ASA and PSIA Instructor
Join Date: Apr 2000
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Hunter, Catalina, and Beneteau''''s 28-30'''' or what?
My advice would be to first buy a good quality 23''-25'' and sail it for a year or two - you will learn a lot about what features are important and be better positioned for making and managing a bigger purchase.
In my opinion, Catalina is the Toyota of sailboats, and if that style fits for you, you won''t go wrong if you pay a premium price for a mint-condition boat. Keep away from "price" boats or fixer-uppers, as you haven''t yet the foggiest idea of how incredibly expensive repairs/replacements can be - understand that a "needs work" boat can easily be too expensive even if it were free...
Beneteau is a good quality boat, most models seem to lean towards performance at the cost of comfort - my 1986 First 305E had seven bunks but not one big enough for me (5''10"!) - nice performance but a lousy cruiser.
Many folks see Hunter as an entry level price boat with widely varying quality (between terrible and OK), you might look at:
to see how many mistakes can get packaged into only 28''. While this article slams this particular model, I think many of the issues that it raises are not unusual in other boats, and take experience for the buyer to recognize.
Good luck and happy sailing.