Cal 31 or Niagara 31 ? - SailNet Community

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Old 01-02-2011
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Cal 31 or Niagara 31 ?

I am looking at puchasing either a used Cal or Niagara 31' sailboat. They were both built in 1983. They seem to be very similar in form, sail area and both have 20+ hp diesel engines. They both appear to be a good choice for sailing in the usually light summer winds of the northern part Chesapeake Bay.
Any input from anyone with knowledge of either or both of these 2 boats? From what I am reading the Niagara seems to be the stronger built of the 2 but weighs almost 1,200 lbs. less but with a slightly higher ballast to weight ratio. The layout of the Cal is nicer inside but the cockpit is quite small which is OK because there is usually only 2 crew onboard
Thank you in advance for your response(s).
Nauti Jo
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Old 01-02-2011
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The Niagara 31 is an interesting boat.. a 'cruiser' designed by German Frers! It would be my choice over the Cal (all other things being more or less equal) simply on the pedigree and the builder's reputation. However it's likely a cored hull, whereas the Cal may not be so that's something to be careful of (nothing wrong with a good cored hull, but nothing good about a bad one. Survey, survey etc)

In the end as long as the important stuff passes muster, what's left is the liveability and which boat passes the 'row away' test. - Go for the one that keeps making you look back as you row ashore!

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".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
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Old 01-02-2011
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Both rate exactly the same (PHRF 162) so little performance difference. Good friend has owned a Cal 31 for many years. Well made, good sailing, good looking boat. Has a pinched stern (IOR influence) and that makes for a small cockpit. Interior is not as spacious as some of similar size, but definitely useable. A well cared for example at the prices they are going for today would be a good choice.
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Old 01-02-2011
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I have sailed extensively on a Niagara 35 and can say nothing bad about the company from that experience. Based on my experience, I would choose the Niagara over the Cal, I also feel like over time the Niagara might hold its value better.
A boat should feel right when you're on it. If one feels better to you, then you should get that boat. However, if both feel right to you, then look at aspects such as durability, availability of parts, owner's groups, resale value, etc. This should make a difficult choice easier through the process of logical elimination.

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Old 01-13-2011
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I bought an 83 Niagara 31, 21 hp in nov 09. Great boat, very responsive, bit tender but that's ok with me. Have some deck coring saturation that I will deal with this winter. With right price I am willing to deal with blemishes like this to get the boat I want. While I want to cruise I also want a performer, think BMW 3 series. Brent
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Old 02-09-2011
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Niagara 31

I've had a Niagara 31 since 1980 and have always loved the boat. I would recommend it to anyone but our freind is right. The boat has to "feel right" for you. Certainly if you can, take the boats out and sail them yourself.
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Old 02-11-2011
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I owned a Niagara 31 for several years and quite enjoyed it. It does not have a cored hull but does have a balsa-cored deck. It has a lot of sail area and does require an early reef.
The only complaint I had, and it is a personal one is that I am not a big fan or a dinette interior.
Finished the circumnavigation in early February in Grenada. Have to work on a book project for the next several months so the boat will be waiting for next year.
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