So, I bought an O’Day 22. (part one)

I bought a boat! A sailboat, even. A 1972 O’Day 22.

About a year ago, I decided that I was going to own a sailboat. I was finally really going to learn to sail, and I was going to have to do it cheaply.

It’s not that crazy; there is a lake close to me that is very sailboat-friendly due to a horsepower restriction on motorboats. Erie–which is as close of a analog of Newport RI one will find in Pennsylvania–is a 90 minute drive north. I can learn to sail on the little lake–Lake Arthur–and then take a boat anywhere else–including Lake Erie, or even Narragansett Bay if I want–and sail it once I know what I’m doing.

My O'Day 22, before it was mine. Image from the original Craigslist ad.
My O’Day 22, before it was mine. Image from the original Craigslist ad.

I don’t have very much money–I work as a waiter and as an almost–but not quite–extremely successful writer. I was going to have to find a boat that was ready to sail on day one, but didn’t cost much. Big, beautiful blue-water yacht filled my dreams. Then I hit reality and started watching Craigslist.

I found an O’Day 22 in Erie for $500. There was no way I was going to be able to tow a boat that big (about 3000 lbs with trailer and stuff) behind my little car, but I could rent a truck to go get it and bring it home and leave me the winter to figure out what to do with it from there. I made plans to go see it, but after an initial phone call, the seller never got back to me, and Heather and I had a nice day in Erie despite not seeing the boat. I assumed the seller had sold it, and I was back to square one.

Meanwhile–and this is important to the story–Heather bought a new car. Not only a new car, but she made a point of buying one with some tow capacity. I loaned her some cash (my boat budget) to help her with a down payment.

Then a thing happened: I saw the ad for the O’Day 22 in Erie, relisted. I sent an email to Jim, the seller. Jim wrote back and we finally connected. I made an appointment to look at the boat.

O’Day was headquartered and built boats in Fall River, Massachusetts, right across the river from where I grew up, during the time that I was growing up. They were one of the most successful sailboat builders in those days. O’Days were all over the waters near where I then lived. So, right off the bat, I liked this boat. It looked like the boats I grew up with. This boat is what a sailboat was, in my mind.

My O'Day 22 when I first went to see her.
My O’Day 22 when I first went to see her.

I did some research on forums and read reviews of O’Day 22s. Almost everyone agreed that these were good little boats, well built, and sturdy.

The short “shoal draft” keel (filled with 600 lbs of lead ballast) was both a blessing and a little bit of a curse. The lack of any swing keel or centerboard meant one less moving part to fix–and maintaining an old swing keel is a nightmare. Its short stature meant that the boat could go into shallow waters most fixed keel sailboats can not reach. Unfortunately, it also means that the boat won’t “point” well when sailing upwind. I was also warned that the boat was likely to have some weak points on the deck from rotting of the wood core. Some core rot is to be expected on almost any boat of this age. I assumed that in a $500 boat, this would be the case.

The boat, when I went to look at it, was about what I expected: It had some issues, but its hull was solid, the mast was straight, the sails in good condition, and the rigging was all there. Based on that, and the fact that in a worst case I could get about $600 on eBay for just the lead in the keel, not to mention the value of a properly titled trailer, the sails, and other parts, I bought the boat. Unfortunately, I had given Heather most of my money to buy her new car, so I had to wait on cash. I gave the seller some hand money, and made arrangements to come back later and buy the boat.

For the next ten days, I acted like a kid before Christmas. I couldn’t wait to go finalize things and bring my boat home! But that’s another story, for a future blog post.


  • Heather puts up with my bullshit more than anybody else I know.
  • Rotted core: Fiberglass boats often are constructed with a wooden core sandwiched between layers of fiberglass. This adds strength, but can rot in areas where water passes through to the core, for example where bolts pass through the decks. I will go into much more detail about this phenomenon in later blog posts, as I work to fix this problem on my boat.