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Hi, I've been looking at yachts for years and think I'll get a trailer sailer soon, never sailed, keen to learn....are they a good starting point?

In the long run I would want one for cruising good overnight trips once at a confident level.


If I was to get one, what are some important things to look out for in a trailer sailer?

And what is a decent price range? I was looking at $5000-$10000


Also is there a tradeoff in size? I would want one big enough to sleep us for a night or two but are trailer sailers pushing it when it comes to a crusing size ?


Cheers guys, look forward to the feedback :)

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Yes many people had a TS as a first boat. We had a Tasman 20 when I was a kid, but both Dad and I new how to sail before we got it. If you've never sailed before I'd suggest you get some lessons before buying any boat.


That aside; the best boat to buy is one that has been in use and kept maintained, you will pay more for such a boat but it will be cheaper in the long run. Avoid orphan designs, 'projects' and boats that have been parked up unused or left on a mooring for years. Trailers and sails can cost a lot of money to replace, which you will be unlikely to get back on resale.


As an example only: http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/boats-marine/yachts/trailersailer/auction-1006838822.htm

Assuming it is as described; good sails, alloy trailer that's been kept reg and WOFed, new squabs, lots of extras, proven design from one of NZs best designers and builders etc. etc. If the outboard is good that's a plus but they can be replaced fairly cheaply. IMO you are better to pay 10k for a boat you can use straight away rather than a cheaper one that needs work or big $$ spent before you can sail it. 


Whether a 20 footer is big enough is really up to you, how many people you expect to take, and what your comfort expectations are. 

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Does the size limit you to certain distances? Eg an 18 vs a 22 would the larger be more sea worthy? Like an excursion offshore to say gbi or mercury islands etc or does size not matter as much as build model/design?

 Ask Andrew Fagan about that one, I think Swirly World is only 17ft?? It comes down to basically the sailor and then the boat.


From my personal experience we started off as young kids in the p class etc. I then had a break for a few years and started up again in my late 20's with sailing a sunburst and moved on from there. 


Anyway to cut a long and rather boring story short I went with a 20 Jim young and sailed it everywhere for a few years until I decided I would like more comfort. While I was still in the trailer sailer mode I got a farr 7five00 ( sorry five key has stopped working) and towed that all around the country for five years. Then as it was a wanted model and easy to sell I sold it and went to a farr 40. That had to be sold after a divorce and now I have a 32ft liveaboard ferro hartley that owns me nothing.


So for my 2 cents worth I would recommend something around the 20ft range that is a known design with easy resale. If the bug bites then you can move it on quickly and buy something else that suits where you are heading. If you are happy with it then you have a good boat.


Distance out to GBI etc really depends on the sailor and knowing the limits of you and the boat. I happily sailed my 20ft across cook strait many times, it was a very wet boat and loved to get up and plane in 20 knots of breeze, never felt unsafe and only wiped out once when hit with 40 knot gust that I wasn't expecting.


Some people head down the path of going bigger as time passes by and they do more sailing and further away. And then some like me find us heading back in the other direction and back to a smaller design but just as seaworthy but easier and cheaper to run


Join or volunteer at a local kids sailing club or with Sailability NZ and you will learn to sail. Always good to get the basic's on board, when I started back into sailing I did a year with the local yacht club in Picton and sailed sunbursts every week. Go and talk to people who have the same boat designs that you are interested in. People love talking about their boats and you will soon enough learn the bad points and maybe get out on a few.

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I had 2 trailer sailors before I brought my current keeler. 


I started with a Kestrel 18 but very quickly grew out of that. I learnt a lot in her but they are not very stable and quite small inside and I wanted something that I could cross cook strait in and cruise the sounds so I brought a 25 ft trailer sailer, which was much more seaworthy and comfortable. But when getting up to this size TS I had to buy a bigger towing vehicle. But I did cross Cook Strait several times in that TS, sailing as far as Abel Tasman park.


In general terms bigger does mean more seaworthy and faster more comfortable sailing, but there is much to it than size, Different designs have different strengths and weaknesses. Light and fast verses heavy and seaworthy.


Remember the trailer is about half of the value of a TS,so don't neglect to inspect the trailer. When looking I came across a TS that was on a steel trailer that had been bogged with builders bog and painted over.


No one can answer the question of what boat to get, It is all up to what you want, some people happily cruise in incredibly small yachts and never get anything larger.

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Thanks for that, great info! When you mention wiped out...how/why did that happen and how did you rectify it....I thought it was hard to capsize a yacht...well keelers at least.


Ummmm.... google chinese gybe.......



I have crewed on a sixty five foot yacht and that happened to us....


In my yacht we had 800l water ballast. Had it set up so we could drain the water when running downhill, so we had on this day. 30 knots behind us, keel half up, about 100l water left on board, hitting sixteen knots while surfing down waves, wind gust from 90 degrees, all over........ lol. Mast in the water, my crew mate overboard and one rather pissed off dog who was asleep in the cabin.


So not really the sort of situation you would put yourself in as a novice or not well aware of what you or you yacht can do.


How did I rectify it?? Gave the dog a pat and told her it was ok and gave her a biscuit, problem solved!! Just got things back together and did it all over again although did put one reef in the main.


But that was an example of knowing what the boat could do and pushing it all the time till you know it inside out and running on the edge of your ability. 

Had I been sensible or had the wife on board we would of had three reefs in the main and sailing under that only doing about six knots and having a pleasant sail, even if a bit wet.


Wouldn't sail like that now but my yacht isn't designed to do that. If it ever started surfing down waves I would be pack my underpants with brown smelly stuff.

I personally think a 20ft fiberglass boat designed for cruising is the way to go, lots of choices so get out and start looking and learning to sail.

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Agree with most of what has been written above.


In my humble opinion, it's hard to go past the Merlin 6.1 as a 20 foot trailer yacht. Reasonable speed, good stability, and quite roomy for their size. Also the Coronet 20, although they are quite a bit heavier.


On similar threads, people have referred to the NZTYA ratings numbers as gospel. They aren't. While the SRI shows ultimate righting ability from a knockdown, it doesn't really factor in the likes of hull form stability. Or at least it didn't, they may have changed the formula by now. The NZTYA rating, like any performance based system, shows that the boats with the biggest fleets and/or best sailors go faster, but this is often just because they are being sailed better.


An example of that is the Davidson M20. They look a bit tug-boat-esque, and are usually just cruised, joining in the occasional race where they finish near the back. There was one racing in Whangarei a few years back, and when the good guys got on it, they took line honours amongst the mixed 20 footers, beating the merlins, coronets, caribous, and tasmans.


I just saw this on Trademe, used to belong to a friend of mine, was well sorted out back then. Could be worth a look.


Edited by madyottie
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I would suggest you check out the NZ Trailer yacht site (http://www.nztya.nz/trailer-yachts.html) and read through the reviews. They are dated but contain good background info. Where are you based as that can have an influence. Also check out the near by yacht clubs that have fleets.

There are a few designs that have stood the test of time well.... With no preference ones like Farr 6000 or 7500, the Noelex's, Bonito 22, Merlin, Sabre 20 an 22, Tasman 20, Gazelle, Whiting 22, D20 etc.

As others have commented a looked after one is best.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think there are some real advantages of choosing a trailer sailor as a cruising yacht rather then a keel boat.


The obvious; neither mooring fees nor anti-fouling (ok you might have trailer park costs but they’re significantly cheaper).


An outboard motor; so much simpler. You can take the motor to the repair shop. And an inboard motor adds so very many extra systems, (water, exhaust, fuel, electricity etc), through hulls etc. For that matter you can take the entire boat and trailer for maintenance/repair, even if it's only to your own home. 


If you want to take your boat for a sail around say Lake Taupo, it’s very simple. Don’t know where you’re based but 2 or 3 posts above have mentioned they’ve sailed Cook Strait. But you could also take the boat on the Ferry, that’s a big advantage. Just this week I know of several boats that have had to be left at Picton/Waikawa because their owners had to get back to Welly for work last Monday. That can quickly become expensive, obviously mooring fees, but also now there will be added cost of getting self and crew back down to Picton to bring the boat back in a suitable weather window.


Actually on this I remember once being at D’Urville and boat developed a prop shaft problem. We decided safest to sail to Nelson, (rather than back to Wellington), where the boat could be repaired. But due to weather, and commitments etc it was six weeks before we could get back down to Nelson and sail her home. The mooring fees were pretty horrible, and of course it’s not like your home marina stops charging because the boat isn’t parked in her spot.


And of course in choosing your cruising destination you can drive there. You want to go and sail Fiordland or Bay of Islands or wherever, it’s easy. Whereas with a keel boat, whilst the sailing to/from the destination maybe lots of fun, (and I’m not knocking that), who has the time? Most of us have work responsibilities. I would so enjoy sailing my boat round the Coromandel, trouble is that it's the best part of weeks trip just to get there and a week to get home again (assuming the weather is playing ball). And as above, if something goes amiss much more difficult and expensive to correct away from your home base.

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