Looking for Suggestions for a Family Boat (and possible racer)


New member
These "What boat should I get" posts probably get old, but I'm going to throw one more on here because I don't really know enough about my options and I don't want to buy a boat and wish I'd gotten a different one after just a few months. I've searched on this forum for similar questions and there are some, the closest being someone in a very similar situation on the great lakes, but I think my location may impact the boats suggested.

Right now I crew on another boat and enjoy that. I don't know that I'd want to race my own boat but I may in a couple of years. That being said, it's not really important to me to have a race boat because I think I could always be content crewing in our beer can races and not having to worry about all the drama associated with finding consistent race crew.

To give you an idea of where I'd be sailing, I live in the US in the mid-west and my local club has weekly beer can races on the river that runs through our town. The river is about a half mile wide and our course is usually about a mile and a half long, with a current ranging from around a half knot to a little over a knot. In the marina about a 5 1/2' draft would be the max, but 5' or less would be ideal. We go from very light wind (under 5 knots) to maybe 12 with gusts to around 15 on occasion, so I need a boat that sails well in light air.

Budget: I can spend up to about $25k but it'd be ideal to spend more like $10-15k so I don't feel guilty about the cost of upgrades.

Experience: About 5 years of crewing for our local beer can races, some ASA courses and a few years or so of recreational dinghy sailing

Desired Size: 22' to 30'

I have two young kids and a wife who would be sailing with me sometimes, but I'd probably be sailing singlehanded more than 50% of the time. To keep my wife and kids happy, a dedicated head would be nice but they can make due with a bucket behind a curtain if necessary.

Boats I've considered:
-Laser 28: From what I've read these are great boats for racing and for recreational sailing; and they have pretty good headroom; these seem pretty tough to find
-J29: I don't know a lot about these boats but one races in our local club and I just love the look; they seem like more of a racer than a cruiser but I think it'd still work out fine for what I'd be doing
-S2 7.9: I don't know a lot about them but there are several in my club and they seem to have a strong following. It's a plus that they're trailerable.
-Catalina 22: I could trailer it easily, which is a plus. Although, I'm not sure how often I'd really do that (maybe once or twice a year but trailerability isn't important); these seem like they'd be easy to singlehand and could be a good first boat

Thank you in advance for any suggestions!
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Bull City

A fine fellow
North Carolina
I would add a J22 to your list. They are sweet sailing boats, very good in light air, have a large cockpit, and a V-berth & two bench seats in the cabin.


Super Anarchist
Check out the J/28 if you’re looking for some more accommodations, but they’re not race boats. That said, they are still J/Boats which means they generally are pleasant to sail.

Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
The Laser 28 and the J-29 are among the best in the genre you seek, a racey racer-cruiser good in light air with rudimentary accomodations. BTW I would recommend a good porta-potty over a bucket. Much harder to spill and more likely to be favored by the female contingent.

CF-27 (might be above your price range, they seem to be popular just now)?
Kirby Mirage 30?
J-30 (actually comfy inside)?

The S2 7.9 is a great boat and also takes away draft anxiety with the lift keel. Not as roomy inside (cough cough) as the others.

If keeping the family happy is important, let me suggest (this is going to raise a howl of protest) a Hunter of 28~30ish size. They are inexpensive and sail far better than their comfy accomodations suggest they should... still, not gonna be satisfying for hard-core racing sailors, I admit. But they do sail pretty well, especially with upgraded sails, and when you're not sailing, you'll be glad. Hell, they're pretty comfy even when sailing.


Super Anarchist
To expand on Slug's comment. Walk the local docks and read up the beer can results. Look for something that there are more than one of, and that when you walk past you go "that looks like a nice boat".
If there are a few around, that (usually) proves that they are good for your area. It also means you are likely to be able to sell it more easily in the years to come as it isn't an orphan.


New member
To expand on Slug's comment. Walk the local docks and read up the beer can results. Look for something that there are more than one of, and that when you walk past you go "that looks like a nice boat".
If there are a few around, that (usually) proves that they are good for your area. It also means you are likely to be able to sell it more easily in the years to come as it isn't an orphan.
Good advice. There are several S2's (mostly 7.9), a few laser 28's and a few j/29's. Aside from that it's a mix of boats.


Super Anarchist
With two young kids and a wife that you should want to get involved in this lifelong sport we call sailing, you should get a boat that meets their needs as well as yours. A real head with a door that closed was always a requirement of my wife's, and as I had two girls of my own, and liked having girls on my crews, I always got a boat with a "real" marine head & holding tank as well as an actual door that closed for some real relative privacy. Plenty of great boats to race weekends and beercans that meet that requirement.

With younger kids, a slighter smaller boat will have smaller loads, allowing them to be involved and engaged in actually sailing the boat sooner. That plus your budget desires, seems to put you in the 26-28 foot range. Some boats I'd think about include the aforementioned Laser 28 and S2 7.9. Both are excellent choices for what you are looking for. Others to consider include the C&C 27 Mk V, the Cal 27 mk III, the Ranger 29 (older), the Ranger 8.5 (a CF-27 hull and different deck - rare) and an outlier, the Starwind 27.

The Starwind was designed by Jim Taylor, who has designed some pretty slick racers. Though marketed as an inexpensive cruising boat, I think a well set up Starwind 27 is a PHRF sleeper, as most folks "race" them in a decidely cruiser configuration, resulting in a very nice rating that the boat that can probably outsail if set up to race. Get a tiller deep draft version.

Marty Gingras

Mid-range Anarchist
Any 25' MORC Boat would probably be a good candidate. Like a Wavelength 24 or something. Olson 25 good too. Hell, even a Santa Cruz 27 is super manageable with a small headsail
Second the Olson 25. Here's an inexpensive one:

If you'd go as spartan as a Wavelength 24, why not a B25?

There's a lot to be said for trailerability. Being able to haul out saves a bundle, and makes working on the boat a lot easier.

I crewed on a Lindenberg 26 and liked it a lot. It has a big cabin for its size, with a private head forward, 4 good sea bunks, and 6' headroom under the blister cabin. It's competitive at 168 (like a 7.9), and usually priced on the low side.

Marty Gingras

Mid-range Anarchist
@Marty Gingras A $10k boat in the Bay Area is at least a $15k boat after going there to buy it, then bringing it back to the midwest.
There is that.

Here is a link to the Olson 25 group:

There are Olson 25s --- about 130 of them --- pretty much throughout the continental USA.

Kiwi Clipper

Truth is there are so many different boats and they do different things. Really important for you to spend a little more time focusing on what you really want to do with this boat and given a young family, how much time you really have to spend by yourself away from them. I've had a lot of boats so here are some thoughts: incremental improvements come from: actual head; standing headroom, and inboard power. Trailerability saves you taking the boat out at a yard in the winter and storage fees. Also the place you describe to sail is very small. If you are actually going to be limited to that venue, then a 20 foot trailer boat would be great. If you want to cruise then where, for how long and with who? It's a very different boat than a daysailer on a small venue. The Santa Cruz 27 is a fun daysailer, but not a boat for overnight or weeklong cruises.
We love the J-29, Ranger 29 and Cal 29. Great for a cruise, but too much for your river venue. Maybe you could find an Elliott 770. On the west coast, a Moore 24 is a great class boat. If you are handy you could get one that needs work for cheap. But need to make it attractive to entice your family.
Maybe you should focus on crewing on other boats, getting a variety of experiences with others, before jumping into your own. I have friends that have spent a lifetime doing just that and they are highly sought after by guys who need someone to come on board and help teach them about their own boat! As suggested go around to a lot of marinas or clubs to see different types. Take your time. It's easy to buy; not usually so easy to sell.
Good luck.


Super Anarchist
S2 9.1 is a great all around boat in that size range. I crewed on one years ago in a MORC class and it felt like a bigger boat. Nice accommodations for a boat that size and room on deck and in the cockpit.


Super Anarchist
Capri 22. Simple, sturdy construction by Catalina. Not as fast as a J22, but cheaper and more family oriented. I raced one in beer can races for over a decade, and it was very satisfactory. The one downside may be that although it does have a portable head, it's not really very usable.

Here are some things to think about. Some boats have one-design rules for sizes of jib, etc which are different from what are usual under PHRF, so they may be set up with winches and cleats in non-standard places.

Tha Capri, and probably many other boats you are thinking about, won't sail 2 boatlengths in a straight line if you release the tiller. If you are going to singlehand, you will need a way to lock the tiller in place. You also want to check out the distance from the helm to the jib winches and cleats. In racing boats, these are separated to give the crew elbow room which can be an annoying problem for the solo sailor.

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