Boat Reviews

O'Day 22

A nice cockpit, a touch of privacy and good looks, but performance is not a strong suit here.

O’Day Boats was around a long time by fiberglass boatbuilding standards—about 30 years. Originally O’Day was a leader in small boats typified by the Fox-designed Day Sailer.

By the early ’70s O’Day had moved into the trailerable cruising boat market. In the meantime the firm was acquired by Bangor Punta along with such other major boat builders as Cal and Ranger Yachts. In later years, with the decline in volume sales of small boats, O’Day had problems. To help alleviate these, O’Day produced larger and larger boats, first a 30, then a 32, and more recently a 34 and a 37.

All the cruising size boats in the O’Day line were designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates in one of the most enduring designer-builder relationships in the industry (rivaled, in fact, only by Bill Lapworth’s tenure as Cal’s house designer and Bruce King’s with Ericson Yachts). The result of the relationship is a family resemblance in the O’Day line that is more than superficial. What proves popular in one boat is apt to be adopted in subsequent kin. Therefore, any study of the O’Day offerings over the years reflects a process of evolution.

When it was introduced, the O’Day 22 was touted as a competitive contender on the race course, a contrasting companion to the rather hazy 23-footer which it would soon phase out. The 22 had a masthead rig, a stylish rake to the transom, shallow (23") draft with a short stub keel and no centerboard, light weight (advertised 1,800 lbs) for trailering, and a price under $3,000.

Later, the 22 acquired a fractional rig, a centerboard, 300 advertised pounds and a price tag almost $7,000 higher.

Construction

O’Day once set a standard for small boat construction and styling. That was before on and off labor problems in its plant, management changes under Bangor Punta, the decline in sales of boats in its size range, and increasingly fierce competition for buyers who became more cost than quality conscious. The later O’Day 22s were, frankly, a mixed bag of quality and shabbiness.

The spars, rigging, and hardware are as high quality as we have seen in comparable boats. Our only reservation is with the stamped stainless steel hinged mast step that we know from personal experience requires a steady hand and boat when raising or lowering a mast.

We also think that a mainsheet which terminates in a cam action cleat 16" up the single backstay may be economical and simple but it is neither efficient nor handy, again a reflection of scrimping to keep price low.

The quality of O’Day fiberglass laminates was historically high but there have been reader reports of gelcoat voids and there is consistent evidence of print through (pattern of laminate in gelcoat). Exterior styling and proportions are superb, an opinion iterated by owners who have returned the PS Boat Owners’ Questionnaires. The O’Day 22, despite her age, is still not outdated.

On a boat of this size and price, a minimum of exterior trim is understandable. What is less understandable is the poor quality of the interior finish and decor. Belowdecks the O’Day 22 epitomizes the pejorative label Clorox bottle, used to describe fiberglass boats. Sloppily fitted bits of teak trim are matched against teak-printed Formica, at best a tacky combination. Cabinetry, such as there is, is flimsy, and in general the whole impression is of lackluster attention to details.

Performance

Without a centerboard the O’Day 22 simply did not have the performance to go with her racy image. Even with the centerboard she is hardly a ball of fire under sail. She does not point well; tacking through 100 degrees is not uncommon and she is tender, with a disconcerting desire to round up when a puff hits. In light air, with her 3/4 fore triangle and working jib she is under-canvassed and sluggish. In such conditions a genoa with substantial overlap is essential.

Since changing jibs is at best a dicey exercise on a 22 footer, the first step in reducing sail is to reef the mainsail. Jiffy reefing is standard and owners of the O’Day should have a system in good working order and know how to use it. Owners of the boat in waters where squalls are a threat may also want to consider roller furling for the larger jib, trading off the loss of performance and added cost for such a rig for the convenience and, in the case of this boat, the safety.

The O’Day is most hurt in light air downwind and most owners will want either an 8'-or-so whisker pole for winging the jib, or a spinnaker. It is a fun boat on which to learn spinnaker handling. With her fractional rig the spinnaker is relatively small and yet the boat is big enough to provide a foredeck platform for setting the sail.

The trouble is that the O’Day 22 scrimps on the hardware needed for ease of handling with or without a spinnaker. The two #10 Barient sheet winches are, in our opinion, inadequate for anything larger than a working jib and we suggest replacing them with optional #16s. Similarly, the working jib sheets lead to fixed blocks whereas lengths of track with adjustable blocks (fitted to some boats as an option) are far better for optimizing sail trim.

The O’Day did not come with halyard winches as standard. It is a large boat for setting and reefing sails with hand tension alone. Most owners will want at least one small winch (#10) on the cabin roof, with the jib and main halyards led aft through jam cleats or stoppers to the winch.

The fairing of the O’Day 22 underwater is better than average, helped by the fact that the lead ballast is encapsulated in the fiberglass hull molding. The centerboard will, however, be difficult to maintain.

Livability

Like many other boats of her size on the market, the O’Day 22 is basically a daysailer with incidental overnight accommodations, notwithstanding that her builder (or its ad agency) made much of its questionable comfort, privacy, and space.

The cockpit of the O’Day is almost perfect: a spacious 6-1/2' long, the seats are spaced to allow bracing of feet on the one opposite, and the coaming provides a feeling of security and serves as a comfortable arm rest. It is also self-bailing although the low sill at the companionway means that the lower hatch board must be in place to prevent water going below in the event of a knockdown.

Seat locker space is excellent for a boat of this size with quarterberth below and we like the separate sealed well for the outboard remote gas tank (but not the fact that the hose can be pinched in use).

O’Day literature boasts berths for two couples in “absolute privacy.” Privacy in a 22 footer has to be one of the more relative features. A sliding door encloses the forward cabin and another, the head.

The layout of the O’Day 22 is a noteworthy example of the tradeoff between an enclosed head and berth space. It does indeed have a head area that can be enclosed, a rare feature indeed on a boat of this size. With a conventional marine toilet and throughhull discharge where permitted, this would be a most serviceable facility.

The tradeoff is a pair of terrible vee berths forward. Coming to a point at the forward end, there is simply not enough room for two adults on even the most intimate terms. They are thus suitable only for a pair of small children who do not suffer from sibling rivalry.

By contrast the two settee berths in the main cabin are a bit narrow but a fit place for two adults to sleep. In contrast to the dinette layout of other boats, we think the more traditional layout of the O’Day would be the choice for most owners, especially those cruising with children. However, the settees are not comfortable to sit on, lacking as they do backrests.

The initial version of the O’Day had the then fashionable dinette arrangement but this was quickly replaced by a pair of opposing settees. We doubt if many owners would bother setting up the portable cabin table between the berths, as it prevents the fore and aft passage through the cabin.

The galley with its small sink and space for a twoburner stove is rudimentary but adequate for a boat of this size, Inadequate is the bin/hanging locker opposite the head. Its usefulness escapes us. Enclosed, it could have been better used space. But then the O’Day 22 desperately needs stowage space.

Conclusions

At a minimum trailering weight of 2,200 lbs. (more realistically 2,500 plus the trailer), the O’Day 22 is above the maximum for trailering without a heavy car and special gear.

If she isn’t going to be trailered and launched off a ramp, the 2' minimum draft is an unwarranted sacrifice of performance and stability. We would look for a fin keel boat unless shoal draft is the highest priority.

On the other hand, with some additional sails and hardware the O’Day 22 should appeal to the sailor who wants a minimum size (and therefore price) boat primarily for daysailing and occasional weekend cruising (maximum one couple plus two young children).

Clearly the O’Day 22 is a minimum boat built tightly to a price. She is attractively styled. As she is apt to be a first boat, resale is important. O’Day boats have enjoyed good value on the used boat market. For about $6,000 for a ten-year-old model, you get a sleek looking small boat with a good cockpit, a modicum of privacy and two good berths. You also get a schlocky decor and a slow boat.

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