Seasters, a pretty nice 1979 Cal 31', even with original sails, handles nicely with a balance that is easy to achieve with sail trim so the boat sails itself without having any assistance at the helm to keep the boat on track. In other words, the wheel doesn't need autopilot or even a lock on the wheel for the boat to keep it's course, at least thus far in non-threatening conditions. I've never sailed a boat so easy to set/trim the sails this way. I haven't tried it on a run, but maybe I would with a preventer. I don't know if that is a good idea at this point. Sometimes I return to the helm after a bit and then quickly realize that Seasters is not on autopilot, and has been sailing completely without any force (besides that created by the sails) whatsoever on the wheel![/I]
If you are looking for a very sturdy and relatively fast vintage sailboat, a Cal is certainly a great sailboat to consider for any used sailboat purchase. Buy one with as many newer upgrades on it as possible. For example, I paid the same price for mine-Thank you Bob, at Brokaw Yacht Sales, San Diego, CA!-that the previous owner almost paid for the new 3 cylinder Yanmar diesel. I got the factory new (only had 18 hours on it), very well installed (V.B. Engineering, San Diego, CA) engine included with this fairly well cared for vessel including new standing rigging, canvas galore (including weather clothes for the cockpit), great exterior cushions, including larger custom cushions that wrap around the mast (very plush), etc. A very good buy, but now I've invested thousands of dollars into the boat for through hulls, rigging and a new bimini, but I feel Seasters is so worth it.
BLISTERS?? The surveyor told me that the ONLY blister on the boat was on a part of the keel, and that was from the manufacturing process! He said that if the boat doesn't have any blisters by now, it won't ever get them, sweet. A different mix in the resin or something when they made (at least) this boat as compared to blister boats, even much newer boats that chronically have blisters, that I understand is not a big deal and doesn't affect handling terribly, at least on an amateur level. I've read on the Net that virtually all boats left in the salt water eventually develop blisters. Seasters contradicts this.
BTW, the surveyor rated the boat as an "offshore racer". I sure would not go out and buy any boat and cross the ocean anytime soon....I'm certainly not up to it for sure, right now. But, with an ADEQUATE amount of experience and a PROPERLY equipped (of course, strongly built) boat, I guess that you could take some, if not most or all Cal's into blue water safely, vowing weather conditions don't deteriorate too much. A Coastguardsman said they're good boats and cross the ocean regularly. A long time ago, when I owned a West Wight Potter 19', a friend who used to build Cal's a long time ago told me to get a boat for the ocean that would be able to get me back if conditions worsen. Sure the Potter would take you out and get you back, but he said if conditions really get bad, best to have a strong boat like a Cal. For safety's sake, he advised me to just use the Potter on lakes and bays. Sure, the boat rides nice, and I'm sure you can take it on, even across the ocean, weather permitting, but it's not the heavy duty construction of the Cal. Thanks to Doug, I always remembered that
However, without having the speed of a Cal, a full keel boat I understand, with blue water construction and heavier, has an overall better ride in the ocean. Also, I've read that these very heavy duty sailboats are designed to get through some very heavy seas. That would certainly be my choice if I ascend in experience and want to take it to that level. I'm thinking Shannon or Pacific Seacraft or ??? I'd go at least 38' in length, just for the comfort, storage and ride if nothing else. Financially, I'd prefer an older, heavier duty sailboat (maybe Cal 46' (Lapworth's favorite) or Alberg, versus a prettier, newer, lighter weight sailboat for blue water cruising. Having the stronger boat/hull, sure could pay for itself when you run into something far from help. I guess a conservative approach is to just pour enough money into the vessel to make it safe, at least; then prioritize the aesthetics. I see on Seasters' horizon...old, brittle portholes that are chipping away when lightly bumped being replaced with new, heavy duty ones....hopefully it won't cost big, big bucks. That's just one of my larger concerns for now...