Re: Brief Intro & First Question
My wife is 5'5", and had no problem standing in our Catalina 25.
How old are your kids? I have 2 boys, ages 7 and 5. We bought our first boat, the C25, about 2 years go, when they were 5 and 3. I had them out on a rented American 14 before that, at 4 and 2. The 4 year old loved it, but the 2 year old was still too young. At 6 and 4, they started to enjoy short sails (2-3 hours). We hope that the new boat will be an even better fit for us.
I have many of the same concerns/desires as you. I wasn't looking to go fast (though that would be nice), I was looking for something comfortable for my family. The C25 fit that bill to a certain extent. However, the cockpit of the C25 is on the small side. The coach roof is also up fairly high, to the point where I couldn't steer comfortably while sitting down because the roof obstructed my view of the water in front of me. My kids had an even harder time trying to steer; we wouldn't let them stand on the seats, and they couldn't see over the roof at all. So, steering the boat wasn't that much fun for them. That, in turn, meant that going for a ride wasn't that much fun. And when they aren't having fun, it's hard for the adults to relax and have fun. I also found that the sweep of the tiller really ate up a lot of room in the cockpit. My wife would frequently wind up with one kid on her lap, and the other opposite her just to keep them out of the way when we tacked.
Does that all mean I wouldn't recommend a C25? Not at all. They are really great "first" boats, and I'd still have mine if it hadn't been totaled in Hurricane Sandy. They can be found for cheap, they are easy to maintain with a large aftermarket for just about anything you could possibly want, and there are a TON of owners out there. Are they super-duper, ocean-crossing boats? Nope. But if they are well maintained they'll handle bay sailing and near-shore trips just fine. The "traditional" layout even has enough room in the salon to turn that into a queen-size bed with a little ingenuity, thus freeing the quarterberth for storage (or a kid) and the vee-berth for kids when overnighting. Again, it made for a pretty cool boat for our family.
But, when she was gone, we had to sit down and figure out what we wanted in a boat, or at least what was more likely to allow us to enjoy our time aboard. That meant a big enough cockpit for us to fit in comfortably, and preferably with room for additional adults. I wanted a coach roof that was low enough to see over easily, both for me and the kids. I wanted wider coamings so going forward was easier for them when at the dock or at anchor. I really wanted a split transom, so it was easier for us to climb aboard when we went swimming (which they loved doing). I also wanted "cat bird" or "stern rail" seats. Although some people don't like them because they tend to be the "wettest seat on the boat," I thought they would be perfect for my kids for exactly that reason.
Unfortunately, stern rail seats and split transoms only came on boats well outside my price range. So, I stuck with the wheel and wide coamings. Wheels tend to only come on newer boats (there are Hunter 25's from the late 90's that have 'em), or bigger boats. Newer meant too expensive for us, so we increased our size range a bit. Instead of focusing on 25-27's, we looked in the 27-32 range. We found several that fit the bill, including Catalina 30's and some C27's. Some Islander 28's have wheels, and those are really nice as are the I30's. Pearson 30's and 32's are nice, but some of the Pearsons have the wheel very far forward in the cockpit. That's great for tucking under the dodger or handling the lines when single-handed, but it really eats up a lot of the cockpit. Some also had travelers across what would otherwise have been a seat across the aft end of the cockpit, thus costing you space. The O'Day 272 LE has a wheel, but the cockpit felt a little cramped. The O'Day 30 looks nice, but we weren't aboard to see about the cockpit. The S2 9.2's are great boats, and if you're lucky enough to find a center cockpit design, the entire "downstairs" becomes a "safe" playground for your kids. The Hunter 28.5 (not to be confused with the 28) is a really nice boat too. Lots of headroom, decent-sized cockpit, and, like the Catalinas, there are a TON of Hunters out there so there is a lot of aftermarket support for them.
The H28.5 and S2 9.2C also ruined most other boats for us. I saw that they both had aft "cabins" which could be used to gain additional privacy when overnighting, or when you need to separate your kids.
In the end, we didn't buy any of those, but I can tell you that I'd have been happy with the H28.5, C30, or the S2 9.2C.
Anyway, hope this helps some!
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