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


Super Anarchist
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.
I missed the river venue part in my original reply. That said, I say it depends on what river. My dad had a Catalina 27 for years on the Hudson River, and while only 3/4 mile wide where his Club and Marina were, they took the boat down river, through NY Harbor, out Long Island Sound, etc.

He said "family cruising" so there must be some destinations up and/or down the river worth going to and exploring/cruising. Not sure you can say a 28-30 footer is to big yet. Depends on what river. Of course, you may also be completely right, esp if a smaller river with no access to larger cruising areas.

OP, what river? And where are you along said river?


New member
@Crash On the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Not much cruising really. But there are a few places that we could sail to, dock for the night, and then sail back the next day.


Super Anarchist
I know a guy who races a Hunter (29' I think) on the Delaware River somewhere north of Philly. He has a cruising spinnaker that he uses for a chute. I race a Hunter 28 in non-spinnaker classes in WLIS. If you race in the class with the slowest boats, the level of expertise is likely to be moderate, the competing boats are unlikely to be gold-plated racing machines. With good sails and a clean bottom, you can have a lot of fun and learn a lot.

C&Cs of 24' and 25 ' have held up pretty well.


Super Anarchist
@Crash On the Ohio River near Cincinnati. Not much cruising really. But there are a few places that we could sail to, dock for the night, and then sail back the next day.
OK, perfect. Then the next question is given you are docking for the night, do you just need a place for the 4 of you to sleep (the equivalent of a tent) and you'll eat and entertain yourselves ashore? Or do you want to be able cook and entertain yourselves (board games, cards, movies on a Tablet, books, etc) aboard?

If the former, then a smaller boat, like an Olson 25, J-24 or S2 7.9 (or even maybe the 6.9) would fit the bill nicely. If the later, then the bigger boats fit the bill better.


Eastern NC
Someone mentioned it up thread, and I am very biased, but you should look at this boat. https://eastnc.craigslist.org/boa/d/cornelius-1977-lindenberg-26-sailboat/7564194077.html
It is in Charlotte on Lake Norman. Fresh water boat, which can be of benefit. You could sell the trailer for half the cost of the boat when you get it to Cincinatti!

I have raised my kids racing and cruising on ours, and although the teen years saw them drifting away from racing, they have since come back around and love being on the boat again. As a parent, it had the things that made my wife and I confident in their safety. It has a high boom, some would say too high to be aesthetically "right". Nobody is getting hit in the head with a Lindy boom. It has wide side decks afforded by a narrow shroud base. I'm 6'3" and rarely hit my head down below. Headroom 6'. Can sleep 6 but you'd better be close! 4 is most comfortable, all will have a nice big berth. Centerline private head forward. Foam core, no balsa to rot. I have had to repair foam shearing damage from freezing, but it's still better than balsa, IMHO.

Performance is great. We rate 171 and do OK there. When we lose, it's either because a boat sailed better than us or made fewer mistakes, not the rating. Tiller steered. Not a huge party cockpit, and it is divided by a traveler that will have your shins trembling, but it is ergonomically great.

Have fun in your search.

July 17 083.JPG


Super Anarchist
All the boats listed above are great boats. It would be hard to go wrong with any of them, but...

Depending on your budget, I would look to see if there is a Catalina 30 Tall Rig Iron Keel for sale in your area. They can be picked up pretty cheaply, have more interior space than some 35 footers and sail remarkably well to their rating. Of course sails, slip fees and annual maintenance will be more than some of what has been proposed, and you won't be able to bring it home for the winter.

However, for a comfortable family cruiser that does OK on the race course, they are hard to beat.

Do not look at the short rig or the wing keel.


Super Anarchist
Just because a boat “sails remarkably well to it’s rating” - which OBTW I agree with, a well prepared Cat 30 can sail well to it’s rating - doesn’t necessarily mean the boat “sails well” or is “rewarding to sail.” And this is, I feel, where the Cat 30 falls short. They sail “ok” but that’s kinda damning by faint praise.


Super Anarchist
If the river is only half a mile wide, I'd have thought that dinghy racing would be much fun than cruiser-racers.

If there any dinghy racing there? Or even open keelboats?
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!
You've had a lot of varied suggestions. Here's my thought. Family cruising? Many sailors hope for family participation but don't get it. If you end up single handing most of the time, or your family wants to day-sail for a couple of hours, then you don't need or want lots of berths or a luxury cabin. Here's what i did. I bought a Sabre 30 which is really attractive inside to tempt the spouse. I could single hand it without too much difficulty. Eventually sold it because I wasn't getting enough use to justify the operating expenses. Also, it had an ancient Volvo and I was always anxious because if the engine died I would have an unusable and unsaleable boat. Now I have an S2 6.7, which is like a J22 but MUCH more comfortable to sail and plenty of fun. It's on a trailer off season. Low cost operation. So, if I was sure the family was up for overnighting I would get a good old 30 footer, like the Sabre or an S2 (similar quality build) but ensure it had a recent repower. You could certainly throw money at it and race these boats, but you probably won't. Let somebody else pay for the fancy new sails and organize the crew - too much of a headache for me, and probably for you too.