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5 of the best new ocean cruising catamarans for 2024

  • Toby Hodges
  • April 12, 2024

There's no slowing down in the catamaran market with several new offerings for 2024. Toby Hodges takes a look at 5 launches in 2024

best catamarans for cruising

Explore the latest in ocean cruising catamarans for 2024 with our lineup of five exceptional boats. From the eagerly awaited Seawind 1370 to the eco-conscious design of the Vann R6, each catamaran brings its own distinct features to for cruising adventures.

best catamarans for cruising

Seawind 1370

The market for comfortable and spacious performance multihulls continues to grow. Seawind is perhaps less well known in Europe than French brands such as Outremer, however the yard’s background as a sister company to long-standing trimaran builder Corsair effectively gives it a long history in this market.

The 1370 is a long awaited model following an extended Covid-related shut down of the Vietnam production facility. The boat won’t premiere at a show until Cannes in September, but the first seven boats are already on the water, including hull No2, Ruby Rose 2, owned by YouTubers Terysa Vanderloo and Nick Fabbri.

Article continues below…

best catamarans for cruising

The best bluewater multihulls of all time: a complete guide

What are the best bluewater multihulls for long term cruising? The one you own, or the one you can afford…

best catamarans for cruising

Best catamaran and multihull: We sail the very best yachts on two and three hulls

There are many categories in the European Yacht of the Year awards, from the best luxury yachts and performance yachts to the best yachts for families and event a best…

The 1370 is a 45-footer with lightship displacement of 12,300kg. That’s a little heavier than the Outremer 45 and HH44, for instance, but almost 5% lighter than the Excess 14. Modern reverse bows and immersed hull shapes drawn by French-based Yacht Design Collective are intended to combine high performance potential with good load carrying capacity.

Accommodation layouts are geared around the needs of long-term cruising couples and their guests. The modern interior style has ash finishes and large front-opening windows to optimise natural ventilation. A wide lifting tri-fold door aft enables the bridgedeck accommodation to be easily opened onto the aft cockpit in sunny climes, while giving protection against the elements when necessary.

best catamarans for cruising

This range of Mortain & Mavrikios-designed lightweight cruising catamarans has its roots in the former Martinique Multicap Caraïbes yard, which built some 25 boats until 2010. A couple of years ago the designers and Christian Hernandez decided to revive the range, with construction in a new MultiCat Algarve yard, at the mouth of the Rio Guadiana in Portugal.

Red cedar strip planking and epoxy is used to create the underwater profile, while deck and topsides are of composite with a recycled Airex foam core and epoxy using 45% bioresins. The 1370 has a displacement of only 8.5 tonnes, placing it firmly at the light end of the cruising catamaran spectrum, yet it’s still designed for a payload of three tonnes. The updated rig has a square top mainsail and overlapping jib. Shallow keels are fitted, rather than daggerboards.

best catamarans for cruising

This full flybridge design fills a big slot that previously existed between the Lagoon 55 that was launched in 2021 and the more lavishly appointed Sixty 5. The new design’s huge aft cockpit can be fully opened out onto the water, including hull sides that hinge down like butterfly wings, creating an area even wider than the yacht’s generous 32ft beam allows. There’s also a large forward cockpit on the same level as the saloon, and with direct access, making this an ideal yacht for larger parties.

Layout options include five cabins with a bridgedeck galley, or four cabins with the galley in the port hull, accessed by its own stairs. This version also has a smaller bar area on the bridgedeck, along with a larger saloon.

As with the 55, the rig is stepped further forward than on earlier models and is fitted with overlapping headsails. Naval architect VPLP says these offer more flexibility and efficiency on a boat of this type than the near ubiquitous non-overlapping jibs of today’s yachts.

best catamarans for cruising

The best boats are invariably the result of considerable experience. This aluminium exploration catamaran has its roots in more than eight years and 50,000 miles of voyaging on a 2005 41ft production catamaran – and the lessons learned and problems encountered during that time. The concept was created by Ben Brehmer and Ashley Stobbart for the next stage of their voyaging life with a young family.

The result is a “focus on expedition-style comfort, reliability, and suitability for short-handed crews,” Brehmer told me. It’s a powerful hull with watertight bulkheads intended for high latitude adventures, as well as use in the tropics.

High bridgedeck clearance helps provide comfort at sea, while protection from sun and inclement weather is maximised.

All lines are led to a forward cockpit, allowing a lone watch keeper to handle the boat. The new coachroof design maximises visibility and light and gives the option to fully enclose the forward cockpit with removable glass. Although initially envisaged as a one-off, the first boat is scheduled to start build in June at a New Zealand yard that’s capable of producing multiple examples in parallel.

best catamarans for cruising

This Dutch yard is one of a number of the multihull builders leading the way in producing yachts that can be recycled, while also making big steps towards decarbonisation.

The 58ft R6 is intended as a rugged yacht capable of taking owners anywhere between the poles and the Mediterranean. It follows 40ft and 50ft R4 and R5 models. With beam only fractionally short of 30ft, it’s a big yacht by any standards and the builders have sought to make the most of the huge volumes on offer.

There’s lofty headroom, large windows that maximise the view of the outside world and a choice of spacious seating areas. In addition to sumptuous owners and guest accommodation, there’s an optional cabin for two crew, recognising this is an important factor to recruiting and retaining crew.

This is also Vaan’s first model with twin staircases leading down from the bridgedeck into each hull. Benefits include easier circulation of people, improved privacy, and an option to have the galley in the port hull rather than on the bridgedeck.

“The Vaan core philosophy of sailing, style and sustainability of course applies again,” founder Igor Kluin tells me. “This boat is made for sailors, with clean styling and truly sustainable material use and propulsion.”

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The Power Catamaran Compilation

  • By Yachting Staff
  • Updated: December 21, 2018

Power Catamarans have been growing leaps and bounds in popularity, and, in lengths and widths. And for good reason. These cruise-centric yachts offer homelike livability for avid travelers, are fuel efficient and are fairly intuitive to run. Power cats are popular in the bareboat charter market too, for these very reasons.

Here, we take a look at 12 catamarans ranging from a cruising-couple-size 36-footer to a 78-footer for friends, family and some more friends. And there are myriad power options: outboards, diesel inboards, hybrid or even all-solar power.

Fountaine Pajot MY44

fountain pajot my44

The Fountaine Pajot MY44 , a creation of Italian architect Pierangelo Andreani and French designer Daniel Andrieu, has a main deck that’s open from the aft-deck seating all the way forward to the starboard helm station. The sense of spaciousness is significant, for several reasons. First, four glass panels aft can all slide to port, creating an indoor-outdoor space with the aft deck and salon. In the salon, 32-inch-high windows extend for 12 feet down the sides of the yacht, with three sections per side, bringing in natural light along with the three forward panes that comprise the windshield. Finally, 6-foot-6-inch headroom provides vertical clearance, with a 21-foot-7-inch beam that adds interior roominess while keeping the yacht stable.

Read more: Fountaine Pajot MY44

Silent-Yachts 55

silent 55 yacht

The ideas about which solar panels, electric motors, inverters and the like to use — and more importantly, Michael Köhler says, how to configure them — became the basis for the brand Silent-Yachts. The company offers 55-, 64- and 79-foot catamarans that run on solar-electric propulsion. The Silent 55 premiered this fall, and the 64 is sold out for the next two years, Köhler says.

Read more: Silent 55

Horizon PC74

Horizon PC74

As founder and director of The Powercat Company, a Horizon Power Catamarans distributor, Stuart Hegerstrom had long believed that catamaran builders needed to design their yachts to more stylish standards.

“The boats were very boxy,” he says, based on his years of experience with cats in the charter market. He and his partner, Richard Ford, asked Horizon to produce models that had high-end finishes and looked good inside and out.

The Horizon team brought in mega-yacht designer JC Espinosa to work with its own craftsmen. The result aboard the Horizon PC74 is a catamaran with exterior styling, layout and functionality that should appeal to private and charter owners alike.

Read more: Horizon PC74

aquila 36

The Aquila 36 is a departure from her sisterships in that she is an outboard-powered, express-cruiser-style catamaran, but she also adheres to MarineMax’s philosophies.

With a single main living level from bow to stern and a beam of 14 feet 7 inches, the Aquila 36 is like a bowrider on steroids. She has seating that can handle 20 adults for outings and barbecues, and there are two staterooms below, one in each hull, for family weekending. The staterooms have nearly queen-size berths, en suite heads, stowage and 6-foot-6-inch headroom.

Read more: Aquila 36

Lagoon Seventy 8 Powercat

Lagoon Seventy 8

Lagoon is a division of Groupe Beneteau, the world’s largest builder of sailing yachts, and the Lagoon Seventy 8 Powercat is a developmental sistership of its Seventy 7 super sailing cat. The Seventy series yachts are built at Construction Navale Bordeaux in France, which had to add a new yard to construct these catamarans because they require separate stern molds for the power and sail versions.

Read more: Lagoon Seventy 8 Powercat

Horizon PC60

horizon pc60

To understand the Horizon PC60 power catamaran , you need to put aside preconceived notions about midsize yacht amenities. For example, main-deck master suites are the province of yachts over 100 feet length overall. Incorrect. This 60-footer has an elegant and spacious owner’s stateroom on the same level as the salon. If you want a 14-foot center console tender on a 60-foot yacht, you have to tow it. Wrong again. On the PC60, you hoist it onto the upper deck, no problem.

Read more: Horizon PC60

40 Open Sunreef Power

40 Open Sunreef Power

Sunreef is known for pushing the boundaries of catamaran design, incorporating four adjustable hydrofoils into a twin-hulled speedboat.

The Polish builder is one of several European builders (including Evo, Fjord, Wider and Wally) transforming the open ­day-boat category with creative designs. ­Beyond its hydrofoils, the 40 Open Sunreef Power ‘s cockpit has side “wings” along the aft gunwales that fold out at anchor, widening the beam from 17 feet to 22 feet 9 inches.

Read more: 40 Open Sunreef Power

Sunreef 50 Amber Limited Edition

50 Amber Limited Edition

Sunreef Yachts introduced its 50 Amber Limited Edition , with plans to launch just 10 hulls of the exclusive design.

The Sunreef 50 Amber Limited Edition will have a carbon fiber mast and boom, four layout options and numerous amber-colored elements, including the hull.

Read more: Sunreef 50 Amber Limited Edition

Lagoon 630 Motor Yacht

Lagoon 630 motoryacht

Fitted with the optional twin 300-horsepower Volvo Penta D4 diesels, the Lagoon 630 MY burns only 1.64 gph total at 6 knots, giving a theoretical range of 2,952 nautical miles with standard tankage of 793 gallons. Hull No. 1 had an optional 502-gallon tank, giving it transatlantic range.

Luxury, stability and economy are all hallmarks of Lagoon’s return to luxury motor yachts. If you can take a ride, it will be worth your time.

Read more: Lagoon 630 Motor Yacht

Fountaine Pajot MY 37

Fountaine Pajot MY 37

The Fountaine Pajot MY 37 easily accommodates the seafaring family with three- and four-stateroom options. In the three-cabin version, called ­Maestro, you’ll find an owner’s suite in the portside hull with a queen-size berth and en suite head. Two double-berth cabins and one more head are available for the kids. If your brood is bigger, the Quator setup features four double cabins with two heads.

The 37 is a traveler and can be powered with twin 150 hp or 220 hp Volvo Penta diesels. Top speed with the smaller engines is 17 knots, while it’s 20 knots with the bigger power plants. Interestingly, at 7 knots, the fuel consumption is the same, with either set of motors offering voyagers a 1 ,000-nm range.

Read more: Fountaine Pajot MY 37

Solarwave 64

Solarwave 64

Many yachts boast eco chops because they have a handful of solar panels that power the microwave or navigation lights. The Solarwave 64 , launched last summer, has the potential to run on sunshine alone. The vessel’s 42 solar panels generate 15 kW that are stored in batteries weighing about 1,300 pounds. They connect to electric motors.

Read more: Solarwave 64

Glider SS18

SS18, Glider Yachts

This British builder says it strives for design innovation and the Glider SS18 displays that DNA, the result of 8 years of research and development. She has a head-turning, catamaran hull form constructed from aluminum and composite materials. She is 60 feet LOA with a 17-foot beam, and has a relatively shallow 1-foot draft. Powered by quad Yamaha 300 hp outboards, she can reportedly reach 50 knots, and with her Stability Control System (SCS), should give a smooth ride while doing it.

Read more: Glider SS18

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10 Best Catamaran Brands

10 Best Catamaran Brands

Shopping for a new catamaran can be intimidating, even as consumers have more resources than ever to help them research from the comfort of their own home before they even contact a yacht broker. The great news is that there are a lot of great catamaran brands on the market right now. For us consumers, the catamaran market has evolved rapidly from what it was only just a few short years ago when monohulls were favored. On the flip-side, this can make it even more challenging to figure out which catamaran brands are the very best.

If you are a beginner in cruising catamarans, this article will help you learn the best brands that are out there with the best reputation amongst boaters. This article will help you get started in the world of catamarans, and I am trying to make it as beginner-friendly as possible. The catamaran brands on this list are mainly production boat companies, but some of them do offer custom designs. However, the added benefit of most of these brands is that there are many options on the used market. You will always be able to shop around for a good deal no matter where you are in the world.

Here are some of the best catamaran brands on the market today: 

Lagoon – Groupe Beneteau

Lagoon is a French boatbuilder with an excellent reputation and sells the largest number of catamarans per year. The brand started back in 1984 and was one of the first catamaran brands to really convince people of the concept of multihulls. The philosophy of the Lagoon brand is good design, high-quality construction, and a decent cruising performance under sail. In other words, a Lagoon is the dream of every fan of sailing that looks for a catamaran that can provide everything, whether that is a fun toy for summer sailing trips or a year-round liveaboard yacht. What Lagoon did right, and the reason it has proven to be so popular is that it listened to its customers. That is why every new Lagoon catamaran has more space, more efficient layouts, and is always more comfortable than their previous version. There is no wonder why they have so many repeat customers.

Lagoon makes 9 sailing catamaran models and 2 powercat models, ranging in length from 40 to 78 feet. It also used to make shorted boats like the Lagoon 380 at 37 feet, but unfortunately, it was discontinued. You can find a Lagoon on the used market starting at $150,000 (like a 2002-2007 Lagoon 380) and as high as $5 million USD for their top of the line fully spec’d Lagoon Seventy 7, which comes with a jacuzzi on deck.

Lagoon Catamaran

>>Also Read: Best Sailboat Brands

Fountaine Pajot

Fountaine-Pajot is a French maritime construction brand that is specializing in catamarans. The company was established in 1976, but it launched its first sailing catamaran in 1983 and its first powercat in 1998. This brand is now famous for building both sailing and power catamarans that have a beautiful and innovative design, superior handling, excellent seaworthiness, and cruising comfort. Also, Fountaine Pajot was one of the first catamaran brands that was manufacturing their boats with environmental protection in mind. So, all of their models have options to include renewable energy sources. Their ECO-Cruising and SMART-Cruising options considerably reduce their yachts’ carbon footprint and provide the necessary clean energy for their sailboats.

Fountaine-Pajot makes both sailing catamarans and powercats, ranging in length from 40 to 67 feet. It also used to make shorted boats like the Lagoon 380 at 37 feet, but unfortunately, it was discontinued. You can find a Lagoon on the used market starting at $100,000-150,000 (like a 1990-2005 Fountaine Pajot Athena 38) and as high as $3.5 million USD for their top of the line fully spec’d Fountaine Pajot Alegria 67, which comes with a jacuzzi on the front deck.

Fountaine Pajot Alegria 67 Catamaran - 10 Best Catamaran Brand

Leopard is a boatbuilder located in South Africa and produces some of the best and most luxurious catamarans. You will find Fountain Pajor catamarans for sale also under the name “Robertson & Caine” because some Leopard cats are built by Robertson & Caine company. Leopards are mainly designed to be luxurious, big, and comfortable, but that usually comes at a cost, both in price tag and sailing speed and maneuverability. 

Leopard Catamarans was established in 2000 their partnership with South African builder Robertson and Caine. This company was manufacturing custom-designed catamarans for the global yacht charter company The Moorings. While Leopard was focusing on sailing catamarans in the beginning, in 2007, they started making powercats as well.

Leopard is always designing their boats to have the optimal balance between interior space and performance, sheltered helm cockpit designed for offshore cruising and single-handed sailing, large lounge areas, optimal comfort, and ease of maintenance. 

Nowadays, Leopard is making sailing catamarans between 42 and 58 feet and powercats between 50 and 53 feet. You can find a Leopard on the used market starting at $180,000 (like a Leopard 38) in good condition and as high as $2 million USD for their top of the line fully spec’d Leopard 58; however, they are not as luxurious as some of the other brand’s top-of-the-line models.

Leopard Catamarans

>>Also Read: 10 Best Catamarans Under 200k

Catana catamarans are a little bit more performance-oriented. They have features that make them sail faster and be more easily maneuverable than some of the other catamaran brands on the list. Many of their boats come with a feature called daggerboard that will help you sail faster upwind, something that most catamarans struggle with. Catana Group was originally called Poncin Yachts and has been building catamarans in France since 2001. It is famous for producing catamarans for owners who most often want to go bluewater sailing around the world comfortably and safely with a high-performance boat. This is not a famous brand, but it grows in popularity very fast. Year by year, I have noticed more and more Catana catamarans in the marinas I visit. 

Catana Catamarans are built using foam sandwich vacuum infusion technology combined with carbon and aramid fiber. This combination guarantees the strength of the hull, significant weight savings, and because of this fact, higher speed.

Catana offers new boats from 42 to 70 feet. In the past, they were building boats as long as 90 feet. You can find a Catana on from the early 2000s’ on the used market for as low as $250,000, and as high as $4 million USD for a top of the line full spec’d brand new one.

Catana Catamarans

Nautitech is another catamaran brand located in France; I guess there is a pattern here. They have built a reputation for designing catamarans that are robust, seaworthy, and capable of putting sailing back into the heart of the liveaboard experience without compromising on comfort. Anyone familiar with catamarans can quickly appreciate the innovative nature of a Nautitech cat design. The brand was also the first one to introduce the concept of liveaboard living, which combines the saloon and cockpit into one spacious, functional living area.

Nautitech offers new boats from 40 to 57 feet. You can find a Nautitech on from the early 2000s’ on the used market (Like the Nautitech 40) for as low as $180,000. However, a new top-of-the-line Nautitech 54 can be spec’d up to $1.5 million USD; though, they are not as luxurious as some of the other brand’s top-of-the-line models. 

Nautitech Catamaran

The brand was founded in 1985 in France. Privilège Catamarans offer unparalleled expertise, know-how, and experience that facilitates the construction of some of the best catamarans on the market today. They can provide luxurious liveaboard life beyond coastal borders. Its elegant hull design ensures superb stability and comfort making then one of the best catamaran brands in the world right now. Every catamaran is custom-built according to the owner’s preferences and handcrafted with great craftsmanship and the finest materials.

The company specializes in the design and manufacture of some of the best, and luxurious bluewater catamarans on the water. Every new Privilege cat is built after multiple consultations between the shipyard and the owner. You can decide to either keep the catamaran in its pure and elegant look and also keep the cost as low as possible or to change it to your personal preferences and make it as high-end as you can afford.

Privilège makes both sailing catamarans and powercats, ranging in length from 51 to 75 feet. It also used to make shorted boats like the Privilege 435 at 43 feet, but unfortunately, they are now focusing on larger yachts. You can find a Privilege from the early 2000s’ on the used market starting at $300,000 (like the Privilege 435) but can easily surpass $5 million USD for their top of the line fully spec’d Privilege 745 or 740.

Privilège Catamarans

>>Also Read: Best Small Sailboats To Sail Around The World


Gemini is one of the few catamaran brands that make its boats in the US. It is a subsidiary of Performance Cruising Inc., and they have been making catamarans since 1981. Honestly, Gemini catamarans might not be the most good-looking and luxurious, but they are affordable and sail well. For that reason, they definitely deserve a spot on the list with the best catamaran brands. 

You can find a used Gemini cat in good condition in good condition from the early 1990s, starting at around 50k and a newer model for as high as 500k. Overall this is a very affordable brand, and you will definitely enjoy one without breaking the bank.

Gemini Catamarans


Seawind Catamarans is a catamaran designer and builder located in Australia, producing high-end performance cruising sail catamarans since 1982. They have produced some of the world’s best and award-winning designs. 

The Seawind brand is especially good for people looking for a catamaran that is not overly luxurious or expensive and is probably looking for a more reasonably sized yacht; however, they do offer a couple of larger, more luxurious models as well. 

Seawind offers new boats from 35 to 52 feet. You can find one on from the early 2000s’ on the used market for as low as $150,000, like a Seawind 1000. However, a new top-of-the-line Seawind 1600 can be spec’d up to around $1 million USD.

Seawind Catamarans

Sunreef Yachts

Sunreef is the world’s leading manufacturer of luxury sailing and power multihulls. Each catamaran, motor yacht, and superyacht they make is a custom vessel. The company was established in 2002 in Gdansk, Poland but a Frenchman and was the first brand to build a 74-foot bluewater cruising catamaran. 

This brand has pulled all the stops when it comes to luxury and comfort. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly liveaboard cat, a luxurious private floating villa, a dazzling party boat, or a fishing expedition superyacht fantasy, their designers will turn your vision into reality. Just be prepared to pay the price. 

Sunreef makes both large sailing catamarans and powercats, ranging in length from 50 to 150 feet! You can find a Sunreef from the early the Mid-2000s on the used market starting at $700,000 (like the Sunreef 62) but can easily surpass $15 million USD for Sunreef 102. They also have the Sunreef MM460 CAT on their catalog, which is one of the largest catamarans even created. However, unfortunately, I was not able to get even an approximate price quote on it. If I had to guess, I would say at least $50 million to have one built. 

Sunreef Yachts Catamaran

>>Also Read: Best Sailboats Under 100k

Bali Catamarans is another brand of the well-known Catana shipyard. And it is also the newest brand on the list established in 2014. Catana catamarans are the golden standard when it comes to high-speed cats. However, in 2014, they decided to start a production brand of fast, light, and easily maneuverable cruising catamarans. The Bali Catamarans collection has a unique design mainly; it has no mesh “trampoline” in the front cockpit. It features an open-space interior, a huge refrigerator in the inner saloon, and many other uncommon features. 

Bali offers new boats from 39 to 50 feet. You can find a Bali on from 2014-2015 on the used market for as low as $300k (like the Bali 4.0). However, a new top-of-the-line Bali 5.7 can spec’d up to over a $2 million USD.

Bali Catamarans

Final Thoughts

In order to compile the best list of catamarans, I took into account the built quality, comfort seaworthiness but also the number of yachts for sale on the used market. In my point of view, I shouldn’t have put a custom catamaran builder on this list because you wouldn’t be able to find one for sale anyway. For most of these brands, there are many boats for sale on the used market in pretty good condition and at reasonable prices.


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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13 Best Small Catamarans For Cruising 2024

The best small catamarans for cruising are affordable and comfortable, making great sailboats for a number of different purposes. If you’re looking for the best small catamarans to start your cruising life then look no further!

When searching for a catamaran for our adventures we scoured the internet for any and all information we could find on just about every size, shape, and model!

Although in the end, we opted for a bigger catamaran, in the hopes of having more family and friends on board, we did heavily research the best small catamarans as an option.

One of the best small catamarans for cruising out at anchor.

Each small catamaran has different pros and cons. As with every sailboat, there will be compromises, but hopefully, this post will help you firm up what you’re really looking for in a multihull and find the right smaller catamaran for you!

Here are what we consider the best small cruising catamarans out there, costing anywhere from $40,000 to $300,000. You can also read up on the average costs of sailboats here.

Why choose a small catamaran for cruising?

The downsides to small multihulls for cruisers

The best small catamarans for ocean sailing

The best small catamarans for coastal cruising

Why Choose A Small Catamaran For Cruising?

a small multihull on an ocean passage, cutting through the water.

The main advantage to choosing a small catamaran for cruising has to be the cost. Not only are smaller sailboats cheaper to buy initially, but they are also cheaper to maintain and to dock in marinas or dry storage.

Why buy a small catamaran over a monohull? This isn’t the post to go into the pros and cons of multihulls vs monohulls, but a few of the main reasons you might prefer to buy a small cat over a bigger, cheaper monohull is the living space and the comfort underway and at anchor.

Living on a sailboat is very different from taking the boat out for a sporty sail every now and again. Having a catamaran over a monohull means you won’t be heeling or rolling at anchor half as much, you can leave out your coffee cup, and you have the space you need to spread out a little.

A small catamaran will enable the more comfortable lifestyle you’re seeking at a more reasonable price tag. So what’s not to love about small cruising multihulls?

The Downsides To Small Multihulls For Cruisers

a sailboat with its sails up, goosewinged.

Of course, just with everything in sailing, there are always compromises to be made when it comes to small multihulls.

One of the biggest downsides for cruisers is the weight issue smaller catamarans present. You won’t be able to carry half as much as you would on a larger catamaran or monohull, which might be a problem if you live onboard full time.

The other negative is that smaller boats usually aren’t quite as seaworthy as larger ones. You might find you’re limited to coastal cruising if you choose a small catamaran, so make sure you have your cruising intentions in mind before you buy.

the sails of a sailboat against the blue sky.

Another big thing to look out for when it comes to choosing the right small cat for you, is the bridge deck clearance. This is often worse on smaller catamarans, and can cause nasty slamming in any sort of sea, both when sailing and at anchor.

With these downsides in mind, we’ve split this post into the best small catamarans for ocean sailing and the best for coastal cruising. Obviously this is a little subjective, as many people have sailed around the world in much smaller and less seaworthy vessels!

The Best Small Catamarans For Ocean Cruising

#1 wharram tiki.

  • Suitable for: Bluewater sailing
  • Fixed Keels
  • Draft (max): 2.08′
  • Engines: Single outboard, though some versions have twin inboards
  • Price: Roughly $100,000

small catamarans sailing with the sunset behind

We have lusted after the Wharram catamarans since our adventures began and would have opted for one of these if we had found one for sale this side of the pond.

Designed by the legendary James Wharram, these small multihulls are pretty unique. They are based on the Polynesian catamaran design, and the plans enable you to self-build these boats if you have the time, money, and space for a project of this magnitude.

If you aren’t keen on taking on a project then you can commission a boat builder to complete the design for you, or buy one second-hand. The advantages of having one made yourself are that you can tweak things to your personal taste, and you can even contact the Wharrams themselves to see if they can adjust the designs for individual requests.

The Wharram catamarans have a lot of charm dues to their traditional design, and the old-fashioned appeal continues inside the boat too. You won’t find the same huge hull space as some of the modern design catamarans now have, but the outside entertainment space is perfect for entertaining.

One of the best small multihulls for ocean cruising

These small catamarans don’t have an inside space across the hulls, so all of your inside living space is below. If you’re used to monohulls then this won’t be a problem but if you like the idea of a galley-up then these boats aren’t for you.

Wharram catamarans, especially the Tiki 38, have great reputations as around the world, bluewater boats. They have fantastic bridge deck clearance so slamming is minimum and they sail well.

Most models have a double cabin and two singles, a galley, a head, and a small salon area below. They are smaller catamarans than many newer 38ft multihulls but this does make them more affordable.

small catamarans in the Caribbean with a beautiful white sand beach behind

A big appeal for us was the fact these boats are designed to be self-made. Although a secondhand model could potentially come with a lot of problems (get a decent survey before you buy!) it does mean that almost everything onboard can be self-fixed. This is a huge bonus if you plan on sailing your small catamaran around the world.

Another thing we loved about these smaller catamarans is the fact they have outboard engines, which we felt would be easier to maintain and replace if necessary. This is a personal choice though so consider this before you get your heart set on one!

One of the downsides to the Tiki 38 is that there aren’t many of them around. These are unique boats and they don’t come on the market frequently. When they do, they tend to be scattered all over the world so you’ll have to be prepared to travel to find one!

#2 Prout Snowgoose 37 : Small Catamaran For Ocean Cruising

a sail on a cruising catamaran and the ocean in the background.

Prout catamarans are a popular choice for cruisers, and you’ll find many owners who have circumnavigated in them. The Snowgoose is no exception. Prout no longer exists as a company, as it was bought by Broadblue in the 90s.

Broadblue still makes catamarans today, and they have very similar features to the original Prouts, though obviously they are far fancier and have all the benefits of a more modern design!

The Snowgoose is a great small multihull to go for as you get quite a lot of space inside and out. We weren’t sure about the berth in the salon area, but it might make a great space for a baby or small child while underway!

The compromise in the Prout Snowgoose is the bridge deck clearance and this was something that put us off these smaller cruising catamarans. A low bridge deck clearance makes the boat slam in waves, both at anchor and underway.

#8 PDQ 36 : A Small Catamaran Without Too Much Slamming

  • Suitable for: Bluewater
  • Draft (max): 2.82′
  • Engines: Twin inboard or outboard
  • Price: Over $100,000

best catamarans for cruising

These small catamarans have an excellent reputation among cruisers because of their solid build and use of decent materials. They come with either outboard engines for coastal cruising or inboard engines designed to withstand offshore use.

If you like the sound of the PDQ 32 but need a little more room then you’ve got that here! It’s also a boat that people have crossed oceans in, though you might want to consider something more tried and tested like the Prout Snowgoose or the Wharram if you’re planning longer ocean sails.

The boat has three cabins, a galley, salon and head, but there’s a more spacious feel compared to the smaller model. Again, the bridge deck clearance is good so you shouldn’t experience too much slamming.

#9 Lagoon 380 : One Of The Most Popular Small Multihulls

best catamarans for cruising

  • Fixed keels
  • Engines:  twin diesel engines
  • Price:  from $100,000, used

The Lagoon 380 is one of the most popular catamarans out there, and you’ve probably already spotted a lot of them in your search! This is a great option if modern cats appeal to you, as it’s pretty ‘with the times’ as far as smaller catamarans go!

There are lots of different layouts of this boat available all over the world. Some were built for charter with numerous berths and others were commissioned for couples or families with differing cabin and head options.

This is a proven catamaran from a reputable company, but obviously with so many of these boats out there, they come in a range of conditions. Make sure you get a thorough survey done before purchase!

Lagoon 37 TPI

  • Draft (max): 4′
  • Engines: Twin inboard diesels 
  • Price: Over $100,000 USD 

This is the smallest catamaran built by Lagoon, and unfortunately there aren’t many of them out there. These boats were built mainly for the charter market, and have a smaller rig than some similar sized catamarans.

There are two big queen-size forward doubles port and starboard and a smaller double in the starboard hull aft. The galley and salon are designed to be simple and timeless, with none of the fancy trims you’ll find in the newer Lagoons.

As this boat was intended for charter it probably wouldn’t make a great ocean-going vessel. For starters, it isn’t designed to carry too much in the way of provisions. That’s not to say it won’t be a suitable bluewater boat with a few tweaks. Sailors who have circumnavigated in them have increased sail area and added folding props to get more speed from the vessel.

#11 Catalac 9M/30

best catamarans for cruising

  • Draft (max): 2.5′
  • Engines:  two outboard engines or one diesel engine
  • Price:  from $50,000

The Catalac 9M is a little different to a lot of the catamarans on this list, as it was built for sailing in the North Sea! This is a great small catamaran for anyone wanting a boat built to be safe!

The bridge deck clearance is reasonable but the boat is light, which can make it more prone to slamming. The unique feature of this small sailboat is the hard dodger, designed as somewhere safe and dry to stand in bad weather.

It sails well, though like a lot of catamarans there is technique involved in getting it to tack smoothly. Once you’ve got the hang of though, this boat will make good speeds for its size.

The Best Small Catamarans For Coastal Cruising

  • Suitable for: Coastal
  • Draft (max): 3.62′
  • Engines: Twin inboard
  • Price: Up to $300,000 for a newer model

The Mahe 36 is the smallest of the Fountaine Pajot range, and these small catamarans can go for a heafty budget if you find a newer model!

This tiny multihull packs a lot into a small space, and because of its modern features, you’ll feel like you’re in a much bigger boat when you step aboard.

This boat is a fast mover, with an ok bridge clearance and some attractive upgrades compared to their last small catamaran design. Most notably the full-length hard top bimini which has the reviewers raving!

If you have the money to splash out on a newer, more expensive small catamaran then this should definitely be on your list to consider! Although they come with a large price tag, these small catamarans are considerably cheaper new than some of the bigger models.

#4 Gemini 105Mc (34ft)

best catamarans for cruising

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Centreboards Draft (max): 5′ Engines:  Single inboard Price:  from $80,000

The Gemini 105Mc is still in production in the US, which speaks to its popularity. Obviously if you buy new you’ll pay a much higher price! This is one of the smallest catamarans on the list, but it’s still a great option for coastal cruising (or some have even successfully completed ocean passages on them in relative comfort).

For a small multihull this boat sails pretty well and is fast for a coastal cruiser. The living space is decent with good headroom. It has two double cabins and a master bedroom, and the interior finishes are nice too.

A big negative to this boat is the bridge deck clearance which really isn’t amazing, but as we said at the start, there’s always a compromise! This is a sporty-looking little catamaran that’s a good contender for the top smallest catamarans out there!

#5 EndeavourCat 36

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Fixed keels Draft (max): 3′ Engines:  two inboard Price:  from $100

best catamarans for cruising

Designed and built by Endeavour Catamaran, these American built boats are great cruising catamarans. A big advantage to this little multihull is that it will fit into most monohull slips, so if you anticipate using marinas a lot then this might be the small catamaran for you!

This isn’t a slow boat, and owners report speeds of 8-9 knots. Bear in mind though that the narrow beam does make it less suitable for any offshore passages. It has good interior space with 6′ standing headroom throughout, three double cabins, and a decent-sized galley below. The salon area can seat 6 people comfortably.

This cat is great for single-handed sailors, as all the lines lead to the cockpit and the main and jib are completely self-tacking.

#6 Prout Event 34

best catamarans for cruising

Suitable for: Coastal/bluewater Fixed keels Draft (max): 2.72′ Engines:  Single inboard Price:  from $30,000

These multihulls are quite hard to find, but if you like the Snowgoose but are on a tighter budget then they might be just what you’re looking for. They share lots of features with the Snowgoose and look very similar, only smaller!

There are three cabins, one head, a salon, and a galley, only they are rather squeezed in compared to the larger model. Personally, we thought there was plenty of space for a smaller sailboat but it’s worth seeing them in person if you’re keen on this model.

They do have the same downsides as the Snowgoose though, with limited headroom and low bridge deck clearance. These boats are known for their slamming!

Coastal Engines:  twin outboards Price:  from $80,000, used

best catamarans for cruising

The PDQ 32 is a great budget option catamaran and should be cheap(ish) to buy second hand and maintain. With two outboards that are easy to replace on a smaller budget, you’re looking at some of the usual pinch points on a boat becoming a lot more affordable!

This small catamaran only has two cabins, so sleeps less than a lot of the boats on this list, but it is roomier than you’d imagine inside with a decent galley and salon area. It has decent bridge deck clearance so shouldn’t slam too much in any waves.

This isn’t a boat for longer passages as it is a little small (and perhaps underpowered) to face serious weather. If you’re searching for something to potter around in then this is a fun boat to sail and live in!

#12 Dean 365

best catamarans for cruising

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  • Suitable for: Coastal cruising
  • Draft (max): 3′
  • Engines:  one or two inboard
  • Price:  from $45,000, used

These South African catamarans are great little coastal cruising catamarans that are hard to come by anywhere other than South Africa!

They’re pretty tiny, but have enough space for a galley, 3 or 4 cabins, and 1 or 2 heads. Some of the designs even have a bathtub, which speaks of their liveaboard suitability rather than their sail performance!

These boats are some of the smallest multihulls on this list, so don’t expect much in terms of headroom or bridge deck clearance. That being said, if you’re looking for a tiny catamaran to live on and you are prepared to compromise on sailing ability then these are a solid choice.

We have heard that the build quality can vary somewhat with these multihulls, so make sure you do some solid research and get a good surveyor when buying one of these. If you get a good version then they can make really solid boats.

#13 EndeavourCat 30

the lines of small catamarans tied off to a cleat

Suitable for: Coastal cruising Fixed keels Draft (max): 2.1′ Engines:  single or twin outboard Price:  from $70,000

This is a boat built for comfort over all else, so if you’re looking for a budget catamaran to live in then take a look at the endeavourcat 30. Some people don’t like the boxy design, but we quite liked how it looked in the water. I guess it’s personal taste!

This sailboat has two double cabins, a decent sized galley and salon for the size of the boat, and a head. The bridge deck clearance is low so that’s something to bear in mind before you buy, but the headroom is good (another reason why this would make a good liveaboard catamaran).

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration when searching for small catamarans for cruising, and helped you to find your dream boat!

We’re passionate about helping people live this incredible cruising lifestyle, so if you’re planning your dream liveaboard life make sure you check out our guide on how to run away to sea, with everything you could possibly need to know before, during, and after starting this adventure of a lifetime!

best catamarans for cruising

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Such small mention of probably the best catamaran for overall cruising, focusing on ease of helming, speed and livability. Simple rig, great ergonomic features, style and definitely a pedigree on the water. The FP Mahe duo! Sea proven. Most delivered on their own bottoms from France. Wide beams and light. Beautiful interior arrangements and easy to maintain. I’m confused about so little mention of probably the best entry level and beyond real cruiser out there.

You forgot the edelcat 35. Great boats, and have circumnavigated!

I wonder why Broadblue 346 is not on the list.

Appreciate it’s a bit more expensive than most cats listed here but what about the Aventura 37? Technically a small cat but with ocean going abilities and an actual live aboard!

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Yacht Cruising Lifestyle

Yacht Cruising Lifestyle

Everything fun you can do from your yacht

20 Blue Water Cruising Catamarans Under $100k

October 13, 2021 by Martin Parker 1 Comment

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The debate between single-hull sailboats and blue water catamarans has raged since the beginning of time, and it’s unlikely ever to end! Both types of yachts have dedicated followers who are unlikely to ever be swayed by the benefits of the other. A lot of this is based on misconceptions and the influences of the people around them, though. We recommend that if you’re considering a blue water catamaran, get in a few good hours of sailing through varied conditions before making a decision. 

What Makes Blue Water Catamarans Great for Cruising?

Stable platform s.

Bluewater catamarans offer fantastic stability, despite what you may hear from single-hull yacht owners. There’s no high lean angle when sailing into the wind and no need to strap everything down to prevent it from moving. Add to this little or no rolling when moored, and a catamaran is a lovely place to be.

Additional Space 

An excellent beam to length ratio is essential on bluewater catamarans, and a 40-foot yacht will usually have a 20-foot beam. That gives you a 20-foot bridge deck, plenty of space on the hulls, and even more space forward on the netting.

Cruising Speed

The amount of wet surface area on a catamaran is significantly reduced compared to a monohull yacht. Without the need for a prominent, heavy keel for ballast, the catamaran can easily outperform a single hull yacht.

Shallow Draft s

Shallow draft boats allow easy navigation through shallow waters and exceptional stability for maximum comfort. You are far less likely to make mistakes with tide height predictions when sailing on a cat. 

Enclosed Cockpit s

Bluewater catamarans virtually always have an enclosed cockpit. Not only does this shield you from the sun in winter, but the elements in winter making cruising far more comfortable.


The enclosed cockpit makes sailing safer, plus of course, when you need to get out on the deck, the stable catamaran is not pitching and rolling.

Our Top Choices For Blue Water Catamarans Under $100,000

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Designed and built by Rajen Naidu, the Rayvin 30 is a 29.5-foot cruising catamaran built for comfort. With a draft of just one meter, there are few places you can’t go on the Rayvin. The hull is constructed of epoxy glass fiber, but carbon-kevlar has been used for added strength below the waterline.

Inside, you’ll find three cabins, plenty of space, and even a bath! These are great value blue water catamarans with excellent performance.

Prout Snowgoose 37

Photo Provided by: Gideon Fielding (Katamarans.com)

Probably one of the most well-known blue water catamarans available, the Snowgoose 37 was designed and built by Prout and Sons in the United Kingdom. With a displacement of 6 tons, this is not a light boat, but the 600 square feet sail area gives a healthy hull speed of up to 10 knots. Many people have completed a circumnavigation in a Snowgoose.

It has a cutter design, but the overhang is substantial, leaving it susceptible to bridge slam, particularly on a close reach.

Over 500 examples were built, with plenty available under the $100,000 mark.

Prout Quasar 50

Sticking with Prout, the Quasar 50 was the largest catamaran designed and built by the company. The company was still making the Quasar until its closure in 2020, so you can find plenty of examples.

Constructed with fiberglass, the cutter design has a displacement of 10 tons and a sail area of almost 1185 square feet, giving a maximum hull speed of around 14 knots.

It has to be said the Quasar is not a pretty boat, but it makes a perfect large cruiser.

Catalac 12M

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Catalac was a British boat building company owned by Tom Lack, hence the Catalac name. Over 600 examples of Catalac’s (9M, 10M, 11M, and 12M) were built. All around, they’re known as solid boats that handle well.

Designed as a sloop, the 12M displaces almost 9.3 tons. With a sail area of just 700 square feet, this cat offers a relatively slow hull speed of 9.5 knots.

An interesting point is the double thickness hulls, designed to withstand the North Sea weather.

Maldives 32

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The Maldives 32 is a more modern design by Joubert-Nivelt. It features a short overhang with a netting deck to avoid bridge slam, initially built by Fountaine Pajot in 1988. The Maldives has a light displacement of 3.3 tons thanks to the fiberglass and foam sandwich construction. Add in a sail area of 592 square feet, and the Maldives can cruise at up to 11 knots.

The Maldives 32 is an excellent basic boat readily available well under our $100,000 price point.

Edel Cat 33

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Thanks to the fiberglass construction, the Edel Cat 33 is another light boat, at just 3.6 tons and with a shallow draft of just 2.6 feet.

The Edel was designed by Yvonne Faulconnier and built by the Edel company in France, with the first bots being produced in 1985.

The 635 square feet of sail is enough for a good turn of speed for such a light boat without over-powering the hull.

A notable feature is the very short bridge hull, avoiding almost any bridge slam problems.

Endeavourcat 30

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Designed by Cortland Steck and built in America by the Endeavour Catamaran Corp, the Endeavourcat 30 is a lightweight 30-foot catamaran constructed using fiberglass with a foam core.

It has to be said; the Endeavourcat is not pretty, but you get a lot of space for your money. Another issue is the enclosed bridge deck, making this suitable for gentle cruising only.

The sloop-rigged catamaran is a good, reasonably priced starter boat for taking the first dip into blue water catamarans.

Island Packet Packet Cat 35

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If you are looking for comfort with a bit of style, then the Island Packet Cat 35 could be it. Designed by Robert K. Johnson and built in the USA by Island Packet, the Cat 35 makes the perfect boat for cruising the Keys.

The displacement of 6.25 tons gives the boat a solid, dependable feel, while the 2.6-foot draft allows you to explore water-restricted areas.

Inside there’re acres of room, but the fully enclosed bridge deck will cause issues in heavy weather.

Gemini 105MC

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The Gemini 105MC is a sloop-rigged boat designed by Tony Smith and built by Performance Cruising in the United States. It was in production for over 27 years, and they delivered over 1000 boats, so there are plenty available to suit most budgets.

An interesting design feature is a lifting centerboard, giving excellent stability when down but a draft of just 1.65 feet when lifted.

A displacement of 4 tons combined with 690 square feet of sail area gives the 105MC outstanding performance characteristics.

lagoon 380

With 760 examples of the Lagoon 380 produced, there are plenty on the market at reasonable prices. Built by Jeanneau, it is one of the most popular bluewater catamarans ever made.

The distinctive vertical windows offer maximum internal space, and it has a spacious interior, but the tradeoff is a displacement of 8 tons, so performance suffers a little. You can cruise comfortably at 7 knots, and with the short bridge deck, you won’t suffer too much bridge slam.

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If you can track down a Dean 365, it’s well worth a look. You can find these solidly built boats for $50,000 upwards. Designed by Peter Dean and built by his company, Dean Catamarans, they have an excellent reputation.

For a 36 foot boat, the 6-ton displacement is not light, but it does benefit from twin engines, and with the sloop rigging, it can sail downwind at up to 11 or 12 knots. With the genoa providing the main sailing power, sailing into the wind is not great.

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Sold as a self-build design, the Tiki 38 is a solid cruising catamaran designed by James Wharram. There are plenty available, but all will be different depending on the builder. With a displacement of around 6 tons, it’s not the lightest, and the cruising speed is about 5 or 6 knots.

With a ketch rig, using two 30-foot masts, the sail area is around 730 square feet, but you can also use a 530 spinnaker. The draft is shallow at 2.5 feet.

The Tiki makes an interesting – perhaps quirky choice.

Crowther Spindrift 40

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If you are more interested in performance than interior space, the Crowther Spindrift 40 could be an excellent choice. Designed by Lock Crowther, the Spindrift features narrow hulls, reducing the wet surface area and increasing your sailing speeds. The downside is a lack of space.

The sloop rigging gives you a total sail area of 791 square feet combined with a light 4-ton displacement, making the Spindrift excellent in light winds.

MacGregor 36

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Three hundred of the Roger Macgregor designed 36-foot boats were built, so there are plenty available. It’s built as a racing catamaran, so space is at a premium. There is only a trampoline between the two hulls, but the weight saving makes the displacement just 1.4 tons, and with the 534 square feet of sail, you can achieve speeds touching 28 knots.

Accommodation is restricted to the two hulls, but there are bunks for four people and a galley in the starboard hull.

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The Flica 36 was designed by Richard Wood is a proven design capable of crossing oceans. A displacement of 5 tons gives a good balance between speed and stability, and the cutter rigging allows for a main and two foresails.

The hulls have been made from ply and fiberglass, which accounts for the slightly heavier weight and strength. The bridge deck offers plenty of space with a small overhang but will suffer from bridge slam in heavier weather.

Mirage Yachts 37

Only a few of the open deck Mirage 37’s were produced, but consider them in your search. Designed by David Feltham and built by Thames Marine, the ketch-rigged boats are sturdy and safe.

At 7.3 tons, it’s heavy for a 36-foot cat, and the small sail area of just 548 square feet makes it slow, with a hull speed of only 7.4 knots. As a coastal cruiser, it certainly makes sense to give you a comfortable base for exploring.

Simpson 35 Wildside

The Simpson 35 Wildside is an excellent cruiser, with three double cabins, two of which are across the bridge deck. Roger Simpson is the designer, and he’s well known for his sturdy, reliable boats.

The Bermuda rigged sloop design features a fully covered bridge deck, so expect bridge slam if you sail in anything more than slight to moderate conditions. With a displacement of 5

tons, and a small sail area, the performance will never be exciting, but it’s okay for coastal cruising.

Gemini 3400

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The Gemini 3400 is the predecessor to the Gemini 105 mentioned earlier. If you can’t find a 105 at your price, then a 3400 is a good alternative. Although weighing the same as the 105, at four tons, the sail area is smaller at just 490 square feet, giving a reduced performance.

As with all Geminis, the 3400 features retractable centerboards for better tracking when on a close reach, without increasing the draft.

The 3400 was designed by Tony Smith and built by Performance Cruising in the US, who still produce catamarans now.

Seawind 850

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Originally built in Australia by Seawind Catamarans and designed by Scott Jutson, the 850 is a 28-foot cat featuring fractional sloop rigging. At a relatively light displacement of 2.4 tons, the 350 square feet of sail gives good performance and comfortable cruising.

The short bridge deck overhang is filled with a trampoline, allowing the 850 to sail in rougher weather without too much bridge slam. The Seawind makes an excellent cruiser despite its 28-foot LOA.

Aventura 23.5

Our last catamaran is the smallest in the review. The Aventura 235 is just 23 feet long, has a light displacement of only 0.77 tons, and a sail area of 312 square feet. Two cabins offer four berths despite its diminutive size, making it a comfortable cruiser for a small family.

There are, of course, compromises, with just a single outboard engine on the centerline, and internal space is limited. But with its lightweight design, easy handling, and shallow draft of 1.8 feet, it is a perfect first step into catamaran ownership.

Blue Water Catamarans Are a Fantastic Budget Option

Remember: When buying a bluewater cruising yacht for less than $100,000, compromise is inevitable. 

The best advice for buying a boat is to be truly honest with yourself by defining your needs and separating them from your desires. 

Need more advice on buying great blue water catamarans? Get a conversation started on our community forum by leaving a question or comment!

If you found this article helpful, please leave a comment below, share it on social media, and subscribe to our email list., for direct questions and comments, shoot me an email at [email protected].

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July 2, 2022 at 2:52 pm

Surprised you don’t list the PDQ 32.

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My Cruiser Life Magazine

The Best Boat for the Great Loop in 2023: Your 6 Boat Options

Embarking on this nautical quest called the Great Loop demands more than wanderlust alone. Selecting the optimal vessel to navigate the Loop’s diverse waterways makes all the difference on this marathon route. Whether you covet the comforts of a spacious trawler, prefer the performance of an agile cruiser or need maximum versatility to “trailer hop” inland rivers, the choice of boat profoundly impacts the journey. In today’s post, I give my recommendations the perfect Great Loop boat.

boating the great loop

Table of Contents

6 best boat types for the great loop, what is the great loop, what is involved with the great loop boating adventure, classic trawlers, fast trawlers and downeasts, tug style trawlers, cruisers and motor yachts, power catamarans, the boat you’ve got, great loop size limits, comfortable cabin aboard and long-term living space, engine choices: gas vs. diesel, single vs. twin, 1. draft and height limitations, 2. fuel range and efficiency, 3. living quarters, 4. navigability and handling, 5. type of boat, 6. accessibility and safety features, 8. personal preferences and experience level, 9. research and planning, boat requirements for the great loop, which is your best boat for the great loop, best boat for the great loop faqs.

  • Unconventional Boats

The Great Loop stands as one of the premier long-term boating adventures in North America, and arguably, across the globe. Spanning over 6,000 miles, this journey offers boaters an experience akin to a cross-country RV road trip, but on water. It presents a unique opportunity to view the countryside through a different lens, as you navigate through a mix of seaways, canals, and rivers at a relaxed pace.

Let’s explore the ideal boats to embark on this remarkable journey.

Let’s get this out of the way – what’s the Great Loop in the first place?

The Great Loop is an adventure for recreational boaters that takes you on a giant circuit of the eastern half of the United States and Canada . It’s the joining of many smaller waterways, open water stretches, rivers, and canals to make an entire journey that’s about 6,000 nautical miles long. 

Where you begin and end your Great Loop journey usually depends on where you buy or keep your vessel.

Here’s an overview using Norfolk, Virginia, as the starting point.

  • Norfolk northbound through Chesapeake Bay, through the C&D Canal, and seaward on Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey.
  • Northbound along the Atlantic coast of New Jersey to New York harbor.
  • North on the Hudson River to upstate New York. From here, you have several choices depending on how one wants to transit the Great Lakes and how much of the Canadian Heritage Canals one would like to cruise.
  • Westbound through the Erie Canal.
  • West through the Great Lakes to Chicago.
  • South from Chicago through the inland rivers to the Gulf Coast.
  • Eastbound along the Gulf Coast to Florida, then southbound on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
  • Either through the Okeechobee Waterway in south Florida or around the tip of the state, through the Florida Keys.
  • North from south Florida on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) back to Norfolk.

There are many choices to make the Great Loop your own adventure.

Loopers usually put between 5,000 and 7,000 miles under their keels while making the trip. However, it’s not a race, and there are plenty of opportunities to make side trips and adventures off the main route.

For example, the Downeast Loop is an extension that adds Maine, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edwards Island. The St. Lawrence Seaway will then take you west to the Great Lakes by way of Montreal. Another good example is extending your trip on the south end by adding an adventure in the Islands of The Bahamas.

For the most part, the Great Loop is a motorboat adventure . There are many open water spaces where you might sail, but it’s often constrained to a narrow navigable channel, making sailing much less appealing. In other words, even sailboats wind up motoring for most of the trip. 

Furthermore, the trip transits canals and waterways with many bridge spans, both fixed and opening. The fewer bridges you have to have open for you, the easier your trip. Many fixed bridges mean you’ll have to take the mast off for long sections of the trip.

The trip spans many rural areas, interspersed with small towns and a handful of big cities. Many nights you’ll be anchored or docked in the middle of nowhere. Other times, you’ll have a new city to explore and check out. 

Your boat should suit both styles. You will want the best family boat that is comfortable to live on, with sleeping, bathroom, and cooking facilities that you and your crew find comfortable. Yes, you can do the Loop in an open go-fast boat–but you will miss what many consider the best parts of the Loop. 

Looper Boats

Six Best Great Loop Boat Options By Type of Boat

There are too many makes and models of boats in the world for anyone to make a specific recommendation here. Instead, here is a list of six types of boats you’ll find doing the Loop and what makes them well suited for this particular adventure. 

Remember, this is anything but an all-inclusive list. There are hundreds of boat makes out there, hundreds more that aren’t built anymore but can be bought used, and even more when you include custom and one-off designs. These lists are provided simply as a starting point for your research!

The classic trawler is basically the power version of a sailboat–slow-moving, heavy, and economical to operate. They have been around forever; tons were built in the 1970s and 1980s, many in Taiwan. That means that the design is time-tested–they are good-looking and seaworthy. Plus, you can readily find them on the used market for reasonable prices. Most have a maximum speed of about 10 knots.

The popular cruising blog Scho and Jo have set out and completed the Loop on their Albin trawler. Check out their Great Loop expenses for information on the adventure and how it’s done. For more about their boat, check out their boat tour.

Examples of Classic Trawlers:

  • Monk 36 (no longer built)
  • Grand Banks
  • Camino Troll (no longer built)
  • Nordhavn 40

The fast trawler is a classic one with a modern hull. Thanks to their improved hull design, they’re capable of faster speeds but use a lot of gas going fast. The best thing about them is probably the simple fact that they can do both comfortably–go slowly and economically or cruise faster (about 15 knots) while still giving a nice ride.

Examples of Fast Trawlers and Downeast Boats:

  • Beneteau Swift Trawlers

Best Boats For The Great Loop

What was once a unique niche in the boating world has caught on, and quite a few companies are now making tugboat-looking trawlers. They’re sportier than the traditional trawler and have an aesthetic that looks right at home on the rivers of the Great Loop.

Examples of Tugs Include:

  • Kadey Krogen
  • Lord Nelson Victory Tug (no longer made)

Tug boats for the Great Loop

A cruiser is built on a planing hull to go faster. That means more miles per day, fewer nights at anchor, and more fuel consumption while doing it. 

There are many sizes and styles that are appropriate for the Loop, so the key is to find the layout that is most comfortable for you. The two most popular styles include express cruisers and aft-cabin cruisers. 

Examples of cruisers and motor yachts include:

  • Sea Ray (many of the best models for the Loop are no longer made)
  • Cruiser Yachts
  • Bayliner Motoryachts (no longer built)
  • Hatteras Cruisers (no longer built)

Power catamarans are popular for the same reason that sail cats are. Thanks to their increased interior volume, two hulls make for a more comfortable living space. Your beam should be less than 23 feet, as the Trent Severn Waterway in Canada limits this. Still, that leaves several interesting power cats that would make fantastic Loop boats. 

Examples of power cats that would be good when boating the Great Loop:

  • PDQ 34 Power Catamaran (no longer built)
  • Endeavour 440 TrawlerCat

Finally, it has to be mentioned that the best boat is always the boat you’ve got. Lin and Larry Pardey once famously said, “Go small, and go now.” If the Loop is on your bucket list, it’s better to find a boat you can get your hands on that will suit you well enough to travel and enjoy the ride. Don’t spend years saving up for a “maybe adventure.”

Examples of unconventional Looper boats:

  • Jet skis that camp along the way
  • Open runabouts, sport boats, and fishing boats
  • Sailboats–just take the mast off and motor like a trawler!
  • Trailerable boats that do it in sections–a trailerable boat lets you do a section and then tow the boat to the next section to cruise at your leisure

the great loop boating

What Features Make Good Looper Boats?

So, how do you ever choose the right boat for the Loop? Here are some thoughts on what features make the best Looper boats. 

The limits for your perfect Looper boat will be based on its physical dimensions. According to the Loop Cruiser’s Association, the average looper boat is 39.5 feet long, with more than half between 35 and 45 feet. But this doesn’t tell the whole story, as you must consider each vessel’s dimension.

Air Draft (Bridge Clearance or Height Above Water)

The most limiting fixture on the Loop is a fixed railroad bridge in Chicago that will block any vessel taller than 19 feet, 6 inches. 

But, if you want to do the entire Erie Canal, two bridges offer only 15 feet, 6 inches. Another bridge in downtown Chicago is 17 feet. So, the Loop has lower limits, but most can be gone around by bigger boats. 

Four feet or less of draft is ideal and will mean the fewest problems–although caution is still warranted in many areas. Draft is how deep the hull sits in the water and dictates the minimum water depth for a boat . Any deeper than that, and you will need to be extra cautious. Boats with six-foot drafts have reportedly done it, but few recommend it.

The width of your boat is usually limited to about 16 feet due only to marina slips. 

Catamarans with 23 feet or less can make the trip but require T-heads at most marinas. As a result, finding slips on this trip will be difficult, and finding a place to haul out for boat maintenance is even harder. In addition, there are sections where you’ll need to take a slip occasionally, so anchoring isn’t always an option. 

There’s no limit to length. Some yachts up to 70 feet have made the journey, but it’s a tight fit and most boats that long won’t make it under the bridges. Most Looper boats are under 50 feet, after all, for many reasons.

Think of the Great Loop as an RV adventure where you’re taking your home with you. To that end, realize you’ll be spending a lot of time living aboard your boat. Therefore, the boat should be comfortable, with indoor and outdoor living space and all the amenities you’d want or need. 

Here’s a list of things most people want their boat equipped with when they set off on the Great Loop. Many of these are similar to the considerations people make when living on a sailboat , but some are quite different.

  • A comfortable bed, usually an “island queen” (not a v-berth)
  • A large galley (kitchen) with plenty of cooking space and the appliances they’re used to (fridge, microwave, coffee maker, stove, oven, etc.)
  • A comfortable living room (salon) that has a good view, lots of light, and plenty of ventilation
  • An outdoor patio (cockpit) area for open-air dining, socializing, and relaxing
  • A descent-sized bathroom area with a separate shower
  • Air conditioning and heating (which may require a generator if you plan to anchor overnight extensively)
  • Inside and outside helm positions (upper deck on a trawler)

Tankage refers to your boat’s storage space for liquids–water, fuel, and sewage. The larger the tanks are, the longer you can stay away from marinas for refills or pump-outs. 

The Loop has several long stretches through the inland river system that go hundreds of miles between facilities and services. Therefore, your boat should have a fuel range of at least 450 nautical miles and hold enough water for at least a week. 

Some river stretches have fewer gasoline sellers, meaning gas-powered boats need a greater range than diesel boats. They’ll need about 450 miles of range, whereas diesel boats can get by with less.

Beyond that, gas and diesel engines will both work fine on the Loop. Generally, the most popular trawlers and boats of this size come with diesels, which are praised for their longevity and reliable, simple operation. In addition, diesel is safer on a boat because it is less explosive, which could lower your insurance premiums.

Likewise, having a single or twin screw boat is a matter of preference. Single-engine boats can make the journey without problems, but two engines give you redundancy should something go wrong with one and better maneuverability in tight spaces. But, of course, operating and maintenance costs are higher with two engines.

The Best Boat For The Great Loop In 2023: Your 6 Boat Options

How to Find the Best Boat for You for Sailing the Great Loop

The ideal boat will vary based on personal preferences, budget, and specific requirements for the journey. Here are key considerations to help you find the best boat for your Great Loop adventure:

  • Draft: The Great Loop has areas with shallow waters, especially in places like the western rivers and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway. A boat with a shallow draft (ideally less than 5 feet) will have more flexibility and fewer navigation concerns.
  • Air Draft: Bridges with fixed heights are a consideration along the Great Loop. To avoid detours, your boat’s air draft (the height from the waterline to the highest fixed point on the boat) should be less than 19 feet, though lower is often better to accommodate all routes.
  • Opt for a fuel-efficient boat that has a range of at least 300 miles to comfortably reach fueling stations along the Loop without anxiety, considering both the boat’s fuel capacity and its consumption rate.
  • Comfort is key for the long journey. Look for boats that offer adequate living space, a functional galley, comfortable sleeping quarters, and sufficient storage. The size and amenities should match your tolerance for space constraints and your lifestyle needs.
  • Choose a boat that handles well in various water conditions. Both inland rivers and lakes, as well as coastal sections of the Loop, can present challenges like currents, tides, and weather changes.
  • Trawlers, Sailboats (with a retractable mast for bridges), and Motor Yachts are popular choices because they balance living space, fuel efficiency, and navigability.
  • Sailboats can offer the advantage of wind power but consider the need to lower the mast for certain sections of the Loop.
  • Catamarans are another option, offering stability, shallow draft, and spacious living areas, but be mindful of their beam (width) and how it may limit access to certain marinas or slips.
  • Look for boats with easy access to the bow and stern, strong handholds, and a cockpit or helm that offers good visibility and protection from the elements.
  • Safety features should include reliable navigation and communication systems, life-saving equipment, and possibly a dinghy for exploring shallow or narrow areas.
  • Consider both the purchase price and the ongoing costs, including maintenance, fuel, marina fees, and potential upgrades. Buying a used boat can be a cost-effective option, but ensure a thorough inspection to assess its condition and suitability for the Loop.
  • Your comfort with the boat’s operation, maintenance requirements, and overall feel is crucial. Choose a boat that fits your level of boating experience or one that you’re willing and able to learn to handle confidently.
  • Join forums and groups, such as America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association (AGLCA), to gain insights from experienced Loopers.
  • Consider renting or chartering different types of boats for short trips to gain firsthand experience before making a decision.
  • Size/Draft: Boats should generally be less than 60 feet with a draft of 6 feet or under to navigate the various locks, rivers, and waterways along the route.
  • Propulsion: Twin engines or a single engine with a bow or stern thruster provides the best maneuverability and redundancy for covering long distances.
  • Fuel Capacity: A range of 350-400 miles between refueling is recommended to have a buffer given the distances between marinas in some regions.
  • Accommodations: Comfortable sleeping quarters, a functional galley, and enclosed head are needed for multi-day and multi-week trips.
  • Hull Type: Displacement hull trawlers, cruisers, and motor yachts are well-suited for the journey. Planing hulls can complete it but will take a fuel efficiency hit at slower canal speeds.
  • Navigation: GPS chartplotters, radar, depth finders, and other instruments and marine electronics for navigating varying conditions.
  • Operation: Vessel and systems should be completely reliable and redundant where possible given the several thousand mile journey.
  • Insurance/Documentation: Vessel documentation and insurance is required for coastal, Great Lakes portions.
Boat TypeBenefits
Classic Trawlers– Time-tested, seaworthy designs
– Spacious living spaces
– Fuel-efficient at lower speeds
Fast Trawlers & Downeasts– Capable of higher cruise speeds
– Modern hull design for good ride quality 
– Blend classic trawler aesthetics with better performance
Tug-Style Trawlers– Unique, tugboat aesthetic 
– Often more nimble and sportier 
– Well-suited for river sections
Cruisers & Motor Yachts– Planing hulls allow higher speeds
– Express and aft-cabin layouts optimize living space 
– Travel greater daily distances
Power Catamarans– Exceptional living space for size
– Twin hulls provide stability underway 
– Shallow draft helps navigate rivers
Unconventional Boats– Use whatever boat you currently own 
– Open up the Loop to more budget-conscious boaters 
– “Go small and go now”

Hopefully, this article has provided some ideas and examples of what your best Great Loop boat might be. Beyond a few hard limitations, it’s a matter of taste and style. There’s no right or wrong answer–you’ll often see many unexpected vessels doing the Loop. 

If you’re considering the Loop, check out the America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association for more details.

What size boat is best for the Great Loop?

There’s no set size limit for length, but all boats looking to complete the Loop must pass under a low fixed bridge in the Chicago area. If your boat is more than 19 feet, 6 inches above the water, thou shall not pass.

What is the largest boat to complete the Great Loop?

Some people have reported that boats as long as 70 feet have completed the Loop. But taking a vessel of this size is not recommended, as you must navigate numerous tight locks and low bridges along the route. Most Loopers choose boats less than 50 feet long.

What is the smallest recommended boat for the Great Loop?

The smallest boat is the one that you’re comfortable on. Jet skis have completed the Loop, but they’re limited to staying in hotels or camping. It’s best to have a boat that will be comfortable to live on for the better part of a year. Most people want a boat at least 35 feet long to do that.

What is the average time to complete the Great Loop?

Most cruisers take about a year to do the Loop. Several factors affect this plan, and it’s always an individual choice. Generally, you’ll be northbound in the spring to be westbound through the Great Lakes in the summer. Then you “fall down” the rivers in the autumn so that you can over-winter in Florida. But many people take breaks, leave their boats in storage, and complete the Loop in sections. Furthermore, many folks want to take their time and enjoy the scenery. It’s not a race, after all.

best catamarans for cruising

Matt has been boating around Florida for over 25 years in everything from small powerboats to large cruising catamarans. He currently lives aboard a 38-foot Cabo Rico sailboat with his wife Lucy and adventure dog Chelsea. Together, they cruise between winters in The Bahamas and summers in the Chesapeake Bay.

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best catamarans for cruising

best catamarans for cruising

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Between a Sailboat or Catamaran for Your Sailing Adventures

C hoosing between a sailboat and a catamaran for your sailing adventures is a significant decision that depends on various factors, including your sailing preferences, experience level, budget, and intended use. Here's an ultimate guide to help you make an informed decision:

1. Sailing Experience:

  • Sailboats: Typically require more skill and experience to handle, especially in adverse weather conditions. Ideal for sailors who enjoy the traditional feel of sailing and are willing to invest time in learning and mastering the art.
  • Catamarans: Easier to handle, making them suitable for beginners. The dual-hull design provides stability, reducing the learning curve for those new to sailing.

2. Space and Comfort:

  • Sailboats: Generally have a narrower beam and less living space. However, some sailboats may offer comfortable cabins and amenities.
  • Catamarans: Wider beam creates more living space. Catamarans often have multiple cabins, spacious saloons, and expansive deck areas, providing a more comfortable living experience.

3. Stability:

  • Sailboats: Monohulls can heel (lean) while sailing, which some sailors enjoy for the thrill but can be discomforting for others.
  • Catamarans: Greater stability due to the dual hulls, providing a more level sailing experience. Reduced heeling makes catamarans suitable for those prone to seasickness.

4. Performance:

  • Sailboats: Known for their upwind performance and ability to sail close to the wind. Some sailors appreciate the challenge of optimizing sail trim for efficiency.
  • Catamarans: Faster on a reach and downwind due to their wide beam. However, they may not point as high into the wind as monohulls.
  • Sailboats: Typically have a deeper draft, limiting access to shallow anchorages and requiring deeper marina berths.
  • Catamarans: Shallow draft allows access to shallower waters and secluded anchorages, providing more flexibility in cruising destinations.
  • Sailboats: Generally more affordable upfront, with a wide range of options available to fit different budgets.
  • Catamarans: Often more expensive upfront due to their size and design. However, maintenance costs may be comparable or even lower in some cases.

7. Mooring and Docking:

  • Sailboats: Easier to find slips and moorings in marinas designed for monohulls.
  • Catamarans: Require wider slips and may have limited availability in certain marinas, especially in crowded anchorages.

8. Intended Use:

  • Sailboats: Ideal for traditional sailors who enjoy the art of sailing, racing enthusiasts, or those on a tighter budget.
  • Catamarans: Suited for those prioritizing comfort, stability, and spacious living areas, especially for long-term cruising and chartering.

9. Resale Value:

  • Sailboats: Generally have a more established resale market, with a wider range of buyers.
  • Catamarans: Growing in popularity, and well-maintained catamarans often retain their value.

10. Personal Preference:

  • Consider your personal preferences, the type of sailing you plan to do, and the kind of lifestyle you want aboard your vessel.

In conclusion, both sailboats and catamarans have their advantages and disadvantages. Your decision should be based on your individual preferences, experience level, budget, and intended use. If possible, charter both types of vessels to experience firsthand how they handle and to help make a more informed decision based on your own preferences and needs.

The post The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Between a Sailboat or Catamaran for Your Sailing Adventures appeared first on Things That Make People Go Aww .

Choosing between a sailboat and a catamaran for your sailing adventures is a significant decision that depends on various factors, including your sailing preferences, experience level, budget, and intended use. Here's an ultimate guide to help you make an informed decision: 1. Sailing Experience: 2. Space and Comfort: 3. Stability: 4. Performance: 5. Draft: 6....

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2024 Boat of the Year: Best Cruising Catamaran Under 50 Feet

  • By Herb McCormick
  • December 14, 2023

Boat of the Year judges testing the Vision 444

While strolling the docks of the Annapolis Sailboat Show each fall for, let’s say, at least the past decade, one thing has become abundantly clear: Between the rows of charter catamarans lining the docks of the so-called Vacation Basin and the ubiquitous lineup of cats (and trimarans) on display on the Spa Creek Marina piers, the twin-hull phenomenon continues to resonate, and it easily remains the fastest-growing segment of the sailboat universe. That anecdotal observation was backed up by hard numbers in the 2024 Boat of the Year fleet, with more than half the contestants being multihulls. 

Fittingly, then, the most competitive category in this year’s contest was this class of four cruising cats. Amazingly, in features and layouts, each nominee was decidedly different from the others, a true benefit to potential owners, who now more than ever have real choices to ponder. 

Winner: Vision Yachts 444

It’s hard to say if it’s a definite advantage, but in recent Boat of the Year contests, when inspecting boats with their owners aboard—folks who have put some hard miles under their keels, and who can speak with authority on the positives and negatives of their vessel—the track record shows that such nominees do very well. Which is the case with the Vision 444, whose owner took delivery of the boat at its building site in Knysna, South Africa, cruised to Mozambique, and then sailed it up the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. 

Judge Mark Pillsbury picks it up from there: “Many of the big cruising cats that we step aboard are a compromise by design because some of the fleet will go to private owners and the rest into charter. The Vision 444 was different, and after a 14,000-mile shakedown cruise, it clearly reflected the thinking of its owner, who was aboard every step of the way. This is a pure cruising cat, and a fine one. Gear was of good quality and well-sorted. Living accommodations were practical and proven. And build quality was readily apparent because the boat looked terrific after all those hard miles. I think it’s one of the only cats I can recall having a full and proper nav station. And the walk-in workshop forward in the starboard bow? Brilliant.”

Runner-up: Excess Catamarans 14

Excess Catamarans 14

Text> Pillsbury has sailed the complete range of Excess cats, a relatively new brand from Groupe Beneteau, and has a unique viewpoint on how the range has evolved: “Each of the first three Excess catamarans we looked at brought us something new to talk about, and the latest, the 46-foot Excess 14, didn’t disappoint. The builder says that they want to try new things as they expand the lineup, and with the 14, they let the design team of VPLP push off in a couple of new directions when it comes to hull shape, and the width and depth of the keels to improve sailing performance. Unfortunately, we had pretty light wind for our sea trial in Annapolis, but in under 5 knots of breeze, we were still able to see speeds in the 3-plus-knot range. Visibility from the helms was good—our entire judging team are fans of the steering stations, located well aft and outboard— and the boat was easy to move around on. The 14 fits very well in what the builder is aiming to accomplish.”

Runner-up: HH Catamarans HH44


Text> Unfortunately, due to a shipping snafu, this latest offering from HH Catamarans arrived too late to Annapolis to be displayed at the boat show. But it did make it in time for the sea-trial portion of the Boat of the Year contest. The judges were very pleased that it did, for on a windy test sail, the 44 had the opportunity to strut its stuff, so much so that the panel awarded it with the Judge’s Special Recognition prize .

Runner-up: Seawind Catamarans 1170

BOTY judges on the Seawind Catamarans 1170

The Seawind collection of cats has seen more than its fair share of success in previous Boat of the Year contests. As judge Tim Murphy summarizes, the builder’s new 38-footer is carrying on with that positive tradition: “Our test boat, Hull No. 2, was built at the company’s primary facility in Vietnam, but going forward with the 1170, the line will be produced in a new plant in Turkey to service the European market. The infused hull is vinylester throughout with a PVC core; it’s a good, cost-effective choice that avoids osmosis. Foam is perforated and ‘double-cut’ with kerfs around curved surfaces. It has a Mastervolt lithium-ion battery system, no genset, but with 990 watts of solar power (an optional 1,320 watts is available). I like the cabin top/boom relationship: It doesn’t invite lounging guests to lounge in the boom’s path, but does give the operator easy access to the entire foot of the mainsail. The galley is down—a good layout on a smaller cat. The sail plan is simple but effective. This is a very solid couple’s boat.”

  • More: 2024 Boat of the Year , Print January 2024 , Sailboats , Vision Yachts
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Baltic Sea sailing: the best boats under 40ft for cruising adventure

Duncan Kent

  • Duncan Kent
  • July 16, 2024

Duncan Kent picks the best second-hand sub-40ft sail and power boats for crossing the North Sea and exploring a Baltic summer

A yacht with a white hull and blue and white sails

The LM27 is double ended with a long, shallow keel, making it quick under sail. Credit: David Harding Credit: David Harding

Sailing to the Baltic is quite demanding as you’ll be crossing the often-turbulent North Sea and some of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe.

So you’ll need a sound, seaworthy craft fit for the purpose and suitably equipped for long, open sea passages.

When you arrive, you’ll find the sailing season is fairly short within the Baltic Sea itself, so if you plan to keep sailing to the very limits of the season you’ll need to think about heating and cosy, well-insulated interiors.

A deck saloon yacht is often a good solution. That way you don’t have to leave the warmth of the inside helm other than to adjust your sails.

In certain areas, however, it’s not advisable to stay afloat too close to winter as the sea can often freeze up and severely damage your hull .

A boat with a white hull and white sails

Although the sailing season is short in the Baltic, there is no shortage of places to explore. Credit: Jeremy Evans/YM

Some boats have even been sunk by the sheer weight of snow and ice on the decks, which is why most boats are hauled out and kept in heated sheds where possible.

Although there are effectively no tides in the Baltic, there are certainly plenty of rocks. Solidly constructed boats are a must in these waters.

Being quite shallow and rocky close to the edges, bow-to-mooring is commonplace to protect your rudder – most local boats have open pulpits and a sturdy bow plank.

Another popular method of mooring in the Baltic is the ‘box’ berth , whereby you tie the bows ashore and the stern to two posts, one on each of your aft quarters.

If this is the case you need to keep your quarter rails free from too much clobber that can be accidentally dislodged as you berth.

Boats for Baltic Sea sailing: 20-25ft LOA

Although there are only a few sub-25ft boats I’d consider seaworthy enough to sail from the UK to the Baltic, if you select a decent weather window, pencil in plenty of fallback ports along the way, and take the inland waterway routes where you can, you should be fine in almost any well-found yacht.

As with most small boats, how safe she is more often depends on the skipper and crew than the boat itself.

Sailing yachts

Beneteau’s Evasion 22 is a tough little motorsailer built well enough to withstand a North Sea crossing in fine weather, especially the fin keel model.

What she lacks in length she gains in stability, her 40% ballast ratio keeping her nicely stiff in a blow and her flared bows keeping the spray off the decks.

Below, she is nicely bright thanks to myriad windows. She has a second helm station and a comfortable four-person dinette with views outside when seated.

Headroom is a reasonable 5ft 8in, but six-footers can stand upright under the main hatch.

a small boat which would be suitable for Baltic Sea sailing

The Evasion 22 had twin-steering positions. An inboard diesel means she performs well in a foul tide. Credit: Beneteau

She has berths for four with the convertible dinette, but is ideal for two sleeping in the roomy forecabin. The galley is OK for a 22-footer.

Workspace is limited, but fortunately, the dining table is close to hand. The heads are a bit of a squeeze but at least it’s private, unlike on most small boats.

Most importantly, she came with an inboard diesel engine , usually a 2-cylinder Yanmar, that is more than capable of pushing against a foul tide if needed.

Those wanting a little more space might prefer the slightly larger Evasion 25, which is equally well-designed and constructed.

Definitely up to a North Sea crossing, the ketch-rigged Fisher 25MS is loosely based on an offshore fishing boat and, for a small boat, is surprisingly well-found.

Similar to her larger sisters, she has a tall wheelhouse with big windows all around.

Her long keel and deep rudder offer good directional stability, even in a big following sea, plus the deep-vee forefoot, pronounced sheer, flared bows and deep bulwarks combine to keep the waves and spray off the decks.

Accommodation is practical and sensibly laid out, making living aboard under sail comfortable for a cruising couple.

A motorsailer with red sails Baltic Sea sailing

Even in big following seas, the Fisher 25MS has good directional stability due to the motor-sailer’s long keel and deep rudder. Credit: David Harding

The vee-berth forward takes up all of the forecabin with the infill in place and a narrow quarter berth is also available, accessed by hinging the chart table up.

She has a narrow, private heads compartment and a decent size galley, with an L-shaped settee around the small dining table opposite, capable of seating three to four at a push.

The 25 boasts a powerful 27hp, 3-cylinder, shaft-driven diesel engine to get you safely into port should the weather deteriorate and she motorsails comfortably at an economical 1,200rpm.

One of many ‘Nelsonesque’ style motorboats, the Jersey-built semi-displacement Seaward 23 soon earned an enviable reputation for build strength, comfortable accommodation, and the ability to power through big seas without wavering from her course.

Available with single or twin diesels, the latter usually two 75hp Yanmar 4JH4-TEs, she has sufficient power to cruise at gentle revs or battle against an oncoming sea if the plan goes awry.

A motor boat moored by a pontoon

The cockpit of the Seaward 23 can be fully enclosed with a canvas enclosure

Inside the open wheelhouse is businesslike, with a very practical helming station and nav seat with a chart table opposite.

In addition to the fixed part of the wheelhouse, a full canvas enclosure creates a good size area for relaxing in any weather or it can be opened up to provide a very roomy cockpit capable of seating up to six on padded benches around a central removable table.

In the cabin forward, twin settees/forepeak berths provide inside seating with padded backrests around the same table or convert to a double berth with the infill in place and the table removed.

The heads, surprisingly large, has its own private compartment complete with a sink. There’s a well-equipped galley opposite.

Boats for Baltic Sea sailing: 26-30ft LOA

The Danish-built LM27 is a round-sterned, heavy displacement, long-keeled motorsailer not unlike an early Colin Archer lifeboat design.

First launched in 1975, she proved very popular due to her enviable seakeeping abilities.

The model went through various upgrades and name changes throughout its long life, finally morphing into the Scanyacht 290 (thanks to the addition of a 2ft-long bowsprit) when production moved to the UK.

Inside the wheelhouse, it’s cosy and a bit busy as it houses the helm station and galley.

The LM27 was first launched in 1975. Credit: David Harding

Sat at the wheel you have an excellent all-round view through the big windows and it’s not far from the kettle!

Stepping down into the saloon you find the heads immediately to port, while to starboard is a large hanging locker.

The two long and straight saloon settees allow at least six to sit for dinner around the long table and also make excellent sea berths with lee cloths.

There’s also a roomy vee-berth in the forecabin, along with useful stowage.

The LM27 has a simple masthead rig with slab reefed mainsail and a large furling genoa. For those wanting fresh air, she can be tiller-steered, although visibility over the wheelhouse is not good.

She has a surprisingly good sailing performance for such a weighty, bluff-bowed boat, provided you reef before she heels too much.

Being so seaworthy makes her easily capable of averaging 5-6 knots on a long, challenging offshore passage under sail.

The 27 was typically equipped with a shaft-drive, 27hp inboard Bukh DV36 diesel engine, although the smaller 2-cylinder 20hp DV20 was standard.

Both give her a comfortable 6.5 knots in flat water, the larger offering some extra oomph for battling big seas.

Another small pilothouse yacht, the UK Hunter Pilot 27, was equally well conceived.

A yacht sailing at sea

All of the halyards and sheets on the Hunter Pilot 27 come down the port side of the coachroof to a single winch. Credit: Graham Snook/YM

A development of David Thomas’s Hunter Channel 27, she was said to be available with a fin keel, although I’m pretty sure they were all produced with twins which, being asymmetric and toed-in, performed not unlike a fin but with the bonus of a shallower draught and the ability to dry out if required.

She doesn’t have a wheelhouse as such, just an optional raised inside steering position to augment the cockpit tiller helm when the weather is grim.

The headroom is over 1.83m/6ft in the spacious and bright saloon, where there’s a good linear galley to starboard and a comfy, raised U-shaped dinette opposite.

In the forecabin are a large vee-berth and hanging locker.

There’s also a decent double cabin in the starboard aft quarter plus a surprisingly roomy heads compartment with a shower to port.

Her spacious cockpit is made even more roomy by hinging up the tiller when at anchor, and getting about on deck is made considerably easier by the raised coachroof handrails and wide side decks.

Her fractional rig with a conservative sail plan and self-tacking jib makes her a doddle to tack in a hurry without leaving the comfort of the inside helm.

She sails upwind remarkably well and is really easy to handle. Her transom-hung rudder is large and effective, though a little heavy if over-pressed.

Downwind she really kicks up her heels with the big gennaker hoisted.

In all, she’s a remarkably seaworthy yacht for her length.

The Norwegian-built, semi-displacement Saga 29LS (aka: the Sea Saga in the UK) has a fully enclosed, cosy wheelhouse with large sliding doors aft that can be left open to include the cockpit into the lounging area.

However, the HT (Hard Top) model was completely open at the back (although fully covered by a canvas canopy), which really made the cockpit feel like an extension of the wheelhouse saloon.

Either way, the large cockpit makes an excellent entertaining area.

A motor boat at sea

The Saga 29 began as the LS Coupé before being replaced by the Saga 29 HT with a cockpit canopy instead of sliding doors. Credit:Asbjorn M. Olsen/Alamy

Well-built with plenty of attractive teak joinery, the deck saloon has a comfy helm station with easy access to all the controls and instruments from the seat, plus an excellent 360° view through the large windows.

Beside it, is a twin navigator bench with a reversible backrest that can form additional seating around the four-seater dinette.

The linear galley, directly opposite the table, is well equipped with plenty of worktop and stowage.

Below decks are two sleeping cabins, a private forecabin complete with a good-sized vee-berth, and a midships double underneath the saloon with seating and clothes lockers.

A spacious heads compartment has a shower and full-standing headroom.

They were equipped with a single, shaft-drive 170hp Yanmar diesel engine, which delivered around 15 knots cruising speed, or the larger 230hp option, which gave her a few more knots and a top speed of closer to 20 knots.

From the cockpit, there is direct access to a large, teak-covered bathing platform and deck shower.

A bow platform and open pulpit greatly facilitate boarding from the bow.

Boats for Baltic Sea sailing: 31-35ft LOA

Requiring only a few feet of water to float, the Southerly 100 is a truly versatile yacht that can be motored through the canals, sailed up shallow creeks, parked on a beach or driven hard through heavy seas.

Stoutly built, the hulls are solid laminate below the waterline, doubly reinforced around the keel, with balsa/GRP sandwich topsides and decks.

The hull is moulded with a recess at the bottom, into which is bolted a massive, 1.25t cast-iron ballast plate that provides two-thirds of the total ballast and offers protection when taking the ground.

Like all Southerlys, she has a raised deck saloon offering good protection from the elements under way, and an excellent view of the anchorage or mooring once you have arrived at your destination.

The raised coachroof opens up the interior, giving it the feel of a much larger yacht, and the numerous large windows keep it bright and airy.

A yacht sailing close to the coast

The Southerly 100 can float in just a few feet of water, making her ideal for exploring the shallower waters of the Baltic. Credit David Harding

The raised deckhouse has over 1.83m/6ft headroom and features an inside helm station with a chart table, from which the helm can see right around the boat, including the sails, through the well-raked forward windows.

Opposite is a really good size, L-shaped galley, while aft, at the same level, is a roomy heads and a narrow quarter berth.

Her cosy saloon offers seating for six around a large table, which slides up the mast support when not in use.

The U-shaped port settee also creates a double berth utilising the table as the infill while the forecabin has twin, overlapping bunks, a large hatch and plentiful stowage.

In the cockpit, most of the essential control lines are within easy reach.

The small wheel allows the helmsman to trim the genoa easily, although the main sheet is on the coachroof. She sports a masthead rig with a powerful 140% genoa.

Upwind she is quick to get in the groove, her deep centreplate and ample ballast keeping her reassuringly upright and firmly on course.

Though not a particularly sparkling performer, the Southerly 100 is a sound and steady cruising yacht and a comfortable passage maker.

Said to resemble a traditional, double-ended Nordic fishing boat, the Finnish-built Nauticat 33 is the archetypal motorsailer designed for battling across the Baltic in all weathers.

Pre-1977 boats had a wooden wheelhouse with inside steering and a long, shallow keel.

Later models gained a raised afterdeck with a secondary steering position. In 1979 an all-GRP version was introduced, with a deeper fin keel and skeg .

She is surprisingly roomy inside thanks to her having a constant beam throughout her length.

This enabled two good-sized cabins and heads to be included. Frequently used as liveaboard boats, they are endowed with quality woodwork , giving them a warm and cosy feel.

Rarely were two boats the same, as she was fitted out by hand, often to the owner’s preferences.

A yacht sailing along the coast

The elevated poop deck on the Nautical 33 gives good all-round view, except under the genoa. Credit: Graham Snook/YM

You enter through one of the two narrow sliding wheelhouse doors, over the sill and down a step.

Using the leeward side door when heavily heeled is not recommended. Inside you are cocooned from the elements but remain in touch with your surroundings through the large windows.

Although her bulwarks rise noticeably, your view forward is unrestricted and there are wipers on all three windscreen panes.

She has a central wheel and a huge chart table with chart stowage.

Instruments are above, mounted on a deckhead console, and the sails can be viewed via a sliding hatch. In addition, there’s a small settee and a coffee table.

Later models had a U-shaped dinette in the saloon, which converted into a double berth.

There are deep bookshelves and cavernous lockers above and under the settees. The water tanks are under the cabin sole.

Opposite is a large, well-appointed linear galley. The Nauticat 33 has reassuringly high bulwarks and teak handrails, but narrow side decks.

Moving aft onto the raised afterdeck, you’ll find a second helm station and the sheet winches

. The aft deck is a long way up and a tad precarious, especially on early models without seating.

Beneath the wheelhouse was a powerful, 90hp shaft-drive Ford Lehman diesel turning a fixed three-blade prop .

Ketch-rigged, her mainmast and mizzen are both deck-stepped and firmly stayed. Under sail, she is a little ponderous but rarely knocked off her course.

Not dissimilar in layout to the Saga, the Swedish Nimbus 345 has all the warm woodiness common to Scandinavian-built motor cruisers but with enough space and accommodation for six people.

The wrap-around windscreen offers an excellent view of the way ahead; the helm station is practical yet truly comfortable and all the important controls and instrument displays are within easy reach.

The saloon and galley are separated from the large cockpit by sliding glass doors.

This enables the helmsman to see behind, especially when docking, as well as offering good access to the outside.

She has a large U-shaped dinette and a well-appointed galley.

Ventilation and natural light inside the wheelhouse are plentiful thanks to two large overhead hatches and two oval window hatches on the sides.

Stepping below past the helm, you find the luxurious heads compartments immediately to starboard and the entrance to the midships double cabin opposite, with a seat and lockers.

The master cabin forward has a large island berth and numerous lockers and drawers.

The 345 was fitted with twin, shaft-drive 230hp Yanmar 4LH-STE diesel engines, capable of 20 knots at full throttle and an economical cruising speed of around 16 knots.

Boats for Baltic Sea sailing: 36-40ft LOA

The centre cockpit Rasmus was Hallberg-Rassy ’s first proper cruising yacht.

Designed by the legendary Olle Enderlein, she is a traditional heavy displacement, long-keeler, most notable for its windscreen (now a Hallberg-Rassy trademark), separate aft cabin and substantial 75hp diesel engine.

Built to Lloyd’s classification, scantlings and workmanship were to the highest standard. The hull is solid GRP with longitudinal stringers and an encapsulated cast-iron keel.

A total of 760 were produced between 1967 and 1978. As expected, the interior is warm and woody, but large windows dispel any gloom.

The accommodation comprises three twin cabins and one spacious head. Her saloon features a large, convertible dinette above which are lockers and deep shelves; further stowage is behind the seatbacks.

A boat and crew Baltic Sea sailing

The Rasmus was the first Hallberg-Rassy to sport a windscreen, – now a trademark of the brand. Credit: Hallberg-Rassy

A long linear galley opposite has a full-size cooker and plenty of stowage.

The large, forward-facing chart table has ample chart stowage and instrument space, while the roomy heads is further forward, with a hanging locker opposite.

The forecabin is compact but the berths are adult size and there’s an infill for making a double.

The separate aft cabin is spacious and makes an ideal play area for the children when sailing.

Its U-shaped berth can make two generous 2m-long singles or a transverse double using the infill.

The downsides are there’s only sitting headroom and it’s a long way to the heads.

Reassuringly chunky, her attractive lines and gentle sheer give her a purposeful air. Deck access is good, with wide side decks and a clear foredeck, plus excellent handrails all along the coachroof and doghouse.

Models with the doghouse offer more protection for the helm but at the expense of having to duck if you’re tall.

She is a masthead sloop with a deck-stepped mast and stout rig, including a baby stay.

Typical of this era, a large genoa provides much of the power upwind.

All the sheet winches can be reached from the helm with halyards and reefing lines at the mast.

Under sail she’s predictable and steady, showing a very reasonable turn of speed for a heavy boat.

Her helm is light and precise, although it takes time and practice to haul the large genoa around the baby stay.

Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey 41DS does a good job of combining performance under sail with luxury accommodation in a single package.

In many aspects, the boat is quite modern with flush hatches, twin wheels, a walk-through transom, and ‘eyebrow’ coachroof styling.

She was built using a modern vacuum-bagging, resin injection system to ensure accurate resin impregnation and to reduce environmental pollution.

The interior is spacious and comfortable but, despite the raised coachroof, headroom is still only just over 1.83m/6ft and the seating isn’t raised for all-round views.

Large windows provide plenty of light, however. There is only one layout, with two cabins and two heads.

The aft cabin is full-width with good headroom, plenty of stowage and a large double berth.

The heads has a separate shower stall and can be accessed from the cabin or saloon.

A yacht with blue hull and white sails Baltic Sea sailing

Helm positions on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 41DS are comfortable ad well designed for sailing short-handed. Credit: Graham Snook/YM

The forecabin is again spacious and has an ensuite heads/shower, only smaller.

In the saloon, the folding table can be lowered to create a large double berth. Opposite is a short settee, which is also the chart table seat.

The galley has all the kit and stowage to provide meals for a large crew.

The 41DS uses the same slippery Philippe Briand-designed chined hull as the S/O 409, and as such she’s equally quick and agile.

The sail plan of the 41DS, however, is relatively conservative.

Jeanneau offered a self-tacking jib or a small furling genoa, while all featured a single-piece mainsheet enabling the mainsail to be trimmed from either helm. I’d recommend the self-tack option and a gennaker for light airs.

As standard, the primary winches serve both the mainsheet and jib/genoa, which annoyingly involves jamming off one to trim the other.

That said, her cockpit is spacious and well protected by tall coamings, the helming area is roomy and there are rope bins on each side.

She sails nicely, is well-balanced, light on the helm and keeps her course with minimum effort.

She gets into her groove quickly and you can safely leave the helm briefly without her drifting off course.

Upwind, she points high and tacking is dead easy, rarely requiring a winch. Her hull performs well in light airs, with the quarter chine biting in for extra stiffness in a gust.

Downwind, she needs a cruising chute or similar to maintain a decent speed.

The Broom 37 Crown superseded the Continental in 1978 but utilised the same semi-displacement hull. New features included a large, double island aft berth with a separate shower closet and heads.

Entering from one of the two sliding wheelhouse side doors, you step into the spacious saloon, which is bright and airy thanks to all-round windows and glass doors.

An L-shaped dinette seats four to six for dining and can be converted into another double berth for guests.

From the saloon, steps down forward take you to the superb, U-shaped galley; opposite is a spacious heads.

A motor boat in a marina with fender tied to it

The upper helm position of the Broom 37 Crown offers excellent all-round visibility, and is close for working the stern ropes. Credit: Norfolk Yacht Agency

Further on is the large forecabin, with convertible twin berths and plentiful stowage. The master suite aft is also accessed via steps from the saloon.

It’s roomy and luxurious with an ensuite heads, a separate shower, a dresser, seats and beautifully crafted wooden lockers.

All Broom 37s have interior and exterior helms. Most owners prefer to helm from the better-situated command station above, accessed via a spiral staircase from the saloon.

Excellent, uninterrupted views from this position make close-quarter manoeuvring much less fraught.

Behind these is the after deck with seating around a large table, which is excellent for entertaining, especially al fresco when the canvas covers are opened up.

The Crown had twin 145hp Perkins shaft drive engines that offered a cruising speed of 10-12 knots and a maximum of around 15 knots.

She has a reputation for providing a smooth, slam-free ride.

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best catamarans for cruising

20 Performance Cruising Catamaran Reviews

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Catamarans are exciting and fast sailboats that offer some great features. With so many types and brands to choose from, it’s hard to find which is worth your investment. So, what are the top performance cruising catamarans ?

The best performance cruising catamarans are the Manta 42, Dolphin 42, Leopard 48, and Fountaine Pajot Elba 45. The McConaghy MC50, Privilege 435, and Nautitech 441 are also impressive models. The best offer optimal performance and can sail a 250-mile voyage easily.

Have you just begun your catamaran research but don’t know which to buy? Are you looking for a performance cruising catamaran that’s worth the investment? Let’s take a closer look at 20 performance cruising catamarans and what makes them the best.

The Top 20 Performance Cruising Catamarans

Catamarans are racing ships that have slowly been making waves in the cruising world. The design focuses on lightness and simplicity. Combined, these two elements ensure a faster ship and make them great for long distances.

The multiple hulls on the catamarans offer optimal water displacement, allowing them to glide through the water with much less trouble than single-hull boats. Because of their design, a catamaran’s performance will vary depending on the conditions you sail them through. The ocean and wind will play a significant role in how fast your catamaran will go as well as how smooth the ride will be.

When comparing catamarans for speed, there are four numbers you’ll want to consider:  

  • Bruce Number: The speed potential based on the power (sail-area) to weight ratio of the boat
  • Texel Rating (TR): A formula that will calculate how long it takes to sail any distance
  • Kelsall Sailing Performance (KSP): Potential speed of a vessel
  • Base Speed: The average speed of a boat over 24 hours of sailing

These numbers signify a cat’s performance so that you can pick the one that best suit your needs, whether you’re looking for a fast catamaran or not.

In addition to speed, your catamaran should have everything you need to be comfortable on your voyages. There should be plenty of living space for you and your crew or family members. When choosing the best catamaran for your needs, consider how much gear you will have with you on any given trip and if the ship you’re looking at has enough space for all of it.

The Manta 42 is a favorite of many sailors. Its beautiful design has a high bow and an incorporated curved crossbeam, the latter being unique and making the ship easy to spot from far distances and onshore.

Typically, aluminum crossbeams are used, and they allow for more movement in the bows. Since the Manta 42 doesn’t use aluminum ones, the ship is more susceptible to cracks in the bow caused by stress. However, the width of the Manta 42 makes the ship stable on the water, and the narrow hulls make it great for slicing through the water with speed and agility.

The Dolphin 42 has the best balance of performance and cruising comfort . What is truly special about these boats is that they come equipped with daggerboards . These bad ass features allow the ship to pull into just about any anchorage, including the shallow ones. 

The Dolphin is made with a foam core, which is designed to make the entire ship lighter. However, this doesn’t compromise the performance of the boat. It makes it perfect for cruising through the ocean with high-performance levels.

One thing to keep in mind is those convenient daggerboards. If the ship were to run aground, the hull integrity could be compromised. And if the daggerboards are removed or lifted, they will expose the rudders underneath. These features don’t ruin the ship’s functionality, but it’s important to note them just in case.

The Leopard 48 is a catamaran that you’ll definitely want to see. The design uses some of the best techniques to ensure optimal speed, weight, and cruising performance. The hulls are narrow — like most catamarans — and are built to reduce the amount of water that flows on the deck. It also reduces the amount of sea spray along the sides.

The Leopard 48 has two bulkheads (one in the bow and the other in the stern) designed to keep water out of the ship in an accident. It’s designed for long journeys, and the vessel comes with everything you could want for everyday living.

Fountaine Pajot Elba 45

The Fountaine Pajot Elba 45 is a fantastic powerhouse ship with luxury at its core. The living quarters of this catamaran are impressive and are sure to provide you with every comfort you could possibly want, no matter how long you sail it for.

The designers considered everything when designing this ship. They’ve simplified the prep work for the sails, making it easier than ever to get underway. The build of the Fountaine Pajot Elba 45 makes it fast when sailing or when under power. 

McConaghy MC50

The McConaghy MC50 is on the smaller side of catamarans in the McConaghy brand, but that shouldn’t disqualify it. This ship was designed with wide-open concepts and high bows. There’s no doubt it’s made for luxury but can hold its own in performance and speed departments.

Even with its luxury items (such as its full washing machine), this ship moves through the water gently. While it’s clearly designed for comfort, it’s still a relatively fast boat. However, there is a downside to the layout of the boat. The helms are much more exposed than other catamarans, which could be a potential safety hazard.

Privilege 435

The Privilege 435 is a catamaran designed to go long distances. It uses a heavy displacement so that the ship glides through the water with ease. The vessel is also built with a low-slung structure to help prevent winds. 

A slight drawback could be the heat buildup caused by the sun seeping in through the windows, as there aren’t any outside shades or ways to block the sun except for the internal shades. The other downside to this catamaran is that the Privilege’s bridge deck has low clearance . Other than that, the ship is an excellent option for those looking for a well-built cat.

Nautitech 441

The Nautitech 441 is another impressive catamaran to consider. The interior is slightly smaller than some others we have gone over, but don’t let that fool you. This boat is full of great features to make your trip comfortable and successful.

For example, the Nautitech 441 is equipped with a rain gutter situated around the entire coachroof. This gives you the option to collect the water for your freshwater tanks, or you can simply let it drain off the boat through the Y-shaped valve.

It’s a fast little boat that can use either the sails or fuel to reach 9 knots in moderate conditions. That’s not bad if you’re looking for a comfortable, decent-sized cruising ship with a bit of a kick.

The ICE Cat 61 is a catamaran designed and developed in Italy. The ship uses a carbon mast and is very easy to use.

The ship’s size and the power-to-weight ratio allow for reaching top speeds that isn’t possible with a monohull. The living areas are also large and are perfect for entertaining, making the ICE Cat 61 a great option to consider when shopping for your new catamaran.

The unique aspect of the Lagoon 440 is the engine. It doesn’t not have to run on diesel fuel because Lagoon offers a fully electric version. This is great for those who are looking for a more eco-friendly way to run their boat. This catamaran uses two electric motors, which are mounted on each hull of the ship, but the best part is that these engines are almost entirely silent.

The inside is just as luxurious as the engine is, designed with families in mind and for long-distance journeys. It’s a ship that would handle itself perfectly in deeper waters and even in harsh winds.

Antares 44i

The Antares 44i is a well-designed catamaran that is meant for long-distance journeys like most catamarans are. The layout is engineered to give you the best views throughout your trip, and the cockpit is fully equipped in the event you’re sailing single handed.

The motors are installed in a discrete location and are almost completely silent, allowing for outstanding performance without sacrificing your comforts. There’s tons of storage available as well for all of the gear that comes with sailing.

The Catana 50 has a well-built design that is meant for high speeds and effective sailing. The daggerboards help the hulls cut through the water with little trouble. There is also excellent storage for your gear located throughout the boat.

What is genuinely superior in this catamaran is the ability it holds to turn itself around with ease and speed. There is no struggle to reverse the ship and maneuver it around the dock. Walking around on the boat is easy enough, but the cockpit setup and helm are situated awkwardly, so it requires a bit of walk around to use all of the ship’s controls. 

The Voyage 44 is a performance cruising catamaran that is well-built for a bargain price. It’s something that you just can’t beat when looking for a new yacht because this ship has everything you could ask for.

It’s designed with day cruising in mind, but that won’t limit it to short distances. What’s also great about this boat is the amount of seating it offers, fitting 32 people comfortably. The ship is functional, and the layout is designed to make traveling onboard the vessel as simple and straightforward as possible.

Atlantic 42

The Atlantic 42 is a fan favorite. This loyal following stems from the Atlantic’s look and effectiveness, and consumers seem to love how easy this ship is to sail and how capable it is for deep ocean sailing.

The size of the Atlantic 42 is something fans of this catamaran love. It might look small from the outside, but the inside layout is well done and feels spacious. The cockpit location in front of the mainmast takes advantage of the rest of the ship’s structure, making it a more flexible design than some other catamarans available.

Outremer 45

The Outremer 45 is designed a bit differently from other catamarans because the hulls are narrower than usual. This helps make the Outremer 45 a fast ship, but it’s done for safety reasons as well. The narrower hulls will prevent the vessel from skidding on the water as much as other catamarans. It also reduces any pitching you might experience from flying through the water at top speeds.

The interior is smaller than many other boats in this article, but the design doesn’t sacrifice your comfort. The cabin has an open concept to easily pull the outdoor seating into the indoor living space, meaning it’s perfect for entertaining and comfortable living. 

The Bahia 46 is on the bigger side by catamaran standards. It’s designed by the brand Fountaine Pajot, which has been building catamarans for years. In fact, Fountaine Pajot is one of the leading brands in cruising catamarans.

The foam core’s overall design, the high bridge deck clearance , and the low center of gravity make this ship an excellent option for deep ocean sailing. It will hold its own on rough waters as well, and there’s also plenty of space for entertaining on the inside of the ship. 

The Prout 45 is an excellent catamaran to consider if you plan to sail with a limited crew. The positioning of the mainsail and the mast make it simple to use and easy to reach. Also, the mainsail itself is smaller than other ships and easy to handle.

The interior isn’t like some of the newer models. In new catamarans, the concept is more open and free-flowing between inside and outside. In the Prout 45, things are more traditional but still comfortable. Don’t worry; you still have plenty of room to entertain and plot your voyage.

Gemini 105MC

The Gemini 105MC is a unique catamaran. That’s because instead of being designed solely by the builder, it’s a collective effort from the builder and many sailors who used the vessel. They wrote in their suggestions to improve the Gemini, and the builder used the most relevant ones to build the newer models.

If you’re looking for a ship for a cross-ocean voyage, you may want to consider another catamaran. Due to the ship’s size and weight, it’s less likely to make it across the ocean. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great ship, and this vessel is perfect for sailing near the coast. 

The Gunboat 62 is the first catamaran of this brand. The Gunboat 62 is an older model, but it’s still considered one of the fastest. These ships were also the first to introduce luxury to performance cruising. 

The interior is slightly outdated, and technology has advanced since the brand launched these ships. However, this boat’s overall performance is unmatched, though there also isn’t as much space available for storage. 

Marsaudon TS5

The Marsaudon TS5 is one of the fastest catamarans available. It’s designed with panoramic views from the interior, and the ship speeds up quickly due to its lightweight design and shape.

The ship can be challenging to maneuver, which makes it better suited for experienced sailors. While the interior still has plenty of luxuries, it can be considered bare. The designers want to keep the ship light to increase its speed, meaning some comforts have been sacrificed, such as space in the living quarters.

Unlimited C53

The Unlimited C53 is a fast racing catamaran with all the comforts of a cruising ship. The design uses a new technique of connecting the two hulls at 1.3m above the waterline. This is unheard of in most catamarans, and this feature minimizes how the ship handles rougher seas.

The ship uses all of the necessary tanks and equipment to keep the boat balanced on the water. Perfect weight displacement throughout the vessel makes it ideal for racing and long-distance sailing. The interior is also spacious and provides all of the comforts you could need. 

In the end, the best performance cruising cat for you is going to come down to your personal preferences and what you want in a boat. Each catamaran on this list is going to provide you the best features you could ever imagine in a ship. Hopefully, the reviews of the top 20 performance cruising catamarans will help you find your dream boat!

Owner of CatamaranFreedom.com. A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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  • World's Best Awards 2024

Travel + Leisure Readers' 10 Favorite Intimate-ship Ocean Cruise Lines of 2024

Readers in our annual “World’s Best Awards” survey for 2024 saved their highest marks for intimate cruise ships.

best catamarans for cruising

How Voting Works

What readers loved, the full list.

Sometimes the best things come in small packages and Travel + Leisure readers say the same thing about the most intimate cruise ships . In fact, these ships with 150 or fewer cabins had some of the highest marks in the cruise category of our World’s Best Awards voting. See which ones came out on top in this year’s rankings.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Over 186,000 T+L readers completed the 2024 survey. A total of more than 700,000 votes were cast across over 8,700 properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).

For the cruise category, respondents were asked to rate individual ships; the results were combined to generate scores for cruise lines in different categories based on number of cabins.

Ships were specifically rated on the criteria below:

  • Cabins/facilities
  • Itineraries/destinations
  • Excursions/activities

For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses.

Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

All the intimate ships in this category received top scores in this year’s voting, readers showing delight in having a ship practically to themselves. Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) moved up from No. 4 last year to claim the No. 2 spot, voters citing friendly staff as a differentiator: “Every one of the crew was the most personable and helpful that I have ever seen,” said one reader.

Aqua Expeditions (No. 3), with vessels such as the 20-suite Aqua Mekong , held onto its same spot in the tankings. “Unique excursions and experiences that you could not get anywhere else,” praised one voter of the company. Rounding out the top five are well-known brands Lindblad Expeditions (No. 4) and the expedition ships of Seabourn (No. 5).

The top line once again this year is Quasar Expeditions, with its intimate exploration of the Galápagos.

Quasar Expeditions

With two intimate ships, the 32-passenger Evolution and 16-passenger Grace , Quasar remains a perennial favorite of T+L readers, many voters calling a cruise with the small company a trip of a lifetime. “The Grace was the best cruise I've ever been on and one of the top three travel experiences of my life (and I've traveled several million miles around the world!),” said one reader. “I travel extensively and can honestly say that my Quasar Evolution expedition was the most amazing vacation adventure I have taken in my life.” said another. “Service was first class, yet the entire trip was casual, friendly, and unpretentious.”

I travel extensively and can honestly say that my Quasar Evolution expedition was the most amazing vacation adventure I have taken in my life. Service was first class, yet the entire trip was casual, friendly, and unpretentious.

1. Quasar Expeditions

Reader Score: 97.81

2. Overseas Adventure Travel

Reader Score: 97.55

3. Aqua Expeditions

Reader Score: 94.81

4. Lindblad Expeditions

Reader Score: 94.40

5. Seabourn

Reader Score: 94.35

6. Celebrity Cruises

Reader Score: 93.94

7. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Reader Score: 92.86

8. Variety Cruises

Reader Score: 92.35

Reader Score 91.73

10. Silversea

Reader Score 91.33

Related Articles

What’s the best Caribbean cruise line for me?

Zachary Laks

Jul 15, 2024 • 9 min read

best catamarans for cruising

Whether you're a family of four or a solo adventure junkie, the Caribbean has a cruise for you. Walter Bibikow / Getty Images.

It feels like just about everyone is headed on a cruise ship, and for good reason. There’s a real appeal to embarking on a getaway where your travel plans are already sorted; you only have to unpack once and arrive each morning in an exciting port of call.

Plus, new ships are rolling out incredible bells and whistles that push the limits of fun at sea (think indoor skydiving, roller coasters, and go-karts). At the same time, the cruise industry has shifted towards sustainable efforts that have emerged as fundamental to modern cruising. 

Recent statistics from CLIA (the official Cruise Line International Association) show an increase of nearly two million passengers in 2023 (totaling 31.7 million) compared to pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

And there’s no more popular cruising region than the Caribbean , where upwards of 37 cruise lines with 154 ships rove the idyllic paradise of islands. With so many options, sorting out which ship and itinerary fits you best can be confusing. 

Here’s a handy guide to help determine which cruises are best for you, along with tips and advice to ensure you’re setting yourself up for a smooth sail. 

Passengers relax as the Oasis of the Seas departs the Bahamas

What Caribbean cruise is best for me?

Sailing for adventure.

Whether you're into ziplining through the rainforest, scuba diving one of the world’s largest coral reefs or swimming at the base of a waterfall, cruises throughout the Caribbean offer excellent opportunities for adventure.

Cruise ports known for high-octane activities include St-Martin (known for its superb scuba diving), Belize (cave-tubing and ziplining throughout rainforest treetops) and St Lucia (the Sapphire Falls Hike). 

Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and Holland America have cruises that frequent these ports.

Best ships for families

Look for larger ships with kid-friendly pools, expansive kids' clubs and family-friendly entertainment. Royal Caribbean’s fleet features action-packed decks great for families with water slides, laser tag and mini golf. 

Disney Cruise Line’s fleet sails extensively throughout the Caribbean to ports that span from Cozumel , Mexico, to Willemstad , Curaçao. The line’s most common Caribbean offerings are shorter 3- and 4-night itineraries that are perfect for families looking for a short trip.

Cruise lines with private islands operate predominantly in the Bahamas , including Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. These stops are great family destinations as they feature enclosed, private environments with kids' activities and the ease of charging everything to your sea pass card.  

Singles at sea

Cruises can be an excellent place for singles to mix and mingle. A standard cruise stateroom rate is usually calculated at a minimum two-adult rate. Singles wishing to book a standard stateroom are typically charged a single supplement fee ranging from 50% - 100% of their base fare. 

As the demand for single cruise accommodations grows, new ship builds include solo staterooms, both interior and with balconies. Look to Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages, and Norwegian Cruise Lines for some of the best accommodations for solo travelers. 

Most relaxing getaways

The most relaxing cruises sailing through the Caribbean tend to be the smaller ships focusing on a more “resort at sea” vibe. The higher-end ships with all-inclusive rates offer the luxury of seamless vacations. Windstar, Seabourn and Viking are the best lines for a relaxing cruise.

On these ships you’ll find daily activities that swap dance parties and poolside games for fitness-oriented activities like yoga and strength training classes, lectures on upcoming ports and ample lounge chairs to soak up the sun by the pool.

From your first step onboard, all your food and drinks (except for certain vintage wines and spirits), activities and sometimes your port excursions are included in your rate. 

Itineraries like the Viking Ocean Cruises’ West Indies Explorer sail a 10-day itinerary roundtrip from San Juan, Puerto Rico, with stops that include Tortola, British Virgin Islands; St. Kitts, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Roseau, Dominica. Rates for Viking Ocean Cruises include one shore excursion per port.

The top of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with a balcony looking down over a pool with people and lounge chairs.;

Best parties at sea

As the classic notion of cruising sunsets – goodbye white glove service, shuffleboard, Baked Alaska – a new era of fun is afloat.

Large ships are built to maximize fun, whether you're hopping pool parties, dancing the night away at late-night discos or cheering your team at rousing sports bars. Special interest cruises are also an excellent option for the most immersive fun at sea, whether that’s a full ship charter rock concert like the Rock Legends Cruise , a trip dedicated to Golden Girls fans , or an LGBTQ+ charter like VACAYA . 

Favorite lines that feature an upbeat party vibe include Margaritaville at Sea (particularly on their new Islander), Virgin Voyages and Norwegian Cruise Line.

A quick getaway

You’ll find cruise lines are leaning into shorter itineraries that offer weekend getaways to nearby ports in the Caribbean. Most of these sailings are roundtrip from Florida’s top cruise ports: Miami , Fort Lauderdale and Orlando (Port Canaveral). These are often 3- and 4-night sailings featuring a stop in The Bahamas or Bermuda . 

The vibe onboard is often more upbeat and celebratory, as guests do their best to maximize their limited time at sea. 

A few favorite lines for this style of travel include Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean (who is launching Utopia of the Seas this summer as its first-ever large-scale ship that will exclusively sail short getaways) and Disney Cruise Line.

An extended journey through the Caribbean

Smaller cruise lines offer longer, extensive itineraries throughout the Caribbean; smaller ships can port far off the beaten path at more remote destinations. Itineraries like Seabourn’s “25-Day Captivating Antillean Treasures” sail to some of the lesser trafficked parts of the Caribbean including Marigot, St. Martin; Carambola Beach, Saint Kitts and Nevis; and Sopers Hole (Frenchmans Cay), BVI. Lines like Silversea, Windstar Cruises and Azamara are favorites that route to these idyllic destinations. 

When should I go on my cruise?

There are sailings throughout the Caribbean year-round, with high season running from November through April. This period is known for its optimal sailing conditions and weather. 

You’ll find cheaper sailings during the hurricane season, typically July through September, though you risk the chance of your trip being canceled or rerouted to avoid inclement weather. 

Holiday sailings (particularly during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve) are also excellent times to sail as cruise lines curate impressive decor and holiday-themed activities.

How do I know if my cruise line is operating sustainably? 

Conservation efforts have become a vital tenet of the future of cruising, with the industry gearing towards carbon-zero sailings by 2050 . Efforts underway include ship engines that run cleaner on alternative fuels, advanced wastewater systems that can better clean sewage water and exhaust gas cleaning systems to improve air quality at sea and in port. 

Friends of the Earth’s Cruise Ship Report Card is a great resource to assess a ship’s sustainability efforts. 

A few lines at the forefront of sustainable sailing include Ponant, Disney Cruise Line and Hurtigruten. Ponant recently became the first maritime cruise line to receive Green Globe certification, which recognizes the line’s commitment to reducing its environmental footprint.  The line has shifted away from heavy fuel oil and installed catalytic systems to reduce atmospheric emissions.

Disney Cruise Line aims to operate with carbon emissions at net zero by 2030, in part by shifting to alternative fuels like liquefied natural gas (LNG) and hydrotreated vegetable oil. 

Hurtigruten is currently developing a zero-emission propulsion ship, which is aiming to be unveiled by 2030. 

There are still a large number of travelers who oppose the notion of cruise ships for not only their impact on the environment, but on local economies as well. Groups like Friends of the Earth , CLIA and Oceana are excellent organizations devoted to regulating the cruise industry.  

ruise ships docked at pier on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, with passengers walking on the pier

Need to know before you go

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re booking a Caribbean cruise. 

Book in advance...

Cruise lines offer better rates further from your sailing date, often making sailings available to book more than a year out. The earlier you book, the better the selection of staterooms to choose from. 

Or take advantage of last minute deals

Cruise Plum is our go-to with a comprehensive overview of discounted inventories if you're angling for a last-minute getaway. 

Opt for third-party travel insurance for hurricane season protection

Travel insurance is the best way to ensure smooth sailings on your Caribbean cruise. Typical cruise insurance rates hover around 5 to 10% of your total trip cost. 

Don’t just opt into the cruise line’s designated insurance option; shop around on a platform like Squaremouth for the most value. 

Look for a plan specific to cruise travel, with coverage that includes compensation for delays, cancellations (particularly helpful during hurricane season), emergency medical, and the premium option of canceling for any reason (CFAR). 

Be hurricane-aware

Hurricane season in the Caribbean is typically July through September. The outlook for the 2024 season from NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predicts an 85% chance of an above-normal season with the potential range of 8-13 hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph. 

Cruise lines work expeditiously to avoid sailing into the path of any major tropical storm or hurricane, often rerouting or shortening itineraries as threats arise. Cruises rarely encounter major storms as they’re able to chart the course of the weather and route accordingly. 

In the event you encounter a major storm while at sea, head to the middle of the ship where you’ll feel the rolling of the ship less, take over-the-counter aids like Dramamine or Bonine and keep your eyes on the horizon for stability balance.

You don’t necessarily need a passport 

Passports are not required for closed-loop sailings that begin and end at a US port. All you need is a boarding pass, a government photo ID (if you’re 16 years or older) and a certified birth certificate or certificate of US naturalization. 

However, keep in mind that you might not be able to disembark the ship at certain ports (those ports include Barbados , Martinique and St-Barthélemy ).

Third-party excursions can be a better value play

If you want to stretch your dollar further, consider booking with local tour operators before arriving at each port. It’s important to note that third-party excursions are the best when they’re morning-only activities. 

The ship won’t wait for you if you’re late returning from a third-party excursion. For full-day excursions, consider the line’s offerings, as the ship will wait for you, and there’s nothing worse than missing the boat.

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