Norseboat 21.5

The salty-looking gaff-rigged Norseboat 21.5 is just about the last boat you’d expect to see sailing against the shiny glass and steel backdrop of downtown Miami—which may explain why the beautiful people roaring by in their megayachts couldn’t seem to keep their eyes off us. I swear they looked more than a little envious.

The 21.5 is the third in the Norseboat series, following the 17.5 Cruiser and the 12.5 Cruiser/Tender. Jointly designed by Norseboat president Kevin Jeffrey and Mark Fitzgerald, a veteran of the Chuck Paine Yacht Design office, the 21.5 is a pocket cruiser with shoal draft and limited rowing capability. Like the 17.5, which has successfully completed a number of long-distance voyages—including a double-handed transit of the fabled Northwest Passage—she’s a sturdy little boat that is easily trailerable.

The hull is fiberglass, and the deck is fiberglass with a wood core. (All-wood construction is also available upon request.) On deck there is just enough wood trim, to give the boat plenty of warmth. This is further enhanced by the judicious use of off-white nonskid on the cockpit sole and side decks. The result is a boat that is absolutely gorgeous.

Although inspired by beach skiffs employed by fisherman along the New Jersey shore in the 1800s, Norseboats are very much a product of the 21st century. Masts, stepped on tabernacles for easy trailering, are carbon fiber. So are the booms. Below the waterline, a foil-shaped keel stub on the 21.5 houses a centerboard for sailing to windward. Also below the waterline, the molded-in lapstrake gives way to a smooth finish to minimize wetted surface area. The gaff rig may look old-fashioned, but the mainsail carries full battens and batten slides in the interest of sail shape and easy handling. An optional drifter flies off the end of the bowsprit on a Harken furler.

Conditions were challenging during our test sail due to a fluky late-afternoon breeze and a seemingly endless procession of powerboats going by. Nonetheless, the 21.5 bravely did her best. Her motion was stable and forgiving in the chop, and she handled even the most tsunami-like powerboat wakes with aplomb. Whenever the wind did pick up, she promptly lifted up her skirts and took off like a racehorse. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t crazy about that drifter. It seemed out of place with the boat’s overall aesthetic. But seeing how the 21.5 took off with the sail unfurled, I quickly became a believer.

The accommodations belowdecks are snug, but well organized. Forward there is a V-berth to either side of the mast compression post. Twin quarterberths on either side of the companionway reach under the cockpit benches and provide plenty of legroom. There is a small foldout table, and the optional Porta-Potti and one-burner stove/galley are mounted on sliding trays that retract under the companionway when not in use.

It’s not the kind of place you want to be if the crew doesn’t get along. But I can imagine no better place to while away the hours, trading yarns and sipping single-malt with a good friend or two on a chilly, drizzly evening. For those interested in daysailing exclusively, an “Open” version with a small cuddy is also available.

BERTHS 6ft 8in x 6ft (fwd); 6ft x 2ft (aft)

LOA 21ft 8in // LWL 19ft 7in // BEAM 7ft 1in

DRAFT 1ft 6in (board up); 4ft 4in (board down)

DISPLACEMENT 1,280lb (light ship)

BALLAST 275lb //CAPACITY 2,458lb

SAIL AREA 197ft2 (main and jib)

DESIGNERS Kevin Jeffrey/Mark Fitzgerald

BUILDER NorseBoat Limited, Prince Edward Island, Canada, 902-659-2790,

PRICE $37,490 (base, including trailer)

Ballast Ratio: 21

Sail Area-Displacement Ratio: 26

Displacement-Length Ratio: 115

Performance: 5