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post #1 of 34 Old 06-06-2014 Thread Starter
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1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

I've started my search for an inexpensive first boat. The requirements are it has to have a galley and a head as we would like to spend weekends aboard. I realize there's nothing more expensive than a cheap boat and I'm not looking to sail the horn just yet. After pouring through pages of yachtworld I'm going to look at three boats next weekend. I'll preface this with a surveyor will definitely be hired.

All three boats were produced in 1981 with fin keels. From what I've read the Catalina 30 is the "Toyota Camry" of the boating world as far as production numbers (okay, Chevy, but I don't know of a model as popular as the Camry). The Sabre is said the be the better built boat and it's unfortunate they're still not in [the sailboat] business. Here are the choices:

Catalina 30, Standard Rig - Probably my least favorite. The boat is on the hard and seems to need a lot of TLC with a host of fixes from bimini stitching to a non-operating VHF. She leaks but the broker wasn't sure if it was from the portlets but advised all the deck hardware needed re-bedding. If I wanted a project boat this would be it.

Catalina 30, Tall Rig - This boat looks the most attractive at this point. It seems to be cared for quite well with a reinforced deck at the step mast, bimini, dodger and a host of other equipment. The tall rig is said to be a better in light air. I think that's called July and August on the Chesapeake.

Sabre 30 Mk II - Seems a good boat but is the prop walk as bad on all boats? I don't plan on motoring astern for too far but that just means more of a challenge when I do and honestly it's the only minus I can find. Sails are fair to good and I'd need to spend some money on equipment just to bring her up to that of the tall rig.

Does the Sabre offer anything I'm missing? Other than the mast compression and the Catalina smile is there anything else to be wary of on a Catalina?

Last edited by Švejk; 06-07-2014 at 04:08 PM.
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post #2 of 34 Old 06-06-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

Sabre is definitely still in business...they just make powerboats and no more sailboats. The Catalina 30 is out of production too...and has been for over a decade now.

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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

Random thoughts. Take them for what they are worth.

I may have misunderstood you, but Sabre is still in business and their customer support is excellent (although they are currently not producing sailboats).

My opinion is prop walk is a useful tool. Once you know your boat, you will use it to your advantage maneuvering in tight spaces.

Sabres of that era are notorious for problems with rot in the mast step.
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post #4 of 34 Old 06-06-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

Are you going to day sail and cruise...or race?

If you are mostly doing the first, then the Catalina Tall Rig should suit you well. Anything that is over 30 years old will have issues, it just depends on how well they were maintained by the previous owners (most likely plural with a 30 year old boat.

Catalina made over 10,000 30's so they must have done something right. If well maintained they are pretty much bullet proof. Sail fairly well, will handle weather, and one of the roomiest boats in that range down below.

There is a Catalina 30 owners group that is very active and you can find advise on most anything from fixes to refinements. Catalina is still in business and you can actually talk to people that will answer your questions. Between the factory and Catalina Direct you can find most anything.

Lots of nice boats out there, but as in dating....you will have to kiss a few frogs along the way.

Good Luck
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post #5 of 34 Old 06-07-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

Look at the hidden parts of the boat for quality differences. In 1981 Catalina was taking serious shortcuts with through hulls (they will be pieces of pipe glassed into the hull, it looks like a little volcano) and the finish on hidden areas of fiberglass was terrible. The mast wiring was glassed directly into the cabin top, making replacement difficult.

I had a 1984 Catalina 25 and it sailed pretty nicely, but my 1986 Pearson is much more nicely made.

I've not looked closely at a Sabre, but they have excellent reputation. The user manual on the Sabre 30 is a beautiful thing, it includes helpful details that other manufacturers never list, like the locations and types of core materials found in the deck and hull.

Quickly looking at PHRF shows that the Sabre should be a hair faster than the Catalina 30 tall.
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post #6 of 34 Old 06-07-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

I would go with the tall rig Catalina. Sabers are very good boats, but for a family cruising the Catalina has more room. And for a new boat owner there is a lot more information available to help guide repairs, and of course Catalina is still in business and still supports their older boats.

The Saber is a little more performance oriented, and has a very good build quality reputation, so I wouldn't exclude it.

At the end of the day certainly have a good look at them both, and go with whichever makes you feel better. Assuming they are both in decent shape both would be very good boats.
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

I really don't know anything about Sabre's other than the reputation of being one of the better quality boats. I used to have a C30 some years ago and now have the C34. The help and advice I have received from the C 34 owners website has been incredible. I'm sure the C30 website is just as helpful.
Your best bet...look hard at both and decide which suits your needs best.
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post #8 of 34 Old 06-07-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

Personally I'm partial to Sabre's for the obvious reasons but as Mr F has noted, be sure to check the compression post step. Also check the bulkheads for rot where the chainplates bolt up. Nice thing about these boats, they were stick built instead of a pan being tabbed to a hull.
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

About 10-years ago I faced a similar decision and chose to go with a 1977 Sabre 34 over a newer Catalina 30 and never regretted that decision. Today I own a Catalina 387 and love it. The Sabre is a 'sweet sailing boat' and the Catalina is very comfortable sailing. Both boats have owners groups and receive support from the respective manufacturers.

Visit the boats and buy the one that 'speaks' to you. You'll make the right choice.
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post #10 of 34 Old 06-07-2014
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Re: 1981 - Catalina 30' or Sabre 30'?

IMO, Apples to Oranges comparison.
The Sabre is in the quality of design and engineering group of makes like CS Yachts, Tartan, Valiant, and Ericson.
The Catalina is in a lesser group, especially back in those years.

The Cat 30 can sail adequately, but not well. The attempt of the keel to escape its enslavement to the hull on the old Catalina's is not a good thing, either.

Like airplanes, boats all have their 'performance envelope' and the better ones are engineered and built to last longer, go further and be more fun to sail -- i.e. have a bigger envelope.

So buy the craft that fits your Real Needs, and more importantly quite often, is available to your local waters where you can avoid a large trucking fee. Just understand what your needs... are.

Fair winds,
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