Skip to Content

The best bluewater sailboats (we analyzed 2,000 boats to find out)

We analyzed two-thousand bluewater sailboats to bring you a list of proven offshore designs

BEST BLUEWATER SAILBOATS

What are the best bluewater sailboats?

This was a question we asked a lot of experienced cruisers when we decided to sail across the Pacific. We needed a boat after all, and we wanted to buy the best bluewater sailboat we could afford.

We heard a lot of strong opinions.

Some sailors thought it was reckless to go offshore in any boat that didn’t have a full keel.

Others prioritized performance, and wouldn’t dream of going anywhere in a slow boat like the Westsail 32 (a.k.a. a “Wet Snail 32”).

Opinions like these left us feeling confused like we had to choose between safety and performance.  

If we learned anything from these conversations, it’s that what makes a bluewater boat is a hotly debated topic!

However, there’s a way to cut through all the opinions and get to the bottom of it. The solution is….

DATA!

We analyzed just under 2,000 boats embarking on ocean crossings (over a 12 year time period) and came up with a list of the ten best bluewater sailboats.

Where did we get our data?

The data for our best bluewater sailboats list comes from 12 years of entries in the Pacific Puddle Jump (PPJ), an annual cross-Pacific rally. We took part in 2017 and had a ball!

You can read about the methodology we used to analyze this data at the bottom of the post.

What do we mean by “best”?

We know, that word is overused on the internet!

Simply, based on our data set, these were the most common makes and models entered in the PPJ cross-Pacific rally. There were at least 10 PPJ rally entries for every make of boat on our top 10 list.

So, these boats are 100% good to go?

No. A bluewater boat isn’t necessarily a seaworthy boat. Almost every cruiser we know made substantial repairs and additions to get their offshore boat ready, adding watermakers, life rafts, solar panels, and more.

But my bluewater baby boat isn’t on this list!?

There are hundreds of excellent bluewater yachts that are not on this list. For instance, we sailed across the Pacific in a Dufour 35, which didn’t even come close to making our top 10 list.

Choosing the right boat is very much an individual journey.

Where can I find these bluewater boats for sale?

We recognize that a top 10 list won’t get you very far if you’re shopping for a bluewater boat (especially if you’re looking in the used market).

So, to help you find your perfect boat, we’re going to create a big list of bluewater boats that you can use to refine your search on Yachtworld, Craigslist, or any other places to buy a used boat.

Sign up for our newsletter to get our big list of bluewater boats list as soon as it comes out.

Takeaways from our analysis

There were no big surprises on an individual boat level. All of these makes are considered good cruisers, some of them are even best-selling designs! However, there were a few things that caught our eye.

“Go simple, go small, go now” still holds water

We were thrilled to see the smallest boat in our roundup at the very top of the list! Westsail 32 owners can take pride in their small but mighty yachts (and ignore all those snail-sayers).

While undoubtedly there’s been a trend towards bigger bluewater cruisers in recent years, small cruising sailboats seem to be holding their own. 60% of the monohulls on this list were under 40 feet (if you count the Valiant 40 which sneaks just under at 39.92 feet).

Cat got our tongue

So, we knew catamarans were a thing, but we didn’t fully appreciate HOW popular they’d become!

50% of our top 10 bluewater boat list consists of catamarans—a good fact to toss out the next time you’re trying to garner a happy hour invite on the party boat next door (which will undoubtedly be a catamaran).

Still got it!

We’ve got good news for all you good old boat lovers! 60% of the boats on our list were first built before 2000.

While these older models are less performance-oriented than modern designs, cruisers value these boats for their ability to stand up to rough seas and heavy weather. It just goes to show that solid bones and classic looks never go out of style.

Alright, without further ado, let’s dive into our list of the 10 best bluewater boats!

The 10 best bluewater boats

best bluewater sailboats

1. Westsail 32

The Westsail 32 is an iconic bluewater sailboat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

The Westsail 32 is one of the most iconic bluewater cruisers and 19 have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

In 1973, this small cruising sailboat garnered a 4-page spread in Time magazine. The article inspired many Americans to set sail and the Westsail 32, with its double-ender design, set the standard for what a real bluewater cruiser should look like.

There were approximately 830 built between 1971 and 1980.

This small boat has taken sailors on ocean crossings and circumnavigations. Though considered “slow” by some, the heavily-built Westsail 32 has developed a loyal following for her other excellent offshore cruising characteristics.

If you’re interested in small bluewater sailboats, check out our post on the best small sailboats for sailing around the world.

LOA32.00 ft / 9.75 m
First built1971
BuilderWestsail (USA)
DesignerW. Crealock / W. Atkin
Hull typeLong keel, trans. hung rudder
Rig typeCutter
Displacement19,500 lb / 8,845 kg
See more Westsail 32 specs.

 

2. Lagoon 380

Lagoon 380
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

The Lagoon 380 is a reliable, solidly built catamaran and considered roomy for its size. We counted 18 of them in our data set. With over 800 boats built, it may be one of the best-selling catamarans in the world. Like the other boats on this list, the Lagoon 380 has proven itself on long passages and ocean crossings, winning it many loyal fans.

LOA37.89 ft / 11.55 m
First built2000
BuilderJeanneau (FRA)
DesignerV. Peteghem / L. Prévost
 typeCat. twin keel
Rig typeFractional sloop
Displacement16,005 lb / 7,260 kg
More specificationsSee more Lagoon 380 specs.

3. Lagoon 440

Lagoon 440 is a bluewater catamaran
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

18 Lagoon 440s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

Why leave the comforts of home, when you can take them with you? The Lagoon 440 is a luxurious long-range cruiser, offering beautiful wood joinery, spacious accommodations, and a deluxe galley. Oh, and you have the option of an electric boat motor!

SAIL and Sailing Magazine have both done in-depth reviews of the Lagoon 440 if you want to learn more.

LOA44.65 ft / 13.61 m
First built2004
BuilderLagoon (FRA)
DesignerV. Peteghem / L. Prévost
Hull typeCat. twin keel
Rig typeFractional sloop
Displacement26,786 lb / 12,150 kg
See more Lagoon 440 specs.

 

4. Amel Super Maramu (incl. SM 2000)

Amel Super Maramu is a popular bluewater sailboat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

If you follow the adventures of SV Delos on YouTube, you probably know that the star of the show (SV Delos—in case the title didn’t give it away) is an Amel Super Maramu. These classic bluewater sailboats can be found all over the world, proof they can go the distance.

We counted 16 Amel Super Maramus and Super Maramu 2000s in our list of PPJ entries.

Ready to join the cult of Amel? Read more about the iconic brand in Yachting World.

LOA52.49 ft / 16.00 m
First built1989
BuilderAmel (FRA)
DesignerH. Amel / J. Carteau
Hull typeWing keel
Rig typeMasthead ketch
Displacement35,274 lb / 16,000 kg
See more Amel Super Maramu specs.

5. Valiant 40

The Valiant 40 is an iconic bluewater cruiser
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

When I interviewed legendary yacht designer, Bob Perry, for Good Old Boat in 2019, he told me that the Valiant 40 was one of the boats that most defined him and marked the real start of his career.

At the time, heavy displacement cruisers were considered sluggish and slow, especially in light winds.

Perry’s innovation with the Valiant 40 was to combine a classic double ender above the waterline, with an IOR racing hull shape below the waterline. The result was the first “performance cruiser”, a blockbuster hit, with over 200 boats built in the 1970s.

It’s no surprise we counted 16 Valiant 40s in our data set.

Cruising World magazine dubbed it “a fast, comfortable, and safe cruising yacht,” and there’s no doubt it’s covered some serious nautical miles.

It’s worth noting that there were blistering problems with hull numbers 120-249 (boats built between 1976 and 1981). Later models did not have this problem. Despite the blistering issues, the Valiant 40 remains one of the most highly thought of bluewater designs.

LOA39.92 ft / 12.17 m
First built1973
BuilderUniflite/Valiant (USA)
DesignerR. Perry
Hull typeFin keel, rudder on skeg
Rig typeCutter
Displacement23,520 lb / 10,668 kg
See more Valiant 40 specs.

6. TAYANA 37

The Tayana 37 is a top bluewater boat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

The Tayana 37 is another hugely popular Perry design. The first boat rolled off the production line in 1976 and since then, nearly 600 boats have been built. Beautiful classic lines and a proven track record have won the Tayana 37 a devoted following of offshore enthusiasts.

12 Tayana 37s have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009. Read more about the Tayana 37 in this Practical Sailor review.

LOA36.67 ft / 11.18 m
First built1976
BuilderTa Yang (TWN)
DesignerR. Perry
Hull typeLong keel
Rig typeCutter
Displacement22,500 lb / 10,206 kg
 See more Tayana 37 specs.

7. Lagoon 450

The Lagoon 450 is one of the best bluewater sailboats
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

If this list is starting to sound like a paid advertisement, I swear we’re not on Lagoon’s payroll! This is the third Lagoon on our list, but the data doesn’t lie. Lagoon is making some of the best cruising sailboats.

The 450 has been a hot seller for Lagoon, with over 800 built since its launch in 2014. While not a performance cat, the Lagoon 450 travels at a reasonable speed and is brimming with luxury amenities.

At least 12 owners in the PPJ rally chose the Lagoon 450 to take them across the Pacific. It’s no wonder SAIL had so many good things to say about it.

LOA45.80 ft / 13.96 m
First built2014
BuilderLagoon (FRA)
DesignerV. Peteghem / L. Prévost
Hull typeCat. twin keel
Rig typeFractional sloop
Displacement33,075 lb / 15,003 kg
See more Lagoon 450 specs.

8. Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46

Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 Bluewater Sailboat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

There were 11 Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46s in our data set.

Fountaine Pajot released the Bahia 46 in 1997, a sleek design for traveling long distances. Its generously-sized water and fuel tanks along with ample storage for cruising gear are a real plus for the self-sufficient sailor.

According to Cruising World, “Cruising-cat aficionados should put the Bahia 46 on their “must-see” list.”

LOA46.10 ft / 14.05 m
First built1997
BuilderFountaine Pajot (FRA)
DesignerJoubert-Nivelt
Hull typeCat. twin keel
Rig typeFractional sloop
Displacement21,385 lb / 9,700 kg
 See more Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 specs.

9. Catalina 42 (MKI, MKII)

Catalina 42 bluewater boat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

10 Catalina 42s (MKI and MKII) have set out to cross the Pacific in the PPJ rally since 2009.

The Catalina 42 was designed under the guidance of the legendary yacht designer and Catalina’s chief engineer, Gerry Douglas.

One of Catalina’s philosophies is to offer “as much boat for the money as possible,” and the Catalina 42 is no exception. According to Practical Sailor, Catalina aims to price its boats 15% to 20% below major production boats like Hunter and Beneteau.

Practical Sailor has a great in-depth review of the Catalina 42.

LOA41.86 ft / 12.76 m
First built1989
BuilderCatalina (USA)
DesignerCatalina
Hull typeFin keel, spade rudder
Rig typeMasthead sloop
Displacement20,500 lb / 9,299 kg
See more Catalina 42 specs.

10. Leopard 46

Leopard 46 bluewater sailboat
Photo credit: SailboatData.com

Since 2009, 10 Leopard 46s have embarked on Pacific crossings in the PPJ rally.

Leopards have won legions of fans for their high build quality, robust engineering, and excellent performance.

The Leopard 46 also boasts something of a racing pedigree. It was built in South Africa by Robertson and Caine and designed by Gino Morelli and Pete Melvin, who came up with the record-breaking catamaran Playstation/Cheyenne 125.

Read more about the Leopard 46 in this Cruising World review.

LOA46.32 ft / 14.12 m
First built2006
BuilderRobertson & Caine (RSA)
DesignerMorelli & Melvin
Hull typeCat. twin keel
Rig typeFractional sloop
Displacement24,206 lb / 10,980 kg
See more Leopard 46 specs.

Methodology

What the data is and isn’t

The PPJ data was a real boon because it reflects a wide range of cruising boats: small, big, old, new, expensive, and affordable. We think this may be because the PPJ is a very financially accessible rally—the standard entry cost is $125 or $100 if you’re under 35 (age or boat length!).

We did look at data from other (pricier) rallies but found that the results skewed towards more expensive boats.

Needless to say, the data we used is just a sample of the bluewater boats that crossed the Pacific over the last 10+ years. Many cruisers cross oceans without participating in a rally!

Entries vs. completions

The data we used is a list of the PPJ entries, not necessarily the boats that completed the rally. In instances where we saw the same boat entered multiple years in a row, we assumed they’d postponed their crossing and deleted all but the latest entry to avoid double counting.

Boat make variations

The world of boat building and naming can get pretty complicated. Sometimes a manufacturer changes a boat’s name a year or two into production, other times the name remains the same but the boat undergoes a dramatic update.

For the most part, we’ve used SailboatData.com’s classification system (if they list the boats separately, then we have also), except where there are two separately listed models that have the same LOA, beam, and displacement.