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Tanley 08-25-2009 12:42 PM

Cal - Reputation of Quality
Hi All,

I'm looking for a 28' Cruiser and have up till now been focusing on Ericson, Tartan and Pearson due to their reputation for solid build quality and effective compromise between performance and comfort. I've seen several Cal boats during my search and I am wondering how Cal compares to those mentioned above? From the photo's I've seen, they appear to be a very attractive sailboat. Is the build quality of a Cal more similar to Catalina's and Hunters?

I'm primarily focusing on mid '80's boats around the $23K range. I haven't been aboard a Cal yet, so I have no reference.



Skylark23455 08-27-2009 05:05 PM

Hey Joe,
Surprised no one has answered you yet so I thought I would give it a shot. Of course I am a bit bias as I own a Cal 34, but from all of the research I have done on boats of this age, the Cal is a very solid, well built boat. They have a reputation of being tough, yet very easy to sail and quite comfortable. They track well and are very dry. If you Google a bit, you will see that these boats have circumnavigated and done a bunch of California to Hawaii races over the years. If you google this site, stirlinglaw cal28, (I can't paste links yet as I don't have enough posts, but you will find it easily) you will see a lot of history on the 28 as well as the other models.
As far as comparing them to Catalinas and Hunters, I think I would lean more twords the Ericson and Pearson in quality and performance. The Cal 34 is a very comfortable boat, yet can put some serious water under the keel each day. There are a good sampling of all three in my marina and I can safely say I would rather be on a '68 Cal in the middle of the ocean than an 80+ Cat or Hunter. Good luck with your search and be sure to check out a Cal or two.

Faster 08-27-2009 05:19 PM


You need to keep your intended use in perspective, too, though. For the typical coastal cruising that most of us do there are a lot of boats that will do the job more than adequately besides the three you're focused on. I'd suggest you not restrict yourself quite so much and keep an open mind.

As a generalization I don't think I'd lump Catalina and Hunter together either. Catalinas have a history and continuity that speaks volumes.. Hunter seems to turn out a "new" boat every half dozen years (or sooner) leaving buyers puzzling over which were the good and which were the bad.

If you start to look at Cals, then that opens a range of options such as Rangers, C&C, CS, Benes etc that may well perfectly fill the bill, and some these may well rival your top three in terms of quality.

sarafinadh 08-28-2009 02:15 AM

We have had our Cal 28 flush deck for 3 months now.

We looked hard at alot of boats, erickson and pearsons and catalinas in particular. We were looking at an older group of boats than you are, late 60's early 70's, but here is what we found.

That little Cal 28 has more space inside than any of the other boats. It is laid out so intelligently it is just a pleasure to work on. lapworth just knew his stuff.

I don't claim to be an experienced technical sailor, but we have found her to be easy to work on and her systems are straightforward and accessible. An important issue if you are doing almost all the work yourself.

She has not had a ton of tlc, but she has not been abused either and she has worn really well. For an older lady she is dry as a bone and without funky smells.

We bought her as a bay and costal boat planning on upgrading in a few years to a boat better suited to cruising. I really can't tell you how many people have said "keep the Cal, she'll go anywhere..."

I would certainly put a Cal 28 on the list of possibles. I love how the ericksons look...but our little Cal is sweet...

and she is BIG inside!

byr0n 09-01-2009 02:35 PM

I sail a '77 Cal 29 and will second Sara's statement that they are laid out really exceptionally and spaciously. I am 6'3" and I fit in my boat :) whereas I have friends who have 32'+ sailboats which I couldn't spend 10 minutes in without a sore neck.

I have found that the older cals are solid, simple and dry boats and for me, that has translated into savings as the quality of the boat has stood the test of time and doesn't require costly work to maintain it.

I have been on a friends cal 28 and found it to be similar to mine, both in it's simplicity and value. They are fantastic boats and you would do well to check some out.

Both my 29 and my friends 28 are over 30 years old, and both will be sailing in coastal BC this weekend with families on board... That is build quality to me...

Tanley 09-01-2009 07:23 PM

Thanks for the feedback. I've now been on two Cal 28's (both '86s), 2 Ericson 28's (an '86 and '87) and a Pearson 28 ('87). Looking at a '78 Sabre this weekend but having trouble finding a Tartan very close by.

The condition of the Cal's has been exceptional. Almost like new. I appreciate the room in the cabin as a result of moving the head aft. Not thrilled with the mast support pole and fixed table. I thought the idea of a deck stepped mast was to get rid of that and open up the cabin a bit. I also noticed that the cockpit in the Cal seems more cramped than either the Ericson or Pearson. Like the top deck though, and the quarter birth with the ports for ventilation. Some very nice touches overall.

I read that Cal was sold to O'day's parent company, Bangor Punta. It sounds like many of you have Cal's from when they were still being built at Jensen Marine. I wonder what impact the eventual sale and move to the east coast had on later Cal model's build quality?

The Pearson's out due to the configuration of the cabin, not sure what they were thinking with that Vberth setup. Overall quality doesn't seem as good as the Cal and Ericson either.

Really like the Ericson's layout, both above and below - cockpit is roomy and the cabin has a fold-up table which gives a little more space to move around. One of the owners was gracious enough to take us on a sail and the boat seemed very manageable for two - or one experienced sailor. Granted, that is probably a result of how it was rigged and the expertise of the owners.

While one was in better shape than the other, neither of the Ericsons were kept as well as the Cal's we looked at. My amateur opinion is that the Cals and Ericsons are of similar build quality. Maybe a slight edge to the Ericson for being a fractional rig, and some of the systems/hull engineering which appear to be meant for their larger boats.

The search continues, but please chime in if you have any thoughts.

sarafinadh 09-01-2009 08:06 PM

I think you are correct that the Ericksons and Cals are comparable boats. As I understand it the Ericksons were relatively pricey boats and well built and the Cals were value priced boats and you got a lot for your dollar.

Something we had pointed out to us by a broker (who would have been more than happy to sell a boat to us) is that is we liked the Cal flush deck we should go for it. Because of it's untraditional styling its resale value has stayed artifically below the market and what other similar boats are going for in its class.

Basically he said if you like "that" boat, buy it; you will get more for your money that with any other similar model out there.

And our shopping showed us that it was true.

other boats in similar or worse condition were selling for almost twice what we paid (2500.00)

admittedly we were looking for a project boat and had a small budget, but we were prepared to spend quite a bit more than we did and were happy to find such a good value being passed over by other buyers for boats with more traditional lines.

RachelFail 09-23-2009 01:49 PM

If your budget is $23,000, you can find a well equiped Cal 34 in that price range. I grew up on a Cal 29, (not the 2-29) and have to say that with the exception of the Cal 34 it is the best boat you can buy for your money. Went to Alaska and back, and everywhere in between. The cockpit in the 29 is much more spacious than the 28, and we had 10 people in it at once with no problem. I urge you to look at a Cal 29 if you want that size, but if you have about $23,000 to spend hold out for the 34. You also might want to look at a Ranger 33, great boat (very fast) and is in that price range.


MikeH 09-28-2009 08:07 PM

Hi everyone, I just finally joined after years of reading posts here because of this thread!

I purchased a 1988 Cal 28-2 several months ago and have been very, very happy with her. It was smaller than what we were looking for but fit all of our needs (wants) more than any of the others we looked at. Much like Tanley's experience, our boat was much better maintained and cleaner than others in the price range.

Though there is a lack of information available on the late models (built by lear-seigler) and it is nice to finally see a little discussion on the topic.

Happy Sailing!

dieselboy 09-30-2009 12:41 AM

Im sure your tired of the Cal people but i am one too.. I have a 1970 Cal 29...
Solid, easy to sail and easy to work on.
All of what you have already heard a few times.
Here is a pic of a Cal 29 with no table.. It was removed before we owned the boat.

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