Originally Posted by arf145
When I look on YW, I seem to have gotten us down to Beneteau and Catalina, which is fine, but I'm open to suggestions--or nasty comments if you must
HAHA! That's funny. When I was reading you post (before I got to the above quoted section) I thought "man this guy is looking for a Benniteau or Catalina." I don't add Hunters to this list because I don't like them and wouldn't recommend them to anyone. The Benetaus and Catalinas I would recommend with some reservations.
You're not going offshore right? Good. Then they are recommended for you.
I've been aboard many of each brand and sailed both quite a few times. I've raced a catalina 30 for over 10 years and they actually sail pretty well. In "general" I would say that the benetaus sail a little bit better, especially in light wind, and the catalinas are a little more stout. The catalinas "feel" bigger inside but the Benetaus actually use the space a little better.
I would advise taking your wife below several of each make and see which one she likes. You'll likely be happy with either, but if she isn't happy, you'll be sailing alone again. I bought the boat I have now based on the fact that my wife (then girlfriend) fell in love with it. I might have picked a slightly different (and smaller) boat, but it was WELL within what I could really like and she fell in love with it. Now she's a willing crew and we're both happy.
Good luck shopping!