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  #1  
Old 08-09-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

My wife and I are new to sailing and looking for a new boat that we can grow into.
We just looked at a new 2005 Catalina 350, as well as a new 2005 Beneteau 393. We liked pieces of both boats and wished we could put all the pieces together for the perfect fit for us. We liked the cockpit room and the 13'' beam on the Catalina 350 which made this boat seem larger than a 35'' boat. On the Beneteau 393 we liked the two heads, richer looking interior down below, and there seemed to be alot more standard features on this boat.
Is there anyone that could give us some insight on which of these two boat manufacturers has a better track record for overall better construction? Or any other recommendations? Any other information on purchasing a new boat would greatly be appreciated. (FYI - our budget is around $185,000)
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Old 08-09-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

One of the problems with answering a question on the internet of this nature is that an answer will sometimes sound like a put down when the writer has no intention of putting the other person down. I have editted this a couple times and I can''t seem to get the tone to be what I would like it to be. I, in no way, intend this to sound like a put down. What I want to say is that we all had to learn to sail through one process or another and we all end up achieving some level of knowledge. Some of us seek to really understand how to safely and comfortably handle a boat in a wide range of conditions and other simply want to know enough to go sailing and get back to the dock. There is no one right way to learn to sail and learn to safely handle a boat, but there are ways that are more difficult. I would suggest that if you really care about learning to sail well, meaning developing more than the rudimentary skills required to get a boat in and out of a slip for a sail, the boats that you are considering are far and away too big a boat to learn on.

Beyond that, it makes no sense at all for a beginning sailor to purchase a brand new boat. Properly outfitting a new boat is a major undertaking, requiring a lot of work and a lot of money, and one that requires a fair amount of knowledge that a beginner is certain to lack.

I cannot strongly enough encourage you to consider starting with a smaller, simpler boat, and developing skills and preferences so that you will then know what you want when you move up to a bigger boat.

Which brings me to my next point. The Beneteau 393 and the Catalina 350 are extremely different boats from a use standpoint and represent somewhat different philosophical approaches to yacht design. With all due respect, your narrowing the choice to just these two designs, suggests that you really do not have enough experience to understand what you want out of a boat. There is nothing wrong with that, we all had to learn sometime. BUT $185,000 is a very big budget to buy a boat and there are all kinds of wonderful boats out there in that price range that may better suit your needs once you learn enough to know what they are.

To answer your original question, based on my own experience with both Beneteaus and Catalinas and a fairly large number of conversations with marine surveyors, I generally consider the design and build quality on the Beneteaus better than on the Catalinas but there is bound to be a large variation in opinion on that.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 08-09-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

Jeff, I truely appreciate your candid response and would not want anything less. I guess I didn''t make myself totally clear about my sailing experience. I have sailed on smaller boats (14-18ft) since I was 8 yrs old....I''m 38 now. I guess I should of said I''m new to the "crusing" world. I do understand that the Catalina and Beneteau are designed for differnet types of sailing. I think that Beneteau has always built sailboats with racing in their minds...combining comfort and performance. Where as Catalina dosen''t measure up in the performance category.(That''s just a personal opinion) But thanks very much for your information on the quality of both boats. Cordially,John
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Old 08-09-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

I am not sure that you have quite an accurate assessment of the Beneteaus. Beneteau builds a number of lines of boats.

The number series, such as the 393 and the 423 are intended as ''value oriented'' family cruisers. Bulkheads are glued in, as is the structural pan. The rigs are designed to be cheap and simple to build (but are not as easy to handle as a fractional rig). They are more oriented towards coastal cruising than offshore useage.

The ''First'' series are intended as performance cruisers and racers. I have spent quite a lot of time racing on a Beneteau 40.7 and they are excellent dual purpose boats. We won the IMS East Coasts last year with the one that I race on. That boat has over 10,000 offshore miles on it as well as 3 1/2 hard seasons of racing. (She has also won her class in Key West race week, CORT and Block Island). The owner also cruises her with his wife and young daughter. Build quality is a little better on the Firsts with tabbed in bulkheads, hand glassed in stringers, and a more robust structural grid. The interiors are generally a little more spartan but also a little better suited to offshore sailing.

Regards
Jeff
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Old 08-16-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

John, I''d like to offer you a somewhat different opinion than Jeff on selecting a boat. First, you seem very vague about the intended use of the boat. But more importantly, you may not appreciate the significance of caring for a larger boat, which will tend to be systems-intensive and which will be costly each and every time you add something to the boat.

OTOH I think you might be the ideal candidate for buying a newer smaller boat. New boats may require some upfront decisions about equipping but that also provides a useful learning curve for you. For a run of the mill boat, you won''t be making exotic choices. Moreover, you would have a warranty period, a dealer (assuming you shop wisely) and a manufacturer to support you, initially. Plus warranty periods on all the pricey pieces.

Perhaps I''m biased in this regard but after some small boat sailing and some formal instruction on a 34'' cruising boat, our first boat was a new 27'' sloop - basic but well equipped and very safe for offshore use (which was our only option, since we sailed out of Santa Barbara, CA). It was a great choice, initial problems were not JUST ours, and it was big enough to allow many hundreds of miles of ocean-coastal sailing while small enough to be manageable, affordable and comfortable.

Too many Americans want to own boats that are w-a-y too big for their needs. You don''t need to consider being another one...

Good luck on the fun!

Jack
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Old 08-18-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

John,
I own a Beneteau 361 and I am disappointed with the worksmanship of the boat. This might be something you want to think about when you look at them. They are very loud under power, in mast furling systems are very picky about how they come out, the sterns drag in the water under power, and many other grievances. The interior wiring is messy, and it does not feel like a solid overall boat. You might consider looking at a smaller, older Tartan or Island Packet.
-Dan Barry
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Old 08-18-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

John,
I own a Beneteau 361 and I am disappointed with the worksmanship of the boat. This might be something you want to think about when you look at them. They are very loud under power, in mast furling systems are very picky about how they come out, the sterns drag in the water under power, and many other grievances. The interior wiring is messy, and it does not feel like a solid overall boat. You might consider looking at a smaller, older Tartan or Island Packet.
-Dan Barrry
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Old 08-18-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

The Beneteau ''number'' series, such as the 361, were targeted at a budget oriented marketplace. They lack the workmanship, robustness and nicer details of the ''First series'' which tend to offer better construction and sailing ability.

I would agree with you about the Tartan but would discourage anyone from seriously considering the Island Packet for anything more than a live aboard based on their poor sailing ability and detailing.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 08-26-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

I must respectfully disagree with the 2 prior posts. I know Jeff H is a big fan of the Beneteau First series, but his knock on the numbered series is wrong.

1.--The number seies has for many years been a mainstay of the charter trade. The charter companies may not want to overpay, but they need boats which are built well and they often choose these boats.

2 The first series are built for racing first, cruising second. Just compare the tankage, amenities, and basic hull dimensions. Sure you can cruise in a First series boat, but you''ll have a lot more comfort in a numbered boat of same size, and you''ll go faster in the lighter, narrower ,deeper keel First boat.

3 Practical sailor, probably the only unbiased boat reviewer around, has reviewed many Beneteaus and oncee even did an article comparing Beneteau, catalina and Hunter. Bottom line was that they rated the beneteau
quite well.

4 Fianlly, all products are built to a price. It is not a knock on benteau to say that for a $100,000 more you can buy a tartan 3500 which is better than a B361. But to say that Beneteaus are poorly made is just plain wrong.
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Old 08-26-2004
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Catalina, Beneteau, or What ?

To begin with, I never said that I thought that Beneteau number series are ''poorly made''. I personally like the build quality on most of the Beneteau (including the ''number'' series) products more than I like the boats that come out of the other three of the big four boat builders, but I stand on my statement that the number series boats are just not as robustly constructed or as nicely detailed as the First series boat.

This is not about speed, it is about the whole range of details that are not all that hard to observe if you take the chance to compare a similar sized number series boat to a comparable First series boat.

To give some examples, on the First series boats, the bulkeads are tabbed in with pretty wide multi-layer tabbing. On the number series (like most value oriented boats built these days) the bulkheads are glued in. While modern glues are so tenacious that they will tear apart the plywood and the fiberglass before they let go, glued bulkheads have a very narrow contact area and so the loads get concentrated in this narrow glue line. The small load distribution are means that damage to the plywood or fiberglass is more likely, especially over time.

Similarly, the First series boats have a series of glassed in longitudinals as well as a partial glued in pan. The Number series counts solely on a glued in pan. Glassed in stringers do a better job of distributing the loads into the skin of the boat and allow a more careful set of connections. Structural pans provide a lot of strength and are widely used in the industry (even by companies like Island Packet) but in the end they tend to be heavier, harder to seamlessly repair and more likely to be separated from the hull due to fatigue, or in a grounding or collision. Even in comparing the width of the hull to deck flanges and the spacing of the two boats, the Firsts have a wider contact area and more frequent bolt spacing.

In terms of finishes and details, the Firsts just seem to have a few more niceties, especially when it comes to their deck layouts and sail handling gear, or grab rails and crash bars down below.

If you are saying that a number series boat has more room for its size, and you are determining size based on length, then I would agree with you that the number series boats are more roomy. BUT if you size a boat by its displacement, which I strongly believe tells you a lot more about the size and ease of handling and maintenance, then the First series boats seem to offer a little more useable space for their size.

The fact that these boats are used extensively in the charter trade really does not mean much to me. While charter boats clearly recieve far more abuse than most private yachts, they come out of charter completely chewed up and spit out.

Lastly, with regard to your mention of the article by Practical Sailor, I think that my comment in the first reply to this thread basically agrees with Practical Sailor, "To answer your original question, based on my own experience with both Beneteaus and Catalinas and a fairly large number of conversations with marine surveyors, I generally consider the design and build quality on the Beneteaus better than on the Catalinas but there is bound to be a large variation in opinion on that." I beleive that there is a place for boats like the Beneteau number series (or for the other value oriented boats for that matter). These boats offer a lot of room and reasonable performance for the dollar. If used as most people use a boat, weekending and short leg cruising where you are likely to be on the hook or at the dock at the end of the day, these boats offer a lot of boat and reasonable performance for the dollar. But it is a mistake to think that they are as robustly engineered or sail as well as they could.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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