A Pocket cruiser, Microcruiser or Pocket yacht is a small sailboat with a cabin, whose length is at or under 20 feet (6 m), with some examples as short as 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.7 m) in length. Pocket sailing cruisers are different from day-sailers in that the cabin makes it practical for one or more people to sleep in the boat, meaning it can be used for trips of more than a day. Commercial models of pocket sailing cruisers generally have either a short, ballasted shoal draft keel or a weighted centerboard, while home-built designs often use water ballast and leeboards.
While many cruising sailors today jump with both feet and a hefty money clip into a big boat, chockablock with gadgetry, the traditional sailing evolution begins with small craft and ends with the ultimate cruiser. That first boat might be a dinghy or a one-design racer, and trading up from boat to boat usually accompanies changes in family situations and growing wealth. But no matter how big that uberboat may be, cruisers with sailing in their blood usually find small craft compelling.
But even the fleet of small crafts has its own hierarchic order: Mini-Cruisers, Small Pocket Cruisers, Medium Pocket Cruisers and Large Pocket Cruisers.
Small is usually simple. Getting off the mooring, the dock, or the dolly takes just minutes, allowing a spontaneous response to the siren call to savor a delicious, breezy fall sunset after work or a cool, still, summer dawn before joining rush hour.
But how big is small? That, of course, is relative. To establish "small" in terms of a cruising boat, as distinct from a day-sailer, we chose as our guideline the European Union Recreational Craft Directive's "Design Category C--Inshore (significant wave height up to and including 2 meters and wind forces up to and including 6 Beaufort).
While some folks will happily gunkhole in even smaller craft, some pocket sailing cruisers, at just over 18 feet on deck, are about as large a boat as you'd want to trail behind a midsize car but as small a one as will still accommodate civilized living. Making such tight quarters livable requires deliberate and careful design of every corner and component. Lift a cushion here, you reveal the galley sink; lift another, and there's the stove; flip the countertop between them and set the stove into the braces on its underside, which is now on top.
The Pocket Sailing Cruisers' advantages (Ten things You Can Do Better in a "Small" Boat):
1. Tuck into those cozy, secluded little coves the big guys can't fit into;
2. Enjoy a certain satisfaction ("smugness" is to be avoided) in having one of the smallest boats to show up in that far flung anchorage;
3. Trim your heads without a winch;
4. Weigh anchor without a windlass (and without back strain);
5. Has it occurred to you, as you drink your morning coffee, that a good night's sleep on a 25 footer is at least as refreshing as on a 40 footer?
6. Save enough money on transient mooring/dockage fees while cruising to pay for that shore side dinner;
7. Enjoy the option of off-season storage in your own backyard;
8. Take comfort in the knowledge that, if need be, kedging off from a soft grounding is a realistic possibility;
9. Pay cash for your boat. Pay (less) cash for all the inevitable extra boat goodies;
10. Take advantage of one of the less publicized design and performance ratios: "MF/LWL" ("More fun/length of waterline"); "MF/T" (More fun per ton).
Given the trend among builders in the recent years to bring out ever bigger boats, it's encouraging to know that the market for pocket cruisers remains vibrant enough to produce such a variety of practical, fun, and versatile crafts.