BigFish comes in a small package


Island Packet’s new 16-foot sailboat is designed for easy setup and use

Cruising sailboat builder Island Packet Yachts has introduced a line of small sailboats designed for getting on the water quickly and easily.

“BigFish sailboats are easy in every sense of the word,” says BigFish president Karsten Johnson, 35, son of Island Packet president Bob Johnson. “The design comes from people who like to sail but don’t like to take the time to set everything up and maintain a large boat. It’s a bit of a departure from your typical Island Packet product, but the idea is a good one, and I think people will take a liking to BigFish.”

Unlike some small sailboats, BigFish was designed with a cockpit large enough for two adults, and a simple lateen rig that allows the sail to be stored on deck. The boats are constructed of hand-laminated high modulus fiberglass and cored with PVC foam, which the builder says makes them strong and of moderate weight.

With an LOA of 16 feet, 7 inches and weighing around 245 pounds, the boat is easy to trailer. The beam is 5 feet, and the bottom is slightly rounded.

The idea for a small boat that was easy to handle was developed by Island Packet employees over lunch at a bar during the 1999 Newport (R.I.) International Boat Show. After some conversation and a rough sketch — drawn on a beverage napkin — the group figured a small boat of this design would appeal to a variety of sailors. The team named its concept BigFish after a large bronze fish perched on a wall above their table.

Within a year of the initial brainstorm, a group of Island Packet employees signed on to help develop the project. The boat was designed by a team headed by Johnson’s father. Nearly 4-1/2 years later, BigFish sailboats are being manufactured at the Island Packet plant in Largo, Fla.

Since BigFish sailboats are designed for easy setup and use, Johnson says they should appeal to novice sailors. “A beginner will feel confident right away,” he says. “These boats are stable and simple to handle, and don’t have a lot of distractions. The sailor can hop right in and focus on the direction of the wind and start sailing.”

But Johnson thinks more-experienced sailors will find BigFish fun to sail, too. “The sail area is large [114 square feet], and these boats are fast; they’re lively. The overall design and responsiveness to the rudder makes it so you really get the most out of this boat.”

The sailboats have a gasketed cockpit compartment for storage; a rainbow sail, rigging and varnished mahogany rudder and daggerboard are included. Draft is 40 inches with the board down. BigFish retail for just under $4,000.

“People will be able to spend an hour or so on the boat, head to the beach and enjoy,” he says.

Contact BigFish at (727) 451-2248, or visit