Best Blue Water Sailboats Under 40 Feet

Best Blue Water Sailboats Under 40 Feet | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

December 28, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • If you enjoy sailing, then a bluewater boat under 40 feet is the perfect size
  • Storage space must be considered when attempting to travel long distances
  • Choose a boat brand that has a solid reputation and has better performance than others
  • Keep in mind the rig and keel type that are going to be best for your situation
  • Heavier boats tend to perform better in tough bluewater conditions

There are plenty of sailboats in existence for blue water sailing that come in many shapes and sizes. But what are the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet?

The best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet include the Westsail 32, Hunter e33, Tayana 37, and Najad 355. These bluewater sailboats, depending on your situation, can suit your needs for offshore sailing or long distance cruising. Sailboats under 40 feet also tend to be an adequate amount of space.

After a detailed analysis, the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet can typically handle any situation you encounter on the water. However, the best sailboats will slightly differ based on your needs and what you want to accomplish while sailing.


Table of contents

Top 10 Bluewater Sailboats Under 40 Feet

Bluewater sailing requires a sailboat that can cross oceans and handle harsh weather conditions. This means you might need a performance cruiser or something that you could live aboard. Below you can see which bluewater sailboat under 40 feet is best for you.

Westsail 32


Dubbed as the “Wetsnail 32”, this boat offers a classic look but is also a great bluewater cruiser. It has that nickname due to its slower movements on the water but do not mistake it for a bad boat. There are plenty of sailors that have used this boat for open ocean cruising and is a great option for bluewater sailboats under 40 feet.


  • Classic look
  • Sturdy build to handle anything


  • Slower than other cruisers around the same length

Hunter e33


The Hunter e33 is another great choice as a cruising sailboat. Cruising World once named this boat the best compact cruiser back in 2012. This is an improved sailing boat compared to other models around that time and is perfect for rough seas.


  • Plenty of safety features and rugged build
  • Great for single handed sailing


  • Air conditioner is an additional feature

Tayana 37


For those that are familiar with Bob Perry’s work, the Tayana 37 is another great installment in his line of boats. He wanted to build a classic looking boat that was also fast, so he made sure to have moderate displacement and add a long keel. This is perfect for those that want a bigger boat that can accommodate plenty of guests.


  • Excellent for offshore sailing
  • Ample room with tons of storage space


  • Closer to 40 feet so sailors might not want that large of a bluewater sailboat

Najad 355


The Najad 355 is considered to be one of the best bluewater sailboats under 40 feet since it is rated to sail across many ocean conditions. It also has enough space to accommodate taller sailors and you do not feel like you are cramped for space. It also has a luxury feel to it so sailors can visually enjoy the boat while underway.


  • Visually appealing luxury boat
  • Plenty of headroom to move around below deck


  • Heavier in weight compared to other 35 foot sailboats

Hans Christian 38T


The Hans Christian 38T is a traditional looking bluewater sailboat that happens to rival other popular bluewater cruising yachts. They have a heavy displacement since they weigh a little more than other boats around this size. These boats have successfully crossed oceans and back and make the sailing experience exciting.


  • Full keel sailboat with great stability
  • Plenty of circumnavigation stories with this boat


  • Heavier weight and potentially difficult to steer for novice sailors

Hanse 388


Hanse 388 is regarded by many as one of the best liveaboard bluewater sailboats under 40 feet. It is relatively newer to the sailing scene, as it was produced in 2017. It is slightly lighter in weight for a sailboat that is nearing 38 feet.


  • Increased stability compared to other similar models
  • Excellent self-tacking jib system for sailing single handed


  • Plenty of windows below deck but they cannot be opened

Island Packet 380


Island Packet has plenty of excellent bluewater sailboats in their lineup, especially the 380 model. This boat is a rugged beast that can handle many sailing conditions or any other harsh conditions that is thrown its way. It also offers plenty of room below the deck to accommodate a small family.


  • Plenty of room to move around below deck
  • Boat design allows for increased safety and stability


  • A hair from being 40 feet in length, which might be too long for some sailors

Catalina 38


Another one of Sparksman & Stephens designs, the Catalina 38 is perfect for those on a budget but still want a remarkable bluewater sailboat. You can find one of these in great condition for under $80,000 or more depending on the shape it is in. It also has a good amount of storage space that is perfect for long periods on the water.


  • Great for those wanting a cheaper bluewater boat
  • Plenty of storage to fit your long voyage needs


  • Last built in 1990, so spare parts could be hard to find

Ingrid 38


The Ingrid 38 has roots dating back to the 1930’s for a wooden boat design, but was later given a “remastered” treatment and turned into a fiberglass boat. This has a full keel and utilizes a heavy displacement. It serves a perfect balance being bluewater capable and rivals cruising boats of similar size.


  • Long keel is great for stability
  • Can be a good cruiser when not going through rough conditions


  • Older boat and spare parts might be difficult to locate



The J/122e is just a shade under 40 feet but is perfect because it still qualifies as “under 40”. It is arguably one of the best racing bluewater sailboats under 40 feet but also comes with a hefty price tag. For a boat nearing 40 feet it is lighter than other boats its size and is fast.


  • Lighter in weight and fast
  • Easy to move and to trim or tack


  • Lacking adequate headroom for a boat this size

What Makes a Sailboat Bluewater Capable?

Sailing on a boat that is bluewater capable will make a huge difference than sailing on a boat that is meant to just cruise. The design of a boat will greatly affect what it can accomplish on the water and what it lacks. Below are some characteristics to look for when considering bluewater sailboats under 40 feet.

Rig Type

Most bluewater boats for sailing have two different rig types such as a ketch rig or cutter rig. This does not mean that other rig types cannot get the job done but some are more popular than others.

Cutter rigs are excellent for lighter winds or when you are battling tough storms. Ketch rigs are more common in larger boats and are perfect for handling any weather variations.

Type of Keel

A long keel is the best for providing stability but is usually seen on older sailboats. Newer boats might have different keel types that offer close similarities in safety and stability.

Fin keels are another great example that provide good lateral resistance but are not as strong as a full keel would be. Full keels lower boat speed since they are part of the boat’s hull rather than being bolted on like a fin keel.

Differences in Rudders

Most sailboats have a spade rudder but the next best thing to have is a skeg-hung rudder or a keel-attached rudder. Spade rudders are great since they act as a wing underneath the boat and move about gracefully, which does not slow down the boat.

Skeg-hung rudders are a great option since they are protected from any direct attack from debris or land. However, it provides one of the lesser aids in performance.

How Much Displacement?

The debate for heavy or moderate displacement is another topic to tackle. A majority of sailboats that conduct offshore sailing or circumnavigate typically had heavy displacement.

These boats are best in tough conditions all around and can handle just about anything. Boats that have a moderate displacement can move a little quicker and potentially avoid storms that are coming so that is something to consider depending on your sailing goals.

Reputation of Boat Builder

There are plenty of boat builders out there that have gained a positive following from the boating world. Brands such as Island Packet or even Hunter are great examples for boats that have a good reputation. Consider looking at sailors that have already experienced sailing in open waters and see what types of boats that were used.

Boat Ratings

In addition to the boat builder, you might see different ratings on the design of your boat. These ratings mean different characteristics of what your boat can safely handle at sea, assuming you are experienced to handle it. If it does not have a rating anywhere you should ask the dealer specifically what it is characterized as.

For a category A boat, this means it is ocean ready and can handle over 40 knots of wind and wave heights that are nearing 13 feet. This does not mean you should challenge hurricane weather and you should never attempt to get close.

Storage and Fuel

In order to have a bluewater cruiser or something to live aboard while traveling in potentially rough conditions, you need to consider the amount of space on board. You will likely need to store plenty of dry goods and other supplies for long periods at a time.

You also need to consider how much fuel and water you are going to need for that period of time as well. In addition, you might need to add extra tanks of water and fuel in safe locations on the boat too.

Length of Boat

There are some people in this world that can do the unthinkable and amazing, such as going into deep bluewater areas in boats that have no business being out there, such as smaller boats. However, to be the safest you could be, you should consider a hull length on a boat that is over 20 feet and has plenty of storage.

Ideally, you want to aim for a boat that is 25 feet at a minimum and will be able to handle blue water and tough weather conditions. Always consider your sailing goals and how the boat you intend to use can get you safely there and back.


Some boats for blue water sailing are going to be fairly expensive. These prices can range from $25,000 all the way to over $1,000,000. This all depends on the type of brand and the condition of the boat you are considering for your long voyage at sea.

Maintenance and Care for Your Bluewater Boat Under 40 Feet

Maintaining your boat is one of the key factors in prolonging your investment and making sure it remains safe while sailing. Failure to properly inspect and stay up to date with your boat can lead to catastrophic circumstances.

Less Moving Parts

Since bluewater boats under 40 feet will likely have less moving parts than larger ones, it can make preventative maintenance a little easier and less expensive over the long run. It is crucial to inspect your boat often and to keep track of what has been done in order to stay ahead of your maintenance goals.

Spare Parts

Since a lot of these bluewater boats are going to be older they have a lot more wear and tear on them. This means older boats will need to either have spare parts on board while traveling or completely fix everything you can think of before heading out. Most common issues can be prevented at the last minute because you are able to catch these problems early.

Best Blue Water Sailboats Under 40 Feet
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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