Best Shallow Water Sailboats

Best Shallow Water Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Jacob Collier

December 28, 2023

When it comes to the best shallow water sailboats, there is plenty of debate between brands. This differs from one person to the next, especially sailing goals.

Shallow water sailing is a unique experience, allowing you to explore lower draft areas where larger boats cannot. So what boats are the best for shallow waters?

The Hinckley Talaria 55, West Wight Potter 19, Catalina 22, and Fountaine Pajot Alegria 67 are excellent options to consider. These cover a wide range of prices, drafts, and space on the boat. Other options include the Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, MJM 53z, and the Outback Yachts 50.

The beauty that most shallow draft boats have is the ability to handle rough waters too. This way you can still explore other areas sailing and go back to shallow waters when you want.

According to expert sailors, there are plenty of places in the world you cannot explore due to the draft limitations. Having a boat that can explore shallow waters is something that larger boats will be unable to do.


Table of contents

13 Shallow Draft Sailboats to Consider

When looking for the best shallow draft sailboat, a lot of boats fit that criterion. However, each one will need to fit the individual buyer’s needs in size, price, and functionality.

Hinckley Yachts Talaria 55 MKII


While most people think of sailing as strictly using sails, there are boats in use that are powered by motors. For example, the Hinckley Talaria 55 has all of the capabilities of sailing but uses motors for power.

The way the boat has been designed, in addition to the lightweight, allows it to have a shallow draft of about three feet. This will let you explore shallow waters, unlike other larger boats.

If you do not want to compromise luxury and the size of your boat, this is an appealing option to look into. Especially as a larger boat nearing 55 feet long, you have the opportunity to handle shallow waters whenever you want. The prices start at around $750,000 and up.

West Wight Potter 19


You have likely seen this popular boat online for the last decade. It is built by International Marine, which is resilient in creating reliable sailboats.

There have been design changes over the years, allowing it to have more storage and slightly easier to sail. At just 19 feet long, it is a bit easier to handle than other larger boats.

With its rugged build, you can explore harsher waters without giving up any luxury. Due to its design, you can comfortably explore shallow waters, especially with the lifting keel that you can adjust. You can find older versions for around $7,000 and up.

Catalina 22


The Catalina 22 offers a beautiful mix of sport and luxury. With its retractable keel, it makes it easier to haul and to explore shallow waters.

The boat drafts between two and five feet, depending on the extra weight on board. This makes for a great opportunity to explore shallow waters.

With 22 feet of room on board, you can easily have a handful of people on board to travel days at a time. Whether you take it out on the weekends or spend quality time with family, you can go just about anywhere. The prices start around $13,000 for models over 20 years old and go up in price significantly for newer versions.

Fountaine Pajot Alegria 67


One of the more luxurious catamarans out there with a shallow draft is none other than the Fountaine Pajot Alegria 67. This boat is roughly 70 feet long and has a draft of fewer than six feet.

There are plenty of options available for sailors that want the best of everything when it comes to cruising, living aboard, and exploring shallow waters. The amount of room is enough for large groups and you would not have to worry about “roughing” it.

If you are looking for a larger boat to host parties or enjoy the space, this catamaran has everything you could ask for. The prices start at around $1,200,000 for slightly older models.

Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20


If you want a traditional looking sailboat with the added bonus of a shallow draft, then check out the Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20. As one of the more convenient options out there, you have a lot of features to live aboard or travel whenever you want.

There are plenty of accommodations, such as a pop-up dining table, foldable chart table, and customizable rooms. The only drawback is that there are only 400 of these made, so finding one might prove to be difficult.

For a 20-foot sailboat, there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. If you can get your hands on one, these typically have sold for around $30,000.

MJM 53z


Another high quality sailing yacht, the MJM 53z has all the speed and luxury you need. In addition, the maximum draft is just shy of four feet when the outboards are tilted down and the engine is up.

Like the other yachts mentioned, this one has plenty of features to accommodate plenty of people on board. You can find this one around $2,295,000.

Outback Yachts 50


Out of all the sailing yachts mentioned thus far, the Outback 50 offers plenty of room without being too big to handle. It also boasts all luxury accommodations you could ever want, in addition to having just a three foot draft to explore shallow waters.

There are two models you can choose from, either the infinity deck or the extended deckhouse that have slight variations to accommodate your and your guests.  They also showcase an unobstructed 360 degree view within the galley, allowing you to have beautiful views no matter where you are. Depending on the year and model, you can expect to pay around $1,200,000.

Laser Pico Dinghy


If you want something a little bit smaller without breaking the bank and great for entry level sailors, try checking out some dinghies. The Laser Pico is a great example of a boat that fits many budgets and can accommodate roughly two people in more shallow waters.

With the daggerboard keel and removable jib and mainsail, you can easily set up your rig before setting sail. It typically drafts between seven and nine feet depending on the weight in the dinghy. You can find used ones for around $1,500 and up depending on condition.

RS Aero


If you have plenty of experience handling a dinghy sailboat, then the RS Aero might be worth some attention. Whether you are racing or cruising in this sailboat, you have the ability to check out some shallow waters too.

It weighs roughly 66 pounds, making it one of the lightest dinghies out there. It also seats just about a foot in the water, making it possible to go anywhere.

For this particular dinghy, you are likely to pay a little more compared to others. You can typically find them for around $10,000.



The Wayfarer is another great option for a dinghy if you feel like cruising on a 16-foot boat. This one in particular is widely used in training schools and has sold over 12,000 boats.

It also has a classic sailing look to it, with a fractional rig sloop and a centerboard keel. It also drafts around three feet, making it plenty capable of exploring shallow waters.

Depending on the year and condition, you can find these for just a few thousand dollars. Newer ones range up to $12,500, but will obviously have all the design upgrades you need.

251 XSS


The 251 XSS, starting at around $112,000, is an excellent option for cruising or fishing in deep water. It is actually one of the first designed boats to handle inshore and offshore fishing, allowing you to experience the best of both worlds.

With just 13 inches in the water, you will likely never have to worry about running aground. In addition, this gives you plenty of luxury to enjoy your fishing or sailing experience.

175 Sport Dorado


Another choice for sailors that enjoy fishing, the 175 Sport Dorado has an even shallower draft compared to others. For around $44,000, you can enjoy cruising along the coast or offshore.

This boat sports a draft of 10 inches, so there is no need to worry about hitting anything. For the price point, it gives you everything you need without hurting your bank account.

177 Sport


The 177 Sport is just a slight step below the 175 in terms of price and features. However, you can still enter shallow waters with its 10-inch draft.

It is priced around $36,000, but you might be able to find it in a slightly cheaper pre-owned market. With the draft, you should never have to worry about scratching the hull.

Why You Should Consider a Shallow Draft Sailboat

The draft of your sailboat will determine what you are able to do on the water. The deeper the draft, the better the stability usually is.

Boats that have a shoal draft are ones that have a shallow draft in comparison to others of the same size. These might have a slightly different keel or other adjustments to make the boat able to enter shallow waters.

The term “shoal draft” is the boat’s ability to check out shallow water near shoals. So it is important to understand certain features when shopping for a shallow draft sailboat.

How to Find the Perfect Shallow Draft Sailboat

While no sailboat is going to be perfect, you can narrow down your search if you know what to look for.

Every sailor has their preferences on what they want for a shallow water sailboat.

This includes the keel type, price range, and even the size of the boat. Depending on your situation, you can break it down to fit your needs.


For starters, the price is going to deter a lot of sailors from certain boats. After all, you can only afford what you have to spend. Setting up a budget or at least knowing how much you can afford to pay for a loan is going to be key.


Your location might make a difference too, as some boats might be in a prime location. Using Florida as an example, they have the most registered boats in the United States. This could be a good opportunity to shop around if you happen to be close by.

Size of Boat

While some shallow boat options can range between 10 and 70 feet, you have to decide what you want to experience. This also reflects in price, as the larger boats will cost more.

If you have a lot of people that you want to include on your boat, you might want to factor that in. If you plan on sailing with just another person, a dinghy might be more up your alley. The larger boats are typically heavier too, so this should be accounted for when looking at the draft.

Advantages of a Shallow Draft Sailboat

There are two main reasons why shallow draft boats are better than deeper draft boats. This would be the ability to navigate shallow waters and less of a chance of damaging your keel or boat in shallow areas.

Pass Through Shallow Waters

It should come as no surprise when buying a boat with a lower draft, as the whole point of buying a shallow draft sailboat is to enter shallow waters. The boat is better equipped to travel through shallow waters due to the keel type and the design.

The keel is the deepest part of the boat, as it sits beneath the boat to provide stability. It is always a good idea to know exactly how deep your boat sits, regardless if you plan on checking out shallow water or not.

Chances of Damaging Your Boat Decrease

Depending on where you sail the most or plan to sail, there could be plenty of areas where the water is not deep. This is true around the Florida keys or even the Caribbean, which have shallow drafts everywhere.

If you have a boat with a shorter keel and a shallow draft, this will decrease the likelihood that you will not encounter damage. Even if you do not plan on encountering shallow waters, you will be less likely to hit anything.

Disadvantages of Shallow Drafts

While there are plenty of reasons why sailors would consider choosing a sailboat with a shallow draft, there are some disadvantages to take note of. These include stability and righting of the boat.


Since there is a shorter keel, there is not the same level of stability as boats that have deeper keels and larger drafts. The longer a keel is, the more stable the boat will be.

You are also limited on the keel type, as most shallow draft boats will either have a lifting keel or something that does not hang as low. While you are capable of taking your sailboat to deeper waters, rough conditions might not be that enjoyable.

Differences in Righting Movement

This is another example of a stability issue, but slightly different. The boat’s ability to maintain “right” or remain stable is very important.

In shallow draft boats, the feeling of being on board during rough conditions might not be the best. Some are equipped with the ability to change the ratio of the ballast, but this could take some practice.

Types of Shallow Draft Keels

The keel can make a huge difference to any sailboat, as it has certain advantages that separate one from another. Depending on the keel type you have, it can help provide stability but also allow for shallow draft areas.

Fin Keel

A fin keel is a standard keel type that you will see on many boats, not just shallow water sailboats. These are usually adjustable to add more or less profile to the ballast.

Another variation that you will often see that is similar to a fin keel is a lifting centerboard keel. These are excellent options for sailors wanting to explore shallow waters and not have to worry about running aground.

Wing Keel

A wing keel offers plenty of stability without hanging too low underneath the boat. These are often found on boats with shallow drafts, due to their unique design of a wing.

While this keel type has plenty of advantages, the only drawback is that it might create suction in shallow waters. This could cause you to be moved over into mud or currents.

Bulb Keel

A bulb keel is great for stability and righting movement. They usually have a high aspect ratio with ballast at the bulb, so this is typically a good bet for shallow water boats.

The beautiful thing about this keel is that even if you do get stuck, they are relatively easy to get back out. They can also take a beating, just in case you do happen to overestimate your depth.


Catamarans are not a type of keel, but they should be included since they do not have one. Interestingly enough, these boat types do not need a keel to remain stable.

Every catamaran will have a shallow draft and will be able to enter shallow waters. Without a keel, there is no risk of damaging it or the boat itself.

These boat types have two parallel hulls, sometimes more for trimaran boats, that keep the boat stable. For shallow water boats that include a lot of room and luxury, these are great options.

Best Shallow Water Sailboats
Jacob Collier

Jacob Collier

Born into a family of sailing enthusiasts, words like “ballast” and “jibing” were often a part of dinner conversations. These days Jacob sails a Hallberg-Rassy 44, having covered almost 6000 NM. While he’s made several voyages, his favorite one is the trip from California to Hawaii as it was his first fully independent voyage.

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