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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Boat Review and Purchase Forum > Please help a novice sailor choose a boat.
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Thread: Please help a novice sailor choose a boat. Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
02-22-2006 12:36 PM
Sailormon6 James,

Over 6000 Catalina 25s were built from 1976 until 1991. Hull #1 is still sailing today in Texas, and is still in good condition. Through the years, many improvements were made. The more significant ones were that, in about 1980, the fuel tank was placed in a completely enclosed compartment, so that gas fumes couldn't migrate into the cabin. Also about that time, the motor mount was moved from the port side to the starboard side, to balance the boat better. In about 1983-84, the cast iron fin keel was replaced with an encapsulated lead keel. In the mid-eighties, the swing keel was replaced with a wing keel. In the last couple years of production, the aluminum-framed portlights were replaced with lexan that was screwed and glued in place. Despite these changes, a well maintained older boat can perform just as well as a newer one. Throughout its production run, a C25 could be bought in either a standard rig or tall rig version. The tall rig is considerably faster in light air, but, as the windstrength increases, the tall rig has to reduce sail area sooner than the standard rig boat, and the standard rig boat becomes faster overall.

Beginning in about the mid-1980s, most, if not all, of the boat manufacturers began to have an increasing problem with blisters, and Catalina was no exception. The most reliable information I have is that, in about 1989, Catalina started building their boats with vinylester resin, and they began warranting their new hulls to be blister-free for 5 years. When I sold my 1981 boat last year, it only had one very small blister, so blistering was not as severe or as widespread a problem as one might think. Some boats had the problem and some didn't, but the problem seemed to me to be most evident from about 1984-1988.

The C250 went into production in 1995, and it's completely different from the C25. It's much lighter in weight, has a flatter bottom and harder chines (which makes it behave differently as the windstrength increases), and the interior is more open. It comes with either a water ballast and centerboard, or a wing keel. I can't say with certainty whether one is faster, because I've seen both types that were fast when well-sailed, but I'd guess that the wing is faster overall. At first, tall rig and standard rig versions were available, but after a year or so, the tall rig was dropped. The tall rig is very fast in very light air, but, as the windspeed increases, it becomes overpowered quickly.

With regard to trailers, there are two general types - trailers with fixed bunks and those with roller bunks and swing arms. It's generally much more difficult to launch from a trailer with fixed bunks than from one with roller bunks and swing arms.

The galley is located wherever the designer can fit it into the interior plan. In some plans, it works better on the starboard side, and in others on the port side.

The following is an alphabetical list of boats that I like. Some are more cruiser-oriented, and some racers. C&C 25, Cal25, Capri 25, Hunter 25.5 (mid-80s), J24, Merit 25, O’Day 25, S2 7.3, US Yachts 25 (early 1980s) These are just the first ones that come to mind. There are a lot of nice boats out there.

In the dark recesses of my mind, green reminds me of puke and baby sh*t, and that's reason enough to not paint your sailboat green. (Not that there's anything wrong with it...)
02-22-2006 09:15 AM
PBzeer I can't verify the information I found, I only pass it on. As to galley placement, I have seen many boats with the galley to starboard. I would imagine there is no set reason beyond the interior design as to why it's placed on one side or the other. I think you will probably find that it is usually on the port side in boats with a head between the vee berth and salon though (just going from memory of ones I have looked at), as the head is usually on that side.

John
02-22-2006 08:23 AM
kazmeister Thanks for the quick response, but that can't be right. The years of 89 through 91 have been called the golden years for the C25, on this site and others... Hmmm. This bears further investigation.

And I will look into those other brands you mentioned. I like the sound of "practical vessel."

Sailormon, if you're reading this and you can offer further enlightenment on the Catalina model year issues I proffered in my previous post, I'll gladly receive any information you may have.

And there's still that galley thing. I think I may have to re-post that question under a different topic.

-James
02-22-2006 08:07 AM
PBzeer According to the Catalina Owners site on Sailboat Owners.com, the C25 was only made through 1988. They then started the C250 in 1991. You might want to look at the O'day boats in the 25' to 27' range as well as the Catalina's. The Capri 26 (also made by Catalina) is another one you might look into. The Hunter 26 is a very roomy boat, though it definitely isn't very "shippy" looking. It is a very practical vessel though.

Keep looking, eventually you'll find something that suits you.

John
02-22-2006 07:26 AM
kazmeister
Wow. I'm almost convinced.

Whew, long day today...

Okay first of all thanks Sailormon for clearing up some of my questions. And I'm looking at C25's with a bit more interest now. While it's true that she's not the most attractive boat out there, I think that would be remedied easily enough with a little plastic surgery, or in this case a little custom mahogany trimwork and maybe rudder. I've done trim before and a rudder couldn't be overly difficult. There's no better way to compliment plain white glass than with mahogany. But more important than appearance is that the C25 has gotten some pretty good reviews on this site and others. Funny though, and just as a side note, the reviews for the 27 aren't too spectacular.

Thumbs up to Irwin. Yes I can see how the added length and displacement of the 25 over the 22 would make it a better choice. Add to that the fact that I'm a bit over 6 foot and more space is always better. Not to mention I really like the look of that quarter berth, as opposed to the narrow bunks on many similar size boats or those (personally) dreaded v-shape berths in the bow (Yes I have plenty of previous experience with those in powerboats. I dont think I'll sleep on a Commodore 29 again. Ever.) If I can find a C25 for under 10k, as long as everything else is in pretty good shape, I can probably swing the added expense of a decent set of sails without breaking my self-imposed budget limits... Especially if I can find one with a trailer included.

All that said, here is my daily barrage of questions.

As I've been reading reviews for the boat (C25) it seems everyone agrees the best vintage(s) so to speak are the 1989 through 1991. I have yet to see a C25 made after 1991, but many C250's. What's the difference? I could research this myself, and probably will, but I'd like to hear from someone who knows and can explain. And what were the major upgrades made from the pre-1989 boats to the (final?) design of the 89-91?

That last question comes from the minor issue that I have only seen three boats (and yes I even checked the Catalina 25 website) from the 89-91 series advertised, one of which is a bit out of my budget and none of which come with trailers, which I assume are a bit difficult to find for a 25' fin keel... Due to the fact that so many people have wanted ads out looking for them. Of course many things could change in the approximate eight months I have to wait before I get back to the States.

I wonder however if anyone could provide me a list of a few alternative boats similar in class and design to the C25. It need not be an especially long list.

Just one more. Why IS the galley so often on the port side of a sailboat? On powerboats it seems it is just as often on the starboard side.

Incidentally, I've also learned one other detail about sailing vessels through the last couple days. That to paint a boat green, re-dub it "Rabbit", and set sail on a Friday would be a really, really bad idea. And this just after I read Jeff H's lengthy discourse on hydrodynamics, and how they affect boats of various size keels and displacements. I'm learning so many new things!

Thanks again to all who have responded.

-James
02-21-2006 01:29 PM
Irwin32
Good post

You are getting good advise from Sailormon. I have never owned a Catalina, but I had an opportunity to cruise on a 27 for a week. Quality is fine for your purposes - I do think quality of a builder often is similar up and down its line. An older Cat 25 is not going to fall apart under you while you are sailing and it will take a pretty good beating. I would not hesitate to make the 70 mile trip across L Michigan in one.

I would suggest the 25 over a 22. As you know from your power boating experience, that extra 3 feet makes a big difference.

You might want to consider having the chosen boat surveyed. It will add to your cost, but a good surveyor can definitely find problems you would miss.

Also, go to the brand specific forums here and ask about Cats and O'Day and Hunters. Remember though, this is like asking a Ford owner what he thinks of Chevies so you will have to filter the predjudice we all have towards our own boat.
02-21-2006 12:37 PM
Sailormon6 I bought a Catalina 25 new, and raced and sailed it for over 20 years before I moved up to my present boat. I've never seen any other boat that was so capable of sailing so much better than it's rating.

The notion that Catalina quality is "not all that great" was nurtured for many years by competing salesmen at boat shows who were having difficulty selling similar but more expensive boats. Buyers found that they could afford bigger Catalinas with more accomodations than the more expensive brands, and most of them didn't need such sturdy boats just to cruise a big bay or the coast. Competing salesmen had to puff the quality of their boats vs. Catalinas in order to make sales. There are indeed better boats, but, if you're looking for a coastal cruiser/racer, Catalinas are a very good value. Don't be afraid of a Catalina, but some of the higher priced boats with better reputations can now be bought in the same price range as Catalinas, now that they are depreciated.

Your price range of 2.5 to 3K for a C25 is in the range for a decent older boat without a trailer. A boat with a trailer will cost about another 2k. You can spend 1k on boat maintenance in the blink of an eye, to replace just one sail, for example. So, if you find a boat for an extra 1k that has been better maintained, and has better, newer equipment, you may be way ahead of the game.

Daggerboards are a type of centerboard that are usually found in smaller dinghies. Offhand, I can't remember any in cruising boats, although there might be some. Generally, a fin keel sails well, but you need 4' of water and a trailer tongue extension to trailer-launch it. A wing keel doesn't point to windward quite as well as a fin keel, but it needs less water depth to launch it, and, if you run aground, it can be a little more difficult than a fin keel to break it free. Some older C 25s also had a swing keel. They sail as well as a fin keel, and provide shallow draft, but the keel-raising mechanism absolutely must be meticulously maintained.

I have to tell you that you really don't want to bump a stump too hard with the keel of any boat, no matter who built it. You should ordinarily stay out of shallow water, but whenever you have no choice, slow down and proceed with caution, so that you won't do any serious damage if you hit something.

Some monohull sailboats are ballasted, and some are not. With a few exceptions that aren't relevant here, ballasted monohulls are generally self-righting, but unballasted ones are not.

In moderate winds, it doesn't make much difference whether you hike out or not on a ballasted sailboat. In exceptionally strong winds, it can help to reduce the angle of heel if you have extra crew sitting on the windward rail. On the other hand, in exceptionally light winds, if you have enough crew members, you can put them on the lee rail and force the boat to heel. That usually reduces the boat's wetted surface (which reduces the amount of drag) and it also improves the sails' shape, which helps them continue to drive the boat, both of which help keep the boat going in light air.
02-21-2006 04:46 AM
kazmeister Hello again!

Okay so I'm slowly closing in on what I'm looking for. Sounds like a tiller will definitely be far more conducive to a good learning experience for a newbie like myself. I'm to be on the lookout for delaminated decks, tabbing coming loose, old standing rigging (10 yrs or so?), and old sails. Having a good set of sails in the package will be a definite plus as I looked up some prices using a Catalina 25 as a reference point and discovered I'd be looking at a 2.5 to 3k expediture, if not more. Also that I shouldn't be overly concerned with the race history of a boat, as it may have more wear and tear, but will generally be better maintained. I already know to look for an outboard (and preferably a diesel OB) rather than an I/O motor because they are easier to maintain and repair on the fly.

Sailormon- I maintain that weight won't be much of an issue (I have a late model F-250 SD w/ towing package to include trailer-brake system. It's towing cap. is in the neighborhood of 16k lbs. It's light on creature comforts but it's a brute built for hauling.) and if a bigger boat generally sails better than a bigger boat is what I should be on the lookout for. The added cabin space will make it worth my while for the occasional weekender. Besides, the rigging which an experienced sailor finds tedious will all be new to me, at least for a while. If I was in a big hurry, I'd just get another powerboat. None the less, I will consider myself warned.

I should also note that I'm not looking for "the" boat. Just a boat I can learn to sail on and have some fun in the process. If I really catch the bug, I'll upgrade to a bigger, newer boat a few seasons down the road.

All that said, I've been doing some more research, and of course, I have more questions.

Of a centerboard or a daggerboard, which is "better"? (I'm leaning towards centerboard, due to it's ability to fold if I find myself grounded) Or should I look instead for something with a fin keel? Do they make boats with fin keels that are float-on trailerable?

I keep hearing that due to the low cost and high availability a Catalina would be a good choice for me, but I've read that the quality of the brand is not all that great. I know on my budget my choices are limited, but would an older Catalina be able to stand up to some rough handling? Not that I intend to be rough on the boat, but I am after all new to this. I just would like to know that the first time I bump a stump or manage to ground myself I have a pretty good chance of sailing away from it, rather than swimming for shore because the hull caved like an eggshell. On a side note, are all monohull sailboats self-righting to a degree, or is that particular blessing reserved for full, weighted keel boats?

And one more, although it may be one for the learning to sail topic: How much effect would hiking have on a boat in the 25' range without a full keel? I may occasionally have a few friends aboard, but most of the time it'll be just me, and I don't have that much weight to throw around.

Once again, I've prattled on for far too long. Sorry about that, and thanks for bearing with me. I have so much to learn before I can make an educated purchase. Good thing I still have some time before I can even look at another boat. Not really a good thing though. The desert sucks. I'd rather be paddling a canoe through a mudhole.

-James
02-20-2006 12:14 PM
Sailormon6 Trailerable sailboats have undergone a major change in design in recent years. It's getting increasingly difficult to find a good, used tow vehicle with a powerful engine, so manufacturers are finding ways to build lighter trailerable boats that can be towed by less powerful tow vehicles. Older 25' boats, like the Catalina 25, which is a very nice boat for its size, are heavier, and that weight not only makes them harder to tow, but it also makes them harder to launch and to rig. The newer design Catalina 250 is lighter, and easier to tow, launch and rig.

Also, within this size range, a relatively small size difference can make a big difference in the boat's weight. A Catalina 22, for example, can be towed by a mid-sized suv, and can be launched and rigged by a single person, but a mid-sized suv can't tow a Catalina 25, and it is much more difficult for one person to launch and rig it. (although it can be done with the necessary rigging.)

The bigger, older boats have nicer interior accomodations and generally sail better, but, unless you plan to keep it in a slip, you'll find that you won't sail it very often, because it is so much work to tow, launch and rig it.

So, if you plan to trailer-sail, then you should either look for a smaller, older boat in the range of 20-22', or a newer boat up to 25' with a more modern, light-weight design. If you plan to keep it in a slip, you can luxuriate in a bigger, heavier, older boat.

When you're buying real estate, the 3 most important concerns are location, location, location. When you're buying a boat, the 3 most important concerns are condition, condition, condition. I've seen many old racing boats in superb condition, and visa versa. The same is true of cruising boats. It isn't about how they're used. It's about how they're maintained. It is true, however, that you have to look more carefully at old racing boats, because they're designed and built just strong enough to withstand the stresses, and no stronger, and because the've been subjected to maximum stress much of their existence. But, people are still enjoying good old J24s, Capri 25s and similar racers just as much as their fathers did, a generation ago.

Don't be in too much of a hurry to buy a boat. Look at a lot of them. Volunteer to crew on different boats, so you can see for yourself how they behave.

I learned to sail a boat with a tiller, and, although it might sound a little fanciful, I liked to think that the boat "talked to me" through the tiller. Whenever the boat started to labor, it became apparent first by increased tiller pressure. When I felt too much tiller pressure, that told me to start looking around for the cause, to optimize the boat's performance. Sometimes I could reduce the pressure by increasing the tension on a sail control, like the traveler, or a halyard or outhaul or backstay adjuster, or to make some other adjustment. When the tiller pressure started to lighten, that told me it was time to start thinking about easing all the sail controls. My present boat is a 35 footer, and has a wheel, and I've learned to like it too, but the wheel doesn't talk to you as clearly as the tiller. If you'll learn to listen to what a tiller is telling you, I think you'll be a better sailor for it.
02-20-2006 11:49 AM
Jim H You ask some good questions, but they're all in the world of "it depends."

I recently bought a boat that had been raced, in part because it had an extensive sail collection (several very recent) and the standing rigging had been replaced and upgraded not long ago. It was also came with with two spinnakers, whisker pole, and other race-related controls. These were all pluses for me, as well as the fact the rigging had been kept tuned and maintained well.

On the other hand, I'd stay clear of race boats that haven't been well maintained, old standing rigging, tabbing coming loose below decks, leaks or stress cracks from over-tight rigging, etc.

As for tiller, there's reasons pro and con, but it's often a matter of personal choice. An argument could be made that there's no real mechanical advantage of having a wheel on a boat that's less than 30-34 feet, and there's a mechanical disadvantage in that a wheel may be more complicated to service and maintain compared to a simple tiller. One gets less feedback from a wheel, and in my opinion it's harder to add an autopilot to a wheel.

For a single-hander, it might be nice to just tighten the knob on a wheel to hold it in place while doing other jobs. A tiller can be locked pretty easily with a basic auto-pilot, and I really liked how the previous owner installed the tiller pilot on our boat (and it can steer to waypoints on the GPS).

Finally, based on the design of the cockpit on a small sailboat, the wheel could be a pain or benefit for climbing around when managing sails and the like. Some tillers "sweep" the cockpit and can be a pain, but they also can normally fold up and out of the way when anchored or even changing tacks. Some wheel set ups can be pretty inconvient for managing sheets and moving about, depending on the cockpit setup.

If you haven't guessed-- my bias is for a tiller, and others might sucessfully argue a wheel is better. "It depends..."

Jim H
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