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Used Boat Notebook - Catalina 27 - By John Kretschmer (cont.)

want to cross the Gulf Stream and cruise the Bahamas , the shoal draft, standard rig, inboard diesel model might be your best choice. There were many small changes made during the long pro­duction run, so the best acquisition strategy is to look at many different boats before making a choice.

In addition to finding the right configuration, there are several other problems to be wary of. Leaks are the bane of many 27s and water finds its way below through the hull-and-deck joint, the hatch­es, the chainplates and deck fit­tings. Chainplate leaks often result in bulkhead delamination.

Be sure to check the through-hull fittings and replace any gate valves with seacocks. Also, check for backing plates on deck fittings, occasionally owners have added these and sometimes by remounting the fittings they have inadvertently created leaks. The lack of backing plates allowed deck fittings to move, and the gelcoat around chocks, cleats, and other fittings is often crazed and cracked. Other items to inspect are the spreaders and particularly the cast aluminum spreader sockets as they're prone to failure. The result can be a mast toppling into the drink. Apparently Catalina is well aware of this prob­lem and has a ready-made replace­ment kit available.

On deck

The Catalina 27 has a shallow but comfortable cockpit with a locker to port and aft lazarette. Tiller steering was standard, although I have seen some early boats retrofitted with a pedestal and wheel. Late in the production run, wheel steering became an option and many boats after 1984 are equipped with wheels. The companionway is enormous


and there is not a bridgedeck to speak of. Companionway leaks are com­mon, especially on older models before a sea hood was added. The mainsheet arrangement shifted around over the years. Early boats lead the sheet aft, but the angle from the boom to the traveler is not very efficient and tends to interfere with the helmsman. Later boats mounted the traveler over the companionway, however this mid-boom sheeting really adds a lot of friction to the system and loads up a boom section that isn't very stout.

The headsail tracks are inboard, allowing close sheeting angles. The standard rigging requires a close inspection, and if it is older than 10 years consider updating it. Double lifelines became standard early, but the lifelines were led to the base of the bow pulpit. This was fairly common in the 1960s and early 1970s, allowing the deck-sweeping genoas to roam freely. The forward hatch mounts flush, which is nice looking and saves a few toe bruises, but almost assures leaks when a wave sloshes aboard. A nice improvement was the molded external chain locker added on later models.

Down below

The interior is spacious and user-friendly. It doesn't feature elegant joiner work, but so what, you don't buy a Catalina 27 for the craftsman­ship, you buy it to have fun on the water. The huge companionway makes stepping below a breeze, which is not always the case in small boats. If you happen across an old boat that hasn't been updated, it is like stepping into a time capsule. Honest John, the 1974 model I examined in Ft. Lauderdale , Florida , still had the ori gina l plaid cushion covers and weird orange


brown shag carpeting. Still, the boat has more room below than my brother's Centurion 32 of the same vintage.

Catalina offered two basic inte­rior plans. The standard layout includes a V-berth forward fol­lowed by an enclosed head. The saloon has two opposite settees and the galley is aft to port. The dinette interior layout places the galley alongside to port with a dinette to starboard and two quarter berths, which are the best sleeping berths on the boat. For cruising purposes the dinette arrangement is more convenient, although the standard plan is less cluttered. Both layouts include plenty of storage, although it is under the settees and some­thing of a pain to access. Headroom is about 6 feet and ven­tilation is adequate. Most galleys will have small one- or two-burner alcohol stoves, and some may have 12-volt refrigeration, although this will likely have required a com­plete icebox rebuild as the ori gina l insulation was inadequate. The ori gina l icebox drain tends to back flow when heeled to port. The elec­trical panel is tucked away in the quarter berth.


When it comes to the engine, you'll find a great variety when you start looking at used Catalina 27s. Ori gina lly the boat was offered with either an outboard or an Atomic 4 gasoline engine. The out­board was designed to fit into the aft locker, or engine well, and while this kept the engine out of sight, it didn't make it easy to operate or maintain. Most owners fitted remote engine controls. The advan­tage of an outboard is that you can haul it off the boat, put it in the trunk and take it to a shop for repairs. And, when it's past its prime you simply buy a new one. The disad­vantages include the lack of power (you need at least a

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Reprinted with permission, November 2002 SAILING, volume 37, no. 3. – All rights reserved.