Shoal-draft pocket cruiser recommendations?
Newbie here! Decades ago in my teens I sailed dinghies and beach cats on the NJ shore – now looking to get back to sailing on the Gulf and ICW near Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg, FL.
Looking for a versatile shoal draft pocket cruiser for shallow local waters. Mostly for day-sailing initially, much of that single-handed or with inexperienced “crew,” with a few overnights and weekends (1-4 people) tossed in. Ideally, this boat would also have the capacity for longer-range coastal cruising as my skills improve – FL west coast to the Keys and Tortugas, and perhaps even to Bimini/Bahamas, and up the US east coast to mid-coast Maine. (I can dream!)
Looking to keep LOA below 27 feet, and minimum draft as close to 2 feet as possible, and preferably even lower. My dock is half-dry at low tide (I’ll probably put in a lift and may have to dredge, which affects the budget). The boat must have a swing keel, keel/centerboard, lifting keel, dagger-board, or twin/bilge keel, etc. Boat budget is $5-10K.
While I’ve had a few opportunities to crew on 22-28’ sloops locally, most of my research to date has been on-line. There are many apparent possibilities. I hope to winnow them down by asking for comments here - particularly from those who have owned or sailed any of the boats listed below.
More cruiser than racer (I don’t plan to race):
Com-Pac sloops - 21/23/25, Eclipse
Com-Pac cat boats - Horizon/Suncat
West Wight Potter 19
Yankee 24 (Sea Horse or Dolphin)
More racer than cruiser (don’t mind a fast cruiser with decent accommodations):
San Juan 21/23/24/26
From what I’ve read – and please don’t be offended if you own one of these – the Hunter and MacGregor/Venture boats are built a little less sturdy than I’d prefer.
Would like a low-maintenance boat that sails pretty well at all points of sail, is forgiving of operator error/inexperience, is reasonably comfortable, is fairly fast in light/moderate winds, and is sturdy enough to handle the occasional 25-40 knot winds and 5-8 foot waves that sometimes appear suddenly in the Gulf. Not looking for a boat that requires a lot of owner repairs, replacements, or add-ons (unless a prior owner has done them) – I’m not that handy.
All that being said, any comments or recommendations on any of the above? Or perhaps another boat not on the list that fits the bill? Many thanks in advance!