Review of the O'Day Mariner 19 Sailboat

O'Day Mariner 19

Ahunt/Wikimedia CC 2.0

For over 40 years, the 19-foot Mariner sailboat has been a popular daysailer. Based on the hull of the fast, stable Rhodes 19, the Mariner added a small cabin and other features. Built by O'Day from 1963 through 1979, and currently, by Stuart Marine, the Mariner was marketed as a family daysailer.

As one of the first affordable, trailerable fiberglass sailboats, the Mariner has been popular on lakes and protected bays every since. With its roomy cockpit, wide-beamed stability, and easy sailing characteristics, the Mariner deserves its reputation and is still among the best general-purpose sailboats of its size.

The Pros

  • Excellent boat for learning to sail and for family daysailing
  • Stable and handles well if wind or waves kick up
  • Very large cockpit provides comfortable sailing for 4 to 6 crew
  • Solid and well constructed; older boats have held up well
  • Self-righting and positive flotation

The Cons

  • Cabin is useful for daysailing but cramped for sleeping aboard for long
  • Older boats susceptible to leaks in centerboard locker (if abused by previous owners)
  • Early models lacked self-bailing cockpits


  • Length overall: 19 feet 2 inches
  • Beam: 7 feet
  • Draft: keelboat: 3 feet 3 inches - centerboard up: 10 inches - centerboard down: 4 feet 11 inches
  • Empty weight: keelboat: 1435 lbs. - centerboard: 1305 lbs.
  • Sail area (main and fractional jib): 185 sqft
  • Mast height (deck-stepped): 27 feet 10 inches
  • Rudder: keelboat: fixed - centerboard: kick-up
  • Recommended outboard engine: 2-6 HP
  • MSRP $24,000 depending on options - widely available used (NADA Marine Guide average retail price for 1977 models: $2,110)
  • Parts readily available for older boats, plus information from owners and class associations

Review of the Mariner 19 Sailboat

In the 1950s the Rhodes 19 was a popular wooden racing and daysailing sailboat. In 1963 Olympic gold-medal sail racer George O'Day bought the hull design, redesigned the topsides with a small cabin, and began producing one of the first affordable fiberglass family sailboats, the Mariner 19. While still producing a keel version, O'Day offered a centerboard option that improved trailer launching and allowed the Mariner to sail up to a beach.

The Mariner rapidly became a popular club one-design racer but also a good family boat seen widely on lakes and bays. By 1979 O'Day had produced almost 3800 Mariners - a huge number for any one model - and after O'Day discontinued the Mariner to focus on larger cruising sailboats, Spindrift and then Stuart Marine continued building the Mariner. The Mariner is still being built - probably the longest continuous production run of any sailboat model ever.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, design changes increased the Mariner's popularity for family sailing. The 2+2 model added two more berths in the cabin, for a total of four, although the cabin really is too cramped to call this boat a cruiser. (Sleeping aboard is more like backpack camping.) The cockpit length was increased to the transom, making a much larger space than in most boats of this size.

The current model includes nonskid on deck and the cockpit seats, all control lines led to the cockpit, positive flotation, and a kick-up rudder on the centerboard model that allows the boat into very shoal waters. With its wide beam and fractional jib that reduces heeling, the Mariner is stable and safe to sail in most conditions.

Virtually all Mariner owners say they'd buy one again - they have no regrets. The features most commonly cited are its stability ("virtually untippable"), its oversized cockpit (where you spend most of your time anyway), and how easily it can be launched (even on a shallow boat ramp).

Perhaps most important, the Mariner is very forgiving of the sailor's mistakes - and thus is an excellent beginning boat. The few complaints of Mariner owners focus on the cramped interior, where the cabin roof is too low for taller people to sit on the settees without bumping your head.

Good Mariners can readily be found on the used market. There are more likely to be problems with an old trailer (rust, wear and tear) than the fiberglass boat itself unless it was abused by a previous owner. For a new owner, The Mariner Class Association offers many benefits, including boat information, sailing tips, sources for parts, and a newsletter.

If you're interested in a small sailboat with a bigger cabin for pocket cruising, check out the West Wight Potter 19 - an outstanding small sailboat. If you’re thinking about a trailerable sailboat like the Potter 19, remember that one of the great advantages is the ability to take it easily to other sailing destinations, such as heading to the Florida Keys in the winter.

Here’s an inexpensive, effective way to control your tiller if you have to let go for a moment while sailing. Need a new outboard motor for your small sailboat? Check out the great new propane-powered outboards from Lehr. If you own a trailer for your boat, be sure you maintain it adequately both to keep it working into the future but to stay safe when using it.