MY YACHT WORTH?
One of the most popular sailboat manufacturers in the United States, Catalina Yachts had its beginnings in 1969 in North Hollywood, California. Frank Butler was its creator and the driving force behind what would become the most prolific boat building company in American history.
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A trained engineer, Butler began in machine tooling. But when he contracted with a company to build him a sailboat, and the project became hopelessly behind schedule, he finished the boat himself with the builder’s crew, basically taking over production. This led to other boats. He went on to build the Coronado 25 and that line of sailing yachts in the early 1960s. This gave him familiarity with fiberglass boat building, dealing with suppliers, and recognizing the needs of his customers.
In 1969, Frank Butler started Catalina Yachts in North Hollywood, California in order to build the Catalina 22, a day sailer he hoped would be accepted enough by the sailing community so that he might eventually build 100 of these 22-footers. As history would have it, he not only succeeded his production goal of 100 boats, but by September 1980, his company built its 5,000th Catalina 22. (This was not the end of the story, as his company reached the incredible production number of 15,000 Catalina 22s by the early 1990.)
When Frank Butler passed away in 2020, Catalina Yachts surpassed the total production number of 85,000 boats, a record not likely ever to be repeated.
In the formative years of Catalina Yachts, the company outgrew its facility in North Hollywood and moved production to Woodland Hills, California. Later, it moved its entire operation to Largo, Florida, after it acquired a portion of Morgan Yachts in that location.
In addition to a full line of sailboats from small day sailers to larger cruising yachts, up to the flagship Catalina 545, the company at one time manufactured the Capri 22 sailboat and the NACRA and Pringle beach catamarans. And after acquiring some of the Morgan Yachts assets, updated the Out Island 41, which proved a major step in the growth of the developing charter yacht industry. The company also introduced the Morgan 38, the first new Morgan sailboat in quite a long time.
After successful experience building the Catalina 22, the Catalina 27 was a popular addition, with 6,000 boats launched by 1985, and the Catalina 30, with over 6,000 boats by 1990. The company’s Catalina 42 made all other builders in that size pale in comparison. Over 1,000 of the various iterations of the Catalina 42 have been built, unheard of in an industry where most other boat builders produce only a handful of yachts in that size range. The largest French builders also have production numbers in those quantities.
Frank Butler passed away in 2020 but had already handed over the reins of the company to Gerry Douglas, who started as production manager and eventually became head of the company. Naval Architect Douglas recently retired from the company.
Some sailors consider the Catalina line to be aesthetically plain while acknowledging them as a good value, especially compared to the exciting and sexy yachts coming out of the prestigious New England yards. Highly varnished teak brightwork and custom interior features dazzle the crowds at the boat shows. However, each Catalina sailboat is solidly built, equipped with marine equipment, masts, and hardware from well respected manufacturers. Catalina yachts can also be found most everywhere in this country and beyond. The very active Catalina Owners Association has chapters for each model, and there is no shortage of owner information and shared data for new owners around the country. Catalina also has the highest repeat business among its customers, as they move through the model line.
Every Catalina yacht above 30 feet is built to ABYC standards, carries NMMA certification, and is classified as CE Category A, Open Ocean. While this does not guarantee a boat’s ability to handle all types of seas offshore, it does mean each boat has made provision for those characteristics and features deemed important for offshore sailing by the European standards organization. Again, while the Catalina is not the boat most think of when planning an offshore adventure, many have done significant voyaging, such as Patrick Childress’ multi-year circumnavigation on his heavily modified Catalina 27.
The current Catalina line is divided into three yacht series. These are the Sport Series of day sailers, and a second series is intended for family cruisers, or Cruiser Series. The largest and most capable sailboats in the Catalina line are the Ocean Series, which start with the Catalina 385 and include the Catalina 425, which is the updated version of the venerable Catalina 42, arguably the most popular large cruising sailboat in the world.
In addition to the Catalina line of sailboats, the company also produces two models of the True North, outboard-powered Downeast-style cruisers. The True North 34 and the True North 39 are ideal for many cruising plans and are a good choice for traveling the Great Loop and East Coast ICW between the MidAtlantic and Florida. Taking advantage of modern outboard technology that offers great speed and control, with superior efficiency, these propulsion choices are now standard alternatives to traditional diesel power.
Anyone looking for a solid value in a sailboat can not do much better for the price of admission. Granted, there are boats out there that cost several times the cost of a new Catalina, but when looking at what most sailors actually need to make their dreams come true, the Catalina line has much to recommend it. The company has solid customer service, there are countless sisterships out there sailing most every cruising ground, and the number of repeat Catalina purchasers says a lot about the boats, the company, and its dealer network.
If you are looking to step up or down in size for your next sailboat, check out the latest models from Catalina. They have all the bases covered, and dedicated people that follow the paths of Frank Butler and Gerry Douglas make sure the company doesn’t stray from its proven mission statement. Solid value and boats that are fun to sail.
Leave the Cape Horn dreamers to their two-inch-thick hulls and mega-outfitted sailboats that can withstand a capsize but need storm force winds to make any headway. Let them worry about the nasty storms and climate change storm surge…
While you get the barbecue started for this evening’s dinner in the cockpit, anchored in a quiet cove. Lobster tails and a chilled Sauvignon Blanc will do very nicely, thank you.
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