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  #1  
Old 09-17-2007
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Cal 21: Sailing traits & build quality

In the ongoing quest for cheap old picnic cruisers under $3000....

There are many 1970s Cal 21s for sale, often for a little as $1500. At 1100 lbs, it's lighter than the SJ21, but it still has a retracting keel w/ 350# of ballast. Floats in 9" of water, which is important.

How well-built were the small Cals? Were they reasonably good to sail? What problems did they have I should watch out for?
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Old 09-17-2007
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I've got an old cal 29 and there have been a "few" occasions when,due to navigational inconsistencies,I've bumped a rock or two.The only thing damaged was my pride and some bottom paint.
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Old 09-17-2007
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Remind me never to have you navigate...
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Originally Posted by sharkbait View Post
I've got an old cal 29 and there have been a "few" occasions when,due to navigational inconsistencies,I've bumped a rock or two.The only thing damaged was my pride and some bottom paint.
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Old 09-17-2007
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I had a Cal 21 a few years ago. Prior to that, a Grumman 16, Holder 20, Prindle 15, and a Grampian 26. Subsequently I've had an O'Day 20, and a Catalina 309.

The Cal 21 was the worst boat I've ever had. By far. It was built well enough, but unlike my other boats, it used plywood bulkheads tabbed to the hull rather than a fiberglass liner. Not necessarily a bad construction technique, but you'd definitely want to look for punk in the bulkheads near the hull in case the boat ever had standing water in it.

But, my objection to the Cal was not its construction. It just sailed crappy. My other boats have all had their quirks to be dealt with, but the Cal seemed to do just about everything poorly. I found the boat very tender to sail, with a lot of weather helm. The keel on the 21 is, IMHO, a real piece of crap. Lowering and raising the keel is a pain in the neck.

In contrast, the O'Day 20 I had after the Cal sailed like a dream. Sailed stiffer, less weather helm, and you could tie off the tiller and go forward without all hell breaking loose (actually continued to go in the same direction, UNLIKE the Cal).

My particular Cal was in good condition with good gelcoat, etc., and to my eye was a good looking boat. It is, however, the only boat I've owned that I deeply regretted owning.

My guess would be that the Cal 21 could be picked up at a considerable savings, considering its shortcomings.

There are a lot of great Cals out there, but the 21 marked a low point (at least I hope they don't have any others as bad as the 21).
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Old 09-17-2007
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Remind me never to have you navigate...

Now I'm not saying that these rocks actually jumped into my path,but it could have been some secret government program to foil terrorists,drug runners or carpenters who drink too much.YEAH!Thats it.A conspiracy by some clandestine agency bent on my downfall.Gotta go,I can hear the black helicopters coming.

Last edited by sharkbait; 09-17-2007 at 11:34 PM.
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Old 09-18-2007
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Additional candidate

Siamese: Thanks for the opinion; I wondered about its tracking ability, given a fairly radical slipper shape. Looks like a drift boat! Even the revered SJ21 has dark hints attached about steering, and it's nowhere near as rockered as the Cal. I know the bigger Cals have good reps. The little one looks chintzy, tho.

Let's throw the Balboa 21 into the hopper -- chunky hull, but I've read glowing reports on its quality and manners. Opinions? How's the keel to deal with?
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Old 09-19-2007
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sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice sailaway21 is just really nice
I own a 21'Cal but do not recognize the boat described above. I'd certainly concur that one should over a boat that had had standing water in her hull; any boat.
The hull is solid fiberglas, the decks plywood cored. The keel is not designed for sailing partially retracted, not to say one couldn't, but I'm not sure to what effect. If the pivot is in good shape you shouldn't have much trouble with it. It does weigh 400 lbs. I do not regard the boat as excessively tender although you can certainly alter her handling with some well placed crew. The only significant drawback to the boat is that there is not much headroom.

The 21' is similar is size to the 20', albeit without the fixed keel. She carries more canvas than the 20' and perhaps the previous poster was alluding to the fact that you can over power her. I normally find about five degrees weather helm. The really big upside to her is that, at 1100 lbs, and 400 of that in the keel bulb, the lightest air will get her going. Like many Lapworth's she'll surf down wind.

My 1973 had the original deck hardware, and still would but for my monkeying around. I've had mine six years now and virtually all of the maintenance I've done has been preventative. The boats hold up well. I've had zero deck core issues and have neither heard of blistering nor experienced any.

Stepping the mast is easier with two but can be done alone with practise. We generally, when trailering, have the mast stepped, boat launched, and keel lowered in just under forty five minutes. The boat will tow easily with just a minivan.

The boat tacks well and accellerates quickly. I regularly single hand and have found little reason not to sail on and off my mooring. If she just had a touch more headroom, but then she wouldn't be a Cal.

Feel free to PM me if you wish.
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Thanks, Sailaway -- I was hoping you would chime in, given your long experience with this boat. Headroom's never going to be easy on picnickers this size, but for me the cabin is mainly stowage, a place to duck in bad weather, and a sleeping option where camping isn't feasible. Can't stand up in my tent, either!

Another boat that has me really intrigued -- the Tanzer 22. That's a luscious-looking ride, and people seem to think it's more seaworthy than most small cruisers. Two foot draft is pushing things.

Also the S2 6.9, with a 10" draft. Wierd cabins on the S2s. May be too racy for singlehanding?

ETA: Scratch the Tanzer22 -- it's a sweet boat to these eyes, but the CB/keel version is 3100 lbs! It has, basically, a San Juan 21 as ballast. Minivan would blow up.
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Last edited by bobmcgov; 09-20-2007 at 11:31 AM.
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Old 09-20-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bobmcgov View Post
Thanks, Sailaway -- I was hoping you would chime in, given your long experience with this boat. Headroom's never going to be easy on picnickers this size, but for me the cabin is mainly stowage, a place to duck in bad weather, and a sleeping option where camping isn't feasible. Can't stand up in my tent, either!
It's interesting that boat length often has nothing to do with comfort.

Our Hartley is tiny compared to the boats you list and yet seating headroom is not an issue and the quarter-berths are a tad over 6' long and certainly wider than some (and thanks to new cushions a darn sight more comfortable than before) - and yet it's only 18' long!

The Hartley TS21 is a much larger boat with a double berth and can comfortably sleep 4.

Only downside: They are bloody heavy boats and so don't plane downwind (although the 16's do).

Have a look for yourself: http://trailer-sailer.com/

--Cameron
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Old 09-20-2007
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Thumbs up Cal-21 a delight to sail

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailaway21 View Post
I own a 21'Cal but do not recognize the boat described above. I'd certainly concur that one should over a boat that had had standing water in her hull; any boat.
The hull is solid fiberglas, the decks plywood cored. The keel is not designed for sailing partially retracted, not to say one couldn't, but I'm not sure to what effect. If the pivot is in good shape you shouldn't have much trouble with it. It does weigh 400 lbs. I do not regard the boat as excessively tender although you can certainly alter her handling with some well placed crew. The only significant drawback to the boat is that there is not much headroom.

The 21' is similar is size to the 20', albeit without the fixed keel. She carries more canvas than the 20' and perhaps the previous poster was alluding to the fact that you can over power her. I normally find about five degrees weather helm. The really big upside to her is that, at 1100 lbs, and 400 of that in the keel bulb, the lightest air will get her going. Like many Lapworth's she'll surf down wind.

My 1973 had the original deck hardware, and still would but for my monkeying around. I've had mine six years now and virtually all of the maintenance I've done has been preventative. The boats hold up well. I've had zero deck core issues and have neither heard of blistering nor experienced any.

Stepping the mast is easier with two but can be done alone with practise. We generally, when trailering, have the mast stepped, boat launched, and keel lowered in just under forty five minutes. The boat will tow easily with just a minivan.

The boat tacks well and accelerates quickly. I regularly single hand and have found little reason not to sail on and off my mooring. If she just had a touch more headroom, but then she wouldn't be a Cal.

Feel free to PM me if you wish.
Got to agree with all you have to say about the Cal-21. With the keel down and pinned in place (as specified in the owner's manual) the Cal-21 balances beautifully and is a delight to sail. I had one for several years, sailed it in howlers surfing on San Francisco Bay and drifters on the Potomac River (towed painlessly across country in between). Among other boats over the years, I've owned three trailered cruising sail boats, a retracting keel Catalina 22, a keel/centerboard Oday 22 and the Cal-21 - which was the most fun of the three to sail and the easiest to launch from a trailer.
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