General Features of Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing
Here are the general features to look for when choosing the best sailboat for solo sailing.
The Availability of Automation Systems
The forces that you sometimes have to deal with when out sailing can be extreme, to say the least. It doesn't matter whether you're sailing solo or with a crew, it's always very important not to underestimate the power of the wind and tide. While you can do a lot on your own, having some automation systems in place is an important feature if you're planning to sail single-handedly. In other words, a good sailboat for solo sailing should have various automation systems to make your work a lot simpler.
So if you're planning to go solo sailing, it would be great to consider a boat with the following systems:
- Autopilot for steering
- Lines running aft (running to the cockpit)
- Wind vane
- Roller furling
- Electric windlass
- Hydraulic bow/stern thrusters with remote
Stability and Ease of Use
Again, the best sailboats for solo sailing are generally not known for their speeds. This is because they typically have wide beams and short waterlines, which are vital in providing stability thereby limiting their speeds. In short, the best sailboats for solo sailing usually sacrifice speed and additional performance for ease of use and stability.
When it comes to the structure of the boat itself, it's important to go for a boat that is close to the water, relatively small when compared to the wave height, and has lighter ballast, especially when compared to the displacement ratio. The idea here is that these features can combine to increase the boat's performance when you're sailing solo.
Additionally, a good solo sailing boat should be designed with a flat profiled aft bottom section. This is to ensure that the boat can come up on a plane when the wind conditions are breezy or marginal.
When it comes to the best sails for solo sailing, you can go for the unique sail design that combines both a Bermuda sail and a gaff sail. This can be essential in giving you a more sail area on a shorter mast than is possible when using either a gaff sail or a Bermuda sail. More importantly, the combination of a gaff sail and a Bermuda sail not only gives you a greater sail area on a shorter and easy to control mast but can also reduce the heeling force that's common in boats with taller and narrower sails.
Still on sails, it makes a lot of sense to choose easily operated sail controls. You certainly want a sail that one person can tuck a reef in quickly and be able to easily adjust the sheets. You should, therefore, prioritize the reefing and sail handling systems.
In terms of rigs, the gaff rig is arguably the best when solo sailing. Although the Bermuda rig is the most common, especially in modern sailboats, you can lose some windward abilities because of its lower aspects. As such, you can choose to use the gaff rig thanks to its ease of use and superior downwind performance.
10 Best Sailboats for Solo Sailing
There are numerous sailboats out there that can be easily and properly handled by a skilled and experienced sailor. To make it a lot easier for you, the following boats are great choices when solo sailing. Whether you're just looking to experience how it feels to solo sail or short-handed, they all offer easy, comfortable, and safe sailing.
Jeanneau Sunfast 3200
From the outset, it's easy to see that the Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 is designed with offshore short-handed sailing in mind. In addition to being a purist's sailing boat, this boat is a small and light boat that can be easily handled. Even better, it has the stability and strength to handle long passages and that's exactly why it was initially designed with the Trans-Atlantic race in mind.
With this boat, you can easily attain double figures in terms of speed even if you're sailing downwind. In essence, the Sunfast 3200 is designed with some of the latest technology to afford you the best strength-to-weight ratios. It has all the necessary features to allow you to easily adapt it to perform perfectly either as a cruising or racing sailboat. Some of its greatest features include the two double cabins, the chart table, a galley, and a head compartment.
This boat is particularly impressive when sailing off the wind and it's designed to ensure that it's functional and reliable even when solo sailing. This is perhaps because it's designed and set up for racing, so it can be great for you especially if you're looking for a coastal cruiser that can be easily handled.
Using the sloop Marconi can be the best way to go given that this vessel has a keel-stepped mast. Its maximum beam begins at 60% aft of the stem before extending to the transom, which can result in the sled hull being driven by a mainsail-heavy rig. This can then fly the masthead asymmetrical off a short sprit.
Given that the Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 is a very modern boat that's equipped with some of the latest boating technology; it comes with a base price of about $160,000. This is a vessel that's built by one of the world's premier builders and offers an intriguing blend of technology, reliability, functionality, practicality, and performance.
Having been the European Yacht of the Year for 2008, the Sunfast 3200 may just be the godsend boat for your solo sailing dreams.
If you're looking for a slippery cruiser-racer that's always ready to sail single-handedly, you might perhaps want to take a serious look at the Hanse 371. Introduced in 2003, the Hanse 371 is a mid-sized boat that was designed in a true blend of old and new boating technology. Thanks to its furling and self-tacking jib, the Hanse 371 becomes an instant single-handed sailing vessel that takes much of the strain out of your solo sailing adventures. That's not all; this boat is more popular as a result of its autopilot system. Press a few buttons and you'll be ready to go.
Although it's a little bigger and not one of the smallest boats out there, it can be a great option if you're planning to sail solo but on a vessel that offers a tremendous amount of space. Whether you love a boat with a shallow or deep center of gravity, the Hanse 371 has a commendable large galley and a spacious cabin layout.
Everything about rigging this boat is designed to be easy. Again, the jib on a roller furler is self-tacking. In essence, everything is standard and easy to use, which makes this boat a dream when sailing single-handed.
Already a classic that's known for its stylish interior, timeless look, and ultimate performance, the Hanse 371 is a coveted vessel that may cost you around $60,000.
Hunter Channel 31
Launched in 2001, the Hunter Channel 31 is structured with a hull and keel design that makes it easy to sail single-handed. This is a British-made vessel that has steadily moved from the racing scene to become a well-respected cruiser, especially among the solo sailing community. Thanks to its faultless handling and impressive turn of speed, the Hunter Channel 31 provides near uncomplicated sailing without losing its impeccable handling features.
Its well-balanced hull shape can either be structured with a low or deep center of gravity. It also has an efficient twin keel to give it more stability, which is perfect for solo sailing. This is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons why Hunter Channel 31 has proved popular among solo sailors trying to sail across narrow channels.
The Hunter Channel 31 is also designed with a great standard deck layout, as well as a non-compulsory self-tacking jib that comes with a single line mainsail reefing. That's not all; the tiller steering is also efficient if you're sailing single-handed as you can steer it with your legs while trimming sails.
It should, therefore, not come as a surprise that owners of the Hunter Channel 31 keep them for a long time, so finding them on the market will be a long shot. But if you're lucky enough to find one, you'll be getting a great vessel that will never let you down if you want to sail solo.
Like many Hunter designs, the Hunter 31 can be fractionally rigged given that it has a relatively large mainsail to give it a more sail area in light winds and a small headsail with a lower sheet load. In other words, you can efficiently and easily reef from the cockpit.
At about $35,000, the Hunter Channel 31 is quite affordable and is a great bargain in its category.
The J/109 is unquestionably one of the best single-handed or double-handed sailboats that money can buy. Whether you're looking for a coastal cruiser or a long-distance single-handed vessel, the J/109 will rarely disappoint. That's essentially why its single-handed offshore capabilities remain popular with sailors looking to make North Atlantic crossings.
Even though it is widely categorized as a planing sailboat, this vessel is too heavy for simple planing. Instead, this is a superb boat that offers an all-round performance. It doesn't matter whether you're solo sailing or sailing with a crew, its performance is always top-notch.
Thanks to its asymmetric spinnaker, you can easily jib it from the cockpit, especially in light wind. But when the wind is on the north of 20 knots, you can pole out the jib to give you a quick downwind speed. No matter which type of rig you choose to use, the J/109 offers a fair degree of control.
In terms of price, the J/109 is one of the relatively expensive sailboats out there, though this is compensated with the high standard equipment and outstanding quality of construction. For about $58,000, you can get a great boat that offers excellent solo sailing adventures.
West Wight Potter 19
Designed for safety and easy handling, the West Wight Potter 19 is a great sailboat for solo sailing. Although its name might not be one of the catchiest in the sailing scene, it's been around for over three decades and is steadily becoming a popular pocket cruiser. The original design draws inspiration from the U.K. but is currently built by the International Marine in California.
Over the years, this boat has seen several improvements even though its original look and features still attract a large and dedicated group of followers. This is not only a tough little boat but its hard-chine hull offers incredible stability. This makes it a very easy and ultimately forgiving sailboat. Whether you're looking to sail from California to Hawaii or across the Atlantic, the Potter 19 is outstanding for solo sailing.
This is a Bermuda-rigged sloop. Its sail plan is huge enough to propel the sailboat in various conditions. This makes it a perfect single-handed boat as you can easily set it up or take it down with no special equipment.
This is a remarkably affordable boat. At around $5,000 you can get a superb solo sailing sailboat. But if you want a new Potter 19 with additional features, you could pay about $25,000.
As a small cruiser keelboat, this French-designed boat is primarily built of fiberglass and is perfect if you want a vessel that's great for solo sailing while still offering maximum space for comfort. Its galley is equipped with superb stowage and counter space and even a sit-down navigation station with a small table.
Maneuvering this boat under power is quite easy and is well worth it for any solo sailor who is in the market for a coastal cruiser.
It has a fractional sloop rig, which makes in-mast furling a great option. This makes it easy to handle but also powerful in light winds. If you're sailing the boat off the wind, bow pulpit and an optional asymmetric cruising chute can keep things lively.
The new 31 can cost around $115,000, which is quite expensive but certainly worth it if you want to cruise the world in this French masterpiece.
This is a nifty pocket cruiser that raises the quality bar for solo sailors with extreme comfort and performance. With just a 9.45 meter hull, the Catalina 315 has more internal room than most classics and remains superb for solo sailing.
Although it's a much bigger boat, it has little but significant features that make all the difference. For instance, the split backstays are great for balance and functionality. This is one of the main reasons why it won the Cruising World's 2013 Boat of the Year Best Inshore Cruiser award.
With a masthead sloop, rigging the Catalina 315 is a lot easier as it is equipped with both an in-mast roller furling mainsail and a roller furling genoa.
Even though the Catalina 315 will exceed your expectations when sailing solo, it's a high-end sailboat that will cost you north of $175,000. But if that seems expensive, you can look for a used model, which will cost you slightly lower.
A boat that has become a staple in the Olympics Games, the Laser may be simple and small but a real-go to boat if you want a vessel that will rarely let you down for your solo sailing escapades. As one of the world's most popular single-handed sailboats, its main feature is its sheer simplicity. This might not be the best boat for you if you love those fussy, big boats. But if you're looking for an amazing boat with a two-part free-standing mast and a sleeved sail, the Laser should be on top of your list.
The fact that it has a lightweight hull and is easy to rig makes it one of the most popular racing sailboats in the world with over 200,000 boats in over 140 countries. This is undoubtedly a perfect boat that's specifically designed for solo sailing.
This boat can be rigged using various rigs, so you should go with whatever works for you. We, however, prefer cat rigging the boat since it has no headsail and only has one mainsail. This is a boat that is designed for speed, particularly in high winds. It's also easy to set up, which makes it a marvelous option for solo sailing.
For around $7,000, this is probably one of the most affordable solo sailing sailboats you could ever get your hands on. You should, however, keep in mind that its price may widely vary depending on their availability in your area.
A real classically-styled sailboat, the Rhodes 19 is an ideal family daysailer that can be perfect for you if you're a spirited solo sailor. Whether you're planning to sail in heavy weather or fast, the Rhodes 19 is designed with a forgiving hull and is an accomplished heavy-weather performer. For over 5 decades, and with more than 3,500 boats built, this sailboat has proven time and time again that it has the characters for both beginners and experienced sailors.
With a low center of gravity, this boat remains a classic beauty that's very fast, easy to trailer, and will get many compliments whenever you're solo sailing. No wonder it is still actively raced throughout the United States.
A simple sprit rig can work greatly on this boat but you can also consider Bermuda-Rigged sloop, which is efficient in propelling the boat in various wind conditions.
Its price may vary depending on your location but something around $20,000 will get you a sailboat that's still in tip-top condition.
If like most Americans, you have a soft spot for finely engineered German automobiles, the Dehler 29 can be a great option for your solo sailing escapades. Even though the Dehler 29 hasn't attracted a huge following in the American shores, it remains an excellently-structured German sailboat, especially for sailors looking for a stable, agile, adaptable, and comfortable sailboat.
Whether you enjoy a smooth and solo cruise on a breezy afternoon or is energized by speed, the Dehler 29 is one of the most adaptable sailboats. This is certainly why it has received numerous accolades in the boating scene including the 1998 Cruising World Magazine Boat of the Year, as well as Sailing World Boat of the Year award.
Given that it's a single-handed sailboat, you can tiller steer it and cat rig it with ease to give you easy maneuverability, confidence, and absolute versatility.
With powerful dynamics and maximum safety, the Dehler 29 is one of the best German-produced sailboats that will set you back around $55,000.