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post #1 of 265 Old 12-22-2012 Thread Starter
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Production boats- justified bias?

Hey all. Would like some input and sorry for asking an opinion question that could generate some hackle raising responses!!

I grew up sailing and continue to do so with my family now. We had a Caliber 28 and are moving up to a 40-ish boat mostly for bay cruising as well as a "year off" cruise with our 3 kids (in 4 years). Looking for boats and have appreciated the feedback on this forum.

I grew up thinking that anything not Bristol/island packet/cape dory was no good.. People used to rag on bene's and hunters (this was 1980's) and touted bristols etc as "good boats". Here's my question: does the same "production boat" stigma still hold? I've been doing a lot of research on Beneteau Bavaria Catalina (haven't read too much on hunter yet) and I just don't see the difference anymore between the "high quality boats" and production. Finesse and fine woodwork aside, if you have a fiberglass hull, end grain balsa cored decks and good quality ports hatches and hardware, lead keel etc where is the difference? I've been really interested in a Catalina 42. But then I started looking at hunter 42 (online) and they look good too (and their websites list all the same design stuff). Similar displacements etc.

I guess my question is: does the same bias from years ago still hold true or have "name brands" and production boats met somewhere in the middle (save for the really high end boats)?

I am pretty budget conscious and want to get as much boat as I can for the money. So I'm trying to come to terms with considering boats that in years past all the old salts ragged on (not Catalina- always heard good things). I'm coming to the conclusion that the bias is dated and not accurate today. Am I missing the obvious?

thanks in advance

Little Dancer
'88 Caliber 28

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post #2 of 265 Old 12-22-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

There is a long thread about that:

Production Boats and the Limits
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post #3 of 265 Old 12-22-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

thanks-- will check it out now

Little Dancer
'88 Caliber 28
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post #4 of 265 Old 12-22-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

For what you have in mind I think the Catalina 42 is a good fit.. While Hunters get a lot of grief from pretty well all fronts, I personally think that some of them are decent boats.. it seems they had a few bad patches structurally here and there (the early arches, eg, didn't stand up to offshore conditions from what I've heard). My major beef with Hunters (personal opinion and subjective as all getout) is the styling decisions they've made. I quite like the late 80s early 90s Legend series.. very much don't like the backstayless rigs/hot tub cockpits of subsequent editions. I'm not sold on the current 'new' look either, but plenty of manufacturers are headed that way too nowadays.

The classic 'upper crust' of the likes of Sabre and other higher end builders are probably overall 'better' than your basic Catalina.. but is that difference enough to justify the cost for what you might 'gain'???

FWIW I think Catalina has done a great job of keeping true to their line, updating and modernizing the look of established designs in a way that appeals widely to weekend and seasonal cruisers...


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post #5 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

Regardless of ratings and marketing hype, I think the different builders have very different philosophies in the design and construction of their boats. The resulting boats are as different as the underlying philosophies.

If you closely look at (let alone sail) different builders' boats, you can set a sense of what those philosophies are, and which one may best fit yours.

For example, one builder may encourage the designer to package maximum space, comfort, and convenience with minimal cost in their boats. If you sit in the cockpit, you are struck by the spacious and comfortable seating, maybe highlighted by some stern rail seats. Go sailing, and when the boat heels, suddenly there's no where to sit, the comfortable seats dump you into the open cockpit with no foot bracing, and the rail seats are useless. A cockpit that happily hosts a party of twelve at the dock, but at 20 degress of heel, everyone is hanging onto something just to stay in place.

Down below, you have a regular condo feel, nice fabrics and bright wood with modern finishing. Are there any handholds on the cabin top? How about sea bearths? Do the forward and aft cabins have island queen beds that allow you to walk 270 degrees around them? Any bunks with leecloths? Do the doors, storage bins and access panels all have positive lock catches? So it all looks great until your down below and someone is heeling the boat again. You find there's not a bunk you can sleep in without rolling out, nowhere to sit without holding on to something, going forward means bouncing off the settees, and meanwhile various cabinet doors are opening and shutting as they wish.

After a while you start thinking, how soon is this trip ending?

Figure out whose philosophy best matches yours, production boats are not cut from the same cloth at all.
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post #6 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

As someone who has done a lot (for a non-marine professional) work on may different boats... my pet peeve w/ Catalina's for example or Hunters, et al is not so much build quality but the inaccessibility of stuff when it comes time to repair/replace. One thing that comes to mind is how hard it was to remove and rebed a stanchion on a Catalina 320. I really needed fingers that were half the diameter of mine and an extra knuckle joint would have made it a lot easier!
Oh, and the fact that Catalina's ideal of how to install a stanchion is take a stanchion post, weld a thread rod on the bottom and insert it through the molded toe rail. While there was a backing plate on deck, this design was just about guaranteed to leak eventually.
I remember seeing a Jeaneau at the boat show w/ pressboard cabinet doors and vinyl stickon veneer. Wanna guess how long that will last in a humid environment?
Contrast this w/ the Canadian Sailcraft I own and almost everything is accessible. (one stanchion base would necessitate removing cabinetry) The build quality of my boat is markedly better than what I've seen in BeneHuntaLina's of past years.
I'm sure the overall quality of the stock production boats IS better than in the past, but you do get what you pay for.
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post #7 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

It doesn't seem to me that sea berths are usually all that important if you're cruising somewhere like the Chesapeake Bay, where anchorages and marinas are less than a day away--frequently only hours. I don't know how much other coastal cruising grounds resemble this, but I suspect this is what the designers of production coastal cruisers are thinking. Now regarding those cockpits. That seems indefensible. They are sailboats after all and should be designed to be sailed, even if not for passage-making. If I were going to give the designers of the current very beamy production boats the benefit of the doubt, I wonder if they aren't thinking that we're half way to sailing them like catamarans, with all that initial stability. Reef early and don't heel.

Tom K

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Northern Chesapeake Bay

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy ~ Steven Wright

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post #8 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

I guess I may be a bit biased, owning both a Catalina 27 and 33 Morgan Out Island, and having been aboard a 36 and 416 Hunter for dinners, there are certain attributes that may not be necessary, but sure do make that cruising craft a lot more comfortable. And, I sincerely believe that all those little things, such as positive drawer, door and compartment latches, interior overhead hand-rails, secure berthing, etc..., are readily available from both dealer and aftermarket sources for very little money.

I can tell you first hand that if MY Morgan 33 Out Island heeled 20 degrees, it would scare the Hell out of me. On the 27-Catalina it was different, and heeling 30 degrees never bothered me. I even buried the rails on a few occasions. The Morgan(s), all of the Out Island series I sailed on, do not heel, yet they tend to sail very well, with the possible exception of close haul. They are not nearly as slow as some folks would lead you to believe, and they're a very comfortable riding boat, even offshore in marginal conditions. Same seems to hold true with the larger Catalina and Hunter boats, vessels 36-feet and larger.

Production boats seem to have come a long way over the past couple decades, and before jumping to conclusions about their quality, it would likely be a good idead to check them ALL out before making a decision.

Good Luck on whatever you decide upon,

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post #9 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

Originally Posted by sailordave View Post
I remember seeing a Jeaneau at the boat show w/ pressboard cabinet doors and vinyl stickon veneer. Wanna guess how long that will last in a humid environment?
Either you like it or not, using real solid wood is a way of the past since it is not sustainable. Particle board and glue have improved significantly over the year, your concerns are unfounded. WHy don't you ask the dealer give you a piece of board and you can soak it in salt water see what happens. You will be amazed.

Today's production boats are far more better in design, manufacture and tighter spec than the old stick built boat in the 80's. Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina and hunter are still in business. It means they did something right. I can't imagine how much R&D have goon into the production. I doubt the Mom and Pa operation of the yesteryear boats can compare.

If anyone thinks the old blue water boat is much safer in crossing the pond is dreaming. A fifty foot wave has no respect of any boats in it way. We are better off to avoid and run fast with a good seamanship and plans.

The questions that bother me the most is how to stop water entering when the boat turtled.

I am just sayin'

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post #10 of 265 Old 12-23-2012
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Re: Production boats- justified bias?

What exactly is a production boat?
All boats are 'produced' in some fashion - and no, I'm not being deliberately obstinate here.

My Irwin has Bob Johnstone's (Island Packet founder and designer) fingerprints all over it -

It's built to the same scantlings, uses the same hull designs types, chain plates and keel methods (concrete slurry with lead pigs).
It's not volume of hulls that defines it, more IP's are out there that Irwin's. Year for year IP also produced more.

My Gemini 105mc was "built to a price" point, I suppose you could say that makes it production - although the didn't start a hull until they had a buyer. The customizations I had included and added on while at the factory increased the price 13% - does that make it custom?

Now, I've been on a 1990 IP 38 - so I can see the difference in quality of workman ship, between it and my 3 year older Irwin 38 - no argument there.
Let's be honest here - that handcrafted rubbed finish don't mean diddly to the force 8 storm rolling in. It doesn't make the ride any smoother, the boat point any better - or TRULY affect anything more than the price of the boat.

I've also sailed on Endeavor's - another boat with Johnstone's ringers all over it.

And then too - I've sailed on Guiletta (former poster here) - as custom as a boat gets unless you specifically commission a NA. It's so custom it's one of a kind with it's modifications and only 3 hulls launched in over 10 years.
Guiletta's dynacell foam cored custom interior didn't do a dang thing to keep it from bouncing around on the waves like the 42 foot dinghy it was. It's a great short range cruiser, and a splendid racer; I'd not want it as it's too hard to sail by less than semi-pro's.

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