difficulties, not just with pirates and corruption, but it’s hard sailing too! Egypt is very high up on my list of places I would truly love to visit because of its amazing history and culture.

We hope that somehow you get to enjoy sailing, even if it’s just continuing to follow us along.

You are amazing, all the best in your upcoming, and hopefully everyone can enjoy sailing in Egypt one day, and be able to see you here in the future.

Hi Amy, first, what a nice simple but very informative blog. I have run a ‘sailing for disabled people’ organisation for the last 25 years and as part of our 25th anniversary are planning to build a 20m cat for a round the world adventure. Planned for start in 2025 I need to get people to understand the real dangers and risks of such travel as well as the good things, would you mind if I used your blog in this matter, I would of course say that is yours. Details of us are under the ‘new projects button’ at http://www.disabledsailing.org

Hi Mike! You are welcome to link to our blog post. If you need anything beyond that, send us an email and we can talk more!

Excellent and informative article. I’d just like to point out the following statement where it states: “Ushuaia, a port of call in Chile, reported 64 boats in 2015….”

Please note that Ushuaia is not located in Chile, but rather within the Tierra del Fuego province of Argentina.

Thank you so much for the correction! I will fix it right away. Geography lesson of the day. 😉

Now you can completely delete my comment 🙂 It’s all sorted. Happy and safe sailing to you and your family. Antonella

Nice write up. Very helpful. Keep up the good work. However sailing through the suez is not really that dangerous. My friends Ingo and Maya sailed through from turkey to India and onward to thailand and had no probs with pirates.

I do hear that the piracy situation is improving. I do think there are a lot of good reasons to go around South Africa though, and I am glad we did.

Great informative article, thanks for sharing.

Where do you store your bladder when it is full? Also, thanks for all the info and videos. It has helped us a great deal in preparation for purchasing our boat,

Thank you! I’m glad you’ve found it helpful. We store the duel bladder in the cockpit.

On the longer passages, how much extra fuel do you carry in your blatter tank. What motering range do you think is sufficient for your longer passages?. I’m thinking the Helia goes about 750 miles on 125 gallons of diesel. Thanks Jon

Our fuel tank holds 125 gallons, plus four 5-gallon jerry cans, plus the 50-gallon fuel bladder, to total 195 gallons. If we motor at 1800 rpms with one engine it’s roughly .8 gph. Theoretically, our tanks should take us about 900 nm. Of course, we go months and thousands of miles without using all of our diesel.

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Joshua Slocum and his first Single-handed Sail around the World

Joshua Slocum (1844-1909)

On June 27, 1898 , the first solo circumnavigation of the globe is completed by Joshua Slocum from Brier Island , Nova Scotia . After more than three years, Slocum returned in his gaff rigged  sloop oyster boat named Spray having circumnavigated the world, a distance of more than 74,000 km. The event was almost unnoticed because the Spanish–American War , which had begun two months earlier, dominated all the headlines.

Joshua Slocum – Youth and Education

Joshua Slocum grew up in Mount Hanley , Annapolis County , Nova Scotia . It is assumed that his early adventures on the water were accomplished on coastal schooners operating out of the small ports such as Port George and Cottage Cove near Mount Hanley along the Bay of Fundy . It has been reported that as a young boy, Slocum made several attempts to run away from home and finally succeeding at the age of 14. He hired on as a cabin boy and cook on a small schooner and later he signed on at Halifax as ordinary seamen on a merchant ship bound for Dublin, Ireland and eventually became an ordinary seaman on a British merchant ship bound for China . Slocum studied for the Board of Trade examination and became Second Mate and later Chief Mate .

Photo of Spray, en:Joshua Slocum ‘s sailing boat, taken in 1898.

Slocim’s Ships

Joshua Slocum ‘s first blue-water command was the barque Washington which he took across the Pacific in 1869 and was the master of eight vessels in the following 20 years . Slocum ‘s first ship he owned by himself was the Pato , which he used to deliver cargo . In Fairhaven, Massachusetts , Slocum rebuilt a 11.2 m gaff rigged  sloop oyster boat named Spray and set sail at Sambro Island Lighthouse near Halifax, Nova Scotia on July 3, 1895 to navigate around the globe without using a chronometer . It is believed that during his journey, Slocum normally sailed the Spray without touching the helm. The Spray was capable of self-steering because of its long keel and the length of the sail plan . He balanced the  ship stably on any course relative to the wind by adjusting or reefing the sails and by lashing the helm fast. It is believed that the adventurer sailed about 2000 miles across the  Pacific Ocean without touching the helm .

Circumnavigation of the World

On April 24, 1895, Slocum set out on his journey from his home port of Boston, Massachusetts. In the ports of the American East Coast he first completed his equipment and sailed from Yarmouth into the Atlantic Ocean in May 1895, as he first planned to circumnavigate the world in an easterly direction through the Suez Canal. Via Horta on the Azores island of Fayal he reached Gibraltar on August 4. There he was convinced that the southern Mediterranean Sea was too dangerous for a one-handed sailor because of the piracy still prevailing there, and he decided to circumnavigate the southern hemisphere in a westerly direction. From Gibraltar, he set off in a south-westerly direction, sailed past the Canary Island of Fuerteventura and the Cape Verde Islands , crossed the equator and reached Pernambuco in Brazil on 5 October. After further stopovers in Rio de Janeiro , Montevideo and Buenos Aires , he sailed to Punta Arenas in the dreaded Strait of Magellan and reached the Pacific Ocean at Cape Pilar on 3 March 1896. There he was driven back by the storm and could only leave the coast forty days later on 13 April.

The Journey

Via Robinson Island and Samoa , Slocum reached Newcastle in Australia on 1 October 1896. He stayed for more than half a year, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania and did not continue his journey until 16 April 1897. He followed the east coast of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, sailed through the Torres Strait, crossed the southern Indian Ocean via Christmas Island, the Cocos Islands, Rodrigues and Mauritius and reached Port Natal in South Africa on 17 November 1897. He circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope and after a stay in Cape Town he set off again on 26 March 1898 to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a north-western direction. His course took him via St. Helena and Ascension, past Trinidad, via Grenada and Dominica to Antigua, which he reached on 1 June 1898. The last leg led him directly to Newport (Rhode Island), where he arrived on 27 June 1898, having circumnavigated the world, a distance of more than 46,000 miles. Unfortunately for him, Slocum’s   return went almost unnoticed. The Spanish–American War , which had begun two months earlier, dominated the headlines. After the end of major hostilities, many American newspapers published articles describing Slocum’s  amazing journey.

“I had resolved on a voyage around the world, and as the wind on the morning of April 24, 1895 was fair, at noon I weighed anchor, set sail, and filled away from Boston, where the Spray had been moored snugly all winter. The twelve o’clock whistles were blowing just as the sloop shot ahead under full sail. A short board was made up the harbor on the port tack, then coming about she stood to seaward, with her boom well off to port, and swung past the ferries with lively heels. A photographer on the outer pier of East Boston got a picture of her as she swept by, her flag at the peak throwing her folds clear. A thrilling pulse beat high in me. My step was light on deck in the crisp air. I felt there could be no turning back, and that I was engaging in an adventure the meaning of which I thoroughly understood.” — Joshua Slocum, Sailing Around the World (1899)

Book cover of Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum, c. 1900

Sailing Alone around the World

Slocum’s  adventure was published in 1899 in ‘ Sailing Alone Around the World ‘ and it became very successful and now counts as a classic in sailing literature. He became famous around the English-speaking world and held public lectures. In 1909 , Slocum set sail for the West Indies and disappeared. In July 1910 , his wife reported Slocum to be missing. 1924 , Joshua Slocum was declared legally dead.

References and Further Reading:

  • [1]  Joshua Slocum Society
  • [2]  Joshua Slocum Website
  • [3]  Sailing Alone Around the World
  • [4] Joshua Slocum at Wikidata
  • [5]  The Mysterious Disappearance Of A Sea Pioneer | Joshua Slocum Documentary | Timeline ,  Timeline – World History Documentaries  @ youtube
  • [6]  Slocum, Joshua (1894).  “Voyage of the Destroyer from New York to Brazil” . Eldritch Press
  • [7]  Teller, Walter Magnes (1971).  Joshua Slocum . New Brunswick, N.J:  Rutgers University Press .
  • [8]  Works by or about Joshua Slocum   at   Internet Archive
  • [9]  e-text of  Sailing Alone Around the World  with illustrations
  • [10] Timeline of Explorers, who were also known as writers, via Wikidata

Tabea Tietz

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How Big Should a Sailboat Be to Sail Around the World?

I see you've already started googling your research and want to know how big of a boat you need to circle the globe. Well, search no more, this article is here to tell you in-depth what size boat you need to sail around the world.

How big should a sailboat be to sail around the world? The best sailboat size to sail around the world is 35 to 45 feet. Smaller boats of 25 feet will be more uncomfortable and inconvenient; it is, however, possible. Larger sailboats of 60 foot and up will be more comfortable, but they are more expensive as well.

Read on, we will have a look at these statements more closely; a cookie-cutter approach is never good, so we will analyze it a bit more in-depth. Obviously, it depends on your specific situation.

small sailboat around the world

On this page:

What's the ideal boat size to sail around the world, does (boat) size matter, small boat circumnavigations, the ideal boat size for circumnavigations, large boat circumnavigations, in conclusion….

The ideal sailboat size to sail around the world is between 35 and 45 feet long. This length will ensure a high enough maximum hull speed, good handling in high waves, and enough cargo capacity to carry multiple weeks of food and water. Longer boats will perform as well, but are more expensive too.

The most important factors in sailing around the world are:

  • cargo capacity & supplies

Longer boats are faster and can carry more cargo, which you will need for circumnavigation. Especially water can take up a lot of space and weight.

Smaller boats will have less cargo capacity. Smaller boats are slower as well, which increases the need for cargo capacity since you'll need more water and food.

Boats over 45 feet long will get disproportionally expensive. However, there are a lot of boats available between 35-45 feet for very reasonable prices.

We did research on average sailboat prices by comparing thousands of prices for you. Learn more on the average cost of buying & owning a sailboat here.

small sailboat around the world

The first thing you're probably thinking about is whether your boat of choice can handle the weather, the waves, and the long journey. But contrary to what you might have been led to believe, size is less relevant than you probably think.

Not that it doesn't matter in the overall picture, it does, but for very different reasons.

You see, a 20-foot Flicka is just as capable of crossing oceans as is any seaworthy 60 footer. It is more tricky to handle, especially in harsh conditions, but the boat's size doesn't necessarily impact its bluewater abilities .

As long as you stay within a reasonable range and keep away from 10-foot dinghies, of course. Though the smallest boat to ever cross the Atlantic had just a bit over five feet.

Respect to Hugo Vihlen, the man who operated this miracle.

Now I understand you aren't asking how big a boat can be to circumnavigate, you are asking how big it should be. But the reason I started with explaining that even small boats can do the job is that sailing around the world can get pretty pricey.

I wanted to make sure you know that even if your budget isn't the largest, so you can't go for a bigger boat, that shouldn't necessarily stop you from getting what you want.

With that in mind, let's kick this off with what it means to sail around the world on a small boat and work our way up in size.

small sailboat around the world

Now that we've established that small boats can too be seaworthy, let's see the drawbacks.

Such a vessel will take you from point a to point b successfully, but you might face issues when it comes to its speed.

There is a thing called hull speed, something too complicated for my simple mind to understand beyond this simple statement:

'because of physics, the longer the boat, the faster it can go'.

So a 1000 mile crossing with a 20 footer will be significantly slower than with a 50 footer, even with the same weather conditions. If you are in a hurry, take this into account.

Longer journey means more supplies

Also, take it into account when planning the logistics. If your passage takes more time, you will need more supplies, for which you need more space - and on a small boat, that spells possible storage space issues.

Dried meat and oatmeal isn't particularly bulky, but water volume is non-negotiable. And you need at least a couple of liters per day .

Even if comfort is not an issue for you and you don't mind spending a few months in a tiny warehouse full of provisions with not much room for yourself, supplies, paired with all the necessary equipment you need, become heavy and a small sailboat can find itself being quite overwhelmed by the weight, becoming more difficult to maneuver.

Which is the last thing you want when facing the Poseidon himself in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Just calculate the weight of water you will need for a four-week crossing - something you may easily encounter when sailing around the world.

Even if you minimize the freshwater use and have it for drinking only (hello salty showers) you will easily get to nearly a hundred kilos, and that's just for one person.

On an average 5,500 lbs 20 footer, you might end up in a passage situation where just water for two people makes up 10 percent of the boat's weight, which isn't ideal.

Small boats are more affected by waves

Last but not least, small boats will be influenced by the waves more than larger ones would be. Again, they can deal with them, but the question is if you can. The constant up and down movement can wear even an enthusiastic explorer down.

I understand that this is a matter of comfort, something which many of you hardy ones won't need. Just putting it out there to warn you ahead of time.

What you ideally want is to have your boat be around 40 feet, give or take five. This size will give you enough space to store all you need for long crossings, you can fit a partner plus a bunch of friends on it and its sails and keel are likely big enough to have your back even in rougher conditions.

Moreover, at this size, boats still aren't too much if you want to operate them by yourself, +-40 feet is generally quite manageable short-handed, especially if you tweak them a bit.

Short-handed simply means 'solo'.

That makes sense for circumnavigation especially because it can lead to scenarios where you will have to rely on yourself without the ability to get much external help. If you sail as a pair and want to take shifts, or if your partner in crime becomes unable to contribute for whatever reason, it will give you peace of mind knowing you can do the job for both.

Now for the important, storage space matter - unlike the smaller boats, +-40 footers won't suffer as much when you load them with all you need for such a journey, so you can safely get spare sails and parts without overloading your precious vessel.

This means more comfort since you can prepare yourself for many worst-case scenarios - be it equipment breaking down or a two-week crossing turning into a four week one because of bad weather.

They say long passages are not as much about sailing skills, rather about the ability to maintain your boat and good spirit. For that, spare parts and good company is needed. An overprepared sailor is a happy sailor.

All the other categories are covered quite well by this size too. Prices won't ruin even a tighter budget, comfort-wise you won't suffer more than you need to when the seas get rough and speeds are sufficient enough so that when you will read prognoses about how long your passages will take, the estimates won't be off by much.

So what's wrong with doing the journey with a 50+ footer? In short, as long as you can afford it, nothing.

In fact, comfort-wise, space-wise, and speed-wise, this is the best option. You won't have issues when taking ten friends on board for a ride-along, you can store enough food to go around the whole world without stopping anywhere to resupply, you can have plenty of extra gear and spare parts without even noticing it.

The ride will be smooth, even bigger waves won't be as felt, the long hull will make for some impressive speeds, simply, a boat the size of a floating family apartment has a lot to offer.

Large boats are not always rigged for solo sailing

When it comes to handling , years ago this would be the point where larger boats fail, but these days, even 60+ footers are often designed for solo sailing, with electronic winches, self-tacking jibs, and all the controls handily within your reach from the helm. So if you stick with a new boat, even a larger size shouldn't pose problems when short-handed.

As already probably apparent, the only issue here is the price. Of course, it is easy to recommend going around the world on a 70-foot cruiser. But it would be a bit of an unfair excuse for a tip since for the majority of the readers this would be financially unattainable.

So what you should take away from this particular part is that if you want to go for it, as long as you stick with new models made for easy operating, not much in terms of handling stands in your way. And yes, it will provide you with all the comfort you think it will.

All in all, when you look at boats that are used for heavy traveling including circumnavigations, you will see the 40-foot mark quite often. It wins in terms of practicality, affordability, and manageability. So if circling the world is what you want, you won't be making a mistake if you go for this size. Although if you feel like it, and have a stomach and skills for it, you can go small, very small. And if you can afford it, with today's technology, even a 70 footer can be the right choice.

Laura Phasouliotis

Thank you for your advice, it has been super helpful as I am just embarking on a sailing hobby at the age of 60. It has been my lifelong ambition to own a boat and sail.

I would love to have your suggestions for a trip. A 45 or 55 would be okay. Would like suggestions as to crew needs etc.

Dennis France

I am ticking on (87 in good condition) So would need a skipper and another crew besides myself. If I were to purchase a new Kraken 50’ what problems do you see??

A very good article. Give a very firm answer, 40-foot. No BS like “It depend on how many people on board”.

Daniel Clifford Cunningham

I see the writer and commentors are sensible and serious about doing this sailing thing. In a few months, when the VA hospitals have either fixed my heath problems

Great article. This is a beautiful summary. Great job.

Like most big questions, it is a matter of balancing needs which also include the money trick.

The following facts will be helpful.

My son moved his 48 foot sailboat to from the east coast US to Italy I fought up with him on Sept. 5 in nova Scotia this year and we crossed to the continent I got off in the azores and went back to Idaho as a friend of his met us there and helped out frist time on sailboat for me and at 350 lbs and 67 yrs old I wasn’t much help although my wife was glad to see he didn’t go alone.we missed the worst of a the hurricanes and I only fell down once the frist day and hurt my ribs and couldn’t move around for days. James was the greatest we had to fix the motor and steering system everyday I can’t believe how much u need to know to go to sea thanks

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‘Everyday people’ set sail from Seattle for around-the-world race

Winds died to 2 to 3 mph from the south-southwest and Elliott Bay was glass calm. Not ideal for sailing, but not a storm either.

Those were the conditions at Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina as 11 sailing teams from around the world set off Friday in 70-foot ocean racing yachts for the seventh leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The teams, each with 20 to 24 people, will traverse 7,200 miles, from Seattle to Panama and on to Washington, D.C.

Organizers say the event trains “everyday people to become ocean racers.”

Each participant must complete four weeks of intense training before taking part in one or all eight stages of the circumnavigation. As for the crew, 30% of them, who hail from 55 nations, have never been on a sailboat before readying for this race.

So far, the teams have raced over 20,000 nautical miles. The event started in Portsmouth, England, on Sept 3. After the race reaches D.C., it’s on to Scotland then back to Portsmouth on July 27, some 11 months after they departed. The full around-the-world challenge is 40,000 nautical miles.

Della Parsons, crew recruitment director for Clipper Ventures, did a presentation Wednesday in Seattle meant to inspire people to give the adventure a try. As she showed video from a previous race that included huge waves and difficult conditions, she said “You could see people’s eyes widening and thinking, ‘This is ridiculous. I could never do that.’ And then I said to them at the end of the video, ‘I know you’re thinking that but you have to remember all of the people that you’ve just seen on this video are just like you. Two years before that they were also sitting in a presentation thinking ‘this is ridiculous.’ And now look at them. They’ve just really achieved something remarkable.”

For more information check out the website .

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Politics latest: Keir Starmer accused of 'rank hypocrisy' by Rishi Sunak after setting out what he'll do to tackle small boat crossings

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer lays out his party's plans to try and tackle small boat crossings if it wins power. Listen to the latest episode of the Electoral Dysfunction podcast as you scroll.

Friday 10 May 2024 18:30, UK

  • Starmer says small boat crossings 'one of the greatest challenges we face'
  • Explained: What's in Labour's plan to try and tackle problem
  • Darren McCaffrey: Will Labour's plan cut it with voters?
  • Starmer says no flights to Rwanda will take off under Labour
  • Sunak accuses Starmer of 'rank hypocrisy'
  • Electoral Dysfunction:  Jess Phillips says Elphicke defection like 'being punched in gut'
  • UK exits recession | Economy 'returning to full health'
  • Faultlines:   Can British farming survive?
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker

Across the UK, anger is brewing amongst some farmers.  

Protests have already been held in London, Dover and Cardiff, with more planned - mirroring similar tensions seen across Europe in the last six months.     

They say they’re annoyed about cheap foreign imports and changes to subsidies forcing them to give up land in favour of environmental schemes.    

But what does this mean for the food on our table - and does British produce risk becoming a luxury product for the wealthy only?    

On the Sky News Daily , Niall Paterson is joined by West of England and Wales correspondent Dan Whitehead to find out why farmers are so concerned, and speaks to Liz Webster, the founder of Save British Farming, about why she believes eating British isn't just good for our farmers - it's good for the nation's health, too.   

In response to our report, Farming Minister Mark Spencer, said: "We firmly back our farmers. British farming is at the heart of British trade, and we put agriculture at the forefront of any deals we negotiate, prioritising new export opportunities, protecting UK food standards and removing market access barriers. 

"We've maintained the £2.4bn annual farming budget and recently set out the biggest ever package of grants which supports farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably."

The Welsh government said: "A successful future for Welsh farming should combine the best of our traditional farming alongside cutting-edge innovation and diversification. 

"It will produce the very best of Welsh food to the highest standards, while safeguarding our precious environment and addressing the urgent call of the climate and nature emergencies."

👉  Listen above then tap here to follow the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts   👈

Following the defection of the Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke to Labour, Beth, Ruth and Jess discuss the surprise move and whether it could have been handled differently by Sir Keir Starmer.

They also talk about Beth's interview with the former immigration minister Robert Jenrick and his warnings about Reform UK.

Plus, how significant was the defeat of former Conservative mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street? Beth and Jess were both there to tell the story.

And they answer a question on Labour and the Muslim vote, and what the party can do to restore confidence and trust.

Email Beth, Jess, and Ruth at [email protected] , post on X to @BethRigby, or send a WhatsApp voice note on 07934 200 444.     

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow Electoral Dysfunction wherever you get your podcasts 👈

In January 2023, Rishi Sunak made five promises.

Since then, he and his ministers have rarely missed an opportunity to list them. In case you haven't heard, he promised to:

• Halve inflation • Grow the economy • Reduce debt • Cut NHS waiting lists and times • Stop the boats

See below how he is doing on these goals:

The Sky News live poll tracker - collated and updated by our Data and Forensics team - aggregates various surveys to indicate how voters feel about the different political parties.

With the local elections complete, Labour is still sitting comfortably ahead, with the Tories trailing behind.

See the latest update below - and you can read more about the methodology behind the tracker  here .

Speaking to Sky political editor  Beth Rigby , Sir Keir Starmer has defended his decision to allow Tory MP Natalie Elphicke into Labour.

Ms Elphicke was on the right of the Conservative spectrum, and previously defended her sex-offender ex-husband, comments which she apologised for this week following her defection.

Addressing Tory voters, Sir Keir says he wants Labour to be a "place where they who have ambitions about their families, their communities, their country, can join and be part of what we are trying to build for their country".

Asked by Beth if he was ruthless, Sir Keir said: "Yes, I'm ruthless in trying to ensure we have a Labour government that can change this country for the better.

"Not ruthless for my own ambition, not ruthlessness particularly for the Labour Party - I'm ruthless for the country. 

"The only way we'll bring about a change in this country is if we're ruthless about winning that general election and putting in place a government of public service, that’ll be a major change.

"Politics, I believe, should be about public service, that's what I've been about all my life."

More now from political editor Beth Rigby's interview with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

She reminded him that he previously ruled out doing a deal with the SNP - but has not done so for the Liberal Democrats.

Sir Keir again ruled out a coalition with the SNP - adding that he is aiming for a "majority Labour government".

He says Labour needs "to keep working hard, keep disciplined and getting our message across, which is something fundamental to me".

Pushed on his lack of ruling out a possible agreement with the Lib Dems, Sir Keir says: "I'm going for a majority.

"That's the answer I gave you a year ago. It's the same answer I'm giving you now."

Sir Keir Starmer was earlier today pushed on whether Rwanda deportation flights will take off if he was prime minister - although it was not clear if he would cancel flights which had already been organised.

Sky News understood that previously booked deportation flights to Rwanda would still go ahead if Sir Keir entered Number 10. 

But the Labour leader has now gone further.

Speaking to political editor Beth Rigby , Sir Keir has ruled out any flights taking off.

"There will be no flights scheduled or taking off after general election if Labour wins that general election," he says.

He says: "Every flight that takes off carries with it a cheque to the Rwanda government. 

"So I want to scrap the scheme - so that means the flights won't be going."

Sir Keir says he would rather spend the money on his own measures to counter small boats.

"No flights, no Rwanda scheme. It's a gimmick," he says.

By Alix Culbertson , political reporter

Scotland's new first minister has told Sky News that the controversial gender recognition reforms "cannot be implemented."

John Swinney,  who became first minister this week , has faced questions over his stance on gender recognition after MSPs voted in 2022 to pass a bill to make it simpler for people to change their gender without having to obtain a medical diagnosis.

The UK government blocked the bill from being made into law and the Supreme Court rejected a request by the Scottish government for a judicial review.

Asked if he would be fighting to push the bill through, Mr Swinney told Sky News: "The reality of the situation we face is that the Supreme Court has said that we can't legislate in that area. We can't take forward that legislation."

The UK economy is no longer in recession, according to official figures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by a better-than-expected 0.6% between January and March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Economists had predicted the figure would be 0.4%.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it showed the economy had "turned a corner".

He told Sky News's Ed Conway: "I am pleased that while there's more work to do, today's figures show that the economy now has real momentum, and I'm confident that with time, people will start to feel the benefits of that.

"We've had multiple months now where wages are rising, energy bills have fallen, mortgage rates are down and taxes are being cut... I'm pleased with the progress that we're making."

Mr Sunak added: "I am confident the economy is getting healthier every week."

You can read more here:

Rishi Sunak has criticised Sir Keir Starmer's position on Rwanda as "rank hypocrisy".

Speaking to broadcasters, the prime minister says the Labour leader has announced things the government is "already doing".

He gives the example of "punching through the backlog, having more law enforcement officers do more, that's all happening already".

"We've announced all of that more than a year ago," the prime minister adds.

"The question for Keir Starmer if he cares so much about that, why did he vote against the new laws that we passed to give our law enforcement officers new powers? 

"They've now used those to arrest almost 8,000 people connected with illegal migration, sentenced them to hundreds of years in prison.

"And if it was up to him, all those people would be out on our streets, so I think it's rank hypocrisy property of his position."

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Research News

Largest-ever marine reptile found with help from an 11-year-old girl.

Ari Daniel headshot

This illustration depicts a washed-up Ichthyotitan severnensis carcass on the beach. Sergey Krasovskiy hide caption

This illustration depicts a washed-up Ichthyotitan severnensis carcass on the beach.

In late May 2020, 11-year-old Ruby Reynolds and her father, Justin Reynolds, drove to Blue Anchor, a seaside village in Somerset in southwest England, to hunt for fossils along the beach.

Upon arriving, they found that somebody had left a piece of fossilized bone at the top of the beach. It was about four inches long, which was "bigger than any piece of bone I'd ever found before," says Justin. "So I was very excited and sat down to have a good look at it."

Meanwhile, Ruby kept walking along the beach, eyes scanning the ground. She soon found a second piece of bone half buried in a mud slope that was twice as long as the first — and much better preserved. "It was just sort of lying there," recalls Ruby. "I was just happy, really."

Ruby and her father would later discover that they'd just chanced upon part of the largest marine reptile ever found — a giant ichthyosaur from 202 million years ago, near the end of the Triassic Period.

These animals were once the dominant predators of the world's oceans. Imagine a chunky shark with a long, toothy snout, fins, and four flippers.

"These are reptiles only very, very distantly related to things like crocodiles," says Dean Lomax , a paleontologist at the University of Bristol and the University of Manchester. And they actually resemble whales, which are mammals, in key ways: "They gave birth to live young. They committed entirely to a life at sea — they didn't come onto land."

In research published in PLOS ONE , Lomax, Ruby and Justin Reynolds, and their colleagues describe this new species of ichthyosaur, Ichthyotitan severnensis , as roughly 82 feet long. That's twice the length of a school bus.

This fossil of a mammal biting a dinosaur captures a death battle's final moments

Weekly Dose of Wonder

This fossil of a mammal biting a dinosaur captures a death battle's final moments.

"There were things that we can't even possibly imagine in the past," says Kelsey Stilson , a biomechanist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris who wasn't involved in the research. "But we can get little hints. And this is one little hint at this larger picture" of how life evolved on Earth.

A prehistoric puzzle

The discovery of Ichthyotitan severnensis actually began almost eight years ago. Paul de la Salle, an avid amateur fossil collector, was combing a beach in Lilstock in Somerset when he came upon multiple chunks of fossilized bone. He showed them to Lomax, a longtime friend of his.

"They fit together perfectly like an ancient prehistoric jigsaw puzzle," says Lomax. "And we could work out that it belongs to a jawbone of a reptile called an ichthyosaur that swam in the seas at the time of the dinosaurs."

But the thing that struck Lomax was that this bone, called a surangular, was big — over three feet long. "It suggests that it was from something unusual, and something exceedingly large," he says.

Lomax, de la Salle, and their colleagues published a description of the specimen , but the bone was incomplete and partly eroded, so they had to kind of leave it at that — as tantalizing as it was to imagine what this animal may have looked like.

"What we'd hoped for — we kept our fingers crossed — we hoped that maybe more specimens would come to light in the future," says Lomax.

Octopuses tweak the RNA in their brains to adjust to warmer and cooler waters

Octopuses tweak the RNA in their brains to adjust to warmer and cooler waters

A couple years passed. Then, in May 2020, Lomax received an email from Ruby and Justin Reynolds who'd just concluded their trip to Blue Anchor, their two fossil treasures in hand. He recalls that the message said something to the effect of, "Hey, Dr. Lomax — we think we've found another one of your giant ichthyosaur jawbones."

Lomax downloaded the images. "Of course, they were quite right," he says. "They correctly identified these sections of bone as belonging to an ichthyosaur." Lomax was encouraged by how well preserved the Reynolds' fossils were. He organized subsequent collection trips to the beach in Somerset, which yielded additional fragments of the same jawbone.

This second specimen was nearly twice as complete as the first. Lomax and his colleagues were now confident that this was a new species, which they named Ichthyotitan severnensis after the Severn Estuary in Somerset where it was found. He cautions that without a full skeleton, he can't be sure of the size. The animal could have had a giant head and a more compact body. But if it was built like other ichthyosaurs, Lomax says it would have been massive.

Listen to one of the largest trees in the world

Listen to one of the largest trees in the world

"Genuinely enormous, about the length of a blue whale," he says.

This makes it the largest ichthyosaur — and therefore the largest marine reptile — ever described. In fact, Lomax says the animal may not have even been fully grown when it died.

The end of an era

The Triassic Period was, in Kelsey Stilson's words, "a really weird time."

"That's when you see the first very early mammals and the first very early dinosaurs," they say. "Everything's starting right then."

The end of the Triassic was when Ichthyotitan severnensis reigned, at a moment right before a mass extinction event that swallowed up these animals forever.

"No marine reptile ever reached such gigantic sizes ever again," says Lomax.

Not all ichthyosaurs vanished, though the ones that survived and evolved during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods were smaller. But they too went extinct around 94 million years ago, which created an opening in the ocean.

It was "a niche to be filled," says Lomax, "which is where eventually you had mammals — including the first whales that were walking around on land — [make] that transition into the ocean."

With the top perch in the food web now vacated, whales took over as the dominant marine predators.

And underwater reptilian rule was over.

  • paleontology
  • ichthyosaur
  • Triassic period
  • marine reptiles
  • amateur paleontology

COMMENTS

  1. 5 best small sailboats for sailing around the world

    Vancouver 28. Photo credit: YachtFathom.co.uk. A sensible small boat with a "go-anywhere" attitude, this pocket cruiser was designed with ocean sailors in mind. One of the best cruising sailboats under 40 feet, the Vancouver 28 is great sailing in a small package. Hull Type:Full keel with transom hung rudder.

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    Some might consider 30-35ft too small for bluewater cruising or for a circumnavigation (sail around the world), but that has been disproved over the years. ... A small sailboat should be more than enough to carry a couple off on the adventures of which they dream. Nicholson 35. Now somewhat legendary, the tough and dependable Nicholson 35 first ...

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    Catalina 16.5. jlodrummer. Catalina Yachts are synonymous with bigger boats but they have some great and smaller boats too such as Catalina 16.5. This is one of the best small sailboats that are ideal for family outings given that it has a big and roomy cockpit, as well as a large storage locker.

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    If you want a personal sailboat ideal for solo sailing, the Sun Can is a great choice. Belowdecks, the twin 6-foot-5-inch berths and many other features and amenities make this cat a willing weekender. $19,800, (727) 443-4408, com-pacyachts.com.

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    Catalina 315. nwyachting. This is a nifty pocket cruiser that raises the quality bar for solo sailors with extreme comfort and performance. With just a 9.45 meter hull, the Catalina 315 has more internal room than most classics and remains superb for solo sailing.

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  13. Robin Lee Graham

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    One question unanswered is how long it would actually take to sail the world part-time. Of course, it depends on how much time you dedicate every year, but hypothetically: Year 1: the Caribbean to Panama, store in Panama. Year 2: Panama to French Polynesia, store in FP. Year 3: French Polynesia to Fiji, store in Fiji.

  18. Joshua Slocum and his first Single-handed Sail around the World

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  19. Circumnavigating the Globe on a Nordhavn 76

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  20. How Cheap can you Sail Around the World?

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    The best sailboat size to sail around the world is 35 to 45 feet. Smaller boats of 25 feet will be more uncomfortable and inconvenient; it is, however, possible. Larger sailboats of 60 foot and up will be more comfortable, but they are more expensive as well. Read on, we will have a look at these statements more closely; a cookie-cutter ...

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    Follow live updates as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer sets out his party's plans to try and tackle small boat crossings if it wins power. Friday 10 May 2024 11:01, UK LIVE

  24. That's a big ichthyosaur: Father-daughter team helps find largest ...

    Ruby and her father would later discover that they'd just chanced upon part of the largest marine reptile ever found — a giant ichthyosaur from 202 million years ago, near the end of the ...