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Trailerable sailboats? Researching, looking to get one

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  • Trailerable sailboats? Researching, looking to get one

    Hi All,

    I am looking in to getting my own sailboat. I've looked around at MacGregors and Hunters in the mid 20ft range, 90's models or earlier. I am not real sure what I want to get. I need to learn more about the boats.

    I'd like a boat with a wheel instead of a tiller rudder. That pretty much takes out MacGregors. I want a seaworthy boat - something that will take a beating if it has to, not just a "fair weather" boat, though I am not planning on any big excursions. All I want it for is day sailing, maybe out on the Great Lakes some (Michigan and Erie), but smaller lakes is really what I'm after. We have a place in Canada that is where I really want the boat for - it is a rocky lake and the more shallow the draw the better, but I don't want to limit my boat selection by that - I just want to be aware of it. I've been blown over in a boat before and don't want to repeat that in the same way - if the boat can upright itself without swamping, should it happen, that would be ideal.

    The boat will have to be trailerable. From what research I have done the width of the boat is going to be the limiting factor. Weight/length/height won't matter once the mast is down.

    As far as length of boat goes - I am not real sure. The bigger the boat the bigger the water/more stable, in general, so that would be a plus on the Great Lakes. The smaller the boat the easier it is to handle. I need to be able to man-handle it alone, so a super heavy boat isn't going to be ideal but if a heavily weighted keel boat is out there that draws less water for the same size that may be a better route as I can sail in more shallow water.

    Thoughts? Ideas?

  • #2
    Lots of conflicting needs. I think you're gonna' have a tough time finding a boat smaller than 30' without a tiller. I've heard the Oyster 26 is wheel steer, but I don't know much about them. They look stout, which may help some of your needs - but I don't know much about 'em.

    Trailering you're probably going to want a shoal keel or swing keel depending on how you'll launch it. Any way you cut it though, shallow and sailboats don't typically get along. Our 15' didn't even like to go shallow without the centerboard.

    How big are the inland lakes you're thinking of sailing on?

    Welcome aboard.


    • #3
      Sounds like you will benefit from a swing keel to keep the boat low on the trailer (more stable on the road) and for getting into the shallower water. This also helps with launching.

      If you REALLY want it, you can convert a tiller to a wheel for steering. Basically run the steering for a Bass Boat back to the rudder... and it will work. I'm not sure it will be worth the cost.

      No matter what you get, your sailing skill will likely determine the weather (and wave) conditions you would be safe to sail in, more than the boat itself.


      • #4
        Originally posted by fhhuber View Post
        If you REALLY want it, you can convert a tiller to a wheel for steering. Basically run the steering for a Bass Boat back to the rudder... and it will work.
        Not so sure I'd do that - the length of your tiller arm is what helps you fight the helm in weather. The reason many sailboats have such large wheels is to fight "weather helm" and give you the leverage you need with the boat. A standard steering wheel will make a 26' boat a whale faster than you'd like.

        Converting a boat over from tiller to wheel is going to be very much about how balanced the sailboat is.


        • #5
          Originally posted by southkogs View Post
          Lots of conflicting needs. I think you're gonna' have a tough time finding a boat smaller than 30' without a tiller.

          Trailering you're probably going to want a shoal keel or swing keel depending on how you'll launch it. Any way you cut it though, shallow and sailboats don't typically get along.

          How big are the inland lakes you're thinking of sailing on?
          Thanks for the info. OK on the smaller boats and wheels not being common. I have converted a skiff to remote steering/motor controls in the past so I am familiar with those systems, but I agree with others it may not work well for a tiller rudder sailboat. There may be a way to make it work but I'd have to think about that one pretty hard.

          As for shallow water and sailboats not getting along - I agree. Though, my buddy's 37ft boat draws between 4.5 and 5ft of water - that is plenty shallow for any use I'd have, but at that length and 20,000lbs is way too big for me to handle. Plus I can't trailer it - too wide to go down the road without permits.

          Lakes are anywhere from 2-3 square miles up to the Great Lakes. The lake we're on in Canada is very big. Just in our bay I can go 5 miles, but it isn't real wide. I've done close to 150 miles in one trip in a power boat in a day before. Depth at my dock is 12-18ft depending on the level of the lake. I don't want a keel hanging deep all the time - both the traiering aspect as well as the rocks in the lake if I get in an area that is more shallow than I'd like. Most of the lake is over 20ft deep, the big bay is closer to 30-35, and there are pockets as deep as 215ft.

          As far as keels and trailering go - how are the deeper keel boats launched from a trailer? The deeper the keel the higher the boat sits. Getting the trailer in deep enough water to take up that height sounds like it might be a problem on most launch ramps, no?


          • #6
            Okay you're deeper than I was wondering. 6' and you're gonna' be in good shape with a swing keel, probably even the shoal keels.

            I'm not sure how you launch a trailered full keel boat. I've always assumed a crane, but don't know anything. Around me the lakes average about 25', but get as deep as 190'. Most of the sailboats I see trailered are swing or shoal keel boats. We have some full keel boats on Percy Priest (max depth about 100'), but I think the bulk of them live on the lake.


            • #7
              As for the tall boats on trailers needing cranes to launch/load - that chops off the ability to trailer a boat for me. Getting access to a ramp can be a challenge enough, let alone having a crane meet me there.

              I understand full length keel boats are hard to back up. How to shoal and swing keel boats do? Are the swing keels the ones that look like rudder extensions? That is what I have on my boat now (sail conversion on a big canoe). I'd be curious how well they work on a bigger boat. Though, that won't work alone I'm sure - another keel of some kind would have to be on the hull.


              • #8
                A swing keel will retract into the bottom of a boat, like a centerboard on smaller boats. BUT, it's weighted like a keel. A sailboat with a swing keel (in theory) will sit on a trailer like a boat with no keel.

                A shoal keel is permanent in its place, and will (typically) be longer along the keel and more shallow from the bottom of the boat. The boat will still sit high on the trailer, but in theory you should be able to get it on and off a trailer without a crane (depending on your launches).

                On a canoe conversion you've got outboard "daggers" usually on each side. The closest similarity would be to the daggerboard on a smaller sailboat like a Sunfish or a Snark. Anything you'll trailer will have WAY too much sail for a dagger or centerboard to do you much good.


                • #9
                  You need something like the one for sale near me (far from the Great Lakes)

                  I am putting a link to this so you can see how these smaller swing keel boats fit on a trailer.
                  Also notice the masts come down for towing.
                  You mentioned handling the boat alone.
                  That's less fun IMHO and actually hard to do when it comes time to get ready for the switch from sailing to trailering.

                  We had a 24' Oday and the swing keel got stuck UP the first time we used it.
                  Since it was expensive to get it pulled out for repairs, we left it alone for an entire season on the Delaware River.
                  Never tipped over, and tacking did not suffer much due to the shorter keel.
                  (The O'day has a partial keel in addition to the swing keel, meaning the boat is not simply flat bottomed.)
                  On hard over tacks, the boat becomes the resistance to side slipping, not so much the keel.

                  yachtworld. com search for 212 hunter

                  Last edited by dennis461; July 8th, 2017, 11:37 AM.
                  20' 1987 Renken Cuddy Cabin
                  AQ131C 270 drive
                  Southern NJ


                  • #10
                    What did you find out there? Any good news?


                    • #11
                      The nice thing about a trailer sailor is you can trailer to a destination. This vs. taking several days to sail there. Though I'm sure I'd be a fan of the wheel steering underway, I'm not so sure when moored out or at the dock. That thing would eat up a lot of room for sure!

                      Down side of the swing keel, at least the designs I'm familiar with, is that they clunk as the boat rocks side to side when pulled up. There's a tendency for the keel to wear at the pivot point, as well as against the sides of the trunk/pocket they dray up into. Knowing what I know now, that's an area I would have liked to know more about when buying our Venture.

                      I did a ground up restoration on a Venture 26 that we sailed all over the Great Lakes for several years. It was easily trailered, had a swing keel, but the rudder was fixed, which presented some problems on occasion as you entered shallow water. Wife/first mate had never been on anything that big so we spent the first summer getting her used to it (we called them anti freak out lessons). The boat, when hard over, made her really nervous at first, but when she saw how easily that was controlled, she came around pretty quickly.

                      My dream boat, still, is the S2 7.9 with an inboard engine. That boat would just smoke ours..... like we were dragging a sail in the water or something. Gorgeous boat in my eyes, from any angle. Here's a review: http://sailingmagazine.net/article-872-s2-7.9.html

                      I always wanted to know more about the larger Catalinas w/swing keel as well.


                      • #12
                        I looked at an S2 in Florida. it was a very nice and fast looking boat.

                        I have sailed a couple of larger Catalinas but they did not have swing keels. one was 36 and the other 44 foot. very nice boats.

                        heading down to Florida in the next few weeks to look at a couple boats, one is a benneteau 35 and the other is a hunter 33. haven't had the girlfriend out on a bigger boat yet so have to see what she thinks about them. she is ok with the smaller boats but would like something that heels less and has more amenities.


                        • #13
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                          Too old to handle anything like that any more. I'm envious. Would love to be on the prowl, looking for a nice cruiser....