It really doesn’t matter if you are an accomplished sailor with a Master’s License or a novice who wants to charter a boat for a week on the water in the Caribbean. What does matter is that you want to find the boat that fulfills your dreams from a manufacturer you can trust. Finding that “just right” fit between boat and crew can lead to some magic experiences and remarkable memories.
Our goal is to give you some insight into what the many boat brands have to offer. We will look at quality, construction, features, and customer service.
Hopefully, this will give you some insight into finding the sailboat of your dreams.
Wally Boats has to be at the top of our list as the best overall manufacturer of sailboats. In the sailing world, Wally is synonymous with quality and luxury. Unfortunately, that kind of reputation also comes with a hefty price. Wally Boats will typically also head up the list of the most expensive sailboats in the world.
You won’t find many Wally boats at your local lake marina or the typical coastal municipal marina. We are in a different class of boat here altogether. Wally produces 100-foot-long super yachts, each of which is custom designed.
If you can find one, purchasing a used Wally sailboat is a safe way to go. You will usually get a high-performance racing/cruising yacht that will outperform most other boats in this class day in and day out.
What Do You Get with a Wally?
- Exquisite Design and Visual Appeal – Let’s face the facts. These are boats that look as good as they perform.
- Above Average Performance – Wally boats took the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2019, 2018, and 2017.
- Highest Quality Build You Can Buy – At this level, you get what you expect regarding the quality of materials and construction.
- Innovative Design and Engineering – Wally boats incorporate the latest developments in construction techniques, materials, and engineering.
Ask cruising sailors their choice of sailboat manufacturers, and many will answer with Hallberg-Rassy. This Swedish yacht builder has built a reputation among cruising sailors for producing boats that are almost in a class by themselves. These are boats that are built to be sailed and provide sailors with the utmost in safety, comfort, and handling.
Hallberg-Rassy is a master at integrating form and function to produce blue water boats that perform as well as they look. Most savvy sailors will recognize a Hallberg-Rassy design almost instantly.
Hallberg-Rassy isn’t one of those static companies that finds a popular design and sticks with it year after year. This company studies its designs and listens to its owners to continually improve their designs. A used Hallberg-Rassy is a good bet if you want to move up to a world-class cruising boat.
What Do You Get with a Hallberg Rassy Designed Boat?
- Integrated Bow Sprint – No tacked-on afterthought here. The bowsprit forms an integral part of the Hallberg-Rassy designs to make handling and sailing these boats a joy.
- High-Quality Electric Winches – Electric winches are standard items and ease the effort of sailing these boats in even the toughest conditions.
- A Cockpit Designed for Blue Water Sailing – A safe and dry place from which to steer your boat makes for a much more enjoyable experience when the weather gets rough.
- Powerful Engines with Ample Fuel Storage – You can be confident that you have the power to maneuver your boat safely under power.
If your budget is more modest, but you still want high quality and a feature-rich design, Catalina boats are a good place to start looking. Catalina takes a more practical approach to boat design and building, creating sailboats that meet the needs for practicality, sailability, and price to create sturdy boats that can take you anywhere in the world safely and economically.
Catalina is a manufacturer that is recognizable from weekend inland water sailors to experienced blue water live aboard families. Cataline has been on the scene for many years and remains a mover and shaker in the sailboat industry.
One of the big attractions of Catalina as a boat manufacturer is its across-the-board market appeal. This company has something for everyone, from small, easy-to-manage daysailers to 50-foot blue water cruisers.
What Do You Get with Catalina Sailboats?
- Customer Service – Catalina has been in business for a long time and has a reputation as one of the most customer-responsive sailboat manufacturers in the business.
- Consistency and Quality – Catalina owners frequently point out the consistency of Catalina’s designs and the quality of their manufacturing as reasons to buy one of these boats.
- Financial and Economic Choices – Catalina sailboats offer customers one of the best values on the market in terms of the purchase price and long-term operating costs.
- Handling and Performance – Catalina owners rave about how their sailboats perform with easy handling in both light seas and heavy weather.
4. Bavaria Yachts
If you are shopping in Europe for an economically priced blue water sailboat, Bavaria Yachts is a company that you will learn quickly. Sailors in the United States know the name, Catalina. In Europe, Bavaria Yachts have the same sort of recognition and reputation.
The reputation of German manufacturing and engineering shows itself in the Bavaria Yachts operation. Leading-edge technology in manufacturing and production helps Bavaria Yachts keep costs as low as possible while producing very high-quality products.
Bavaria Yachts is focused on its customer base and has a good understanding of who purchases its boats and how those boats are used. These boats are designed to be easy to sail, comfortable to be aboard and to provide service without the constant need for expensive repairs and maintenance.
What Do You Get with a Bavaria Yacht?
- Comfort and Liveability – No matter if you are day sailing or cruising the world, Bavaria Yachts’ designs excel in comfort and onboard amenities that make them great for long-term cruising.
- Reliability – Owners point to the quality of the construction of these boats and the reliability they enjoy, which keeps them sailing without constant visits to the boatyard for maintenance and upkeep.
- Smaller May Be Better – Bavaria Yachts has a large following among smaller to midsized boat owners, and the company pays particular attention to designing boats that offer more to this class of owners.
- Overall Value and Economy – Many owners choose their first Bavaria Yacht because of the perceived value of these boats.
Catalina may be a bit better known than Beneteau, but Beneteau may lead the way in the actual number of sailboats sold around the world. This is one of the top-selling sailboat brands of all time. Beneteau has been building boats for well over a century, and their knowledge shows in the quality of their designs and construction. From its blue water boats like the Oceanis 62 to its tiny First 14.
Beneteau prides itself on filling the needs of every class of sailor, from the racing dinghy to the blue water cruiser. Simplicity is a keyword when describing Beneteau boats.
There is no skimping on quality or on the essential equipment needed to be safe and secure. There are also no unneeded extras to cause you unwanted hassles or maintenance issues.
Being a French company, you would expect style to be a primary focus of the design of Beneteau boats, and you won’t be wrong. With an eye to clean lines and family cruising comfort, Beneteau produces a line of sailboats that catch the eye without straining the pocketbook.
What Do You Get with a Beneteau Boat?
- Unique and Comfortable Interior Layouts – Your crew or family will feel pampered when onboard a Beneteau boat.
- Easy Docking System – Beneteau’s 360-degree docking system allows you to maneuver your boat with a joystick to make tight marina spaces a breeze to navigate.
- A Finer Hull for a Better Ride – Even the most seasoned sailors comment on how well Beneteau boats move through the water and minimize pitching and rolling.
- Clear Deck Plans – Beneteau understands that most sailboats are intended for pleasure which makes deck space a premium factor, especially among sailing families who express their love for the clean deck lines of their boats.
6. Island Packet Yachts
I have always thought that Island Packet Yachts build some of the most beautiful cruising sailboats in the world. This company focuses on cruising, and its boat designs reflect the needs of cruising families. Safety, stability, and comfort are the three key ingredients that make Island Packet Yachts outstanding choices for cruising the world.
Anyone who has spent time on a sailboat knows space is at a premium. Island Packet Yachts have some of the most spacious interior designs on the market, which makes living aboard these boats much more pleasant. If you plan on spending much time aboard your sailboat, all the extra interior space you can claim become a luxury.
The focus on extended cruising requires an eye for safety and stability for your boat. Island Packet excels in these categories. The seafaring capabilities of Island Packet Yachts are well documented and one of the favorite features of these boats among owners. A boat that handles conditions well is easier and more comfortable to sail in the long run.
What Do You Get with an Island Packet Yacht?
- Build and Material Qualities – Most Island Packet owners are quick to point out the quality of the construction and material used in their boats, which means fewer problems over the years.
- Full Foil Keel and a Skeg-Hung Rudder – The
- last place you want to have problems when on a cruise is below the waterline. Island Packet continues to include a traditional well-constructed full foil keel and the extra support of a skeg-hung rudder to ensure that below-waterline problems are kept to a minimum.
- Sail Handling and Performance – Island Packet Yachts are not built for racing, but they outperform many comparable boats. The self-tacking jib and 170-percent genoa are favorites among cruising sailors when talking about sails and performance.
- Security Onboard – Island Packet routinely includes a built-in lockbox in their boats to provide a secure place to store your valuables, documents, and other items when onboard.
7. Amel Yachts
If you are looking for innovation and technological sophistication on your sailboat, Amel Yachts should offer you exactly what you want. This company has been building some of the finest blue water cruising yachts in the world for 50+ years and has always had an eye on staying just ahead of the technology curve.
These are not production boatyard sailboats. Amel Yachts works closely with each customer to produce a boat this is uniquely tailored to the owner’s needs and specifications while ensuring the highest quality in the build and the best performance on the water.
In addition, you will probably need to go to France several times during the construction of your yacht, which might be seen as a bonus.
With an eye for tradition, Amel Yachts is always looking forward as well. Advanced engineering and materials have made Amel Yachts some of the most sought-after boats on the water. Such things as the use of carbon fiber in mast construction, flexible couplings on propellor drive shafts, and the latest in electronic controls and navigational equipment are standard issue items.
What Do You Get with an Amel Yacht?
- Eye Catching Lines – Owners are understandably proud of their Amel Yachts and often mention how these boats look on the water.
- Technologically Advanced Designs – Among the most popular and often spoken about features on Amel Yachts are the solar panels fitted to these boats.
- Environmentally Sound Concepts – Sailors are usually much more attuned to the environment than their land-based counterparts. Amel Yachts’ use of environmentally friendly anti-fouling paints and the bonus of extra grey water holding tanks are popular among owners who understand the need to protect the water they love.
- Comfortable on the Water Experiences – Most Amel owners comment on how well these boats ride due to the lower center of gravity that is a feature in most Amel Yacht designs.
8. Nautor’s Swan
On the flip side of the coin, if you want a fast and dependable sailboat that you can also cruise, a Nautor’s Swan should be on your top choice list. Based in Finland, this company has built a reputation for designing and building high-quality sailboats that match speed with stability and safety. Yes, you can go fast in comfort.
These boats are not only fast and comfortable, but they are also surprisingly responsive and easy to handle. Using foam=filled fiberglass construction coupled with space-age material like carbon fiber, Nautor’s Swan has an unmatched record for performance and safety. You can cruise leisurely with your family or put on your best crew and expect to compete successfully with almost any other boat.
You don’t have to sacrifice comfort to gain an advantage in speed and performance. Nautor’s Swan boats are designed for cruising comfort and performance results. The hull designs give stable safe rides through even the roughest water to give you a feeling of confidence with your sailboat.
What Do You Get with a Nautor’s Swan?
- Production Boat or Custom Build Choices – Customers of Swan have two choices. You can buy a production model or visit their custom design shop to get a boat tailored to your exact needs. Most customers choose the middle ground and have one of the production designs customized to their tastes.
- Elegance without Sacrifice – One of the most mentioned features of Nautor’s Swan sailboats are the teak decks featured on their designs which customers love for the elegance this feature yields to their boats.
- Self-Launching Anchors and Electric Winches – Even the most die-hard competitive sailor is fond of the convenience features of Nautor’s Swan boats, such as the self-launching anchor systems and electric winched.
9. Pacific Seacraft
If it is traditional lines you want, take a look at the boats built by Pacific Seacraft. This North Carolina-based yacht builder produces some of the most elegant and eye-catching cruising yachts in the world. These boats are built for comfort and cruising, so don’t expect to win any speed prizes if you choose a Pacific Seacraft design.
On the other hand, if comfort and enjoyment are at the top of your list, you won’t find a better boat. Pacific Seacraft boats are probably a bit overbuilt, making them one of the heavier sailboats per foot on the market. This translates into less speed overall but a more stable and better-handling boat that tends to be less tender when sailing than higher-performance boats.
The stability of these boats is unmatched, and the design lends itself well to safe handling, even with a short-handed crew. This feature alone makes Pacific Seacraft yachts a favorite among live-aboard cruising families that routinely don’t have full crews onboard.
What Do You Get with a Pacific Seacraft Yacht?
- Comfort and Confidence – Families that liveaboard to take extended cruises always mention the space, comfort, and convenience of Pacific Seacraft Yachts as one of the main advantages of these boats.
- Solid Construction for Easy Maintenance – Anyone who does extended cruising knows the importance of regular maintenance. Owners of Pacific Seacraft extoll the solid construction of these boats that make ongoing maintenance chores less intimidating.
- Unmatched Customer Service – Pacific Seacraft supports their boats and their customers with some of the best services in the world. Owners regularly report that Pacific Seacraft is easy to contact, quick to respond, and always helpful.
- Spacious Below Deck Layouts – Live aboard families almost always speak about the creature comforts built into their Pacific Seacraft yacht and in particular, mention how spacious these boats seem below decks.
10. Tartan Yachts
Tartan Yachts has taken a slightly different approach to the concept of cruising with] its sailboat designs. Tartan has made building the strongest, lightest, and safest sailboats in the industry a priority in the business model. They have approached this priority with narrow designs at the water line but provide wider passages.
For those sailors who want comfort, safety, and above-average sailing performance, this makes a perfect combination. In addition, if you want to purchase a boat that holds its value with time better than many other models, you should investigate Tartan. By and large, used Tartans almost always go for a premium price among used sailboats.
You won’t be sacrificing comfort or dependability with a Tartan design. Tartan is well known among owners and enthusiasts as easy to live aboard boats that are simple to maintain, providing years of service. If you anticipate long cruises, a Tartan can be a solid choice.
What Do You Get with a Tartan Yacht?
- A Reputation for Solid Construction – Many Tartan owners admit that Tartan’s reputation for building well-constructed boats that are safe and easy to sail was one of the biggest selling points.
- Performance without Sacrificing Comfort – No one wants to be the last one to port when you are cruising with a group. Tartan designs put performance and comfort side by side.
- Easy Sailing – Most Tartan owners feel like their Tartan Yacht is a forgiving and solid boat that provides an extra level of safety.
- Value – You may not anticipate trading boats very often, but it is nice to know that Tartan boats seem to hold their value better than many other comparable sailboats from other manufacturers.
11. Oyster Sailboats
If I were to use automobiles as an analogy for sailboats, the Wally Yachts would be on par with Mercedes Benz, while Beneteau and Cataline would be comparable to Cadillac or Lexus. I would have to put Oyster Sailboats on par with Bentley as some of the most luxurious sailing yachts on the market today.
Oyster Yachts, a British manufacturer, likes to call their sailboats hybrid adventure machines that bring owners life-enhancing experiences. I would say it more simply. If you want the best performance, comfort, and visual appeal, Oyster Sailboats should be your first stop. Oyster provides the utmost luxury but doesn’t come up short in the performance or safety categories.
Oyster Sailboats are considered thoroughbreds in the sailing world. These boats have logged over 20 million sailing miles and can account for more than 90 sailing circumnavigations of the globe. These numbers support the assertion that Oyster Sailboats are among the best and most prestigious sailing vessels available.
What Do You Get with an Oyster Sailboat?
- Unmatched Elegance – Ask an owner what sets their Oyster Sailboat apart and without hesitation, most will say the elegant and luxurious appointments that these boats bring.
- Unrivaled Construction – Sailors rarely equate luxury with sailing ability, but in the case of Oyster Boats, most owners consider their Oyster sailboats to be among the safest available based on the quality of construction and materials.
- Handling and Performance – Being at the helm of an Oyster Sailboat prompts owners of these boats to make statements like, “the best handling sailboat I have ever sailed,” and “I wouldn’t hesitate to take my family and this boat anywhere under any conditions.”
- Classic Looks – Despite the leading-edge technologies and designs that incorporate the best new ideas, Oyster sailboats are respected among veteran sailors for their classic looks.
12. Hinckley Yachts
Since 1928, Hinckley has been building top-of-the-line sailboats. This veteran company continues to bring designs with classic shapes, strong construction, and dramatic lines. Based in Maine, Hinckley is intimately acquainted with the challenges of sailing the North Atlantic and building boats to meet these challenges head-on. Impeccable craftsmanship is the name of Hinckley’s game, and the results speak for themselves.
Despite the classic lines of their boats, Hinckley manages to incorporate the best of modern performance design and technologies for construction. Utilizing carbon fiber, Kevlar and computer-designed load paths, the boats are some of the most structurally advanced on the market.
However, advanced technology and performance don’t detract from the comfort of these boats. From the ease with which they sail to the small details and amenities that are often overlooked by other boat manufacturers, Oyster Sailboats put customer satisfaction, safety, and comfort front and center.
What Do You Get with a Hinckley Yacht?
- Above Average Construction – Hinckley owners make no secret of how much they hold the construction of their boats in high regard. The quality of Hinckley’s construction is one of the most often noted reasons for purchasing a boat.
- Rich Appointments for a Warm Feel – Many boat owners understand that fiberglass just doesn’t give a feeling of comfort. Hinckley combats this perception by generously using wood inside their boats to bring a rich feeling of luxury.
- Stability and Comfort – Thanks to the Hinckley gyro-stabilization system, owners are assured one of the most comfortable rides in almost any kind of sea.
- Customer Service – Hinckley’s Yachtcare program is often cited as one of the best reasons to own a Hinckley sailboat. This program features mobile service teams, yacht delivery, and routine maintenance, which is often the bane of owning this kind of boat.
13. Hylas Sailing Yachts
Our modern consumable society has spawned a tradition of throw-away products produced in China that are focused more on price than on quality. Wrapping our heads around the idea that one of the best yacht manufacturers is, in fact, based in Taiwan is almost unfathomable. However, in the case of Hylas Sailing Yachts, this is the case.
Hylas, a division of Queen Long Marine Shipyard, has built a reputation for building bespoke yachts for discriminating customers in the custom luxury yacht area. Hylas doesn’t work through brokers or dealers. This innovative company prefers to deal directly with their customer to ensure that complete satisfaction is the result.
The center cockpit design of Hylas’ popular yachts is the centerpiece of their designs. In addition to incorporating the latest in technological designs and materials, Hylas uses almost complete wooden linings on their composite hulls to give their boats rich and warm interiors that exhibit the finest of joinery.
What Do You Get with a Hylas Sailing Yacht?
- Solid Core Fiberglass Construction – Owners of Hylas yachts rave about solid core construction. Foam core is much lighter but tends also to be much less rigid than solid core construction.
- Uncompromising Quality – Those who sail Hylas yachts brag about the quality of the materials used in these boats. Stainless steel tankage, skeg-hung rudders, and the use of Twaron bulletproof fabric in the hulls provide a level of trust that many boat owners can’t understand.
- Immaculate Construction Standards – How many other boat owners brag about the neatness of the wiring on their boats? Some even make it a point to show off the meticulous way the wiring and plumbing in Hylas boats are installed.
- Unbelievable Storage and Stowage – The innovative use of space and the care with which these boats are designed to allow Hylas owners to enjoy an above-average amount of storage space.
14. Sparkman & Stephens
Sparkman & Stephens are a bit different in the way they view themselves. This company is not just a sailboat manufacturer. Sparkman & Stephens consider themselves more of a naval architecture firm than just a boat-building company. It is this way of thinking that affects each boat that is spawned from the Sparkman & Stephens shops.
Tradition is a huge part of the Sparkman & Stephens design philosophy, but it doesn’t get in the way of innovation and sophistication. Incorporating the best of traditional designs and concepts with the latest and greatest in materials, technologies and engineering is at the core of the boat designs from this company. These concepts tend to take the sailing experience to an entirely new level.
Sparkman and Stephens take a very analytical approach to boat design. Every hull form is thoroughly analyzed and tested using the latest in computer modeling technology. Tank testing is done on most designs to ensure the performance and safety characteristics of each design meet their exacting standards.
What Do You Get with A Sparkman & Stephens Sailboat?
- Unmistakable Designs – Owners of Sparkman & Stephens sailboats enjoy almost instant recognition at any port they visit. The combination of hull forms and profile ensures everyone knows you are sailing an S&S design.
- A Most Functional Cockpit – Experienced sailors often remark that the S&S sailboats have the most functional cockpit designs and layouts they have encountered.
- Trim and Finish Details – The quality of S&S sailboats doesn’t stop at the boat’s exterior. Inside, owners find the finest in joinery and finish possible to complete the overall feeling of luxury in these boats.
- Sailing Characteristics – Ask an S&S owner to describe the way their boat sails, and you will usually get a huge grin and an exuberant “GREAT” as the answer. By and large S&S owners rave about the way these boats handle, maneuver, and perform on the water.