Cal 30 Classic Plastic Review PDF Print E-mail

“It looks like frozen snot.” When L. Francis Herreshoff uttered his now famous quote about fiberglass, he might not have had an idea what kind of impact this new material was going to have on the world of boating. In fact, fiberglass not only made it faster and cheaper to build boats, it made them easier to maintain and care for and a whole new kind of boat owner was born in the early 1960s.  One of these classic plastic designs was the Cal 30 which is our subject here, specifically our test which was launched in 1964. 

In 1956 Jack Jensen started Jensen Marine, which eventually became one of the most successful fiberglass boat manufacturing companies in California.  When he collaborated with Bill Lapworth, an up and coming designer who was way ahead of his time, things really started to roll. 

Lapwroth’s first design for Jensen was the Lapworth 24 (later renamed the California 24) centerboard flat bottom design that blew the doors off its competition and placed Jack Jensen’s name first on the California 24 perpetual trophy.  Soon, the name was shortened to Cal 24 and additional success for the design came from Robin Lee Graham, who as a teenager, circumnavigated and gained quite a bit of publicity for Lapworth with a film and book about his adventures in his tiny boat named Dove. 

The very successful Lapworth/Jensen combination introduced some of the first affordable fiberglass ocean going boats which could do double duty as racers and cruisers.  Throughout the 60s, 70s and even into the 80s, Jensen was a leading builder with several designs including 25, 28, 30, 36, 40 and 46 footers. 

For approximately a quarter century, Cal was at the top of its game despite being sold to Bangor Punta, being moved to Florida and then being resold and relocated again before finally succumbing to the 10% luxury tax that was imposed in 1986.  This tax put many sailboat manufacturers out of business including Gulfstar, O’Day, Endeavor, Irwin, Morgan, Cape Dory, Pearson, Tartan and others some of whom have since been resurrected with new investors and old molds.  The Cal designs haven’made a comeback but the sheer numbers of them sold, especially west of the Mississippi, keep them visible on the water even today.

Design, Construction & Performance
One of the most popular of Lapworth’s designs was the Cal 30 of which approximately 200 hulls were built between 1962 and 1966 before it morphed into the Cal 2-30 in 1968 and the 3-30 in the 1970s.  Satori was hull #1 and she crossed her first starting line a week after launching.  She won or placed in every one of the twenty races she entered in the first six months. 

“If you are not winning as many trophies as you should, try a Cal boat.  It does make winning easier.” That is the copy from a 1966 Jensen Marine ad for the Cal 30 pitching the boat as a low maintenance racer and family cruiser.  Maybe that’s an oxymoron but it was a rocket in its time despite its cutaway forefoot full keel design and solid glass construction.

The Cal 30 was being built long before anyone understood the strength of fiberglass.  The hull is hand laid solid glass which is 1” – 1 ½” thick in places.   The deck is one piece molded glass with a marine plywood core. A through bolted and glassed hull to deck joint holds it all together.

The ballast to displacement ratio is 32% which technically makes the Cal 30 a light displacement vessel.  She draws under 5 feet and has nearly 2600 pounds of encapsulated lead ballast which means no keel bolts to maintain.  The foam filled rudder on a bronze post is attached and is in front of and under the feathering propeller.  This placement makes for no prop wash and easy backing.

The Cal 2-30 and 3-30 versions that started coming along 6 years after the original Cal 30 was launched, began to feature fin keels and spade rudders and became very popular on the race course.

The Cal 30 has been described by owners as a well behaved vessel with good balance on all points of sail that will motor at 6 knots and sail between 6 and 7 knots.  She points well despite her full keel but experiences a little weather helm when the winds kick up.  She loves a broad reach. 

Cockpit, Deck & Rigging
The Cal 30 was relatively beamy for her day and at 10 feet, her width afforded good space below even though the side decks could be a bit wider for easy access fore and aft. Her cabintop starts mid foredeck and extends to about two thirds of the way to the stern.  The rest creates a large cockpit for a boat of this size. 

Billed as a high performance ocean racer, the Cal has two unusual features for her time.  First, four large windows make for a light cabin but early on, they were considered dangerous for open ocean sailing.  The high cabin also makes visibility forward from the cockpit a bit tough.  However, there were no reports ever logged of the windows being a problem and owners relish the fact that they have great light below as well as air through the other 4 opening portlights.  The second feature is unusually small cockpit drains for an open water boat which could become problematic in the event of being pooped.

Despite the fact that Lapworth didn’t like weight in the ends to avoid hobby horsing, the Cal 30 has a sizeable anchor locker forward that is accessed via the v-berth.  There is also a lazarette aft behind the tiller. 

Keeping a boat low maintenance has been a critical success factor for a long time and the Cal 30 made that a key enticement.  Aside from a narrow caprail, an accent brow on the cabintop and some handholds, there is a minimum of exposed teak to varnish.  Nonskid and gel coat surfaces dominate the clean look which came as a relief to boat owners of the 1960s who were often faced with wood everywhere including teak decks. 

The Cal 30s came in short and tall rig versions.  There are two sets of tracks, one on the caprail for the genoa sheets and one on the cabin which was originally meant for a working jib.  Sheeting angles are tight and the boat points well.  The chainplates are set inboard on the cabin trunk to make for a clear deck and a single lower shroud was used to allow latitude in sail trim. 

Jensen originally offered 5 sails as optional equipment including a main, working jib, lapper, genoa and spinnaker.  North and Baxter & Cicero were the brands of choice and none of the sails retailed for much over $300.

Layout & Accommodations
The Cal 30 layout was designed to have a family of 4-6 cruise comfortably.   The accommodations begin with a sizeable v-berth with insert forward that is open to the anchor locker.   Next on starboard is a hanging locker with drawers below.  Across on port is the enclosed head with a sink, a convertible vanity seat, a hamper and good storage.  There was no pressure water option initially available.

The galley is in a straight line down the starboard side with an insulated ice box, a column of drawers and a two burner pressure alcohol stove.  Many owners have since replaced that stove with a propane model with oven.  On the Cal 2-30 and 3-30 models, the galley moved aft and to port and became L-shaped. 

A convertible settee/dinette is to port.  Originally, the Formica covered table folded down to make a double bunk.  Two quarter berths complete the arrangements, one on port and one on starboard.  This layout doesn’t leave much room for a nav area and many Cal owners have opted to mount electronics on swing arms that can then be displayed into the cockpit as well as below. 

Systems & Tankage
The first Cal 30s were offered with Onan, 50 cubic inch, vacuum cooled engines.  They had the reputation for lasting about two years and soon Cal replaced them with Atomic 4s.  The ducting for the original air intake was actually molded right into the deck and makes for an interesting grate still visible in the cockpit. 

Unlike on many Cals, the 30s had a straight drive shaft instead of a v-drive.  Access to it and the engine are fairly good.  There are 6 thru hulls originally with gate valves.

The original Monel water tank held 25 gallons of water and was located under the hanging locker.  There was also a 25 gallon stainless steel fuel tank under the settee on port.  Some owners upgraded the fuel additional tanks and bladders to increase range.

Wrap Up
The 1962 brochure listed the price as $13,500.  Today, Cal 30s move in the 10-20K range with some boats going for less and others selling as high as $30,000, depending on equipment and condition.  That’s a great story of value for Bill Lapworth and Jensen  Marine and not a bad return on a 40-year old investment for a Cal owner. 

The original Jensen marketing copy pitched the Cal 30 as the boat for “the discriminating yachtsman who demands a high performance ocean racer, the man who would rather sail than maintain a boat and the sailing family which likes to cruise.”  Forty-five years later, the number of Cal 30s still plying the waters speaks to the success of the design on all three levels. 

Specs for Cal 30
Designer:    Bill Lapworth
Builder:  Jensen Marine
LOA:   30’
LWL:   24’6”
Beam:   10’
Draft:   4’8”
Ballast:  2,550 lbs
Displacement:  8,200 lbs
Sail Area:   420 sq ft
Fuel Tankage:  25 gallons
Water Tankage: 25 gallons
Ballast/Disp  32%
Disp/Length  279
I   35
J   12
P   30
E   14
PHRF   192