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post #1 of 14 Old 09-22-2008 Thread Starter
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Soliciting opinions regarding my next boat


I am new to this forum, currently the owner of a 1975 Catalina 27. In the next 1-2 years we would like to upgrade to a bigger boat, 32-36 foot range, to go on some weekend and possibly weeklong cruises in Long Island Sound and possibly further (Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Block Island, etc). We are a family of 5 with 3 boys ages 2-8. I would like to strike a balance between sailing and comfort, i.e., I don't race but I like to sail fast, and I don't need to sleep in a 5 star hotel, maybe a 2-3 star. I do want at least 6 feet of headroom in the main cabin.

I would prefer to buy a new boat because after owning an old boat with many problems, and getting my hands very dirty fixing it, I don't want to "buy someone else's problems" as a yacht broker once said. Also, I would plan on keeping this boat for 10-20 years as I don't see any life changes in the near future that would make buying a bigger boat practical.

The Catalina 34 mkII has caught my eye, because of its relatively shallow draft, big owners association, comfortable accomodations,and excellent made in USA customer service. The 350 also looks nice but seems to be getting a little bigger than what we need, and I would like to keep the boat at a manageable size while making it liveable. The 320 also seems like a reasonable choice, although it might be a bit on the small side, and has a deeper draft (6'3") than the 34 (5'7"). It is puzzling to me why the smaller boat has the deeper draft. I would like to avoid the wing keel for performance and to avoid grounding problems, but I would like to stay on the shallower side for LI sound waters.

Of course, Beneteau is on my list, and the 343 or 34 seem to fit the bill. I am not fond of the iron keels (grounding damage and rust), nor of the reputation for being cheaply made. However, it sounds like Catalina is starting to cheap out on its more recent boats, adding more fiberboard and plastic, according to a lot of forum posts I've read.

I am not likely to consider Hunter. Bavaria, well, the keel issue is enough to scare me away. Hanse is an unknown quantity to me at this point. Sabre and Tartan, and anything in that price range are just too expensive. J boats are too expensive and have no headroom.

So, I appreciate you reading this far, and welcome any suggestions. The more I look and read online, the more daunting a process this becomes!
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post #2 of 14 Old 09-22-2008
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Originally Posted by ajf10 View Post
Hello,....I don't race but I like to sail fast, and I don't need to sleep in a 5 star hotel, maybe a 2-3 star. ....!
I have always felt that both Beneteau and Catalina make quality (very good for the money level) crusing boats, and I would be happy to own models from either as a slow cruiser. Catalina however has no performance element or orientation in their designs, good boats but not too fast and not designed for the sail tweaker - sort of set-and-go. I think the Beneteau brand speaks better to the performance saillor, and it sounds like you are one. If performance is an important consideration you have to put Beneteau over Catalina. Take a look at the First series, like the 36.7, you want to sail fast, you got it! But get a real keel, gotta be close to 6', period, otherwise forgetabout upwind performance, get used to smaller boats passing you by. I still think the steel keel is a dumb element, but since you plan to keep your boat a while you can afford to do a good epoxy job after which the maintenance isn't any worse than lead, if you only hit rocks occasionally. Just have the dealer strip the keel and layer/fair five coats of epoxy before the boat even gets wet...I bet he'll throw the work in for free to close a deal.

I have been racing this summer on a Henderson 30, my first extended experience with a sprit and assym spinnaker, and I now would never consider a new boat that lacked a sprit/assym setup. It's amazing the performance an assym provides while requiring very little effort or attention. Off the wind you can regularily crank 7-8 knots while everyone but the trimmer and helmsman takes a nap. The asymm allows you to enjoy sailing that 25-50 % of the time that wind conditions would otherwise not be adequate, especially an issue I hear with LI. I am a big fan of my sysmetric spinnaker, but the overhead of setting and operating a symmetric is way more than a assym. For that reason alone I'd recommend you consider the Bene 10R or a used J design. Sail one with an assym in a nice breeze and you'll never go back. IMHO a sprit and assym should be standard equipment on any new design, we'd all get much better off wind performance without any of the skill or effort demanded by traditional spinnakers, and I'd bet that on the typical coastal cruiser, annual engine hours would be reduced by at least 50%. several regards...

Last edited by sailingfool; 09-22-2008 at 10:27 PM.
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post #3 of 14 Old 09-23-2008
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Unfortunately you don't mention how much you plan to invest in your new boat, and I don't know the going rates in the US, but if you plan to buy new in 1 yr. or 2, it's most likely that current designs will have changed by then anyway. Being European obviously I'm more familiar with 'local' designs than with US boats, and IMHO they are all good value for money, Hanse being probably at the top of the list you mentioned. On the other hand the Bavaria keel problem is overrated when you consider the number of boats they have built. Headroom shouldn't be a problem, and the speed will depend greatly on the type of rig and the sails you order. So apart from possible budget limitations my priorities would lie in the interior design and layout to accommodate everyone as best as possible, cause when your kids get older they may not enjoy having to sleep on a 50 cm. wide salon convertible.

Your pleasure is my business !!!
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post #4 of 14 Old 09-23-2008
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You probably can't go wrong with either the Catalina or the Bennie...Just remember - buying a new boat is not without problems - and a well maintained boat bought used, personally is a wiser investment. Consider your C-27, and the work you had to do - it will be the same issues eventually with whatever new or slightly used boat you pick up in 1-3 years after purchase. That is the joy of owning a boat - the only difference in your scenario that instead of buying someone else problem - you will have simply bought your own problem.

In which case, you may want to consider your purchase on warranty and just go the whole new boat route and trade out once the warranty goes by. There simply is no escaping "when the boat issues occur".

-- Jody

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post #5 of 14 Old 09-23-2008
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I'm with Sailingfool on the advantages/simplicity of asym chutes with sprits, and I also like that Beneteau 10R a lot. I think the 10R would be a great choice for club racing with some occasional family cruising thrown in. But reading your description of how you'll use your new boat, it sounds like much more cruising is on tap than racing (if any).

I don't think the mid-30 foot racing oriented boats are going to get you the space and storage that you'll want/need. The kids are going to keep growing and will double in size about every 4 years -- it's hard to conceive but before you know it you're going to have adult sized people on board with you, not compact little tikes. They'll need bigger bunks, their gear will take up more space, you'll have to provision more food and drinks, etc etc. All of which says "volume". To get volume without overly sacrificing performance, you'll need length. In your place, with three growing kids, I'd be looking for the best performing mid-to-upper 30 footer I could reasonably afford.

Rather than specific models, I would suggest more flexibility with your "new" requirement, and consider "newish" boats that also fit the bill. A 5 year old boat that has been well upgraded and equipped with low usage/engine hours is a great value. This approach would open up many more options, and maybe get you into a bit larger size range at the same price.

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post #6 of 14 Old 09-23-2008
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With a family of 5, I'd rule out the C320. It would be a good weekend cruising boat for a family with one or two kids, but storage below decks is pretty scarce and the v-berth is pretty small.

I understand your desire to not buy someone elses problems but I think the risk buying a newer used boat is not a lot greater than buying brand new. Looking at a 4-5 year old boat might allow you to include the C36 in your considerations. I think with a family your size the extra room of the 36 over the 34 might be very welcome.

Good Luck.

s/v Palmetto Moon
1991 Catalina 36
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post #7 of 14 Old 09-24-2008 Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the helpful replies!

To clarify a few things, my current mooring field will not allow boats over 36 feet, so that is my limit. I would like to keep the price under 200K (new), but could go a little over for the "perfect" boat. Of course, less would be great.

Where I sail the winds are often flukey or light. That seems to make a boat like the first 36.7 a good choice since it has a high SA/D ratio. I also like that the 36.7 has berths for 5, since I have a family of 5. When I am brutally honest with myself, it seems likely that the majority of my sailing in the next 10 years will be daysailing, with a few weekends and maybe one week a year at most. Given that, I should probably be putting more emphasis on the fast (first series) rather than the comfortable (catalina).

I will definitely consider buying used, although my time is somewhat limited and I cannot see driving 200-300 miles to look at boats repetitively. It would also seem likely to me that if looking at used racers such as First 36.7s, that the used racers would have taken a greater beating over time that the cruisers, so they might be a little older than their chronological age.

One thing is clear, I need to do a lot of reading and looking around before buying. Maybe one more year with the Albatross (my C27).
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post #8 of 14 Old 09-24-2008
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I owned a 2000 Ctalina 34 Mk II (bought new) for six years. It was a splendid boat. Sailed very well, is laid out sensibly. Due to "life changes" we sold it. I inherited a home in need of work and we lived in it for two years while I renovated it. We decided to sell the boat then (it was also a three hour drive each way away and we knew we couldn't use it enough). Later we sold that home and leveraged our savings into a MUCH nicer home on 20 acres.

Now it's time to find another boat and we're kicking ourselves. I had upgraded the battery/charging/wiring when we initially bought the boat but otherwise it was stock. We's also added Air/reverse cycle heat and a full cockpit screen room. Extended our comfortable season up here by a month on either end of the season. First in/ last out.

We had her out across the center of Lake Ontario to fetch up the canal at Oswego from Sackets Harbor in the fall of 2001. It was a nice, sunny day when we left. Three hours out we were in 10 foot seas and 45 knot winds (on Lake Ontario 10 ft waves are 60 feet apart - Wet Hell). We had the mast down on wood crutches to be able to make the canal easier. BIG mistake. Without the steadying of the sail we were dice in a cup. After a few hours of burying the nose, having the transom fall off (prop in the air) and side slipping into the troughs we gave up on Oswego and ran downwind to Selkirk. Actually surfed into the seven ft deep channel of the Salmon River showing 12 ft from the storm surge - waves were splashing higher than the 25 foot lighthouse. Long story short - I was bruised from the wheel, THE ADMIRAL was shaken but not stirred, and the two cats were petrified but the boat was fine. Gave us great confidence in her.

First thing I did when I stepped off onto the shore from the floating docks was to throw up. Land sick?

After that I was not afraid of ANY conditions with the mast up. We had her out in near dead calm to 30 knots and she never disappointed. Ours was the tall rig and wing (raised a few eyebrows at the factory) and she did very well in light air. You lose a lot of pointing ability vs. the fin, but one marina we frequented was 4-1/2 ft depth so we opted for the wing.

I would highly recommend the 34 Mk II.

Charlie P. Mud Hen 17 #69 Mad Hatter

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I suspect that, if you should go to the end of the world, you would find somebody there going farther . . . - H.D. Thoreau

Last edited by Delirious; 09-24-2008 at 10:35 PM.
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post #9 of 14 Old 09-25-2008
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Dont think that the speed of the first series isnt comfortable. Its a shame that your limited to 36 feet as there are a number of great older FIRST series boats out there in the 38 to 42 foot range that are in exelant condition.
concerning your thoughts on race boats being used hard, you'll find that the larger boats from 30 feet and above, if raced, are mostly taken care of good. you dont spend a few hundred thousand on a race boat just to beat it up.......
We found ours, at 20+ years old, in pristeen shape.. and its now our home, and the wife keeps yelling, you cant race the house......
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post #10 of 14 Old 09-30-2008
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I am a Hanse owner (1 year now) and purchased it because of the room they have, the epoxy hull and the sailing ability. I have not been disappointed. I had never sailed on a Hanse before but was convinced once I read the owners forum ( where anyone can ask questions and get responses. The forum is a warts and all and you will hear the good, the bad and the ugly about the Hanse boats. Hanse Factory does not take any part in the forum. I have not seen other manufacturers with a warts and all forum like this one. It allowed me to go in with my eyes open to every possible pro and con of the boats.

Irrespective of the brand you are looking at see if there is a Owners forum and have a good look at that and ask some questions of the existing owners.

A new boat will need the bugs ironed out which appears to be a painful process irrespectively of what make you get, especially when all you want to do with your new boat is go sailing. Also a new boat needs to have the many extras to make it safe and suitable to use on voyagers. The list of modifications and extras is a long one though as you have already owned a boat you will be a half way there.
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