The Practical Sailor's Evaluation of Three 22 Footers
[Volume 7, Number 23 December 1, 1981]
In the last issue of the Practical Sailor we offered an overview of
smaller cruising boats, those under about 26'. Continuing that study, we
evaluated 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 treatment
of each boat we tried to avoid making direct comparisons. Any such comparisons
would inevitably be invidious. Yet we did arrive at some conclusions about
these 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 that
the Tanzer seems to be a small boat enlarged for interior space whereas
the Catalina and O'Day suggest larger boats scaled down. Generally, of
course, they are the same -- 22' boats with approximately the same dimensions.
The impression is subjective; others looking at the boats might get just
the 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, utilizing
a variety of subtle techniques including some that have nothing to do with
actual dimensions. Scaling, proportions, and styling all contribute. Buyers
should not pick one because it looks bigger. use a tape measure, check
by lying on berths, sitting in the cockpit, walking forward on the deck
and so forth. In the same way, do not try to judge speed or performance
by 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 expectations
or hopes. It didn't for us. Of the three evaluated, the Tanzer 22 is a
better sailing boat than the O'Day or the Catalina. As performance is important
to 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 Catalina
22, the keel weighs more than 500 pounds and must be raised and lowered
as well as supported during trailering, beaching and sailing. Add to these
drawbacks the reduced stability, lowered performance, more difficult
and where there is an option, the higher price, of either a swing keel
or centerboard. In the end we think the fixed keel is the answer unless
trailerability is a major priority.
Speaking of weight, a word of warning is in order about the weight or
displacement figures in builder specifications, in particular where the
boat is being marketed for her trailerability. There is no standard for
what the term displacement represents. It can mean weight of the basic
boat alone, it can mean the weight of the basic boat plus some optional
equipment or it can even include food, water, and personal belongings of
the crew. Of the three boats in our evaluation, only O'Day breaks down
the published weights; hull and deck only, minimum trailering weight, and
sailing weight with four persons aboard.
Whatever the case, prospective buyers should realize that the published
weight 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 actually
be 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 weight
of the trailer was more than 1000 lbs. over the advertised weight of the
boat alone, an increase of about 30%. PS will deal more extensively with
this discrepancy in an upcoming article specifically on trailering.
All three of the boats in this evaluation have a generous beam carried
well aft, an important feature. Beam at the cockpit helps stability and,
of course, it affords cockpit roominess. Equally important is that the
beam gives buoyancy to the after end. The weight of four adults in the
cockpit of a boat the size of these could amount to 600 pounds, 25% to
the displacement. Then there is the weight of an outboard on the transom
and a gas tank. Unsupported this weight would make the stern squat in the
water and reduce performance drastically. Beam gives this support. None
of these three boats suffers excessively from cockpit loading.
Although cockpit roominess is a virtue, it can also be a fault. Despite
the fact that all three cockpits are self-bailing and the boats self-righting
from a knockdown, all three would be in real jeopardy if the cockpit filled
with water as high as the seats. The three boats all have sills lower than
seat level. They will keep incidental cockpit water out of the interior
but not major flooding. Moreover, none has a lower hatchboard that can
be fixed or locked in place. Owners of boats with low sills and no bridgedeck
should make this provision and keep the lower hatchboard in place while
Worst in this respect is the Catalina. As is typical of most of the
boats from Catalina, it has a wide companionway with substantial taper.
A hatchboard needs to be raised only a couple of inches before it comes
out of the channels on each side. Interestingly the sailing photos of the
22 in Catalina's brochure on the boat show all hatchboards in place and
the companionway slide closed despite the relatively benign conditions
in 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 cruising
boats. In this respect, we think the O'Day 22 is the best. She has the
two best berths, usable forward berths (for little folk), and best of all,
an enclosed head that incorporates a semblance of privacy not only for
the head but also between the two sleeping facilities.
Nevertheless, expectations for overnight comfort for more than two people
aboard are unrealistic. A major part of the limitation is the stowage,
a vital matter in boats if this size where anything lying about will be
in the way. All three boats rely almost entirely on scuttles located under
the 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 that
gets below will tend to slosh under the liner/sole into the spaces below
the berths. And even if water does not come in from outside, these are
places where condensation will occur, encouraging dampness, mustiness,
Although we like the O'Day's berths, the Catalina gets high grades for
her decor, which has to be the envy of builders trying to compete with
that firm. For sheer space (or at least the illusion of spaciousness) the
choice is the Tanzer; there's nothing like carrying the cabin house out
to the sheer to create roominess and the maximum amount of headroom even
if it is just sitting headroom.
What about auxiliary power?
Most owners of these three boats will, sooner or later, want some
form of auxiliary power. All three are designed to take an outboard motor
mounted on an optional lift-up bracket on the transom. A long-shaft 4.5
hp 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 a
7.5 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 investment
for a boat the size and price of these. Such an engine with its capacity
for generating electricity, dependability, power, and convenience does
make it appealing. However, you should consider installing one only if
the boat is a long time purchase and powering an important consideration.
And plan for a cost including installation to run three times that of an
Rigs, sails and rudders
In any boat of this size and type the mast should be capable of
being raised and lowered without recourse to a crane. All three of these
boats have hinged mast steps on deck for this purpose. Success in hoisting
or lowering a mast with these systems depends on smooth water, a gentle
breeze and an experienced crew of at least two. The masts weigh at least
40 pounds and range from 25' to 30' in length, so getting them up and down
requires 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 price
commensurate with the price of the boat. Unfortunately it is doubtful if
buyers can negotiate enough of a rebate on these sails to justify getting
better quality on a custom order with a sailmaker. Again, this is a matter
of how high a priority an owner places on performance and how long he expects
to keep the boat.
Of the three boats only Catalina lists a pivoting or kick-up rudder
as available. The pivoting rudder lets the draft of the rudder match the
draft of the boat with the keel retracted. Such rudders are expensive ($125
from Catalina), subject to wear and corrosion, and of dubious value for
anyone but the sailor most interested in ramp hauling and beaching.
The bottom line
Price is important. The Catalina and O'Day 22s clearly are built
with a low price in mind. Sales of the Tanzer 22 are hurt by her higher
price. 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 runs
to over $10,000. Outfitted comparably the O'Day goes for $11,000 and the
Tanzer for $12,500.
Wistfully we wish most buyers had some criteria other than price even
in this rather modest price range. An additional $1500 or so would make
all three of these boats better boats; not necessarily bigger but better
appointed, outfitted and built. But they would not sell as well (if at
all). In our opinion the higher priced Tanzer is a better product than
either the O'Day or the Catalina. In looking at a number of other small
boats similar to these the same premise seems to hold true for most of
them: the more you pay, the more you get. Or for about the same price a
buyer can trade off specific features. For instance, the same $10,000 will
buy 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 important
because most owners of the 22 footers in our evaluation are not likely
to keep their boats for more than a few years. Then sail of the 22 is apt
to represent a down payment on a larger, more expensive boat and return
of 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 factors
that appealed to the owner when the boat was new -- price, cosmetics, decor,
suitability for the expected use, etc. Maintaining the boat, repairing
damage, and adding amenities all serve to protect the investment. With
the number of such sized boats on the used boat market, we find that owners
of all three of the boats we evaluated are facing a buyers' market.
In investigating used boat prices for the earliest boats built we find
the Tanzer 22 has appreciated in value the most; 10-year old boats in good
condition are selling for twice what they sold for new, appreciation more
than offsetting the inflation rate. The cheaper original Catalina and O'Day
22s have more than maintained their dollar value, with the boats in better
condition bringing about 30% more than the 1971 selling price, but losing
to the inflation rate during those ten years.
Clearly the strong owners' associations for the Tanzer and Catalina
help in maintaining the resale market. They are strong marketing allies
not only of the builders but of boat owners. Suggestion: if you buy a boat
with such an organization, join it and stay in touch with their activities
even if you do not take part in them.
Dealers for the three boats are a mixed bag; there are good cooperative
ones and lousy ones. PS had a favorable experience with one, unfavorable
with another; neither was indicative of the [sic] how anyone else might
be treated nor would we let the experiences form any judgment about he
dealer network of any of the three builders. Certainly Catalina dealers
are far more numerous and geographically widespread than are O'Day and
Tanzer dealers, a reflection of the vastly greater number of boats sold.
One does not have to look very hard around water to find Catalinas; one
might have to call Tanzer to find the nearest dealer or, away from the
East 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 or
service should realize that the relatively low markup on small boats such
as these does not make dealers stand at attention. Trial sails, financing,
trades up from smaller boats, special options, and so forth are similarly
treated. 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 evaluation
was based on their popularity, longevity, similarities in use, their close
price range, their size and the number of characteristics they have in
common with other boats of their size, price and type. There are others
we considered, including the San Juan 23, the Sirius, and the MacGregor
(Venture 22), to name a few. Some of the smaller, lighter cruisers will
be included in an article specifically about trailering and trailers. Another,
the 20' Flicka, will be the subject of its own evaluation in an upcoming
We tried to avoid comparing apples and Oranges; to the extent that we
have made comparisons, they are of the similar features of the three boats
and their ilk. -- JS
We Grade the Three Boats
At the end of our evaluation of the three boats and after looking
at a number of other boats, we graded qualities of each. In arriving at
the grades below, we considered how these boats compare with each other
as well as comparing each with others of the same type, size, purpose,
|Racing Potential (mixed fleet)