August 12th 2013. By Zuzana Prochazka.

Five Affordable Cruisers that are Perfect for Sailing to the Bahamas

If you’re looking for a sailboat under 40 feet and under 100k that can cruise the coast and make overnight passages to the Bahamas, you need to consider these five cruisers.

Planning a cruise to the Bahamas? These five sailboats have what it takes to go the distance, and though they’re older and smaller than some others, that’s what makes them affordable.

ericson 38 cruising sailboat

The Ericson 38 is a performance cruiser that had various designers over the years, and you can still see them club racing today.

Ericson 38
In 1984, Gene Kohlmann of San Francisco began building the Ericson 38 and the design morphed into the 381 and then the 38-200, the last of which were built into the early 90s when Pacific Seacraft purchased the molds. The construction of the 38-200 includes a solid fiberglass hull and half-inch balsa and plywood reinforcement in the deck. Two keel configurations were available with the bulb drawing 5’ 3” and the fin drawing 6’ 6”. The rudder is a balanced spade, foam cored with a fiberglass skin on a stainless-steel stock. The bow is fine with a flare to keep the decks dry and the forefoot from pounding, and the 12-foot beam tapers back to a fairly narrow stern. The 38-200 is easily recognizable due to its moderate overhangs, low freeboard and subtle cabin trunk.

Below, the Ericsons went through an evolutionary process and finally offered a v-berth master cabin forward, a U-shaped settee to port and a straight settee to starboard with a drop-leaf table in the saloon, an L-shaped galley and a second cabin aft which replaced the original quarter berth. The finish was quite nice with plenty of room for a couple and guests for the weekend.

Tankage is 60 gallons of water and 56 of fuel. For longer trips, the water issue could be resolved with a watermaker and there is enough fuel for roughly three days of motoring, which is plenty for most coastal hops. Asking price is generally under $75,000.

Find an Ericson 38 on YachtWorld

Islander 38 cruiser

It took about 700 hours to manufacture one of these modified fin keel, full skeg rudder cruisers.

Islander 36
The Islander 36 (I36) is a true classic and depending on whose numbers you believe, there were somewhere between 700 and 800 hulls built between 1973 and 1986. Alan Gurney’s objective in the design of the I36 was to create a “36-foot yacht that would be a competitive machine but also could cruise a family comfortably.” Since Gurney was also responsible for go fast classics like Windward Passage, Guinevere and Great Britain II, the I36 racing pedigree was guaranteed. These are fast and stiff boats with a 40% ballast to displacement ratio and even 30 years later, they still hold their own on the race course, although feeling a little sluggish in light air.

The hulls are solid glass with a through-bolted plywood-cored deck and an alloy toe rail. Since the hulls stayed mostly the same, the models differed throughout the years by the options and conveniences that were offered, such as folding props and shoal draft keels.

The layout below begins with a sizeable v-berth and a head/shower combination to port. In the salon, there are two straight settees to port and starboard separated with a table that folds up to the bulkhead to create a feeling of spaciousness. An L-shaped galley to starboard has a double sink and a three burner LPG stove. To port, there’s a nav station that faces outboard and the quarter berth behind it forms a seat. Today, this classic cruiser commands a price around $50,000 depending on condition and equipment.

Find an Islander 36 on YachtWorld

catalina 38 sailing

The Catalina 38 was designed as a racer by Sparkman & Stephens and was originally put into production and sold as the Yankee 38.

Catalina 38
One look at its sleek lines and round tumblehome and you can tell it’s an S&S IOR design from the 70′s. Some years later, Catalina bought the molds and Frank Butler made several changes including replacing the flush deck with a cabin house and a more friendly interior, to make the boat more appealing to a coastal cruising market. Some 365 hulls were produced, primarily between 1979 and 1989.

The broad beam of over 11 feet is swept gracefully back to a narrow wineglass transom. The original S&S design included a very sleek swept-back keel that maximized good performance to weather. Catalina later offered an optional shoal-draft version to expand to markets like Florida. The keel-stepped, double spreader, high aspect ratio rig and fine entry made the 38 extremely fast to weather and able to outpoint many competitors of its time.

Aft of the anchor locker is a comfortable v-berth followed by a head and shower combination to port with a hanging locker to starboard. The saloon follows with a U-shaped settee to port and a straight settee to starboard. The galley came with a two-burner stove, a double sink and an icebox. The nav station is just forward of the quarter berth (which forms the nav seat) to starboard. Catalina 38’s typically range in price from $35,000 to $55,000.

Find a Catalina 38 on YachtWorld

sabre 38 sailboat

The Sabre 38 was designated as a performance cruiser with fast passage-making capabilities.

Sabre 38
Another timeless design is the Sabre 38, which takes it up a notch both in terms of quality and price. Roger Hewson, who started Sabre in 1970, also served as chief designer of many of the early models. About 100 of the Sabre 38 MK I hulls were built before it evolved into the MK II that put another 115 hulls into production.

This cruising sailboat has a fine entry to go to weather and a nice reverse transom that gives her a sleek profile. Below the waterline, the swept back fin keel provides an entirely modern underbody that came standard with a deep draft or an optional keel centerboard. The MK I had a solid glass construction but the MK II had balsa cored hulls and decks. A teak caprail topped the hull-to-deck joint. It’s pretty, but it requires maintenance and is less useful than an aluminum toe rail.

Below, the MK II evolved into a more comfortable layout with an aft cabin rather than a quarterberth, and a U-shaped settee. The master cabin forward has a vanity with a sink. The aft-facing nav station is just ahead of the large head to starboard. Tucking the head way back in the hull opened up both the saloon and the master cabin.

The Sabre 38 is a pure sailing boat. It does well in both light and heavy air, accelerates easily and due to its fin keel, maneuvers well in close quarters. The 45 gallons of fuel is a bit light but will get you to the Bahamas without needing to tank up.

Even a 25-year old Sabre 38 will still command a price of $75,000 for MK I, and well over $100,000 for a MK II. Either way, you’ll be looking at a fast, easily-managed boat that will cruise in style.

Find a Sabre 38 on YachtWorld

beneteau sailboat

Beneteau launched the first of their Oceanis line in 1986 and refined it continuously; the 393 has an excellent reputation among cruisers.

Beneteau Oceanis 393
Almost on the opposite end of the spectrum of older and classic is a more modern production boat, the Beneteau Oceanis 393. These are seaworthy boats that tend to travel. More Beneteaus have crossed an ocean than any other brand, and the Oceanis line is quite capable of a gulfstream trip and beyond.

The 393 became an almost instant hit with the market. The deck-stepped masthead rig has two sets of aft-swept spreaders and a split backstay so it’s easy to board from the stern. The fin keel has two options with the deeper version providing better upwind performance. Docking and maneuvering is easy due to the spade rudder and narrow fin keel.

There are two interior layouts from which to choose. The owner version has double cabins, two heads, a U-shaped galley and a nav station. The charter or family layout has three cabins, two heads and an in-line galley to starboard. Depending on how you like to cruise, these designs offer options. The tradeoff is price. An Oceanis 393 lists for $80,000 for the older models and well over $100,000 for models from six to eight years ago

Find a Beneteau Oceanis 393 on YachtWorld

When your cruising plans include crossing the Gulf Stream and its big square waves, these five classic designs offer capable hulls with comfy accommodations and a good turn of speed. And best of all, these budget buys will provide just as much fun as anything new you might have just seen at the boat show.

Interested in cruising sailboats with longer legs and a bit more capability? Check out Classic Plastic: 10 Affordable Used Sailboats for Cruising.



Zuzana Prochazka
Zuzana Prochazka is a writer and photographer who freelances for a dozen boating magazines and websites. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana has cruised, chartered and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world and serves as a presenter on charter destinations and topics. She is the Chair of the New Product Awards committee, judging innovative boats and gear at NMMA and NMEA shows, and currently serves as immediate past president of Boating Writers International. She contributes to Boats.com and YachtWorld.com, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site, TalkoftheDock.com.