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Northstar 26' or Catalina 25'

14031 Views 12 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Dale Goffin
Hello SailNet faithful. I have been scouring the coast of Florida for a good, cheap yet sturdy, starter boat and I have come to what I feel is the final choices.

My first final choice is a 1973 25' NORTHSTAR for $2500. The ad for it on craigslist can be found here: Sailboat
I have personally seen this boat at the dock though I have not yet been inside. I am scheduling a meeting with the owner for this Saturday.

The second option is a pretty standard 1982 25' Catalina for $4000.

I have seen both boats, but neither on the hard nor the interiors. I am leaning towards the northstar because the owner is a diesel mechanic and the boat is equipped with a 12 HP yanmar diesel. The Catalina has an 8 hp outboard.
Both boats are sailed regularly by their owners (I spoke to some of the boat owners at the Marina to find this info out, this is also how I know both boats are being sold because the owners are out of work.)
Because they are both sailed reguarly I am ASSUMING that most everything is in working order. I know I will need to do some re-fitting but I really am not looking to build a beaut, I just want something practical for the next 2-4 years.

I will be using my boat for coastal sailing and during the summers I will plan to take trips to the Bahamas. The Northstar has an AC unit which I am not super fond of and so I am wondering how much of a nuisance and money pit AC units are? Also, is it easy to remove the AC unit and perhaps sell it?
I have tons of info on the Catalinas, but there is not so much on the Northstar besides schematics and dimensions ect.

All opinions are greatly appreciated! Note*I do not care that the NORTHSTAR has been referred to as a pregnant whale. Speed under sail is not a major concern. Overall durability and resale value is.
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Hey! I remember these! S&S design, early 70's IOR MkI... a small classic. If I recall it might have been a 1/4 tonner. If the boat is in good shape, it could be a great choice. If I recall, these where built like tanks. I'm guessing it's a solid glass hull. Sure, it won't be super fast, but will go to windward well. Resale value? Not much, but look at it this way. If you pulled the engine out and sold it, sold the mast and keel for the going Al and Pb scrap rates, you might have your 2500 and a couple handfuls of change back.

Don't assume that because the boat is sailed regularly that it's in great shape. It might be, it might not be. An offer and survey? Maybe, but again, if the engine is in good shape, it alone is nearly worth the price.

The Northstar over the Catalina or visa versa? Which boat speaks to you? Which boat makes your heart sing? Contact the owners and go have a look.
I think the Hughes/Northstar boats are decent, S&S designs, as puddin' says early IOR and all that goes with that. To my eye, though, the 25 looks like they lopped off the molds of the 29 just to create a 25 footer. The tumblehome will give you a little more volume below, perhaps, but given the narrow ends and the truncated stern I'm guessing the Catalina will be a more liveable layout, and undoubtedly a better cockpit.

All else being equal, given the line's popularity and reputation for support I'd lean towards the Catalina - although an inboard engine would be my preference too....
I think the reason for the price diff is clear: the Northstar 500 is a racing boat without standing headroom - not that it seems to rate faster than the C25 under PHRF!.

The Catalina will be a much more comfortable cruising boat, though the Northstar may be a sounder build. I know people who had them, took them out in nasty stuff and swear by their boats, though it was a wet ride.

Interestingly a Grampian 26 will probably beat both and a be lot more comfortable - dunno how many made it down to Florida but here in Ontario they seem to grow on trees.
I assume that the boat in question is a Northstar 500 and not a Northstar 26 which was not introduced until around 1979. I actually owned a Northstar 500 back in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

While the accomodations are a bit Spartan, these were very nice boats in terms of sailing ability and were very well constructed in all ways. I routinely sailed mine in the Atlantic off Savannah, including in some very big seas and winds. I liked the boat very much. Although essentially the same design, there were two versions of the boat, the 500 and 500 QT. The 500 was optimiized as a MORC boat and the 500 QT was optimized as an IOR Quarter tonner.

My issues with the Northstar would be that the rig proportion was such that these boats depended on very large sail inventories. Mine had six or seven jibs and two spinackers and you really needed to pick the right sail for the wind speed or it seriously hurt performance. I would think that you would at least want a 150%, 135% , 105% and storm jib for cruising. The deck layout and hardware was top-notch for the 1970's but consisted mostly of Merriman winches and blocks. This was well made hadware, but the parts are almost imposible to find (I had a machine shop make parts for me back in the 1980's) and by modern standards it was high friction, and not as powerful as we would spec. today. Also the Northstar has a vee drive which is bit of a PITA if there is alignment, shaftlog, or coupling issues. I had some special tools made which helped some. The Northstar 500 is also pretty deep draft if I recall correctly.

The Catalina 25 is an okay coastal cruiser. They sail reasonably well, and are not all that much slower in moderate conditions than the Northstar. The Catalina is not as robust as the Northstar and does not do as well in heavy going, but it sure has a roomier interior and a layout that is more suitable for living aboard. The outboard is less suitable for crossing the Gulfstream. since you can't keep in the water in a short chop, you can't even use it to charge the batteries. The Catalina might get by with fewer sails in its inventory but it shares a similar rig proportion to the Northstar and so you will need a large genoa for light air, a working jib, and something to use in heavy going. A furler will not solve this problem.

Frankly, neither boat is especially ideal for what you propose to do. If I were in your shoes I would try to find a nicely maintained Tartan 27 which is between the two speeds of these boats but which is a better suited design than the Northstar in terms of accomodations and is a much better built boat than the Catalina.

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that said Jeff, many an old IOR boat is equipped with roller furling and make great cruisers. One could go a step further and do detachable inner head stay to to hoist a #3 on hanks with a set of reef points on. 2 headsails, a spinnaker (maybe even an assy for simplicity), and a main. Looking at the deck, I'm sure one could make or have a very nice little dodger made. Of course as you say, after all that upgrading and not, one could find a T27 or maybe even a Yankee 30.
While it is true that some old IOR boats make acceptable cruising boats, having actually owned a Northstar 500, what I found is that the sail plan, which had a very low SA/D and a miniscule mainsail, depended very heavily on carrying very large inventory of the precisely right sized overlapping headsail for the conditions. When you add that the boat was very sensitive to larger heel angle (like most IOR boats of that era- cavitating the rudder and wiping out moderately easily) the boat was easiest to handle with just the right sail on the stay.

The way we used the boat, even cruising the boat would hardly sail in winds under 4-5 knots without using the 170% genoa or the Drifter. By 8 knots of wind, the 170% was over-powered and the drifter was so round that you could not point at all. We typically tried to get by with the #1 (155%) from around 5 knots up to about 10 knots, but around 12 knots with the #1 you were wiping out, even with a reef in the mainsail. In winds above 10 knots but below 15 knots, I peeled down to the #2 (135%), which at the upper end was nicely balanced with a reef but around 15 knots the boat again got pretty squirely so we would peel down to the #3 often with a reef to balance the helm.

I usually used the 155% or 135% daysailing in winds around 5-15 knots. My boat had a track in the foredeck for a removable storm jib, but the boat had a huge amount of weather helm when the storm jib was used without a double reef in the mainsail. The individual sails had a wider wind range when racing with 3-4 guys on the rail.

Back to Puddinglegs point, the reason that I say that roller furling will not help was that the boat was very sensitive to fullness. My boat had a full cut #1 and a flat cut #1. (It also had similar #2's) The full cut was next to useless because the boat would heel too quickly greatly shortening the range of the use of the sail. The same was true of the full cut #2. Since roller furling a sail makes the furled sail fuller, this would not be a good way to go on the Northstar 500.

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Look around...

No one asked....
but why not consider some of the other great choices in the 25 foot range?
C&C 25, Cal 2-25 (or the great Cal 2-27), or the Ericson 25+ or the similar E-26??
There is an amazing deal right now on an E-25+, listed over on the owners' forum --
E25+ for sale - EY.o Information Exchange

It's a down economy and there are good quality boats for sale. Don't limit your choices too much.

Old thread but someone else thinking about the Catalina 25 will stumble into it just as I have. Here's a link to an extensive review of the Catalina 25 I researched and wrote. Fair winds!

Catalina 25 Review | Which Sailboat?
I have a northstar 26 with a yanmar 1gm10, open up the stuff box to find not much in it, I'm thinking the seal would be a 1/4". I found it hard to get into the spot to make sure. Has anyone done this?
Hey Dale, welcome to SailNet. Feel free to start a new thread for a new topic. Are you talking about the packing material?
Yes. I see there is a squre packing and a round one, guessing it's the round one.
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