There are still those who value the classic lines, sailing qualities and bullet proof construction of a long-keel yacht. For them, these attributes trump the typical drawbacks of limited internal volume, slower speeds under sail and a tendency to roll when sailing downwind. This is often particularly true for those looking for an inexpensive, yet strong, boat for long-distance adventuring (see also: 10 essentials for long distance cruising).



Folkboat: long keel yachts

Over 4,000 Folkboats have been built with at least four builders still listed as official sellers.

This enduring 25ft design has been in almost constant production since its inception in a 1942, with more than 4,000 examples built. The Folkboat originated in a Scandinavian Yacht Racing Union design competition and has since inspired dozens of derivative designs. The original boats were of low-cost clinker timber construction, with carvel planking adopted from the late 1940s and fibreglass in the 1970s.

The boat is characterised by low freeboard, a small cabin with two simple bunks and open cockpit. Later modifications adopted by some builders included self-draining cockpits and a much larger coachroof that significantly improved the sparse accommodation, but at the expense of style.

Folkboats sail like a dream and are still competitively raced throughout Scandinavia, as well as in Germany, the UK and further afield. A massive 55 per cent ballast ratio makes the boats very stiff in heavy weather, so Folkboats quickly became a popular choice for those looking to sail long distances on miniscule budgets. Although there are now fewer builders than in the past, the class still has four approved builders.


Nicholson 32

Nicholson 32: long keel yachts

Yacht Beduin, a restored 1964 Nicholson 32 currently cruising the west coast of South America.

In an era in which 32ft was seen as being a largish yacht, from the outset this British design was considered to be a superbly capable long-distance cruiser. Launched in 1963, it was also one of first production built fibreglass boats. Construction was of massively thick chopped strand mat, a crude specification by today’s standards, but nevertheless strong and easily repaired. In fact the scantlings were reputed to be engineered to give the same strength as steel.

The model stayed in production until 1981, undergoing many changes and improvements during this time. The biggest of these was with the introduction of the Mark X in 1972, which saw the freeboard increased, a short counter stern added and the original stepped coachroof replaced with a more modern, lower profile shape. The changes stretched the hull to 33ft, while creating significantly more interior volume, which makes it feel like a much larger yacht. It is also one of the boats approved for the 2018 Golden Globe Race, in which 30 solo sailors will set off on a non-stop circumnavigation with only the equipment that was available to Sir Robin Knox Johnston for his record breaking voyage in 1968–69.

Beduin, the boat photographed, is an extensively restored 1964 example that’s currently cruising the rugged western coast of Chile. Over the past two years owner Aleko Stephan has sailed her single handed from Greece, across the Atlantic, down the east coast of South America and through the Magellan Straits into the Pacific Ocean.


Vancouver 32

Vancouver 32-Wild Otter-for sale on YachtWorld

Vancouver 32 - this example was built by Pheon Yachts in 1982 (photo:

Later designs, particularly those from the 1980s onwards, were not simply a reproduction of earlier long-keel hull forms. They advanced the concept, often with cutaway forefoots that reduced wetted surface area (and therefore drag), while incorporating more efficient rudders with greater surface area low down.

The British built Vancouver range of 27-34ft yachts were all long-keel designs intended to appeal to buyers wanting a distinctive boat that would stand out among run-of-the-mill designs and that would look after their crew in challenging conditions. The 32 was launched in 1981, as a larger version of the already successful 27/28 model. Initially the boat was built by Pheon Yachts, with Northshore (better known for their Southerly range) producing the later examples. There’s also a Vancouver 34 that uses the same hull, but with an extended transom.

Fit-out was to an exceptionally high standard, with an impressive degree of attention to detail. This helps explain the very high prices when the boats were new, while today’s owners benefit from quality joinery that should stand the test of time well.


Frances 26

Frances 26: long keel yacht

The Frances 26 is a 1980s Chuck Paine designed double-ender.

This eye-catching small double-ender was designed by Californian Chuck Paine in the mid-1980s but built in the UK by Victoria Marine. It’s an ideal short-handed boat, with accommodation to match, along with sufficient displacement to give the solid feel that many long-keel enthusiasts seek. The same hull was used for the slightly later Victoria 26, which has a longer coachroof that significantly improved access to the forward areas of the accommodation.


Tradewind 35

Tradewind 35 long-keeled production cruising yacht designed prior to 1988, and one of 13 type approved yachts available to enter the 2018 Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race.

The Tradewind 35 is one of 13 type approved yachts available to enter the 2018 Golden Globe solo non-stop round the world race.

While most long-keel yachts have relatively limited accommodation relative to their overall length, this John Rock design that was built from the mid-1980s to late 1990s is one of a number of exceptions. The boat is a development of the earlier Tradewind 33, but is much more than simple a Mark 2 version – there were many changes, which resulted in a larger and significantly more sophisticated boat.

The result is a solid go-anywhere cruising yacht that offers an excellent feeling of space. This is partly a result of a smallish cockpit – though if you’re voyaging long distances with a small crew there’s an argument this is preferable to a large open area – but more to do with high freeboard and almost flush deck. This gives the hull an impressive amount of volume, much of which is put to good use for storage, while headroom below the small coachroof is well over 7ft (2.2m).

The Tradewind 35 is another of the boats approved for the 2018 Golden Globe Race.


Wylo ll

Wylo II - long keel yacht

The steel-hulled Wylo II (photo: Steve Sleight /

When draughtsman Nick Skeates lost his previous wooden boat on a reef part way through a circumnavigation he was determined that his next yacht would be more robust. The Wylo ll, a 32 or 35ft steel long-keeler is the result. Skeates launched the first boat in 1980 and has since lived on board full time, completing three circumnavigations and countless Atlantic crossings on an annual budget less than many cruisers spend in a month. Since then, he has sold hundreds of plans and many more boats have been built, some professionally and others by home builders.

It’s a testament to Skeates’ original vision that the Wylo ll has been chosen by many intrepid and hugely experienced sailors for outstanding voyages, including Trevor Robertson whose boat, Iron Bark, has overwintered in both the Antarctic and Arctic. As with the Tradewind, there’s good volume below decks, with the full length of the boat used for accommodation and stowage, while a long waterline length helps to achieve good passage times.


Island Packet 380

Island Packet 380: long keel yacht plan

Designed and built in Florida, the Island Packet 380 is a shallow-draught long-keeler.

This Florida, USA builder of quality long-distance cruising yachts remains one of the only builders to continue designing new long-keel craft. These are purposeful cruising boats, with a distinctive off-white colour scheme and a number of trademark features. These include generous beam and long waterline length, a cutter headed sloop rig, plus a solid bowsprit that helps to confer the feel of a larger yacht.

In keeping with the constraints imposed by Florida’s shallow waters, Island Packets tend to be shoal-draught designs (see: 5 of the best shoal-draught fin-keeled yachts). As a result, their windward performance suffers, but once borne away on to a reaching course they are quick and have a reassuringly solid long-legged motion that makes for impressive levels of comfort at sea.

The Island Packet 380 (pictured) was introduced in 1999. Accommodation includes two large double cabins, a very spacious saloon and an impressive galley with provision for a large fridge, freezer and microwave oven.

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.