mstern- thanks for the reminder about checking for deck fittings and water intrusion. that dern shifty water, always trying to sneak its way into boats!
what do you mean when you say 'not as comfortable in light airs"? harder to maneuver/steer because of slower speeds, or the actually comfort of sitting on the boat as it reacts slower to any wave action since you won't be zipping along?
for the most part, i do want a boat that performs well (aka not a macgreagor), but am not looking to race or expect to break any speed records (partner is new sailor). mostly something to get out in after work, or to take out for an overnight on some weekends.
When I wrote "not as comfortable or as good in light airs", I meant to highlight two different points: the cabin is uncomfortable (relatively), and the boat is not a great sailer in light air. The very pretty hull shape and profile of the Dolphin is derived from the CCA and wooden workboat-inspired designs that were common at that time. Most builders were still taking wood boat designs, and modestly adapting them to be built in fiberglass. The low freeboard, swooping sheer, small cockpit, and low cabin top look gorgeous, but also have the effect of making the cabin interior small and dark. Because of these very common traits of sailboats of the era, I find their cabins to be relatively less comfortable and roomy below. Tankage and amenities tend to be spartan. No evil intent on the part of the designers or builders, but that was the standard wisdom and consumer expectation of the day. If you are just daysailing, then no worries. The cabin isn't your primary concern. And you may still find that "camping on the water" mindset to fit your goals and interests. However, if you have expectations of more creature comforts while staying on your boat, the more recent designs will fit your plans better.
As for sailing ability, the Dolphin is a full keel boat. It has more wetted surface (more drag), and I think weighs more than more modern designs. Generally speaking, full keel designs do not point as high into the wind, nor tack as easily as a fin keel boat. I have never sailed on a Dolphin, but my experience with full keel boats is that they aren't as fast or as manuverable, and they need more wind to get up and go. And because they are heavy and have so much of their body dragging through the water, they just aren't as fast. Oh, and backing up with a full keel boat under power is always an exercise in random movement. It takes a lot of practice to get that manuver to the point where it isn't terrifying. Full keel designs have their plusses: they track straight like they are on rails, they are generally less vulnerable to grounding damage (although the centerboard on Dolphin makes this less of an advantage for that design), and the rudder is better protected. For my money, they just don't sail as well as a fin keeled boat, and that's the bottom line. That all being said, full keel boats to me look so beautiful above the water line that its almost worth it. Almost.