Pocket cruiser

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A pocket cruiser, microcruiser, trailer sailer or pocket yacht is a small lightweight sailboat with a cabin, designed for recreational cruising. Pocket cruisers can be readily loaded on a trailer and towed by most passenger automobiles. Both commercially made and designs for home built pocket cruisers are available. In spite of its name, this type of vessel is completely unrelated to the pocket battleship.


A Savage Nautilus, "Bullwinkle".

Pocket cruisers range in length from 10 to about 26 feet (3 to about 8 m), with some variation, depending on individual requirements. Most are in the range of 15 to 20 feet (5 to 6 m) long, with a beam around 6 feet (2 m). Commercial models generally have either a short, ballasted shoal draft keel or a weighted centerboard, while home-built designs often use water ballast and leeboards. The short length and low weight of most pocket cruisers (and short keels on models with fixed keels) allow them to be trailered easily.[citation needed]

While the short overall length keeps most of these boats to inland waters or onshore sailing, many have keels or other forms of ballast (often water ballast) that allow them to be self-righting from angles of 90 degrees or more, which is usually not the case for similarly sized day sailers. Many people have sailed pocket cruisers long distances across open ocean, including a number of Atlantic crossings. There has been at least one circumnavigation of the globe by a pocket cruiser.[1]

The cabin also makes it possible to keep the pocket cruiser out for extended periods of time. They will generally provide enough space to sleep two adults, with the larger examples sleeping up to six; although at that point two of the berths (known as "quarter berths") are generally under the cockpit seats and are often only suited for children. The ability to sleep aboard makes weekend outings popular.[citation needed]


Pocket cruisers are, in general, not fast boats; the short waterline and wide beam required to provide the basic accommodations generally limit their speed. Because of this, designers are willing to sacrifice additional performance for ease of use. Traditional rigs, like gaff rigs, are not uncommon, compared to the nearly universal high aspect Bermuda rigs found on other modern sailboats. The lower aspect rigs lose some windward abilities, but make up for it in superior downwind performance and ease of use. The West Wight Potter 15, for example, uses a unique sail design that is a cross between a gaff sail and a Bermuda sail, which gives it more sail area on a shorter mast than would be possible with a true Bermuda sail; this gives a greater sail area with less heeling force than a taller, narrower sail.

Closeness to the water, smaller relative size compared to the wave height, and a lighter ballast to displacement ratio can combine to create a perception of high performance. Some selected small cruisers are designed with flat profiled aft bottom sections and are capable of actually coming up on a plane in breezy to marginal wind conditions.[citation needed]


Line drawing of Guppy 13 pocket cruiser.

One of the smaller commercial pocket cruisers was the Guppy 13, made by Melen Marine Ltd. in California. They made about 300 of them in the period between 1974 and 1975. The Guppy was a fiberglass boat with a shoal draft keel, and would sleep 2 adults in a 6 ft 8 in (2.0 m) cabin. Overall length was 12 ft 6 in (3.8 m), beam was 5 ft 7 in (1.7 m); displacement was 480 lb (218 kg) with 150 lb (68 kg) of ballast in the keel. It drew 1 ft 7 in (480 mm) empty, and flew a Bermuda rig consisting of a 32 square feet (3 m²) high aspect main sail and a 48 square feet (4.5 m²) jib (technically a genoa since it overlapped the main). Length at waterline was 11 ft 10 in (3.6 m), giving a hull speed of just under 4.5 knots (8 km/h). The shallow V hull was not designed to plane, but is generally considered very capable at cutting through choppy water.[citation needed]

In Australia, the best known and most popular pocket cruiser is the locally produced Savage Nautilus, a shoal draft yacht of 19 feet 4 inches (5.89 m) length overall with a 7 feet 10 inches (2.39 m) beam and a full length keel that draws only 2 feet 9 inches (0.84 m). Fitted with an 8 horsepower (6.0 kW) Yanmar diesel inboard motor (an unusual feature in a boat so small) and capable of sleeping four adults, they were produced in large numbers and have proved incredibly popular with Australian pocket cruising enthusiasts. Loosely based on a lifeboat design, they are sufficiently stable and heavily constructed to sail offshore and some have made long distance blue water crossings, such as the notorious waters of Bass Strait, between mainland Australia and the island state of Tasmania (including the pictured example, "Bullwinkle", which was sailed from Brisbane to Hobart).[citation needed]

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