well if you dont mind a bit of weather helm, and can get a good surveyer, The Pearson Tritons are some of the more solid boats Pearson ever made. As for a 26'' boat thats good for four people.... well, the Tritons 28, and its ok.
The ariel has a huge following, specificly with the enginless sailing crowd, because it''s easy to handle and does well in heavier weather AND a breaze, that being said, like the flika, it''s a full keel. That and the speed (what speed? 2 knots under full sail in a gale?) are about all those boats have in common though.
Catalina 27. Cheap, comfy, fun to sail.. I wouldnt take one offshore. But on the flipside, with alot of sailing experience, and some time seriously reenforcing/rebuilding one, a guy circumnavigated on one.
In the small fast and fun category, I''ve been out on Catalina 22''s for daysailing and know some people the overnight it camp style, but once agian, I''m not sure I''d want to be offshore in a 22'' boat designed for zipping around a bay.
I''m sure there are others, and I can almost guarantee that some of the more experienced people here wont agree with the choices I''ve tossed out, but they''re boats I''ve sailed on and know people who sail (both sailed and know, not either sailed or know) and my impressions of both. Your budget seems as starved as mine. Another thing to do though is contact the local sea scouts, and other water based charities, as alot of times they get donations that dont fit into their plans at all, so they sell them cheap. I got a beautifull little 19'' keel boat that handles my 25 mile passages to the california channel islands with aplomb, worst to date: 25 kts and 6-8 feet. Felt spooky, but Josie did alright. FWIW, she''s a Signet 20'', but I''ve only found 2 others, so no guarantees. But look around.