Re: Production boats- justified bias?
For what you have in mind I think the Catalina 42 is a good fit.. While Hunters get a lot of grief from pretty well all fronts, I personally think that some of them are decent boats.. it seems they had a few bad patches structurally here and there (the early arches, eg, didn't stand up to offshore conditions from what I've heard). My major beef with Hunters (personal opinion and subjective as all getout) is the styling decisions they've made. I quite like the late 80s early 90s Legend series.. very much don't like the backstayless rigs/hot tub cockpits of subsequent editions. I'm not sold on the current 'new' look either, but plenty of manufacturers are headed that way too nowadays.
The classic 'upper crust' of the likes of Sabre and other higher end builders are probably overall 'better' than your basic Catalina.. but is that difference enough to justify the cost for what you might 'gain'???
FWIW I think Catalina has done a great job of keeping true to their line, updating and modernizing the look of established designs in a way that appeals widely to weekend and seasonal cruisers...
".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
Capt G E Ericson (from "The Cruel Sea" by Nicholas Monsarrat)
1984 Fast/Nicholson 345 "FastForward"