Hunter vs. Beneteau
A continuation of the above two posts.
My experience with Catalina is that they are no better built and no better sailors than the other two. They have their strengths and they have their weaknesses. The thing about Catalina (at least in the US) they are seen as being the most normal. They are not great boats, but they have no big faults either. Catalina uses a lot of well know hardware and details. They tend not to walk down the path less traveled which depending on your perspective is both a real strength and a real disadvantage. They definitely care about how they are perceived. I raised some issues with Catalinas on another BB and Frank Butler, the founder and president of Catalina, called me personally and explained to me why I was wrong in my opinion. (I have actually met both Frank Butler and Warren Luhrs from Hunter and both are people who are trying to do the right thing. They each have a vision of what that right thing is and (and even if their detractors question their definition of what is the right way to go with their boast) they seem to pursue their goals with a lot of personal integrity.) Catalinas are generally roomy and generally sail reasonably well. They don''t have the kind of quirky details that can drive you crazy with the other two companies.
The negatives on the Catalinas are somewhat subjective, but in terms of fit and finish, Catalinas seem to be the worst of the three. (The flip side is that they have finishes that the average guy can maintain.) Their boats have a dated look to my eye but to many people that can be seen as a traditional charm.
Then there is the cored hull issue. The other two manufacturers use some coring in their hulls. This is important to me and I would not by a boat for coastal cruising that did not have a cored hull. Cored hulls are considerably lighter and stiffer. This means less heeling and less flexing which can fatigue the glass over time. (Obviously this is not a universally held belief and I am sure that there are people out there who would not buy a cored hull on a dare.) Cored hulls are actually more expensive to produce if they are produced with care. In any event, per conversations at the Annapolis Boat Show, Catalina is in the process of switching over to cored hulls with a couple models that have already switched over and newer cored models in the works. To me building a boat intended for coastal use without a cored hull is just plain backwards BUT I emphasize that this is only my opinion and its not hard to make the case for either side of this argument.
In any event it all comes down to how you will use you boat. If all you are doing is coastal work then any of the three should work. I have spent a lot of time on examples of all three manufacturers and none of the three are compellingly superior to the other two. It''s a matter of what you wish to accomplish and which one moves you most.
Catalina like Hunter uses glued hull to deck joints. As Mr. Butler pointed out to me, Catalina uses a space age adhessive caulk developed for the aerospace industry and it is very tenacious stuff. The bolts are only there for alignment during construction. I think that this is a reasonable hull to deck joint but it is not may favorite.
In conclusion, it all comes down to how you will use you boat. If all you are doing is coastal work then any of the three should work. I have spent a lot of time on examples of all three manufacturers and none of the three are compellingly superior to the other two. It''''s a matter of what you wish to accomplish and which one moves you most.
One last point, if you are new to sailing and owning boats of this size, I would suggest that you start out with a used boat. It takes a lot to equip a boat and boats have a lot of depreciation in their first five years. It does not look like as much depreciation because you are typically comparing the ''''base price'''' or ''''delivery price'''' with that of a fully found used boat that has had the 1001 odds and ends added to make it a finished and usable boat. You may very well find that the boat you bought was not right for you and it is far easier to sell out gracefully on a used boat.
In any case good luck in your search and let us know what you decided to do. Your decision making process might be helpful to others making this kind of decision.