The Skipper 17 has a big family-sized cockpit that would not disgrace a 25-foot yacht, with space for 3 or even 4 crew to sit on the windward side. Squatting at the stern with a heavy crew, a characteristic of many mini-cruisers, is avoided because the crew sit relatively well forward - so she does not drag her ass.
The size of the cockpit gives a feeling of sailing a much larger boat than a 17-footer, though this also results in some awkwardness when sailing solo - it’s difficult to reach across to the jib sheets.
The Skipper 17 cockpit is self-draining, apart from a residue that lies at the forward end (there is a DIY modification for this – see Forum Digest.) So there is no need to fit a cockpit cover before rain, or to bale out afterwards. The cockpit has stowage bins of marine ply – handy for fenders, sail ties etc - but they can’t be locked up.
The cabin is big enough for 4 adults to shelter, or for 2 adults and a small child to spend the night. The keel cases of the twin-plate version are completely unobtrusive, and are almost totally sealed from the entry of water and smell. In this version there is also plenty of storage space under the cockpit sole. The inside of the saloon has sensible headroom, and has a table that slides down from cabin roof on the King Post. There is room for a cooker and a bucket (even for a chemical loo, if you must). A cockpit tent that extends the under-cover area to the full length of the boat is available. As the keels are fully retractable, the boat will dry out nearly upright on a hard surface.
The cabin accommodation does result in a disadvantage from the sailing viewpoint - the coachroof is difficult to get over or around. This is because the coachroof is high, steeply sloping and slippery, and the side decks are narrow and obstructed by shrouds, sheets, and on some models, by stanchions and guard-rails, fitted supposedly for safety. However, visibility round the coachroof from the cockpit is quite good.
The Skipper 17 could never described as a racing dinghy, as it is short, beamy and too heavy to make planing easy. However, it is quicker than might be imagined, and will not disappoint the dinghy sailor turning to something more comfortable. The dinghy sailor’s instinct to sit out on the cockpit coamings is thwarted by their narrowness, and by the presence of the guard-rail in most boats. She will beat most mini-cruisers up to 17 feet (the Hunter 490 is the possible exception). She is directionally stable and handles heavy weather well. The boat sails well to windward if the jib can be sheeted in hard enough, and there is little tendency to broach when caught by a gust when sailing downwind.
The cruiser feels stable and stiff when stepping on to the side decks or foredeck (even with the plates up). The form of the hull is responsible for much of this stiffness, as the ballast ratio is only 25%. Under sail in gusty weather, she can become a bit of a handful unless sail area is reduced. There is a quick way of reducing sail if caught out; she can sail quietly on either main alone (without exhibiting excessive weather helm), or jib alone (without introducing lee helm). Most boats are equipped with jib roller reefing and main slab reefing. However, if all else fails, she will normally bounce back upright virtually dry when pulled over on to her beam-ends.
4hp long-shaft outboard is the size that was normally recommended by the makers of the Skipper 17. The transom is an awkward shape to fit a motor directly, so the outboard sits on a bracket on the stern (except on Eagle 525, which has an outboard well in the cockpit for better handling under power, though it reduces cockpit room and means the propeller is permanently immersed and dragging).