Seasoned boat tester Duncan Kent chooses the sub-40ft power and sail boats for cruising the sunny - and sometimes fickle - Med

Mediterranean boats: the best second hand yachts for exploring the south of Europe

Mediterranean sailing usually means flitting between idyllic anchorages in fickle winds and hot sunshine.

Some days there’ll be little or no wind until the sea breeze kicks in late in the afternoon.

On others, it could be a howling Mistral lasting two to three days.

Fortunately, it is warm and sunny most times, which easily compensates for the few tempestuous intervals.

Ideal Mediterranean boats need to be open and airy below, with a large, open cockpit for lounging in as the sun sets.

A windscoop on a yacht

A windscoop is a boon in the fierce Mediterranean summer heat

If you’re planning to take your own boat there then, unlike the poor charterers, you won’t be forced to venture out on the rare stormy days just to make the most of your brief time on the boat.

For this reason, I’d probably put comfort before ocean-going ability.

Many a night I’ve lain in my bunk in a typical British-built boat with minimal hatches, trying to decide if I could sleep with a noisy fan whirring overhead or simply boil naked with the mozzies dining on me.

While I wouldn’t like to cross oceans with a boat with 20 opening portlights, on a hot summer night in Greece it’d be perfect.

The cockpit is a crucial part of decent Mediterranean boats too, as almost every night you’ll want to cook, dine and sup nightcaps outside.

Ideally, it would have easy access to a barbecue, swimming platform and maybe an outside shower too.

Mediterranean boats: 20-25ft LOA

Trail to the Mediterranean

Few boat owners choose to sail from the UK to the Mediterranean in a 20-footer, although it’s not unheard of. I once met a man in Majorca who’d sailed his 18ft Swift across Biscay and down the Portuguese coast single-handed.

Later, I met a young couple who’d motored their 26ft MacGregor down the French canal system before sailing across to Corsica.

Having done similar myself in a 24ft boat I’d definitely choose now to tow a trailer-sailer to the south of France and launch her there instead.

It takes planning and knowledge of the French towing regs, but it’s easy if the boat and car are well-matched.

The Polish-built Viko S21 is modern, spacious, easy to tow and doesn’t require a crane to rig her on arrival.

People sitting in a cockpt of a small yacht

Mediterranean boats: Despite being just 21ft, the cockpit of the Viko S21 is wide enough to seat four comfortably. Credit: Viko

She can be supplied with either a pivoting centreboard or a deeper lifting keel with a ballast bulb.

Though the latter increases stiffness under sail and improves her righting moment, it does make it slightly less easy to load on a trailer.

Both feature a swing-up, transom-mounted rudder. Inside, she’s surprisingly roomy and boasts a large, athwartships double berth, a proper heads compartment, a compact but useable galley, a drop-leaf saloon table for four adults, and a comfy vee-berth.

Her high freeboard also provides a decent 1.65m (5ft 5in) headroom in the saloon, which is pretty good for a 21ft trailable boat.

Her wide cockpit will allow your whole family to be on deck, both underway and at anchor, while on the water her modern fractional rig with single-line mainsail reefing and furling headsail makes her a pleasure to sail.

She’s fairly lively too, thanks to her shallow underwater sections, though her wide beam provides plenty of heeling resistance.

For those who prefer something more traditional-looking, the BayCruiser 23 is one of several well-thought-out trailer-sailers from Swallow Yachts.

She is water-ballasted via two self-filling tanks, which can be drained out on the slipway on recovery, reducing her towing weight by 500kg, or pumped out afloat for downwind sailing.

A small yacht with a blue hull being sailed under a blue sky

Medinterranean boats: Being water ballasted makes the BayCruiser 23 much lighter than other trailer-sailers, ideals for trailering to the Mediterranean. Credit: Swallow Yachts

Below, the BayCruiser 23 is light and airy, with comfortable accommodation for four adults, though more than two aboard long term could prove a little too cosy.

There’s ample seating around a dropleaf table mounted atop the centreboard box and a galley with good stowage, space for a small hob and even a deep sink with hand-pumped freshwater.

She has two long quarter berths and a roomy, open-plan vee-berth, under which is space for a toilet.

There is stowage under the seating/berths, although some of it is occupied with buoyancy foam.

The cockpit is roomy for her size with comfortable seating for four.

A 5-8hp outboard sits in a well on the centreline, ahead of the rudder, and is tilted clear of the water when sailing.

Her fractional Bermudan sloop sail plan with lightweight carbon-fibre mast and boom reduces the weight aloft while facilitating rigging/de-rigging for launching and towing.

Under sail, she’s quick, well-mannered, and easy to handle. Additional lead ballast in the tip of the centreboard further improves her righting moment, resulting in a stiff boat under sail.


The Four Winns Vista 238 is a proper cruiser and a lot of boat for its size, and yet at under 24ft LOA and 2 tonnes, it is still trailable with a decent twin-axle rig.

She has a good-sized, open aft cockpit with stern seating plus a flip-over twin helm seat to add to the seating area when docked or anchored.

A full cockpit enclosure extends its use in all weathers and makes it a cosy retreat during the evening.

Mediterranean Boats: The Four Winns Vista 238 with a white hull and red canopy

Mediterranean boats: The Vista 238 is powered by a single outdrive engine, either diesel or petrol. Credit: Four Winns

A small gate leads down from the cockpit to a wide bathing platform with a shower and boarding ladder.

Inside, the galley and seating area is surprisingly large and well thought out, with the table and seatbacks coming together to make a large vee-berth at night.

She also features a roomy, curtained-off midship-cabin with a comfortable double berth.

The 238 came with a single outdrive engine, Volvo diesel or MerCruiser petrol, from 205-280hp, with a duo-prop option.

Cruising speed is around 22 knots, with 30 knots at max throttle.

Mediterranean boats: 26-30ft LOA

Sailing yachts

A good deal of the time the winds in the Mediterranean are light and a bit fickle, so a boat that can sail on a puff and be handled with two fingers on the helm is ideal.

Created by renowned performance yacht designer, Rob Humphreys, the Slovenian-built Elan 295 is just such a boat.

Being under 30ft LOA and relatively narrow, the accommodation obviously doesn’t match one of today’s more beamy offerings, but she’s bright and airy inside and well-finished with quality trim.

Headroom is ample at 1.83m/6ft and she has a good, L-shaped galley and a forward-facing chart table. Six can sit around the saloon table and the settees are long and straight enough to make an excellent sea berth with the addition of lee cloths.

Mediterranean boats: a yacht with a white hull and blue and white sails

Mediterranean boats: The Elan 295 is easy to sail short-handed – deck gear and winches are in easy reach of the helmsman. Credit: David Harding

The two double cabins, aft and forward, are a little narrow but not claustrophobic, and the shared heads is as good as any modern 30-footer, which is way better than most 1970-1990 cruising yachts some 5-6ft longer.

Outside, the cockpit is spacious and ideal for warm evenings at anchor.

She has a moulded swimming platform with a short ladder down to it and most had a transom shower too.

Of course, she has a tweakable, raked fractional rig with a tall mast and powerful sail plan, but nothing too extreme.

Deck gear and winches are good quality and in the right position to enable her to be sailed single-handed if necessary.

She sails easily, not unlike a large dinghy, but she is in no way tender. Speedy on a close reach, she takes only a gentle breeze to get her moving, and she’s extremely agile through tacks.

Her directional stability off the wind is impressive and on a beat, she slices through the chop with little drama thanks to her narrow shoulders and fine entry.

Though not a boat I’d choose for crossing oceans, the 295 is an ideal compromise between a comfortable family cruiser and a lively performance yacht and is a delight to sail.

Another fun-to-sail boat with a practical layout and a good turn of speed is the French-built RM890.

Somewhat quirky, as are many of the French Atlantic coast yachts, the hard-chine epoxy/plywood RM890 is a little sparse below with its rudimentary painted furniture, but very bright, open and airy, which is a vital attribute when cruising in the Mediterranean.

Being so beamy (3.4m/11ft) means she has bags of space below, although the open plan layout, which usually works well with couples, can be a little trickier with guests on board.

A yacht with white sails edged in yellow sailing at sea

Mediterranean boats: The tiller steering and cockpit layout means the RM890 lends herself to short-handed sailing. Credit: David Harding

It’s easy to fix curtains across the cabin doorways, however, and at least the heads is totally private and a good size too.

For a 29-footer, she also has a remarkably large galley and saloon, due to her ample girth, plus a reasonable standing navigation area with a chart table and instrument console.

On deck, the cockpit is wide and the transom is open. In rough weather, good handholds are a bit far apart for comfort but the long tiller allows the helm to move around sufficiently to reach the winches and sheets.

She has a powerful fractional rig with a generous sail plan but is still quite easy to sail on your own if the rest of the crew are busy.

Well balanced, she is fun to sail, and the deep chines add considerable form stability when hard-pressed.

Unusually, she has both fin (1.9m/6ft 3in) and twin keel (1.5m/4ft 11in) options, the latter enabling her to take the ground easily, thus extending your cruising areas to canals, estuaries, beaches and shallow bays.

In the eastern Mediterranean, however, the tidal range is barely more than a few inches so beaching her wouldn’t be an option.

Like the fin keel’s torpedo bulb, the twin keels sport similar ballast bulbs so this arrangement in no way detracts from her performance under sail, which is brisk, to say the least, some might even say a tad lively.

That said, she is well-constructed and handles a choppy sea with ease.


Available as an inboard, outboard or Sport version, the Beneteau Antares 8 has been around in several guises for a while now, the latest model being launched in 2023.

The Antares is a tough, practical boat in which all the available space has been used wisely to make the best of her 8m/26ft 6in.

She has a good-sized cockpit with seating for six around a table and fixings for a full canopy for extra space in all weathers.

In the outboard model, the aft bench seat slides inwards to allow the engine to be tilted up. The inboard boat has a full-width swimming platform, which is perfect for the typical Mediterranean stern-to mooring.

Walking inside through the sliding glass door leads you into a spacious and bright saloon.

A Beneteau Antares 8 motor boat at sea

Mediterranean boats: The flared bow of the Beneteau Antares 8 means the vessel has excellent stability. Creidt: Jean-Baptiste D’Enquin/Benetean

To port is a four-seater dinette with a flip-over forward seat for passengers to face ahead when under way.

It also converts into a roomy double berth if needed. Thanks to the tall cabin and large windows the views outside when seated are excellent.

Opposite the table is a simple, but adequate galley with a sink, a concealed hob and a fridge.

The helm position has excellent views all around and the seat has a lifting bolster for standing at the helm if preferred.

The instrument console is large enough to house all the usual controls and displays, plus there’s room for a 10in chartplotter/MFD in the panel above them.

Down below is a good-sized vee-berth with infill and access to the heads/shower compartment.

On deck, she has deep, safe gunwales surrounded by solid stainless steel handrails leading to her large, uncluttered foredeck.

The performance on the water is surprisingly good with the 200hp outboard or Nanni 200hp turbodiesel. Her deep vee hull is capable of 30 knots flat out and offers a 20-25 knot economical cruising speed.

She is also very stable in choppy waters and the well-flared bows keep the spray off the decks.

Mediterranean boats: 31-35ft LOA

Sailing yachts

The Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 331’s hull lines are modern, with a fine entry and plumb stem.

She is constructed using osmosis-resistant resins and has a bonded inner moulding plus frames and stringers to stiffen the hull.

Available with a deep fin as standard or a lifting keel with twin rudders.

Both had the Clipper cruising package, but a Performance pack (full batten main and upgraded winches) and Exclusive pack (electric windlass, sprayhood, cockpit table, speakers, electronic navigation pack) were further options.

High topsides and coachroof enable good headroom, and her ample beam allows a spacious saloon.

The U-shaped settee allows eight to dine comfortably at the table but can’t be used for sleeping.

A smallish navigation area is at the after end of the port settee, facing aft. The galley is good, with high fiddles, a deep, square sink and stowage above a two-burner cooker with oven and grill.

A yacht being sailed close to the coast

Mediterranean boats: The high topsides and coachroof makes the Oceanis Clipper 331 roomy for extended times afloat. Credit: David Harding

The two-cabin model has a huge aft berth plus a deep cockpit locker.

In the three-cabin model the two aft cabins are mirror-image and the berths long, although head clearance is limited.

Standing headroom in both is 1.88m/6ft 2in and ventilation ample through two hatches.

The fully moulded heads is very roomy for a 33ft boat and behind the toilet is a hanging space for oilies.

All the pumps, filters and seacocks are neatly arranged under the sink.

The 331’s cockpit is almost more of a lounging area than a workstation, although the aft end is shaped for access around the wheel.

Seating is teak-covered, and a drop-down helm seat offers access to a wide transom platform, cockpit shower and boarding ladder.

A simple masthead rig has single swept spreaders, along with a part-battened mainsail, single-line slab reefing, lazyjacks and zip bag as standard, plus a 140% furling genoa.

Continues below…

With a conservative sail area, the 331 is no racer, but does have a modern underwater profile and a long waterline to compensate.

She also sports a bulbed keel to keep the ballast low and a deep spade rudder, so is stiff and well-balanced.

The large genoa provides much of the power under sail, with the inboard shrouds and tracks allowing a tight sheeting angle for close windward work.

The J&J-designed Bavaria 34 is an ideal Mediterranean cruising boat.

As with all Bavarias, the 34 was built on a modern production line turning out 3,500 yachts a year, with hulls well constructed using quality, waterproof resins. The robots only made the furniture.

The result was a sound hull but with lots of mastic around the edges of bulkheads etc.

Available with two or three cabins, the latter being a bit squeezed with the heads shrunk and moved forward.

She has a practical, no-frills layout, with straight settees useable as sea berths, a forward-facing chart table and a heads with a wet locker at the foot of the companionway.

Three people sitting in a boat while it is being sailed out to sea

Mediterranean boats: The Bavaria 34 has light steering and has no weather helm. Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

Headroom is good, ventilation and natural light plentiful, and stowage better than many.

The galley, though, is somewhat compact with limited worktop space.

The cockpit is roomy with curved edges and seatbacks. The coamings are wide, with effective non-slip, and the seats cut-away around the wheel.

Lifting the helm seat reveals the passageway down to the wide transom step.

She is comparatively lightweight with a bulbed, cast-iron fin keel, which keeps her stiff in gusty conditions.

This also results in a brisk upwind performance, although her shallow underbody slams a little in choppy seas.

Her sporty 7/8ths fractional rig came with in-mast or slab furling mainsail options, along with a 135% furling genoa.

The majority had in-mast mains, although she was quicker with the more tweakable slab-reefed main.

Her steering is light and positive, with little sign of weather helm, even when pushed.

Even in a blow, she is predictable and drama-free, making her an ideal boat for a young family, or an easy-to-handle cruiser for a more mature couple.


The popular Sealine S34 sports cruiser fulfils the need for an open, airy, fast motorboat that will allow you to zip from one beautiful Mediterranean anchorage to another in no time.

When you get there you have a wide-open lounging cockpit with a wet bar to enjoy the views and eat al fresco, while the sizeable bathing platform makes launching yourself into the turquoise waters easy and safe.

A white motoryacht

Mediterranean boats: The Sealine S34 has a cruising speed of 24 knots

The arch above not only provides a perfect mounting spot for all your antennae but also makes a solid fixing for the bimini and cockpit tent.

Down below is another luxurious seating area for chillier evenings, opposite which is a well-equipped galley with a full-size cooker/oven, ample worktop space and enough stowage for at least a week’s provisions for four.

Going forward takes you into the sumptuous forecabin with its huge island berth and ensuite bathroom.

A further double cabin can be found through a corridor aft, where two, wide twin berths can be conjoined with an infill to form another massive double.

Original engine installations included twin, 170hp KAD32 sterndrive Volvo turbodiesels, offering a cruising speed of around 22 knots and a maximum of 28 knots; the 200hp Volvo KAD41 or the 230hp KAD43 gave a few knots more.

Mediterranean boats: 36-40ft LOA

Sailing yachts

Catamarans are ideal Mediterranean cruising boats as they offer masses of open living space and their deck-level saloons ensure no one misses out on the view.

The Lagoon 39 was a particularly popular model so there are plenty now on offer at reasonable prices.

A sliding door leads into the saloon, which features a large dining table with ample seating.

The headroom is over 1.8m/6ft and there’s a well-equipped L-shaped galley opposite with plenty of stowage.

The navigation station faces sideways but is well forward, so the view right around the boat is excellent.

Layouts included one generously proportioned double berth aft and a spacious head forward (Owner version), or forward and aft berths, with a single central head in each hull (Charter model).

Outside, the cockpit has a roomy dining area and seating for eight, all comfortably cushioned with angled backrests.

A catamaran yacht being sailed

Mediterranean boats: Wide flat side decks and plenty of deck stowage make the Lagoon 39 ideal for cruising with family. Credit: Richard Langdon

The 39’s decks are intelligently organised and flow well from one area to another with a minimum of steps.

The freeboard, though, is high, so boarding is best done from the transom.

The helm is at deck level and the side decks are wide and flat, with recessed hatches. Handholds are good and the guardrails on both sides have gates.

The standing rigging is triangulated about the mast, which is a long way aft, so the aft shroud chain plates are on the quarter topsides.

While this supports the rig well, it also restricts boom movement, reducing the downwind sailing angle.

The self-tacking jib makes life easy but, being so small, requires a large gennaker for deep downwind runs.

The small keels are positioned well aft, allowing her bows to go through the wind more easily during a tack.

Under way, all-round vision is superb from the raised helm station and the sail controls are ideally positioned with rope bags collecting any excess line.

Of all the catamarans I’ve sailed, the Lagoon 39 is one of the easiest, both to handle and to move about on.

She’s fast, yet calm and well-balanced, making her ideal for family cruising.

The Hanse 375 is sleek with a low coachroof, plumb ends, low freeboard, open transom, long waterline, shallow underwater sections and a generous beam.

She was designed to be both quick and easily handled by a minimalist crew.

The hull is heavily reinforced and incorporates a framework of foam stringers and floor beams for strength and stiffness.

Weight is minimised by using balsa-core above the waterline and epoxy-based vinylester resins are used throughout for their renowned strength, lightness and water-resistant properties.

Various interior layouts were available with one or two aft cabins and an aft-facing or central chart/coffee table.

In both, the aft cabins are identical in size, although in the single aft cabin model the second cabin was simply left empty.

Mediterranean boats: The Hanse 375 yacht being sailed

Mediterranean boats: The Hanse 375 is easy to sail, thanks to her light steering, deep rudder and short keel. Credit: Hanse Yachts

The forecabin vee-berth is a good size with plenty of floor space for dressing.

She has a sizeable galley with ample stowage, twin sinks, a dual-entry fridge and a two-ring cooker with an oven. Corian worktops were optional.

Opposite, the moulded heads is roomy with a separate shower stall, seat and partition.

On deck, the teak-inlaid cockpit is wide and the transom open, which is ideal for swimming and boarding from the stern, although a seat/bar slots across if required.

A fully battened mainsail and a self-tacking jib are standard, but in-mast furling and a genoa are options.

She sails beautifully with little intervention required from the helm once the sails are trimmed.

The deep rudder and short keel let her spin around in an instant, while steering is light and positive.

Sailing close-winded, a decent breeze gives speeds of 5-6 knots, with 7+ knots achievable on a reach with the genoa.

The self-tacker makes life easy, tempting you to sail into places you might normally motor.


The Fairline Phantom 37 is a classic and still compares well with many modern sub-40ft flybridge motor-cruisers.

The spacious cockpit has comfortable seating along the back and a removeable table for outside dining.

A central gate leads to a wide, teak-covered swimming platform complete with fender baskets and stout davit mounts.

A huge lazarette below the cockpit has room for a generator as well as inflatables etc.

A motorboat moored next to a pontoon

Mediterranean boats: The Fairline Phantom 37 has a top speed of around 30 knots. Credit:

To port is a ladder to the flybridge, which has more seating than the cockpit, including a twin reversible helm seat.

At the helm is an excellent instrument console with room for full-size displays.

Going below, the saloon is bright and airy thanks to the big windows.

The lounge area aft has two settees, one surrounding a fold-out coffee/dining table that can be converted into extra berths.

The helm station is sensibly organised and has ample display space plus a chart table alongside.

Steps beside the helm lead down into a well-equipped, L-shaped galley, and then on to the single, spacious heads and partitioned shower cubicle.

A Jack-and-Jill arrangement makes it ensuite to the main cabin.

Opposite is a comfy, twin-berth midship guest cabin with an infill for a double.

The master cabin forward has an impressively large island berth with dresser, seating and lockers.

Standard propulsion was twin 230hp KAD42 diesels, with the largest engine option being twin TAMD 63Ps, which gave her a top speed of around 30 knots and a cruise speed of 25 knots.

Enjoy reading Mediterranean boats: the best second hand yachts for exploring the south of Europe?

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