“It looks like frozen snot.” When L. Francis Herreshoff uttered his now famous quote about fiberglass, he might not have known just 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 less expensive to build boats, it made them easier to maintain and care for. A whole new kind of boat owner was born in the early 1960s, to classic plastic designs like the Cal 30—of which approximately 200 hulls were built between 1962 and 1966.
In order to understand this popular design, a bit of history will help. 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. Lapworth’s first design for Jensen was the Lapworth 24 (later renamed the California 24), a 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-percent luxury tax imposed in 1986. This tax put many sailboat manufacturers out of business, including Gulfstar, O’Day, Endeavor, Irwin, Morgan, Cape Dory, and others, some of whom have since been resurrected with new investors and old molds. The Cal designs haven’t made a comeback but the sheer numbers of them sold, especially west of the Mississippi, keep them visible on the water today.
Design, Construction & Performance
One of the most popular of Lapworth’s designs was the original Cal 30 before it morphed into the Cal 2-30 in 1968 and the 3-30 in the 1970s. Satori was hull number one and she crossed her first starting line a week after launching. She won or placed in every one of the 20 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,” said the copy from a 1966 Jensen Marine ad for the Cal 30, pitching the boat as a low-maintenance racer and family cruiser. It was a rocket in its time despite its cutaway forefoot full keel design and solid glass construction.
The ballast to displacement ratio is 32-percent, which technically makes the Cal 30 a light displacement vessel. She draws under five feet and has nearly 2,600 pounds of encapsulated lead ballast, which means no keel bolts to maintain. The foam filled rudder on a bronze post is attached 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, which started coming along six 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 six knots and sail between six and seven 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 lot of light inside. 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 during open ocean sailing and owners relish the fact that they have great light below as well as air through the other four opening ports. The second feature is the unusually small cockpit drains for an open ocean boat, which would have drained slowly if the vessel were pooped.
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.
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. Bronze Merriman turnbuckles and toggles and bronze non-self-tailing South Coast winches completed the original deck hardware.
Jensen originally offered five 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 six cruise comfortably. The accommodations include a sizeable v-berth forward that’s open to the anchor locker. Next to starboard is a hanging locker with drawers below. Across to port is the enclosed head with a sink, a convertible vanity seat, a hamper and good stowage. Initially, there was no pressure water option available.
LOA: 30’ * Beam: 10’0″ * Draft: 4’8” * Displacement: 8,200 lbs * Sail Area: 420 sq. ft. * Fuel: 25 gallons * Water: 25 gallons
The galley is in a straight line down the starboard side with an insulated ice box, a column of drawers, and a two burner alcohol stove. Many owners have since replaced that stove with a propane model with an 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. Two quarter berths complete the arrangement, one to port and one to 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 in the cockpit, as well as below.
The 1962 brochure listed the price of the Cal 30 as $13,500. Today, Cal 30s sell for around $10,000 to $20,000. That’s a great story of value for Bill Lapworth and Jensen Marine and not a bad return on a 50-year old investment for a Cal owner. All these years later, the number of Cal 30s still plying the waters speaks to this boat’s success at aging with dignity.