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Old 29-07-2008, 22:21   #1
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Islander vs Columbia vs Catalina

Hello everyone,

Two other couples, my wife and I are planning on forming a partnership to purchase our first sailboat. We will be looking for a boat in the 27 to 34 foot range. Things that are impotant to us are safety, seaworthiness, ease of sail (newbies), aft cockpit, decent condition and deisel. We will be doing mostly day sailing with the ocasional couple day trip to the Channel Islands. Down the road we may even head to Mexico for a couple of weeks.

What are your thoughts on tiller vs wheel and sloop vs cutter. I have never sailed a cutter.

I was wondering about these three boats due to number of boats on the market close by and in our price range. It seems that there are a lot of Catalina 30s around and they seem to be roomy. Could I get your guys input on possitives and negatives about these boats. And if you have any other suggetions about any other boats in the 20-25k range that you think would be suitable.

Thanks in advance, your wisdom is much appreciated!


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Old 30-07-2008, 01:30   #2
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Aloha John,
This is just my opinion but I prefer the Catalina if you have all three the same length. Its just a prejudice so you don't need to take my word for it at all. In that size range you won't need a wheel so a tiller is fine and you probably won't find a cutter in either of those 3 so sloop is also fine. Some of the older models have gas engines so if diesel is important to you (it is to me) than make certain the ones you look at have that feature.
Good luck in your search.
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Old 30-07-2008, 05:39   #3
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The Catalina 30 was the most popular Catalina boat made and ranks high in numbers you might find in CA. They should be everywhere. They are popular for the one design race fleets common and they do fine as day sailing and short duration trips in coastal waters. That is what most sailors do most of the time.

that are important to us are safety, seaworthiness, ease of sail (newbies), aft cockpit, decent condition and diesel.
These are fine criteria but only narrows the list to about 50,000 boats. So once again a lot of boats fit this requirement. The issues may end up being the condition of the boat. Old boats can be in quite good condition and they may not be in such great condition. What they were like brand new should be viewed as interesting but not as important.

Older boats need a marine survey so you can know if it is safe to spend money, fall in love, and buy an insurance policy. It sets up the work ahead as far as things that may need to be replaced or problems that may make it unsafe. There were no boats made that were not safe when they were new unless they were home made or something odd.

Tiller vs wheel - they both steer the boat. On smaller boats there may be an option boats in the size range you are looking at probably wheel.

Cutter vs Sloop - These are different designs and you may see more cutters as you get over 30 ft but most boats will probably be sloops. Cutters center the mast fore and aft and have an inner forestay for a third sail. It allows flexibility for sails and is suited to longer distance trips. The concept was easier sail handling when working with hanked on sails. Modern boats including cutters usually have a roller furling system on the genoa to make the head sail easier to handle. The boats don't sail the same way but of course the wind blows the same with both boats.

Our last boat as well as current is a cutter but we learned on sloops and smaller boats. I think I like cutters enough since we are used to them and I also think it takes a while to really get to know a boat. The difference in your situation really only requires that you find a boat with a roller furling genoa just to make life simpler. The details of the rest are perhaps more a matter of price and availability.

The 27 to 34 ft ranges sounds like 7 feet. It really is a lot more than that. You are also in the range of 8.5 to 12 ft of beam (width). The difference in the ends of the range are huge. Some boats "carry" more beam than others. That is the widest point may extend along a greater length making the inside of the boat fuller. In this size range the prices can be a factor of 10 different depending on age, size and type.

Take the group and go out and look at boats at the ends of this range and get a feeling for what you get for your money. Spend a couple weekends and do some reading here, check out listings on, take about what you all expect to do and keep a good discussion going as you work through the issues. It's not easy selecting a boat with three captains and three admirals. The caution I would urge is if the Admiral likes the boat you might get it so don't get the idea that you get to pick the boat. I stacked the deck a little but I sure didn't pick it in both cases. The process does work.

Partnerships are not uncommon but it needs to be an eyes wide open process with clear understandings. Everybody needs to feel great about it and expectations need to be clear. Difficulties now indicate more to come.
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
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Old 30-07-2008, 06:08   #4
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What Paul said!!!!! Pay close attention to the partnership part of the answer. If you are a very close group of three couples, you should know the strengths and habits of the others. Finding out after the fact that YOU are the only one that maintains the boat, and they just like to sail, will not be good for the relationship.

I have to say, though it could be fun, a 2 week cruise to Mexico, with 3 couples in any 30' boat, will certainly test the relationship. We sail a 34' boat that supposedly sleeps wife thinks that 2 is the correct number with the occassional family member joining us overnight. Maybe you should charter together for a week and see how that goes.

Good Luck whatever you do. Might just be the best thing you ever do. Hope so for your sake.

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Old 30-07-2008, 06:54   #5
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I agree with Tom. We think our 34' is a wonderful 2 person boat if we're out more than a couple of nights. The V-berth becomes a storage area pretty quick. 3 couples on a trip to Mexico...? The 6 of you are obviously easier to get along with than I am...
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Old 30-07-2008, 07:34   #6
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We have a Islander Freeport 36 which carries a 12' beam. I consider the boat to be the almost perfect 2 person boat. We recently spent a week with 2 guest, my brother and sister in law. At the end of the week we were ready for them to leave. I can not imagine doing it in a 30' Catalina.
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Old 30-07-2008, 07:51   #7
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You might also look at Ericson's. I had a 32' for many years and IMHO it is a much better boat than than any of the ones you mentioned in the size/price range. An ericson will outsail the Catalina 30, (point higher, sail faster) and was originally a better built boat. I sailed mine over 40,000 miles around the pacific in all kinds of weather and she always took care of me. (and I her). However, as said above really a two person boat, although I did a 22 day passage with two friends -- was OK but I wasn't sad to see them leave after landfall.
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Old 30-07-2008, 08:52   #8
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You might check out one of the "Time share" businesses out there like Sailtime or Windpath. It may be a way for all of you to try out the sharing thing with out making a big commitment. However, I've never shared a boat and don't think I could. I do own a 30 ft. Islander and can tell you it would not be fun with 3 couples on it for more than a day. Two very friendly couples could manage for a few days, but you will probably not want to see each other afterwards.
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Old 30-07-2008, 09:12   #9
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I owned an Islander 30 and sailed on a lot of Catalina 30's. Both are nice boats and I've seen two couples on both for a couple of week vacation. The Catalina has more room and a better interior for cruising but in my experience the Islander can out sail it YMMV. I had two partnerships in two different boats and no matter what boat you pick I recommend a very through partnership agreement spelling out who what when for the boat. I remained friends with both of my partners when the partnerships were dissolved specifically because even how we would end the partnership was in the agreement. When money is involved in what amounts to an emotional purchase (got to love the boat you own) and then you add maintenance, improvements etc. it can be decisive. Every Catalina I sailed had a wheel (as does my present boat) but my Islander had a tiller. IMO for a 30 footer the tiller is very nice and if I didn’t need the mechanical advantage for my present boat I’d still prefer a tiller.
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Old 30-07-2008, 11:08   #10
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I strongly prefer tiller steering on the size boat you are looking at. Some of the reasons:

1. much more room in the cockpit.
2. simpler is always better. No cables, quadrants, etc. to worry about.
3. better "feel" for the helmsman.

I'd also look at Beneteaus. Well designed, well built boats. I particularly like the Beneteaus that feature the aft head/aft cabin interiors.
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Old 30-07-2008, 11:14   #11
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There are Express 37's and larger boats with tillers. The mechanical advantage you have is a function of the rudders balance and how flat you sail the boat. I think you can go much higher than 30 feet with a tiller if the boat is set up correct.

So Although not one of the manufacturers you are considering, I would consider an Ericson 35. There were plenty built, plenty to choose from and they are decent sailing boats at decent prices. Cruising World has a review on them in the August issue.


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Old 30-07-2008, 11:17   #12
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Catalina - Yes
Islander - Yes
Ericson - Yes
Bristol - Yes (there used to be a bunch of B27's in San Francisco Bay)
Columbia - NO!

Mostly, I agree with the others.

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Old 30-07-2008, 12:36   #13
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It has been mentioned here that paying attention to the partnership aspect may be the biggest concern you should have and the type of boat secondary. There are so many issues and things that can and do pull the partnership apart. If that happens, who gets what and pays for what? What happens to the boat? Maybe you guys might each buy a 25 to 27 foot and cruise together. A trailerable boat that does not need a slip could help defray costs.
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Old 30-07-2008, 16:00   #14
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Before jumping in a nd purchasing a boat I wold look into a sailing club or timeshare. These add up to be cheaper than ownership and will give you an idea of what type of boat you really want.

OTOH if you want to buy a boat I think that the Catalina is the best choice of the three that you mentio b/c they retain a loyal following. The Catalina 27 is a good choice for a first boat. It will be hard for six people to sail to Mexico in but if you were tlaking about a couple going to Mexico w/o the other two couple that would work out well.
Fair Winds,


Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other's yarns -- and even convictions. Heart of Darkness
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Old 30-07-2008, 17:08   #15
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Just to join in the discussion, partnership on ownership of a boat between two to three couples sounds like a reliable way to end friendships first and foremost.

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