Not Your Grandfather’s Catalina

A perspective by Ed Massey

Recently there was an article written by a dealer of one of the Group Beneteau yacht brands. In the article the author made the statement that the French yacht he represents was “not your grandfather’s Catalina”. On balance that was a pretty true statement. Even truer is the fact that today’s Catalina yacht is not your grandfather’s Catalina. During the Great Recession all yacht builders faced severe challenges. A number of sailing yacht manufacturers did not survive the Great Recession and are no longer in business. Several builders stopped building sailing yachts in favor of dedicating 100% of their production to power yachts, an easier sale and a much larger market. Group Beneteau while still building low priced sailing yachts, Beneteau and Jeanneau, has shifted a good deal of their production and resource to growing their power boat market in the US. Their power boats have taken a toll on Sea Ray’s market share, not a sailor’s power boat but certainly an opportunity rich market. Their sailboat brands continue to court the charter industry where boats need only stand up to five years of use.

Their Lagoon catamarans have been particularly successful in the charter trade. By contrast Catalina has recently purchased the True North Downeast molds and will produce a true sailors single engine power boat. During the recession the Group Beneteau monohull sailboat brands made a conscience decision to become the unchallenged price leader. To do this they needed to deconstruct their yachts in ways that cut costs but did not show to the untrained eye or a casual walk through at a boat show. Their boats can boast being at the forefront of the Euro fashion trend. No one can deny that they are sexy, sleek looking yachts. The interiors while being rather IKEA in look and quality not always suited for sea conditions that are less than ideal personify all that is ultra-modern in style and of the moment.

Catalina took a different direction during this recessionary period. Tartan was building very few sailing yachts, Island Packet changed hands several times, the same with Seaward and Blue Jacket, almost no J Boats cruising type models were in production, Sabre stopped sailboat production entirely. Shannon ceased production and quality New England builders, Hinckley and Alden were not building sailing yachts, Outbound rarely built a new yacht. The better European builders likewise were building very few yachts. Catalina sensed there was something of a hole in the higher end of the sailing yacht market. After Frank Butler canvased his Catalina dealers as to where they thought they could be the most successful and what the Catalina direction should be the decision was made to upgrade the Catalina line of yachts and move from a really good yacht to a great yacht. The result of that evolving direction was the birth of the 5 Series of Catalina yachts.

The Catalina 445 was launched in 2009 as a 2010 model year yacht. Its virtually instant success was confirmation that Catalina had found a market niche that they were uniquely well suited to fill. Gerry Douglas provided the inspiration for the design direction and carried that thinking forward with the introduction of the 355, the 385 and the 315. While the 5 Series yachts were winning awards and boosting Catalina’s production they did not take full advantage of the Euro trend of style. Catalina yachts are somewhat conservative by nature with always an eye on the realities of life at sea. Safety at sea and a sea kindly motion will always be a major concern at Catalina Yachts. The introduction of the Catalina 425 took advantage of a more Euro look to the hull form. Now with the impending introduction of the Catalina 525 the DNA of the super successful 425 has been fully realized. This is where the phrase, “not your grandfather’s Catalina” needs to be more fully expanded on. The core values of Catalina yacht construction will always radiate around honest quality construction with dependable systems and performance cruising sail plans. Catalina has introduced many important innovations over the years and their evolution coalesced nicely with the introduction of the 5 Series. The following bullet points highlight the enduring standards as well as ongoing innovations. Many of these construction details are not available as standard or as an option on other yacht brands. Lead keels, lead is about 20 times more expensive than cast iron. The advantages include impact absorption and minimal maintenance Teak interiors, a mixture of warm teak wood tones and bright maple accents give the Catalina interiors a contemporary yet timeless aesthetic Water tight collision bulkhead, not found on any other popular brand StrikeZone, impact zone with high density foam under the anchor locker, not found on any other popular brand 5-part construction featuring a dedicated structural grid beneath the cabin sole, this grid adds important torsional stiffness and bears and disperses the torque loads from the engine and mast compression Secure Socket chain plate system, simply the best and strongest chain plate system in the industry T-Beam mast step system, providing all the benefits of a deck stepped mast and the strength of a keel stepped mast Deep Defense rudder system, adds a huge safety margin in the event that the rudder is damaged Centralized filter lockers and ease of access to the oil dip stick, makes checking your fluids and filters easy and convenient Offshore quality inward flange deck to hull joint Knitted fabrics used for a stronger laminate and stiffer structure Oversized travelers, winches and lines for ease of sail handling in all conditions Innerspring mattresses in all sleeping quarters Navigation AC/DC panel with additional circuits for added options Wide, clear weather decks designed with inboard shrouds for moving forward with ease All Catalina’s larger than 30 feet are built to robust standards including: rated CE category A Ocean, NMMA Yacht Certified Program, and follow all applicable ABYC American Boat and Yacht Council construction standards. Most of the bulleted items were not available on your grandfather’s Catalina. Catalina is truly an evolutionary line of fine cruising sailing yachts. Catalina has been continuously producing yachts for 50 years. Catalina is owned, designed and built in America under the same ownership since day one. Catalina resale values and customer loyalty are among the highest in the industry. Dollar for dollar and feature for feature Catalina is a better, safer sailing yacht.