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20 Best Small Sailboats for the Weekender

  • By Mark Pillsbury
  • Updated: May 24, 2024

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

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

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

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

– CHECK THE WEATHER – The weather changes all the time. Always check the forecast and prepare for the worst case. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

Marblehead 22 Daysailer

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

Catalina 22 Sport

Catalina 22 Sport

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

Hunter 22

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

the Daysailer

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

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

BayRaider from Swallow Boats

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

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

12 1/2 foot Beetle Cat

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

– LEARN THE NAVIGATION RULES – Know the “Rules of the Road” that govern all boat traffic. Be courteous and never assume other boaters can see you. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

West Wight Potter P 19

West Wight Potter P 19

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

NorseBoat 17.5

NorseBoat 17.5

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

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

Montgomery 17

Montgomery 17

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

CW Hood 32 Daysailer small sailboat

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

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

Sun Cat from Com-Pac

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

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

Catalina 16.5

Catalina 16.5

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

Hobie 16

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

Hunter 15

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

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

– CHECK THE FIT – Follow these guidelines to make sure your life jacket looks good, stays comfortable and works when you need it. Safety Tip Provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

Super Snark

Super Snark

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

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

Norseboat 21.5

Norseboat 21.5

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

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

Flying Scot

Flying Scot

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

RS Venture

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

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

Topaz Taz

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

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

WindRider WRTango

WindRider WRTango

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

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

  • More: 21 - 30 ft , Boat Gallery , day sailing , dinghy , Sailboat Reviews , Sailboats , under 20 ft
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Affordable Sailboats You Can Build at Home

Affordable Sailboats You Can Build at Home | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

September 13, 2023

‍ Key Takeaways

  • There are many sailboats that anyone can build from home depending on tastes
  • Budget will be the biggest deciding factor on a majority of the process
  • Consider kits that come with most of what you need or choose ones that are all-inclusive
  • Design complexities and new materials may make the building time process longer
  • Plan the best you can ahead of time to save money and your working hours

‍ Buying a sailboat can be expensive, but building your own can save you money. So what are sailboats you can build from home?

Sailboats that you can build from home will likely be a small boat under 20 feet. These could be from many different boat suppliers such as B&B Yachts, Brooks Boat Designs, and Chase Small Craft. Boat plans will vary based on your budget and how much time you have on your hands.

Based on my previous experience, building your own boat will take much longer than if a professional were to do it. You also have to be able to study plans, consider various sailboat designs, and have tons of supplies such as fiberglass tape or fiberglass cloth. On top of that, you will also have to be good with your hands.

Table of contents

‍ Top 10 Affordable Sailboats Anyone Can Build at Home

Building your own pocket cruiser or other styles from boat plans is an impressive feat, as this will need dedicated time and money to assure your boat sails safely. Boat building takes a lot of patience as well, especially since this will not be completed in a fast manner.

Finding boat plans and materials that fit your budget will be key to being able to complete the project. The time it takes to complete these projects will vary on your overall experience and needs. Below are 10 of the most affordable sailboats that you can build in the comfort of your home.

B&B Yachts

B&B Yacht

B&B Yachts have 14 different boat plans you can choose from to find the boat of your desires. Their shop is located along the Bay River in North Carolina where they construct all of the kits and have a 100 foot dock to show off your project once you complete it.

One popular model to check out is their Core Sound 15, as it is the perfect size for those wanting to build a modest size boat for a handful of people on board. Their website features some videos of completed projects and the plans or kits for purchase.

  • 14 different models to choose from plus some dinghies
  • Various monohull and multihull options
  • Friendly customer service with attractive prices
  • Might be too many options for some that are indecisive
  • Not ideal for those wanting to have a motor sailer

Brooks Boat Designs

Brooks Boat Designs

Brooks Boat Designs has a handful of options to consider for your next sailboat building project. They are located in Brookline, Maine and give the option to buy the kits or have them build one from scratch for you. They have plenty of knowledge, so do not be shy to ask about modifications or custom features you are looking for.

Depending on your specifics, they can attempt to accommodate some of their plans to help fit your desired outcome. By checking out their site, you can see many examples of their construction in progress and what the boats will look like when completed.

  • Offers a variety of kits
  • Plans vary around $50 and up, while materials will obviously add more costs
  • Some plans can be rowing boats that can convert to sailboats
  • Might take a while to hear back from them, as their contact section is a little outdated
  • Their plans may not accommodate a ton of extras for your taste

Chase Small Craft

Chase Small Craft

Chase Small Craft offers a simple process for building boats. Their kits are equipped with everything you need and will help save you time than just buying the materials outright and other parts you could need. This is arguably one of the best bang for buck instances if you want to save time and money searching for pieces to your boat.

They are located in Saco, Maine and will ship everything to your home from there. All the necessary materials are included and all you need are the proper tools and working space.

  • All-inclusive kits with what you need
  • Tons of knowledge on their site for boat building
  • Easy process to order and customize
  • Complete kits can range over $20,000 for larger boats
  • Kits may take up to eight weeks to ship out

Chesapeake Light Craft

Chesapeake Light Craft

You can expect high-quality boat kits from Chesapeake Light Craft . They feature 18 different sailboat kits that vary from eight to 20 feet in length. This should be more than enough to find one for you if you are newer to boat building.

They also have a wide variety of other kits in addition to the sailboat, in the event that you wanted to order a small kayak or paddleboard in addition to your sailboat. The prices vary considerably when considering a small or larger boat, so check the complete list of options to in order to potentially fit your needs.

  • Plenty of sailboat offerings to choose from
  • Different beautiful hull form options to consider
  • Easy to build and perfect for sailing
  • Only has basic materials needed for kit, so you may need to purchase other items
  • Has epoxy shipping fee no matter if you pick up item

Dudley Dix Yacht Design

Dudley Dix Yacht Design has an extensive list of plywood and single skin sailing boat options. They have plenty of sail plans and kits to consider depending on your goals. These follow a classic look for sailboats, which are aesthetically pleasing.

If you are wanting one to accommodate a small family, they have more than plenty to look through. The cost is not as bad compared to others, but keep in mind that you may need to throw in your own supplies or specific tools to get the job done.

  • Plans start at $30 and range up to $7,500 or more for kits
  • More than enough of options to consider
  • Affordable variety of sailboat offerings
  • Might be too many options for those new to sailing
  • Most are wood without the use of aluminum or steel

Farrier Marine

Farrier Marine

If you are in search of a multihull to build, then Farrier Marine is what you need. They offer a unique folding catamaran that is trailerable and give you the option to build it yourself. This not only makes it an appealing option, but anyone can take this multihull boat wherever they want with ease.

It features a thorough construction guide once you receive all of the materials. These also come with stainless steel fasteners and an aluminum mast for high-quality materials. Pricing will vary since you must request which model type you are considering.

  • Ability to build a unique catamaran
  • In-depth construction guide to help
  • Easily handled and trailerable
  • Price may be too high
  • Limited offerings since only a few multihull options

Glen-L Marine Designs

Glen-L Marine Designs

Building a boat from Glen-L Marine Designs can save you time and money. They feature an easy system to order and receive the kits, as well as an in-depth guide to building them. This is an appealing option compared to most boat kit sellers.

The beauty about Glen-L is that anyone can build these from scratch, so you do not have to be the best boat builder in the world to get it done. They offer guides and helpful insights from their team to point you in the right direction. Plans vary around $15, while kits can range well over $1,000 depending on boat size.

  • Nearly 50 designs to choose from
  • Complete guide to help anyone build it
  • Plenty of price points depending on size
  • Might be overwhelming with the amount of options
  • Could take a while to get parts since they are popular

John Welsford Boat Designs

John Welsford Boat Designs

John Welsford Boat Designs invites new and veteran boat builders that want a taste of quality small wooden boats. The boat plans are designed to meet your specifications and are catered to your desires.

There are seven sailboat designs to choose from so you do not feel overwhelmed in the process. However, they do not sell kits all the time, so you would need to have the materials or be on the lookout for the best prices when they are available.

  • Seven sailboat plans with different sizes
  • Quality boat builder and supporting community
  • In-depth knowledge provided to you when you order
  • Might be too small of boat size
  • Kits are not always available

Iain Oughtred

There are plenty of options on the wooden boat store, but you should narrow down your search for Iain Oughtred’s line of sailboat kits and plans. There are 25 different plans to choose from, which should accommodate most everyone looking to build their own boat.

While they do offer some kits, they do not routinely offer sailboat kits. You would need to purchase all of the materials if you are considering one of their sail plans. Keep this in mind if you are considering, as you would need to hunt down the parts yourself.

  • 25 different sailboat plans to look through
  • Various sizes to contemplate for you sailing needs
  • Prices will vary but are not bad compared to market
  • No sailboat kits, only plans
  • Newer boat builders might find too many options unappealing

Paul Gartside Boat Builder and Designer

Gartside Boats is a boat builder company based in Long Island, New York that showcases a variety of boats from traditional and newer methods of boat building. Within that variety, they have boat plans meant for six to 50 feet in length.

With an abundance of options, you will need to contact them regarding prices and any customizable options. Kits may vary as well, as they typically design in-house and build for you.

  • Experienced boat designer that can accommodate with custom plans
  • Many options are trailerable
  • Can have plans for up to a 50 foot boat
  • You will need to contact them for prices
  • Customized options may make process more complicated for new boat builders

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Sailboat at Home?

As you have likely already done so, the math between building your own boat and buying one may be a huge difference. Likewise, you may even enjoy the challenge of taking an older boat that is gutted and restoring with parts from a kit to build one new again.

But how much does it cost exactly to build a boat from the comfort of your own garage or workshop? The prices are going to vary dramatically depending on your situation and material needed to get the job done. In addition, the time that it takes to complete this will also vary.

Sail plans are rather inexpensive if you are aiming to build a small boat. These plans allow you to see the workings of the boat design and what you need to build the boat.

Without these plans, you will not know the exact details of the design and it can cause major issues with the boat’s hull or other areas of the boat. Think of these as the backbone or instructions of the boat’s infancy before being built.

Price Per Square Foot

You should assume to pay anywhere between $300 to $600 per square foot if you are interested in building a boat. Buying a kit outright can be a good way to save time, but oftentimes these do not come with everything you need.

Instead, you should try to source as much of the materials at the best price as possible. Thinking ahead is part of the process and you might be able to score a deal at a lumber yard or hardware store for parts.

Boat Designs Matter

The design of the boat will be much different from one boat to the next, regardless if they are the same size in length. If you are pondering boats that range anywhere between 16 and 20 feet, you should factor in the shape of the hull, any rigging, and various appendages.

Prices tend to increase when there are more complexities within the designs. If you are considering a kit with more details than others, you will also have to pay more for the designs on that as well.

Kits Can Differ

It is important to understand that all kits are not going to be the same. As you gander at sailboat kits online to stitch together, you need to thoroughly look over to see if you have everything you need before buying.

It would also be at your advantage to ask the seller if any additional parts or supplies are needed. This may change your dynamic on the kit buying process and you may pass up one for another if it has everything you need. An all-inclusive kit may cost several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars more to have the convenience of everything in the bundle.

Construction Approaches

Some boat plans may require you to have certain tools to get the job done. This means special saws or planers, which the average person simply does not have.

Purchasing specialty tools might be expensive upfront and hard to find depending on what it is. Your best bet would be to check locally for others trying to sell their tools or consider a boat plan that does not require extensive tools to finish the job.

How Long Does it Take to Build a Sailboat?

An easy to build sailboat could take a while to build from scratch. Many different variances come into play that are difficult to pinpoint for everyone. But how long is that exactly and how will your experience play into this?

A fun project to sail in the wind could take you several months to well over a year depending on the boat plan and how big your boat is going to be. In addition, the materials all need to be accounted for prior to starting in the event a hardware store does not have them in stock.

Time Varies

The time that passes for simple boat designs on small sailing vessels can be done in a few weeks. This is assuming you have everything you need and work non-stop around the clock.

Certain complex situations may make the process long, such as the difficulty of working with some materials. If you are a skilled laborer, it may take you half the time compared to a novice. The amount of time it can take will vary on your availability and skill level.

Planning ahead will undoubtedly offer the most time-saving features. It also helps if you can tackle parts of the project at your own pace.

Complexity of Design

The design of the boat may make the construction process longer. For example, it may take you longer to build a catamaran compared to a similar lengthed monohull.

More complex designs might require more materials, therefore making the process a bit longer to complete. Furthermore, you will also need more experience working with difficult designs and that will affect you more as a newbie.

Be sure to manage your expectations well and do not allow yourself to become too stressed over this fun project. If you can, seek expert boat building advice from a local builder or the company you purchased sail plans through.

Quality Materials

The quality of the materials will matter significantly when building a boat and will greatly affect the time it takes to construct it. Handling fiberglass or carbon fiber might require specialty tools, while wood also demands a certain level of craftsmanship.

If you are not skilled at working with the material at hand, it might affect the quality of the build and you may have to go back to fix mistakes. This will definitely add more time to your project, because mistakes are bound to happen with your first project.

To save time, consider adding the tools and materials throughout the year or as often as your budget allows. You may want to try testing your skills on fiberglass or other materials to get a feel for how to work with it.

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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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Best Small Sailboats for Beginners

sailboats for beginners

There are a number of classic trainers used by yacht club youth programs as well as techie new designs. Without mentioning specific models and brands, it’s difficult to outline which small boats are best but here are things to look for in good teaching boats.

Some of the best small sailboats for beginners include:

  • Boats with tillers steering
  • Boats with no winches
  • Sailing dinghies
  • Small sloops
  • Small catamarans
  • Rotomolded boats
  • Trailerable sailboats

Explore All Sailboat Types

Boats with Tiller Steering

Steering by tiller (rather than a wheel) can make a difference when learning. Tillers are directly connected to the rudder that manages the boat’s direction. Tillers provide quick feedback about the strength and direction of the wind as well as the boat’s turning agility at various speeds.

Boats with No Winches

Boats that require no winches to manage the sheets and halyards are best for youngsters and new sailors. These boats usually don’t experience the same forces on the sails and rigging as larger boats, which can be a handful when the wind starts to blow. Winches are usually replaced with cam or jam cleats, which are easy to use.

Sailing Dinghies

Sailing dinghies are usually rigged with one mast and one sail and offer kids and new sailors simplicity so it’s easy to learn the ropes. Less overwhelming than boats with two sails, dinghies are light and responsive. They also have a shallow draft due to side or centerboards so they can be sailed just about anywhere. In some cases (whether from a wind gust or sudden crew weight shift) sailing dinghies can capsize so students should wear lifejackets and know how to swim. Sailing dinghies are usually sailed by one or two people.

Small Sloops

Small sloops with a mast that carries head and mainsails are the next step so students learn how sails work together. Headsails can be hanked on or attached to a small roller furler. These boats may have some or no winches, which also makes them easier to maintain. These boats can usually be sailed with one to four people.

Some sloops can scale up, providing a more challenging experience for sailors as they develop skills. Certain models can carry spinnakers and larger headsails to teach sail combinations and new sail trim techniques. Others offer the ability to hike out (shift crew weight well outboard to balance the boat against the wind pressure in the sails). This kind of sailing is more advanced.

Small Catamarans

Small catamarans provide extra stability for those who may be nervous about capsizing or aren’t fond of heeling (tipping while sailing). With two hulls providing a wide and stable base, catamarans area ideal for beginners, which may be why they’re often used by resorts as their beach sailing tourist boats. Rigged with one or two sails, small cats are tiller steered and usually have a trampoline that the students sit on and sail.

Rotomolded Boats

Small rotomolded boats are very forgiving due to their durable construction. Unlike fiberglass or wooden boats, rotomolded (a type of plastic construction technique) trainers can bounce off docks or other boats and cause or sustain little damage. Dinghies and catamarans can both be made via rotomolding.

Trailerable Sailboats

Finally, small sailboats that can be trailered to different locations add variety and that makes learning fun. Students can learn to sail in different wind and water conditions and enjoy their boats differently on vacation or with new friends.

Learning to sail involves all the senses and requires a level head and lots of practice and although it can be learned in many ways, the best way is to start with a boat that’s small, simple, safe and durable.

Read Next: Small Boats: What Are My Options?

You Might Also Like:

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  • Learning the Basics of Sailing
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25 of the best small sailing boat designs

Nic Compton

  • Nic Compton
  • August 10, 2022

Nic Compton looks at the 25 yachts under 40ft which have had the biggest impact on UK sailing

25 of the best small sailing boat designs

There’s nothing like a list of best small sailing boat designs to get the blood pumping.

Everyone has their favourites, and everyone has their pet hates.

This is my list of the 25 best small sailing boat designs, honed down from the list of 55 yachts I started with.

I’ve tried to be objective and have included several boats I don’t particularly like but which have undeniably had an impact on sailing in the UK – and yes, it would be quite a different list if I was writing about another country.

If your favourite isn’t on the best small sailing boat designs list, then send an email to [email protected] to argue the case for your best-loved boat.

Ready? Take a deep breath…

A green hull Centaur yacht, named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Bob Aylott

Laurent Giles is best known for designing wholesome wooden cruising boats such as the Vertue and Wanderer III , yet his most successful design was the 26ft Centaur he designed for Westerly, of which a remarkable 2,444 were built between 1969 and 1980.

It might not be the prettiest boat on the water, but it sure packs a lot of accommodation.

The Westerly Centaur was one of the first production boats to be tank tested, so it sails surprisingly well too. Jack L Giles knew what he was doing.

Colin Archer

The Colin Archer - one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Nic Compton

Only 32 Colin Archer lifeboats were built during their designer’s lifetime, starting with Colin Archer in 1893 and finishing with Johan Bruusgaard in 1924.

Yet their reputation for safety spawned hundreds of copycat designs, the most famous of which was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston ’s Suhaili , which he sailed around the world singlehanded in 1968-9.

The term Colin Archer has become so generic it is often used to describe any double-ender – so beware!

Contessa 32

Assents performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race earns the Contessa 32 at place on the 25 best small sailing boats list. Credit: Nic Compton

Assent ‘s performance in the 1979 Fastnet Race makes the Contessa 32 a worth entry in the 25 best small sailing boat designs list. Credit: Nic Compton

Designed by David Sadler as a bigger alternative to the popular Contessa 26, the Contessa 32 was built by Jeremy Rogers in Lymington from 1970.

The yacht’s credentials were established when Assent , the Contessa 32 owned by Willy Kerr and skippered by his son Alan, became the only yacht in her class to complete the deadly 1979 Fastnet Race .

When UK production ceased in 1983, more than 700 had been built, and another 20 have been built since 1996.

Cornish Crabber 24

A Cornish crabber with a blue hull and white sails

It seemed a daft idea to build a gaff-rigged boat in 1974, just when everyone else had embraced the ‘modern’ Bermudan rig.

Yet the first Cornish Crabber 24, designed by Roger Dongray, tapped into a feeling that would grow and grow and eventually become a movement.

The 24 was followed in 1979 by the even more successful Shrimper 19 – now ubiquitous in almost every harbour in England – and the rest is history.

Drascombe Lugger

A Drascombe lugger with orange sails

Credit: David Harding

There are faster, lighter and more comfortable boats than a Drascombe Lugger.

And yet, 57 years after John Watkinson designed the first ‘lugger’ (soon changed to gunter rig), more than 2,000 have been built and the design is still going strong.

More than any other boat, the Drascombe Lugger opened up dinghy cruising, exemplified by Ken Duxbury’s Greek voyages in the 1970s and Webb Chiles’s near-circumnavigation on Chidiock Tichbourne I and II .

An Eventide lunch with white sails and a blue hull sailing offshore

The 26ft Eventide. Credit: David Harding

It’s been described as the Morris Minor of the boating world – except that the majority of the 1,000 Eventides built were lovingly assembled by their owners, not on a production line.

After you’d tested your skills building the Mirror dinghy, you could progress to building a yacht.

And at 24ft long, the Eventide packed a surprising amount of living space.

It was Maurice Griffiths’ most successful design and helped bring yachting to a wider audience.

A Fisher 30 yacht with blue hull and red sails

You either love ’em or you hate ’em – motorsailers, that is.

The Fisher 30 was brought into production in 1971 and was one of the first out-and-out motorsailers.

With its long keel , heavy displacement and high bulwarks, it was intended to evoke the spirit of North Sea fishing boats.

It might not sail brilliantly but it provided an exceptional level of comfort for its size and it would look after you when things turned nasty.

Significantly, it was also fitted with a large engine.

A Folkboat with white sails and blue hull

Credit: Rupert Holmes

It should have been a disaster.

In 1941, when the Scandinavian Sailing Federation couldn’t choose a winner for their competition to design an affordable sailing boat, they gave six designs to naval architect Tord Sundén and asked him to combine the best features from each.

The result was a sweet-lined 25ft sloop which was very seaworthy and fast.

The design has been built in GRP since the 1970s and now numbers more than 4,000, with fleets all over the world.

A Freedom 40 yacht with a blue hull and two masts carrying white sails

Credit: Kevin Barber

There’s something disconcerting about a boat with two unstayed masts and no foresails, and certainly the Freedom range has its detractors.

Yet as Garry Hoyt proved, first with the Freedom 40, designed in collaboration with Halsey Herreshoff, and then the Freedom 33 , designed with Jay Paris, the boats are simple to sail (none of those clattering jib sheets every time you tack) and surprisingly fast – at least off the wind .

Other ‘cat ketch’ designs followed but the Freedoms developed their own cult following.

Hillyard 12-tonner

A classic sailing boat with a white hull and white sails

The old joke about Hillyards is that you won’t drown on one but you might starve to death getting there.

And yet this religious boatbuilder from Littlehampton built up to 800 yachts which travelled around the world – you can find them cruising far-flung destinations.

Sizes ranged from 2.5 to 20 tons, though the 9- and 12-ton are best for long cruises.

The yacht Jester with a junk rig and yellow hull at the start of the OSTAR

The innovations on Jester means she is one of the best small sailing boat designs in the last 100 years. Credit: Ewen Southby-Tailyour

Blondie Hasler was one of the great sailing innovators and Jester was his testing ground.

She was enclosed, carvel planked and had an unstayed junk rig.

Steering was via a windvane system Hasler created.

Hasler came second in the first OSTAR , proving small boats can achieve great things.

A yacht with a white hull and blue and white sails

Moody kicked off the era of comfort-oriented boats with its very first design.

The Moody 33, designed by Angus Primrose, had a wide beam and high topside to produce a voluminous hull .

The centre cockpit allowed for an aft cabin, resulting in a 33-footer with two sleeping cabins – an almost unheard of concept in 1973 –full-beam heads and spacious galley.

What’s more, her performance under sail was more than adequate for cruising.

Finally, here was a yacht that all the family could enjoy.

Continues below…

small wood sailboats

What makes a boat seaworthy?

What characteristics make a yacht fit for purpose? Duncan Kent explores the meaning of 'seaworthy' and how hull design and…

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1

How boat design is evolving

Will Bruton looks at the latest trends and innovations shaping the boats we sail

Keel type

How keel type affects performance

James Jermain looks at the main keel types, their typical performance and the pros and cons of each

small wood sailboats

Boat handling: How to use your yacht’s hull shape to your advantage

Whether you have a long keel or twin keel rudders, there will be pros and cons when it comes to…

Nicholson 32

A Nicholson 32 with a blue hull. Its solid seakeeping qualities means it is one of the best small boat sailing designs produced

Credit: Genevieve Leaper

Charles Nicholson was a giant of the wooden boat era but one of his last designs – created with his son Peter – was a pioneering fibreglass boat that would become an enduring classic.

With its long keel and heavy displacement, the Nicholson 32 is in many ways a wooden boat built in fibreglass – and indeed the design was based on Nicholson’s South Coast One Design.

From 1966 to 1977, the ‘Nic 32’ went through 11 variations.

A yacht with two masts sailing

Credit: Hallberg-Rassy

In the beginning there was… the Rasmus 35. This was the first yacht built by the company that would become Hallberg-Rassy and which would eventually build more than 9,000 boats.

The Rasmus 35, designed by Olle Enderlein, was a conservative design, featuring a centre cockpit, long keel and well-appointed accommodation.

Some 760 boats were built between 1967 and 1978.

Two classic wooden yachts with white sails sailing side by side

Credit: Larry & Lin Pardey

Lyle Hess was ahead of his time when he designed Renegade in 1949.

Despite winning the Newport to Ensenada race, the 25ft wooden cutter went largely unnoticed.

Hess had to build bridges for 15 years before Larry Pardey asked him to design the 24ft Seraffyn , closely based on Renegade ’s lines but with a Bermudan rig.

Pardey’s subsequent voyages around the world cemented Hess’s reputation and success of the Renegade design.

A Rustler 36 yacht being sailed off the coast of Falmouth

Would the Rustler 36 make it on your best small sailing boat list? Credit: Rustler Yachts

Six out of 18 entries for the 2018 Golden Globe Race (GGR) were Rustler 36s, with the top three places all going to Rustler 36 skippers.

It was a fantastic endorsement for a long-keel yacht designed by Holman & Pye 40 years before.

Expect to see more Rustler 36s in the 2022 edition of the GGR!

An S&S 34 yacht sailing offshore with white sails

It was Ted Heath who first brought the S&S 34 to prominence with his boat Morning Cloud .

In 1969 the yacht won the Sydney to Hobart Race, despite being one of the smallest boats in the race.

Other epic S&S 34 voyages include the first ever single-handed double circumnavigation by Jon Sanders in 1981

A yacht with a red, white and blue spinnaker sailing into the distance

Credit: Colin Work

The Contessa 32 might seem an impossible boat to improve upon, but that’s what her designer David Sadler attempted to do in 1979 with the launch of the Sadler 32 .

That was followed two years later by the Sadler 29 , a tidy little boat that managed to pack in six berths in a comfortable open-plan interior.

The boat was billed as ‘unsinkable’, with a double-skinned hull separated by closed cell foam buoyancy.

What’s more, it was fast, notching up to 12 knots.

The Sigma 33 yacht - named as one of the 25 best small sailing boat designs

Credit: Dick Durham/Yachting Monthly

Another modern take on the Contessa theme was the Sigma 33, designed by David Thomas in 1979.

A modern underwater body combined with greater beam and higher freeboard produced a faster boat with greater accommodation.

And, like the Contessa, the Sigma 33 earned its stripes at the 1979 Fastnet, when two of the boats survived to tell the tale.

A lively one-design fleet soon developed on the Solent which is still active to this day.

A replica of Joshua Slocum's Spray. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

A replica of Joshua Slocum’s Spray . Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

The boat Joshua Slocum used for his first singlehanded circumnavigation of the world wasn’t intended to sail much further than the Chesapeake Bay.

The 37ft Spray was a rotten old oyster sloop which a friend gave him and which he had to spend 13 months fixing up.

Yet this boxy little tub, with its over-optimistic clipper bow, not only took Slocum safely around the world but has spawned dozens of modern copies that have undertaken long ocean passages.

James Wharram drew many pioneering designs during his lifetime, which is why Tangaroa, which opened up cruising to many, is on the 25 best sailing boat designs list. Credit: James Wharram Designs

Credit: James Wharram Designs

What are boats for if not for dreaming? And James Wharram had big dreams.

First he sailed across the Atlantic on the 23ft 6in catamaran Tangaroa .

He then built the 40ft Rongo on the beach in Trinidad (with a little help from French legend Bernard Moitessier) and sailed back to the UK.

Then he drew the 34ft Tangaroa (based on Rongo ) for others to follow in his wake and sold 500 plans in 10 years.

A Twister yacht with a white hull and white sails

Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

The Twister was designed in a hurry.

Kim Holman wanted a boat at short notice for the 1963 season and, having had some success with his Stella design (based on the Folkboat), he rushed out a ‘knockabout cruising boat for the summer with some racing for fun’.

The result was a Bermudan sloop that proved nigh on unbeatable on the East Anglian circuit.

It proved to be Holman’s most popular design with more than 200 built.

A black and white photos of a wooden yacht

Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Laurent Giles’s design No15 was drawn in 1935 for a Guernsey solicitor who wanted ‘a boat that would spin on a sixpence and I could sail single-handed ’.

What the young Jack Giles gave him was a pretty transom-sterned cutter, with a nicely raked stem.

Despite being moderate in every way, the boat proved extremely able and was soon racking up long distances, including Humphrey Barton’s famous transatlantic crossing on Vertue XXXV in 1950.

Wanderer II and III

Wanderer 3 yacht sailing with red brown sails

Credit: Thies Matzen

Eric and Susan Hiscock couldn’t afford a Vertue, so Laurent Giles designed a smaller, 21ft version for them which they named Wanderer II .

They were back a few years later, this time wanting a bigger version: the 30ft Wanderer III .

It was this boat they sailed around the world between 1952-55, writing articles and sailing books along the way.

In doing so, they introduced a whole generation of amateur sailors to the possibilities of long-distance cruising.

Westerly 22

A Westerly 22 yacht with a white hull and a white sail

The origins of Westerly Marine were incredibly modest.

Commander Denys Rayner started building plywood dinghies in the 1950s which morphed into a 22ft pocket cruiser called the Westcoaster.

Realising the potential of fibreglass, in 1963 he adapted the design to create the Westerly 22, an affordable cruising boat with bilge keels and a reverse sheer coachroof.

Some 332 boats were built to the design before it was relaunched as the Nomad (267 built).

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If you would like to own one of these lovely little boats, but don't have the time or ability to build one yourself, you can order a finished boat. The base price for a rowing version is $6,175.00, with a choice of sailing rigs available as optional extras. You can also order a bare hull to finish yourself. Give me a call at , or send me an e-mail at


       I’m Arch Davis – I learned boatbuilding and design in New Zealand in the 1970s. I have been helping people to build beautiful wooden boats since 1988. You can see a few of them by clicking on Picture Gallery . My approach to design is to put into your hands the means to use modern materials – marine plywood and epoxy resin – to build a truly lovely boat with classic lines.

      I believe that a boat should be beautiful, not just by virtue of her lines, but also in her construction. No material makes this possible like wood. My aim is to take advantage of wood’s unique strengths, in a structure that captivates the eye. I want you to feel that you are always doing good work in building one of these boats.

small wood sailboats

       You’ll see that I have a small collection of designs. That is because I understand your need for clear, comprehensible, detailed plans and instructions. I put a lot of time into my drawings, building manuals and DVDs. I also spend a lot of time helping people through their projects, on the phone or by e-mail. I really am here to help!

small wood sailboats

      If you see something that you like in my collection, please feel free to contact me with any questions. I am available on the phone at 207-930-9873, or email me at [email protected] .

Wooden Boat Plans and Boat Kits by Arch Davis

small wood sailboats

Grace's Tender - More than just a tender, this little dinghy is a fine vessel in her own right. She is a pleasure to row, and sprightly under her simple sailing rig - a great boat for youngsters to mess about in. Bay Pilot 18 - an 18 ft pilothouse cruiser for outboard power. Laughing Gull - 16 ft self-bailing sailing/rowing skiff. Ace 14 - 14 ft performance daysailer Penobscot 13 - 13 ft little sister to Penobscot 14. Penobscot 14 - 14 ft glued lapstrake sailing/rowing skiff. Penobscot 17 - big sister to the Penobscot 14 Sand Dollar - 11 ft sailing/rowing skiff. Jack Tar - 26 ft plywood lobster boat design Jiffy 9-7 - suitable for rowing or a small outboard motor Jiffy 22 - outboard powered cabin skiff Jiffv V-22 - vee-bottom sister of the Jiffy 22

About My Boat Kits

       I also have epoxy kits and plywood packages for all my designs, plus sails, rigging, and numerous other items. Here's my daughter, Grace, setting up the frames for a Grace's Tender kit.

small wood sailboats


My two week class “Building the Penobscot 13” at the WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine, is one of the highlights of my summer, and has been very well reviewed by students. The school on beautiful Eggemoggin Reach is a great place to spend some time. You get the chance to see a variety of activities, there is a fleet of small wooden boats that are available to students in the evenings and on weekends, and the food is great!

If you would like to take my class, call me at or send an e-mail to

You can see what the school has to offer here:  

Please call or write to me at: Arch Davis Design 37 Doak Road Belfast, Maine 04915 Tel:207-930-9873  

If you would like to receive a newsletter from Arch Davis Design, send me an e-mail at [email protected]

Back Home

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small wood sailboats

Idea 21 sportboat

The development of the family of small offshore capable sailboat plans : chined hull for the highest stability, vertical lifting keel, trailerable, suitable for club racing or cruising (two interior versions) ,  plywood and epoxy hull with the radius chine system, sparkling performances while sailing and reasonable interiors for coastal cruising.
6,30 m 27,5 m2
2,50 m (trailerable) 45-26 m2
1,75 m – 0,50 m outboard 2.3-5 HP on transom bracket
900 kg
1200 kg
1700 kg
300 kg

First boat launched : read the first impressions here

Idea 21 small sailboat plan is the latest development of my family of small plywood & epoxy sailboats plans for homebuilders : it was quite a time since i was thinking of an evolution of her smaller 19 footer sister, so i finally take the decision to publish this new plan. the goals of this plan is simple: add interior volume, simplify the work for homebuilders switching to a complete plywood & epoxy radius chine hull, enhance slightly the sparkling performances of idea 19, keeping the sailboat very balanced and suited for sailors ranging from enthusiast beginners to experienced seamen., first boat launched and several other boats in building stage make idea21 the most sparkling project on our catalogue,  hull: chined hull on a small light sailboat has a simple reason to exist: it gives more stability to the sailboat when heeled, much more than a round hull similar sailboat. i managed to keep a very low wetted area of the unheeled hull, in order to achieve a good pace in light air and avoid excessive drag. stern sections are quite flat to gain speed downwind (idea 19 has been clocked with speed steadily in excess of 15 knots)., bow sections: experiences on racers showed that “knife-blade” bows may give you less resistance, but the price to pay is high in terms of buried bow sailing downwind, so i decide to provide this plan a large u-shaped section on the bow ; sails provide the sailboat plenty of power to defeat the small amount of added drag., sailplan: i have a very good starting point with idea 19, so we’re doing small adjustments and no revolutions: square top mainsail, 7/8 fractional rig , very wide single swept spreaders, no backstay, deck stepped mast with sturdy section, 110 % j jib, code zero, jennaker hoisted on swinging retractable bowsprit, and a good amount of sail area., keel and ballast: idea21 have a solid hard wood cored & unidirectional glass epoxy laminated lifting keel, with a naca optimised profile and a low resistance hydrodynamical shaped 280 kg lead bulb bolted on the keel tip; it can be made by a homebuilder, no need for professional welder; the fin area is on the low side, speed will help generating the required lift without adding too much drag. keel case is in 20 mm thickness plywood and epoxy laminated glass reinforcements, and it’s perfectly waterproof while sailing., full lifting keel  version : after a request from a builder, idea 21 cruise is available in a version featuring an integral watertight keel case running form hull bottom to cabin top panels, this feature called flk (full lifting keel) will allow the boat to sail with keel partially raised or to motor with keel totally up, a good option if you sail in shallow waters frequently., cockpit: was one of the strongest point in idea19, we simply keep the same arrangement and dimensions, so we have a really huge area for the crew and a simple and sturdy building in plywood panels epoxy glued on a structure of bulkheads and stringers., interiors: here i focussed on several upgrades; i decided to split the project in two versions (so two different sets of plans, you have to specify on order), “sport cruise” or “racing” ; both versions have 4 berths, a classic v berth on bow and two quarter berth after; in the cruising version cabin is 55 cm longer, giving wider interiors, enough room for a separate toilette and more comfortable after berths ; in the racing version we have a marine toilet (there’s room for a jabsco compact one) under the bow v-berth; cabin height is 1.65 m in both versions. interiors plywood panels are detailed on plans., taking advantage form the first season of sailing, i can now say that i strongly advice the cruise version as long as you are not going to run a sailing school, thus needing extra space in the cockpit., wooden rig: starting form summer 2019 we deliver two extra drawings with the plans, both for race and cruise version,  describing how to build a wooden rig suited for this boat.  keep your budget low at the price of a small extra weight , how to build the boat: we chose the plywood & epoxy resin “radius chine” system, as for petrel 28 and hirundo 750, so the hull planking is in okume marine grade plywood ; planking the hull is quite fast , and the internal structure of the boat is made by plywood bulkheads, floors and solid wood longitudinal stringers, all glued with epoxy and strengthened with epoxy laminated glass tape, assembled on a cheap wood scaffold, keeping the hull light, sturdy and quite easy to build for homebuilders ; the goal is to keep the total weight of the 19 footer, raising the ballast fraction of the sailboat at the same time. here are a couple of pictures of the first planked hull perfectly showing the radius chine planking system.

a HUGE Thanks to Nils Theurer    ([email protected])   for the awesome pictures taken during the first sea trials  

small wood sailboats

Plans availability: Plans are available in italian and english. Plans are available in imperial units upon request (send me a mail before purchase).

small wood sailboats


Precut plywood boat kits loaded with features

Includes the strongback, molds, and other building jig materials.

small wood sailboats

Mark Hawkins photo taken at All Hands Boatworks, Milwaukee, WI.

The plywood kit is the bread-and-butter of a Chase Small Craft kit. The CNC-precut, plywood saves a great deal of time. Based on averages across the kits, we figure a kit saves 25% in time, eliminating the labor-intensive cutting of nasty glue-filled plywood. The kit also takes out the inevitable making of mistakes while cutting, saving wasted time and plywood. Furthermore, a precut kit is more efficient than hand-cutting because the parts can be nested so tightly in the CNC machining process, saving another one to two sheets of plywood! A plywood kit is composed of all the plywood that goes into the hull, deck, and interior. It is cut on our CNC router, packaged on a pallet, and shipped right to you by freight. All marine plywood is the best available: Bryunzeel certified BS1088 and Hechtout is the best. Small parts come tabbed into the plywood sheets and larger parts are cut out freely. The rest of the “plywood” kit is composed of durable, flat, Flakeboard (also known as chipboard or particle board material). 

small wood sailboats

Incredible NC Scarfs are precut on the planking in all our kits

The following parts are typically found in the plywood kits:

Precut planking out of 6mm or 9mm Okoume including a precut, interlocking NC scarf

Frames and bulkheads precut from plywood, typically 9, 12, and 18mm thickness. Stems and transoms, as well.

Utilizes the Tab-n-Lock system where appropriate, particularly our Easy-to-build line of boats

Tank tops, seats, and decking typically out of 3mm to 6mm Okoume

Strongback material from flat, stable, and uniform Flakeboard - 1/2", 5/8" or 3/4" thickness.

Patterns for cutting and shaping solid wood parts where appropriate (most of these curved parts like tillers and knees are now also precut from select hardwoods)

Plywood kit prices listed on the price sheet always includes the plans package , which can be ordered separately, printed, and shipped.

small wood sailboats

Shipping Information

Commercial freight shipping is to a business with a loading dock or fork truck that is open regular business hours and does not need a delivery appointment

Residential freight shipping is to a residence and includes a phone call from the shipper to make a delivery appointment during regular working hours (not weekends or holidays)

As a 4x8 pallet is too large for a liftgate trailer or a portable forktruck, the pallets must be broken open and unloaded sheet by sheet. The final leg of the delivery is often done by an independent contractor. We have found the truckers to be consistently helpful and cooperative, but they are not obligated to manually unload the truck (or carry the parts to your garage). Treat them well, it’s not an easy job.

“ Dear Clint: Happy New Year. I am working on the scarfs (I seem to do things out of order). I want to tell you how elegant the plywood cuts are, and how perfectly the puzzles match. It is amazing. Thank you. ”

Echo Bay Dory Skiff kit in the shop

A Calendar Islands Yawl being machined

Chipboard being cut for a Morbic 12 strongback

Being opened up by a customer in Santa Barbara!

Planking being glued up in a shop

You can see planking (center), MDF strongback components (right) and molds upright in the back.

Simply the best

A kit on our loading dock ready to go out

Pallet jack with a plywood kit

Sometimes the driver can lower the whole pallet to the ground and use his pallet jack to push your kit into the garage!

Goat Island Skiff kit picked up at the terminal by a customer

Typically an 18-wheeler delivers but if they can’t fit into the neighborhood, they transfer the pallet to a box truck.



Click image to view more information.

herreshoff-woodenboat-artisanboatworks-classic yacht

  • Articles and Guides

11 Best Small Sailboat Brands: How to Choose Your Next Daysailer or Pocket Cruiser

12th oct 2023 by samantha wilson.

Rightboat logo

Sailing is a relaxing, invigorating pastime that allows you to harness wind and waves in a unique and historic way without requiring a 50-foot yacht to enjoy what’s special about the experience. In fact, small sailboats allow a delightful back-to-basics experience that often gets lost on larger, systems-heavy sailboats.

On a small sailboat you can connect with the sea, feeling the boat move beneath you. The boat is typically easy to rig, simple to sail, and can even be sailed solo. Small sailboats give you the freedom to trailer your or car-top your boat and go anywhere, and they’re perfect for learning the nuances of sailing. There are many excellent brands and models of small sailboat, each with their own appeal, and here we narrow down some of our favorite in the daysailer and pocket cruiser categories under 30 feet. 

Difference Between a Daysailer and a Pocket Cruiser

While there are many different types of sailboat on the market and there is no single definition of either a daysailer or a pocket cruiser, they are used in a particular way, as the names imply. The term daysailer covers a huge array of sailboats, smaller and sometimes larger, and is generally defined as any day boat used for local sailing, with a simple rig, and easy to get underway. A pocket cruiser typically offers a cabin and head, and adequate accommodations for an overnight stay and sometimes longer cruises. Having said that, there is a large overlap between the two in many instances, so the lines may become blurred. 

What Size is a Small Sailboat?

Small is a relative term of course, but in general—and for the purposes of this article—a small sailboat is one that could be sailed by a small crew, often with one or two people aboard. It will have a simple rig and be trailerable, and it might be either a daysailer or pocket-cruiser style vessel as above. Within those categories, there are many models and styles, but when it comes to length we consider a sailboat as small when it’s under 30 feet in overall length. 

The Best Sailboats Under 30 Feet

Pocket cruiser: Beneteau First 27.  The Beneteau First 27 is a modern example of a pocket cruiser, earning Cruising World ’s Boat of the Year award in the Pocket Cruiser category in 2022. With space for up to six people accommodated in a separated bow-cabin and open saloon, it offers families the chance to go farther, explore more, and cruise in comfort. There is a galley with freshwater and a head, adding to the interior home comforts. The sailboat itself is modern, fast, and stable, designed by Sam Manuard, and has been designed to be incredibly safe and almost unsinkable thanks to its three watertight chambers. The handling is also refreshingly intuitive, with a well-designed cockpit, simple deck controls, and double winches allowing it to be sailed solo, by two people, or a small crew. 

Beneteau First 27

Photo credit: Beneteau

Daysailer: Alerion 28.  You’ll certainly turn heads cruising along in an Alerion 28, a daysailer whose forerunner by the same name was designed by Nathanael Herreshoff in 1912 and then updated with a modern underbody for fiberglass production by Carl Schumacher in the late 1980s. This pretty daysailer manages to combine a traditional silhouette and classic feel, with very modern engineering creating an excellent package. Over 470 of these sailboats were built and sold in the past 30 years, making it one of the most popular modern daysailers on the water. With a small cabin and saloon, complete with miniature galley area, it offers respite from the sun or wind and the option for a night aboard. The cockpit offers a beautiful sailing experience, with plenty of space for the whole family. 


Photo credit: Alerion Yachts

The Best Sailboats Under 25 Feet

Pocket cruiser: Cornish Crabber 24.  British manufacturer Cornish Crabber has been producing beautiful, traditional style small sailboats for decades, ensuring they honor their heritage both in the construction style and appearance of their boats. The Cornish Crabber 24 is the most iconic of their range and dates back to the 1980s. It offers a simple yet surprisingly spacious interior layout with cabin, galley, and head, and a good sized cockpit, as well as seating for up to six people. It’s the perfect family sailboat, with clever use of storage as well as just under 5000 pounds of displacement providing stability and easy tacking. Aesthetically the 24 is simply beautiful, with a traditional silhouette (combined with modern engineering), finished in hardwood trims. 

Cornish Crabber 24

Photo credit: Cornish Crabber

Daysailer: Catalina 22 Capri.  Catalina sailboats need little introduction, and are one of the world’s best-known, most-respected brands building small sailboats. The Catalina 22 Capri (also available in a sport model) is a great example of what Catalina does so well. While we’ve classified it as a daysailer, it could easily cross into the pocket cruiser category, as it offers excellent sailing performance in almost all conditions as well as having a small cabin, galley, and head. Loved for its safety, stability, ease of handling and simple maintenance, it makes for a good first family boat for getting out onto the bay or lake. 

Catalina 22 Capri

Photo credit: Catalina

The Best Sailboats Under 20 Feet

Pocket cruiser: CapeCutter 19.  This is another model that combines the beauty of the traditional silhouettes with modern-day advancements. The design originates from the classic gaff cutter work boats, but today offers excellent performance—in fact it’s one of the fastest small gaffers in the world. The interior is cleverly spacious, with four berths, two of which convert into a saloon, as well as a simple galley area. With quick rigging, it can be sailed solo, but is also able to accommodate small groups, making it a capable and hugely versatile pocket cruiser. 

CapeCutter 19

Photo credit: Cape Cutter 19

Daysailer: Swallow Yachts’ BayRaider 20.  Classic looks with modern performance are combined in Swallow Yachts’ beautiful BayRaider 20. This is one of the most capable and safest daysailers we’ve seen, but also incredibly versatile thanks to the choices of ballast. Keep the ballast tank empty and it’s light and fast. Fill the tank up and you’ve got a stable and safe boat perfect for beginners and families. While it’s got an eye-catching traditional style, the engineering is modern, with a strong carbon mast and construction. While this is a true daysailer, you can use the optional spray hood and camping accessories to create an overnight adventure. 

Swallow Yachts BayRaider 20

Photo credit: Swallow Yachts

The Best Sailboats Under 15 Feet

Pocket Cruiser: NorseBoat 12.5.  Can we truly call the NorseBoat 12.5 a pocket cruiser? Yes we can! The sheer versatility of this excellent little sailboat has convinced us. These beautiful hand-crafted sailboats offer exceptional performance and are described by the manufacturer as ‘the Swiss Army Knives of sailboats’. The traditionally styled 12.5 can be sailed, rowed, and motored. It can be trailered, easily beached, and even used as a camp cruiser, allowing for overnight adventures. There is no end to the fun that can be had with this easy-to-sail and easy-to-handle boat, which makes it a dream to learn in. With positive flotation, lots of clever storage, and a full-size double berth for camp cruising, it really is the perfect mini pocket cruiser. 

NorseBoat 12.5

Photo credit: NorseBoats

Daysailer: Original Beetle Cat Boat 12: All across the bays of the US east coast cat boats have long been part of the ocean landscape. Able to access shallow rocky coves yet also withstand the strong coastal winds, these traditional New England fishing boats have an iconic shape and gaff-rigged mainsails. Beetle Cat have been producing elegant wooden cat boats for over 100 years – in fact they’ve made and sold over 4,000 boats to date. Their 12 foot Cat Boat 12 is one of their finest models, offering lovely daysailing opportunities. It has a wide beam and centerboard that lifts up, allowing it to access shallow waters, as well as a forward mast and single sail gaff rig in keeping with the traditional cat boats. To sail one of these is to be part of the heritage of New England and Cape Cod, and to honor the ancient art of hand-made boat building. 

Beetle Cat official website

Beetle Cat Boat 12

Photo credit: Beetle Cat

The Best Small Sailboats for Beginners

When it comes to learning to sail, it’s important to have a boat that is easy to handle. There’s no quicker way to put yourself or your family off sailing than to start off with a boat that is either too big or too complicated. When choosing your first boat we recommend the following characteristics:

  • Small: The benefits of starting off with a small boat are many, as we’ve seen above. They’re easier to control as well as to moor, and they react more quickly to steering and sails. They can be trailered and launched easily, and the loads generated are much lower than on bigger, heavier boats.
  • Easy to sail: You want a boat that is stable and forgiving of mistakes, doesn’t capsize easily, and isn’t too overpowered in a stronger breeze. Keep things simple and learn as you go.
  • Simple sail configuration: Choosing a boat that can be rigged by one person in a few minutes, and easily sailed solo, makes it easier to take along inexperienced crews. With regards to the rig, all you need are a halyard to hoist the mainsail and a sheet to control the mainsail.
  • Tiller steering: We recommend boats with tiller steering over wheel steering when starting out. The tiller allows you to get a real feel for the boat and how the rudder works as it moves through the water. 

For more information on choosing the best beginner sailboat check out our full guide. There are many popular brands of beginner boats including Sunfish, Laser, and Hunter Marlow. Some of our favorites include;

Hobie 16: The classic Hobie catamaran has been a well-loved beginner sailboat for years, and the Hobie 16 started life back in 1969. Since then they’ve made and sold over a staggering 100,000 of the 16s. It has twin fiberglass and foam hulls, a large trampoline, and a pull-up rudder so it can be sailed straight onto the beach. The basic package comes with an easy to handle main and jib with plenty of extras available too such as a spinnaker and trailer. The Hobie 16 promises a great learning experience and lots of fun in a very nifty and inexpensive package. 

Hobie 16

Photo credit: Hobie

Paine 14: You’ll immediately fall in love with sailing when you step into a beautiful Paine 14. Made from seamless epoxy cold-molded wood, the P-14 is simply beautiful and offers the classic sailing experience with the design and innovation of a more modern hull and rig. Two people will be able to enjoy getting out on the water together and learning the ropes. The Paine 14 has a lead ballast keel that accounts for nearly half her weight, giving her the feel of a much larger boat, but is still trailerable and easy to manage offering the best of both worlds.

Paine 14

Photo credit: Chuck Paine

High-Performance Small Sailboats

Small sailboats generally become high performers if they are light, have a lot of sail area, or they have more than one hull. More recently, some of have been designed with foiling surfaces, as well. For the purposes of this article, we’d like to close by pointing out one model that is super fast and has versatile pocket-cruising capabilities.

Corsair 880 trimaran : The Corsair 880 trimaran is the grandchild of the company’s F27, a model that launched the popularity of trailerable leisure trimarans about 40 years ago. The 880 has taken the model to new heights and exemplifies the incredible space benefits you can achieve in a 29-foot sailboat. We’re talking an aft cabin, room to sleep 5 people, an enclosed head, and standing headroom in the galley and main saloon. It brings many of the opportunities that a much larger yacht plus the ability to cruise in extremely shallow water. Whether you want to cruise to the Bahamas or enjoy a high-adrenaline race, the Corsair 880 offers incredible performance and unlimited adventures in a truly pocket size. 

Corsair 880

Photo credit: Corsair

Written By: Samantha Wilson

Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.


More from: Samantha Wilson

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How to Build a Wood Sailboat


Introduction: How to Build a Wood Sailboat

How to Build a Wood Sailboat

I've been wanting to combine my two favorite hobbies - woodworking and sailing for a long time, so I thought I'd build a boat. It's got classic lines and looks so dazzling in the sunshine that people constantly stop me at the boat ramp to ask me about it. There's something unbelievably rewarding about building something like this from scratch. This is definitely a boat that is much better built than bought . Here's how I did it.

The boat takes about 100 hours to build. I did it over 3 months, working a little bit just about every day and full days when my schedule permitted.

It will take about $1,000 in total to build if you buy everything at full retail cost (not including tools you might need to buy), but you can spread that across the length of the project. For example, you only need to buy one $30 sheet of plywood at a time, take it home, draw out the parts (loft) that fit on just that sheet and cut them out. That will take a couple of hours right there. Some boating supply stores (chandleries) might let you setup an account which might give you a discount if you tell them you're building a boat.

All of the skills needed to build a sailboat can be learned slowly, one step at a time. For example, if you've never fiber-glassed plywood before, just practice on a small piece first to get your confidence up. This was my first boat build, so I did a lot of learn as you go . Not only am I going to show you the right way to successfully build your own sailboat, but I'm going to share with you the mistakes I made along the way to hopefully save you from repeating them.

The end result will be a very attractive little 8 foot long pram, that is easily made out of 4x8 sheets of plywood that is light enough to put in the back of a small pickup truck or roll down to the local lake on the optional dolly. Anything longer would require you to either make a scarf joint (which is a bit tricky) or buy longer sheets of plywood (which is considerably more expensive).

What you will need:

Boat building plans

8 panels of 1/4" oak plywood 4'x8'

Pencil, Sharpie, ruler, tape measure, yard stick, etc.

Long flexible straight edge

Box of 1" brad nails

2 gallons of epoxy resin

1 gallon of epoxy hardener - SLOW

1 quart silica thickener

5 quarts wood flour thickener

1" masking tape

Japanese pull-saw

Table saw (helps, but optional)

Round-over router bit

Flush trim router bit

Palm/random orbital sander

220 sanding discs

Combination square

Drill bit set

Drill bit extension

Basic hand tools

Small diameter wire or zip ties

Wire cutter

12 C-clamps - 3"

Mixing cups, mixing sticks, rubber/nitrile gloves

16' x 60" of 6oz fiberglass cloth

2" plastic spreader

Gallon of waterproof glue

Glue roller

Silicone bronze screws

Stainless steel fasteners

Small blocks

Gudgeon & pintle - dinghy size

Patience - large

Elbow grease - large

For more detailed explanations on each step and more specific info/reviews on the materials and parts used, check out my boat build blog: www.Midnight-Maker.com

Step 1: Cutting Out the Parts...

Cutting Out the Parts...

First, you'll need boat building plans. I purchased some very nice ones from a popular boat building website because I had a specific style in mind to build, a "pram". It's a Norwegian design with lots of buoyancy in the bow and building a pointy boat is a little more difficult. There are a bunch of free boat building plans (search "dinghy") online. Also, I wanted my boat parts to fit in a standard (read cheap) 4'x8' sheet of plywood. It also had to be light enough for me to load/unload/move myself. This boat weighs in at about 70 pounds. When on the custom dolly I built, it's very easy to move from the parking lot to the lake.

Next, you'll need to draw out the parts of the boat full-sized onto the plywood (lofting). I actually did this step on hardboard/masonite because I wanted to make templates of all the parts in case I ever wanted to build another one.

This step requires you to be very meticulous. Carefully transfer the measurements (offsets). They may or may not look correct because it's very non-intuitive to look at curved boat parts that are laying flat. Some parts actually bend the opposite way you think they should. To make the curves, I nailed a bunch of 1" brads into the panel and used a long, flexible straight edge (yard stick, etc.) bent to follow the curve, then I traced the curve with pencil/Sharpie. Once I removed the brads, I had perfectly smooth curves. Keep in mind that with the side panels that are symmetrical to both sides of the boat, only draw out one version and cut two stacked sheets at a time. This ensures the boat will not be lop-sided. Make sure to immobilize the two sheets together with screws outside of the boat parts or use double-sided tape/clamps, etc. to keep the parts registered properly.

Using a Japanese pull-saw allows you to control the cuts very carefully and it can follow the graceful curves. They cut on the pull stroke which means they're very easy to control. Make sure you leave a bit of your cut line, meaning cut just outside the line. This allows you a bit of a safety margin and you can always sand to the line to sweeten it up. This is where the elbow grease really kicks in. It takes hours to cut out the hull panels by hand, but it's worth it. I tried cutting the first part out with the jigsaw and it wandered all over the place and quickly cut inside the line before I knew it. Also, a jig saw blade can lean to one side which could mean two panels might not be the exact same shape. Using hand tools is a classic way to do woodworking and is a very gratifying process. With hand tools, things happen slow enough for you to be in total control, whereas power tools can quickly do unexpected damage. With the understanding that you're building a classic boat, using hand tools wherever possible is part of the philosophy.

The plans I bought were in metric and called for 6mm (1/4") and 9mm (3/8") plywood, but I wanted to make everything out of 1/4" plywood so the thicker parts in the plans were glued together with two layers of 1/4" (so at 1/2" they were a bit thicker than designed). I actually liked this because it made the boat feel sturdier and of course it was cheaper that way. The trade-off was that the boat would be a bit heavier.

For any of the parts that need to be doubled-up/laminated (e.g. the transoms), now is a good time to do that. Make sure you use "waterproof" glue instead of "weatherproof" glue like I did...

Spread a thin layer of glue over one of the "bad" sides (plywood usually has a good side and a bad side, glue bad sides together so good sides show on both outside faces), making sure it's completely covered (I used a special glue roller), then carefully place the other half on top. Align all of the edges together, then clamp them in place. Now put heavy things carefully on top to press the parts together. The glue should be dry in about 6 hours.

NOTE: It's considerably easier and safer to do any woodworking processes to the parts before you assemble the boat. This way, you can safely clamp pieces to the work bench and cut out handle holes, etc. Since my boat is a "lapstrake" design, I had to route a rabbet (groove located on the edge) carefully on the bottom edge of each side panel. This creates a shoulder for the parts to sit on, positively locating them while you're stitching the panels together. Likewise, the grab handles in the transoms are much easier to cut out before putting the boat together.

Also keep in mind that any mistake will be considerably more painful the further you are along in the build. For example, if I biff cutting out the grab handle holes while they're just loose pieces rather than when they're a permanent part of the boat, it's much easier to recover - just make another transom. If you had to patch a hole in the boat, it would be difficult and possibly never look perfect. No pressure...

Step 2: Assembling the Hull...

Assembling the Hull...

Once you have the bottom and sides cut out, you can start to "stitch and glue" the hull together. This is a technique used usually for smaller boats to be able to pull the hull form together without the need to build a frame or mold (which can take almost as long and as much wood as the boat itself).

I built a gauge stick to make sure my holes were perfectly spaced at 4" at 1/2" in from the plywood edge. It was 1" wide so either edge was the required 1/2" from the centerline. I worked my way down one side of each of each mated seam and drilled all those holes at once while the panels could lay flat on the bench. Make sure to use a backer block to prevent tear out on the back side, even with such a small drill bit.

With one mating panel drilled with a 1/16" drill bit, hold the mating panel in it's relative position. I used some spare twine to wrangle my panels into the proper orientation as I was marking them. Make a pencil mark where the mating hole should be, remove the pre-drilled panel and drill the second set of holes 1/2" in from the edge. This makes sure there's enough strength to hold the boat together.

The first pass on the stitches is just to get the hull together structurally. You can always go back and make the stitches fancier/tighter and tweak the position of the panels.

The stitches go from the inside out. Cut 6" lengths of wire and bend them into long, narrow U's that are the width of the distance between the holes. Stick the ends through the holes and carefully twist the tails together on the outside of the hull, making sure not to damage the plywood. If you're using zip ties, then the holes you drill will need to be bigger and you'll have to start on the outside, go in, turn around, then back out, then "zip".

Make sure your panels' rabbet shoulders are resting securely on the mating panel and carefully tighten all the stitches. For my boat, once I had two panels stitched to the bottom panel on each side, it was time to attach the transoms (ends). Once all of the exterior parts are stitched together, you should have something that looks like a boat. It will be a little rickety at this stage, but that's okay.

NOTE: In the photos I took of my build, you'll notice that the transom doublers (reinforcers) aren't in place. That was because I was following the instruction manual, but I think that was a mistake, so I highly recommend laminating (gluing) the doublers to the transoms before you stitch the boat together.

Step 3: Reinforcing the Hull Joints...

Reinforcing the Hull Joints...

Now that the hull is stitched together, flip it over upside down. You'll be surprised at how stiff it is, considering how difficult it was to wrangle all those panels into position. Be careful, there's lots of poky wire ends sticking out all over the place.

I used a technique called "tabbing", meaning I made small, structural tabs from thickened epoxy that fit between the stitches, then I removed the stitches and made one long, larger fillet to connect the hull panels together.

Make sure your panels are perfectly aligned and tightened. I used a nipper to lop off most of the tails so they wouldn't get in the way, but that left very sharp spikes.

Make sure your boat is square. Take diagonal measurements from corner to corner, make sure the boat parts are parallel to each other, etc. because if there's a twist in your boat, the next step will make it permanent, which will affect the boat's performance.

Now mix up a batch of epoxy and silica thickener according to the manufacturer's directions (meaning each type of epoxy has a different resin to hardener ratio) until it's between the consistency of thick ketchup, but runnier than peanut butter (make sure to mix the 2 parts of epoxy together first very well before adding a thickener). Too thick and it won't fill the void, too thin and it'll run down inside the boat. Both are bad. I used a small syringe to inject the mix into the V intersection between the panels and checked underneath/inside to see if there were any runs.

Once the epoxy has partially set, use a glove wet with denatured alcohol to smooth out the "tabs" so they fit inside the V groove and don't extend above the intersection between the panels. This will give you good practice for the seams that will show on the finished boat. Be careful of the wire spikes.

Repeat this process for every seam on the hull. Let it cure overnight.

Once the tabs have cured, carefully remove the stitches. If the wire seems to be epoxied permanently to the hull, heat the wire with a lighter. That will soften the epoxy enough to pull the wire out. Be careful not to scorch the boat (you don't want a Viking funeral). Now repeat the thickened epoxy process for each overlap, except this time each seam will need to be one long, smooth joint. Let it cure overnight. This goes a long way in making the boat hull structural.

Step 4: ​Fiberglassing the Hull...

​Fiberglassing the Hull...

Now that you've got a permanent hull shape, it's time to make it waterproof and rugged. Fiberglass and resin over plywood is a tried and true Do It Yourself boat building technique which makes it strong and light.

Mask off the bottom panel and roll out your fiberglass cloth. Smooth the cloth out very carefully so as not to snag or tweak the fibers' orientation. Mix up an unthickened batch of epoxy (it will be the consistency of syrup). Starting at the stern, pour a small puddle of epoxy and spread it out nice and thin. You should be able to squeeze most of the epoxy out of the cloth, leaving only saturated cloth with no dry spots (which will appear white) but the weave should still be showing (meaning no extra epoxy is pooling). You should easily be able to see the wood grain through the cloth now.

Let the epoxy partially cure and using a razor, slice the dry fiberglass cloth away on the taped seam. Then remove the masking tape. Let the epoxy cure overnight.

Flip the hull over and mix up a batch of epoxy that is the consistency of peanut butter. I masked off the joint, but this step is optional, but keep in mind that it will be visible if you plan on finishing the interior bright (varnished wood). It's not as critical if you're painting the interior. With a plastic spreader, carefully make a large radius transition (fillet) between the bottom panel and the first side panel (garboard). Remove the masking tape when the epoxy mixture is partially cured and carefully scrape/wipe any unwanted mixture. It's much easier to remove now than having to sand it all off later. At this point, it's also a good time to fillet the transoms to the sides using 3/4" radius tabs between stitches and 1" finished fillets after you've removed the stitches. Let the fillets cure overnight.

Now, repeat the entire fiberglassing process on the inside. Except instead of just doing the bottom panel, make sure both the bottom and the garboard are fiberglassed. This is basically the waterline of the boat. The fillet should allow the fiberglass cloth to smoothly make the bend between boards. Remove the excess cloth when partially cured and let sit overnight. Some people fiberglass up onto the transom at this stage which will make the boat stronger, but that means you have to have already filleted the transoms to the bottom.

Step 5: Installing Interior Parts...

Installing Interior Parts...

The bulkheads get stitched in place just like the panels. They will make the already stiff (and much heavier boat) completely structurally sound and push/pull the sides into their final shape. Then make 3/4" "tab" fillets between the stitches to lock them in place, remove the stitches and make long, smooth 1" fillets. The smaller fillets will get covered by the larger fillets. I used two different modified plastic spreaders to do this step. Each spreader was cut with a box knife and filed/sanded into its final shape.

While you're doing the previous steps, if you're in a time crunch, go ahead and build the daggerboard trunk. It's made of numerous parts that are pre-coated with a couple layers of unthickened epoxy, then glued together with silica-thickened epoxy. This makes it strong and waterproof as it will be below the waterline so must be completely waterproof.

The daggerboard trunk is the most important part of the boat, especially if you're making a sailboat version (this boat can easily just be used as a rowboat). Not only does it support the center seat (thwart), but it has to transfer all of the force from the sail to the water and if you run the boat aground, it takes all the shock loading from the daggerboard.

The daggerboard gets filleted into place like everything else. Make sure it's perfectly on the centerline of the boat as that will affect its sailing characteristics.

Next, let's make the daggerboard slot in the center thwart. I set up a straight edge with a spiral upcutting router bit. Make sure to enlarge the slots at the end of the center thwart so that it can fit around the fillets of the center bulkhead. Now is the time to ease the edges of the center thwart because you'll be sitting on it a lot, so it needs to be comfortable. Because it's so thin, I only routed the top edge of the center thwart that shows and just hand sanded the edge underneath (it's very problematic to use a round-over bit on the second side of a thin board). Paint all of the thwarts with three coats of unthickened epoxy, especially the undersides. Once the woodworking is done, the thwart can be epoxied into place with peanut butter (or you can jump to cutting the daggerboard slot in the bottom of the hull). Make sure the thwart fits snugly in place. Drop dollops of peanut butter on the top edges of the center bulkhead and daggerboard case and spread it out evenly (make sure none gets inside the slot to interfere with the daggerboard). Firmly seat the thwart (pun intended) into the goop and weight it down. Let it cure overnight.

While you've making sawdust, cut out the mast hole (partner) in the forward thwart by drilling holes in the four corners (for the square mast we're going to make), then cut out the sides, file it smooth, then round over the top edge with the router.

Any time after the bulkhead thwart fillets have cured, you can seal the airtank chambers. Paint the bottom, sides, inside of the bulkhead and transom up to the level where the thwart will be.

Step 6: Rail & Sailboat Parts...

Rail & Sailboat Parts...

There are several processes in this boat building instructable that can be done concurrently. While you're waiting for the epoxy on one part to cure, you can be doing woodworking or epoxying another part. This step illustrates that point. While you're waiting for the epoxy on the rub rail (outwale) to cure, you can be fabricating the sailboat accessories (e.g. daggerboard, rudder, tiller, spars, etc.).

In order for the outwale to be thick/strong enough to be effective, you'll need to laminate it in two strips on each side. You can't bend a single piece that thick around the curvature of the hull without either breaking the wood or softening it by steaming it which is a complicated process.

Take a strip that's half the final thickness and a little longer than the boat edge (I made mine a bit beefier), mix up some peanut butter with the colloidal silica and carefully spread it on the inside of the strip. Starting at the stern, clamp it in place, perfectly align it with the top edge of the plywood. Now you have a long, springy lever to bend the wood strip along the compound curve. It dips both vertically (shear), and bows out at the widest part of the boat (beam), then back in toward the bow. At least every foot, clamp it as you go, moving forward. More is better. Toward the bow, the strip will get stiffer as it gets shorter. Once clamped in place, scrape/wipe off all the squeeze-out. It's much easier to remove now than after it hardens. Let it sit overnight. You'll have to repeat this three more times, meaning this step takes four days (if you're using "slow" epoxy hardener).

During those four days that you're dealing with the outwale, you can make major progress on the sailboat parts. They're completely separate from the hull. If you're just making a rowboat, then you can skip making these parts.

The daggerboard and rudder are cut out and laminated. Then a bevel is ground onto the leading and trailing edges to make it slice through the water more efficiently. Then they're covered in layers of epoxy. The mast step is assembled. This has to be very strong because all of the force of the sail is transmitted to the boat through the mast step and the mast is a very long lever arm. The rudder cheek plates and tiller also have to be assembled similarly to the daggerboard case.

NOTE: Whenever there's a hole to be drilled into any part of the boat, you must take additional steps to make sure the water doesn't penetrate and damage the wood. The correct procedure is to drill an over-sized hole, completely fill that hole with epoxy (I usually put a piece of masking tape on the back side to act as a dam), then once the epoxy cures, re-drill in the center of the epoxy plug the correct hole size. That makes each hole in the boat possibly a 2 day process, so plan accordingly. You can also use 5 minute epoxy to knock out a bunch of holes quickly, but be careful, they're not kidding. This stuff gets rock hard very quickly and will permanently glue anything touching. This is exactly how you drill the hole for the pivot point for the rudder/cheek plate assembly. If the pin is 1/4", then drill 1/2" hole and fill that with epoxy. Now the 1/4" hole will fit nicely in the center and be completely waterproof.

Since all the parts need several coats of unthickened epoxy and they just about all have holes in them, I hung them up with some twine and painted them on all sides, one layer at a time, for several days. Make sure the rudder doesn't get too thick to fit inside the cheek plates.

Step 7: Making the Spars...

Making the Spars...

More sailboat parts you can make while waiting for other parts to cure are the spars, the structural parts that support the sail. The mast is another glue up. I used 3 - 1x3's of hemlock. A relatively soft wood, but with a nice tight grain with no knots. A mast would break at a knot, regardless of how strong the wood is. Using the waterproof glue, align the pieces as perfectly as you can then clamp up the assembly and let dry overnight. Then run it through a table saw to get the final dimensions. Use a router and a round-over bit to ease the edges. Cut to length and sand the sharp corners. It should fit easily, but snugly into the forward thwart.

The boom (bottom of sail) is a little more complicated. Cut out the gooseneck (boom pivot point) by using a hole saw first, making sure to clamp it securely to the workbench, then cut out the profile. This gets attached to another piece of 1x3 hemlock, after it's been cut to length and the edges have been rounded over.

The yard (top of sail) is easy. Just cut to length and round over the edges. Drill and fill any holes in the spars at this time. You'll need at least one hole on each end to lash the sail grommets to.

This time, everything gets covered with several coats of varnish, epoxy is not necessary. The varnish protects the wood from water and UV damage.

The reason we had to make at least the mast at this point is because we'll need it in the next step to establish the location of the mast step.

Step 8: Finishing Up the Interior & Exterior...

Finishing Up the Interior & Exterior...

Once the outwales are successfully attached, trim them flush with the face of the transom(s). While you're at it, use a flush cut saw (with no sawtooth offset to mar the wood) to trim the sides flush with the transom. This will show you how well your injected silica mix worked earlier. Now you're ready to install the mast step.

The mast step must be precisely located on the floor (sole) of the boat to give the mast the proper angle (rake). This is very important because it directly affects the boat's ability to sail upwind. Using your mast, insert it into the forward thwart (partner) and into the mast step. With the mast at a 3° angle (mostly vertical but with a small, yet noticeable and graceful tilt toward the stern of the boat), trace the location of the mast step. Use a combination square to make sure it's perfectly aligned side to side (athwartship). You can now set the mast aside. Drill and fill holes in the bottom of the boat so that you can securely screw the mast step from the outside of the hull. The mast base must also be epoxied to the sole with peanut butter. After it's screwed into place but before the epoxy cures, make sure to test fit the mast again and verify the rake angle is correct. It would be a little messy at this point if you had to tweak it, but at least you wouldn't have to cut it off.

Now comes the most unpleasant part of the whole build. On your hands and knees, make a 1" radius fillet on the underside of every part in the boat. I didn't worry about making these pretty, just structural and water tight (these create the flotation tanks that keep the boat from sinking if you capsize). Let that cure overnight.

Next is the scariest part of the build, making the slot in the hull for the daggerboard. Using a drill bit extension, from the inside of the boat, reach down through the daggerboard case and drill a hole at each end of the slot through the bottom of the boat (make sure to use a backer board). Drill a couple holes in between, then take a jigsaw and connect the dots. This weakens the hull enough so that the router won't tear out any extra wood. Note, this step can easily be done prior to affixing the center thwart. Using a flush trim/laminate router bit, let the bearing run around the inside of the daggerboard case. This will make the hole in the hull perfectly match the slot. This is important because you don't want a shoulder on the inside for the daggerboard to hit and you don't want to damage the waterproof lining of the case. Last, ease the sharp edge of the daggerboard slot with the router and a small radius round-over bit.

The skeg must be cut to fit the curve of the hull (rocker), then using silicone bronze screws, attach it to the hull using the same drill and fill/peanut butter techniques. Make sure to snap a chalk line on the centerline of the boat for reference. Then make a 1" fillet where it meets the hull which will support the skeg and make it strong. The skeg keeps the boat tracking straight in the water. I optionally used some fiberglass cloth to cover the skeg and overlap onto the bottom to make the entire assembly stronger and more waterproof. The skeg will take the brunt of the abuse when launching, beaching, loading and unloading, etc. I also installed a stainless steel rubstrake on the aft end of the skeg with this in mind. In wooden boat building, silicone bronze screws are often used because they won't corrode when encapsulated like stainless steel screws can.

Install the skids parallel to the skeg. These are solid pieces of hardwood because they will also take a lot of abuse when the boat is sitting on shore, protecting the thin hull from rocks, etc. They get installed the same way as the skeg, although it's a little tough to bend the wood along the rocker. Scrape off the excess peanut butter once they're screwed in place.

I also installed the optional outboard motor pad at this point because I plan to use an electric trolling motor on the back to quietly putter around the lake in the evenings to relax with the family after work.

That should be the last parts that go into making the boat!

Step 9: Finishing the Hull...

Finishing the Hull...

Now comes the last dash to the finish line. One of the more tedious steps is that you now have to sand the entire boat. I actually built the entire boat inside, but for the sanding stage, I took her outside. Several hours of sanding all of the fillets nice and smooth. Everything will show in the finished product whether you paint the boat or leave it "bright" (unpainted). If you've been careful about cleaning up the peanut butter as you go, you should be able to sand the boat with mostly 220 grit. Be careful not to sand through the thin veneer of the plywood. After the sanding is done (make sure to use a dust mask), vacuum the entire boat and then wipe it down with a tack cloth to remove any dust. I also reversed the hose on the shop vac and used it to blow the sawdust off since I was outside.

Next, you must coat the entire interior and exterior with 3-4 coats of unthickened epoxy. This makes the entire boat waterproof. It will also give you an idea of how beautiful the wood will look when varnished. This is why a lot of boat builders decide to leave their boats bright so the beauty of the wood shows through.

Mix up 1 cup batches of unthickened epoxy and pour out large puddles onto the surface. Taking a foam roller, distribute the epoxy in a smooth coat. Now take a wide foam brush and gently smooth (tip) the rolled out surface. This should remove any lap marks or bubbles. Move along to the next area, making sure to not touch the wet parts. Also, make sure no dust or bugs get on your finish or it'll mean even more sanding later.

Start with the exterior first. It'll be much easier to get good by practicing on the convex surfaces. The interior is more tricky because you want to prevent sags and pooling by only applying very thin coats.

Make sure to check with the manufacturer's directions during this step in case you have to deal with "blushing", a thin layer that can sometimes form on the surface of epoxy when it cures. This could cause your layers to not stick to each other. If your epoxy does blush, it's easy to just wipe the entire boat down with a rag soaked in acetone after each coat has cured. Some people sand between coats of epoxy. This is how you would make an extremely smooth/shiny finish, so if you want your boat to be museum quality, invest the effort. I'm planning on banging my boat around so opted out of an extreme, fancy, mirror finish.

I was originally going to paint the exterior of the hull, which would require priming and painting, but I'm leaving it bright for the time being. The good news is that you can always paint later if you change your mind, but if you paint it and change your mind, it's tough to go back. There aren't a lot of pics of this step, which took a couple of days because there wasn't much visible progress after that first coat went on. At this point, any surface that's not painted should be varnished using the same "roll and tip" method as the epoxy, with the optional sanding between coats. Note that epoxy has no UV resistance, so to keep your boat from getting sunburned, you must either paint or varnish every surface. Giving a boat a "museum quality" paint and/or varnish finish can literally take as long as building the boat.

Step 10: Making the Sail...

Making the Sail...

Another step you can do while other parts are curing is make the sail. This particular design uses a "lug" sail, a classic looking sail for small boats with wood masts. It increases the sail area (therefore the force generated by the wind) without it having to be as tall as a modern sailboat mast made of aluminum. There is a kit from an online sailmaking company that you can get for a reasonable price. The Dacron cloth panels are all cut out by a CNC machine, so they fit perfectly together. I used a regular, domestic sewing machine, not an industrial one. The only time I had trouble was when sewing through all 7 layers at the reinforcement patches. When I got to those parts, I had to manually push down on the foot of the sewing machine with a flat-bladed screwdriver (minus) to help push the needle through the Dacron. We jokingly call Philips head screwdrivers "plus".

The panels/parts all come labeled. The directions were a bit confusing because they suggest you make sub-assemblies after the fact to make wrangling the large sail easier but they mention it after you've already sewn the large panels together. It's important to understand what parts go together while the panels are still small and more manageable. For example, the batten pockets are tricky enough to build on a single panel, much less the finished sail. Building the sail was about as difficult for me as building the boat, but it was worth it.

The lug sail gets reinforcement patches on all four corners where you attach it to the spars (bend), and there's also a reefing point for when the wind starts to pick up (freshen). Modern sails have three corners (Marconi rig).

I opted for the less expensive white Dacron sail kit, but there's also a classic red (tanbark) colored kit that's $100 more expensive. Before I sewed a single stitch, I carefully traced every part of the sail kit onto painter's tarp poly film so I can always use the templates to build another sail, all I need to do is buy the tanbark cloth.

Step 11: Rigging Your Sailboat...

Rigging Your Sailboat...

This seems to be the trickiest part for most people, probably because there are numerous ways it can be successfully rigged, depending on your experience, preferences or criteria. It's confusing because you have to know what the finished setup will look like in your mind while you're staring at a pile of ropes. I chose a setup that allows the most room in the cockpit for a full-sized adult, so the mainsheet is led forward of the skipper's position. This keeps the skipper's attention forward so they're looking where they're going. I have another boat where the mainsheet is behind the skipper and it takes some practice getting used to.

The lines I made up (rope becomes a line when you give it a job description) were the halyard (hauls the sail up), the mainsheet (adjusts the angle of the sail to the wind = trim) and a traveler bridle (where the mainsheet attaches to the boat). I got fancy and spliced all my ends, but you can just as well use a bowline knot.

I installed a cheek block at the top of the mast instead of the large diameter hole in the directions. I wanted the halyard to run as smoothly as possible when setting the sail. Then I installed a pair of cleats at the base of the mast, one for the halyard and one for the downhaul (cunningham). With both of these lines pulling in opposite directions, it locks the sail in place, flat, so it effectivley acts like a wing. The main halyard attaches to the gaff with a snap onto a padeye. This allows easy on/easy off when rigging at the boat ramp. I also used a small loop (parrel) around the mast and through the eye to keep the gaff located close to the mast. I looped the downhaul over the boom and down to the cleat to try to keep the gooseneck from twisting. Note, except for the blocks, just about all of the hardware used on rigging a boat this size can come in stainless steel or brass/bronze, depending on the look you're going for. If you plan on installing oarlocks to row the boat, this decision becomes even more important to the final look of the boat.

For the mainsheet, I made a short bridle between the handles on the transom with a small eye tied in the center. This allows a place for the snap on the end of the mainsheet to attach to. I could've just as easily allowed the snap to slide, which would give the bridle the function of a traveler, but would affect its pointing ability (sail upwind). The mainsheet is then run to a block on the end of the boom, then to another block in the middle of the boom. This leaves the main cockpit area unobstructed with running rigging. Make sure your mainsheet is long enough for your boom to swing forward of 90° to the boat, with enough to still come back to the cockpit for the skipper to control. A stop knot at the end of the mainsheet will keep the mainsheet from getting away from you and give you something to grip.

The rudder pivot hardware (gudgeons and pintles) must be installed perfectly vertical and on the exact centerline of the boat so that she will sail well. Drill and fill the necessary holes for this hardware. Be careful with the spacing. It's designed to be easily installed and uninstalled while underway.

With this particular rigging layout, when under sail, the skipper must constantly keep the mainsheet in hand, which is a good idea anyway for safety reasons (if you get hit by a gust of wind = puff, you won't get blown over = capsize). The tension on the mainsheet is easily manageable for any size skipper. On larger boats, the mainsheet is held by a fiddle block with a cam cleat, which is not necessary for a boat this size. With that being said, a possible future upgrade would be to install a block and a camcleat somewhere on the centerline of the boat so that more advanced sailors wouldn't need to constantly have to oppose the tension on the mainsheet. Of course the trade-off would be the hardware would probably be somewhere you might want to sit.

Another upgrade I figured out after actually taking her sailing would be to rig up a bungee/shock cord system that will hold the daggerboard both in an up and down position. With the current setup, the centerboard is held down by gravity and must be pulled out of the slot when beaching.

Step 12: Go SAILING!


Because I wanted to be able to go sailing by myself if needed, I made a dolly out of 2x4's and large pneumatic tires (which makes the dolly float). The dolly fits securely between the center and aft thwarts when driving out to the lake. The sides on the dolly lock against the skids on the bottom of the boat so it can't twist. Roll the sail up with the spars and wrap it with the main halyard. At the designed length, the mast doesn't fit inside the boat, but it seems a bit long, so some people have cut the mast down enough so that it fits inside the boat.

Out at the lake, unload the boat, slide the dolly underneath and you're ready to roll down to the ramp. At the launch, roll the boat out into the water until it floats off the dolly, toss the dolly off to the side out of everybody else's way. Drop the daggerboard into the slot and install the rudder assembly. Facing into the wind (important), stick the mast into the receiver hole (partner), tie off the downhaul (cunningham) and hoist the sail until the downhaul is tight, then cleat off the main halyard. Reave the mainsheet (run the line through the blocks) and you're ready to go sailing.

I've found that this boat sails very well. The lug sail makes it very easy to sail upwind (weather helm), it's a little more tender for a large adult, more so than a boat with a hard chine, like an El Toro/Optimist but it's a lot more graceful looking. The payload is very reasonable for a boat this size. My wife and son can easily (and safely) go sailing with me and I don't even need anyone's help to get it rigged and launched. All in all, this is one of the best projects I've every built. I hope you too can discover the joy of building your own boat and then take her sailing. Remember, in sailing, the wind is free, but nothing else is...

This is my very first Instructable after many years of referencing this excellent site to build numerous cool projects (you should see my next post). Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I'll do my best to answer them. I'm planning on building a larger boat in the near future so stay tuned...

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Sail Away Blog

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Build a Wooden Sailboat – Complete DIY Tutorial

Alex Morgan

small wood sailboats

Building a wooden sailboat is a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor that allows you to create your own vessel for sailing adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a woodworking enthusiast, constructing a wooden sailboat requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a love for craftsmanship. This comprehensive guide will take you through the step-by-step process of building a wooden sailboat, from choosing the right design and gathering the necessary materials to assembling the framework, building the deck and cabin, and installing the sails and rigging. We will also discuss the finishing touches and regular maintenance required to keep your wooden sailboat in optimal condition for years of enjoyment on the water. Let’s dive into the world of wooden sailboat construction and embark on this exciting journey together.

Key takeaways:

Key takeaway:

  • Choosing the right design and plans is crucial: Research different sailboat designs and select suitable plans based on your skill level to ensure a successful project.
  • Gather the necessary materials and tools: Pay attention to wood selection and preparation, as well as acquiring the tools and equipment needed for building your wooden sailboat.
  • Attention to detail in the construction process is important: Prepare and assemble the framework carefully, focusing on lofting, laying out the keel, constructing the ribs, and the hull structure to ensure a sturdy and reliable sailboat.

Choosing the Right Design and Plans

When it comes to building a wooden sailboat, one of the crucial steps is choosing the right design and plans. In this section, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of sailboat designs and explore the vast array of options available. From researching different sailboat designs to selecting plans that match your skill level, we’ll guide you through the exciting process of bringing your wooden sailboat dream to life. So, hop aboard and let’s set sail on this exhilarating journey of craftsmanship and adventure.

Researching Different Sailboat Designs

When conducting research on sailboat designs, it is important to take into account a variety of factors in order to select the most suitable design. One of the primary considerations is whether you prefer a monohull or a multihull sailboat. Monohulls are more commonly found and offer superior performance when sailing upwind, whereas multihulls provide both stability and speed.

Another aspect to consider is your level of sailing experience. If you are a beginner, it is advisable to seek out designs that are easier to handle and forgiving. On the other hand, experienced sailors may gravitate towards performance-oriented designs that are ideal for racing or long-distance cruising.

It is crucial to think about how you intend to use the sailboat. Are you looking for a day sailer , a cruiser , or a racing boat ? Each design comes with its own set of distinctive features and characteristics.

Determining the appropriate size of the sailboat is another crucial step, which should be based on the number of people and activities you plan to have on board. You must also decide whether you prefer an open cockpit or an enclosed cabin .

To find the perfect sailboat design that aligns with your sailing goals and preferences, it is imperative to thoroughly research various options and take into consideration all of these factors. By doing so, you will be able to make an informed decision and select the ideal sailboat design.

Selecting Suitable Plans for Your Skill Level

When it comes to building a wooden sailboat, it is crucial to select suitable plans that match your skill level. This is important as it ensures that you have the necessary knowledge and expertise to effectively complete the construction. In order to help you with this, here is a table that outlines the different skill levels and the corresponding plans:

Skill Level Suitable Plans
Simplified plans with detailed instructions and minimal complex techniques.
Plans that require a moderate level of woodworking skills, including more intricate joinery and techniques.
Advanced plans for experienced woodworkers with in-depth knowledge of boat building and complex woodworking techniques.

Choosing the right plans for your skill level is essential as it enables you to navigate the construction process smoothly, avoid any complications, and ultimately achieve the desired result. It is crucial to honestly evaluate your woodworking skills and then select plans that align with your abilities. Keep in mind that building a wooden sailboat demands patience , attention to detail , and a willingness to learn and improve your woodworking skills.

As a pro tip, if you are a beginner, it is advisable to start with simpler plans and gradually work your way up to more complex projects. This allows you to gain experience and confidence in your woodworking abilities over time. So always remember to select suitable plans for your skill level and enjoy the process of building your wooden sailboat.

Gathering the Necessary Materials and Tools

When it comes to building a wooden sailboat, gathering the necessary materials and tools is key . In this section, we’ll dive into the exciting world of selecting and preparing the right wood for your sailboat, as well as the essential tools and equipment you’ll need to bring your project to life. So, start sharpening your creativity and let’s sail away into the realm of wooden boat construction!

Wood Selection and Preparation

Incorporating the provided keywords naturally in the provided text:

1. Conduct research on the different types of wood used in boatbuilding, such as mahogany , teak , or oak . This will help you make an informed decision regarding the most suitable wood for your sailboat.

2. Determine the specific requirements of your sailboat design in order to guide your wood selection process. Each design may have different needs and preferences when it comes to the type of wood to be used.

3. Take into consideration the durability and resistance to rot of the wood options available. This is crucial to ensure the longevity and overall quality of your sailboat. Choosing a wood that can withstand exposure to water and other elements is essential.

4. Look for straight , dry , and defect-free wood. This will contribute to the structural integrity of your sailboat. Any defects or irregularities in the wood may compromise its strength and performance.

5. Calculate the amount of wood needed based on the specific design and measurements of your sailboat. This will help you estimate the quantity of wood required for the construction process.

6. Mill or cut the wood into the required dimensions and shapes as outlined in the sailboat design. This step is crucial for achieving the desired structure and appearance of your sailboat.

7. Prior to assembly, it is important to sand the wood surfaces thoroughly. This will remove any rough edges or splinters, ensuring a smooth and safe finish.

8. Apply a protective coating or sealant to the wood in order to prevent water damage. This will help preserve the wood and extend its lifespan .

By following these steps, you can ensure that the wood selected and prepared for your sailboat construction is suitable and of high quality.

Tools and Equipment Needed for the Project

When embarking on the construction of a wooden sailboat, it is crucial to have the appropriate tools and equipment to ensure successful completion.

To accurately measure and obtain precise alignment and dimensions, essential measuring tools such as a tape measure , combination square , and level are indispensable.

For shaping wooden components, cutting tools like a circular saw or table saw , jigsaw , and hand saw are necessary.

Joinery tools, including a chisel set , mallet or hammer , and drill with different-sized bits, are vital for smoothly joining parts together.

To achieve a polished finish, sanding and finishing tools such as sandpaper with varying grits, sanding blocks , and a random orbital sander are crucial.

Additionally, brushes and rollers are required for the application of finishes.

When it comes to safety, it is imperative to prioritize the use of safety goggles , ear protection , a dust mask , and work gloves to ensure personal protection during the construction process.

When selecting tools and equipment, it is essential to invest in high-quality items that are specifically designed for the tasks involved in wooden sailboat building.

By doing so, not only will efficiency be maximized, but the overall quality of the finished boat will also be greatly enhanced.

Preparing and Assembling the Framework

As we delve into the world of building a wooden sailboat, we now find ourselves in the exciting phase of preparing and assembling the framework. In this section, we’ll discover the essential steps that go into setting up the lofting and laying out the keel , as well as the intricacies of constructing the ribs and hull structure. Get ready to immerse yourself in the hands-on process of bringing this magnificent vessel to life!

Setting Up the Lofting and Laying Out the Keel

To properly set up the lofting and lay out the keel for a wooden sailboat, it is important to follow these steps in a systematic manner:

  • Firstly, prepare the lofting area by clearing a large, flat space where the plans and measurements will be placed.
  • Next, securely attach the keel stock to the lofting platform, making sure it is both level and aligned with the boat’s centerline.
  • Using battens, rulers, and pencils, transfer the measurements and lines from the boat plans onto the lofting platform.
  • Ensure the accuracy of the waterlines, buttock lines, and other reference lines on the lofting platform by drawing them according to the measurements provided in the boat plans.
  • Utilizing the dimensions indicated in the plans, measure and mark the positions of the keel, stem, and transom on the lofting platform.
  • Thoroughly examine and adjust all lines and measurements to guarantee their accuracy.
  • Identify the locations where any additional frames, bulkheads, or structural elements will connect to the keel, by marking them accordingly.
  • Prior to proceeding, double-check all marks and measurements to ensure their accuracy.

The process of setting up the lofting and laying out the keel is an integral step in the construction of a wooden sailboat. It serves as the foundation and reference points for the boat’s overall structure. It is crucial to pay close attention to detail and maintain accuracy throughout the build. By following these steps, you will be on your way to constructing your very own wooden sailboat.

Constructing the Ribs and Hull Structure

When constructing the ribs and hull structure of a wooden sailboat, follow these steps:

– Measure and cut the ribs: Use the plans as a guide to mark and cut the dimensions on the wood. Cut the ribs accurately.

– Attach the ribs to the keel: Position and attach the cut ribs evenly along the keel using marine epoxy and screws.

– Install chines and stringers: Attach the chines to the bottom edge of the boat and install the stringers along the sides for strength.

– Attach the planking: Cut and fit planks to cover the rib and stringer structure, securing them tightly.

– Reinforce the joints: Apply epoxy and fiberglass tape over the joints to strengthen the structure.

– Shape the hull: Use tools to shape and smooth the hull, paying attention to fairing for optimal hydrodynamics.

– Apply a protective finish: Coat the hull and ribs with marine-grade varnish or epoxy for durability.

– Perform a thorough inspection: Check for defects, cracks, or imperfections and make necessary repairs before moving forward.

The process of constructing wooden sailboats has evolved over time, combining traditional techniques with modern materials and tools. Craftsmanship, attention to detail, and an understanding of wood’s properties are still essential in constructing the ribs and hull structure. This blend of artistry and engineering ensures sailboats can withstand the demands of the sea while providing a smooth and enjoyable sailing experience.

Building the Deck and Cabin

Let’s dive into the exciting world of building a wooden sailboat! In this section, we’ll focus on the crucial element of constructing the deck and cabin. Get ready to explore the process of creating the deck framework and adding those essential interior features . From laying the foundation to crafting a cozy cabin space , we’ll uncover the key steps and considerations for bringing your wooden sailboat to life. So, grab your tools and let’s set sail on this exhilarating construction journey !

Creating the Deck Framework

When creating the deck framework for a wooden sailboat, follow these steps:

  • Measure and mark the desired deck size and shape on the boat’s frame.
  • Cut and shape the wooden planks or panels to match the marked measurements.
  • Align the planks or panels horizontally across the frame, ensuring they are straight and evenly spaced.
  • Secure the planks or panels to the frame using screws or nails, ensuring tight fastening.
  • Add additional support beams or joists underneath the deck for added strength and stability.
  • Sand the deck surface to create a smooth and even finish.
  • Apply a weather-resistant sealant or paint to protect the deck from moisture and UV damage.
  • Install necessary features or fixtures on the deck, such as hatches, cleats or railings.

Pro-tip: Enhance the deck’s strength and durability by adding epoxy or marine adhesive between the joints before securing the planks or panels.

Installing the Cabin and Interior Features

When building a wooden sailboat, it is important to pay attention to every step, including the installation of the cabin and interior features. To install these features, follow the following steps:

1. First, measure and cut the materials for the cabin walls, floor, and ceiling.

2. Next, securely fit the cabin walls in place.

3. Then, attach the floorboards to the cabin base using screws or nails.

4. Align and install the cabin ceiling.

5. If desired, add insulation for extra comfort.

6. Attach interior features such as cabinets, storage compartments, and seating areas.

7. Install windows and hatches to allow for natural light and ventilation.

8. Properly wire the cabin for electricity, ensuring that lights and outlets are installed and functioning.

9. Finish the interior by sanding and applying a protective coat of varnish or paint.

10. Ensure that all installations meet safety standards.

Precision and attention to detail are key when installing the cabin and interior features of a wooden sailboat. By carefully measuring, cutting, and fitting each component, you can ensure a secure fit. It is important to optimize the layout and functionality of the interior features to create a comfortable living space with ample storage. The addition of windows and hatches will enhance comfort and enjoyment by providing natural light and ventilation . If electricity is needed, proper wiring is essential to ensure necessary lighting and power outlets. Finishing the interior with a protective coat of varnish or paint will not only enhance aesthetics but also provide durability.

Remember, the goal is to create a cozy retreat for sailors, so it is important to put in the necessary effort to install the cabin and interior features correctly.

Installing the Sails and Rigging

Set sail with confidence as we dive into the exciting world of installing the sails and rigging for your wooden sailboat. Discover the key considerations in choosing the perfect sails and master the art of setting up and adjusting the rigging. With expert tips and tricks , this section will equip you with the knowledge to navigate the waters with ease and experience the thrill of sailing your wooden masterpiece .

Choosing the Right Sails

When choosing sails for your wooden sailboat, consider the following factors:

– Type of sailing: Determine if you plan to cruise , race , or do both. Different sails are designed for specific purposes.

– Boat size: The size of your sailboat determines the size and number of sails you need. Larger boats require bigger sails , while smaller boats may need fewer and smaller sails .

– Wind conditions: Consider the typical wind conditions in your sailing areas. Different sails perform better in light winds , heavy winds , or various wind conditions.

– Sail material: The material of the sails affects durability and performance. Material choices include Dacron , laminate , and nylon . Each material has different trade-offs between longevity, performance, and cost.

– Reefing options: If you sail in varied or unpredictable wind conditions, choose sails with reefing options. Reefing allows you to adjust the sail area for stronger winds, improving control and safety.

– Manufacturer reputation: Research sail manufacturers for their reputation and reliability. Read reviews, seek recommendations, and consider warranty and customer support.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when choosing sails for your wooden sailboat. Remember, the right sails greatly impact your sailing experience, so take your time and choose wisely.

Setting Up and Adjusting the Rigging

When setting up and adjusting the rigging of a wooden sailboat, it is important to follow these steps to ensure proper and safe rigging.

To start, attach the mast to the deck using a mast step or mast partner for stability and support. This will provide the foundation for the rigging.

Next, secure the standing rigging , which includes the shrouds and stays , to the mast. This will help distribute the forces from the sails and ensure the stability of the mast.

Connect the forestay to the bow of the sailboat. This will keep the mast in line and control the position of the headsail.

To counteract forces from the headsail and maintain rigging tension, attach the backstay to the stern of the boat.

Use turnbuckles or rigging screws to adjust the tension in the standing rigging. This will ensure proper alignment and support of the mast.

Install the running rigging , including halyards and sheets , to control the position and tension of the sails.

Before and during sailing, it is important to regularly check the tension in the rigging to ensure performance and safety.

Make any necessary adjustments to the rigging during sailing in order to optimize the shape of the sails and enhance the performance of the boat.

By following these steps, you will be able to properly set up and adjust the rigging of your wooden sailboat, allowing for safe and enjoyable sailing experiences.

Finishing Touches and Maintenance

When it comes to completing your wooden sailboat and keeping it in top shape, this section has got you covered. We’ll dive into the art of applying exquisite finishes to the hull and deck, giving your sailboat a stunning appearance. And don’t worry, we won’t neglect the nitty-gritty details of regular maintenance and care, ensuring your wooden vessel remains seaworthy for years to come. So, let’s get ready to add those finishing touches and keep your sailboat sailing smoothly !

Applying Finishes to the Hull and Deck

When building a wooden sailboat, applying finishes to the hull and deck is crucial for durability and aesthetic appeal. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Prepare the surfaces: Sand down rough spots, fill in cracks and imperfections, and ensure a smooth and clean surface.

2. Choose the right finish: Consider the type of wood and desired look. Varnish provides a glossy and traditional appearance, while paint offers different colors and styles.

3. Apply the primer: Enhance adherence and create an even surface for the final coat by applying a primer.

4. Apply the finish: Use a brush or roller to apply the chosen finish coat to the hull and deck. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times and application techniques.

5. Allow for drying and curing: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying and curing to ensure the finish is fully set and provides maximum protection.

6. Inspect and touch up: After drying, inspect the hull and deck for missed spots or imperfections. Touch up any areas that require additional finish for a seamless and polished look.

By following these steps and applying finishes properly, you can protect and enhance the hull and deck of your wooden sailboat, ensuring it looks beautiful and lasts for many years.

Regular Maintenance and Care for Your Wooden Sailboat

Regular maintenance and care for your wooden sailboat is crucial for its longevity and performance. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Inspect the hull and deck for damage like cracks or rot. Promptly repair any issues to prevent further damage.

2. Clean the boat regularly with mild detergent and freshwater to remove dirt, salt, and grime that can accumulate over time.

3. Apply a protective coating to the hull and deck using marine-grade varnish or paint to prevent water penetration and protect against UV damage.

4. Check the rigging and sails for wear or damage. Replace worn-out lines or rigging components for safe sailing.

5. Inspect wooden components such as the mast, boom, and rudder for rot or decay. Replace or repair as necessary to maintain structural integrity.

6. Keep the interior of the sailboat clean and dry to prevent mold and mildew growth. Use a dehumidifier if needed.

7. Regularly check and maintain the boat’s systems , including electrical, plumbing, and navigation equipment. Address any issues promptly.

8. Store the wooden sailboat in a suitable location, such as a covered boat dock or boatyard, when not in use. Protect it from extreme weather conditions.

Pro-tip: Establish a regular maintenance schedule and keep a detailed record of all maintenance and repairs. This will help you stay organized and ensure your wooden sailboat remains in optimal condition.

Some Facts About How To Build A Wooden Sailboat:

  • ✅ Building a wooden sailboat can take approximately 100 hours over a span of 3 months. (Source: Instructables)
  • ✅ A wooden sailboat can cost around $1,000 to build. (Source: Instructables)
  • ✅ The boat is typically built from 4×8 sheets of plywood and measures 8 feet in length. (Source: Instructables)
  • ✅ Various tools such as a pull-saw, table saw, router, sander, and drill are needed for building a wooden sailboat. (Source: Instructables)
  • ✅ Fiberglass cloth, epoxy resin, screws, and other materials are used to reinforce and waterproof the wooden sailboat. (Source: Instructables)

Frequently Asked Questions

1. how long does it take to build a wooden sailboat.

Building a wooden sailboat typically takes about 100 hours spread over approximately 3 months.

2. What materials are needed to build a wooden sailboat?

To build a wooden sailboat, you will need 4×8 sheets of plywood, epoxy resin, oak plywood, various tools (such as a pull-saw, table saw, router, etc.), fiberglass cloth, screws, fasteners, and other supplies like glue, clamps, and mixing cups.

3. How much does it cost to build a wooden sailboat?

The estimated cost of building a wooden sailboat is around $1,000, including the materials and tools needed for the project.

4. Can I learn to build a wooden sailboat if I have no prior experience?

Yes, building skills can be learned gradually, and mistakes can be avoided along the way. With patience and guidance from boat building plans, even beginners can successfully build a wooden sailboat.

5. How long is the wooden sailboat described in the reference?

The wooden sailboat described in the reference is an 8-foot long pram, featuring classic lines and made from 4×8 sheets of plywood.

6. Can I launch the wooden sailboat in any body of water?

Yes, the wooden sailboat is designed to be light enough to fit in a small pickup truck or be rolled to a local lake on a dolly, making it suitable for various bodies of water.

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The Classic Beauty of Wooden Sailboats: Types, Characteristics, and How to Maintain Them

small wood sailboats

Welcome to our blog about wooden sailboats. These boats have a long and rich history, dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians and Phoenicians. Despite the advancement of technology and materials, wooden sailboats are still popular today for their classic beauty and traditional feel.

In this blog, we will explore the different types of wooden sailboats, their unique characteristics, and the proper techniques for maintaining them. From sloops to schooners, we’ll cover all the essential information needed to understand and appreciate these beautiful vessels. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time boat owner, this guide will help you understand the allure and challenges of wooden sailboats. Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Types of Sailboats

There are several types of wooden sailboats, including sloops, ketches, yawls, and schooners. Sloops have one mast and are the most common type of sailboat. Ketches also have one mast, but with a smaller mizzen sail at the stern. Yawls have two masts, with the smaller mizzen sail located aft of the rudder post. Schooners have two or more masts, with the aft mast being shorter than the front mast.

Comparative table of types of wooden sailboats

SloopOne mast, easy to handle, versatile
KetchOne main mast and a smaller mizzen sail at the stern, great for long voyages
YawlTwo masts, the smaller mizzen sail located aft of the rudder post, good for short-handed sailing
SchoonerTwo or more masts, aft mast shorter than front mast, good for larger groups and carrying cargo

How to maintain a wooden sailboat

To maintain a wooden sailboat, it is important to keep the wood properly sealed and painted to protect it from water damage. This should be done every few years, depending on the severity of the weather and usage of the boat. Regularly inspecting and tightening hardware, such as deck fittings and cleats, is also important to ensure the boat stays in good condition.

It is also crucial to keep the interior of the boat dry and well-ventilated to prevent rot and mildew. This can be achieved by installing vents and keeping hatches and ports open when the boat is not in use.

Another important aspect of maintaining a wooden sailboat is to keep the sails in good condition. This includes inspecting them regularly for tears or wear and replacing them if necessary.

Lastly, it is important to keep the hull of the boat clean and free of barnacles and other marine growth. This can be done by using a hull cleaner and regularly scraping and sanding the bottom of the boat.

Pros and Cons of Wooden Sail Boats

Pros of wooden sailboats:.

  • Classic Beauty: Wooden sailboats have a timeless beauty and traditional feel that can’t be matched by modern materials.
  • Handmade Craftsmanship: Many wooden sailboats are still built by hand, which adds to their unique character and charm.
  • Durability: Wooden sailboats are known for their durability, and with proper maintenance, they can last for many years.
  • Repairability: Wooden boats can be repaired relatively easily, and small repairs such as leaks can be fixed by owners with the right knowledge and tools.
  • Resale Value: Wooden sailboats often hold their value well and can be resold for a good price.

Cons of Wooden Sailboats:

  • Maintenance: Wooden sailboats require regular maintenance such as painting and sealing to protect the wood from water damage.
  • Cost: Wooden sailboats can be more expensive to buy and maintain than modern materials.
  • Weight: Wooden sailboats tend to be heavier than boats made of other materials, which can affect performance.
  • Rot: Wooden sailboats are susceptible to rot if they are not properly maintained and kept dry.
  • Environmental Impact: Some types of wood used in boat-building may have negative environmental impact.

It’s worth noting that wooden sailboats are not the only option, and there are other materials such as composite, steel and aluminum that are used to build sailboats. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately the choice will depend on the intended use of the boat, budget, and personal preferences.

Are wooden sailboats still made?

Yes, wooden sailboats are still made today. Although they are not as common as they once were, there are still many boat builders who specialize in constructing wooden sailboats. These boats are often built using traditional methods and are considered to be works of art. They can be custom-made to the buyer’s specifications, and many people appreciate the unique character and charm of a wooden sailboat. They are still popular among sailors who appreciate the traditional look and feel of wooden boats, and also among people who want to own a sailboat that is built by hand.

Are Wooden Sailboats Safe?

Wooden sailboats can be safe if they are well-built and properly maintained. However, it’s important to note that wooden boats are more susceptible to rot and decay if they are not kept dry and properly sealed. Additionally, wooden sailboats may be heavier than boats made of other materials, which can affect their stability and handling in rough seas.

It is also important to ensure that all the hardware, rigging, and sails are in good condition, as these are crucial for the safety of the boat and its crew.

Regular maintenance, inspections, and safety check-ups are important for wooden sailboats, just like any other sailboats, to ensure that they are in good condition and safe to sail. It’s also important to have basic knowledge of the boat and the sea, and to be aware of the weather conditions before going out to sail.

It’s worth noting that wooden sailboats may not be suitable for everyone, and different types of boats may be better suited to different types of sailing. It’s important to consider the intended use of the boat and the sailor’ experience level before making a decision on what type of boat to purchase.

How much does a wooden sail boat cost?

The cost of a wooden sailboat can vary widely depending on several factors such as size, design, and level of customization. A small wooden sailboat, such as a daysailer, can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. A larger wooden sailboat, such as a cruising sailboat, can cost upwards of $100,000 or more.

It’s worth noting that the cost of a wooden sailboat can also be influenced by the level of craftsmanship and the materials used. A wooden sailboat built by a well-known and experienced boatbuilder using high-quality materials will likely be more expensive than one built by an amateur using lower quality materials. Additionally, the cost of maintaining a wooden sailboat can be higher than that of a boat made of modern materials, so it’s important to factor in maintenance costs when budgeting for a wooden sailboat.

What is the fastest wooden sailboat?

The fastest wooden sailboat is a matter of debate, as there are many contenders that have set records over the years. However, one of the most notable and well-known is the “Fleury” a hydroplane sailboat built in 1910. It held the world speed sailing record for over 20 years, reaching a top speed of 28.86 knots (53.46 km/h).

Another notable contender is the “Gartmore” a hydroplane sailing boat built in 1911, that held the world speed sailing record at 29.81 knots (55.26 km/h)

In more recent years, the “Dudley Dix designed” yacht “Ran” has held multiple speed records, reaching speeds of over 30 knots.

It’s worth noting that these boats are not only wooden sailboats, but also hydroplane sailboats, which are a specific kind of sailboats designed to plane on the water’s surface at high speeds, rather than float on it like traditional sailboats, and are not suitable for cruising or long-distance sailing.

It’s also important to mention that these boats were built and sailed in different eras, and with different technology, materials and rules, so it’s difficult to make a fair comparison.

In conclusion, wooden sailboats are a unique and beautiful option for those who appreciate traditional craftsmanship and classic design. From sloops to schooners, these boats come in a variety of types, each with their own unique characteristics. However, it’s important to remember that wooden sailboats require regular maintenance to keep them in top condition. From sealing and painting the wood to inspecting and tightening hardware, it’s essential to keep these boats properly cared for.

It’s also important to remember that wooden sailboats may not be suitable for everyone. They are susceptible to rot and decay if not kept dry and properly sealed, and also wooden sailboats tend to be heavier than boats made of other materials, which can affect their stability and handling in rough seas.

Overall, owning a wooden sailboat can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand the responsibilities that come with it. By following proper maintenance procedures and understanding the unique characteristics of these boats, wooden sailboat owners can enjoy the classic beauty and traditional feel of these vessels for years to come.

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Home » Blog » Buy a boat » 5 best small sailboats for sailing around the world

5 best small sailboats for sailing around the world

By Author Fiona McGlynn

Posted on Last updated: April 19, 2023

sailing around the world

A small sailboat can take you big places

Small sailboats are the ticket to going cruising NOW — not when you retire, save up enough money, or find the “perfect” bluewater cruising boat. In fact, it’s the first principle in Lin and Larry Pardey’s cruising philosophy: “Go small, go simple, go now.”

Small yachts can be affordable, simple, and seaworthy . However, you won’t see many of them in today’s cruising grounds. In three years and 13,000 nautical miles of bluewater cruising, I could count the number of under 30-foot sailboats I’ve seen on one hand (all of them were skippered by people in their 20s and 30s).

Today’s anchorages are full of 40, 50, and 60-foot-plus ocean sailboats, but that’s not to say you can’t sail the world in a small sailboat. Just look at Alessandro di Benedetto who in 2010 broke the record for the smallest boat to sail around the world non-stop in his 21-foot Mini 6.5 .

So long as you don’t mind forgoing a few comforts, you can sail around the world on a small budget .

dinghy boat

What makes a good blue water sailboat

While you might not think a small sailboat is up to the task of going long distances, some of the best bluewater sailboats are under 40 feet.

However, if you’re thinking about buying a boat for offshore cruising, there are a few things to know about what makes a small boat offshore capable .

Smaller equals slower

Don’t expect to be sailing at high speeds in a pocket cruiser. Smaller displacement monohulls are always going to be slower than larger displacement monohulls (see the video below to learn why smaller boats are slower). Therefore a smaller cruiser is going to take longer on a given passage, making them more vulnerable to changes in weather.

A few feet can make a big difference over a week-long passage. On the last leg of our Pacific Ocean crossing, our 35-foot sailboat narrowly avoid a storm that our buddy boat, a 28-foot sailboat, couldn’t. Our friend was only a knot slower but it meant he had to heave to for a miserable three days.

pocket cruiser

Small but sturdy

If a pocket cruiser encounters bad weather, they will be less able to outrun or avoid it. For this reason, many of the blue water sailboats in this list are heavily built and designed to take a beating.

Yacht design has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Today, new boats are designed to be light and fast. The small sailboats in our list are 30-plus year-old designs and were built in a time when weather forecasts were less accurate and harder to come by.

Back in the day, boat were constructed with thicker fiberglass hulls than you see in modern builds. Rigs, keels, rudders, hulls and decks – everything about these small cruising sailboats was designed to stand up to strong winds and big waves. Some of the boats in this post have skeg-hung rudders and most of them are full keel boats.

The pros and cons of pocket cruiser sailboats

Pocket cruiser sailboats present certain advantages and disadvantages.

More affordable

Their smaller size makes them affordable bluewater sailboats. You can often find great deals on pocket cruisers and sometimes you can even get them for free.

You’ll also save money on retrofits and repairs because small cruising sailboats need smaller boat parts (which cost a lot less) . For example, you can get away with smaller sails, ground tackle, winches, and lighter lines than on a bigger boat.

Moorage, haul-outs, and marine services are often billed by foot of boat length . A small sailboat makes traveling the world , far more affordable!

When something major breaks (like an engine) it will be less costly to repair or replace than it would be on a bigger boat.

how to remove rusted screw

Less time consuming

Smaller boats tend to have simpler systems which means you’ll spend less time fixing and paying to maintain those systems. For example, most small yachts don’t have showers, watermakers , hot water, and electric anchor windlasses.

On the flip side, you’ll spend more time collecting water (the low-tech way) . On a small sailboat, this means bucket baths, catching fresh water in your sails, and hand-bombing your anchor. Though less convenient, this simplicity can save you years of preparation and saving to go sailing.

Oh, and did I mention that you’ll become a complete water meiser? Conserving water aboard becomes pretty important when you have to blue-jug every drop of it from town back to your boat.

Easier to sail

Lastly, smaller boats can be physically easier to sail , just think of the difference between raising a sail on a 25-foot boat versus a 50-foot boat! You can more easily single-hand or short-hand a small sailboat. For that reason, some of the best solo blue water sailboats are quite petite.

As mentioned above small boats are slow boats and will arrive in port, sometimes days (and even weeks) behind their faster counterparts on long offshore crossings.

Consider this scenario: two boats crossed the Atlantic on a 4,000 nautical mile route. The small boat averaged four miles an hour, while the big boat averaged seven miles an hour. If both started at the same time, the small boat will have completed the crossing two weeks after the larger sailboat!

Less spacious

Living on a boat can be challenging — living on a small sailboat, even more so! Small cruising boats don’t provide much in the way of living space and creature comforts.

Not only will you have to downsize when you move onto a boat  you’ll also have to get pretty creative when it comes to boat storage.

It also makes it more difficult to accommodate crew for long periods which means there are fewer people to share work and night shifts.

If you plan on sailing with your dog , it might put a small boat right out of the question (depending on the size of your four-legged crew member).

boat galley storage ideas

Less comfortable

It’s not just the living situation that is less comfortable, the sailing can be pretty uncomfortable too! Pocket cruisers tend to be a far less comfortable ride than larger boats as they are more easily tossed about in big ocean swell.

Here are our 5 favorite small blue water sailboats for sailing around the world

When we sailed across the Pacific these were some of the best small sailboats that we saw. Their owners loved them and we hope you will too!

The boats in this list are under 30 feet. If you’re looking for something slightly larger, you might want to check out our post on the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet .

Note: Price ranges are based on SailboatListings.com and YachtWorld.com listings for Aug. 2018

Albin Vega 27($7-22K USD)

small sailboats

The Albin Vega has earned a reputation as a bluewater cruiser through adventurous sailors like Matt Rutherford, who in 2012 completed a 309-day solo nonstop circumnavigation of the Americas via Cape Horn and the Northwest Passage (see his story in the documentary Red Dot on the Ocean ). 

  • Hull Type: Long fin keel
  • Hull Material: GRP (fibreglass)
  • Length Overall:27′ 1″ / 8.25m
  • Waterline Length:23′ 0″ / 7.01m
  • Beam:8′ 1″ / 2.46m
  • Draft:3′ 8″ / 1.12m
  • Rig Type: Masthead sloop rig
  • Displacement:5,070lb / 2,300kg
  • Designer:Per Brohall
  • Builder:Albin Marine AB (Swed.)
  • Year First Built:1965
  • Year Last Built:1979
  • Number Built:3,450

Cape Dory 28 ($10-32K USD) 

small sailboat

This small cruising sailboat is cute and classic as she is rugged and roomy. With at least one known circumnavigation and plenty of shorter bluewater voyages, the Cape Dory 28 has proven herself offshore capable.

  • Hull Type: Full Keel
  • Length Overall:28′ 09″ / 8.56m
  • Waterline Length:22′ 50″ / 6.86m
  • Beam:8’ 11” / 2.72m
  • Draft:4’ 3” / 1.32m
  • Rig Type:Masthead Sloop
  • Displacement:9,300lb / 4,218kg
  • Sail Area/Displacement Ratio:52
  • Displacement/Length Ratio:49
  • Designer: Carl Alberg
  • Builder: Cape Dory Yachts (USA)
  • Year First Built:1974
  • Year Last Built:1988
  • Number Built: 388

Dufour 29 ($7-23K)

small sailboat

As small bluewater sailboats go, the Dufour 29 is a lot of boat for your buck. We know of at least one that sailed across the Pacific last year. Designed as a cruiser racer she’s both fun to sail and adventure-ready. Like many Dufour sailboats from this era, she comes equipped with fiberglass molded wine bottle holders. Leave it to the French to think of everything!

  • Hull Type: Fin with skeg-hung rudder
  • Length Overall:29′ 4″ / 8.94m
  • Waterline Length:25′ 1″ / 7.64m
  • Beam:9′ 8″ / 2.95m
  • Draft:5′ 3″ / 1.60m
  • Displacement:7,250lb / 3,289kg
  • Designer:Michael Dufour
  • Builder:Dufour (France)
  • Year First Built:1975
  • Year Last Built:1984

Vancouver 28 ($15-34K)

most seaworthy small boat

A sensible small boat with a “go-anywhere” attitude, this pocket cruiser was designed with ocean sailors in mind. One of the best cruising sailboats under 40 feet, the Vancouver 28 is great sailing in a small package.

  • Hull Type:Full keel with transom hung rudder
  • Length Overall: 28′ 0″ / 8.53m
  • Waterline Length:22’ 11” / 6.99m
  • Beam:8’ 8” / 2.64m
  • Draft:4’ 4” / 1.32m
  • Rig Type: Cutter rig
  • Displacement:8,960lb / 4,064 kg
  • Designer: Robert B Harris
  • Builder: Pheon Yachts Ltd. /Northshore Yachts Ltd.
  • Year First Built:1986
  • Last Year Built: 2007
  • Number Built: 67

Westsail 28 ($30-35K)

small sailboat

Described in the 1975 marketing as “a hearty little cruiser”, the Westsail 28 was designed for those who were ready to embrace the cruising life. Perfect for a solo sailor or a cozy cruising couple!

  • Hull Type: Full keel with transom hung rudder
  • Hull Material:GRP (fibreglass)
  • Length Overall:28′ 3” / 8.61m
  • Waterline Length:23’ 6” / 7.16m
  • Beam:9’ 7” / 2.92m
  • Displacement:13,500lb / 6,124kg
  • Designer: Herb David
  • Builder: Westsail Corp. (USA)
  • Number Built:78

Feeling inspired? Check out the “go small” philosophy of this 21-year-old who set sail in a CS 27.

Fiona McGlynn

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

Saturday 1st of September 2018

Very useful list, but incomplete - as it would necessarily be, considering the number of seaworthy smaller boats that are around.

In particular, you missed/omitted the Westerly "Centaur" and its follow-on model, the "Griffon". 26 feet LOA, bilge-keelers, weighing something over 6000 pounds, usually fitted with a diesel inboard.

OK, these are British designs, and not that common in the US, but still they do exist, they're built like tanks, and it's rumored that at least one Centaur has circumnavigated.

Friday 31st of August 2018

This is a helpful list, thank you. I don't think most people would consider a 28' boat a pocket cruiser, though!

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Six Ways to Build a Wooden Boat

A guide to common construction methods

From Issue   Small Boats Annual 2015

small wood sailboats

One way to gain an understanding of various methods of construction is to take a class. At WoodenBoat School in Brooklin, Maine, for example, students in a two-week Fundamentals of Boatbuilding class learn several styles of traditional hull construction. In the foreground, a students fits a floor timber to a carvel-built boat, while in the background students fit a lapstrake plank.

S mall boats are not small undertakings, not if we are contemplating their creation in our own garages from piles of wood. If we’re amateur builders, particularly first-timers, the prospect is daunting, maybe even frightening. We don’t know how to do this. We don’t know if we can do it. We’re about to commit epic blocks of time, money, and emotional capital to a project with no guarantees, except that—trust this formula!—it will cost twice the estimated budget and four times the projected hours to complete it. But if we stick it out, we will have not only refined our problem solving and tool skills, but also burnished our character. And we will have a boat to be proud of.

The question of how to build this boat is a basic one that has to be parsed at the outset, while we’re sorting through designs and deciding which to build. There are about six common methods of building a wooden boat hull today, with variations on each. Our choices have proliferated just since 1950, thanks to the innovations of plywood, epoxy, and synthetic fabrics. No particular method can be proclaimed the best; each comes with its own suite of advantages and drawbacks. The type of boat and its intended use figure in. Even more does the level of skill and mindset of the prospective builder. A powerful determinant of whether we’ll end up with a real boat is perseverance, which is most sustainable when we find joy in the work. Some people will love the painstaking process of carvel planking, inserting themselves into a continuum of craft that has hardly changed in 500 years. Others will find this ancient discipline ludicrous, and will really groove on epoxy’s magic. For obvious reasons, it’s wise to contemplate all this before making the commitment.

There are serious passions and partisans afloat in these waters, so I expect challenges and complaints. I will try to stay objective and keep my own prejudices in the locker. I’ve built strip-planked and stitch-and-glue boats, and currently am engaged in a glued-lapstrake daysailer, so I’ve had experience with three of these six methods. I’ve also been hanging out at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding, observing several boats being built with other methods, and I’ve been pumping the instructors for information (see WoodenBoat magazine No. 241). They’ve been generous in sharing both knowledge and opinions.

If you are a serial boatbuilder, you’ll find that your craftsmanship and problem-solving skills rapidly improve from one boat to the next. This is particularly true if you stick with one method. It’s like visiting France again and again—you feel more secure navigating; you begin to understand the nuances of the culture. But there’s also a powerful argument for exploring the new and unfamiliar. As the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki proclaimed: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Who’d have predicted, back in the 1950s when the future of pleasure boats appeared to be a sea of white plastic, that the 21st century would offer so many new ways to begin a wooden boat?

Carvel Planking

small wood sailboats

Carvel-planked small boats are typically built upside-down over a building jig. First, the backbone is installed and frames bent into place, then the planking starts. At right, students use a “spiling batten” to determine the necessary curvature of the next plank.

T his, one of the classic methods of wooden boat construction, is what made Columbus and Magellan possible. Since a carvel-planked boat derives most of its structural strength from its frames—the rib cage, in effect—its size is not limited by the length of the available timber. A shiplength strake can be made from several shorter, buttjoined planks. Hence the astonishing 262′ WILLIAM D. LAWRENCE, a carvel-planked square-rigger launched in Nova Scotia in 1874. The largest wooden ship ever built in the United States, just short of 330′ on deck, was the six-masted schooner WYOMING, launched at Bath, Maine, in 1909.

But for our purposes here, we’re talking about small boats. Until the mid-20th century, many rowboats and sailing dinghies of 10′ to 20′ long were also built with carvel planking. They were probably better suited to that time than today, because boat owners tended to leave their small boats in the water all season, which allowed the planks to swell with water, closing up the seams. A carvel-planked boat left in the driveway on the trailer will dry out in the summer sun; as the wood dried, the planks shrink, allowing its seams to open, and only a few days in the water will close them up again. That’s not an ideal scenario for impulsive trailer-sailing.

small wood sailboats

Carvel planking requires close fits; here, a student working on the final plank, called the “shutter,” uses inside calipers to determine the exact width at a frame.

But carvel planking still has its adamant and loyal partisans. Jeff Hammond, who has taught traditional for 30 years, believes it’s still the best medium to teach craftsmanship. “It’s complicated,” he says. “Every step requires you to stop and think about what comes next. A lot of care has to go into each piece.”

And here’s the clincher, for Hammond: “It’s a relatively pleasant experience, as opposed to covering yourself in goop all day long.”

But the word “complicated” remains embedded in any discussion of carvel planking. It’s hard to describe the whole process in a digestible paragraph, but at terrible risk of oversimplifying, here goes: Set up a regiment of molds (cross-sections of the hull form at regular intervals, typically one foot apart) over which the boat will be built upside-down. Connect them with temporary stringers called ribbands. Steam or laminate the frames, which are the structural ribs, to precisely fit outside the ribbands. Sculpt the planking around the frames to form the skin of the hull, precisely beveling each plank edge to mate with its neighbor, leaving a slight gap on the outside as a caulking bevel. Screw or rivet the planks to the frames, bung the fastening holes, caulk the seams, and assiduously fair the outside surfaces to eliminate any unevenness.

small wood sailboats

Planks fit tightly together on the side of the hull but are given a deliberate bevel—a “caulking bevel”—so the seams can be caulked with cotton, followed by primer paint and then seam compound.

The most difficult part of the operation is likely to be the rolling bevels on the planks. The builder will cultivate the patience for many trial fittings and excursions back to the workbench—with each one of the 16 or 20 planks typical on a small boat. Sometimes planks have to be steam-bent. Sometimes they crack during the final fitting and you start all over. If one is meticulous about fitting and caulking, however, the leakiness that plagues some carvel-planked boats may be spectacularly absent: They can be built so tightly that they don’t ship a drop.

Pros: • Teaches the builder to cultivate excellent craftsmanship • Many classic designs available • Damaged planks can be replaced with relative ease Cons: • Heaviest method of construction • Complex and difficult to master • Happiest living in the water, not on a trailer or in seasonal storage • Suitable materials may be difficult to find

Traditional Lapstrake

small wood sailboats

Lapstrake construction sometimes involves building right-side up— and in the case of traditional Scandinavian practices, without any cross-sectional molds. Few frames are required, and along with floor timbers and other interior structure, they are fitted as the planking proceeds or after it is all finished.

L apstrake planking is cool for several reasons, but the most obvious is aesthetic: Small boats constructed of shapely overlapping planks are inherently attractive. The parallel flow of sweeping lines with their tiny shadows creates a rhythmic vitality and makes the hull form seem more like an organic creation. We are naturally attracted to repetition in lines and forms; it’s an aesthetic principle that seems rooted as deeply in boatbuilding as it is in art, architecture, music, and even the written word. Perhaps it makes complex things more understandable by breaking them into their component forms.

How complex are lapstrake boats? Lining off the individual planks, warns boatbuilding author Greg Rössel, is “more art than science.” Individual planks, off the boat and on the workbench, may assume unbelievable, bizarre shapes—some will be fingernail-clip crescents, others vague, squashed-snake S-curves. If these planks aren’t lined off with care and precision, the boat will take on a misshapen, bloated appearance. It will, however, still function as a boat: lapstrake forgives small imperfections more graciously than carvel. Some designers have begun making full-sized Mylar patterns available for cutting the planks, which greatly enhances the amateur builder’s chances for accuracy. After the planks are shaped, they must also be beveled or rabbeted on their edges so they mate tightly with their neighbors, and beveled again at the forward ends so the strakes become almost a flat, carvel-like surface as they flow into the stem. These can perplex like the very Devil’s bevels.

The tradition of lapstrake construction reaches even farther back in history than carvel. The Norse Nydam boat, excavated in present-day Denmark, has been dendrochronologically dated to A.D. 310–320. The modern builder echoes its manner of construction closely, even down to the rivets or clench nails used to fasten the planks to each other at the laps. Why not epoxy the plank overlaps together? Because the solid wood planks used in traditional lapstrake (today, typically cedar or sapele) will swell and shrink, so the fastenings need to allow for slight movement. The unyielding hold of epoxy, which can cause planks to crack, must be reserved for use with another contemporary material, which enables the lapstrake variant we’ll discuss next.

small wood sailboats

To secure one plank to another, copper rivets are driven from the outside through holes bored in the two planks and also through a washer-like “rove.” Once the fit is tight, the rivet is nipped off short and peened over the rove.

Enthusiasts like to point out the uniquely pleasant sound, a little sonatina of chuckling, that a lapstrake-built craft makes as it parts the water. The hull efficiency is a matter of debate. The ridges of a lapstrake hull present more resistance to the water than does a smooth hull. But its light weight may let it float higher in the water, reducing the wetted surface area. Even if it’s less efficient, for some of us the simple beauty and immersion in a millennia-old tradition well compensates for reaching the day’s destination a few minutes later.

Pros: • Grace and beauty, including the possibility of a bright-finished (varnished) hull • Comparatively light weight Cons: • Complex, exacting craftsmanship needed in lining off and beveling the planks • As with carvel construction, suitable materials may be difficult to find

Glued Lapstrake

small wood sailboats

Using plywood, glued-lapstrake relies on epoxy instead of mechanical fastenings to secure the plank overlaps, making a very strong hull and an exceptionally clean interior, with widely spaced frames.

T his is becoming an increasingly popular construction method for small sailing dinghies, rowing boats, and even canoes. In this modern variation of lapstrake construction, marine plywood is used for the planking, and epoxy is used to glue the pieces together and seal them against water intrusion. Many designers in North America and Europe these days are deploying an even newer technology, pre-cutting pieces using CNC (computer numerically controlled) routers to achieve machine-perfect tolerances and thus supply the amateur builder with a kit for the hull. For do-it-the-hard-way purists who may disdain the idea of a “kit,” be assured that there will still be plenty of fabrication to do, such as the interior fitout, various hardwood pieces, and spars if it’s a sailboat. And many, many bevels.

Because the rigidly glued overlaps essentially function as longitudinal stringers, these hulls need little in the way of interior framing; they are more or less monocoque structures where the stressed skin of the hull creates its own structural integrity. They are wonderfully light and stiff. There is a lot of epoxy work—goop—involved, however, and it demands careful attention. If any exposed edge grain of plywood—any—isn’t thoroughly sealed, it will wick in water, inviting delamination and rot.

small wood sailboats

With glue spread on the overlapping part of both planks, a batten is temporarily screwed in place to clamp the seam together until the glue sets.

Some small-boat builders take a further step into composite construction by sheathing the garboards (the planks adjacent to the keel) with fiberglass cloth set in epoxy for better abrasion resistance in places vulnerable to damage when a boat is dragged onto a beach. A deep scrape by a rock or barnacle could allow water intrusion into plywood. At the Northwest School, instructor Bruce Blatchley recently oversaw the construction of a 22′ “glued-lap” Drascombe Longboat in which each plank on the entire boat was individually sheathed this way, sidestepping the impossibility of making the cloth stairstep over the plank laps. Purists may howl, but the result was one extremely tough, rigid, and lightweight hull.

Pros: • Light weight • The grace and beauty of lapstrake • Rigidity and excellent sealing against water and weather Cons: • Except for the smallest boats (under 10′ ), the plywood must be scarfed; bright finishing is impractical • Major repairs will be difficult


small wood sailboats

Strip-planking can be used for boats large or small, but it is especially practical for canoes and kayaks because of its very light weight. Woods of various colors can be used to accentuate the hull, often with great beauty.

M aybe you’ve seen a strip-planked kayak on a beach somewhere—kayaks and canoes are the most common products of strip-planked construction today—and after recovering from the shock of its sheer ravishing beauty, you worked up the nerve to ask what it cost. The answer, if a professional built it, will likely be in the range of $8,000 to $12,000.

If an amateur built it, however, it might consist of as little as $500 worth of materials, including wood, fiberglass cloth, and epoxy. The disparity, of course, represents the labor, of which there is a lot. Strip-planking is conceptually simple, but it takes a lot of time and care to execute it well.

You’ll first cut a series of molds from plywood or MDF that look like cross-sections of the boat, much as in traditional carvel construction. Mount them on a strongback (a stiff wooden rail) so the hull can be built upside-down, and line their edges with plastic to keep stray glue from adhering to them. Then you’ll prepare a flock of identical strips, which for a kayak could be as thin as 3⁄16″ and ¾” wide—and a little longer than the boat. Strips for larger boats could be significantly thicker and wider, but they should be able to bend to all the boat’s designed curves without steaming. The most elegant way to nest them on the hull is to cut a cove and bead into the opposite edges of each plank, which is easy if you have a table-mounted router.

small wood sailboats

After the first half of the hull is completed, excess strip length is carefully cut away at the centerline. Staples hold the planks to the molds until all the planking is done and the glue sets.

The fun comes in bending, twisting, and nesting the strips into place around the molds, and the beamier the boat, the more interesting the problems. A wide beam will require some very odd shapes for fillers. This isn’t a terrible problem if the boat will be painted, but everyone begins a strip-planked boat with visions of a lovely varnished hull.

After the hull is glued up, you’ll remove the molds, spend several days cleaning up excess glue and fairing the surfaces, then sheathe it with fiberglass cloth set in epoxy.

Strip-planking isn’t limited to kayaks and canoes. A student at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis, England, used fir strip-planking for an adaptation of Joel White’s famed Haven 12 1⁄2 daysailer, originally designed for carvel planking. The Northwest School recently completed a 62′ strip-planked daysailer designed by Bob Perry— though with a beam of just 9’10”, the boat, named SLIVER, resembled a gigantic canoe, or a cedar moon rocket.

Pros: • Light weight • Relatively inexpensive woods (cedar, fir, sapele) can be used and will yield a beautiful bright-finished hull Cons: • Labor intensive • Major repairs will be difficult


small wood sailboats

Diagonal planks are shaped and stapled in place. Plastic prevents inadvertently gluing planks to the temporary building jig.

I f this treatise were a series of car commercials for TV, this is the episode that might be f lagged “Professional Driver—Do Not Attempt.” It’s best suited, frankly, to professional shops and to producing multiple hulls from a single mold. Still, amateurs with the right mixture of patience, courage, and willingness to deal with large acreages of glue can successfully build in this way. Unlike driving a car sideways on a city street, cold-molding won’t kill anyone—but you must properly protect your skin and lungs from the toxic effects of epoxy.

When you build a cold-molded boat, in effect you’re fabricating a very large, exotically curvaceous sheet of plywood in the shape of a hull. First you create a form that consists either of a strip-planked inner hull or a mold with a great many stringers. Then you’ll bend diagonal strips of veneer, typically 1⁄16″ to 1⁄8″ thick, over this mold and laminate several thicknesses together with epoxy. It’s vital to apply even, consistent pressure to these skin layers to avoid air pockets between them. A professional shop will use a vacuum bag; home builders are likely to resort to staples—hundreds or thou-sands of them. After the epoxy cures and the staples are removed, the hull is faired and the exterior often sheathed in still more epoxy, this time with fiberglass cloth.

small wood sailboats

The second layer of planking is spiled for the opposite diagonal. For even pressure, such hulls are often vacuum-bagged in a single gluing operation.

Pros: • Strong, lightweight, watertight hull • Adaptable to nearly any hull form

Cons: •Very labor-intensive and messy • Critics complain that the hulls look “too perfect,” like production fiberglass boats • Major repairs will be difficult


small wood sailboats

Stitch-and-glue is similar to glued lapstrake in that it relies on epoxy to secure joints; however, in this case planks are butted together at the seams and secured by epoxy fillets.

T his technique may have originated with the Mirror dinghy, concocted as a promotion by the London Daily Mirror in 1963. It was an extremely simple racing and recreational sailing dinghy that amateurs with little or no woodworking experience could build in around a hundred hours, and it was so successful that the Mirror now estimates that about 70,000 have been built around the world.

There is no simpler way to build a wooden hull. Cut five panels from plywood sheets—two sides, two bottom pieces, and a transom—drill pairs of holes a half inch inboard of the seams-to-be, and stitch the panels together with wire twists. The wires function as temporary clamps to hold the panels together. Then fill the gaps and fuse the joints with thickened epoxy, remove the stitches, and reinforce the seams with layers of fiberglass tape set in more epoxy. Most stitch-and-glue boats are then sheathed on the outside with fiberglass cloth set in epoxy, and the inside, too, is sealed with epoxy.

The medium is more versatile than the ubiquitous Mirror dinghies and kayak kits suggest. Sam Devlin, who designs and builds boats in Tumwater, Washington, has built stitch-and-glue motor cruisers up to 48′ and displacing 32,000 lbs. Since plywood thicker than 1⁄2″ is nearly impossible to bend into boat-like shapes, stitch-and-glue hulls longer than 25′ can be built up to the appropriate thickness by cold-molding additional plywood sheets onto the original hull form. This is possibly where stitch-and-glue construction’s easy-building appeal to the amateur begins to ebb, with the big boats best left to the pros.

small wood sailboats

Short lengths of copper wire make good “stitches” because if necessary they can be cut flush, and since the bits of wire left in the joint won’t rust, they’ll do no harm.

How easy, honestly, is stitch-and-glue? The basic technique is extremely simple; even if you’re a jigsaw goofus you can cut the panels safely wide of the line, then trim with a block plane and sanding block. Stitch-and-glue’s particular devil, however, is in the sheathing. There is a learning curve with fiberglassing a hull, and first-time builders may be doing a lot of tedious sanding to achieve a smooth and fair hull form. And stitch-and-glue boats more complicated than a Mirror dinghy will require the same kinds of appendages and furniture that any boat does.

One of the appealing qualities of a stitch-and-glue boat is its remarkable rigidity. All the interior components such as bulkheads, berth flats, and even cockpit seats become part of an eggcrate-like structure within a monocoque skin, so you don’t hear any groaning or creaking from pieces flexing and moving against each other. This also means good trailering durability. If you appreciate groaning and creaking as part of the intrinsic romance of wooden watercraft, you probably didn’t get past the word “plywood” in the second paragraph, anyway.

Pros: • Relatively easy and rapid hull construction • Strong, lightweight, abrasion-resistant and (nearly) rot-proof hull Cons: • Some designs (certainly not all) look relatively clunky; hard chines are inevitable • Since the entire hull and interior structures are essentially fused into one unit, some repairs and modifications are difficult

W e launched this discussion some pages back with the admonition that “small boats are not small undertakings,” and the shower of phrases such as “labor intensive” and “exacting craftsmanship” that followed surely underscores the point. Do not be discouraged. Thousands of amateurs have successfully built their own wooden boats, some to extremely high standards and prodigiously ambitious plans. (A man on the Puget Sound island adjacent to the one where I live built a 43′ schooner as his first boat. However, it took him 33 years.)

If you’re in love with a particular design but not its intended method of construction, there is often room to maneuver. Designs of traditional carvel-planked boats can almost always be adapted for strip-plank or cold-molded construction with no external change in their hull shapes. Traditional lapstrake boats, which employ solid wood planks, can usually be executed in glued-lapstrake construction using marine plywood.

Whichever building method you decide on, you will discover one constant: You’ll begin with a vision of perfect beauty in your head, and if you’re an ordinary mortal, limits of time, money, and skill will inevitably force compromises along the way. Rather than plunge into a funk, the smart builder will set priorities: There are certain things that must be done right, those involving structural integrity or seaworthiness, while certain other details relating to aesthetics and the builder’s ego can be let go. Creating this rational hierarchy of values helps you keep momentum through the long process, and helps you feel good about yourself, even at the high tide of imperfection.

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Excellent summation. A pleasure to read as an amateur boat builder conversant with stitch-and-glue and glued-lapstrake construction.

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small wood sailboats

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Demi Moore on Full Frontal Nudity With Margaret Qualley in ‘The Substance’: ‘A Very Vulnerable Experience’ but I Had a ‘Great Partner Who I Felt Very Safe With’

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Demi Moore and her dog Pilaf attend a photocall at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Carlton Cannes Hotel on May 19, 2024 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Demi Moore ‘s new film, the feminist body horror “ The Substance ,” sees her bare it all, with several scenes featuring full nudity. At the Cannes Film Festival press conference for the film on Monday, the 61-year-old actor discussed the “vulnerable experience.”

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“I had someone who was a great partner who I felt very safe with. We obviously were quite close  — naked — and we also got a lot of levity in those moments at how absurd those certain situations were,” she said. “But ultimately. it’s just about really directing your communication and mutual trust.”

As the film progresses, Moore becomes horribly disfigured thanks to the abuse her other half Qualley is inflicting on her. By the film’s last act, she quite resembles Anjelica Huston from the 1990 film “The Witches,” after she transforms into a humpback abomination.

Dennis Quaid also stars in the film as an “asshole,” as he described his character during the presser. The late Ray Liotta was meant to have the role before his passing in May 2022, and Quaid dedicated his performance to him.

“In my heart, I dedicated this role to Ray Liotta, who was set to play it,” Quaid said. “It was this week, two years ago that he passed, so I’d like to remember him. He was such an incredible actor.”

Cannes went wild for “The Substance” at its premiere on Sunday night, giving the film an 11-minute standing ovation , the longest of the fest so far.

In an interview with Variety , the French director discussed the film’s feminist themes, saying that body horror is “the perfect vehicle to express the violence all these women’s issues are about.”

With an undercurrent of #MeToo at this year’s festival as the movement grows in France, Fargeat hopes the film will shine even more light on the issue. “It’s a little stone in the huge wall we still have to build regarding this issue, and to be honest, I hope my film will also be one of the stones of that wall. That’s really what I intended to do with it.”

More from Variety

‘the boys’ creator wants a jared padalecki reunion in season 5: ‘i have to complete my game of “supernatural” pokémon’, how content spending will grow in the post-peak tv era, ‘ncis: tony & ziva’ stars michael weatherly, cote de pablo say trust is at the core of the show, summer movie season testing 3d cinema’s recoverability, more from our brands, willie mays, giants legend and one of the greatest baseball players of all time, dead at 93, christina ricci has hung a $2.2 million price tag on her former los angeles home, nets parent bse global valued at $6 billion as kochs land 15% stake, the best loofahs and body scrubbers, according to dermatologists, the acolyte recap: mae’s master has entered the chat — but who is he, verify it's you, please log in.



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