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The Practical Sailor's Evaluation of Three 22 Footers

From The Practical Sailor Volume 7, Number 23-December 1, 1981

In the last issue of the Practical Sailor we offered an overview ofsmaller cruising boats, those under about 26'. Continuing that study, weevaluated in this issue three of the more popular small boats on the market,all 22 footers: the Catalina, O'Day and Tanzer 22s. In separate treatmentof each boat we tried to avoid making direct comparisons. Any such comparisonswould inevitably be invidious. Yet we did arrive at some conclusions aboutthese boats that would be applicable to many other boats of similar size,type and price.

The impression of size

The most lingering impression we have of these three boats is thatthe Tanzer seems to be a small boat enlarged for interior space whereasthe Catalina and O'Day suggest larger boats scaled down. Generally, ofcourse, they are the same -- 22' boats with approximately the same dimensions.The impression is subjective; others looking at the boats might get justthe opposite impression.

We also looked at upwards of a dozen other boats of about the same size.We found that they create similar impressions about their size, utilizinga variety of subtle techniques including some that have nothing to do withactual dimensions. Scaling, proportions, and styling all contribute. Buyersshould not pick one because it looks bigger. use a tape measure, checkby lying on berths, sitting in the cockpit, walking forward on the deckand so forth. In the same way, do not try to judge speed or performanceby looks; there are objective criteria (rating handicaps, for instance)that have more validity.

In any boat as small as these performance may not live up to expectationsor hopes. It didn't for us. Of the three evaluated, the Tanzer 22 is abetter sailing boat than the O'Day or the Catalina. As performance is importantto us, that is where we would look first.
Related to performance is the question of drop or swing keels and centerboards.The swing keel is often a complex engineering problem. In the Catalina22, the keel weighs more than 500 pounds and must be raised and loweredas well as supported during trailering, beaching and sailing. Add to thesedrawbacks the reduced stability, lowered performance, more difficult maintenance,and where there is an option, the higher price, of either a swing keelor centerboard. In the end we think the fixed keel is the answer unlesstrailerability is a major priority.

Speaking of weight, a word of warning is in order about the weight ordisplacement figures in builder specifications, in particular where theboat is being marketed for her trailerability. There is no standard forwhat the term displacement represents. It can mean weight of the basicboat alone, it can mean the weight of the basic boat plus some optionalequipment or it can even include food, water, and personal belongings ofthe crew. Of the three boats in our evaluation, only O'Day breaks downthe published weights; hull and deck only, minimum trailering weight, andsailing weight with four persons aboard.

Whatever the case, prospective buyers should realize that the publishedweight is not likely to reflect the actual weight of the boat on a trailer.For such a figure, estimated at best, add about 10% to the specified weight.Then add the weight of the trailer itself. This is what the car will actuallybe pulling. We once trailered a 23 footer several hundred miles and back,the total weight of the boat fitted and stocked for cruising plus the weightof the trailer was more than 1000 lbs. over the advertised weight of theboat alone, an increase of about 30%. PS will deal more extensively withthis discrepancy in an upcoming article specifically on trailering.

About Cockpits

All three of the boats in this evaluation have a generous beam carriedwell aft, an important feature. Beam at the cockpit helps stability and,of course, it affords cockpit roominess. Equally important is that thebeam gives buoyancy to the after end. The weight of four adults in thecockpit of a boat the size of these could amount to 600 pounds, 25% tothe displacement. Then there is the weight of an outboard on the transomand a gas tank. Unsupported this weight would make the stern squat in thewater and reduce performance drastically. Beam gives this support. Noneof these three boats suffers excessively from cockpit loading.

Although cockpit roominess is a virtue, it can also be a fault. Despitethe fact that all three cockpits are self-bailing and the boats self-rightingfrom a knockdown, all three would be in real jeopardy if the cockpit filledwith water as high as the seats. The three boats all have sills lower thanseat level. They will keep incidental cockpit water out of the interiorbut not major flooding. Moreover, none has a lower hatchboard that canbe fixed or locked in place. Owners of boats with low sills and no bridgedeckshould make this provision and keep the lower hatchboard in place whilesailing.

Worst in this respect is the Catalina. As is typical of most of theboats from Catalina, it has a wide companionway with substantial taper.A hatchboard needs to be raised only a couple of inches before it comesout of the channels on each side. Interestingly the sailing photos of the22 in Catalina's brochure on the boat show all hatchboards in place andthe companionway slide closed despite the relatively benign conditionsin which it is being sailed.


While our standard call for performance first and comfort second,we did not ignore accommodations. After all, these three boats are cruisingboats. In this respect, we think the O'Day 22 is the best. She has thetwo best berths, usable forward berths (for little folk), and best of all,an enclosed head that incorporates a semblance of privacy not only forthe head but also between the two sleeping facilities.

Nevertheless, expectations for overnight comfort for more than two peopleaboard are unrealistic. A major part of the limitation is the stowage,a vital matter in boats if this size where anything lying about will bein the way. All three boats rely almost entirely on scuttles located underthe berths. Not only is this space awkward o get to, but the space is dank,probably even wet. The bilges of these boats are shallow. Any water thatgets below will tend to slosh under the liner/sole into the spaces belowthe berths. And even if water does not come in from outside, these areplaces where condensation will occur, encouraging dampness, mustiness,and mildew.

Although we like the O'Day's berths, the Catalina gets high grades forher decor, which has to be the envy of builders trying to compete withthat firm. For sheer space (or at least the illusion of spaciousness) thechoice is the Tanzer; there's nothing like carrying the cabin house outto the sheer to create roominess and the maximum amount of headroom evenif it is just sitting headroom.

What about auxiliary power?

Most owners of these three boats will, sooner or later, want someform of auxiliary power. All three are designed to take an outboard motormounted on an optional lift-up bracket on the transom. A long-shaft 4.5hp motor is adequate for owners who would sail in anything but a flat calm.However, for powering against any kind of wind or chop the minimum of a7.5 hp motor is needed and then don't expect powerboat speed or handling.In purchasing an outboard, select one serviced locally and suited for installation on a sailboat.

Inboard engines including the suspect Saildrive make a hefty investmentfor a boat the size and price of these. Such an engine with its capacityfor generating electricity, dependability, power, and convenience doesmake it appealing. However, you should consider installing one only ifthe boat is a long time purchase and powering an important consideration.And plan for a cost including installation to run three times that of anoutboard.

Rigs, sails and rudders

In any boat of this size and type the mast should be capable ofbeing raised and lowered without recourse to a crane. All three of theseboats have hinged mast steps on deck for this purpose. Success in hoistingor lowering a mast with these systems depends on smooth water, a gentlebreeze and an experienced crew of at least two. The masts weigh at least40 pounds and range from 25' to 30' in length, so getting them up and downrequires some care and planning.

All three boats come equipped with a mainsail and working jib (or lapper)as standard. The standard sails are all of routine quality, made to a pricecommensurate with the price of the boat. Unfortunately it is doubtful ifbuyers can negotiate enough of a rebate on these sails to justify gettingbetter quality on a custom order with a sailmaker. Again, this is a matterof how high a priority an owner places on performance and how long he expectsto keep the boat.

Of the three boats only Catalina lists a pivoting or kick-up rudderas available. The pivoting rudder lets the draft of the rudder match thedraft of the boat with the keel retracted. Such rudders are expensive ($125from Catalina), subject to wear and corrosion, and of dubious value foranyone but the sailor most interested in ramp hauling and beaching.

The bottom line

Price is important. The Catalina and O'Day 22s clearly are builtwith a low price in mind. Sales of the Tanzer 22 are hurt by her higherprice. Base price of the Catalina 22 is about $6500, for the Tanzer, over$10,000. With add-ons to make the Catalina a "sailaway" the price runsto over $10,000. Outfitted comparably the O'Day goes for $11,000 and theTanzer for $12,500.

Wistfully we wish most buyers had some criteria other than price evenin this rather modest price range. An additional $1500 or so would makeall three of these boats better boats; not necessarily bigger but betterappointed, outfitted and built. But they would not sell as well (if atall). In our opinion the higher priced Tanzer is a better product thaneither the O'Day or the Catalina. In looking at a number of other smallboats similar to these the same premise seems to hold true for most ofthem: the more you pay, the more you get. Or for about the same price abuyer can trade off specific features. For instance, the same $10,000 willbuy sparkling performance and whopping cockpit for daysailing in the 22'S2 Grand Slam 6.7 but at the expense of accommodations and interior space.The same is rue of the snappy 23' Sonar for fleet racing.

As initial cost is important, so is resale value. It is especially importantbecause most owners of the 22 footers in our evaluation are not likelyto keep their boats for more than a few years. Then sail of the 22 is aptto represent a down payment on a larger, more expensive boat and returnof at least most of the dollar value of the original investment.

The value of such a boat for resale is based on many of the same factorsthat appealed to the owner when the boat was new -- price, cosmetics, decor,suitability for the expected use, etc. Maintaining the boat, repairingdamage, and adding amenities all serve to protect the investment. Withthe number of such sized boats on the used boat market, we find that ownersof all three of the boats we evaluated are facing a buyers' market.

In investigating used boat prices for the earliest boats built we findthe Tanzer 22 has appreciated in value the most; 10-year old boats in goodcondition are selling for twice what they sold for new, appreciation morethan offsetting the inflation rate. The cheaper original Catalina and O'Day22s have more than maintained their dollar value, with the boats in bettercondition bringing about 30% more than the 1971 selling price, but losingto the inflation rate during those ten years.

Clearly the strong owners' associations for the Tanzer and Catalinahelp in maintaining the resale market. They are strong marketing alliesnot only of the builders but of boat owners. Suggestion: if you buy a boatwith such an organization, join it and stay in touch with their activitieseven if you do not take part in them.

Dealers for the three boats are a mixed bag; there are good cooperativeones and lousy ones. PS had a favorable experience with one, unfavorablewith another; neither was indicative of the [sic] how anyone else mightbe treated nor would we let the experiences form any judgment about hedealer network of any of the three builders. Certainly Catalina dealersare far more numerous and geographically widespread than are O'Day andTanzer dealers, a reflection of the vastly greater number of boats sold.One does not have to look very hard around water to find Catalinas; onemight have to call Tanzer to find the nearest dealer or, away from theEast Coast, call O'Day for its local dealer.

Owners of boats in this size and price range making warranty claims,seeking answers to questions, or asking for special service on orders orservice should realize that the relatively low markup on small boats suchas these does not make dealers stand at attention. Trial sails, financing,trades up from smaller boats, special options, and so forth are similarlytreated. In general, however, the owners of these three boats report satisfactory treatment by dealers and builders.

And a final thought

The choice of the Catalina, O'Day and Tanzer 22 for this evaluationwas based on their popularity, longevity, similarities in use, their closeprice range, their size and the number of characteristics they have incommon with other boats of their size, price and type. There are otherswe considered, including the San Juan 23, the Sirius, and the MacGregor(Venture 22), to name a few. Some of the smaller, lighter cruisers willbe included in an article specifically about trailering and trailers. Another,the 20' Flicka, will be the subject of its own evaluation in an upcomingissue.

We tried to avoid comparing apples and Oranges; to the extent that wehave made comparisons, they are of the similar features of the three boatsand their ilk. -- JS

We Grade the Three Boats

At the end of our evaluation of the three boats and after lookingat a number of other boats, we graded qualities of each. In arriving atthe grades below, we considered how these boats compare with each otheras well as comparing each with others of the same type, size, purpose,and prices.

Catalina 22O'Day 22Tanzer 22
Styling (exterior)BAB
Styling (interior)B+DB-
Cockpit ComfortBB-B
Cockpit SafetyCCC
Geographical DistributionADC-
Owner Assoc.yesnoyes
Racing Potential (mixed fleet)DDB