Boat Reviews

O'Day 30

With good performance, low maintenance, and a big interior, the 30 is a good coastal cruiser.

The first O’Day 30 we saw back in 1977 was named Moby Dick. Compared to most of the boats in our boatyard, she did look a lot like a great white whale: beamy white hull with high tops0069des, white deck, white cabin trunk, and not much exterior wood trim. But what really struck us about the boat was the amount of interior volume. The boat had as much interior space as most 34-footers built at that time.

With her straight sheerline and short overhangs, the O’Day 30 was not as handsome to our eyes then as more traditional-looking boats, but the design has held up surprisingly well. Today it still looks quite modern, yet more conservative than many newer Eurostyled boats.

Over 350 O’Day 30s were built between 1977 and 1984. During 1984, the 30 was modified by changing the keel and rudder, and the stern was lengthened to accommodate a European-style boarding platform. This “new boat” was called the O’Day 31, and it stayed in production until 1986.

O’Day 31 hulls are numbered, quite correctly, as a continuation of the O’Day 30 series. About 150 “stretched” O’Day 31 models were built.

Sailing Performance

With a typical PHRF rating of 177, the O’Day 30 is very close in speed to other modern cruiser/racers of the same length. The boat was never marketed as a racing boat: performance cruising has always been an O’Day concept.

The boat was originally built in two underwater configurations: a keel/centerboarder, and a fin keel of moderate depth. The centerboard version of the boat is about 500 pounds heavier than the keel version. The extra weight is mostly in ballast to give the two boats similar stability. Where PHRF committees distinguish between the two underwater configurations, the centerboard boat is rated about three seconds per mile slower—about what you would expect for the difference in displacement.

Upwind performance is good. Shrouds and genoa track are inboard, and the hull and keel shape from C. Raymond Hunt Associates is clean and modern without being extreme. Downwind, the boat is slow without a spinnaker.

The mainsail is very high aspect ratio, almost 4:1. Off the wind, this is ineffective sail area, and a poled-out headsail will not provide enough area in light air to really keep the boat moving. At the very least, an asymmetrical cruising spinnaker is called for.

Because the mainsail is small, the boat needs large headsails, and they will need to be changed frequently for optimum performance. With a small main, reefing is a relatively ineffective way to reduce sail area.

Standard sails with new boats were a main and 110% jib. In addition, the boat really needs a 150% genoa and a 130% genoa for good performance in a wide range of wind velocities. With a wide waterline beam and 40% ballast/displacement ratio, the boat can carry a fair amount of sail.

Unless the original owner specified the optional larger headsail sheet winches, you’ll have to consider upgrading if you go to big genoas: the stock winches are too small for headsails larger than 110%.

Most owners report the boat to be well-balanced under sail, but some early boats suffered from a lot of weather helm due to an excessively-raked mast. The solution is to shorten the headstay and eliminate almost all mast rake. This may require shifting the mast step aft 1/2" for the mast to clear the forward edge of the mast partners.

Although the rig size did not change over the course of production, spars from three different manufacturers were used in the boat. The original rigs are by Schaefer. Kenyon spars were used in the middle of the production run, Isomat rigs in later boats. All the rigs are stepped through to the keel, and are properly stayed.

The standard location for the mainsheet traveler is on the bridgedeck at the forward end of the cockpit. From a purely functional point of view, this is a good location. Several owners in our survey, however, complain that the traveler limits the installation of a cockpit dodger. As an option, the mainsheet traveler was available mounted on a girder atop the deckhouse.

This is a tough call. The bridgedeck location is very handy for shorthanded cruising, since the person steering can reach the mainsheet from the helm, particularly on tiller-steered boats. At the same time, a good dodger is almost a must for cruising, and the midboom sheeting arrangement simplifies dodger design.

Although wheel steering was an option, you’ll find it on a large percentage of boats. Owners report no problems with the wheel installation. Early boats have a conventional, centerline backstay. On later models, a split backstay was standard, permitting a stern boarding ladder to be mounted on centerline.

All things considered, the O’Day 30 is a boat that performs well under sail. She’s not really a racer, but she will stay up with almost any boat of her size and type, and is easy to handle, to boot.

Engine

O’Day was one of the first big builders to take the all diesel route, even though the Atomic 4 was still a popular engine when this boat went into production. Not all of the engine installations in the O’Day 30, however, have been equally successful.

Originally, the boat was equipped with a singlecylinder, salt water cooled, 12 hp Yanmar diesel. This was one of the first Japanese diesels on the market, and one O’Day 30 owner reports that Yanmar replaced his engine—three years after the boat was built—due to a series of problems that simply could not be solved.

During 1978, the engine was upsized to a Yanmar 2QM15, since the boat was really underpowered with the smaller engine. Owners report that Yanmar installations are noisy, which is partially due to the fact that there is no sound insulation in the engine compartment.

As first built, the engine beds were attached to the walls of the engine box. According to one owner, this was such a bad arrangement that the vibration from the engine loosened the beds. Later boats have a molded fiberglass engine bed/drip pan combination, which is far better than the original installation.

With 1980 models, the Yanmar engine was dropped in favor of a two-cylinder, 16 hp Universal diesel. Owners report no problems with this engine.

Engine access is very good, particularly on later models. In early models, a panel behind the companionway ladder must be unscrewed to get to the front of the engine. On later models, a sloping panel in front of the engine can be removed, and the galley counter over the top of the engine can be lifted out of the way for complete access.

Lack of sound insulation is the weak point of the engine installation. It probably would have cost about $100 to provide halfway-decent sound insulation in the engine compartment when the boat was on the assembly line. You can do it after the fact, but not as simply or cheaply. We’d highly recommend this project, since without insulation the engine compartment resonates like a drum.

With the exception of the original, single-cylinder Yanmar, all of the engines are big enough to push the boat to hull speed in most conditions.

The standard, exposed, two-bladed solid prop causes a fair amount of drag under sail, but you should probably keep it unless you race. We feel a folding prop is not the way to go on a cruising boat, and a feathering prop would be disproportionately expensive on this boat.

Early boats have an 18-gallon aluminum fuel tank. Later models—after 1980—are usually equipped with a 26-gallon aluminum tank. The larger tank gives better range under power, despite the fact that the more powerful engines used late in the production run also use more fuel.

Construction

The hull of the O’Day 30 is an uncored fiberglass laminate. Hull stiffness is increased through the use of a full-length molded body pan, glassed to the hull. Construction is basically solid, but is certainly not fancy. Owners in our survey report a fairly standard number of minor production-boat complaints: surface crazing in gelcoat, leaks around mast, leaks around deck hardware and ports, poor interior finish quality. Gelcoat blistering is neither more nor less common than on other boats.

The O’Day 30 was one of the first small cruising boats to use Navtec rod-type chainplates, which are anchored to the body pan. This is a good, strong arrangement.

In our experience, O’Day’s approach to building was to use good-quality fittings, combined with reasonably sturdy construction. The boats generally have pretty mediocre finishing detail, and costs were kept down by keeping the standard boat fairly simple.

For example, there is no sea hood over the main companionway. This may seem like a minor shortcoming, but it means that this hatch is going to leak if you take solid water over the deck. Instead of a labor-intensive full-length teak toerail, there are short, thin teak strips screwed to a raised, molded fiberglass toerail. The strips do not have to be curved or tapered, since they can be easily bent to shape.

Likewise, most of the interior furniture is part of the molded body pan, trimmed out with teak. The cabin sole is fiberglass, with teak ply inserts. You do not buy these boats for their high-quality joinerwork, nor do you buy them for sophisticated systems or creature comforts.

A single battery was standard, as was a two-burner alcohol stove without oven. Propane cooking was not an option. Double lifelines were optional. Even a spare winch handle was an extra-cost option: only one winch handle was supplied, although four winches were standard!

Because the O’Day 30 is a relatively heavy boat, its basic construction is fairly expensive. To keep the price comparable to other boats in its size range, costs had to be cut somewhere, and they were cut in finish, detailing, and systems. You simply can’t build a boat that weighs 500 to 1000 pounds more than the competition, provide the same systems and detailing, and keep the price the same.

All in all, this is a reasonable tradeoff. You could, if you wanted, add a propane stove, bigger batteries, engine compartment insulation, bigger winches, and many of the other things that you might expect to find on a well-equipped 30-footer. But you won’t get your money back when you sell the boat. The price of your used O’Day 30 will be controlled by the price of other O’Day 30’s on the market, even if they are less well equipped than your own.

The standard water tank varies in capacity from 25 to 30 gallons, depending on the model year. On late models, which have the smaller tank, you could also get an extra 25-gallon water tank, which is mounted under the port settee. With this tank full, the boat has a noticeable port list. Without the optional tank, water capacity is inadequate for cruises extending beyond a long weekend.

Shown here is the revised, post-1980 interior. The dinette table drops down to form a double berth. Though O’Day claimed space for five at the table, even four is a tight fit.

Deck layout is reasonably good. There is an anchor locker forward, although its so large that it’s tough to straddle while hauling in the anchor rode. You can walk forward on deck outboard of the shrouds on either tack.

The cockpit is fairly small, thanks to the big interior. There is a large locker to port that can be used to store sails, and a small locker to starboard at the aft end of the cockpit.

With 1980 models, ballast was reduced by 350 pounds in the keel version, 400 pounds in the centerboard boats, according to factory specifications. Still later, ballast in the keel version was increased by 150 pounds. Although these are significant changes, owners of later boats do not report that the boat is noticeably more tender, nor do the PHRF ratings reflect any change in performance.

Interior

With her wide beam and long waterline, the O’Day 30 has a big interior. In fact, we have little doubt that if the boat were still in production, O’Day would have figured out how to modify the interior to get three in separate cabins, which has become fairly common on contemporary 30-footers.

For the first three years of production, the boat had a very standard interior, with settees on either side of the main cabin. In 1980, the interior was retooled. The starboard settee was replaced with a U-shaped dinette with permanent table, and the head compartment was shifted to the starboard side of the boat.

The forward cabin in the old layout is bigger due to the placement of partitions and doors, which gave more cabin sole area. With the V-berth insert in place to give a double berth, you could still stand up in the forward cabin to dress. In the newer interior, there is no place to stand in the forward cabin if the door is shut.

Headroom is 6' on centerline in the forward cabin. There is a molded fiberglass hatch in the forward end of the cabin trunk. In our experience, molded glass hatches are a compromise. They are easy to distort by overtightening hatch dogs to compensate for old gaskets. If dogged unevenly, they tend to leak. It is also next to impossible to fit a dodger on a hatch like that on the O’Day 30, so it must be kept shut in rain or bad weather. Since the boat lacks any real provision for foul-weather ventilation, it can be stifling below.

Although the head compartment in both interior layouts is small, it’s a fairly good arrangement. To use the optional shower, doors to both the main and forward cabins can be closed off, giving plenty of elbow room. Unfortunately, the shower drains to the bilge, a nasty arrangement.

In the original layout, a dropleaf centerline table divides the middle of the main cabin. Four people can sit comfortably at the table using the two settees.

Four diners are far more cramped in the dinette than with the two-settee arrangement, even though O’Day’s literature claims space for five. There’s no way that anyone seated on the port settee opposite the dinette can reach the table. On the plus side, fore and aft movement through the boat is not restricted by the dinette, as it is in the two-settee interior when the table is in use. You pays your money and takes your choice on this one.

Storage space behind the settees shrank in the new interior, a significant loss on a boat this size.

The dinette table drops down to form a good-sized double berth, but because the mattress is made up of five (count’em) separate cushions, this is not a very comfortable berth to sleep on. Its shape is so complex that making sheets fit well is just about an impossibility. In the old layout, the port settee can be extended to form a more normally-shaped double.

Even with opening ports, ventilation in the main cabin is pretty mediocre. There is room atop the cabin aft of the mast for a small aluminum-framed ventilation hatch, and this was an option on later boats. If you don’t have the hatch, you should add it. Cowl vents—other than one on the foredeck—weren’t even options, but could be added.

Headroom in the main cabin is 6' 3" on centerline aft, slightly less at the forward end of the cabin. The galley and nav station are the same in both interiors, but some detailing varies depending on the year. Aft to port there is a stove well, with storage outboard.

The icebox is in the aft port corner of the galley. It is not particularly well insulated, and drains into the bilge. There is a deep single sink next to the icebox.

Originally, there was a long step from the companionway to the top of the galley counter, to which a teak board was fastened to form a step. Stepping on galley counters offends our sensibilities, since we prefer to delete the sand from our sandwiches.

Later boats have a more conventional companionway ladder, eliminating the giant first step and the possibility of a foot in the middle of your lasagna, but making it difficult to use the galley counter, now hidden behind the ladder. There is a compact nav station opposite the galley. It has a small chart table, and some storage and space for electronics outboard. The chart table must be kept small to give access to the quarterberth.

You’ll find the electrical panel in one of two places: under the bridgedeck in the galley, or outboard of the chart table. The nav station location offers more protection from water coming down the companionway—which it will—but space for electronics is sacrificed.

Sales literature refers to the quarterberth, which is 41" wide at its head, as a “cozy double.” Cozy isn’t really the word for a “double” berth that tapers to less than 2' wide at the foot. Forget it. Many owners have added an opening port from the quarterberth into the cockpit, and this helps ventilation a lot.

The interior of any 30' boat is a compromise. For the coastal cruising for which she was designed, the interior of the O’Day 30 is spacious and functional, and is probably the boat’s best selling point.

Conclusions

With her good performance and big interior, the O’Day 30 makes a reasonable coastal cruising boat. This is a low-maintenance boat, with little exterior wood. Along with low maintenance, you get pretty plain-Jane appearance.

The boat still looks modern. If she appeared in a boat show today, she wouldn’t look dated.

Unless you need shoal draft, we’d opt for the deepkeel boat, for its simplicity, if nothing else.

The extended stern of the O’Day 31 makes that boat much better looking in our opinion, since the big, fat stern of the 30 is probably her least attractive feature. The 31' boat is far more expensive on the used boat market, however, so you have to decide how much you’re willing to pay for improved looks and a boarding platform.

Compared to a lot of newer 30-footers, the O’Day is quite heavy, but we consider that a plus for a boat that may sail in fairly exposed waters. For the type of use most boats this size will get, the boat looks like a good value on the used boat market. You could spend a lot more money for a lot less boat.

Comments (3)

I bought a 1982 O'Day 30, and while investigating evidence of hull/deck joint leaks found that my boat was assembled with essentially NO sealant in the joint. Evidently some genius assembler wanted to keep hands clean. The "shoebox" type hull/deck connection can be quite waterproof in rain or washing, but obviously with no sealant, open to seas coming up on the hull despite a tight rub rail installation. I have re-done the hull/deck joint with 5200 sealant, a job of some consequence since a stiffening batten on the top edge of the hull rotted out and had to be replaced as well. An involved 2 person job with a couple of hundred nuts, bolts, screws, since it is also a good time to replace the rub rail.

Posted by: stuball | August 7, 2017 10:34 AM    Report this comment

Good article. I just bought an O'Day 30 partly on the basis of this review. So far, I've been very happy with it. It is a 1980 and so far the only thing that needed replacing has been the fuel tank that corroded. I replaced it with a plastic one. The old one had to be cut out.

Gary in Chicago

Posted by: Gary in Chicago | December 18, 2015 5:31 PM    Report this comment

I've just started looking for my first sail boat. My plans are to learn to the level of coastal cruising off the SC coast. This information is very helpful and add valuable details to the multitude of pictures of boats for sale. A 1985 O'Day 322 is one I am considering taking a closer look at. Does anyone have this model and is there much difference in the construction vs the 30'?

Mike in SC

Posted by: Michael Y | July 31, 2014 9:01 AM    Report this comment

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