Best Sailboats For Families

Best Sailboats For Families | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Sailing has always been a family activity and a great way for families to bond. But what sailboats are best (and safest) for the whole family?

Family sailboats are spacious, easy to sail, heel gently, and safe in rough weather. The best production family sailboats are the Catalina 22, the Catalina 30, the Lagoon 470 catamaran, and the Beneteau 49.

In this article, we’ll cover in-depth four of the best sailboats for family cruising. We’ll go over what to look for when choosing a family sailboat, along with what to avoid. Additionally, we’ll compare single and multihull designs and cover the benefits and drawbacks of each.

We sourced the information in this article from the sailing community and specifically sailing families who’ve embarked on extended voyages.


Table of contents

Family Sailboat Sailing Characteristics

Beyond obvious considerations (such as size and accommodations), what is the most important aspect of a family sailboat? It’s sailing characteristics—and this is especially true for monohulls. Sailing characteristics play a large part in the safety of the vessel and also the comfort of its less experienced crew.

There are several factors that contribute to sailing characteristics and a family-friendly boat. First and foremost, a boat’s heeling tendencies should be taken into consideration. Boxier modern boats tend to heel (lean over under sail) much less dramatically than older, more rounded designs. This is also true for wider boats, which are more stable.

Heeling is natural under sail, but it can be alarming to kids and inexperienced sailors. Additionally, it makes it much more difficult to cook or move around the boat safely—especially out on the deck but also in the cabin. A boat with milder handling is much better suited to families.

Another factor to consider is seakeeping. A comfortable boat is one that doesn’t pound excessively and takes waves gracefully—and this is not always the case. Some sailboats (particularly narrow and flat-bottomed versions) are notorious for being dreadfully uncomfortable in rough weather.

Larger, wider, and more rounded hulls handle waves much better than flat-bottom boats, though other factors also contribute to seakeeping abilities. The best family boats are a bit sluggish due to their increased displacement but far more comfortable when the weather gets rough.

Family Sailboat Size

What’s the ideal size for a family sailboat? Well, the answer clearly depends on the size of your family—however, we can start with a simple rule that a family sailboat should be able to accommodate at least four people comfortably.

Four people should be able to be in the same place at the same time—for example, in the cockpit or in a common area in the cabin. Some sailboats may accommodate six or more people in the cockpit, but only two or four around the dining table—which is not the ideal arrangement for a family.

The average size of a family sailboat is between 30 and 40 feet. This applies to both monohull and multihull sailboats. Sailboats of this size generally have standing headroom and enough sleeping spaces for the whole family. Additionally, virtually all sailboats of the size have a shower and toilet, and sometimes two.

Monohull Vs Multihull Family Sailboats

Monohull sailboats are vessels with a single hull. Monohulls are probably what you think of when you picture a typical sailboat. Multihull sailboats have multiple hulls, and the most common types are two-hull catamarans and three-hull trimarans.

Monohull sailboats are significantly less expensive than multihull sailboats. This makes them the most common choice for families who are more budget-sensitive when it comes to recreational equipment.

But when it comes to handling and cabin comfort, the multihull has several distinct advantages over the monohull. These sailboats distribute the force of the wind between multiple hulls and a wide stance, which makes them extremely safe and stable.

Additionally, virtually all cruising catamarans and trimarans have extensive center cabin space and several private stateroom areas in the hull. This allows families to give each person adequate space on long voyages. Many cruising families opt for a multihull, as the additional space is paramount to long-term comfort.

Best Family Sailboat Models

Hundreds of sailboat designs have been sold over the years, and a few stand out as spectacular family coastal cruising and long-distance sailboats. This list will include an example of each common family sailboat type, and we’ll specify the best uses for each vessel. Here are four of the best and safest family sailboats on the market today.

1. Catalina 22 Trailer Sailboat


The Catalina 22 is one of the most popular sailboats of all time. It was introduced in the 1960s as a family sailboat for lakes and coastal waters, and it was produced in many variations over the years. Thousands of Catalina 22 sailboats are still on the market today, which serves as a testament to their robust design and timeless utility.

Most Catalina 22 sailboats are trailerable, which means you don’t need to rent a permanent slip to store it. The vessel is 22 feet in length and can be towed by a reasonably sized SUV or standard pickup truck. It’s constructed with marine fiberglass, which is low maintenance and extremely durable.

The Catalina 22 is not designed for extended cruising. Instead, it’s a day boat with a reasonably sized cabin for short overnight trips. It is a perfect alternative to camping, and there’s usually enough space to sleep four.

All things considered, the cabin space aboard a Catalina 22 is generous. Some versions of the boat came with a pop-up companionway hatch, which turned sitting headroom into standing headroom towards the aft end of the cabin. This is exceedingly rare on small trailer sailers, and it’s a big perk of having a Catalina 22.

The Catalina 22 is the perfect starter boat for a family. It’s heavy and stable and offers excellent sailing characteristics (even in higher winds). Additionally, it’s easy to rig and small enough to be handled by one or two people. Kids can learn the basics of sailing and get experience piloting a “big” boat—at least when compared to a dinghy or a Sunfish.

The Catalina 22 can be found on the used market for between $5,000 and $15,000. Outliers exist, and you may be lucky enough to find a Catalina 22 in operable condition for less than $3000–trailer included.

2. Catalina 30 Cruising Sailboat


Catalina makes the list again with its extremely popular 30-foot sailboat. The Catalina 30 is a fiberglass sloop that was introduced around the same time as the Catalina 22. Unlike the Catalina 22, the Catalina 30 is more than capable of open ocean sailing—but it’s also easy to handle on short trips in coastal waters.

Catalina 30 sailboats have a wide beam which makes them stable under heavy sail and in rough water. They also have a high freeboard, which keeps the cockpit relatively dry and prevents excessive spray over the bow. These characteristics also minimize heeling, which makes it a comfortable boat for inexperienced sailors.

The cabin is another huge selling point of the Catalina 30. These vessels have standing headroom throughout, along with enough sleeping space for six adults or more. Additionally, the Catalina 30 features a full kitchen (or galley) along with a sitting area and table that’s large enough for the entire family to sit down for dinner.

This vessel is more complex than the Catalina 22. However, anybody who can handle a Bermuda-rigged sailboat that’s larger than 20 feet can easily transition to a Catalina 30. Like the 22-foot model, this sailboat was produced in great numbers during the 20th century, and hundreds are available on the used market in excellent condition.

The Catalina 30 is ideal for a family who wants to take an occasional bluewater voyage. A trip between Florida and the Bahamas is well within the capabilities of the sailboat, and more adventurous sailors frequently sail it between San Francisco and Hawaii.

It’s also a great day boat for coast cruising, as it absorbs bad weather better than smaller boats and handles surprisingly well in low winds.

3. Lagoon 470 Cruising Catamaran


Do you have a large family, or do you place a premium on space and comfort for long-distance sailing? If so, the Lagoon 470 could be your best option. It’s a large, 47-foot cruising catamaran that offers better speed and stability than any similarly-sized monohull.

The Lagoon 470 is a typical catamaran in many respects—it has a large center cockpit area that’s covered and features communal spaces such as the galley and a large sitting area. This space alone is wider than most monohull cabins and offers the family a great place to hang out.

Below decks in the hulls, the Lagoon 470 has several separate bedrooms and private bathroom/shower combinations. This gives family members their own space and reduces the risk of conflict when it comes to showering and sleeping.

Catamarans like the Lagoon 470 have many advantages but also a few drawbacks. This vessel is more difficult to operate in tight spaces and requires more docking space than a traditional monohull. That said, if you can manage the additional stress during docking, you’ll enjoy a much safer and more pleasant time on the water.

Due to its spectacular sailing characteristics and large size, the Lagoon 470 is best suited for long-haul sailing or full-time living. It’s definitely not a day boat—and its high price makes it an unreasonable choice of occasional sailing.

If you want to travel the world with your family, this is the boat for you. If you’re cruising around the bay on the weekends, you may want to consider something like the Catalina 30.

4. Beneteau 49 Bluewater Monohull Sailboat


Here’s an exceptional monohull that stacks up with the best multihulls in terms of space, comfort, and seaworthiness. The Beneteau 49 is nearly 50 feet long and provides accommodations fit for the largest families.

The Beneteau 49 is the quintessential cruising sailboat. It’s wide, fast, and agile—and it has handling characteristics that put it in line with the hardiest recreational sailboats. Plus, the cabin is modern and spacious and includes everything you need to spend weeks (or months) aboard comfortably.

Separate enclosed sleeping areas give each family member privacy, and a sense of ownership over their space—which many families affirm is key when living in tight quarters. Plus, it’s a recent Beneteau design, which means it comes equipped with the latest technology and amenities.

Many of the more difficult aspects of rigging and sailboat control are automated on the Beneteau 49, meaning you can control them from the cockpit without sending anyone out on deck. This keeps the family safe and comfortable in foul weather and reduces the grunt work associated with sailing.

And when it comes to safety, it’s hard to beat a big hardy monohull like the Beneteau 49. This vessel has a wide stance and a semi-flush deck, meaning it’s well-balanced and designed to take on the toughest weather conditions. Additionally, its extended length increases hull speed, reducing the time it takes to get between stops.

As far as price is concerned, you’ll probably pay about the same for a Beneteau 49 as you would for a mid-ranged multihull. This can easily enter the $100,000+ price point, which is steep—but worth it if you and your family intend to live aboard and do extended cruising.

Best Sailboats For Families
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

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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