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11 Best Single Handed Bluewater Sailboats

sailboat for single handed cruising

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We know that you’re serious about sailing when you finally think of venturing to the ocean. Who can resist dreaming of solo sailing through the Atlantic? This is an adventure to prove your advanced skills, strength, and experience. 

But before going off on your ocean adventure, you need to plan and prepare . We cannot stress enough the importance of good equipment. There is a lot of sailboat types and models in the market and we want to help you choose the best one for your needs.

Do you know what hull, rigging, and keel types you will need? What’s the best material and model for you to buy? 

We will guide you through important sailboat features needed for the cruise. Follow this review until the end and we will share the 11 best single-handed blue water sailboats for your solo ocean sailing!

What Size Sailboat Is Best for Single-Handed Sailing

What type of hull handles rough water the best, sailboat keel types for blue water sailing, keel or decked stepped mast, sloop or ketch, how many spreaders, cutter rig, self steering gear, furling sails, westsail 32, albin vega 27, pacific seacraft 34, canadian sailcraft 36 traditional, hallberg rassy 352, contessa 32, fast passage 39.

If you are planning to manage your boat single-handedly, then size is an important factor to consider. It can affect the size of your accommodation, and maybe the boat’s design for speed and power.

Being alone, you need to have a clear overview of what is happening on your boat. This is especially important when maneuvering or for docking operations. 

Experienced sailors can handle a 60-foot sailboat but novices would find it difficult with its steep learning curve . Check out the Vendee Globe if you don’t believe me. In general, a good sailboat size for single-handed sailing would range from 25 to 40 feet.

We recommend sailboats with sizes under 40 feet. These have good displacement and are great when against bad weather. They are solo-friendly and simply the most manageable.

But in the end, choosing a suitable size depends on your experience and preference. You need to consider your overall health, age, and physique. Make sure to have a complete understanding of your sailboat before going on your journey to prevent accidents.

The hull or the main body of your boat comes in varying shapes and sizes. Each different type of hull is designed for specific purposes. 

When venturing the blue waters, you need to have a hull design that could handle rough waters easily. The hull shape determines the performance of your sailboat and therefore, should align with your strengths and skills. 

Today, the most popular design would be the heavy displacement hull . This design is intended for ocean cruising and longer sailing travels. 

It has great stability and performs better the deeper the draft is. With this design, you would expect a slow and steady motion during your sea travels with minimal effort. 

V-type hulls, on the other hand, are designed to plane or ride on top of the water. You can usually see these types of hulls on powerboats. The V-type hull usually has a bigger engine and best when dealing with choppy waters while moving at high speed.

Narrow beams are also a great option for those who are looking for another ocean friendly feature . These are usually seen in traditional sailboats.

Canoe stern or the double are considered to be the best sterns for offshore sailing. They help cut through a following sea and really helps prevent the waves from pushing the stern over too much. It also has great buoyancy and balance that is perfect for bluewater cruising.

The best materials for hulls would be fiberglass, metal, and aluminum. These are durable and could last for decades if properly maintained.

Aluminum is lightweight and has resistance to corrosion and impervious to magnetism. Boats built with aluminum are fast, stable, and seaworthy.

Fiberglass hulls need less attention. Currently, boats are usually made of fiberglass as the material is easier for companies and also great for seakeeping and stability.

Metal like steel has high abrasion resistance. It helps retain the boat’s appearance but can be prone to rust and corrosion.

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A keel is a fin-like blade found at the bottom of a sailboat. It supports the ballast and helps to control and steer the boat. 

It is generally designed to stop the boat from getting blown sideways because of wind pressure. The full keel, modified full keel, fin skeg, and fin spade rudder are all suited for bluewater sailing.

A full keel runs along the full length of the boat – from the bow to the stern – which makes it the most stable in the water. It carries the vessel well and is the safest to use when grounding as it reduces the chances of damage. 

This is most ideal when cruising and the most comfortable out of the four keel types with its minimal heel. Although the slowest on the list, it has great directional stability and steering capability. 

An improved version is the modified full keel . It is a hybrid with improved windward performance and better heel reduction than the full keel. However, it made small concessions on its stability and comfort.

Meanwhile, the fin keel with skeg rudder has more strength and protection against damage and impact. It also has better mobility and steering capability. 

This type has a faster speed and windward performance compared to the modified and full keel types. It is also more balanced, which is ideal for cruiser-racer types of sailboats.

Lastly, we have the fin with a spade rudder. This is the fastest type on the list but also the most vulnerable as the spade rudder greatly relies on the rudder stock. But if you want speed and great windward performance, then this type is the right one for you.

Sailboat Rigging Types

Rigging is the whole system of ropes, chains, and cables. It supports the sailboat mast and controls the sails’ orientation and degree of reefing.

There are two main groups of sailboat rigs, Deck Stepped and Keel Stepped. The main difference lies in the location of its mast step. Both are fine choices and the better rig would depend on your preference.

Just as its names suggests, you can find the mast stand on top of the deck with Deck Stepped and on the hull’s bottom with Keel stepped. This means that to reach the keel, the mast would need to pierce through the cabin.

Deck Stepped rigs have masts that are more flexible because of their contact points, and are easily adjustable for optimal performance. Keel Stepped rig is rigid and strong and offers slow and steady cruising.

Now let’s move on and talk about Slope rigged and Ketch rigged. Which is better?

A sloop rig is simple. It is composed of a mast with a jib and a mainsail. Ketch, on the other hand, is more complex with its two masts with any foresail, main and mizzen mast combinations.

If you are choosing between Sloop and Ketch rigged sailboats for solo sailing, then we recommend Sloop. Although, Ketch is manageable and can be easily used with less strength and effort. This is perfect for cruising as it can work around multiple sailing conditions.

Screenshot 2020 11 26 at 11.53.30

In terms of spreaders, you can freely choose between a single or dual spreader. This deflects shrouds and supports the mast. We do recommend dual spreaders but single spreaders are also good. 

It’s just that double spreaders give the rig more strength and better sail control.

The cutter rig is sometime referred to as an inner forestay or baby stay. Simplest way of describing it is that you have two head sails instead of just one. Gives you more options on sail configurations.

Single Person Sailboat Equipment and Gear

Your sailboat would not be complete without gear and equipment. You might want to invest in autopilot or wind vane, furling headsails, electric windlass, life jackets, and AIS to make your voyage much easier.

Wind Vane is an autopilot steering that you can use without electricity. It is usually placed on the back to catch the wind and respond to various wind conditions.

It automatically adjusts the rudders in response to the wind to alter the boat’s course. This is helpful because it’s like having another crew member on board you don’t have to listen to and feed.

Headsail furling or roller reefing is necessary for easier management of your headsails. It is important to have a functioning and updated roller furling system in order to reef, dowse, or stow the headsail efficiently.

Another item we would recommend is an electric windlass . You can choose one that works vertically or horizontally, depending on your needs. This will help you move the anchor effortlessly with a single button. Using the two windlasses that god gave you makes anchoring more difficult then it needs to be.

Life jackets are a must in every sailboat. Just be sure it fits you and that you know how to use it. Also, be sure to buy a coast guard approved product with a harness that could support your weight. 

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) will help you avoid collisions . It is recommended to get a receiving and transmitting one when going solo sailing. 

This way, you and the other boats with AIS within the radar area are alerted to each other’s speed, course, and direction.

Really, you won’t know what you might encounter in the ocean so you must always be prepared. We hope that these items will help you achieve a safer and more secure sailing experience.

11 Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing

Now, here are 11 sailboats that are best for solo sailing. Any of these vessels are guaranteed to take you safely and comfortably anywhere around the world.

Westsail 32 solo sailing sailboat

This is a long full keel fiberglass sailboat that was built from 1971 to 1981. Its design was based on a previous model, Kendall 32, and has an amazing interior size geared for comfortable cruising.

W32 is widely noted for its seaworthiness. It is built with a strong and durable design and materials to resist extreme sea conditions.

It was used on various voyages and circumnavigations. Its hull is a heavy displacement and double-ender type designed for long periods of sailing.

It is also a cutter-rigged sailboat equipped with a single mast, forestaysail, mainsail, and jib. Its overall length including the bowsprit and boomkin is roughly 40 feet, which is perfect for sailing single-handedly.

Most people would note that the speed and acceleration of W32 are quite slow. This is due to its larger wetted area and sometimes newbies’ mistake of carrying too much on board.

With the right keel, sails, and rig configurations you can improve on W32’s speed and weaknesses. As seen from David King’s documented modifications, W32 proved to be safe, steady, and fast when sailing on blue waters.

Albin Vega 27 single handed solo sailboat

Vega 27 is a modified full keel sailboat with a masthead sloop rig. It was designed around 1966 and became the most popular production sailboat in Scandinavia.

It has a unique look because of its reverse sheer commonly seen in smaller boats to increase the area of its interior. It is made with fiberglass, but has a narrower hull compared to similar sized boats in its class. 

Its shallow hull has a large cutaway as seen with modified full keel designs. This can make her quite stiff, heeling to about 15 degrees when its shoulders are buried.

Still, it is great for single-handed sailing because of its manageability and balance under different conditions. You cannot help but admire its light helm and great tracking capability.

Vega’s light air performance is okay but it shines when the wind blows at 15 knots or more. It could even maintain its dryness even with rough waves and weather conditions.

The most comforting feature would be its control and stability at all times unlike other more modern vessels with spade rudders. Overall, it is safe and ideal for longer cruises offshore.

alberg 30

This 30-foot traditional sailboat could take you anywhere. Alberg is notable for its narrow beams, long overhangs, and full cutaway keel with its directly attached rudder.

It is strong and durable. Its materials were mostly aluminum, hand-laid fiberglass, and polyester resin. More ballasts were produced in later productions as the early ballast was built with iron as opposed to the original lead design.

Alberg is greatly influenced by folk boats in Scandinavia. It is built with fiberglass and has an interior with comfortable full standing headroom and a well-vented galley.

This classic design from 1962 is ideal to cross oceans and is used for various circumnavigations. Alberg is a stable and seaworthy boat that could even be used in casual racing. Its best point of sail seems to be a beam reach and close reach.

It is praiseworthy when crossing oceans. Unlike modern designs that tend to be thrown around on rough seas, Alberg’s narrow beam design slices through big and rough waves and moves quickly. Under extreme weather conditions, it could perform heaving-to and lying-a-hull with no problems.

pacific seacraft 34 solo sailing

Pacific Seacraft 34 is a smaller heavy displacement semi-long keel sailboat based on the highly successful Crealock 37. It has the same graceful lines and appearance as the Crealock and is known as the Voyagemaker.

It is built with comfort and safety in mind with its large overhanging bow and beautiful sheer line ending with a traditional canoe stern. Constructed with the highest standard, it is a seaworthy sailboat that is ideal for bluewater voyages.

It is a cutter-rigged sailboat with skeg-hung rudders and control lines being fed back to its cockpit. The smaller cockpit may feel cramped but its design lowers the risk of flooding.

Still, it has a great interior suited for living aboard. It has a large headroom, comfortable galley, and up to five berths for comfortable cruising.

Although you may feel some hobby-horsing windward because of the overhangs, Seacraft 34 is overall a very balanced boat with great upwind performance. It has outstanding control capabilities and is able to sustain surfing speed with ease.

Tayana 37 solo sailboat sailing

This is a double-ended full keel cruiser designed by Bob Perry and built-in Taiwan in response to the rising popularity of Westsail 32. It was offered to the market as a semi-custom boat and built with high-quality materials.

You can modify the internal layout and can choose a ketch, cutter, or pilothouse version. There is an option to use wood or aluminum spars. The mast could also be keel-stepped or deck-stepped.

Before, only 20 were ketch sailboats due to the popularity of the cutter design at that time. Now, ketch has proven to be faster and more balanced between the two.

Tayana is relatively faster than any sailboat in its class. Its best point of sail is in its broad reach. It also tracks well windward, and is an ideal choice for the trades. It is also great how the cockpit is secured from any flooding even when traveling. 

Today, a lot of people are still actively sailing this. Tayana 37 has become well known for offshore and blue water sailing.

canadian sailcraft 36 single handed sailing solo

Canadian Seacraft is well known for its fiberglass racer and cruiser. CS 36 is a small traditional fin keel sailboat with a masthead sloop intended for recreational use. It is seaworthy and has good performance in different weather conditions.

It was designed by Raymond Wall and had a production run between 1978 to 1987. It remains to be popular in both north and south borders.

It is a beautiful sailboat with a graceful sheer line and balanced overhangs at both bow and stern. Its details and quality in design and production are clearly of a higher tier.

It is mostly built with fiberglass and balsa wood. It is equipped with an internally mounted spade transom hung rudder. All of its lines lead to the cockpit, which is ideal for single-handed sailing.

CS 36 Traditional also has a deep-depth draft and wide beams with great access to the cockpit and foredecks. It is wide and spacious, which is perfect for comfortable cruising.

The sailboat has great proportion and traditional aesthetics. It is simple and straightforward, which makes it ideal for bluewater sailing.

Hallberg rassy 352 single handing sailboat

This is a sturdy and high-quality sailboat built between 1978 to 1991. It features a progressive design, combining a walk through with the aft-cabin from the main saloon. It is made with a tall and standard rig each supported on double and single spreaders, respectively.

Hallberg Rassy 352 has a nicely balanced hull sporting a fin keel with rudder on skeg, a generous beam, and a 45 percent high ballast ratio. Its water and fuel tanks are placed low in the keel to improve sail carrying ability.

Its production spanning 14 years allowed for continuous improvements in its specifications. Newer sailboats have raised hulls for bigger headroom in the under the deck, aft cabins, and the walkthrough. Engines were also replaced by a Volvo and later a Penta Turbo or the bigger MD 22.

It is impressive how they balanced good interior and sailing performance. It has great seakeeping ability and smooth motion in heavy seas, easily an ideal sailboat for singlehanded sailing.

corbin 39 solo sailboat review

Corbin 39 was designed based on a Dufour design named Harmonie, increasing freeboard, and flushing the deck. Its style is influenced by the classic Scandinavian cruiser, Westsail 32.

It has a long fin keel, blunt bow, and a high freeboard. It was sold as kits, and various deck molds were produced. They have pilot, aft, and center cockpit variations.

It was made of sturdy and high-quality materials. The earlier version’s decks were of marine grade mahogany but it was later changed with Airex foam. Its lead ballast was encapsulated with fiberglass for added protection.

Earlier boats had a single spreader main or a turbocharged double spreader. Later, Corbin used 49 feet double spreader rigs instead, and all were deck-stepped.

Corbin 39 is truly a strong and seaworthy vessel. With its fin keel and skeg rudder, cutter rig, and reefed main combinations, it could take anyone safely and comfortably anywhere in the world.

Valiant 40 solo sailing

Valiant 40 took its looks from Scandinavian double-ender sailboats. It had a successful production run that spanned for 47 years. It proved to be one of the pioneers for modern blue water designs.

Its hull is made from thick hand-laid fiberglass, bolted and covered with teak. Its ballast is cast with lead bolted to the keel stub. Lastly, the skeg is constructed separately from hull molding and encased with fiberglass before being fastened to the hull.

It has a beautiful bow and sheer lines and a longer LWL for maximum speed. At the back are a non-spacious cockpit and a canoe stern ideal for bluewater sailing operations.

Under the waterline is a fin keel with its skeg hung rudder. It perfectly matches with the cruising hall above, minimizing wetted surface area 

Overall, Valiant 40 is a seaworthy vessel with great blue water performance. Extremely balanced and well-mannered, it can withstand extreme weather conditions with ease and minimal effort on your part.

It soon gained a reputation as a fast water passage-maker with high integrity. Now, it is regularly used for circumnavigations by solo sailors and voyagers.

contessa 32 solo sailing sailboat

If you like a sailboat with a proven track record, then Contessa 32 is for you. It is a seaworthy racer-cruiser with good all-around sailing capabilities released in 1971.

Like its younger sister, Contessa 26, it has great speed, integrity, and affordability . Contessa 32 is a definite combination of old and new with its traditional narrow beam, a full hull with a fin keel, and fiberglass rudder protected by a skeg found in more modern yachts.

It has marked overhangs and a narrow tuck-up stern. It has less headroom below in return for its lesser wind resistance.

This configuration delivers fast racing speed and great stability. It could definitely withstand extreme weather and rough waves. Contessa 32 is claimed to be able to right itself when rolled or capsized.

Contessa 32 is known for its forgiving nature. It has a responsive helm and excellent windward performance. With its astounding stability, it can carry full sail for up to 25 knots.

fast passage 39 single handing sailboat

Fast Passage 39 was designed by William Garden and is said to be a legendary cruiser with speed, ruggedness, and fame. It is a stout double-ender comparable to the Valiant 40.

It has the same LOA and LWL as Valiant and also has nearly identical ballast and displacement. The difference is its narrower frame and more evolved underwater shapes resulting in flatter forward and aft keel sections and less wetted area. It also has great directional stability as its rudder allows great control under wind vane and down steep waves.

It is a high performing sailboat but also difficult to find as only 41 were produced. A part of the group was offered as hull and deck kits intended to be finished by the sailboat owners.

Fast Passage 39 also has a proven track record and has won single-handed blue water races. It performs great under a wide range of conditions, especially in light winds.

By now you should have some idea what makes a vessel Bluewater friendly. There are hundreds of vessels that can make long distance voyage safe and enjoyable. These examples above are just a few examples of the Best Single Handed BlueWater Sailboats.

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sailboat for single handed cruising

Single Handed Sailboats: The Ultimate Guide for Solo Sailing

by Emma Sullivan | Aug 22, 2023 | Sailboat Gear and Equipment


Short answer single handed sailboats:

Single handed sailboats, also known as dinghies or small keelboats, are sailing vessels designed for easy handling by a single person. They typically feature smaller sizes, efficient rigging systems, and self-tacking jibs to facilitate solo sailing. Popular examples include the Laser, Solo, and Sunfish.

Exploring the World of Single Handed Sailboats: A Comprehensive Guide

Exploring the World of Single-Handed Sailboats: A Comprehensive Guide


Ah, the allure of sailing – the freedom, the wind in your hair, and the sense of adventure as you glide through pristine waters . While sailing with a crew can be a fantastic experience, there is something uniquely special about single-handing a sailboat. It’s just you and the elements, testing your skills and resourcefulness. If you’re ready to embark on this incredible journey, then keep reading as we dive deep into the world of single-handed sailboats .

Getting Started:

Before setting sail on your own, it’s crucial to become familiar with the basics. Single-handed sailing requires heightened awareness and expertise compared to traditional sailing. Begin by understanding how to handle different types of sails and rigging systems. Mastering reefing techniques – reducing sail area during strong winds – is an essential skill that ensures safety.

Moreover, make sure you’re well-informed about navigational tools such as charts, compasses, and electronic navigation systems like GPS. Familiarize yourself with weather patterns specific to your chosen sailing grounds so that you can plan journeys accordingly.

Selecting Your Vessel:

Choosing the right boat for single-handed sailing is paramount. Sailors often opt for smaller vessels due to their maneuverability and ease of handling without crew assistance. Cats, dinghies, pocket cruisers or some cleverly designed keelboats are popular choices among solo sailors.

Determine whether you prefer a monohull or catamaran; both have distinct advantages depending on your desired cruising style. Monohulls offer stability in rough seas while catamarans provide greater living space for extended voyages.

Downsizing to Minimize Hassles:

Sailing alone means taking on multiple roles simultaneously – helmsman, navigator, cook – leaving little time for relaxation if everything feels cluttered onboard. Downsizing becomes crucial in ensuring efficiency and smooth sailing. Opt for compact navigation and communication equipment, such as multifunction displays that combine multiple tools into one device.

Similarly, embrace minimalism in your provisioning strategy; smart food choices that require minimum preparation will save you valuable time onboard. Utilize clever storage solutions to maximize the use of limited space without compromising on essential items.

Safety Measures:

When it comes to solo sailing, safety should always be a top priority. Ensure your vessel is equipped with all necessary safety features including life jackets, fire extinguishers, rescue flares, VHF radios, and an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). Regularly check and maintain these devices to ensure their reliability during emergencies.

Don’t forget about personal safety equipment as well. Consider investing in a personal locator beacon (PLB), which broadcasts your location in case of man-overboard situations. Stay vigilant by practicing regular drills for emergency scenarios like heavy weather conditions or medical emergencies.

Navigating Challenges:

Single-handed sailing isn’t without its challenges – rough seas, unpredictable weather patterns, mechanical failures – they can all add extra pressure when you’re alone on the water. Mitigate risks by keeping a close eye on changing conditions and take preventive measures such as paying attention to weather forecasts before heading out.

Maintain a well-stocked toolkit onboard with essential spare parts and tools for minor repairs or adjustments. Additionally, familiarize yourself with a pre-determined inspection routine to identify potential issues before they become serious problems at sea.

Embrace Technology:

Technology has revolutionized single-handed sailing over the years. Embrace the digital era by incorporating innovative gadgets like autopilots or windvanes that aid in self-steering while you concentrate on other tasks aboard. High-quality electronic chart plotters can help track your progress accurately while reducing navigational stress.

Online communities are also a valuable resource for connecting with experienced sailors who share invaluable tips and advice on single-handed sailing techniques . Engaging with these communities can provide you with a support network and endless inspiration.


Single-handed sailboats open up a world of adventure, freedom, and self-reliance that is uniquely rewarding. By understanding the fundamentals, making strategic vessel choices, prioritizing safety measures, and embracing technology, aspiring solo sailors can confidently embark on an unforgettable journey.

So hoist those sails, chart your course, and set out to explore the mesmerizing vastness of the ocean – all on your own terms. Single-handed sailing awaits; prepare yourself for an experience like no other!

Sources: 1. “The Modern Cruising Sailboat” by Charles Doane 2. “Practical Freedom – The Minimalist’s Guide to Sailing & Adventuring” by Heidi Nielsen 3. “Complete Ocean Navigator: Using Celestial Navigation & Electronics Together” by Bob Sweet

How to Master the Art of Sailing Alone: Single Handed Sailboats 101

Are you ready to embark on a thrilling journey filled with adventure, solitude, and the thrill of sailing alone? If so, then mastering the art of single-handed sailing is an essential skill you must acquire. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the world of single-handed sailboats, providing you with invaluable tips and insights to ensure a smooth and successful voyage. So hoist your sails, grab your compass, and let’s dive into “How to Master the Art of Sailing Alone: Single Handed Sailboats 101.”

1. Understanding Single-Handed Sailboats: Single-handed sailboats are specially designed vessels that allow one person to navigate through open waters effortlessly. With their streamlined hulls and efficient rigging systems, these boats offer enhanced maneuverability while ensuring minimal physical effort.

2. Preparing for Solo Sailing: Before embarking on any solo sailing adventure, it is crucial to be thoroughly prepared. Start by meticulously inspecting your boat and its equipment; check for any signs of damage or wear. Ensure that your safety gear is up-to-date and in good condition – life jackets, flares, first aid kit – never leave anything to chance.

3. Knowledge is Key: To conquer the art of solo sailing, equip yourself with extensive knowledge about navigation techniques like chart reading, buoyage systems, pilotage planning, tide calculations – the more adept you become at handling these skills on your own, the smoother your journeys will be.

4. Harnessing the Power of Technology: With advancements in technology, sailors now have access to an array of gadgets that can simplify their voyages significantly. GPS navigational systems allow for precise positioning while autopilot functions provide temporary relief from steering duties during longer trips.

5. Seamanship Essentials: Developing competent seamanship skills is crucial for navigating alone effectively. Improve your understanding of wind patterns and currents; practice reefing maneuvers (reducing sail area) for varying wind strengths. Knowledge of anchoring techniques and man overboard procedures is essential to ensure your safety in adverse conditions.

6. Optimizing Your Boat’s Setup: Single-handed sailboats are designed with ergonomics in mind, but optimizing the setup according to your preferences is highly recommended. Familiarize yourself with winch mechanisms, ropes, and lines to ensure smooth operation singlehandedly – make adjustments that facilitate ease of use.

7. Safety First: Solo sailing entails a certain level of risk; therefore, prioritizing safety precautions is non-negotiable. Always inform someone ashore about your plans and anticipated return time. Maintain regular check-ins via radio or satellite communication devices to provide updates on your progress. Carry backup essentials like extra food, water, and emergency supplies.

8. Developing Self-Reliance: Becoming self-reliant at sea involves honing skills in all aspects of boat handling. Practicing docking maneuvers solo will boost confidence when facing potential challenges in crowded marinas or unpredictable weather conditions.

9. Enjoy the Solitude: Sailing alone offers a unique opportunity for introspection and personal growth beyond the nautical realm. Embrace the solitude as you connect with nature, appreciating breathtaking sunsets, stargazing under clear skies, and experiencing the freedom that accompanies this lifestyle.

10: Learn from Seasoned Solo Sailors: Lastly, never forget that learning from those who have mastered single-handed sailing before you can be immensely valuable. Seek out books written by experienced solo sailors, join online forums or attend seminars conducted by yachting associations – their wisdom will guide you towards success on your solitary adventures.

Mastering the art of sailing alone aboard a single-handed sailboat requires dedication, knowledge, and experience – but it is an exhilarating pursuit worth undertaking for those seeking solitude amidst nature’s most beautiful expanse: the open ocean. So start preparing today – your solo voyage awaits!

Step-by-Step: Navigating the Waters with Single Handed Sailboats

Sailing, with its romantic allure and sense of freedom, has been captivating adventurers for centuries. However, sailing solo brings a whole new level of excitement and challenge to the table. Enter single handed sailboats – vessels specially designed to be operated by just one person.

In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through the intricacies of handling single handed sailboats step-by-step. From preparation to mastering sailing techniques, we’ll cover it all with a professional touch and sprinkle of wit.

1. Choosing the Right Single Handed Sailboat: Just like finding your soulmate, selecting the perfect boat that matches your skills and preferences is essential. Factors such as size, stability, maneuverability, and equipment options should be thoroughly considered. We will guide you through this critical decision-making process so that you can find your ideal vessel.

2. Planning and Preparation: Before venturing into the majestic waters alone, thorough planning is crucial for safety and success . We will discuss everything from selecting suitable sailing routes to checking weather conditions and tides. Our expert advice will help you prepare both mentally and physically for your solitary voyage.

3. Safety First: Being alone at sea requires extra precautions to ensure your well-being throughout your sailing adventure . We’ll provide comprehensive tips on safety equipment selection, emergency procedures, signaling devices, first aid kits – all geared towards minimizing risks so that you can fully enjoy a worry-free experience.

4. Navigation Tips: As a single-handed sailor, navigating efficiently becomes even more critical without a co-pilot’s assistance. We’ll delve into advanced navigation techniques using charts and GPS systems while imparting wisdom gained from seasoned sailors on how to navigate tricky situations such as strong currents or sudden changes in wind direction.

5. Mastering Sail Trim: Properly adjusting sails is an art that leads to smooth-sailing experiences even on the most challenging waters. With our step-by-step explanations and clever insights, we’ll help you understand the intricacies of sail trim , from setting up your rigging to fine-tuning sail positioning. You’ll be able to catch every whisper of wind with finesse and grace.

6. Simplifying Maneuvers: Single handed sailors need to master various maneuvers that may ordinarily be shared among a crew. We will break down essential skills like tacking, jibing, reefing, and mooring into manageable steps. Equipped with our comprehensive guidance, you’ll smoothly perform these maneuvers as if you had a whole team by your side.

7. Boosting Confidence: Sailing solo can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially for beginners or those transitioning from crewed sailing . Our blog will offer practical strategies and confidence-building techniques derived from experts and experienced solo sailors alike. We aim to inspire you to push boundaries while testing your abilities in a responsible and thrilling manner.

So whether you dream of conquering vast oceans alone or simply desire the freedom that single-handed sailing brings, our step-by-step guide will give you the tools needed for an unforgettable adventure. Join us as we navigate the waters together with single handed sailboats – combining professionalism, wit, and clever insights throughout your journey!

Frequently Asked Questions about Single Handed Sailboats Answered

Title: Demystifying Single-Handed Sailboats: Expertly Answering Your Burning Questions

Introduction: Setting sail on a single-handed adventure can be an exhilarating experience, allowing you to chart your own course and reconnect with the raw power of the ocean. However, before embarking on this thrilling journey, it’s essential to address some frequently asked questions that commonly arise when discussing single-handed sailboats. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll navigate through the most burning inquiries, providing you with professional insights intertwined with witty and clever explanations. So fasten your life jacket and get ready for a voyage of knowledge!

1. What is a single-handed sailboat? Isn’t sailing traditionally a team sport ? Ahoy there! While sailing has historically been associated with collaborative efforts aboard larger vessels, the rise of single-handed sailboats has revolutionized the sport . A single-handed sailboat refers to any vessel designed and rigged specifically for solo sailing, encompassing various sizes and types tailored to meet individual preferences. Solo sailors prove their mettle by skillfully maneuvering these boats all on their own.

2. Is it safe to sail alone? Safety is paramount in any seafaring adventure! Single-handed sailing can indeed be safe if proper precautions are taken. Skippers must ensure they have extensive knowledge of navigation techniques, weather patterns, emergency procedures, and possess adequate skills in boat handling. Additionally, equipping yourself with safety gear such as life jackets, flares, EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), and having reliable means of communication is crucial.

3. How challenging is it for beginners to learn how to solo-sail? Learning anything new always comes with a learning curve! For beginners venturing into the world of solo-sailing, it’s recommended to start small with simpler boats like dinghies or small keelboats . These vessels provide a manageable learning platform where inexperienced sailors can grasp the fundamentals – like boat handling, maneuvering, and understanding the effects of wind and currents. With time and practice, aspiring solo sailors can organically progress to larger vessels.

4. What are some popular single-handed sailboat designs ? In the vast sea of single-handed sailboats, a few designs have captured the hearts of sailing enthusiasts worldwide. The Mini Transat 6.50, renowned for its compact size and exceptional seaworthiness, is a favorite among adventurers seeking thrilling offshore endeavors. For those craving high-performance precision, the Laser Standard or Radial Olympic-class dinghies offer incredible speed and agility. The Contessa 32, with its classic charm combined with sustainability and simplicity, continues to attract sailors seeking elegance in their lone journeys.

5. How do solo sailors handle sleep during long trips? Sleep – every sailor’s treasure! During extended passages on single-handed sailboats, skippers face the challenge of managing rest alongside navigation duties. Cleverly designed autopilot systems can help maintain course direction while allowing brief periods for napping. Employing alarms, timers, or even physical cues (such as bucket-and-string techniques) enables skippers to wake up periodically to verify their boat’s safety and make adjustments if needed.

6. Can single-handed sails be set up by one person alone? Certainly! Single-handed sailboats are explicitly designed for self-reliance in all aspects – including setting up sails . Innovations such as lazy jacks (ropes that guide sails down into neat piles), furling systems (which allow sails to be rolled away easily), or even simplified rigging techniques grant solo sailors confidence in quickly adjusting their sail plan without relying on additional crew members.

Conclusion: As you navigate your way through these frequently asked questions about single-handed sailboats, it becomes clear that venturing out on solitary voyages holds a unique allure for adventurous souls around the world. Armed with knowledge on boat selection, safety precautions, and learning the art of solo sailing, you can confidently embark on a remarkable journey across tranquil waters or daring offshore expeditions. Single-handed sailboats embody freedom, self-reliance, and the boundless adventure that awaits those who dare to embrace the rhythm of wind and sea alone.

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The Advantages and Challenges of Sailing Solo: Single Handed Sailboats Unveiled

Sailing solo is a remarkable feat that demands both courage and skill. It requires sailors to navigate the open seas without any crew members by their side, relying solely on their own strength, experience, and intuition. For those with a longing for adventure or a desire to test their limits, single-handed sailboats provide both advantages and challenges that can truly unveil one’s capabilities.

One of the primary advantages of sailing solo is the unmatched sense of freedom it offers. There are no compromises or limitations imposed by others; you have complete control over every aspect of your voyage. Decisions such as course alterations, speed adjustments, or route planning are made solely by you, allowing for maximum flexibility and independence. This empowering experience not only strengthens your sailing skills but also fosters personal growth and self-reliance.

In addition to freedom, solo sailing allows for an unparalleled connection with nature. The serenity of being alone on a vast expanse of water surrounded by nothing but wind and waves provides an opportunity for introspection and tranquility that few other activities can match. The sheer beauty and vastness of the ocean become your constant companion, promoting a deep sense of appreciation for the natural world.

Moreover, single-handed sailboats often boast innovative designs specifically tailored to meet the needs of solo adventurers. These vessels are equipped with advanced technologies that simplify tasks usually carried out by multiple crew members. Features such as self-steering mechanisms or automated navigation systems make handling the boat more manageable and less physically demanding.

However, despite its many advantages, sailing solo also presents unique challenges that require careful consideration. One must possess extensive knowledge of seamanship techniques as well as advanced navigational skills to handle unpredictable weather conditions or unexpected emergencies effectively. Unlike in crewed voyages where individuals share responsibilities during watch shifts, solo sailors must remain alert at all times throughout their journey—daytime or nightfall.

Loneliness can also pose severe mental challenges during extended periods at sea. The absence of companionship and the constant exposure to solitude can test even the most resilient individuals. It requires a strong sense of self-motivation and mental fortitude to overcome feelings of isolation, boredom, or homesickness. However, for some, this isolation becomes part of the appeal—an opportunity for deep reflection and personal growth.

Furthermore, physical exhaustion is an ever-present challenge for solo sailors. Without crew members to share the workload, tasks such as navigating complex waters, handling heavy sails, or anchoring become physically demanding and potentially exhausting. Stamina and physical fitness are vital attributes that must be cultivated in order to withstand the rigorous demands of solo sailing.

In conclusion, sailing solo on single-handed sailboats offers adventurers a unique experience filled with advantages and challenges that unveil one’s true mettle. The freedom to chart your own course while basking in the beauty of nature is unparalleled. However, it demands a thorough understanding of seamanship skills, mental resilience to combat loneliness, and physical endurance to conquer tiring tasks at sea. For those seeking an extraordinary voyage that tests limits both internally and externally, solo sailing is an adventure worth exploring.

Dive into the Best Single Handed Sailboat Options Available Today

Dive into the Best Single-Handed Sailboat Options Available Today

Are you a sailing enthusiast, yearning for the ultimate solo adventure on the open sea? If so, you’ll be delighted to know that there is a wide array of single-handed sailboat options available today. These boats are specifically designed to empower sailors with the ability to navigate and operate their vessel independently, providing an unmatched sense of freedom and adventure. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at some of the best single-handed sailboat options currently on the market.

First up is the renowned Laser. This iconic boat has become synonymous with single-handed sailing due to its simplicity and maneuverability. The Laser’s streamlined design allows for swift and effortless sailing, making it an ideal choice for beginners and experienced sailors alike. With its durable construction and versatile rigging options, this sailboat offers incredible performance in various weather conditions . Whether you prefer leisurely cruises or competitive racing, the Laser is undoubtedly one of the top choices for any solo sailor .

For those seeking more speed and agility on the water , consider exploring the RS Aero. This cutting-edge sailboat represents a true revolution in single-handed sailing technology. Built with lightweight materials such as carbon fiber composites, the RS Aero offers exceptional speed while maintaining optimal stability even in strong winds. Its sleek design not only enhances performance but also makes it effortless to transport or store. Designed by expert sailors who understand the thrill of sailing solo, this boat guarantees an exhilarating experience like no other.

If you’re looking for a balance between comfort and performance, look no further than the Melges 14. This stylish sailboat combines modern design elements with practical features tailored specifically for solo sailors. Its spacious cockpit provides ample room to move around while ensuring easy accessibility to all controls and rigging systems – essential for those operating alone at sea. The Melges 14 boasts impressive acceleration capabilities and responsive handling, making it an excellent option for both recreational cruising and exhilarating races .

On the more adventurous side, you may want to explore the magic of trimaran sailing with the Corsair Pulse 600. With its innovative folding features, this sailboat offers unmatched flexibility in terms of transportation and storage. Capable of reaching high speeds and exceptional stability, the Corsair Pulse 600 is perfect for those who crave excitement on their solo sailing adventures. Its lightweight construction allows for effortless single-handed operation while being well-equipped with user-friendly systems that maximize control and safety.

In conclusion, if you’re a solo sailor seeking the thrill of navigating alone on the open sea , there is a wide range of remarkable single-handed sailboat options available today. From the timeless simplicity of the Laser to the cutting-edge technology of the RS Aero and Melges 14 to the adventurous nature of trimarans like the Corsair Pulse 600 – these boats are sure to ignite your sense of adventure. So grab your gear, set sail , and let these fantastic vessels take you on extraordinary journeys filled with unforgettable moments. Happy exploring!

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My Cruiser Life Magazine

What are the Best Single-Handed Sailboats and Catamarans?

Single-handed boats aren’t just limited to solo travelers. Many cruising couples will tell you that it’s a good idea to have your boat rigged and ready to be sailed single-handed. Why? What if one person gets injured—or just seasick? If your usual crew complement is only two, it makes no sense—from a safety standpoint—to require them both to be “on duty” all the time.

Of course, there are times and situations when you’ll be headed out by yourself. Maybe you like to travel but lack a consistent crew. Or many you’d just rather not bother with a crew.

The good news is that most modern cruising boats can be modified and re-rigged to improve their single-handed abilities. It all comes down to picking the right boat and making the correct modifications. Here’s a look at some of the things you’ll want to consider and five great single-handed monohull and catamaran designs.

Table of Contents

Goals for your boat, the under-rated importance of ease of single-handing, what does a single-hander need, types of autohelm, what does a single-hander want, single-handing rigging considerations, 5 great sailboats for single-handed cruisers, best single-handed sailing catamarans.

To find the perfect boat for you, whether solo or crewed sailing, is to make a list of goals and find the vessel that best meets them. There is no perfect boat. Furthermore, while you might be interested in solo sailing now, you might find yourself with a crew later on. 

Start with the basics—why are you looking to single-hand your boat? Are you an adventure seeker looking to break records and find adventure with long-distance cruising? Thinking of entering a single-handed sailing race, like the Vendée Globe ? 

Or are you just a solo sailor looking for a production boat that’s easy to operate by yourself? This is more common than you might imagine. Most cruising couples out there will readily admit that one member of the crew does very little to help during the actual act of sailing. 

Even on two-person crews where both partners are capable, it’s often desirable for the boat to be equipped to be handled by just one person. What if one partner becomes incapacitated by seasickness—or worse, an injury? What if, even rarely, one person needs to move the boat while the other person is away?

The point is simply this—every boat that is being considered by a couple or a short-handed crew should be able to be handled by a single sailor. Whether you’re on watch while the rest of the crew sleeps or you just want to be ready for an emergency, no cruising boat should be impossible to handle alone.

What are the Best Single-Handed Sailboats and Catamarans_Where you make

Nearly all modern cruising boats can at least be modified for easier solo handling. Here’s a look at some of the most critical gear and considerations. 

The importance of each of these items will vary greatly depending on the boat, its mission, and its crew. Rigging any boat is a very personal choice. Sailors notoriously like to do things their own ways, and their boats demonstrate this character trait. The way the manufacturer or the last owner set things up is just a starting point from which you begin modifying the boat for your use. 

Probably the most helpful thing to be able to single-hand is a competent hand on the helm. Thankfully, several modern and old technologies can provide solo sailors with just that.

The goal here is to allow the boat to hold a course without the operator being at the helm. Some form of “autohelm” or “autopilot” is invaluable on long passages. While it’s romantic to think of steering your ship through the dark night, in truth, it is exhausting work. An autopilot or windvane lets you relax and know that the boat will hold its course while you keep watch.

In severe weather at sea, it’s not uncommon for hand-steering crews to stand very short watches, sometimes less than an hour. This is simply due to the workload of controlling the boat in heavy weather. Some boats are more work than others, but all require more helm work when the seas are up.

This is the primary reason why the autopilot system, whatever it is, should be considered an essential part of a boat’s safety gear. A sailboat autopilot system is simply invaluable if you plan to travel far distances or do overnights on your boat.

A windvane is a purely mechanical method to controlling the boat’s heading. It has two parts—the actual windvane and then some form of steering. Many wind vanes are so well regarded as to be recognizably by brand name. Monitor and Hydrovane are probably the two most well-known models.  

The windvane assembly is mounted on the transom of a vessel. The windvane itself sticks up like the rudder of an airplane, and it reacts to the wind and spins. As it spins, it uses linkages to either move the ship’s rudder or its own smaller rudder. The operator simply adjusts some small lines to select what direction the boat should be sailing from the wind. The windvane then holds that angle.

There are many advantages to these systems, and their usefulness offshore should not be underestimated. While we’re often dazzled by the digital and the new-fangled, a windvane is dead simple and offers the ultimate in reliability. It uses no battery power and requires very little input to operate. It is nothing more than metal, and short of being severely damaged or bent, there’s just not much that can go wrong with one. And one final bonus—some windvanes can be used as emergency rudders.

For all their pluses, windvanes do have some downsides. They are large and bulky, hanging off the back of the boat. And they are costly to purchase and install, too. 

Electronic Autopilots

Most modern boats are equipped with at least a little bit of electronics, and autopilots are now very common. An autopilot can be described as above or below decks, depending on where the drive unit is mounted. 

Regardless of the details, all autopilots work in approximately the same way. They use either a motor or hydraulic system to move some part of the boat’s rudder linkages. Some move the wheel, while others attach to an arm on the rudder shaft. Either way, the autopilot uses electronic signals to move the boat’s rudder left or right, just like moving the wheel.

Most simple autopilots are connected to an electronic compass, giving the operator a heading hold. Sailing models may also tie into the wind instruments to allow the holding of an apparent wind angle. New models that talk to the chartplotter may track navigation courses between waypoints or entire pre-planned navigation routes. 

The bigger the boat, and the heavier the weather it might encounter, then the beefier an autopilot system needs to be. Autopilots can and do fail—they’re complicated electronics with a lot of moving parts. Single-handers venturing far offshore will likely want to have an entire backup unit installed or use their autopilot in concert with a manual windvane.

For boats looking to travel long distances or make overnight passages, there is no substitution for having a spare set of eyes on board. All vessels operate on the concept of “see and avoid,” meaning each captain’s responsibility to watch out for other traffic. If a single-hander is busy doing something else, like letting the autopilot drive the boat while they make their supper, who’s “on watch?”

There is only one electronic device that can be used as a second set of eyes, and that’s a good quality marine radar. All modern units allow operators to set up “guard zones.” The unit will monitor a pre-determined zone around the boat and notify you if an object is detected inside that zone. 

Of course, there are other benefits to having radar on board. It can see through rain and fog. If you’re sailing solo, there’s no reason not to have a second set of eyes on board, even if they’re electronic.

What are the Best Single-Handed Sailboats and Catamarans_Where you make it

Once you’ve got a reliable autopilot and radar on board, you can move from the items you need into the items you might want. If you have an autopilot that works and you plan your actions carefully, you can likely handle any vessel without the following equipment. But these items might make it all a little more pleasant and are worth considering. 

Electric Windlass and Winches

Cruising vessels that anchor regularly often have electric windlasses. These make hoisting the anchor and chain back aboard as easy as pressing a button. While manual windlasses enable you to bring up very heavy ground tackle, they take a long time to do it and require an awful lot of elbow grease.

The same applies to sailing winches on larger boats. Electric winches are complex and do take a lot of power, but they also make hoisting and handling big sails a breeze. 

Line Control From the Cockpit

Pretty much every sailboat has the most crucial control lines rigged to the cockpit. Jib and main sheets are the perfect examples. But some boats go one step further, also running halyards and reefing lines to the cockpit, too. 

There are plusses and minuses to this approach. Running these lines from the base of the mast aft to the cockpit increases the drag on the system, meaning it will take more effort to hoist or tighten the lines. But the security of not having to leave the cockpit if you don’t have to is worth the investment, so long as you have the rope clutches and winch power to make it all work. 

Some sailors balk at the idea of running these lines aft, often citing that they’ll have to go forward if something goes wrong. But most of the time, they won’t have to. Fewer trips up on deck at sea means a safer and easier voyage all around. For the single-hander especially, the more you can do from one position, the better.

The layout of how the lines are run to the cockpit is important, too. This is often more a factor in the yacht’s design than something you can easily play with. But where applicable, a sailor will want to spend considerable time thinking about where they want to put lines and how they want to get them there. 

What are the Best Single-Handed Sailboats and Catamarans_Where you make

Rig Simplicity

The simpler the rig, the easier it is to sail. While nearly all production boats are sloops, the catboat has some distinct advantages here. With only one big sail to worry about, the amount of work and line handling is instantly reduced by two (or three, in the case of ketches or cutters). Catboats like the Nonsuch are known to be excellent performers and are super easy to sail. There are a few cat-rigged schooners out there, too. 

There are many variations of traditional sailplans that have been played with on modern boats. Junk rigs, for example, are simple to create and very easy to sail. They’re complex in their setup and not very common on fiberglass boats, however.

If you’re looking for something easy to handle, efficient, and really wild, check out this article from Sail Magazine featuring some of the cutting-edge things found on yachts and the very interesting AeroRig.

Related: Best Trailerable Sailboats

Self-Tending Headsails

Some sloops have smaller headsails that are “self-tending.” This is another way of saying that these sails don’t need to be tacked, you can trim them like a mainsail, and you can tack the boat simply by turning the helm. That’s a considerable reduction in workload for the crew, whether they’re a single-hander or not. 

Roller Furlers on Sails

Headsails can either be hanked on or rolled up on a furler. A furler means less hoisting, and you can open the sail from the cockpit. Although somewhat less common, mainsails can be furled too. Some boats have in-mast furlers. On boats with large full-batten mainsails, in-boom furlers are becoming more common. 

The advantage of these systems is that they make reefing and reducing sail extremely easy. The hassle, of course, is that they have more moving parts and are expensive to install. 

Cockpit Layout

The cockpit layout is about more than just the rigging. You’ll also want to take note of where and how the electronics are mounted. For example, is there a handheld VHF or do you have to go down below every time you make or answer a radio call? Are the chartplotter and radar in easy view of the helm? These are easy things to fix but worth looking at and thinking about as you set the boat up.

Easy Docking

Finally, the boat should be easy to dock single-handed. Of course, it’s always preferable to have help on the dock to get the slip safely. But this doesn’t always happen, so you should be prepared to do it yourself. 

Many sailboats benefit from having a bow thruster installed, as this can help control the bow when docking in close quarters, especially in crosswind situations. 

The overall size of the boat is an important factor, too. You can single hand huge yachts, which is all well and good until it comes time to dock it. 

Monohulls Rigged for Easy-Operation

The good news is that you can rig nearly any boat for safe and easy single-handing. The newer the boat, the more likely it will already be set up for single-handing. Modern items like line organizers and rope clutches make it all the easier. 

The boats below are exceptional in that they step away from the now ubiquitous Bermuda sloop rig. As a result, they may lose some performance abilities in some conditions, but they more than make up for it in their ease of handling. 

Nonsuch 36/40

Nonsuches are distinctive boats—they are some of the only large catboats on the water today. They’re rigged with a large mainsail that is made easy to control by a wishbone boom rigging system. In effect, this makes handling a Nonsuch much like sailing a giant windsurfing board. The larger Nonsuches come from the drawing board of respected marine architect Mark Ellis.

With only one sail, the boat is straightforward to operate. First, hoist the main, and then control it with a single sheet. Tacks and jibes are easy. Reefing is as simple as letting out the halyard a little and reducing sail.

Freedom has made various interesting and straightforward rigs that contrast with the run-of-the-mill sloops found in most marinas. The number one thing you’ll notice about Freedoms is their distinctive tapered un-stayed mast. With no spreaders and no standing rigging, Freedoms look sleek from the outset.

Several models of Freedom are catboats rigged with a giant mainsail. Others, like the popular 36, are free-standing, fractionally-rigged sloops with a tiny, self-tending jib. This is the best of both worlds since the jib will provide extra power when going upwind and presents very little extra work for the crew.

Picking a catamaran for solo sailing may seem counterintuitive since they are so much larger than monohulls. But most modern catamarans are rigged from the factory for single-handed sailing. These boats are designed from the ground up for charter work—meaning that a captain will do all the work while their guests enjoy themselves. This flies in the face of the design ethos shared by most older “classic plastic” monohulls built for the club racing scene.

Most cruising catamarans are rigged with straightforward fractional sloop rigs with large, full-batten mainsails. The mains typically feature slab reefing, and the foresails are almost always mounted on furlers. Operating these boats is as simple as hoisting the main and then unrolling the jib.

What are the Best Single-Handed Sailboats and Catamarans_Where you make

Leopard 39/40 (circa 2010)

Leopard catamarans, built by Robertson and Caine of South Africa, is the sole supplier of catamarans to The Moorings yacht charter company worldwide. But their boats are equally popular among private owners who want the catamaran lifestyle and ease of sailing.

Unlike competing brands, Leopard embraced the idea of the single-handed operator from their earliest designs. Even some of their original boats, the 38, 45, and 47 (circa 1998), had excellent walk-through helm stations with all lines led to them. As a result, you can perform every task on these boats—from hoisting the main, unfurling the jib, reefing, and even trimming the traveler—while keeping one hand on the helm.

Lagoon 39/40/42 (2015 and newer)

Lagoon is Leopard’s main competitor, but if you look at their older designs, they spent years catching up to Leopard in terms of helm positioning and single-handed operations. This changed dramatically when Lagoon introduced the 39 around 2015 and the 42 and 46 a few years later.

This new generation of Lagoons went one step better than Leopard. They have ditched the enormous and powerful mainsail in favor of a larger and self-tending jib. These boats carry their masts much farther aft than other catamarans, and the design is more similar to the Prouts of the 1990s than other modern catamarans.

But this setup makes two significant improvements. First, it reduces the power of the sometimes difficult to control mainsail. Second, it also adds self-tacking abilities to the headsail. And since most cats use furling light-wind sails for downwind and calm-day sailing, no real performance loss results. 

Prout Snowgoose (circa 1987)

An older boat that is underrated these days is the Prout 37 Snowgoose. These boats featured a double headsail paired with a very small and easy to tend main. While the headsails aren’t self-tacking, they are both usually mounted on furlers. This provides a lot of sail plan options for offshore adventures. Additionally, the mast on these boats is located so far aft as to be even with the helm, meaning you can do reefing and hoisting chores without leaving the cockpit. 

sailboat for single handed 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.

sailboat for single handed cruising

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

Yachting Monthly cover

Singlehanded sailing for the first time

Toby Heppell

  • Toby Heppell
  • August 31, 2020

Toby Heppell looks at the art of singlehanded sailing and considers what constitutes good seamanship when it’s only you on board

Singlehanded sailing on Sadler 29

Sailing alone gives you freedom to set off when you want, but requires a different approach. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Singlehanded sailing is often something we associate with feats of adventure and endurance, bringing forward ideas of the lone sailor heading off across oceans.

Setting off on a significant offshore voyage on your own is a truly specialist activity.

You are likely to experience sleep deprivation, the stresses of being alone for long periods of time and the possibility of facing inclement weather by yourself.

That may well not be for all of us.

A Sadler 29 on the Solent

Editor Theo Stocker headed out on his Sadler 29 to put the advice into practice. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

But closer to home, many of us are likely to go singlehanded sailing – be it regularly or just the odd occasion, a short coastal trip or a longer voyage, or when a crew member is laid low by seasickness or other ailment.

You might end up without a crew and face the choice of leaving the boat in a distant port or taking a fair wind home alone.

You may be a couple sailing with a young child that needs constant attention, leaving the skipper to handle the boat alone.

Understanding the skills and kit necessary to successfully and safely sail by yourself is, if not an essential skill, certainly a useful string to the bow.

Freedom and responsibility of singlehanded sailing

‘Sailing solo there is the dependence on oneself that is really appealing,’ say Mervyn Wheatley, veteran of many solo ocean races and trips.

sailboat for single handed cruising

Toby Heppell got his first boat aged four and grew up sailing on the East Coast. He has been a sailing journalist for over 15 years. Credit: Richard Langdon

‘A great deal of that appeal is that you know if something goes wrong then you are going to have to sort it out yourself.

As a solo skipper, you are master of your own destiny, entirely free to run the boat exactly as you wish.

With that comes total responsibility for everything on board: food, maintenance, sail choice, pilotage – it’s all up to you.

‘There’s an unmistakable excitement in slipping the lines and knowing that success or failure is entirely down to your resourcefulness and seamanship,’ says Wheatley.

‘Completing a solo passage satisfies like nothing else. But with that responsibility comes a significant reliance on making sure everything onboard and yourself are up to the challenge.’

In this article, I’m going to look at the various aspects you should consider to make sure you’re ready for solo coastal daysails, rather than long-distance offshore singlehanded sailing, when considerations around sleep management become more vital.

Is your boat up to singlehanded sailing?

Though the recent trend has been for ever-bigger boats, you need to be fairly agile to singlehand a boat much over 35ft, or have invested some serious money into automation.

Typically at about 35ft you are reaching the point where sail size is a big factor in terms of managing reefing and winching.

Setting up your boat so that you have to leave the helm as little as possible is important.

If you do have to leave the helm when sailing, doing so on starboard tack, keeping a good lookout and setting an autopilot will keep you in control.

A singlehanded sailor clipper on to his yacht

Clip on: Make sure your jackstays are in good condition, and let you work on deck effectively. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

A furling headsail saves foredeck work and in-mast or in-boom furling makes mainsail reefing simpler, and the slight loss of performance may not be important to you.

A slab-reefed main can take longer to reef but lines led aft make it easier.

Crucially, if you drop it as you are coming in to harbour, the main will block your vision forward unless you have lazy jacks.

Fortunately, these are easy to add if you don’t have them already, and a stack-pack sail bag makes stowing the sail even easier.

Leaving the cockpit for any reason is among the highest risks for solo sailors, particularly as handling sails at the start and end of your passage is likely to be close to harbour with more traffic around.

Lines on a Sadler 29

Lines aft: Leading lines aft helps avoid trips forward out of the cockpit. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Leading lines back to the cockpit will make life easier, with the caveat that any friction points, particularly in single-line reefing systems, need addressing.

Taking the main halyard back to the cockpit at the very least is a must.

When it comes to mooring by yourself, ‘midships cleats are often underrated and underused, but they are invaluable,’ says ex-Navy navigator and cruising author Andy du Port.

‘With only two of us on board, we have become adept at lassoing pontoon cleats from amidships and hauling in reasonably firmly before the boat has a chance to start drifting off.’

In terms of safety, eliminating risk of going overboard is key and staying clipped on is a good way to do that.

Make sure your jackstays can be reached from inside the cockpit, and let you get to the mast or other working areas on deck.

Webbing rather than wire won’t roll underfoot.

Sensible cockpit strong points should let you move from helm to winches, halyards, instruments, and companionway without unclipping.

Optimal cockpit layout for singlehanded sailing

Whether you have a wheel or tiller, the layout of the cockpit is important as to whether it works well for singlehanded sailing.

It is worth noting, however, that a tiller can be slotted between your legs when hoisting sails or handling lines.

The ability to see a chartplotter on deck is important, as you will need to do much of your navigation from the helm and modern chart plotters make this easier.

Particularly in coastal waters, you will want to spend as little time as possible down below at the chart table so you can keep a proper lookout.

Navigation equipment fitted on the deck of a Sadler 29

Navigation: A setup that works on deck reduces time spent below. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Effective self-steering is essential for singlehanded sailing.

An autopilot is excellent under power as the engine keeps the batteries topped up but under sail, if you haven’t trimmed correctly for a neutral helm, the autopilot has to work hard and will draw more power.

Modern units draw 2-3A but older models can draw double that.

For this reason, an easily visible battery monitor will help.

Some autopilots include a remote control you can wear on your wrist or on a lanyard to alter course.

For smaller boats or longer passages, a windvane is effective on every point of sail and draws no power.

A midships cleat on the deck of a Sadler 29

Midships: A midships cleat is a big help if you don’t have crew to help. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

However, they are vulnerable in port, and struggle under motor as prop wash confuses the servo blade.

‘If I am in coastal waters then I use an autopilot as it’s easier,’ says Wheatley.

‘If I’m nipping across the Channel then I know I can plug into the mains on the other side. I use a windvane on ocean passages.’

Ensure essentials such as handbearing compass, sunscreen and water are in place before you slip lines. Finally, get to know your boat well. A refresher on the key parts of each of your main systems might be a good idea before a singlehanded passage.

Physical limitations

Singlehanded sailing requires a reasonable level of physical fitness.

Every manoeuvre is slower and more arduous when sailing alone, so you’ll need the endurance to handle longer passages.

It’s really easy to become dehydrated, so keep a bottle of water in the cockpit, preferably in a pocket along with a few biscuits to keep your energy up and help you deal with tiredness.

Yachting Monthly editor Theo Stocker helming a Sadler 29

The demands of helming, sail handling, manoeuvring, navigation and other tasks on board while singlehanded sailing should not be underestimated. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

‘If you’re feeling a bit tired to begin with, if you’re going to sail a long way that is only going to get worse and will probably guarantee seasickness,’ explains ocean sailing legend, Pete Goss.

‘Sometimes if you just take it a bit easy at the start of a longer passage that makes things easier for the rest of the trip.

‘Plan to only go a short distance before possibly anchoring up for some hours, to make sure you get some rest and you have properly got your sea legs.

‘That can be the difference between a great solo passage and a terrible one where you are tired and sick from the off.

‘No-one functions well in that sort of condition.’

A skipper lighting a gas cooker on a boat to make a cup of tea

Nutrition: Keep yourself rested and fuelled. Heave to and put the kettle on for a break. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

‘Eating is a really important thing to focus on too,’ says record breaking skipper Dee Caffari.

‘It is really just getting the balance right and realising the effect hunger has on your body and mind.

‘I did a lot of work with sports psychologists before doing big races to understand myself a lot more.

‘Much of it was focused on understanding when I am tired and when I am hungry.

‘There are moments now when I realise I just need to eat and take a 10-minute break, and then I am a totally different person.

‘Clearly not everyone has access to a psychologist, but taking the time to notice the signs of sleep deprivation and hunger and what they mean in terms of how you function is crucial.’

Solo safety

Singlehanded sailing should be approached much like sailing at night in terms of safety.

You want everything you might need ready to hand, and to take a much more cautious approach.

A solo skipper navigating in the cockpit with a paper chart

Make sure you can navigate from the cockpit, whether on a plotter or paper chart in a plastic wallet. Time below is time not keeping a look out. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Going overboard is not a good idea at the best of times and becomes even more serious when solo.

Everything should be done to minimise this risk.

While much of this is a matter of attitude, and planning each manoeuvre to predict the main dangers, having the right equipment in the right place will also help.

Navigation and communication

Being able to manage your boat, and all of the key navigation and safety systems from the cockpit is the key.

Think through your navigation and communications equipment.

A chart plotter and a VHF radio handset on deck will save the need to go below.

A mobile phone showing details of the SafeTrx app

Shore contact: Register your vessel details with the Coastguard on the SafeTrx app, then let a shore contact know your ETA. This can also be done with the app. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Should you need to make a distress call, having a radio that is set up with a DSC button will make things easier.

Modern handheld VHF radios are capable of this, as are command microphones for fixed VHF sets, which also have the advantage of a longer range.

It is worth having binoculars, flares, and a grab bag easily to hand too.

AIS and radar

Making your boat more visible to others will help make up some of the potential shortfall of only having one set of eyes to keep lookout.

A properly working AIS unit, radar reflector, and potentially a radar enhancer and alarm, will help alert you to approaching vessels and you to them.

On board equipment

Though they are key bits of safety kit on any yacht, the lifebelt and danbuoy aren’t so important for singlehanded sailing, as there will be no-one left to throw them after you if you did go overboard.

But the rest of the boat’s standard equipment should be located, inspected and brought up to spec before a solo passage if they aren’t already.

These include the liferaft, fire extinguishers, bilge pump, flares, first aid kit and so on.

Man overboard

Falling overboard, serious enough with a fully-crewed boat, becomes even more unpalatable solo.

Everything should be done to avoid this possibility.

Clearly, a mindset that is consistently aware of the risk is your biggest asset, and will help you avoid doing things that could leave you exposed.

An emergency ladder aft of a yacht

MOB: You’re most likely to fall overboard when mooring. Make sure your bathing ladder can be operated from the water or rig an emergency one. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Keeping clipped can serve as a reminder of this, and goes some way to keeping you connected to the boat, though being overboard on the end of the tether may be little better than being overboard without one.

‘I do wear a tether often,’ says Wheatley.

‘But the thing to remember about going over the side is that a tether does keep you there, but if you go over by yourself and you are tethered on, then you are not going to get back onboard.

‘However, it is much easier to find a boat than a body so I take the view that I wear one to make it easier for my family should I go over.’

Emergency ladder

Often the biggest risk of going overboard for a singlehander is actually in harbour.

Picking up the mooring buoy, or even stepping across from pontoon to boat has often led to an unexpected dunking.

This can rapidly become serious if you are wearing heavy clothing or the water is anything less than balmy, and do not have an easy means of climbing out.

For this reason many solo sailors carry an emergency ladder with a line that can be reached from the water.

In this scenario, a lifejacket will help you float during the initial phase of cold shock, and should therefore be worn, not just when things start to get ‘a bit lively’ out at sea.

Modern lifejackets are far more impressive than their early counterparts.

Lightweight, slimline, and comfortable to wear, the hood helps prevent secondary drowning and the bright colour and light makes it easier to locate you by day and night.

Crucially, technology has moved on so that it is possible to carry AIS and satellite distress beacons in or on the lifejacket.

Along with a VHF radio in your pocket, this is likely to be your only chance of calling for help at sea should the worst happen.

It should therefore be a serious consideration for anyone sailing solo, however far they venture.

Passage plan

As a solo sailor, it is a good idea to have a shore contact who you keep updated with your plans and your estimated time of arrival, and who knows to call the Coastguard with the details of your boat if you become overdue.

A grab bag and other gear on the deck of a Sadler 29

Cockpit kit: Gear close to hand should include binoculars, compass, knife and PLB, as well as grab bag, food and drink. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

This can be supplemented by having your details up to date on the RYA SafeTrx app , which the Coastguard now uses as its leisure vessel registry, as well as being an active passage-tracking tool.

Even if the alarm is raised, hopefully a phone or VHF radio call will quickly establish all is well.

Tangled ropes

It’s easy for piles of rope to mount up when there’s no second pair of hands to help.

Keep up with tidying lines away, so you don’t end up with a tangled mess that could jam just when you need a halyard to run free.

With a little patience, singlehanded sailing is rarely more difficult than sailing two- or three-up for the experienced skipper.

Manoeuvres take longer to complete and you are likely to spend more time in the cockpit than you otherwise might, but your approach to most situations will be broadly the same.

Where things can get tricky is in slipping the lines and mooring.

A solo skipper on a deck of his yacht preparing for departure

Springing the stern out is fine with crew, but springing the bow out means you can handle lines without leaving the cockpit. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

The latter being all the worse for coming at the end of your passage and so your decision making is likely to be impaired through weariness.

Slipping the lines is clearly much easier if the wind is blowing you off the pontoon.

Here your midships cleat will come in handy as you can get yourself tight to the pontoon with this and then drop the bow line, before heading back to remove the stern line and finally slipping the midships line.

Do remember to have plenty of fenders fore and aft as the boat may pivot around the midships cleat, depending on wind and tide direction.

A solo skipper steering his tiller yacht with his knees

Multi-tasking: Tiller boats can be steered with your knees while coiling lines, but don’t get distracted. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

As ever, the process for leaving a windward berth can be trickier.

It is easier to spring off the bow first as you have cockpit access to your sternline.

So this is your best option if there is little to no tide, or the tide is coming from ahead.

If there is no tide running and the wind is blowing to onto your pontoon, then you will probably need to motor astern with the stern line firm to help bring the bow out.

A Sadler 29 moored against a pontoon

Midships cleat: If you can get a midships line on, it will hold the boat to the pontoon while you sort the other lines. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Once it moves clear of the pontoon you can motor ahead as you slip the sternline.

With the tide from astern, use a slipped bow spring.

With sufficient tide the engine does not have to be engaged; simply slip all the lines bar the bow spring, go to the foredeck, watch the stern come away from the pontoon, slip the spring and return to the cockpit.

Once you are in open water, set the engine slow ahead and engage the autopilot while you recover lines and fenders.

Lines can be coiled and fenders tidied away in the cockpit.

On the water

Before taking on any planned singlehanded sailing, your boat handling should be up to scratch, but even the best sailors will find their skills improving quickly from a bit of time on the water alone.

Thinking through manoeuvring into and out of marinas berths and moorings, and then practising this a few times can take away some of the stress of a solo trip.

A Sadler 29 being singlehanded

Heaving to: Lash the helm and back the jib to give yourself a break, but get the boat balanced first. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

At sea you need to be able to heave-to or stop comfortably, as this will give you time to boil the kettle, tend to any problems, or even have a quick break.

Manoeuvres such as tacking or reefing can also be rehearsed: which lines are eased or hauled in first, and when to put the helm down will be particular to your boat, but can be practised.

Once you’re at sea, it is worth keeping manoeuvres to a minimum when possible, as they take time and energy, and incur an element of risk.

As beating will involve a heeled boat and some tacking, it is, by its very nature, the toughest point of sail.


Vane steering systems or an autopilot that can adjust the course to the wind shifts, will keep the boat steering effectively.

Some newer autopilots also have tacking and gybing functions, leaving you free to concentrate on trimming the sails.

Autopilot on a Sadler 29

An autopilot or self-steering is vital. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

An autopilot remote is also an option, giving you access to control from anywhere on the boat (usually worn on the wrist).

It’s also worth spending time on your passage planning and general theory.

Going below for five minutes to check when the tide turns or to find out what a specific light means will be five minutes that you’re not on deck keeping a lookout.

When coming in to harbour, start the engine relatively far out from your destination to give you time to douse sail and prepare yourself.

Lazyjacks prevent a dropped mainsail blowing off the boom and restricting visibility forward.

Rig your fenders and lines in open water where you have space to drift or motor slowly under autopilot.

If you do not yet know where you will be going it is well worth fendering port and starboard with stern and midships lines on both sides.

A Sadler 29 rigged with fenders entering Lymington harbour

Rig fenders and lines once you’re out of the waves, but before you enter confined waters. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Most marinas will send someone to help you if you radio ahead and let them know that you are on your own, or others on the pontoon will normally be happy to catch a line, but you should be prepared to do things alone if needed.

Coming alongside a pontoon, the midships line is critical.

Position the tail so that it is easily picked up when you move forward from the helm.

Prepare bow and stern lines and bring the ends amidships so you can reach them from the pontoon.

A Sadler 29 coming alongside a pontoon in Lymington

Boat handling: Without someone to take the lines ashore, being able to get your boat stopped where you want it makes life much easier. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Stop the boat dead with your midships cleat as close as possible to your selected pontoon cleat, and throw a lasso of rope over it – a skill well worth practising.

Sweat the line to bring the boat as close as you can.

You are then secure and have more time to take bow and stern lines across and adjust your position.

You can also use the midships line as a spring.

A skipper wearing a lifejacket throwing a line from a yacht

Stern line: Throw a coil of line from each hand to lasso a cleat at the stern. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Once the line is made off, put the engine ahead with the helm towards the pontoon.

This will hold the boat snug alongside while you sort the other lines.

A main sail being dropped on a yacht

Lazy jacks: When dropping the main, lazyjacks help prevent the sail blocking the view and let you delay a trip on deck. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

This is harder if the wind is blowing off the pontoon; your boat handling has to be positive and accurate.

If coming alongside isn’t working, getting a line onto a cleat from the bow or stern will get you secure and give you time to warp the boat in.

A solo skipper putting on a midships line

Which line first? If the wind is offshore, the midships line is useful to get on first. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

If you don’t fancy it, consider picking up a swinging mooring or dropping the anchor until help is available or the conditions change.

The key to mooring alone is to be ready beforehand, in open water, and to have planned what order you will do things in.

A sadler 29 coming alongside a pontoon

Midships spring: Helm to the pontoon and forward gear will hold you alongside. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

This can be practised while you have crew by getting the boat to stop in her berth without relying on lines to take the boat’s way off.

It looks much better too!

Don’t get overpowered

Managing the amount of sail you have set before you become overpowered is more important when you are singlehanded sailing as it takes longer to reduce sail and you will have no extra pairs of hands if things get exciting.

If you know it’s going to be a windy sail, reef before you leave your mooring.

If you have a ramshorn for the tack reefing point, you may need a small piece of bungee to hold the cringle in place until you have hoisted the sail.

Cockpit of a Sadler 29

Reef earlier than you would with crew. It’ll save energy, reduce risk and reflect a more conservative approach. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

If you are already out on the water, reef early, before the wind increases too much.

Be conservative with how early you reef.

Before you tackle reefing the mainsail, furl away some of the headsail.

This will slow the boat, making the motion easier and reducing heel, so making reefing the main easier.

Having a more heavily reefed main, and using the genoa to fine-tune the sailing area with the furling line also makes changing gears singlehanded less arduous and avoids trips on deck before needing to shake out or take in the next reef.

A singlehanded sail clipped on to his yacht via a harness

Going forward to the mast, make sure you are clipped on. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

‘For short-handed crews, mainsails need to be quick to drop in an emergency and require no feeding when hoisting, to avoid unnecessary trips out of the cockpit,’ says Pip Hare .

‘Avoid using a main with a bolt rope, because when the sail is dropped it will not remain captive at the mast and can quickly become uncontrollable.’

Downwind, keeping the rig under control requires some forethought.

A main boom preventer should be used if you’re sailing deep downwind, but is precarious to rig at sea, so have this ready before you set off, or even rig one on each side.

Most singlehanders are likely to be reluctant to set coloured sails off the wind in all but the best conditions and using a headsail, poled out, is more likely.

A man pulling on lines on a yacht

Keep rope tails tidy when singlehanded sailing to prevent a dangerous tangle in the cockpit. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

To set your poled-out headsail, begin by furling it away while you ready a pole on the windward side with uphaul, downhaul and guy.

This will give you full control of the sail from the cockpit.

Once you are set up it is simply a case of unfurling the sail and trimming from the helm.

It’s an easy and easily manageable solution and can be furled away without dropping the pole.

Yellow bungee holding a sail in place on a yacht

If your reefing system has ramshorns, a piece of bungee can hold it in place while you go aft. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

It will be easiest to furl the sail before you gybe, then attend to changing over the pole before again unfurling.

Setting a spinnaker or cruising chute is a more long-winded process solo so should only be taken on if you have a long leg ahead of you and you are sailing in relatively traffic-free waters.

A cruising chute is simpler to set up than a spinnaker.

Rigging can be done with the headsail furled and hoisted in its snuffer.

You’ll probably need to be on the foredeck to raise the snuffer, so make sure you are secure before doing so.

Continues below…

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Set the boat on a course deep downwind until you can get back to the cockpit to trim the sail.

Hoisting a spinnaker takes more planning and more time both to set and douse.

For gybing either of them, you would be best to snuff or drop the sail and reset on the new side.

Singlehanded sailing checklist

  • Boat well maintained with all known faults rectified
  • Sail handling arrangement set up with lines back to cockpit if possible
  • Autopilot or self-steering set up, calibrated and working, with remote if available
  • Hove-to practised and balanced sail plan checked
  • Furling headsail and mainsail lazyjacks set up and working
  • Enough fenders and mooring lines to rig both sides, and means of getting midships line onto a pontoon cleat
  • Confident you can handle the boat for the given forecast
  • Practised mooring, manoeuvring and sail handling alone
  • Well rested ahead of passage
  • Food and drink prepared in advance and available on deck
  • Familiar with boat’s key systems and how to troubleshoot each of them
  • Short passages and daysailing in coastal waters are better
  • Avoid overnight passages initially
  • Full passage plan completed with necessary notes available on deck
  • Passage plan and ETA shared with shore contact, coastguard or RYA SafeTrx app
  • Boat details registered on RYA SafeTrx app or website

Safety and kit

  • Adopt conservative approach to risk and safety
  • VHF radio on deck
  • Chartplotter or paper chart on deck
  • Wearing lifejacket at all times, particularly start and end of passage recommended
  • Carry personal safety equipment, including VHF, knife, torch, and PLB or AIS beacon
  • Jackstays rigged, tether clipped on
  • Emergency ladder in reach from water
  • Have easily available: wet weather gear, binoculars, handbearing compass, knife, sunscreen, snacks, and water.

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Going Solo: Getting Started with Single-handed Sailing

The idea of single-handed sailing appeals to cruisers and racers alike. Quantum’s Yannick Lemonnier shares his single- and short-handed sailing experiences to help you get started.​

sailboat for single handed cruising

On November 8th, 2020, 17 registered single-handed sailors will set off on the most challenging sailing endeavor in the history of yacht racing: the Vendée Globe, a solo, around-the-world, nonstop marathon, in which no outside assistance is allowed. In the 31 years since the inception of this race, a total of 167 sailors have started the race, but only 82 have finished the course. Armel Le Cleac’h holds the record for fastest race; in 2019, he managed to lap the planet in 74 days.

But single-handed and short-handed sailors aren’t all Vendée Globe racers with single purpose built, ultra-high-tech racing machines. The magic of being alone at sea is something that almost anyone can experience with a well-found vessel and the desire to venture out alone. Whether you’re racing or cruising, sailing short-handed requires a change in thinking, as now the individual sailor takes on every role in the operation of the boat.

Boat Set-Up and Handling

Once you’ve made the decision to sail short-handed, it’s essential to focus on ease of handling your boat, since you are now assuming all roles: skipper, dial trimmer, navigator, bow-person, engineer, and chef. The goal is to make each of these positions as simple for yourself as possible. One of the best ways to begin this process is to take out your boat on a calm day and go through the motions of sailing as if you were racing or cruising−hoisting sails, steering, trimming, and navigating, and see where you run into problems. Can you reef the mainsail by yourself? Is the spinnaker pole too much to handle on your own? Can you reach the sheeting positions from the helm?

Generally speaking, if you’ve never sailed short-handed before, this first outing may be a disaster. Simple things, such as not being able to reach the main traveler while you’re steering, can be problematic when you’re by yourself, so take notes as you flail around, and start investigating changes that will simplify your life.

These changes may be as basic as moving a halyard clutch or two or a bit more involved such as converting to a single-line reefing system. A single-line reef system is convenient where possible, but even adding a reef tack line and jammer back to the cockpit can be even better and requires less line that ends up tangled in the cockpit. The goal for single-handed sailing is to make the boat easier to sail. Your local loft can also help you with ideas on how to best solve problems and set the boat up for solo sailing.

Because of the rising popularity of short-handed racing and cruising, there has been a trickle-down effect in the technology used by Vendee Globe sailors. Equipment manufacturers now offer less expensive products based on the effectiveness of the prototypes used at the highest levels. Roller furling headsails and canting keels are examples of short-handed racing tech that has filtered into the mainstream. More robust and reliable autopilots interfaced with wind instruments to use apparent wind angle upwind and true wind from broad reach to run are now available to the general public. Sail handling systems such as top down spinnaker furlers, electric winches, and code zeros are further examples of commonly used hardware that originated from short-handed offshore racing. I recommend you use a releasable inner forestay with hanks and make your headsail reef-friendly. Make sure you have enough reefs, and use a cushion to make the long hours of driving more comfortable.

Think through the experience you’re looking for as well as your budget to prioritize a hardware and equipment list. Again, consult your local loft with your list. They will have good recommendations and access to industry partners to help you get exactly what you’re looking for.

Safety and Communication

Sailing Sailing without a full crew creates serious safety considerations that must be taken into account. There is always increased risk when fewer hands are on board, whether it’s a solo weekend trip or a solo ocean crossing. Jacklines (stout webbing straps running bow to stern that are clipped into the tether on your harness) should always be in place and used even in the calmest weather. The advice “one hand for you, one hand for the boat” should be followed as well. It’s also important to make sure you have the appropriate life preserver for the conditions and events, perhaps investing in a few designs for different circumstances and weather. There are pros and cons to the different styles of deck vests, so do your research and consult a specialist to decide which ones will be right for you.

You will also want to create a sail and communication plan and share it with a trusted contact on shore. This plan should include a rough estimate of where you plan to sail along with an estimated timeline. It should also include a check-in plan as well as an agreed upon course of action should you fail to check-in. Onboard wi-fi and satellite phones, while more expensive, are reliable methods of communication if you’ll be far offshore. Otherwise, a trusty cell phone can do the trick (Just make sure you have a battery!). I recommend using an AIS transponder with the call sign changed to “SoloSailorName” and a phone with Navionics with offline maps loaded. Never forget extra battery packs and proper charging ports.

Before venturing out, consider attending one of the Safety at Sea Courses (a requirement for many popular offshore races such as Newport-Bermuda or the Transpac), where you will learn the basics you’ll need for staying safe offshore.

Going Solo Doesn’t Mean Going it Alone

Finally, one major misconception about single-handed and short-handed sailors is that they’re introverted loners who go it alone for a variety of escapist reasons. In truth, you would be hard-pressed to find a more supportive and engaging group of men and women who are always happy to share their knowledge with newcomers. Getting involved with local short-handed sailing clubs like the P.S.S.A. on the West Coast and the Bermuda One-Two community in the Northeast is a great way to meet like-minded sailors and ease your way into this type of sailing. You can also consider sailing solo but leaving at the same time as other boats, which still makes it something of a social activity−one with help nearby if needed.

Single-handed and short-handed sailing is a unique challenge that is not to be taken lightly but one that will push you as far as you are willing to go. For some, it could be a solo passage to Bermuda and for others it could be as simple as going for a day sail without assistance. Whatever your motivation, it’s a special kind of sailing that can be highly addictive and extremely satisfying. Consider yourself warned.

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sailboat for single handed cruising

10 Best Solo Bluewater Catamarans and What Makes Them Great!

sailboat for single handed cruising

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Finding the best solo bluewater catamaran is hard, I have been looking for the right balance of lightweight, sturdy, spacious, and compact. But what are the best solo bluewater catamarans on the market?

The ten best solo bluewater catamarans have unique designs, are about 40 feet (12.2m) long, boast an autopilot, all lines to the cockpit, and can provide a safe ocean passage with only one sailor on board. Popular short-handed bluewater cat models include the Manta 42, Dolphin 42, and the FP Belize 43.

Whether you’re looking to buy a brand new catamaran or refit an older one, I know one thing, there’s a solo sailing boat out there for you. Read on to learn about the best models available on the market today, this article is a synergy of my own knowledge together with the experience of expert sailors.

Table of Contents

What To Look For in a Solo Bluewater Catamaran

If you’re sailing single-handed (aka shorthanded or solo), you’ll want an easy-to-maintain boat that allows you to stay at the helm for the bulk of your trip. Typically, you’ll want a catamaran that’s about 40 feet in length (and with a beam to length ratio above 53%) too big of a boat, and it will be hard to handle, and too small it becomes unable to sail large waves and strong winds safely. Sail size plays a big part in how easy your reefing and winching will be.

sailboat for single handed cruising

If your boat has an autopilot , which a well-outfitted bluewater boat definitely should, you will have an easier time managing sails and navigation. With autopilot mode enabled, you can cruise along without having to worry about adjusting the course since the autopilot will do this for you. These systems can be standalone or tied into a GPS and make a great asset for single-handed sailors. 

Remember that autopilot works better under power than under sail because of the amount of electric power it needs to work. You can increase performance under sail, however, by trimming correctly for a neutral helm. 

Autopilot functions can sometimes be managed with a remote controller that you can wear on your wrist or a lanyard for added convenience.

sailboat for single handed cruising

Having a furling headsail can save you effort on the foredeck, and in-mast or in-boom furling makes the job of mainsail reefing more simple. However, this comes with a tradeoff in performance. 

A slab-reefed main takes longer to reef, but it’s easier to handle than others because of the lines led aft. The only thing you need to worry about in this case is adding lazy jacks, which will prevent the main from blocking your vision. 

sailboat for single handed cruising

Handling & Safety

One of the riskiest things a solo sailor can do is leave the cockpit , so choosing a ship with quick and easy sail handling is of great importance. This is especially crucial near harbors, where there’s likely to be lots of other boat traffic. The best bluewater catamarans for solo sailors will have lines that run into the cockpit so that you don’t have to abandon your position at all. 

Even if you don’t run all your lines to the cockpit, you should at least take the main halyard back with you to the cockpit . This ensures that you’ll be able to stay in control of the boat without having to scramble quickly between stations.

When mooring by yourself, you might find midships cleats valuable in that they provide an anchoring point that keeps your ship from drifting away before it’s been completely secured. 

sailboat for single handed cruising

The Manta 42 is a classic multihull catamaran built in the late 1990s to 2000s in Florida. It was designed by French naval architect Eric Lerouge and can be identified by its high bows and curved crossbeam. A Manta 42 is relatively light and has room for added features, like solar panels or dinghies. 

What Makes It a Good Solo Sailing Cat

The Manta 42 is great for single-handed sailing because it’s lightweight and easy to handle. It also has pinned aluminum crossbeams rather than conventional aluminum crossbeams, which means that the bows’ twisting forces will be absorbed. But note that this can lead to stress cracks in the bow area. 

For more information about the Manta 42, see this video walkthrough:

The Brazil-made Dolphin 42 comes equipped with a daggerboard for stability, which allows it to point higher. This also reduces the amount of wetted surface and allows you to anchor in shallower water. The Dolphin 42 also has a foam core for reduced weight and a lower chance of developing a wet core.

This catamaran is 41 ft. (12.5 m) long, with a displacement of 24,255 lbs (11,001.88 kg). It has two 60 horsepower engines, six feet (1.83 m) four inches (10.16 cm) of headroom, and comes with a built-in GPS-integrated autopilot system and a fully battened mainsail. Additionally, this ship has several household comforts, like hot water, air conditioning, a TV set, and a computer built-in, as well as a refrigerator. 

The Dolphin 42 is lightweight, stable, and compact, great for short-handed sailing. Dolphins have been known to perform successful circumnavigations comfortably and safely and are very reliable. However, you should be sure to choose a model that has not had any major modifications to the structure post-production.

Privilege 435

The Privilege 435 is a heavier cruiser meant for long-distance trips , designed according to the French tradition of multihull ships. These have been on the market for about 30 years and are made by large producers like Lagoon and Nautitech. The Privilege 435 can be purchased as an owner version or with four cabins and four head/showers. 

This catamaran is low-slung and has low wind resistance. Its windows come with internal shades and optional outdoor shades, but without “eyebrow” overhangs, the saloon can become quite hot in the tropics. Still, this boat is of very high quality and has a solid, stylish finish. 

The Privilege 435 is a luxurious choice, built for long-distance cruising . This catamaran is well-made, will not give in easily to stress, and has low wind resistance for increased efficiency. If you’re looking for a high-end boat with a stylish design, this could be the choice for you. 

Fountaine Pajot Belize 43

The Fountaine Pajot Belize 43 is perhaps the most popular catamaran on the market today. It has a full-length owner suite with a clever design that pairs a curvaceous saloon with a wraparound dinette and nav area. The galley comes with wraparound windows, and the outer deck is easy to walk on. 

The Fountaine Pajot Belize 43 has a foam core, which means it’s lightweight and unlikely to develop a wet and soon rotten core. It makes for a great solo sailing boat due to its ease of use, stability, and comfortable design. This catamaran is especially good for long travels due to its comfortable and spacious layout. It would make for a great single-handed sailing trip for a family.

Nautitech 44

The Nautitech 44 was one of the first catamarans with an integrated hardtop bimini , one of the many ways this design set the trend for short-handed sailing catamarans. It has two modes, one that allows single-wheel steering at the bulkhead and another that allows twin wheel steering closer to the stern. The Nautitech 44 also has slim hulls, which means more speed.

This ship is produced out of Rochefort sur Mer, a hub for naval architecture and shipbuilding. Nautitech was the first luxury boating company to introduce the concept of open living onboard, combining the saloon and cockpit to make one functional and spacious living area. 

Because the Nautitech 44 has two modes for steering, it allows each sailor to choose the steering method that best fits their wants and needs. Both modes have their advantages, but many prefer the sailing sensation of the two-wheel approach. This ship’s design also allows the saloon door to be left open even in the heavy rain, without fear that water will leak inside.

The combined saloon and cockpit also make for a comfortable trip for the single-handed sailor, allowing you to enjoy your leisure room without leaving your ship’s control room. 

The Lagoon 440 has a lot of volume for a single-handed sailing catamaran and a signature squared-off structure. This ship isn’t lightweight, but the saloon is spacious and accommodating to furniture. One version of the Lagoon 440, the flybridge version , is a difficult ship for shorter sailors to operate, simply because of a high boom position.

The Lagoon 440 is a good solo sailing boat if you’re looking to go on a long-distance trip, spending lots of time out at sea. It isn’t particularly fast, but it’s very stable, easy to use, and has lots of room for furniture and supplies. Several versions of this model are available on the market, all of which have slightly different layouts.

This catamaran is 49 ft. (14.94 m) long , bigger than most solo sailing ships. However, it does come with an autopilot system that makes solo sailing easier, as well as a GPS, radio, and built-in radar detector.

sailboat for single handed cruising

The Leopard 45 is a South African-made multihull ship on the market since the late 1990s. Most Leopard 45s on the market are four-cabin versions, although a three-cabin version of the ship also exists. It also has a large, open-plan saloon with a large galley and a trademark rear arch. 

See the Leopard 45 in action in the following video:

What Makes It a Good Solo Sailing Boat

The Leopard 45 is a good solo sailing boat because it has a sturdy fractional rig for stability and is easy to use. It also has an open cockpit, which makes circulation easy. And you’ll find the engine access points on the outside of the ship, which makes maintenance easier. 

The Voyage 44 is a South African-made catamaran with a rugged design, considered a cost-effective option with superior sailing performance relative to other ships sold at the same price point. This boat has a particularly wide beam, which makes for more stability and more space. However, it also has a very exposed low bridge deck to be aware of.

The Voyage 44 makes a great single-handed sailing boat because it’s so stable with its ultra-wide beam. It makes the ship very easy to steady, even for beginners. While it’s not particularly lightweight, it’s built with an aerodynamic design, enough so that it can move along at a steady clip.

What is the largest boat one person can sail?

Outremer 45

The Outremer 45 is a product of La Grande Motte in the South of France, built with a well-executed, smart design. The hulls and deck are made with vinylester and a divinycell core, and its high-load areas are suited with carbon for extra durability and rigidity. You’ll find secure glassing at the joints of the ship rather than glue that could come undone.

The Outremer 45 has a classic multihull structure, small volume, and incredible responsiveness to the helm. It has a high bridge deck clearance , as well as well-proportioned bows. It also has a balanced weight distribution to prevent pitching and encourage steady motion forward. This is a pricier option, but an option with many great features. 

The Outremer 45 is a good solo sailing ship because it’s very compact and easy to manage. Its proportionate design means more stability and less pitching. It’s a very light ship, so it’s likely to move faster through the water than its competitors.

The Prout 45 is built for long distances rather than speed. It’s a heavy, sturdy boat that you’ll have an easy time guiding without worrying about pitching. 

The Prout 45 has space for a small stateroom in the center of the boat and comes in both owner and four-cabin versions. It has next to no bridge deck clearance due to a “nacelle” that runs along the main deck from end to end. This adds headroom and buoyancy and adds drag that can take away from the experience by slowing you down and creating noise.

If you want to better understand the difference between a solid foredeck and a net, a.k.a. trampoline, then I suggest you read my article comparing the two.

The Prout 45 has smaller, more manageable sails than other options and allows easy access to the rigging, which runs right into the cockpit. It’s a heavier ship and one that’s easy to keep stable. It’s a great ship for a solo sailor because you can do most of your work right from the cockpit, and it’s a sturdy catamaran that’s unlikely to pitch.

Tips for Single-Handed Sailing

Sailing solo is a great way to get to know your boat and is necessary for many people. The idea is to be able to cruise, whether it be close to coasts or at high seas, without needing a crew on board. It’s a challenge, so it’s best not to embark on a trip single-handed unless you have a good amount of experience and feel confident doing so. 

Before heading out single-handed, you should test yourself with an inactive crew. Go together when the weather is nice and have them be your backup while you try solo sailing and see how it feels. 

Make sure that you’ve also physically trained for the level of fitness you’ll need to operate the ship, especially if you’ll be going out on a longer excursion than you’ve done in practice. Taking care of a ship is demanding work, and you can quickly burn out if you’re not ready for it. 


Prepare yourself thoroughly for the sail, study the route, read sailing guides for every area you’ll be in, and make yourself aware of any dangers that may arise. Become aware of possible shelters, and know where you’ll be entering and exiting the harbors. It’s a great idea to save these locations as waypoints on your GPS, just in case. 

I asked catamaran sailors what their favorite books are, Here is the list: 15 Best Books about Cruising Cats!

A great way to prepare yourself for possible situations is by reading books, I have bought plenty of books and I list some of my favorite on this page . So far I haven’t found any good solo bluewater books that I would recommend, but here are two catamaran cruising books that I have read and that I feel comfortable recommending. I suggest you get both of them since they complement each other.

Multihull seamanship is very informative but offers boring graphics, and Cruising guide for sailors is inspirational with beautiful pictures.

sailboat for single handed cruising

Make sure you choose a good weather window. Avoid sailing a few hours ahead of a forecast gale at all costs. Instead, seek a time with a reasonable breeze and a calm sea. You can gradually introduce yourself to different weather conditions, but remember not to challenge yourself too much too quickly.

sailboat for single handed cruising

All lines To The Cockpit

The cockpit layout plays a big role in determining whether a catamaran can work for solo sailing . You’ll need to see a chartplotter on deck so that you can keep course without needing to go to reference chart tables. Having a visible battery monitor is also important, especially if you’re going to use autopilot, which pulls significant power from the battery. 

Don’t forget to also bring sunscreen, water, and a compass, which you should have on hand at all times. Having a good communication system available in the cockpit is also a good idea. In case of emergency, you should have a radio that you can use to call for help, as well as flares and binoculars.

The ten best solo bluewater catamarans each offer a positive and unique experience for the sailor, and the best one for you depends on your needs, wants, and preferences. Those looking to make a longer trip will need something different than those looking for speed, but every solo sailor has some common needs, like the need for a stable and easy-to-manage vessel.

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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sailboat for single handed cruising


5 Best Liveaboard Bluewater Sailboats

5 Best Liveaboard Bluewater Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Liveaboard bluewater sailboats are both comfortable to live on and capable of making long, offshore ocean voyages.

The best liveaboard bluewater sailboats must strike a balance between comfort and seakeeping abilities. These boats are generally heavy and stable and roomy enough to spend time in. They must also include the necessary hardware to make cooking, sleeping, and bathing possible in choppy conditions.

Table of contents

Bluewater Liveaboard Sailboat Design

What makes a good bluewater liveaboard sailboat , and how is it different from a coastal cruiser? There are a few aspects of purpose-built bluewater sailboats that make them different from most production vessels. The first and (possibly) most important is the hull design.

The classic bluewater sailboat hull shape features a long, deep, full keel. The keel acts as a hydroplane and keeps the boat stable on course in all sea conditions. Deep keel sailboats aren't the only kind of bluewater-capable vessels, but they're a tried and tested design.

Other vessels gain stability from having a wide beam. Beamy sailboats are far more comfortable in rolling seas, as they tend to buffett and pitch much less than leaner, narrow boats. Most ideal liveaboard bluewater sailboats balance length and beam carefully to make the most of the space and hull shape.

Space is another important quality to consider when choosing the best bluewater liveaboard sailboat. Interior space comes first, as living quarters are a key element of comfort.

Cockpit space should also be considered, especially if more than one person comes aboard. Most liveaboard bluewater sailboats sacrifice cockpit space for cabin space.

A comfortable liveaboard sailboat should include several amenities, including a head (toilet), a shower, two sinks, a galley with a stove, an icebox, a place to eat, and a place to sleep. Ideally, the dining area is separate from the primary sleeping area.

A separate chart table is ideal as well because it keeps food and clutter away from important navigational equipment. A chart table is less important on liveaboard sailboats that spend the majority of their time docked. That said, the chart table functions well as a spot for a microwave, toaster oven, or TV when you're not underway.

A separate forward V-berth, known as a master cabin, is a big plus on liveaboard boats. Separating the sleeping area from the rest of the cabin can increase comfort and coziness.

However, on a bluewater sailboat, a side berth near the hatch is essential as well. This is because you may need to quickly take control of the vessel after waking up, and it's best to sleep close to the helm.

Power and Water

Power and water shouldn't be overlooked when choosing a bluewater liveaboard. Many liveaboards spend most of their time docked and hooked up to shore power, water, and sewage. But bluewater liveaboards are designed for cruising, which means everything must be self-contained.

The best bluewater sailboats have sufficient freshwater storage tanks for several weeks on the water. Some have desalination (water maker) machines, which require electricity to run.

Solar panels are an excellent option for power generation, and they can be installed on almost any sailboat.

But all bluewater sailboats should have battery banks and a gasoline or diesel generator built into the system. On many vessels, the inboard engine also functions as a generator.

Safety is an essential factor to consider when choosing a cruising sailboat , especially if it doubles as your primary residence. Basic safety equipment such as bilge pumps and radios should be maintained and tested regularly. Backups and spare parts should also be kept aboard.

Other safety features, such as watertight hatches, can keep your cabin safe and dry during inclement weather. Self-draining cockpits are helpful when sailing offshore, as spray and waves drain from the exposed cockpit without the use of electric or mechanical pumps. If the drain ports are kept clean, no bailing is ever necessary.

Radar is another useful safety feature that, while not mandatory, can keep you in-the-know and alert you to the presence of nearby ships. Radar is especially useful at night, as the automatic alarms can wake you whenever a potential obstacle appears nearby.

Bluewater Sailboats for Living Aboard and Cruising

Living aboard a sailboat is one of the most interesting and rewarding lifestyles available today. It's even more alluring when you can sail your vessel across oceans, which is what bluewater sailboats are designed to do.

A liveaboard cruising sailboat combines comfort, seakeeping ability, and ease of handling in a compact and thoughtfully-designed package. Here are the best liveaboard sailboats for bluewater cruising.

1. Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20


The Flicka 20 is the smallest and most interesting sailboat on our list. At only 20 feet overall in length, the interior accommodations of this vessel are spartan at best and suitable for minimalist living.

What makes the Flicka 20 stand out is its exceptional bluewater performance. This sailboat is truly an ultracompact pocket cruiser. With a full ballast keel, self-draining cockpit, and wide beam, the Flicka 20 is more capable offshore than some boats almost twice its size.

This sailboat has the profile of a traditional keel cruiser. From a distance, it would be easy to mistake for a much larger vessel. Its hull shape, manageable Bermuda rig, and small size make it a perfect starter sailboat for single handed offshore cruising.

Inside, you have (almost) everything you need to live comfortably, albeit in a minimalist way. The cabin features standing headroom throughout, which is highly unusual for a 20-foot sailboat. On the port side, you're greeted with a small but functional galley. On the starboard side, there's a small head with a toilet and a shower.

The Flicka 20 displaces a hardy 5,500 lbs. Due to its large keel, there's no centerboard trunk to obstruct interior space. A V-berth upfront makes up the sleeping accommodations, and some models feature settees on both sides with a pop-up dining and chart table in between.

The Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20 has achieved somewhat of a cult status amongst bluewater sailboat enthusiasts. Only about 400 were built, so purchasing a Flicka 20 is somewhat of a rare and expensive proposition. That said, the benefits of owning a 20-foot bluewater liveaboard sailboat are hard to beat.

Cheap slip fees, low maintenance costs, and simplicity are the major selling points of this vessel. It's trailerable behind most heavy-duty pickup trucks and technically small enough to store on the street or in a driveway.

2. Pacific Seacraft Allegra 24


If the Flicka 20 is too small for your taste, try the Pacific Seacraft Allegra 24. It follows the same design principles of the Flicka 20, but with four feet of additional space for cabin amenities and seaworthiness.

Four feet may not sound like a lot, but it makes a world of difference on a sailboat. The additional space on the Allegra 24 adds room to the head, extends the port and starboard settees, and increases the size of the galley.

If you like the idea of a small, semi-trailerable offshore sailboat with liveaboard amenities, you'll love the Allegra 24. This stout sailboat has almost miraculous handling and seakeeping qualities while retaining the benefits of small overall size.

With the Allegra 24, you'll be able to make virtually any offshore passage and save on slip fees, maintenance costs, and overall labor. This vessel is easy to sail single handed and large enough for a minimalistic couple to live, eat, and sleep comfortably.

The Pacific Seacraft Allegra 24 is not ideal for people who need space for pets, children, or guests, as the interior is quite small when compared to other sailboats. That said, there's enough room for an occasional passenger, and the cockpit is comfortable enough for four adults to sit and interact.

3. O'Day 28


The O'Day 28 is a popular sailboat that makes a great liveaboard cruising platform. This affordable vessel was produced between 1978 and 1986, and over 500 examples were produced over the years.

All in all, the O'Day 28 is a stout cruising sailboat that's suitable for offshore and coastal sailing. It features a raked stern and hidden rudder, and a helm that's similar to what you'd find on much larger boats.

The O'Day has a large fuel tank for its inboard engine and an even larger 25-gallon freshwater capacity, which is excellent for offshore cruising. Additional tanks can be added in storage spaces, making the O'Day 28 suitable for long voyages.

The cabin of the O'Day 28 is spacious and includes everything you'd need to live aboard comfortably, along with plenty of storage space throughout. The wide beam of the O'Day 28 gives it lots of space, so the cabin doesn't feel cramped for its size.

Two models of the O'Day 28 were built; one featured a swing keel, and the other had a fixed swing keel. The swing keel model is ideal for coastal cruising and shallow-water sailing, while the fixed keel O'Day 28 is more suited for bluewater cruising.

That said, both keel variants make fine offshore sailboats. The cabin of the O'Day 28 features a large galley with a stove and icebox, two large settee berths, a large center table ahead, and a V-berth forward. The head serves as a separator to the forward cabin, giving the V-berth an extra layer of privacy.

4. William Atkin "Eric" 32


"Eric," designed in the 1920s by famous marine architect William Atkin, is a radical departure from typical modern liveaboard sailboats. However, as a bluewater liveaboard sailboat, this vessel likely outshines all the others on this list in almost every conceivable way.

Eric is a 32-foot traditional wooden ketch. This planked full- keel sailboat displaces over 19,000 lbs and has a draft of about five feet. The basic design of the hull is based on early Norweigian fishing boats, which were known for their resilience in rough North Sea storms.

Eric is a traditional gaff-rigged vessel with two short masts and a long bowsprit. Though complex to rig, it sails beautifully in all weather conditions. One of the earliest examples built survived a hurricane offshore in the 1930s, and subsequent models have completed numerous long-range ocean voyages.

Eric is a purpose-built long-range ocean cruiser. Interior accommodations are spacious and designed for comfort and utility. Unlike most sailboats of the time, Eric features a full head with shower, a 'master cabin' style V-berth forward, a full galley with an icebox, and standing headroom throughout.

William Atkin's Eric is, by all definitions, an ocean-crossing sailboat designed to take between one and four adults just about as far as they want to go. It has all the qualities of an oceangoing sailboat in a compact package, along with excellent seakeeping characteristics.

The primary drawback of this 32-foot Atkin sailboat is maintenance. Most of these hulls were constructed using traditional oak planking, which lasts forever if taken care of but requires skilled maintenance. The planks are caulked using cotton wadding, and they'll need recaulking if the boat stays out of the water for too long and "dries up."

If you're looking for a beautiful and historic liveaboard sailboat with serious offshore cruising capabilities, consider an Atkin Eric 32. Although somewhat rare, examples of this design occasionally pop up for sale on the used market.

5. Pearson 35

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The Pearson 35 crosses the rubicon into the 'big boat' category, as it has everything you'd expect of a large oceangoing sailboat. The vessel also has a unique displacement keel with an additional swing keel at the base.

The Pearson 35 is a roomy sailboat with excellent seakeeping abilities and a large sail plan. It's a typical Bermuda-rigged sloop with a tall mast and the usual sheet and halyard arrangement. As a result, it's fun to sail and easy to handle. It's also a fast boat, making it ideal for longer voyages.

The swing keel certainly doesn't make the Pearson 35 a shoal-draft sailboat. It has a modified full keel which (with the swing keel retracted) draws 3 feet 9 inches. With the additional swing keel down, the draft of the Pearson 35 increases to over 7 feet.

The Pearson 35 is a heavy boat with good sea keeping abilities. It was introduced in 1968, and over 500 units were produced. That makes it one of the more popular sailboats in its class, and plenty of Pearson 35s are still sailing around the United States.

Down below in the cabin, the Pearson 35 is roomy and comfortable. It features a full galley, an enclosed head with a shower and sink, and several berthing areas, including a forward V-berth. Plenty of storage is available throughout the cabin, making the Pearson 35 an excellent choice for living aboard.

There's something empowering about piloting a 35-foot sailboat through rough weather. The size of the boat provides both safety and a sense of security, which can help you keep a clear head during stressful situations at sea. The vessel is beamy as well, making it less likely to heel aggressively and increasing roll comfort in dicey seas.

Overall, the Pearson 35 is an excellent choice for a liveaboard bluewater sailboat. It's a large boat in comparison to the others on this list, and it's known for easy handling and excellent windward performance. The Pearson 35 is a common sailboat that's widely available on the used market.

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

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sailboat for single handed cruising

How to choose the best solo / single-handed sailboat?

What to consider in a sailboat for one person or a short-handed crew.

Keeping control of your yacht in all circumstances is usually on top of the list for most sailors. Because you are planning to be alone at sea, or because your crew is not necessarily savvy, or just does not intend to participate in the maneuvering and tasks, or even just wants to enjoy your RM’s interior comfort and modern cabins without being responsible for the navigation planning.

There are a few features to take into account when looking for the best solo or short-handed sailboat to live on – whether for coastal cruising or ocean crossings. If you are going to be the only one responsible for all operations, you might want to consider the yacht’s safety features, stability, easy maneuverability, and size, according to your sailing experience.

RM Yachts offers two plywood sailboats under 32 feet, which are strong, comfortable, and easy to maneuver for a single-handed sailor:

  • RM 890+, liveaboard yacht of about 29-30 feet
  • RM 970, a fast and comfortable 32-footer

Optimal features for safe and comfortable solo sailing

RM monohull yachts have been designed with optimized deck plans, which make them great single-handed sailing yachts: the deck fittings, the layout, the running rigging organization, and the ergonomics have been thoroughly thought to facilitate not only the solo navigation or the short-handed crew, but also the safety on board.

This ergonomics enable the single-handed sailor to:

  • Have a perfect fore vision from the helm station.
  • Have a panoramic vision from the inside charts table, thanks to the fore window.
  • Have a direct access to the sheets and traveler, thanks to the “German sheet” display, and take action within seconds: hardening or easing, deal with gusts, etc.

This ergonomics also enables an easy task distribution: the blockers and jammers, the sails trimming, the winches at the right height for a standing crew member, etc. All this without having to run to the mast’s foot in heavy seas – ideal for a solo sailor or a person sailing without assistance.

Keep in Touch' Restons en contact

We will send you RM Yachts News (Only) to make sure you are up to date. Recevez (seulement) nos infos, pour être sûrs de ne rien rater !

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sailboat for single handed cruising

Home Single handed sailboat

Have you been dreaming of solo afternoons, a short coastal trip, or a day’s sail all by yourself? Experience the magic of single-handed sailing...

All our yachts, whether it is the 38 or 70, have in common that they are easy to handle and suitable for single-handed sailing. All the controls, such as the jib winches, are located at the steering position. If desired, the mainsheet can be made electric on a captive winch allowing you to adjust the mainsail by the touch of a button. The excellent manoeuvrability of our single handed sailboats will make sure leaving and returning to your dock is never a hassle. But who better than one of the Eagle owners can explain the easy handling and manoeuvrability of our single handed sailboats:

Hi,   Just wanted to let you guys know that the boat has been an absolute joy so far… I absolutely love it. I’ve been sailing it 2-3 times a week since it arrived and it has basically been flawless.  I do a lot of single-handed sailing and it has been really perfect for that. Not to mention the number of compliments I get from people in the marina, which is incredible… It is probably the most talked about sailboat in Marina del Rey right now. Anyhow, just wanted to pass along this feedback – thanks for making such an amazing boat!

I first encountered the Eagle range of sailing yachts in Sainte Maxime, VAR, Southern France. Needles to say the area is awash with magnificent craft, however the Eagle 54 stopped me in my tracks. It started me on my journey seeking an Atlantic-coast seaworthy modern day-sailor. Believing that something around 10m would fit the bill, I spent about 24 months investigating, and test-sailing, several options.

At the end of the day the deciding factors were (in no particular order): Maneuverability, Ergonomics, Single handed sailing not critical, but advantageous, Stability and predictability, Ability to point, Off wind sailing, Centre of gravity, Feel when helming - which was very important, Ability to keep the skipper and crew dry, even in Irish Atlantic swells and conditions, Fun, Performance. And of course, design, build-quality, and finish.

Our Eagle 38 was ordered, and delivered, and launched on the 30th August of this year. She is a beautifully and highly technically well built and appointed day-sailor, and one that ticks every single box on the wish-list. She arrived on time, in wonderful condition, Steven having arrived the day before. The launch was seamless, by no means rushed, and had been clearly well planned by Leonardo Yachts.

Within 24 hours of her arrival, and on day one post her launch, we were beating at a steady 7 kts in a 1m swell, with about 10kts true wind. We bared away to a reach and were managing 8 to 8.5 kts without any effort whatsoever. Coming alongside the pontoon is a pleasure.

In terms of value for money, I would have to say that while these magnificent yachts may seem to be expensive, once fully kitted out, these boats represent very good value for money.

Thanks Leonardo Yachts,

Gary Delaney.

With the classic lines but modern technology and underwater body, our single handed yachts are fast but comfortable sailers. Due to the relatively low weight, of which a substantial part is placed in the keel, the Eagles are stable sailers. And due to the classic lines, the waterline increases when the single handed sailing yachts catch some wind and slightly heel. Just a small breeze will get the Eagles starting to fly and they will remain comfortable in stronger winds as well.Our Eagles are the perfect yachts for a single hander. If you share our passion for single handed sailing, we would be honoured to help fulfil your aspirations.

Get in touch and explore all our options.

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Practical Sailor Reviews Seven Performance-Sailing Dinghies

Agile, fun boats like the classic sunfish and new hobie bravo keep the smile in summer sailing..

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Photos by Ralph Naranjo

Messing around in small boats is a global theme-one thats embraced by pond-bound pram sailors, river riders, lake voyagers, and all of us who call salt water home. The purpose of this sailing dinghy profile is to highlight seven very interesting little sailboats. Some are new designs, and others have stood the test of time, but all are currently being manufactured, and each drives home just how much fun sailing close to the water can be.

This isn’t a shootout among anorexic speedsters or a report on the best tender that doubles as a sailing dinghy. Its a look at perennials like the Optimist, Sunfish, and Laser-legendary competitors that have helped spawn some of the best sailors in the world. But its also a look at three of the newest entries in the dinghy-sailing circle: Bics Open, Hobies Bravo, and Laser Performances Bug. These agile, new sailing dinghies are chock full of fun and boat-handling features to inspire kids of all ages to go sailing.

Well also take a look at Chesapeake Light Crafts kit approach to getting started-one that offers meaningful lessons and tangible rewards well before the boat ever hits the water.

Scale down an Open 60, add sail technology long favored by windsurfers, and put it into play in a tough thermo-formed hull, and you have the makings for a new kind of watercraft. The result is a very interesting blend of performance and reliability that targets adolescent interest. When all is said and done, Bics boat is more akin to a sit-down windsurfer than a traditional Blue Jay. And like all good boats, its vying for attention not just based on performance, construction quality, and style, but just as importantly, on the price tag stuck to the hull.

The Open Bics light weight and wide, flat stern section means that even small chop can be surfed; and bursts of planing on a reach add a zing factor to dinghy sailing. The Open Bic is already an International Sailing Federation (ISAF)-sanctioned class, and fleets are developing around the US. Another bonus: Its an easily portable boat that can be carried like a windsurfer, adding excitement to a Sunday picnic at the beach.

The thermo-formed polyethylene hull is a modified hard-chine design with lots of beam aft. Sailed flat, the boat is agile enough to surf wavelets, and with a shape thats ergonomically friendly to hiking, the ensuing heel on the upwind leg puts just the right amount of chine into the water. In light air, careful control of heel can significantly reduce wetted surface.

The design team that developed the Open Bic saw it as a transition bridge from Optimist sailing to a more performance-oriented dinghy. An interesting innovation is that the Open Bic can be sailed with an Optimists rig and blades. This buy the hull only approach can be a significant incentive for parents with children outgrowing their Opti as fast as their boat shoes. However it wont be long before the kids want the fully turbo-charged feel delivered with the Open Bics well-shaped 4.5-square-meters rig, sail, and nicely foiled blades.

Bottom line: The Open Bic is fast, agile, and buckets of fun for kids uninspired by sailing in the slow lane.

Just when you think that Hobie Cat Co. has covered whats possible in beach-cat innovation, their design/engineering crew comes up with a new twist that reinvents the wheel. The Hobie Bravo is a good case in point.

In a recent visit to Backyard Boats ( www.backyardboats.com ) in Annapolis, Md., we got a good look at the Bravo. Nearly as narrow as a monohull but still quite stable, this quick-to-launch beach cat packs plenty of get-up-and-go. Its a simple to sail, entry-level boat that fast tracks learning the steer, sheet, and hike trilogy. The boat features a single, midline rudder and roto-molded hulls. The shape of the hulls provides enough lateral plane to allow a crew to make headway to windward.

The narrow (4 feet), 12-foot Bravo uses crew weight and hiking straps to add to the righting moment once the breeze is up. Whats done with webbing on larger cats has been converted to a shallow, rigid deck well on the Bravo. It does raise the weight of the boat to 195 pounds, but it offers comfortable seating plus room for cushions and a cooler. Kids or grown ups can have a Tom Sawyer-Huck Finn type of adventure aboard this fun little sailing machine. Or the family on a beach picnic can set it up and take turns speed reaching along a sandy shoreline.

The furling mast supports a roachy sail with slightly slanted vertical battens, helping to shape the boomless mainsail. The result is convenient sail handling, decent performance, and superior safety. Theres no boom to clobber the crew, and the roller-furled sail and mast are easily stepped in the tripod-like receiver. This interesting set of struts raises the top bearing point of the mast step and spreads rig loads out to the hulls. The furling mainsail offers the ability to reef, a big plus in a building breeze or when teaching children to sail.

Like all of the boats in the Hobie lineup, theres a wide range of specialty parts and fittings that make the boats fast to rig and easy to handle. The kick-up rudder is hung on gudgeons mounted in the center of stern, and just as rig loads have been effectively spread via the tripod step, the energy radiating from the large rudder is spread athwartships via a contoured deck element.

Bottom line: The boat is quick to rig, easy to launch, and responsive to beginners-more experienced sailors will have just as much fun power reaching when the breeze is up.

The Bug

A pocket-sized club trainer, the Bug is an evolution of the kids trainer/club racer that leverages lessons learned in Optis, Dyers, and Sabots. It pulls together the logic of a stable hull shape and simple-to-sail rig, and puts it all in a cost-effective package.

Lending to its success is designer Jo Richardss ergonomic, roto-molded hull, a fabrication that is as close to zero maintenance as a boat can get. The straight out-of-the-mold polyethylene skin gets a few decals, and theres no wood to refinish or gelcoat to wax. These tough, abrasion-resistant hulls have a bumper boat tolerance thats a big plus when it comes to kids learning to sail. Best of all, owners can start with a learn-to-sail rig and upgrade to a more performance-oriented mast and sail package (41 or 56 square feet) that kicks performance into the fast lane.

Oars and an outboard motor bracket can be added to turn the little sailboat into a dual-purpose dinghy. Even the bow painters means of attachment makes sense-no projecting hardware ready to knick the topsides of unintended contacts. Instead, theres a recessed hole in the stem allowing a line to be lead through and a knot used to keep the painter in place.

Bottom line: Aimed at club programs and families look for boats that can be transported on the car top, the Bug is easy to rig and definitely kid friendly. The fact that its manufacturer, Laser Performance, is an international interest and a major player in the performance dinghy industry means that this boat and its parts will be around for a while.

Hobie Bravo

Photo courtesy of Hobie Cat Co.

Eastport Pram

Chesapeake Light Craft expedites boatbuilding for do-it-yourselfers looking to take their garage-built boats for a sail. The company pre-cuts parts, packs kits with all the materials, epoxy, and paint youll need, and leads homebuilders through a thoroughly detailed stitch-and-glue approach to assembly. Kits are available in various stages of completeness, ranging from plans only to the full package, including sail, hardware, running rigging, and paint.

The Eastport Pram is just shy of 8 feet, and the marine plywood and epoxy construction delivers a boat that weighs in, sans sailing rig, at just 62 pounds. Lighter than the comparatively sized Bug, this stiff, durable dinghy, rows like a real boat and sails comfortably with one or two aboard. In keeping with other good tender attributes, the Pram behaves under tow and is equally amicable when propelled by a small outboard or tacked up an estuary under sail.

Kit boatbuilding continues to have a niche following. Theres also an added-value feature worth noting: On one hand, the builder receives a box of pieces and the result of his or her endeavor leads to an aesthetic and utilitarian dinghy. In addition, the DIY skills the builder develops will be useful in other epoxy bonding, brightwork, or mono-urethane application projects. Such talents will benefit many other boat maintenance endeavors.

Whats hard to quantify is the sense of accomplishment derived from sailing a boat that you have built yourself. When the project is tackled in tandem with a child, spouse, or friend, the memories and the boat will last.

Bottom line: With neither sidedecks or a sealed hull, this is not a boat thats easy to recover from a capsize. So once the kids favor on-the-edge sailing in a building breeze, a non swamping, easier-righting boat is probably a better option. The Pram can then be put to use by their appreciative parents or grandparents.

Never in their wildest dreams did Bruce Kirby and Ian Bruce imagine that the Weekender (the Lasers original name) was destined to become an Olympic class sailboat and one of the most popular springboards for top-tier sailors in the world today. Originally envisioned as a car-topper for weekend campers, the cat-rigged, low freeboard sailing dinghy morphed from its original roots into a boat favored by college competitors and revered by generations of agile sailors of all ages. Even frostbiting winter sailors have locked onto the Laser.

Chesapeake Light Craft

Designed in 1969, the Lasers first few years were anything but smooth sailing. Popularity grew quickly, but along with the limelight came plenty of consternation. Dubbed a surfboard not a sailboat by a growing cross-section of the yachting elite-many parents warned junior sailors to steer as clear of Lasers as they did sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. The campaign failed, and junior sailors in yacht club programs around the country fell into the grip of the new one-design dinghy-discovering the sailboats proclivity to plane.

one-design Laser

Dyer Dhows languished in boat sheds across the country as a new theme in sailing took hold. Dubbed fast is fun by sailor/engineer Bill Lee, the young Merlin of Santa Cruz, Calif., took the theme to big-boat sailing, merging California culture with the Laser logic of light displacement and planing hull shapes.

Best of all, the Laser embraced the ideal of a tightly controlled one-design class that put people on the water in identical boats and left winning and losing races up to sailing skill and tactics rather than a boats performance edge. For decades, the boat has been the single-handed sailors choice among junior sailing programs, and with the addition of the Radial, 4.7 and M rigs, smaller competitors have also found the boat to be a great sailing platform. Today, theres some lawyer saber-rattling over the sale of the design rights, but the boat remains more popular than ever.

The sleeved sail, two-part spar, daggerboard, and kick-up rudder make the boat a quick-to-rig and fast-to-get underway dinghy. Light-air efficiency is good for a one-design sailboat, but this means that as the breeze builds, the non-reefable sail can become a handful in a hurry. In fact, the boats Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde demeanor is what builds talent among Laser practitioners. The big boys block the mainsail and blast off for the layline, while lighter sailors heavy-weather tactics include more nuanced de-powering and feathering. In light air, the tables turn, and the winner is often the sailor who planes quickest on the reaches. The old guards surfboard slam may have held some credence after all.

Bottom line: The Laser is a timeless classic thats easily transported and is built for performance. Its well suited to adrenaline-seeking teens as well as the more fit adult crowd.

Designed in 1947 by Floridian Clark Mills, the utilitarian Optimist could be made out of two sheets of plywood-and from its inception, the Optimist was meant to link kids with the water. Slipping into obscurity in the U.S., the little pram found fertile ground to grow in northern Europe. With just a few tweaks, the Scandinavians took Millss lines and parlayed them into whats become the favored junior sailing trainer for kids from Detroit to Timbuktu. Statistics show that there are about 30 builders worldwide putting out approximately 4,000 boats each year. With about 130,000 boats class registered and an estimated 300,000 total hulls built (amateur and pro), theres plenty of reasons to get excited about an Opti.

Performance boats

The example weve chosen is the USA-built McLaughlin boat, both a demonstration of high-quality FRP construction and modern manufacturing techniques. Its also a boat that can be purchased in a range of performance-inducing iterations-upgrades designated as club, intermediate, advanced, and professional versions. Like all performance sailboats, stiffness and strength-to-weight ratio is important. But class rules include a minimum weight, so the most competitive hulls meet the mandatory lower limit but use good engineering and building technique to reinforce the daggerboard slot and mast step and produce overall stiffness.


The low mast height and high aspect ratio sprit sail is very versatile, affording young (and small, 65 to 130 pounds) sailors a wide window of decent performance. The flat bottom, slab-sided hull is responsive to crew weight-driven trim changes, and the better the sailor, the more agile they become. Light-air performance is all about minimizing wetted surface and maximizing sail area projection. When the breeze starts to kick up, the sailor becomes the ballast, and the art of hiking, sheet handling, and tiller wiggling come into play.

Under careful adult supervision, two 6- to 8-year-olds can double-hand the friendly little dinghy, or one more-confident child can solo sail it. In fact, introducing kids to sailing with similar proportioned small prams has been a right of passage around for decades. A set of oarlock gudgeons can turn the pram into a functional dinghy thats also adaptable to the smaller Torqeedo outboard (www.torqeedo.com).

McLaughlin also markets a Roto-molded polyethylene version of the Opti and sells DIY kits for those who want to create their own wood version.

Bottom line: The Opti is like a first bicycle without the need for training wheels. The fact that at the last Olympics, over 80 percent of the winning sailors had gotten their start in an Optimist speaks well to the value of messing around in this particular dinghy.

Open Bic

Designed in 1951 by ice boaters Alexander Bryan and Cortland Heyniger, the hard chine Sunfish was the prototype board boat. In 1959, it made the transition into fiberglass, and over the following half-century, more than a quarter-million hulls would hit the water. Simplicity and decent sailing attributes combined with an attractive price to make the Sunfish the most popular one-design dinghy ever raced.

Far more than a platform for racers, these boats are an excellent training tool for sailors of all ages. Also built by Laser Performance, they reflect the fun of summer and put sailors in close contact with the water on which they sail. Its no surprise that the larger fleets coincide with warm water and many see going for a swim to be part and parcel of the low-freeboard experience.

The lateen rig is in keeping with the overall design concept and simplifies rigging. A short stub of a mast is stepped and a single halyard hoists the sail along with tilting V-shaped upper and lower booms.

The total sail area is nearly the same as the Laser, but the halyard hoist versatility of the lateen rig make it a handy beach boat and a little less daunting when the wind begins to build. The clean sail shape on one tack and deformation caused by the mast on the other tack are a slight drawback. The Laser rig is more efficient, but when caught out in a squall, its nice to be able to ease the halyard and dump the sail. Its also handy to be able to leave the boat tethered to a mooring, and the doused sail and short mast make it possible.

Multiple generations of sailors are often found sailing Sunfish, and the boat represents one of the best bargains to be found in the used boat market. When considering a pre owned boat, the potential buyer needs to take a close look at the daggerboard-to-hull junction and mast step, points where previous damage can create hard-to-fix leaks.

Bottom line: The Sunfish is a great beach boat that can turn a hot afternoon into a fun-filled water experience.

There were no losers in this group, and picking winners and runners-up proved a difficult task. The outcome had to be based on assumptions about how these boats would be used. For example, parents with a competitive 9-year-old who swims like a fish, always sprints for the head of the lunch line, and likes to steal bases in Little League probably have an Opti racer in the making. Less competitive junior sailors-future cruisers in the making-will do better learning aboard a Bug. Many newly formed sailing clubs target the boat as their trainer of choice.

The Bravo holds plenty of appeal for those with a lakeside cottage or a favored campground destination. Whether its a solo sail just before sunset or a fun race on Sunday, the quick to set up and put away features are a plus, and for those who feel that two hulls are better-the Bravo will hold plenty of appeal.

Serious competitors can campaign a Laser for life, and whether youre headed for a local district regatta or getting ready for the Olympic trials, the hull, rig, and sail remains identical-sort of like the Monaco Grand Prix being raced in a street legal Mustang.

Bic Opens new little speedster tickled our fancy, and as a trainer/performance boat crossover, it drew a strong nod of approval. Watching the junior sailors smiles as they sailed their Open Bics endorsed our opinion.

And if there is any boat that defines the essence of summer, the Sunfish takes the prize.

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Better Sailing

How To Sail Single Handed

How To Sail Single Handed

Sailing your boat single-handed has many attractions. Without the help of a crew, you are on your own to test your sailing ability. You have to take full responsibility for sailing properly, and your success is down to you alone. Many people choose the sport of single-handed sailing as it is often cheaper to buy a one-man boat, and it is also less expensive to maintain due to them being smaller, and the controls are much simpler. Many classes of sailboat races are restricted to one man boats. You can usually fit them to the top of your car too.

Single-Handed Sailing Boats

There are a variety of single-handed boats from the very small, designed as children’s dinghies such as the Optimist right up to the Finn an Olympic class boat. Most come with a cat rigged, single sail set from a mast nearer to the bow. For a highly effective sail shape, some single-handers have an unstayed mast that is allowed to bend.

Each single-handed boat design has its own handling characteristics and peculiarities that place particular demands on its helmsman, so it is difficult to generalize. A large number of one-man boats are very sensitive to changes in the way the crew weight is balanced, and you must always be aware of how any movements you make may affect the boat. It is possible you may have to continually adjust the rig while sailing as there is only one sail, and it should be tuned very accurately.

Laser Sailboats For Single-Handed Sailing

We will use the Laser for our example as it is one of the most popular single-handed boats, and it has an unstayed mast that is cat-rigged and a loose-footed sail.

On a Laser, as the wind gets stronger, the clew outhaul adjustment is of particular importance, as the outhaul should be pulled out. Sailing upwind in a single-hander with an unstayed mast requires the effect of mast bend and the weight of the crew to be carefully balanced to compensate for the heeling force. When reaching in a medium breeze the single-handers will usually compare favourably with two-man boats, especially in waves, as they will plain almost continuously. 

Laser Sailboats For Single-Handed Sailing

They, like all high-performance boats, are usually easier to control on a reach. However, they can be difficult to handle on downwind courses as they handle differently. Due there being only one sail, the boat has a tendency to turn windward. This can be overcome if the boat is heeled to windward. When there are strong winds, the airflow can be reversed by sheeting the mainsail over the sail to provide a heeling force.

Tacking Single Handed

It is very important when tacking for you to time your move across the boat very carefully as single-handed boats are sensitive to wind shifts and changes in the weight distribution. You should cross the board smoothly and rapidly and sit out on the new side immediately. Keep the boat upright throughout the turn.

As the helmsman pushes the tiller away to start the tack, the boat should be sailing upright.

The helmsman eases the mainsheet and starts to cross as the boom nears the center of the boat.

The helmsman rotates the extension and begins to center the tiller, keeping hold of the mainsheet.

Changing hands on the tiller and mainsail, the helmsman sits down on the new side.

The helmsman trims the mainsail and balances the board for the new tack.

Jibing Single Handed

Your boat needs to be moving as fast as possible in preparation for a jibe. The centerboard (daggerboard) should be a third to halfway down. The boat should be heeled to windward or kept upright throughout the jibe. It is a good idea to pull in some mainsheets to help the boom to cross smoothly and prevent it catching on the transom.

The Helmsman:

  • Changes the tiller extension to the new side when sailing on the run.
  • Changes hands on the tiller extension after cleating the mainsheet.
  • Heels the boat to windward, uncleats the mainsheet, and moves the tiller.
  • Moves to the new side and centers the tiller as the boom moves across.
  • To keep the boat upright, the helmsman sits on the new side with the tiller towards him.

Rigging The Boat Single Handed

The sail is attached by inserting the mast into a sleeve in the luff on a Laser. The mast cannot be stepped until the sail has been fitted. The Cunningham control holds the mast in position. It is easier to have help when rigging a Laser even though the parts of the boat are very light.

After joining the two mast sections, the sail is fitted onto the mast.

While the sail is fitted onto the gooseneck, the mast is held still.

The clew is lashed to the boom, and the outhaul tensioned and cleated on the boom.

The Cunningham control is taken through the hole, round the boom before being cleated on deck.

Attach the boom vang tackle so it can be adjusted from below.


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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Raising the Mainsail Single Handed: 5 Pro Tips

Single-handed sailing can be the most rewarding time you spend on your boat. And nothing makes you feel like a rockstar like sailing past a boat full of people by yourself when your boat looks fast and trim. But little feels worse than messing something up and spending half an hour grunting and sweating in front of a crowd to fix it.

Getting your mainsail up can be a challenge when single handing. So what are some tips to get the sail up?

Here are five solid tips to improve your single handed main hoists:

  • Fix your rudder in place
  • Use the right sail management systems, like lazyjacks, a Dutchman, or a Stay Pack
  • Replace your bolt rope with slugs or sliders
  • Use properly placed line clutches - especially rope clutches come in handy
  • Prepare your sails and rigging dockside

sailboat for single handed cruising

On this page:

1. fix your rudder in place, 2. sail management systems, 3. sail tracks and bolt slugs, 4. line controls and clutches, 5. plan ahead.

You want to keep your rudder in place so you can stay head-to-wind while you set the main. A boat spinning around off the wind will make setting a main much more difficult, so you need that rudder locked.

The easiest to use is an autopilot. If you have one, just engage it in "auto" heading mode when you go head to wind. That should hold you while you work.

If you have a smaller boat without an autopilot, figure out a temporary arrangement to keep the wheel or tiller centered. It should be quick to engage, and easy to get off.

Bungy cords on a tiller are easy. You'll need two, one to each side of the boat, clipped or wrapped on a stanchion, padeye or other convenient place. With no sails up, there won't be a lot of load on the tiller, but you need to keep it from flopping.

You can also use short pieces of line with a tiller, but be careful using a single length. Don't just loop the line around the tiller in the middle, since the tiller can slide through a loose loop. A clove hitch around the tiller in the middle of the line will stop the slippage and is easy to remove.

Many wheels have wheel locks, but they aren't strong enough to handle sailing loads. You shouldn't have high loads without sails up, but an unexpected wave might knock a rudder locked with a wheel lock. I prefer it as a backup only.

Like a tiller, you can use bungy cords to hold a wheel, or find another way to lock it in place with easily removed lines.

On my boat, I can set, reef and douse my main from the cockpit without leaving the wheel. While hydraulic furling and power winches aren't the norm, they are one example of sail handling systems to make your short-handed experience easier.

Stack packs, Dutchman systems, lazyjacks, and other systems help your solo main handling. Some of them are a lot more help to douse the sail than set it, but a sail reined in by one of these systems goes up better. Most of them keep the sail from sliding all over the place and getting out of hand and caught by the wind while you're setting it.

  • Lazyjacks are a set of lines run from partway up the mast to the boom. Their function is to collect the sail as it drops to help flake it to the boom. It also provides some containment as the sail comes up, though you need to take some care not to snag battens on the lines.
  • A Dutchman system installs nylon lines vertically through the main from a topping lift down to the boom. During the hoist, the sail slides up and down these lines and flakes automatically on the drop. The foot of the sail is tight to the boom to help this, and the sail can not escape while you're hoisting.
  • A Stack Pack is a hybrid of lazy jacks, a fully battened main, and a canvas cover permanently installed to the boom. The sail flakes down into the pack, and launches from it, easing handling going up and down.

Main furling makes setting the sail easy. There are two types of main furling - mast furling, and boom furling. Mast furling can be in-mast, or it can be retrofitted with a system outside the mast.

Both systems are major upgrades to a boat, so consult a rigger to make sure your mast and boom can handle the loads. You can't retrofit in-mast furling to an existing spar, and there’s a good chance you’ll need to need to replace the boom for some boom furling systems.

In-mast furling affects sail shape and performance (you can’t have a big roach or horizontal battens), and any furling system can get jammed. So while furling systems aren't a quick fix, they are something to think about when buying a boat to solo sail, or to explore retrofitting if you spend most of your time sailing alone.

sailboat for single handed cruising

A sail with a bolt rope gives the best airflow from sail to mast. But it's not the easiest setup for hoisting single handed since the sail isn't left on the mast, there’s lots of resistance from the bolt rope when hoisting, and you may need to feed the rope into the track if it pops out. A rope feeder helps, but can still bind and come out.

Replacing your bolt rope with slugs (or sliders) is a practical way for a solo sailor to keep a main in the mast when it's doused and hoist it quickly. The slugs go in the same track as the bolt rope, but you can add a lock on the bottom to keep them from sliding out once the sail is bent on. They also have much less resistance in the sail track than a bolt rope, so the hoist is easier.

You can fit mainsail track and car systems on a mast, and have similar advantages to slugs and sliders. The main can stay on the boom, and there’s a lot less friction on the hoist.

The other advantage to sliders, tracks, and slugs is that with smaller boats with lighter sails, you can run your halyard back to the cockpit and hoist from there. Hoisting a sail when you can reach the helm gives you a lot of options.

A line clutch in the right place is as good as an extra pair of hands. A few well placed controls - rope clutches in particular - can make a big difference to how you get your main up by yourself.

Picture hoisting the halyard - you get partway up, then notice you missed a sail tie down by the end of the boom. You have to either let the halyard down, or put it on a cleat while you step back by the outhaul get that annoying sail tie off. But if you've put a clutch on your mast for the main halyard, you can just step away from it to deal with the problem without losing your hoist.

Having your hoist held by a clutch (or even a cam cleat on a smaller boat) gives you that extra option to use your other hand for something else without dropping the main. If things go sideways, you may not want to lower the halyard to deal with it if the luff isn’t the problem.

A line clutch or cam cleat on the mast halyard should be backed up with a cleat to tie it off.

The best tip to help your sail handling is to plan well and do as much as you can dockside to make your life easier when you're out on the water. Anything you do solo is more work, and everything you do on a pitching boat away from the dock takes longer than when you're tied up. Preparing before you go out saves a lot of aggravation.

  • Bend on the sails, if you don't store your main on the boom. Get the sail on the boom before you leave (see “bolt slugs”). You don't need to put the halyard on, but a sail ready to hoist will save you a lot of hassle.
  • Run any rigging you store away and connect it to the sail as needed.
  • Get the sail cover off and put it away. It's one less thing to keep your hands on.
  • Set up the lines and cords for securing the rudder and keep them handy.

The other area to plan is the setup of the boat. As several of these tips imply, there are many ways to get your boat set for optimal soloing, but they aren't things you can come up with on the spot. You need to think them through and sometimes make some major upgrades or choices when buying your boat.

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