Join Date: May 2002
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I had the same wish list when I went looking 10 years ago. Here is what I did:
My three main criteria: large cockpit to make daysailing comfortable and fun; maximum privacy for the head to encourage the Admiral and our friends to be comfortable out on the boat all day (we had experience with the "head in the cabin" arrangements on small boats, and there was a universal dislike of having to close up the cabin with hatchboards to get privacy); cost of less than $10,000.
Three boats made the short list: the Oday 23, Oday 25 and the Catalina 25. I wound up with the Oday 23, mostly because there was one available in my area in great shape at a good price. The Catalina 25 was a close second, but was about $3000 more. Pros of the Oday 23 (and really the 25 too, as they are very similar in design): big cockpit, head behind a real door, keel/centerboard design sturdy and simple; very handy in shallow areas where I sail. Con's: Oday is out of business; nothing less than 20 years old available. Catalina 25 pros: big cockpit, pop top models allow standing headroom for cruising, nice layout below (especially the dinette version IMHO), Catalina in business and supports model; lots of availability. Con's: door to cabin/head is flimsy; swing keel is mechanical and requires maintenance and is just too much weight swinging around for my taste (although I do like the fin keel model); pricier than Oday.
In general, I would go with the boat (whichever model) is in better shape. All other things being equal, if you really want to cruise, I would lean towards the Catalina 25. If you really think that daysailing is what you would be doing, I would lean towards the Oday 23.
Enjoy the hunt!