If asked about the most seaworthy boats, you would think of giant cruise and cargo ships. But what are the most seaworthy boats under 30 feet?
The most seaworthy boats tend to be quite large as longer and wider boats offer more stability at sea. But not everyone needs something as big as a super yacht to have fun and feel safe out on the open ocean, and smaller boats are definitely a lot more accessible to the average person. So what are the most seaworthy boats under 30 feet?
Some of the best and most seaworthy boats under 30 feet are:
- The Boston whaler 280 outrage
- Blackfin 272CC, the Hunter 27
- And the cape dory 28
All of these boats offer everything you’ll need to have a great time on the water. There are lots of things to consider when measuring how seaworthy a boat is. So what exactly makes a boat seaworthy, and what are some of the most common types of boats under 30 feet that are considered to be seaworthy? If you’re thinking about buying a boat, these are all things that you can really benefit from knowing, and if not, it's always good to learn something new.
Growing up in a small coastal town in Massachusetts, I spent a lot of time navigating the coastal waters of the surrounding area. Though I prefer sailing, there is no shortage of quality, seaworthy boats, both sail, and motor, that are perfect for spending time on the sea.
What Makes A Boat Seaworthy?
There are lots of different factors to consider when thinking about how seaworthy a boat is; however, the two most important factors are stability and durability.
Boat stability can be defined as the boat's ability to right itself or come back to an even keel after something like the wind or a wave has caused it to roll to one side. This ability of the boat to stop itself from keeling over in rough conditions is incredibly important to any seaworthy vessel.
There are lots of different elements that affect how stable a boat will be, including the center of gravity, the center of buoyancy, and the general shape of the hull.
When calculating the stability of a boat, the center of gravity and the center of buoyancy is incredibly important. The center of gravity of an object is essentially the center of its mass. If you were to support the object from just this, it would balance perfectly, remaining in equilibrium. The center of buoyancy, on the other hand, is the center of mass of the water displaced by the vessel.
These forces of gravity and buoyancy push in opposite directions from these points, gravity pushing the boat down and buoyancy pushing it back up. When the boat is completely level, the center of gravity will be directly under the center of buoyancy. These two forces pulling in opposite directions ensure that the boat stays level.
However, if another force is applied to the boat, the centers of gravity and buoyancy can shift. Imagine a wave hits the side of the boat, causing it to lean in one direction. The farther the boat leans to one side, the closer the center of gravity and center of buoyancy come to one another.
As long as the center of buoyancy remains above the center of gravity, the forces of gravity and buoyancy will push the boat back up to a stable position. However, if the boat leans far enough to the side the center of buoyancy is below the center of gravity, causing the boat to be unstable and capsize. This is why it's so important for a boat to have a low center of gravity.
The shape of the hull also has also affected the stability of a boat, especially when the boat is heeled at a low angle. In general, boats with wider hulls are more stable. However, if you go overboard with this, a very wide boat without a center of gravity far below the water level is a recipe for disaster, as it will be much easier to capsize than it would be for a boat with a thinner hull and lower center of gravity.
Another very important factor to consider when determining the seaworthiness of a boat is its durability. Essentially, how unsinkable is the boat? Can it take a lot of damage before it will sink or will only minor damage cause catastrophic failure?
Unfortunately, for boats around 25 to 30 feet, durability can be quite a bit issue. As you know, in order for a boat to stay afloat, it has to displace its own weight in water, a boat's ability to do this can be easily compromised with even the smallest amount of damage.
Normally smaller boats under 20 feet contain a lot of foam in the hull to help keep the boat afloat if damaged. Larger boats do this as well, but they also employ the strategy of compartmentation in their designs. Basically, if the hull is divided into enough separate compartments, damage to one part of the hull isn’t much of a big deal. If one compartment is filled with water there are still plenty of others that aren't, allowing the boat to stay afloat and get back to shore.
Unfortunately, boats between 25 and 30 feet are likely to lack the necessary foam and compartmentation needed to keep them afloat if the hull is damaged. Even the smallest of holes form in the hull could cause the boat sink quickly. Because of this, it is often boats that are smaller than 20 feet and much longer than 30 feet that are the hardest to sink, leaving boats in the middle to have a higher risk of being catastrophically damaged than the others.
Most boats also have bilge pumps that allow water that collects in the bilge, the bottom of the inside of the hull, to be pumped out. This can help keep the boat afloat by removing much of the water that's been taken on over time. This allows the boat to better maintain its ability to displace its own weight.
In all, it is incredibly important that the boat is able to take the harsh beating that the sea will inevitably give it. The structural integrity of the boat must not be easily compromised by the abuse it takes, and the hatches and windows need to be just as strong and watertight to be truly seaworthy.
Other Factors That Can Affect Seaworthiness
Water shedding, reserve buoyancy, speed, and the design of the helm are a few more things to consider when talking about the seaworthiness of a boat.
For boats with self-bailing hulls that use gravity as opposed to a water pump to remove water, the ability for the boat to shed water is critical. If you get hit with a wave and water comes on board, you’ll want to be sure that the boat is able to rid itself of the extra water as quickly as possible.
Reserve buoyancy is also an essential thing to consider. Your boat may sit high on the water without any gear, fuel, or passengers on board; as the boat is loaded up, it will sit lower and lower in the water. This is incredibly important to be aware of as reserve buoyancy is integral to the stability of the boat.
The speed capabilities of the boat can also be crucial if you end up in a bad situation. An incoming storm may be able to be outrun by a faster boat, but in a boat with a speed of only 10 to 15 knots, it will be nearly impossible to get out ahead of the storm. Speed can also help you dodge waves and gives you increased control of your location and water conditions.
In addition to those aforementioned, the design and setup of the helm is another significant factor in the seaworthiness of a boat. The most important thing here is all-around visibility. Simply being able to see straight ahead doesn’t help you achieve the necessary overall situational awareness needed when piloting a boat in rough conditions.
The helm should also be equipped with the necessary electronic systems required to safely and efficiently pilot the boat. Water depth and GPS information should be easily accessible and the radio should be easily operable from one singular position around the wheel. An intelligently designed helm can really improve the overall seaworthiness of a boat.
What Types Of Boats Under 30 Are The Most Seaworthy?
If you were asked about what you think the most seaworthy boats are, there is no doubt that you would immediately think of some sort of giant, an ocean-crossing ship like a cruise ship or cargo ship. At the very least, you’ll think of some type of large yacht, most likely over 50 feet in length. In either case, the common link is that the boats you normally think of as being particularly seaworthy are also much larger than 30 feet in length.
So then, what types of boats are most commonly considered seaworthy while remaining under that 30 feet mark? Fishing boats and sailboats are two that immediately come to mind. While it would be inadvisable to cross the Atlantic in one of these boats, at least not without a lot of experience and preparation, fishing boats and sailboats alike are built durably enough to withstand the immense battering that the ocean can shell out while still oftentimes being under 30 feet.
Because sailboats and fishing tend to be the most seaworthy at this length while also being so vastly different from one another, I will be talking about the fishing boats that I deem to be the most seaworthy first, and will then list the most seaworthy sailboats after that.
The Most Seaworthy Fishing Boats Under 30 Feet
As mentioned before, fishing boats are among the most common seaworthy vessels under 30 feet, so I will be sharing the fishing boats that I deem to be the most seaworthy first.
1. Boston Whaler 280 Outrage
Coming in at 28 feet in length, the Boston Whaler 280 Outrage is an incredible boat for anyone looking to buy one of the most seaworthy offshore fishing boats. The boat is incredibly powerful, coming standard with two 250-horsepower Mercury Verado outboard engines. If you’re willing to shell out a bit of extra cash, these engines can be upgraded to two 400-horsepower engines that allow the boat to reach about 65 mph at full throttle.
Boston Whaler is known for making their boats unsinkable, and the 280 Outrage is no different, only adding to the seaworthiness of the vessel. The 280 Outrage is constructed using materials that float, so even if you take on water or damage the hull of the boat; it will stay level above the water. However, even if water does come on board, there's no need to worry as this boat’s self-bailing deck will shed the water in an instant.
As you would hope with any fishing boat, the 280 Outrage is packed to the brim with all the amenities you’ll need to have a successful fishing trip. The boat is equipped with 14-rod holders located all around the boat and also includes two 54-gallon fish boxes to store what you reel in. The inclusion of a convenient bait-prep area and tackle storage drawers adds to the utility of this incredibly seaworthy fishing boat.
2. Blackfin 272CC
At 27 feet and 2 inches, the Blackfin 272CC is almost a whole foot shorter than the Boston Whaler, but this doesn’t mean it's any less seaworthy. Easily the best-looking boat on this list, the 272CC’s design philosophy of utility and comfort really shine when you’re on this boat.
Boasting up to 600 horsepower, this boat has more than enough power to get up above 60 mph, and its hull remains stable in even the toughest of waters. The boat won’t leave you feeling uncomfortable either as many other fishing boats might. The seats at the helm and forward bow are beautifully designed and largely outmatch all of its competitors in the comfort department, so you know that your family won’t get restless the next time you take them out on the water.
Of course, as a fishing boat, you can still expect the boat to have all of the things necessary to aid you on your next fishing trip. The 272CC has 8-rod holders, two 54-gallon fish boxes, a 30-gallon bait well and a 5-gallon bait bucket. Though not quite as many rod holders as the aforementioned 280 Outrage, you can also upgrade and get six additional hardtop rod holders that can bring the total to 14.
The Most Seaworthy Sailboats Under 30 Feet
Though the aforementioned fishing boats are worth consideration for anyone looking for the most seaworthy boats under 30 feet, I’ve always been much more of a sailor myself, so here are the sailboats I think are the most seaworthy.
1. Cape Dory 28
Coming in at 28 feet and 9 inches, the Cape Dory 28 is a classic sailboat with unmatched seaworthiness. In fact, to prove how seaworthy this boat is, in 2009, a sailor named Fred Bickum successfully circumnavigated the earth, a voyage that took him three years in his 1978 Cape Dory.
Produced from 1975 to 1988, the Cape Dory 28 is still one of the most rugged and sought-after sailboats today. Designed by Carl Alberg, the Cape Dory combines classic design elements with comfort, durability, and spaciousness. When onboard, this bout truly feels much bigger than it actually is, even when compared with many modern 28-foot sailboats.
The build quality of this boat is unrivaled, with solid fiberglass in polyester resin hull and decks made from balsa and plywood-cored fiberglass. However, though its construction is solid, if not properly maintained over the years, osmotic blistering in the hull and water absorption through stress cracks in the deck can cause the structure of the boat to be weakened. Bronze is used for most of the fittings around the boat and the 8 opening ports, which adds to the classic look of this sailboat.
Under sail, the Cape Dory 28 is incredibly capable in harsh waters and in conditions with choppy water or low wind; the boat still maintains the ability to move a lot more quickly than many other similarly sized sailboats.
The spaciousness of the Cape Dory’s interior is also one of the big selling points, especially for a boat this old that can still compete with newer models. It features a V-berth bed and a cockpit with wheel steering that can comfortably fit six adults, as well as a galley and bathroom equipped with a toilet and shower. The interior cockpit is especially useful if you run into stormy weather as you can easily escape the harsh outside conditions and still maintain control of the boat.
2. Hunter 27
Also coming in at 27 feet and 2 inches, the Hunter 27 is a great seaworthy sailboat for anyone from beginner sailors to seasoned veterans. First introduced in 1974, the Hunter 27 has stood the test of time and is still one of the most popular sailboats to this day.
The Hunter 27’s lack of customization and standardized construction means that the price of this boat is much lower than many others, but don’t even begin to think that this boat is built poorly as the hull is strong enough to handle whatever the ocean throws at it. The boat is shipped with a mainsail and 110% genoa, offering an average amount of square sail footage for a boat its size and features wheel steering, something much more commonplace on a larger boat.
The Hunter 27 handles great under sail, but even if winds are particularly weak or you’re simply feeling a bit lazy, you won’t have to worry about being stranded. Since 1979 this boat has come standard with a reliable 14-horsepower Yanmar diesel engine. Though this won’t get you moving at groundbreaking speeds, it's enough to keep you moving if you need it to.
The boat also provides all the space you’ll need when spending multiple days on the water. The Hunter 27 includes a comfortable cabin, a saloon with enough seating for six centered around a table, a solid galley, and a toilet and shower, all wrapped up in this compact package.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson