The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

A Motorsailer For Offshore Voyaging?

Question: We are a couple aged 60 and 62 considering a 52’ motorsailer for extended cruising to Alaska, Hawaii and beyond. We have attached some details on the boat and would like your opinion of its suitability for our plans. The #1 reason we like the motorsailer concept is the raised and fully enclosed pilothouse, the layout (galley and saloon area) and the large engine.

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I think the real question is where do you want to go with the boat. A motorsailer or trawler might be much better in the Pacific Northwest because of the light air and climate. In the Caribbean the constant wind and warm, outdoor living really favor a sailboat.

I have just turned 70 and I am preparing my new boat (new to me) to sail to the south pacific. During my life time I have put in cruising time on both sail and power boats. About 60K miles sail and 20K miles power. I just went through the same question and decided to go with a light weight sailboat with a long waterline and simple systems and all the lines lead to the cockpit. She is 46 feet with a 39 lwl and only displaces 19,000 pounds. The light displacement means I only need to handle the size sails you would expect on a 38 – 40 boat but I have the speed of a 46 foot boat.

I think the biggest mistake older people make when selecting a boat it that of trying to duplicate their home on the water. Basically a smaller boat requires less muscle especially if you are new to cruising. When everything is going right a big boat is not a problem, young or old.

If you buy a sailboat get one with a good powerful engine and plenty of fuel. Most cruising has 50% powering on average.



I bought an Etchells / Pearson 46 which had been in use by a major university. If you know what an Etchells 22 looks like imagine the same shape hull in 46 feet. She was built in 1972 using high tech methods, as a racer with modest cruiser comforts to be campaigned by the owners of the Pearson Yacht company. She was a big time winner, on both coasts back in the 70’s. She is still very fast but her PHRF rating is 57 which means she has to race against much longer boats. I am in the process of fitting her out as a long distance cruiser to be run by two senior citizens.


Sorry about the late comment. Re: the EP46, do you know if she is the ex-Tantrum or perhaps Hokulele? They didn’t build many, but the construction was very advanced for the time.


Hi Frank,
I think I might know your boat. Did you buy her in the San Francisco bay area? If so you snatched her up before I got around to coming out to take a look. Congratulations!

re motorsailors: I’ve never seen a monohull motorsailor that didn’t appear to be the product of a union between a giraffe and a hippopotamus—guaranteed to be a terrible motor boat and a miserable sailboat.

The catamaran platform is by far the best basis for a successful motorsailor. The weight penalty of engines large enough to drive one at 18 knots rather than 10 is minimal. The necessary design features are two easily driven hulls and retractable daggerboards to clean up the underwater drag. Doesn’t hurt to have a rotating wing mast and an aerodynamic cabin profile instead of the vertical windows made popular by Lagoon and copied by most condomarans. In a mid-50′ catamaran with 100+ hp per hull you have an added safety factor that shouldn’t be discounted even if you rarely motorsail. Let’s say you are sitting in the lagoon on St. Martin with a cat 4 Cape Verde hurricane potentially two days away. You can be 350-400 miles south enjoying a roti in Trinidad the next day instead of becoming a billiard ball for all the inadequately anchored boats in the lagoon.


I’m enamored of many of the decisions which motorsailers allow, such as a forward facing & protected position while keeping watch, good access to engine spaces and technical gear, and the possibility of nice views from living spaces while at anchor or underway.

There are designs like Chuck Paine’s Steadysailer as drawn by Ed Joy which do this in a narrow hull, or an ugly-duckling aluminum pilothouse now for sale in Hawaii named “Minke” which I find intriguing. If choosing this route, its really just an acknowledgment that much of the while time underway many cruisers ARE motorsailing, and that these priorities make sense. If you can tolerate/assume the lower performance under motor, then the sailboat you buy is simply better set up for the anticipated cruising style.

It would also be important to minimize the complexity and expense of the sailing rig and ensure it’s reliability by downsizing the size of the sailplan in order to be somewhat cost-effective. The expense of the rig is largely to promote comfort, extend range and provide occasional moments of quiet travel. If these are important, then the design criteria make sense.

Notably, comfort in the Steadysailer is also achieved by using outriggers, adding expense, unique hazards and becoming really cumbersome when sailing a beam reach. At anchor though, they could eliminate rolling in many circumstances.

Minke is quite an interesting vehicle, since it uses keel-cooling in one of its two keels, which are shallow and provide for drying out on its hull. It has a Alaska fishery type of anchor reel on the bow, and no paint topsides. Someone lucky will certainly find that boat just their type and scarf it up!

Rusty Nail

I purchased Minke and will be sailing her to Alaska this summer. It sails much better than typical motor sailors as the hull is more sailboat than motor sailor but it does lack in sail to displacement ratio. It is certainly a well built vessel but 100-125nm per day may be her best effort by sail or motor. It will do well in the PNW but will need ventilation down south. The waist high rail and full decks for and aft are nice underway too. No doubt the best feature is its livability at anchor.

J Easton

What do you think of a pilothouse like a Truant 37 for coastal sailing in the Pacific northwest ?