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My wife and I have decided to buy small cruiser for the upper Chesapeake. She likes the idea of a floating cottage get away and I am an avid sailor. Our requirements are it should fit in a 35' slip, be shoal draft, not require refit, be relatively easy to maintain, be easy to sail short handed or solo. Budget <$70,000. Our short list is the Catalina 320, Hunter 33 and Beneteau 323, probably built between 2000 and 2008. These 3 seem to come up for sale and are in our price range. Has anyone out there owned one of these and what would you recommend. Thanks!
 

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My wife and I have decided to buy small cruiser for the upper Chesapeake. She likes the idea of a floating cottage get away and I am an avid sailor. Our requirements are it should fit in a 35' slip, be shoal draft, not require refit, be relatively easy to maintain, be easy to sail short handed or solo. Budget <$70,000. Our short list is the Catalina 320, Hunter 33 and Beneteau 323, probably built between 2000 and 2008. These 3 seem to come up for sale and are in our price range. Has anyone out there owned one of these and what would you recommend. Thanks!
....Budget....

That is the key. It is hard to make suggestions without knowing how much you are looking to spend. Of course you are aware that the purchase price is just the price of admission. Ongoing maintenance costs are a given, and the older the boat the higher those costs are likely to be.

You say are an avid sailor, are you a racer? If so I am guessing sailing performance is important? There are lots of floating "winnebagos" out there that would be easy to sail short handed, but perhaps not very satisfying for an avid sailor to sail.

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Was really tempted to upgrade from my 93 Hunter 33.5 to a 2005 Beneteau 343 which would have been well within the price range that you are looking at.
But then I came to my senses. Either that or I just couldn't bring myself to get rid of the old girl.... a trait that my wife seems to admire.
I would suggest that you check out the 343 as well as the 323. It's a nice boat. The 323 and 343 both have a base of 147 which means either would be slightly better performers than either the Catalina or the Hunter but as far as I'm concerned the difference is pretty insignificant. I once raced against a guy who rated 8 points slower than me and I never could beat him across the line much less on corrected time. I think you just have to go on how the boat feels to you. Sorta like when you're buying a house.
 

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I love it when Bounder owners denigrate Winnebago buyers. I guess that if you were truly an 鈥渁vid鈥 sailor, you鈥檇 be looking at nothing less than J105s 鈥 wife be damned (you might also want to start looking for a good divorce attorney). :devil Shoal draft and performance aren鈥檛 usually found in the same sentence. The truth of the matter is most of the boats that are considered 鈥渨eekenders鈥 in your size range are going to look a lot like the three that you are considering.

Full disclosure 鈥 I own a Catalina 34 in the same vintage as your target zone. I do know a couple of people who own C320s, one of which is a member of the Single-Handed Sailor鈥檚 Society in San Francisco and has qualified his C320 for the Single Handed Transpac. Whereas naturally, I prefer the cabin and deck layout on my C34, the C320 is quite serviceable. Most people sleep in the aft cabin so check it out before you buy. Mrs. B likes the C320 galley better. With the notoriously light winds of the Chessie, I would concentrate my search on the tall rig version. I鈥檝e owned Catalinas of various stripes for over thirty years and I can attest to their above average build quality and superior customer support. But the best way to gauge what the owners think about their boats is to visit the message board from the owner鈥檚 association website and read a honest assessment of what the owners feel about their boats.

Check out:

/https://c320.org/

Mark, light (small) cruisers have 6鈥 guns, heavies 8鈥. Battleships start at 12鈥. :laugh
 

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I looked at a couple of Cat 320s when I was shopping 10 years ago. One main reason for passing was the poor storage. I do like the Cat 34 better. Not a fan of the cruising Benes, but do like the racier First boats. If you can find one, look at a J34c or J35c. Performance and shoal draft.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the replies. To clarify, I love sailing and I love my wife. Not going to give up either. I can compromise performance for comfort, so we can enjoy being on the water together. I race in a club that has a fleet of J27s and get my speed and thrills fix there. So a floating Winnebago is about right for my purpose. That being said, of the 3 boats I'm looking at, I'ld rather have the faster of them since the Chesapeake is notorious for light air in the summer. I think the Beneteau has the highest SA/D and lowest D/L. The quoted SA/Ds seem to be for standard rigs while many of the boats advertised have in mast furling. I know that decreases performance because of sail shape. I guess it also decreases sail area. As for MarkB's comments, I'm not aware Catalina made a 320 tall rig and have seen none for sale, tons of older 30 tall rigs on the market, though. Will follow your advice and go to owners association message boards. Also thanks for educating me re: gunships.
 

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She likes the idea of a floating cottage get away and I am an avid sailor.
Rather than focusing on brand or model I'd consider three things:

Maintenance -- You're basically looking at 10 to 20 year old boats. I would be willing to pay a little more for a well maintained boat where the maintenance was done and done correctly. It will save you lots of small and maybe a few big headaches down the road.


If this is going to be a weekend home I'd give priority to comfort and storage. Our boat was our weekend home for 10+ years. Some important items for us were being able to turn out real meals in the galley, having a comfortable berth, a real TV/stereo, a cozy salon and a nook where you can get away from each other now and then to read or relax.

The head on our boat was always small for my taste (Catalina 30 MKIII), but the boat lived in a marina so we had access to showers and bathrooms in the marina.

The right boat will just feel "right". Hopefully that's the same boat for both of you. But you won't know until you're onboard.


Finding the right marina is important if this is going to be your getaway. The right marina is a community of friends that you look forward to seeing every weekend. The wrong marina crowd can kill your enjoyment of the boat.

Best of luck,
Jim
 
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As for MarkB's comments, I'm not aware Catalina made a 320 tall rig and have seen none for sale, tons of older 30 tall rigs on the market, though.
Only one rig for the Cat 320 (a double spreader). The Cat 34 did come with a standard and tall rig. Both have keel options. And consider whether you want a roller furling main or not. I did not and never even looked at a boat that had one. My Cal 33-2 came with a Dutchman system which makes lowering the main a breeze. Far superior to lazy jacks.
 

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Good observation Jim. I did not realize that Catalina鈥檚 鈥淔lorida鈥 boats (a.k.a. the 鈥0鈥 boats) had only one rig size whereas the Woodland Hills boats came in a standard and tall rig option. (My Catalina 28 tall rig was a double spreader configuration). There was some literature alluding to a C320 鈥渢all鈥 rig, but I couldn鈥檛 find any hard facts. Interestingly, the C320鈥檚 rig is almost the size of my 34鈥檚, so I鈥檓 wondering if Catalina went to a higher aspect rig to simplify and eliminate the two rig options. This begs the question of what is ratio that determines 鈥渉igh鈥 and 鈥渓ow鈥 aspect rigs? I couldn鈥檛 find any definitive answer in my copy of Sailing Yacht Design by Douglas Phillips-Birt.

Peterennis, I ran the C320 and Bene 323 numbers through my comparative database and have come up some interesting observations. Although both are about the same LOA, the C320 is a foot wider, making for a much bigger (and heavier) boat. You will want your other half to really look at the two interiors. If there is insufficient storage space in the C320, you will most likely have the same (or more) problem in the B323. I kind of like the numbers on the B323. If the displacement is anything close to the advertised 9,325#, it should be fun and move in the light air of summer. You have the added benefit of a fin keel for the same draft as the much heavier wing on the Catalina.
 

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Can't really go wrong with either of the boats, they are all good boats. it i would come down to the one you feel the most comfortable in. you did mention short handed sailing so that might be a deciding factor., it is for me . All three have mast head rigs, but the Bene 323 has outboard shrouds/ sweepback spreaders and caries a smaller non overlapping jib and the others will mostly have big over lapping genius. if the boat needs a big genoa to sail light winds it is going to be a bit of a handful for short handed sailing. it will requiring sail changes when the wind is up. the hunter is a small main large genoa boat and would rely the most on the large genoa.when we bought our latest Bene I did look at the Cat320 but then decided I did not want another boat that relied on the large genoa and full crew for good performance.
 

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The Hunter B&R rig does not use a smaller headsail and larger genoa. The whole point of the rig was to allow for a bigger main and smaller jib, so that particular argument doesn't fly. The downside to the B&R or any other swept back spreader is that the mainsail cannot present as much sail area when running downwind without chaffing on the spreaders. There will be advantages and disadvantages to any of the boats mentioned. Pick the model you like best and then find the most well maintained example you can find. If you don't have any strong preferences between models then pick the best maintained example of all the models.
A well maintained Hunter is better than a dilapidated Hinckley!

PS. A dilapidated Hinckley might be Hard to Find ! Still I think you get the point.
 

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Can't really go wrong with either of the boats, they are all good boats. it i would come down to the one you feel the most comfortable in. you did mention short handed sailing so that might be a deciding factor., it is for me . All three have mast head rigs, but the Bene 323 has outboard shrouds/ sweepback spreaders and caries a smaller non overlapping jib and the others will mostly have big over lapping genius. if the boat needs a big genoa to sail light winds it is going to be a bit of a handful for short handed sailing. it will requiring sail changes when the wind is up. the hunter is a small main large genoa boat and would rely the most on the large genoa.when we bought our latest Bene I did look at the Cat320 but then decided I did not want another boat that relied on the large genoa and full crew for good performance.
Yes, definitely having a smaller headsail makes short handed sailing much easier. My 39i has a small jib, and it is more manageable single hande than my old Santana 30 Genoa upwind! I can short tack the boat in 15kts of wind without assistance from my wife. Part of that is also ergonomics. Pay attention to the positions of sail controls relative to the helm position. Being able to grind or ease the headsail without leaving the helm means you can do the hard work yourself and let the wife enjoy the ride.

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My wife does the grinding on our boat, likes to be useful while getting some good exercise.
Yes so does mine, or the helming, but there are occasions when she is down below doing something, or otherwise occupied. It is nice if you don't NEED the help.

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I love it when Bounder owners denigrate Winnebago buyers. I guess that if you were truly an 鈥渁vid鈥 sailor, you鈥檇 be looking at nothing less than J105s 鈥 wife be damned (you might also want to start looking for a good divorce attorney). :devil Shoal draft and performance aren鈥檛 usually found in the same sentence. The truth of the matter is most of the boats that are considered 鈥渨eekenders鈥 in your size range are going to look a lot like the three that you are considering.

Full disclosure 鈥 I own a Catalina 34 in the same vintage as your target zone. I do know a couple of people who own C320s, one of which is a member of the Single-Handed Sailor鈥檚 Society in San Francisco and has qualified his C320 for the Single Handed Transpac. Whereas naturally, I prefer the cabin and deck layout on my C34, the C320 is quite serviceable. Most people sleep in the aft cabin so check it out before you buy. Mrs. B likes the C320 galley better. With the notoriously light winds of the Chessie, I would concentrate my search on the tall rig version. I鈥檝e owned Catalinas of various stripes for over thirty years and I can attest to their above average build quality and superior customer support. But the best way to gauge what the owners think about their boats is to visit the message board from the owner鈥檚 association website and read a honest assessment of what the owners feel about their boats.

Check out:

/https://c320.org/

Mark, light (small) cruisers have 6鈥 guns, heavies 8鈥. Battleships start at 12鈥. :laugh
Wow...just...Wow
 

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Wow...just...Wow
Yeah, I didn't know what to make of that. WTF is a "Bounder" anyway??

Even among "furniture boats" there are boats that sail nicely and there are boats that sail like pigs. You don't need to go as spartan as a J109 to get good performance!



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