Jimmy Cornell gives his expert analysis of the essential features that any offshore cruising yacht should have

Creature comforts

Comfortable sea berths are essential on an offshore passage and there should be at least one all-weather bunk for the person off watch. As we normally spend most of our day sitting, serious thought should also be given to comfortable seating both in the main cabin and cockpit. One aspect that is easily neglected if planning to sail with crew is to have two heads compartments.

Good insulation as well as adequate ventilation with sufficient hatches and dorade boxes for rough weather are features often missing on production boats built for temperate climates. They are vital for cruising in the tropics. Good ventilation and sound insulation are essential for the engine room.

A well thought-out galley should be a priority. Compact, U or L-shaped galleys are to be preferred over open-plan ones. There should be sufficient storage space in the immediate area of the galley so that all essential items are within easy reach.

Good cockpit protection was one of the main items mentioned by the surveyed captains when questioned about essential features on an offshore cruising boat. Some designers have managed to provide this useful feature by incorporating a hard dodger without spoiling the overall looks of the boat, but the majority continue to be limited to soft dodgers.

Engine location and size

The engine location and general accessibility are features that can easily be overlooked although they should be a high priority. All points that need regular inspection or maintenance should be easily accessible. Equally important is easy access to the main components: alternator(s), belts, starter motor, seawater pump and impeller, injectors, oil changing, fuel and oil filters, engine intake seacock, seawater trap, transmission and stern glands.

This is a very tall order and few production monohulls under 40ft would meet half of those requirements. This is one aspect where catamarans win hands down as their engines are normally located in the stern, and in most cases there is enough space around the engine to make them accessible from all sides.

Most cruising sailors, and that includes me, reckon their boat needs a bigger engine. The old yardstick has always been one horsepower per foot of length. Some prefer a slightly higher ratio of 1.2hp per foot of length. Others use a different yardstick by aiming for 5hp per ton of displacement. I broadly agree with the latter.

  1. 1. Hull, keel and rudder
  2. 2. Sails, deck gear and rigging
  3. 3. Creature comforts
  4. 4. Safety
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