My British colleague Rupert Holmes recently wrote about the center cockpit cruisers that have topped the list of classic sailboats on the right side of the pond – in Europe that is—in 8 Great Centre Cockpit Cruising Yachts. Rupert’s choices are great boats, but they aren’t necessarily common on U.S. waters. So here’s my take on six other models that you’ll see (and be able to buy) here, on both the East and West Coasts.
Determining the original designer of this sailboat has been tricky. Some have tried to attribute the model to Robert Perry or Sparkman & Stephens but it was most likely Bryce Fuhriman, who may have “borrowed” a Ted Brewer design.
This model is actually 50 feet LOA, and 48 feet on deck. The draft is 6 feet of fully encapsulated, elongated fin keel, consisting of two solid lead castings. The hull is balsa cored to the waterline with solid glass reinforcement at the chainplates and thruhulls.
One of the highlights of this model is the expansive owner’s suite aft, with a king-sized centerline bed and a head with a separate shower stall and seat. Another remarkable feature is the engine room with its own door. This dedicated, well-insulated and well-lighted machinery space allows access to all sides of the engine – originally a 62 HP Perkins or Lehman. On the starboard side of the engine there’s a cabinet and room for additional equipment like a water-maker. To port, there’s enough space for a small genset and the forward bulkhead has plenty of room for equipment installation including a battery charger, fuel filters, and the raw water strainer.
The Celestial 48 ketch is a good light-wind performer and is surprisingly agile for a center cockpit cruiser with a displacement of 27,000 lbs. With all canvas up, the boat will do six to seven knots on a close reach and nine knots on a beam or broad reach in about 15 knots of true wind. Due to the rounded bilge design, it’s best to reef this model early as she doesn’t like to be on her ear.
Celestials were built until 2002 when the Xiamen yard was reorganized and focused on building Passport and Outbound yachts. The original ketches were built from 1985 to 1988 but they were imported into the European market as sloops well into the 1990s. These boats are true long-distance cruisers, with 250 gallons of fuel and 200-250 gallons of water, both kept in integrated fiberglass tanks that are below the cabin sole.
See Celestial 48 listings.
Cheoy Lee 44
This boat's construction features a cored sandwich with solid glass below the waterline. They were available in center or aft cockpit versions with ketch or cutter rigs. The underbody is an elongated fin keel with internal ballast and a skeg-hung rudder. The boat is heavily laid up without a liner – the stringers and bulkheads are tabbed to the hull and deck and the design is fairly stiff. The boat has a fine entry, a wineglass-shaped transom, relatively low freeboard and really lovely lines overall.
Whether rigged as a ketch or sloop, these boats were easily managed short or single-handed and carried 900 to 950 square feet of sail. The spars were deck-stepped and in some cases wood. Hatches and ports have been a source of consternation, earning the boats the nickname ‘Cheoy Leaky.’ Look for a boat where the previous owner has already replaced them, as it can be a $20,000 job.
The center cockpit model provides a seating area with a deep well and has great angled seatbacks that make it comfortable. It will seat six easily and is a good width for bracing with your feet when heeling. The companion entryway is offset to starboard and there is plenty of good bulkhead space for the installation of instruments. Overall, the center cockpit provides excellent visibility both out to the sides and forward, and has a secure feeling to it.
Interior stowage on the 44 is excellent and the number of drawers and cubbyholes make most other boat owners jealous.
See Cheoy Lee 44 listings.
The 44-foot German Frers design has sleek profile and is 44’2” LOA with a 13’6” beam. Her mini-winged fin keel draws only 4’9” in the shoal draft version. She was designed as a sloop with a tapered keel-stepped spar that carried 864 square feet of sail area. The high-aspect, masthead, double-spreader rig came with a conventional hoist or in-mast furling mainsail. Dead downwind, the large main tends to block the 130% genoa and ends up doing all the work.
The Hylas layout is a modern design that ensures everyone aboard will enjoy comfort and privacy. The spacious interior begins with an offset V-berth forward followed by a head and shower combination to port. The saloon features a U-shaped settee to port with a straight settee to starboard that converts into a double bunk or makes a good sea berth with a lee cloth. This is the place to sleep while passage-making.
Dual passageways lead aft with the galley to starboard, the navigation station to port and the engine compartment in the middle. The engine space is insulated and accessible from the galley on one side and the aft head on the other side. The hinged companionway steps swing out into the saloon to allow access to the front of the engine without having to stow bits of the steps in an unsecured manner in the main living area. The aft stateroom has a centerline queen berth and plenty of storage around and below. A walk-through head with a separate shower compartment is to port.
These boats have a long history of combining quality, performance, and value, and many were used as charter boats in the Caribbean throughout the 1980s and 90s. They are plentiful on the East Coast, especially around Florida.
Read Hylas 56: Luxurious Bluewater Cruiser to learn about a newer, larger Hylas center cockpit sailboat.
See Hylas 44 listings.
Jack Kelly, one of the two success factors behind the Peterson 44, sought to build 10 boats, sell nine, and keep one for himself to go cruising. He teamed with newcomer Doug Peterson to design his dream boat. The model was well-received and a couple of hundred hulls later he still had not left on his cruise because he was too busy running a successful boatbuilding business. Kelly hired an American shipwright, who moved to Taiwan and supervised the construction from 1976-83.
This boat was really the performance cruiser of its time, with an underbody designed to move. The elongated fin keel holds encapsulated iron ballast, the rudder is fully skeg-hung, and the propeller is completely protected between the skeg and the keel. The 44 has a fine entry and a wineglass-shaped transom. The ballast to displacement ratio of 33-percent keeps it upright even in tough conditions. Not surprisingly, 180 nautical mile days are attainable.
The interior is a classic two-cabin, two-head layout. A U-shaped galley is to port with a large freezer under the companionway steps, a stove, a double stainless steel sink close to the centerline and plenty of countertop space. A large, forward-facing nav station is to starboard, opposite the galley. The passageway to the aft cabin is directly behind the nav station on the starboard side and requires stooping to get through—this has been a deal-breaker for some who want to be able to walk aft while upright.
Over 200 hulls were built of this design and some were put in charter fleets in warm waters, which is why you’ll see them everywhere even today. Kelly and Peterson were both from San Diego, and many of the 44s sold on the West Coast.
See Peterson 44 listings.
A step up in prestige and price tag is the Taswell line of cruisers, which has models from 43 to 58 feet. The 49 (built from 1989-2002) actually accounted for the lion’s share of the 100+ hulls launched; then somewhere in the process, the original hull was stretched a foot and the Taswell 50 was introduced. The tooling was destroyed after about 50 hulls were built. These Bill Dixon designs were built in Ta Shing, a superior Far East yard that was known for its exquisite joinery. (Read Perry Design Review: Taswell 56, for Bob Perry’s take on the 50’s larger sibling).
The Taswell 49 has a modern underbody with a fin keel and partial skeg rudder. The boats are fast and the rig is versatile, offering different sail plan configurations to accommodate most wind conditions. The boat’s 15-foot beam is apparent throughout the widest part of the saloon, with its circular port-side dinette and dedicated nav station just aft. In addition to the nice aft stateroom, this model offered two guest cabins with an over/under version that some owners converted to a stowage area or office. Both the fore and aft heads have their own separate stall showers, which means owners need not share their heads with the occasional guest—or they can use one as a wet locker.
Taswell is still building boats, but today the company concentrates on building motoryachts.
See Taswell 49 listings.
The Tayana 42 is a double-ender with a canoe stern. The aft deck is a bit pinched in terms of working space, and some clever stainless work has been created by owners to mount everything from wind vane steering to stern arches on the transom.
Following the trends of the times, the Tayana 42 was designed with a cutaway forefoot keel and a skeg-hung rudder. These models were produced with cutter rigs (good news for anyone managing a blow with a sparse crew) and lots of exterior teak (bad news for anyone allergic to varnishing.)
Perkins supplied the standard engine (50 HP), and tankage was good with 150 gallons of water and 120 gallons of fuel. However, tanks were of black iron and should be inspected for overall condition prior to purchasing a used model.
The beauty of a center cockpit is the fore and aft stateroom layout that creates privacy and an aft stateroom with standing headroom; the Tayana 42 delivers on both and adds a nicely crafted saloon in the middle as well. For cruisers of above average height or girth, the Tayana 42 can feel a bit tight in both the cockpit and the accommodations below. Each space seems just a hair too small, even for Goldilocks. For smaller folks, it may fit just right.
See Tayana 42 listings.
These boats are all different in terms of performance and construction details, but they share a similar approach to onboard living solutions by virtue of the center cockpit. It arranges interior spaces to maximize privacy and creates an aft stateroom. Many luxury passagemaking yachts today continue with the center cockpit design, following up on the visionary attention to comfort started by these groundbreaking predecessors.
Some other more modern center cockpit designs you might want to look into include:
Beneteau 42 Center Cockpit: Step Aboard in Style
Oyster 625: Pedigree Under Sail
Saturn 48 RS: An Out-of-this-world Sailboat