PBO reader Paul Adamson wants to know what are the best trailer sailboats. Our trailer sailing expert Colin Haines has this advice…


Paul Adamson from the Isle of Man, writes: “My wife and I are looking to buy a trailer sailboat, mainly for coastal cruising with an overnight before returning to berth.

“We have room to store over winter and so are looking forward to all those upsides that trailer sailing offers.

“My research so far is leading me to a Beneteau First 21.7. Is there anything else out there that I should also seriously consider as a trailer sailboat?”

PBO trailer sailing expert Colin Haines replies: “These days the limitations of getting a boat to the water are clearly defined.

“Obviously, your driving licence defines your limits with regards to weight you’re allowed to be in control of.

“The maximum weight of trailer that a car can pull is defined by the car’s VIN plate and the maximum allowable weight on a single axle is 1,800kg.

“Double axle trailers can carry more weight but are effectively impossible to turn round by muscle power alone when manoeuvring. The 3,500kg limit of combined car and trailer weight may also apply.

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“The internet tells me the official weight of a Beneteau First 21.7 is 1,245 kg, but this will be the minimum. Reality may well see the boat weighing more.

“Steel-built trailers typically weigh about 40% of the weight of the boat they carry, suggesting you’re looking at towing something like 1,750kg, perilously close to the 1,800kg limit for a single axle trailer.

“However, having personally towed a similar weight for many thousands of miles, provided your rig is well set up and you take your time it presents little to worry about if the trailer’s brakes are better than adequate.

“Launching and recovering a heavy boat depends on the trailer’s design. Submersion launching will lead to problems with rusting trailer wheel bearings. Sealed bearings keep grease in but won’t keep water out – they can rust after a single submersion.


Quite large yachts can be successfully trailed and sailed with the right tow vehicle and trailer combination. This is a Swallow Yachts Bay Cruiser 26

“One solution is to carry the boat on a launching trolley resting on the trailer, adding weight to be towed down the road. The other is some form of break-back trailer that pivots in the middle.

“Getting the trailer’s wheels wet to allow the boat to be launched into deeper water is not a problem provided the water level does not reach the bearings.

“Trailer brakes do not prevent the trailer from running backwards down a slipway, so the tow vehicle needs a very effective handbrake.

“The Beneteau First 21.7 is ‘unsinkable’ but everything has a price. In this case, being unsinkable the boat is effectively two boats, one inside the other with foam in between.

“The inner ‘boat’ is therefore smaller and there’ll be a lack of stowing spaces compared with similar sized single-skin boats. This I know because much of my trail-sailing was done with an unsinkable Etap 22i.

“The adverts don’t mention thermal insulation, but it is an important consideration. One Easter on the Norfolk Broads we were warm enough in the cabin when we woke up to be surprised to see an inch or so of snow on the decks.

“I wouldn’t limit your search to a single trailer sailboat at this stage. Instead, I suggest you prepare a list of desirable features and then look for the best trailer sailboats that tick as many boxes as possible.

“There may be some mileage in the idea of buying your first trailer sailboat knowing that it’s not perfect, and with the full intention of sailing it for two years and then selling it.

“By then, you may have the same tick-list, but the priorities for you and your wife will be very, very, different. What you actually end up buying will then depend on what is for sale at the time. As ever, the final choice will be a compromise.

“The benefit of a trailer sailboat, of course, is that it opens up a whole new world of cruising grounds. A Spring Bank Holiday on Scotland’s west coast can be followed by a summer holiday cruise of Brittany’s Gulf of Morbihan. I’ve done that, and during the same year spent Easter on the Norfolk Broads.

“If you choose a trailer sailboat that’s easy to launch and rig the mast, then when fair winds coincide with a weekend, the whim to spend a night anchored somewhere sheltered can be turned into a reality.”

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This feature appeared in the April 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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