Catalina 310: Big Boat in a Small Hull

Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31' hull. (Source:
Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31′ hull. (Source:

It’s about time I stop hunting down reviews of the Catalina 310. If I don’t I’ll never get anything else done! The trouble is, the more I research this sailboat, the more I believe this is the boat, the boat. Will I regret it if I let this slip between my fingers? Will I wish I’d had the courage to commit now rather than waiting, delaying, prolonging the search, the wonder, the wish?!?!

Enough angst. Time for one last review of the Catalina 310, this time from Chris Caswell as featured on on March 7, 2003. The title of the article, Catalina 310: Big Boat in a Small Hull, echoes the now familiar refrain. And the subtitle drive the point home.

The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31′ hull. (Source:

Am I getting seduced? Hypnotized. Yes.

Gerry Douglas Vision

Castle launches with Catalina designer Gerry Douglas vision of the Catalina 310 as “a big boat in a small hull”, and then he opens up the concept in less abstract terms.

The 310 is designed for an experienced cruising couple that wants a boat that is easily handled by two, spacious enough for day sailing with the family or friends, and still able to accommodate two couples for a long weekend without sacrificing either privacy or comfort. Best of all, Catalina has managed to shoehorn all of this into a hull thatisn’t overly bulky or condo-ish. This is a boat that an owner can point out proudly in an anchorage and say, “That’s mine!” (Source:

I thoroughly appreciate his point: the Catalina 310 offers plenty of big boat performance and comfort in a compact package with the added perk of being aesthetically appealing.

Exterior Design

I won’t lie and pretend that the lines of this sloop are anything the fantasy cruiser that sails through my dreams, but it’s a long way for the clunky motor-sailers that populate many marinas. This is a sailboat that looks and feels like a sailboat. A simple, straightforward sloop that looks handsome in the lineup at the Willsboro Bay Marina where I ogle it from shore.

The Catalina 310 really is a ‘drinks six, eats four and sleeps two’ boat.

At 31 feet, the 310 is sandwiched between two existing Catalina yachts: the 30 Mk III, which seems much smaller and the 320, which is designed for families requiring a private aft cabin. “The 310 really is a ‘drinks six, eats four and sleeps two’ boat,” says Douglas. (Source:

It seems that everybody likes to offer their own elevator pitch, and this one’s the simplest yet. And it works just fine for me. Next Caswell segues from the “big picture” to the hull and topside design.

The starting point is a canoe hull that is round right up to the bow knuckle just below the waterline and uses a startling amount of flare in the topsides and a fullness forward to provide space for all the amenities. The deckhouse extends well forward of the mast for full headroom in the forward cabin, and Catalina has created a large cockpit because that’s where people spend most of their time either under sail or at anchor. Unusual for Catalina, the cockpit has the rounded edges common to Beneteaus or Hunters, and it features a large table as standard equipment. (Source:

This last point intrigued me. In general I find Beneteau lines more appealing than Catalina lines. Perhaps this is part of the reason why? And possibly why the 310 strikes me as more attractive than most other Catalinas?

Castle describes the Catalina 310 as “a pleasantly styled yacht with none of the faddish Euro-styling that will pass from vogue soon”. I haven’t really sized it up in those terms, but the design is timeless and straightforward. This is the sailboat your fingerpainted as a child, the one you doodle absentmindedly during meetings.

Short-Handed Sailing

It’s also apparent that this is a boat intended for short-handed sailing with a pair of two-speed self-tailing Lewmar 44s set well aft to be within reach of the skipper, and all the halyards and sail trim lines lead aft to sheet stoppers on the cabin top… (Source:

Bingo! This is exactly what I want and need. While I’d love to think that my bride and/or friends will join me often, I’m also quite comfortable with the idea of short-handed sailing. In fact, I often daydream about the cockpit of a sailboat as my “corner office”…

Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31' hull. (Source:
Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31′ hull. (Source:

Interior Design

Caswell’s look inside the Catalina 310 sounds perfect for a entire-level “big boat” (this is what I’m looking for), but I note that the v-berth differs from Da Capo. In the photo below, there’s a whole lot of wood paneling and cabinetry in the forward berth that are not present in the 2002 Catalina 310 for sale at Willsboro Bay Marina. Frankly, I think I prefer Da Capo’s simpler, cleaner, lower maintenance v-berth.

In any event, let’s see what Caswell describes.

Four steps (thoughtfully angled for use while heeled) put you on a teak-and-holly sole amidst an unquestionably yachty interior. Rather than Catalina’s usual ash finish, the 310 has honey-toned teak bulkheads, ceilings and trim. With a complete inner liner that not only provides a glossy white finish but plenty of brightness as well, the 310 is nicely fitted together, with none of the heavy seams of silicone sealant that so many builders use to close awkward gaps. One of the trademarks of Catalina Yachts has always been superlative mold work, both in fit and glossy finish, and this is a fine example of that talent. (Source:

Certainly ample light is a bonus in a small-ish boat, and the minimalist-but-attractive aesthetic in the main along appeals to me.

For what it’s worth, I was unaware that the conventional wisdom regarding Catalina’s mold work was so positive. Great news!

Immediately to starboard of the steps is the galley in an L-shaped alcove that puts the cook out of the way but convenient to both cockpit and salon… this is the first small Catalina with a standard Adler-Barbour fridge, which has both front and top loading. There’s also a gimballed two-burner with oven (LPG Hillerange), and an optional microwave fits neatly into a locker… Catalina has given up the usual double sink for a deep single… (Source:

Caswell does acknowledge a relative paucity of counter top space, but I suspect this is most likely the case with most boats in this size. Besides, my priority is first and foremost sailing, not entertaining. So this isn’t really a deal breaker for me.

He goes on to emphasize that the salon in snug, but in the photographs it does appear to offer sufficient dining space and even enough for a game of backgammon on rainy days.

The owner’s cabin is forward, and every inch of space stolen from other areas has been used to make this a truly luxurious stateroom. There is an island double berth with access from both sides and — get this — a full innerspring mattress for all the comforts of home. No more skinny vinyl-covered bunk cushions for a 310 owner! (Source:

Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31' hull. (Source:
Big Boat In A Small Hull: The Catalina 310 packs the amenities of a 40-footer into a 31′ hull. (Source:

That’s the photograph of the v-berth that I mentioned above. Note that Da Capo‘s interior is considerably more minimalist. Nominal wood paneling/cupboards, and mostly lots of clean, white gelcoat.

There are pull-out drawers under the berth as well as cabinets and hanging lockers, and a sliding panel in the bulkhead lowers to open the entire cabin from bow to stern when you don’t care about privacy, making this feel like a much larger boat… (Source:

All of this is accurate for Da Capo. In short, they’ve squeezed in just about as much storage as possible in the v-berth.

Let’s follow Caswell to the large (mattress, not height!) aft berth.

Aft, the 310 has another double berth tucked under the cockpit, which, with light from ports into the cockpit, is bright and comfy without a trace of claustrophobia. There’s a padded backrest and a navigator’s table that folds out of the corner by the galley…. (Source:

Comfy, yes, but I’d have to say that it does strike me as a bit claustrophobic on all of the photos I’ve been able to dredge up online. Perhaps I need to see it in person…

The head is another area where Catalina has spent some of those saved inches, since they’ve divided it into two sections: aft is the shower compartment with head, and forward is the vanity. It isn’t quite like having a stall shower, but it’s still a big step above the usual soak-everything-in-sight head/shower combination. Pressure hot and cold water is standard and, since 310 buyers will probably spend more time aboard than just a weekend, there is a 35-gallon water tank plus a 20-gallon hot water heater for ample capacity. (Source:

Not sure I’ll be spending enough time aboard to need a shower—at least considering the inevitable toilet, etc. soaking—but sounds like a good option to have in the event that Lake Champlain (or the late autumn air) is too cold for a cleansing dip.

Wind and Petro-Power

Power on the 310 is a three-cylinder Universal 25XP freshwater-cooled diesel turning a two-bladed bronze prop. The engine controls are on the Edson pedestal steering column and are angled for good visibility, and the entire engine is accessible when the cabin stairs are hinged forward. We didn’t run speed tests under power, but I’m sure this healthy and quiet engine pushed the boat close to its hull speed of just under 7 knots. (Source:

Bummed me out a little that Caswell focused on the engine before the sails and rigging. This is a sailboat after all! But good to know that the Catalina 310 can keep up with most of the trawlers when the wind dies…

There’s nothing particularly sophisticated about the two-spreader, untapered mast and boom that sports double lowers, a solid spring-loaded boom vang and Schaefer roller furling on the headsail. The mast height above the water is 46 feet 9 inches, and carries a total of 494 square feet (100-percent foretriangle) and a 243 square-foot main. Two keels are available: a 5-foot-9-inch 4,000-pound fin keel or a 4,400-pound wing keel with 4-foot draft for skinny water sailing. (Source:

Da Capo has a fin keel. While Lake Champlain offers plenty of situations when it would be handy to have a wing keel, but I prefer the deep fin keel. Either way, this wouldn’t be a deal maker/breaker for me.

Performance & Quality

[The Catalina 310] is a surprisingly stiff boat. Part of that is due to the all-up weight of 10,300 or 10,700 pounds (depending on the keel), which is a ton or so more than her competitors. The flared topsides allow the boat some initial heel, and then she stiffens up and is a real pleasure to sail. (Source:

I’m unfamiliar with stiffness as a description of a sailboat’s performance, but it seems that Caswell is impressed with the stiffness. Perhaps stiffness is the antonym for squirrelly or wallow? If so, then I can certainly see why burrowing through the waves in a good blow sans wallow would make it a pleasure to sail. Not sure I’m on target here, but the “pleasure to sail” conclusion is good! And the following sentence seems to corroborate my interpretation:

With the spade rudder set far aft and the keel starting at the mast, she is sensitive without being twitchy, and the full bodied shape keeps her tracking nicely both upwind and down. (Source:

Twitchy and squirrelly are similar, and tracking smoothly, solidly, steadily up or downwind is the ideal alternative.

Because of the cockpit shape, Catalina uses a 32-inch wheel. I’d be willing to give up the knee space next to the pedestal for a larger wheel, but that’s just a personal whim. (Source:

I’ve actually read elsewhere that some Catalina 310 owners have upgraded to a larger wheel and simultaneously solved  space/accessibility challenges by installing a Lewmar Folding Wheel. Interesting solution and I love those folding wheels!

The standard 310 is well outfitted, too, with such niceties as a Maxwell anchor windlass hidden in the deep anchor locker forward, electric fridge, roller furling, diesel power, pressure hot water, shore power, and both full-battened main (with Dutchman furling) and 135-percent genoa included. (Source:

I sometimes hear Catalina Yachts derided as a mass market boat manufacturer focused more on volume than quality. I also hear the rebuttal: mass market, yes, but low quality, no. Caswell certainly isn’t  derided the quality of the Catalina 310. Far from it!

The Catalina 310 is one heck of a nice boat!

In virtually all of the reviews and forums I’ve trolled over the last couple of days it sounds to me like Catalina is producing well performing, well built, well priced sailboats. And the high manufacturing volume might in fact be an extremely beneficial part of ownership. Lots of boats means:

  • lots of owners sharing advice,
  • affordable secondhand Catalinas on the market,
  • service and parts availability,
  • a rock solid brand that will likely endure,
  • downline resale stability, etc.

This is definitely another confidence inspiring review of the Catalina 310. And Caswell finishes up on a high note.

I can tell you that it’s one heck of a nice boat. There are going to be a lot of larger boats up for sale when owners realize that they can get all the features they want in a boat that they can sail by themselves. (Source:

Thanks Chris Caswell for coaxing me one step closer to setting up a time to visit Da Capo!