Every sailor has a different view as to what yacht constitutes a classic cruiser. Do you value performance with good manners? Timeless classic cruising lines? The incomparable motion at sea of a long-keel yacht, or live aboard comfort combined with the ability to make long passages with little fuss? These five classic cruising yachts will fall on the list of many...

Sigma 36

The Sigma 36 is a conservative cruiser-racer.

Sigma 36/362: a capable cruiser

Following the success of the one-design Sigma 33, one of the smallest yachts to finish the gruelling 1979 Fastnet Race, the Sigma 36 was the next model to be launched in the range. Unlike the 33 it never formed a one-design class, but it shared the smaller boat’s clean hull lines, which eschewed the more radical elements of IOR designs that were popular at the time.

By today’s standards it’s a conservative cruiser-racer with a good balance between speed on all points of sail and impeccable handling, both under sail and power. Many had a hard early life, being raced hard often in the hands of sea schools. However, most have been in private ownership for many years now and have been updated and smartened up.

Interior accommodation has berths for 9-10 people, including two double cabins, one of them a bridgedeck cabin aft of the saloon. The saloon feels narrower than that of more recent designs, although it benefits from excellent stowage, especially if the two pilot berths are also used for storage. The 362 was launched in the mid 1980s, with a smaller masthead rig, a new deck moulding and a more conventional two-double cabin interior. Asking prices range from around £27,000 for a lightly equipped 36 up to around £50,000 for a well maintained and equipped 362. See Sigma 36s currently for sale here.

Rustler 36 cruiser

The Rustler 36 features a long keel.

Rustler 36: long keel cruiser

This Holman and Pye design from the mid 1980s is one of the last long-keel designs to go into production. As a result it incorporates much of the learning gained over many decades of yacht design and can be regarded as being one of the very best of its type. Add in the Falmouth boat builder’s quality construction and attention to detail and you have a very appealing combination for those seeking a no-nonsense rugged cruising yacht in which they can take considerable pride of ownership.

On the downside there’s no escaping that the interior will feel small compared to new high-volume designs of the same length, but this is a cruiser that appeals to buyers who aren’t concerned with maximising the space they can get for a given amount of money. A measure of the Rustler 36’s success in providing what this sector of the market wants is that it is still available new, a quarter of a century after the model was first launched (for a more modern version see Rustler 33: a Classic Weekender).

Prices for Rustler 36s remain high even on the used market, reflecting the excellent condition in which most boats are maintained and the quality of equipment that tends to be fitted. Expect to pay from around £50-85,000 and potentially more for a very recent boat. See Rustler 36s currently for sale here.

Rival 34

The Rival 34 evolved from two earlier models.

Rival 34: strength and offshore ability

This Peter Brett design is one that evolved out of two earlier models, starting in the late 1960s as the Rival 31. Brett later added a foot to the transom, creating the Rival 32, before drawing the transom out into the 34’s extended counter and accentuated the boat’s sweeping sheerline,

This cruising yacht has long enjoyed an enviable reputation for strength of construction and for offshore sailing ability among those who value traditional qualities. As a result, good boats attracted premium prices for a long time, although these have softened considerably over the past 10-15 years. You can now get a lot of boat for the money, even allowing for the boat’s small interior.

If you value windward performance choose the deep keel (1.8m draught) option, as the shoal draught (1.4m) version is not a great in this respect. However, with its heavily fibreglass encapsulated keel it’s one of the strongest boats you will find anywhere. Current prices range from around £18,000 to £28,000. See Rival 34s currently for sale here.

Oyster 406

The Oyster 406 has hold its price well and boats are scarce.

Oyster 406: live-aboard cruiser

This model, built from 1986 to 1990, was available with both a conventional coachroof and as one of Oyster’s first deck saloon yachts. The concept of combining the deck saloon with a hull shape that would satisfy experienced sailors that value good manners and fast passage times was such that the company now produces no other type of boat.

The 406 remains the smallest deck saloon yacht Oyster has produced, giving many of the benefits of its larger stablemates in a size that is easy to handle and comparatively economical to run. These are both factors that have made this design a natural choice for live-aboard cruisers.

The centre cockpit layout includes a large en-suite owner’s cabin aft, plus a guest cabin with its own heads forward. The galley has rarely been bettered on a boat of this length – it’s positioned on the port side walk-through to the aft cabin, and has some three metres of work top space in an arrangement that works well both in port and at sea.

With only 35 built in total, Oyster 406s are relatively scarce on the second-hand market and asking prices tend to be holding up well, starting at around £80,000 for a coachroof model and up to around £120,000 for the deck saloon model. See Oyster 406s currently for sale here.

Moody 425

The Moody 425 cruiser has a similar layout to the Oyster.

Moody 425: spacious cruiser

When new this cruising yacht was a direct competitor to the Oyster, offering more accommodation for a lower price. Launched in 1998, it was based on the earlier 422, with the transom extended to allow two additional on-deck lockers.

Moody 425

The Moody 425.

Like other models in Moody’s range of family cruisers, it offered spacious accommodation at an attractive price. The layout is similar to that of the Oyster, but with twin berths in the passageway between the saloon and aft cabin. This area can be closed off to form an additional guest cabin if required.

The simple, but robust, double-spreader masthead rig was fitted with in-mast furling as standard from new. Two keels were also offered, a standard (1.8m) draft model and a shoal (1.4m) option. By the time the 425 was discontinued in 1991, 116 boats had been sold, adding to the 72 Moody 422s built between 1986 and 1988. Prices are in the region of £55-90,000. See Moody 425s currently for sale here.


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.