In my boat shopping I have noticed a lot of these for sale. Should I take a gander at them? I've mainly looking at cat 22's, saw a Mac, checked out a Cape Dory Typhoon. Really just looking for 22's with swing keel.
In evaluating the differences between Odays and their primary competitor Catalina, I think you should look at three things: build quality, support and design.
I think you will find that the build quality on an Oday is similar to that of Catalina. Both are of good but not great quality, and were designed and built to be a good value rather than a luxurious option. That being said, there are some substantive differences.
First and most important: Oday is out of business and cannot support your boat with advice or parts. Although Catalina is a big manufacturer, they are well known for their excellent support of all of their boats, including the old, discotinued models. They have active owners groups all over the country which can be another avenue of support. I don't mean to say that if you have an Oday, you are on your own. There were a zillion Oday's built over the years, and we owners have managed to find a great deal of support with each other. Forums like this are invaluable. And while Oday is out of business, at least one former employee has set up shop and is available. Rudy at D&R Marine in Assonet, MA has the molds for many of the old boats, sells parts and is generally a wonderful source of expertise.
As for the designs of the Oday 22, 222 and 23 (the comparable boats to the Catalina 22), I think the Odays win out here easily. The swing keel on the Catalina is really that: a swing keel. The ballast on that boat is the swing keel. It is held to the boat by one pin (as are all swing centerboards), and is managed by a crank device. Like all mechanical devices, the crank needs maintenance and is susceptable to breakage. Now, Catalina has built literally thousands of these things (the Catalina 22 is the most successful production sailboat ever made), and they have worked the bugs out of these devices to the maximum extent possible. However, that doesn't mean it can't or won't break, jam or otherwise malfunction. Mine did once. And the idea of all of the boats ballast hanging on by one pin always made me just a bit nervous.
The Oday line of trailer sailers (22, 222, 23 and 25) have a different, and to my mind, better centerboard design. All of the ballast is encapuslated in a stub keel. Fully protected and immovable. The centerboard is a mostly unweighted fiberglass fin that is directly controlled by a single line lead into the cockpit. To lower the centerboard, you just uncleat the line and let the board fall to the level you want; raising it is the opposite. One hand operation, and you can tell immediately just by the length of line visible the position of your centerboard. With my Catalina, I had to fully crank the board up or down, then count the number of cranks to know where exactly the board was.
In addition, the Odays (at least all of the post 1977 boats) had one design feature that has never been on the Catalina: the head is behind a door. Never, and I repeat, never underestimate the value of this feature when sailing with the ladies. My wife HATED that she or our guests had to close up the companionway hatches whenever someone had to pee on the Catalina 22.
As you can tell from the above, I had a Catalina 22 (which I gave up when my wife was pregnant with our first child). When I decided to buy another boat about 6 years later, I went with an Oday 23. In my humble opinion, the Oday 23 is just a better-designed boat. That being said, if I were choosing between an Oday and Catalina today, I would choose the boat that was in better physical condition, and the one that had a better outboard and sails. Everything that I mentioned above is secondary to a dry hull, an outboard that is reliable, and sails that are functional.
Oh, and for my money, I don't think that you will be able to find a prettier boat than a Cape Dory Typhoon. I looked at a couple of those myself. If you are only daysailing, sail in an area where fresh breezes are common, and don't mind sanding and varnishing, I think you will find the Typhoon to be a great option and a terriffic value. However, if you intend to cruise at all, be warned: the interior of the Typhoon is like a dark, small and usually wet closet. Cape Dory also made a Typhoon Weekender model that was a couple of feet longer with more in the way of accomodations below, but I have never been on one. And the full keel on the Typhoon makes her a bit of a dog in light air. They are also a boat that is initially very tender. She will harden up at about 20 degrees of heel and be like a rock from there (and track straight like she is on rails), but she will get to that heel fairly easily. So if you or your mates don't care for rail-down sailing, this boat might not be a good option. And all of that exposed wood (coamings, toe rail, seats, etc.) means lots of sanding and finishing. Even if you are willing to let the teak go gray, that toe rail will need to be checked and rechecked for leaking; notorious.
Best of luck!