By John Kretschmer
Good sailing, roomy
interior and active owners behind the popularity of this coastal cruiser
Catalina 27 is an American classic. First launched in 1971, more than
6,600 boats were built during a 20-year production run, making it possibly
the best-selling 27-footer of all time. Frank Butler, the 27's
co-designer, as well as the founder and driving force behind Catalina
Yachts, has a uncanny knack for creating boats that people love and they
show their love with their checkbooks. Catalina has built more than 60,000
boats, more than any other American sailboat company.
many ways, the 27 was the model for a design and construction philosophy
that continues to serve Catalina today. It is a simple but successful
formula-build stylish but definitely affordable boats with semi-modern
hull shapes and high-volume interiors. Catalina builds its boats
efficiently, which is often viewed as a sin by other builders that
secretly envy the company's huge production runs. Catalina knows its
customers and what they want. The company has an impressive ratio of
repeat buyers, which is the ultimate compliment for any builder.
the same token, used boat buyers also know what they're getting with the
Catalina 27. It's a spacious, user-friendly family cruiser.
A PHRF rating of around 210 means that it can be raced competitively on Wednesday nights or in active one-design fleets, although racing is not its forte. It is an ideal boat for the
most of us use our boats, that is daysailing and weekend outings. It
isn't the best engineered boat in the marina, but it is, as one owner
told me, a boat you can let your 16-year-old son take out with his friends
and not worry about. And you can find a nice Catalina 27 with an outboard
engine for well under $10,000.
Catalina 27 was a "big" boat when it was first introduced in
1971. In fact, at the time it was the queen of the Catalina fleet. The
look is "
The Catalina 27 hull is solid fiberglass and the thickness tapers significantly from the waterline up. The deck is plywood cored, which is not the best material for the job, although deck delamination doesn't seem to be the common problem it is on many older boats. Catalina used molded hull and headliners,
the manufacturing process.
often lament the use of liners in my reviews because they make it
access the hull and have structural limitations. However, for boats less
than 30 feet, they make production sense provided that they are well
bonded to the hull. The Catalina 27 was not designed or built to be a
bluewater boat, and there is nothing wrong with that.
construction details are more worrisome than the less than robust
scantlings. Early boats were fitted with gate valves on
below-the-waterline through-hull fittings and most deck hardware did not
have backing plates. It is likely that these shortcomings have been
addressed by owners along the way. The ballast is external and the iron
keel bolts should be carefully examined. The ballast-to-displacement
ratio is more than 40 percent.
to look for
The first thing to look for is the right configuration that suits your needs from among the variables: standard or shoal draft, standard or tall rig, outboard or inboard engine, gas or diesel inboard. In addition to the wing keel offered in 1979, a 3foot shoal draft was an option from the start. If you sail on Chesapeake Bay and plan to race the boat in the active one-design fleet in Annapolis, than you might be best suited with a standard draft, tall rig, outboard engine, early model 27. These were the lightest, fastest and cheapest boats. If you in Florida and
|Reprinted with permission, November 2002 SAILING, volume 37, no. 3. – All rights reserved.|