Belgian builder Etap is no stranger to innovations, and the new Etap 24i is filled with them. This little cruiser has most of the clever features of its bigger siblings, including the ability to sail even when filled with water; it has an optional shoal-draft tandem keel to make trailering easy, toerails that double as cleats, and the best antiskid decks youre likely to find. Thats what Etap engineers would consider basic.
Best of all, these folks have solved a persistent problem of small boatsauxiliary power. Twin rudders, canted outward, straddle a standard outboard. I found the motoring performance excellent, with positive control at low speed and little prop ventilation as we went through sizable waves. Its easy to reach the engine controls and to tilt the engine up for sailing. Engine problem solved.
Another option, a removable mainsheet traveler, worked nicely under way and stowed neatly in the seat locker when at anchor. Theres a padeye in the cockpit sole for the mainsheet block, so you can gain seating space by leaving the traveler stowed if theres a crowd aboard.
A single-reefed mainsail and full jib were just the right combination for my test sail in 15-plus knots of wind on a choppy Chesapeake Bay. The 24i was never overpowered in these conditions and always felt solid and controllable, whether tacking, gybing, working to windward, or skimming down waves. Boatspeed ranged from 5 knots upwind to 6 knots on a beam reach. The tacking angle was between 85 and 90 degrees.
Knowing that the Etap is its own lifeboat would be reassuring in truly nasty conditions. Thus Id have no qualms about taking this little vessel offshore up or down the coast.
The tandem keel does have a handling quirk. If you pinch the boat when going to windward, it makes noticeable leeway, but as soon as you fill the sails properly and foot off a bit, it digs in and behaves like a standard fin. The boats 3-foot draft would be perfect for the Keys or the Bahamas.
The cabin has 5-foot, 3-inch headroom, so most sailors can sit comfortably but not stand up. Theres a handy flip-up countertop that bridges the gap between stove and sink, a table that fits in either the cabin or the cockpit, and exceptional stowage, including a wet locker in the head and big spaces under the cockpit. The clean interior finish is a consequence of the double-hull construction and careful workmanship. Two adults could make short cruises in comfort on the 24i, perhaps with a small child or two. If you want quality construction and true unsinkability in a fine pocket cruiser, the Etap 24i is a good bet.
Contact: Sail-La-Vie, 866-382-7872, www.etap-usa.com
$59,900 (includes sails and delivery anywhere in the U.S.)
Draft (standard/tandem keel)
4′ 11″/2′ 10″
327 sq ft