Category Archives: Buying a Sailboat

Second Sail: Sailing from Willsboro to Essex with Mark

Sailing Errant "home" to Essex from Willsboro after purchase. (Sept. 7, 2014)
Sailing Errant “home” to Essex from Willsboro after purchase. (Sept. 7, 2014)

What a lovely way to take ownership of a new sailboat. Perfect weather. Perfect following wind. And a good friend (and great sailor) to accompany and coach me.

I have to admit that it still hasn’t fully sunk in that this is now my boat. All day it felt like we were borrowing it. I’ve had this experience before, most notably with Rosslyn, the home where my bride and I reside in Essex, New York.

Mark coached me on navigation, paying especially close attention to depth as we sailed through the Four Brothers Islands. We experimented with the equipment (auto pilot, etc.) and with the operation of the vessel. At one point in the afternoon, shortly after dropping the sails to motor into the Essex Shipyard, Mark suggested that I spin the wheel to discover what a tight turning radius the boat could execute if/when necessary. It was a little startling and truly informative. She can practically pivot in space!

Here’s a gallery of photographs from the day.

And here are a couple of fuzzy photos that my bride snapped as motored in to the Essex Shipyard.

Motoring Errant past Rosslyn en route to Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant past Rosslyn en route to Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant toward Essex Shipyard.
Motoring Errant toward Essex Shipyard.

First Sail: Test-Sailing Da Capo with Mark

Willsboro Bay Marina with Errant (formerly Da Capo), a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.
Willsboro Bay Marina with Errant (formerly Da Capo), a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.

Time to test-sail Da Capo, the Catalina 310 at the Willsboro Bay Marina that I’m considering purchasing. Fortunately my good friend Mark Engelhardt, a seasoned sailboat racer, cruiser, and liveaboard, joined me today for a trial run. Even more fortunate? He lives in Montpelier, Vermont and was willing to come north for an early morning ferry ride to Essex, a hardy Rosslyn breakfast (I tempted him with farm fresh scrambled eggs and bacon!) and a sail.

Conditions were perfect. Sunny. Cool. And a building breeze of about 12 knots greeted us when we arrived at the marina. The owner welcomed us warmly, and after brief introductions we throttled up and loosed the dock lines.

“Normally we have to motor out on the channel,” the owner said. “But today we can sail. Wind’s perfect.”

The owner was at the helm, and for the first time I began to feel a little jittery. Butterflies? Was I ready for this? He backed out of the slip and headed out onto Willsboro Bay.

We ran up the main, unfurled the 135% genoa, and cut the engine. As the diesel died and the luffing sails filled, I was struck by the quiet. The gentle vibration of the engine was replaced by the slosh of water and the subtle sense of straining as the wind leaned into the sails and rigging, and the hull sliced through the waves. The vessel felt solid as she healed subtly away from the wind.

Breezy with Butterflies

The owner remained at the helm, describing the the boat’s character, and gesticulating to illustrate his points. He was relaxed and content. Confident. Hands lightly on the wheel, smiling.

I was feeling excited and nervous all at once. Wind power exhilarates AND calms me. But that childlike enthusiasm was only one part of what I was feeling. I was also catapulting forward quickly toward boat ownership. I’ve dreamed of this for decades. But was I ready?

“Are you ready?” he asked me.

I was. And I wasn’t. Suddenly the enormity of this step, this responsibility, this learning curve washed over me. I was excited. And nervous.

“Sure,” I lied. “You bet!”

I replaced the owner behind the helm and stood, feet shoulder width apart, suddenly more conscious of the wind’s power and the texture of the water rushing beneath the hull, pulling gently at the rudder.

A gust loaded up the main and I overcorrected, rounding up and causing the boat to wallow. I colored, resolved to be less jumpy, to trust the boat.

And then the wind buffeted us again. And I rounded up again. Steady. Gust. Fall off. Wallow.

Mark asked the owner if the boat gets squirrelly in heavy wind. It’s not bad, the owner explained in a circuitous way, more comfortable in French than in English. He explained that Catalina recommends reefing the main above 17 or 18 knots. He usually waits until 20 knots or so, he said smiling. I glanced at the gauges and saw that we were pretty consistently in the high teens, and the gusts were  pushing us above 20 knots.

Another gust and I overcorrected again. My palms were sweaty. I was clenching the wheel tightly. I loosened my grip, widened my stance, breathed in and out slowly. Mark and the owner encouraged me to trust the vessel, to let it push through the gusts without rounding up. And I began to. Slowly. And she held her course, plugged through the light chop, accelerated.

Maiden Voyage

“Have you ever sailed before?” the owner asked.

I was taken aback, though I tried not to betray it. I explained that I’d grown up sailing. As a young boy I learned to sail my family’s daysailer with my father, a Paceship 17 (P17), and then sailed an Alcort Sailfish during my middle and high school years. I’ve owned a fleet of windsurfers and a pair of Hobie Cat 16s. And any time I’ve had the chance to try out other sailboats I’ve grabbed the rudder or wheel.

But the truth is that I’ve done very little keel boat sailing. I’ve daysailed on friends’s boats, and I’ve chartered captained sailboats in France and Turkey. But sailing and owning a keel boat was going to be a totally new adventure for me. And it was turning out that my instincts and my muscle memory would need some work!

I began to feel more comfortable. I was resisting the reflex to round up each time a gust knocked into us, and my confidence was growing. I felt more confident, and I began to relax. The boat is heavy and handles predictably. The wind and my own responses were unpredictable, but I was getting the hang of it.

Mark swapped out with me so that I could handle the lines and he could run the vessel through some tests. And before I knew it we’d been out on the water for over an hour and needed to wrap up. Mark was satisfied that the boat was sound and handled well. I was relieved to have achieved a modest degree of comfort and confidence at the helm. And Da Capo’s owner was pleased that we liked his boat. It was time to head back to the marina…

Da Capo

Off to Visit Da Capo

Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

Up early this morning, excited and antsy. I’ve studied the photographs of Da Capo so much that I feel like I’m already familiar with the boat, as if visiting, boarding and poking around will be more like déjà vu than a first encounter.

Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner showing Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

Willsboro Bay Marina

We drove to the Willsboro Bay Marina and parked. The seller had given me his slip number and directions from the parking lot, but I’d already stopped by the marina several times during bike rides to “spy” on Da Capo (as if gazing at her from different angles would help me discern whether or not she’s the right sailboat for us.) I knew exactly where she was berthed, and now I could finally climb aboard.

We walked across the lawn between The Upper Deck restaurant and the dock where Da Capo is berthed. I pointed out the sailboat to my bride as we strolled down the dock busy with boat owners cleaning and polishing their sailboats.

Owner speaking with my bride during Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014
Owner speaking with my bride during Da Capo during visit on August 24, 2014

“Bonjour!” I greeted a man roughly my height and stature who had just finished hosing down the deck of Da Capo. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. I introduced my wife, and he introduced his wife or girlfriend. He was warm and endearing; she even more so.

I snapped some photographs of the exterior, noting some minor cosmetic gelcoat damage on the transom. And then I headed into the cockpit to poke around while Susan remained on the dock with Griffin our Labrador Retriever.

The cockpit and interior or Da Capo were exactly as photographed. No surprises. Even the ceiling height/clearance felt “familiar” from the photographs that I had spent so much time studying. The v-berth felt more ample that I expected, and the aft berth felt more or less as I’d anticipated: slightly claustrophobic due to the low ceiling. Although a portal into the cockpit can offers light and fresh air, and at night a hatch in the starboard cockpit seating can be raised to increase the natural light and airflow in to the aft berth. Despite the low ceiling, the length and width were ample.

I felt comfortable… I was able to stand bolt upright in the middle of the salon… [and] I felt comfortable enough standing and moving the v-berth too.

The salon was pleasantly bright and airy, and the galley was compact but efficient. I took no photographs at all inside the boat. The owner had well documented everything, so I focused instead on asking questions and opening/closing, lifting, snooping. If there were surprises I couldn’t find them. And I felt comfortable. I had been concerned about ceiling heigh, about feeling cramped, about needing to stoop. This is certainly the case in parts of the cabin, but I was able to stand bolt upright in the middle of the salon without a problem. And I felt comfortable enough standing and moving the v-berth too.

The head was small, but I’d known this in advance. It was clean and well maintained with plenty of natural light and ventilation. The shower and toilet section would be a drippy mess if we ever showered aboard, but at least part of the head—the space with the sink—would remain dry.

I will attach the remaining  photographs (exterior + dinghy) in a gallery below, but long story short, the boat was immaculate, well proportioned and appealing.

We thanked the owner and—after chatting about boating on Lake Champlain, the pleasures of Essex and Montreal, the new Dufour the owner hopes to buy next, etc.—I promised to be in touch soon, and we departed.

As we walked back to the car I asked my bride for her reaction. She liked Da Capo, felt comfortable inside, and thought everything looked well maintained. She was positive though not effusive. She asked me what I thought, slightly warily, as if she was aware that I might be shifting away from “research with a goal to purchase a sailboat next summer” and toward a more accelerated timeline. Make an offer now?

This is the question that was in my head. But I demurred aside from expressing relief that there had been no surprises. I explained that I needed to mull it over. And I did. I was anxious to avoid getting swept up in the emotions and yearning and cartwheeling forward until I’d worked everything through.

On the one hand, I was smitten. I felt at home on the boat, thrilled with the condition, eager to sail it away. On the other, I knew that the price needed to come down, and I wasn’t really ready to own a sailboat until next summer. I hadn’t made any effort to line up dockage or winter storage, and summer was almost over. We had an autumn trip to France and Italy scheduled, so our boating season would be abbreviated. This wasn’t the ideal time to purchase. I needed to think. A lot!

Da Capo Jitters

Willsboro Bay Marina with Da Capo, a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.
Willsboro Bay Marina with Da Capo, a 2002 Catalina 310, in the middle.

I fell asleep last night thinking about Da Capo, and I awoke this morning thinking about Da Capo. Jitters, but mostly excited, curious, want-to-know-more jitters.

Before going to bed I had reread Da Capo’s listing for the umpteenth time and flipped through the photographs again, sleuthing for hints of problems but found only signs of fastidious maintenance. I reread reviews and re-trolled forums, hunting for a neon flashing “Caveat emptor!”

Shortly after 9:30 AM I emailed the seller.

Many thanks for your quick and thorough response. My schedule’s tricky this week, but I’m going to see if there’s a possibility that my wife could join me on Friday afternoon. Most likely Sunday will be our best chance. I’ll update you as soon as I have an answer.

In the meantime, I have a couple of questions that will help me out. First of all, is the sale price in USD or Canadian dollars? Is the cradle in the photographs owned by you and is it included in the sale price? I’m unfamiliar with issues related to boats registered abroad, and you mentioned in your listing that the boat “is register Canadian in bound.” Can you please explain what that means and what impact it would have on me if I purchased the boat? Can you please tell me whether you consider the boat well suited for single-handed / solo sailing on Lake Champlain?

Sorry to bog you down with questions!

Da Capo's owner/seller, Daniel Boutin
Da Capo’s owner/seller, Daniel Boutin

The email swooshed off into the interwebs and I tried to shift my focus to my work (with only marginal success.) I checked my email about every five minutes, each time startled at my lack or restraint. Just wait…

And then at 10:08 AM an email arrived from Da Capo’s owner/seller with inline friendly (exuberant!) responses to my questions ( in bold in the email below.)

Many thanks for your quick and thorough response. My schedule’s tricky this week, but I’m going to see if there’s a possibility that my wife could join me on Friday afternoon. Most likely Sunday will be our best chance, but I’ll update you as soon as I have an answer.

Good, will wait for your confirmation!

In the mean time, I have a couple of questions that will help me out. First of all, is the sale price in USD or Canadian dollars?

USD, which is good for you at this time.

Da Capo is really easy to sail in solo. I did it often. 

Is the cradle in the photographs owned by you and is it included in the sale price?

The cradle and the winter cover come with it! As well as the dinghy and the outboard engine (Yamaha, 4 strokes, 2.5 hp).

I’m unfamiliar with issues related to boats registered abroad, and you mentioned in your listing that the boat “is register Canadian in bound.” Can you please explain what that means and what impact it would have on me if I purchased the boat?

This does not apply to you, only canadian buyers. You will have to pay your regular purchase taxes. Inbound means that this boat has not be imported in Canada. I can’t navigate in Canada unless I pay the duty fees at the border.

Can you please tell me whether you consider the boat well suited for single-handed / solo sailing on Lake Champlain?

She’s really easy to sail in solo. I did it often. The cockpit and the galley is very huge for this size of boat. You’ll see ! Every seasons I pass my entire vacation on it (3-4 weeks). I leave the marina on day 1 and come back 3-4 weeks after. It the perfect boat for 2 or small family. And really comfortable for 4 adults for a long week-end.

Sorry to bog you down with questions!

You don’t bog me, I’m glad to answer to your questions. Feel free to ask as needed! I also paid for a survey earlier this spring as requested by my insurance company. I can show it to you and translate it if you want when you’ll come. It’s written in french.

Have a nice day !

Good news it would seem, though the seller’s overzealous manner is making me slightly leery. Why is he so eager to peddle the boat? Is it really that he wants to sell in order to purchase a boat he’s afraid of losing? Or is there something more? Healthy skepticism or a red flag?!?!

Schedule a Visit

Several email volleys later we’ve planned to meet at the marina this Sunday. My bride will join me. Now, back to work!

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

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 Boats.com 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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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: Boats.com)

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

Catalina 310: 8 for Cocktails, 4 for Dinner and 2 for Cruising

Another pitstop on my “Catalina 310 hackathon“, svSmitty.wordpress.com is a personal sailing/lifestyle blog chronicling Jesse Krawiec’s and Stacey Lee Titus-Krawiee’s quest to cut the lines and sail away. Literally. And what’s their vessel of choice? A Catalina 310, of course!

The following isn’t really a review so much as a detailed rundown on Smitty, the Catalina 310 that they’ve chosen as their passport to freedom. Not only is their overview helpful, but their blog (and their lifestyle choice) is profoundly inspiring. I sincerely hope they succeed in launching their adventure!

Meet Smitty

The sailing vessel (s/v) Smitty is a 2001 Catalina 310… Catalina Yachts introduced the 310 in 1999 and made over 300 hulls before discontinuing the model in 2008. The concept behind the 310 was to design a boat for experienced cruising couples that are looking for the amenities of a 40-foot boat in an easy to handle hull while still having plenty of room for gatherings… ~ Jesse Krawiec (Source: svSmitty.wordpress.com)

Couples in their 40s and 50s bought larger boats than they really needed because they wanted certain features that they couldn’t find in smaller boats.

Sounds familiar so far, and this idea of a 40′ sailing/cruising experience packed into a 30′ sailboat is a big draw. Here’s the back story that I’ve come across several times, credited to Gerry Douglas of Catalina Yachts.

“One morning, I was rowing ashore at Catalina Island, and I kept passing all these couples in their 40s and 50s that were alone on their 40-footers. I realized that they bought larger boats than they really needed because they wanted certain features that they couldn’t find in smaller boats. They wanted a good-sized owner’s berth forward because at this age, we’re past climbing over each other to get into bed. They wanted a separate shower and ample water and power to spend time at anchor, and they only needed one comfy cabin plus another for occasional guests or grandkids. That’s how the 310 evolved.” ~ Gerry Douglas (Source: svSmitty.wordpress.com)

We won’t be adding any grandkids to the equation, but maybe a couple of nieces or nephews. Honestly, overnighting aboard for us would most likely be limited to two people 99% of the time. Which resonates with Jesse’s favorite description of the Catalina 310:

The description of the 310 I like is 8 for cocktails, 4 for dinner and 2 for cruising. ~ Jesse Krawiec (Source: svSmitty.wordpress.com)

Specifications & Details

Okay, time to grab the goods. Jesse and Stacey, please accept my apologies. I know I’m over-quoting, but you haven’t left much fat to trim. Each word is helping me get a little closer to making a decision on Da Capo. (But if you’d like I can revisit the post and excerpt more aggressively, I promise!)

The hull is solid fiberglass, the deck is cored with plywood and the cabintop with end-grain balsa. A grid-and-beam system and a liner were then installed… A large spade rudder keeps her very maneuverable in tight spaces.

The double-spreader masthead rig supports a high aspect mainail with a Dutchman flaking system and a 135% genoa, both of which were standard equipment. The shrouds terminate on the cabintop leaving 18” wide decks for easy movement fore and aft. Four self-tailing Lewmar winches – two primaries and two on the coachroof manage the lines – all of which are led aft for easy singlehanding.

The Catalina 310 sails well in light air and, like most cruising boats, will need to be reefed when winds exceed 17 knots. 

Displacing only 10,700 pounds, the 310 sails well in light air. On a beam reach, she’ll do 6.0- 6.5 knots in 12-15 knots of breeze and like most cruising boats, will need to be reefed when winds exceed 17 knots. Under power, she’ll cruise at 6.3 knots at 2500 RPM with a two-blade fixed prop.

The accommodations are designed primarily for a couple, with a large owner’s cabin forward. A queen size centerline berth, innerspring mattress, and large bank of drawers. Lockers are both port and starboard. The main cabin is plushly upholstered with deep comfortable seating. Forward is a closeable opening in the bulkhead and built-in hardware to allow for TV viewing from either cabin. Also, there is a huge double berth aft for guests. The galley has everything for memorable meals aboard: a two burner stove with oven, a top and front access refrigerator, deep stainless steel sink, lots of handy storage, and a microwave. The head has a separate shower compartment and plenty of storage; all through hulls are easily accessible. Special features include a twenty gallon water heater, two 4D deep cycle batteries with an electronic battery charger, high quality fixtures, easily accessible pumps, valves, and filters, a Maxwell electric windlass and walkthrough transom with a very wide and deep boarding ladder. (Source: svSmitty.wordpress.com)

Many thanks, Jesse and Stacey, for helping me research, for helping me “deep dig” via your own firsthand experience. Real reviews are much more useful that glossy marketing-speak. I really appreciate how thorough your chronicle. One day I suspect we’ll meet on the hook somewhere remote, and I’ll be able to thank you in person. Until then, bon voyage!

Catalina 310: Star-Spangled Super Sloop

Da Capo (Catalina 310) sailing on Lake Champlain
Da Capo (Catalina 310) sailing on Lake Champlain

Another recap of another Catalina 310 review. Bear with me. Trying to sort… this… out…

The article was written by David Lockwood on Friday, 1 October 1999 and appears online at BoatPoint.com.au if you’re interested in reading the whole review (which you should!)

Catalina’s new 310 edged upwind with surprising alacrity…

Neither too big to handle two-up or too small to put to sea, Catalina’s new 31-footer is an affordable recreational yacht that can do a bit of everything on a whim.

[…]

Fitted with an offshore capable rig the boat can be powered up or down in a short space of time

Consequently, in the 310, you can race around the cans, short-haul cruise up the coast and head out for a week with your partner in great comfort…

[The Catalina] 310 is built of solid, hand-laid fibreglass and backed by a five-year hull-structure warranty. The deck has a plywood core and is bonded and through-bolted to the hull. Both the hull and deck are reinforced by liners bonded into place. Further rigidity comes from the yacht’s interior moulded liner, chainplates that terminate at the knees and are through-bolted, and keel-stepped mast.

Below the waterline, transverse ribs provide strength and somewhere for the lead fin keel (wing keel optional) to hang.

Fitted with what Catalina terms an offshore capable rig – comprising double spreaders, with fore and aft lower shrouds, a solid vang, fully-battened mainsail, with two reefing points, and roller-furling headsail as standard – the boat can be powered up or down in a short space of time. The mast is, in fact, the same stick as a Catalina 32, but just 150mm shorter.

[The Catalina 310] can host eight for drinks, six for club races and four for dinner by the waterfront. Moreover, it can provide a couple with big-boat comforts in a package that’s easily driven and slotted into a marina berth.

On the social side, despite its modest waterline length, the 310 has a big cockpit with loads of deck space and plenty of seats. The coamings are rounded and the cabin top comfortable to rest against, with great views for those riding shotgun on the pushpit seats behind the skipper.

Underway and during tacks, the cockpit remains uncluttered thanks to the traveller and clutches being mounted on the cabin top. The yacht comes standard with wheel steering – an 81cm wheel that doesn’t crowd the cockpit – and a big-boat binnacle on which instrumentation can be mounted right where the skipper can see it… the location of the primary, two-speed self-tailing winches for the genoa make single-handed tacks a snap. These Lewmar winches are right alongside the skipper.

With the shrouds mounted inboard and nice, wide flat decks leading forward, the foredeck is never far away. Backed by high lifelines, cabin-top handrails and a greedy grade of non-skid, the foredeck contains a useful anchor locker and electric anchor winch.

At rest, a wide walk-though transom with a boarding platform, fold-down swim ladder and freshwater deck shower will come in handy during summer, as will the outdoor lunch table around which a crew of six can sit… you’ll praise the boat’s storage capacity. Among the big lockers is the portside designed to house an inflatable, with room for the outboard on a stern bracket. There is also a separate locker for the gas bottle.

The Catalina 310 feels bigger than a 31-footer.

Okay, I apologize for including [almost] everything in this review. It’s that thorough. That helpful. Hope I haven’t over-quoted. (Okay, I know I have!) But there’s too much useful information in David Lockwood’s review of the Catalina 310 to slice and dice.

With just two people, a host of features come into play… the boat can work as an open-plan living space instead of having to lock the forward bulkhead to the cabin for privacy. This way, you stand to gain most from the roominess of the main saloon, which gains from the beamy and high sides.

With headroom all-the-way, from the aft bathroom… to the master cabin in the bow, the boat feels bigger than a 31-footer. With lots of hatches and a basic white headliner, light streams inside and stops any chance of stuffiness.

For a cruising couple, the forward cabin contains the piece de-resistance – a queen-sized berth (on the centreline, so you won’t fall out at night), with an inner-spring mattress. There’s a hanging locker and drawers on slides…

There is a second cabin back aft… [and the ] table is big enough for candlelit dinners…

The Catalina 310’s 27hp Universal engine consumes just two litres of diesel per hour at cruising speed.

[The Catalina 310’s] galley comes with a forest of teak cupboards, cabinets and even a dedicated cutlery drawer. There’s a front-loading fridge, a massive 80lt of hot water on tap, a second icebox which can be used as a food-storage hold, stainless sink and a two-burner gas stove and oven, with grill.

[…]

The decor is best described as traditional American yachting, with teak bulkheads and joinery, white glass for the headliner, a teak-and-holly vinyl floor covering, cream-covered lounges and a sandy-looking granicoat finish on the benches in the galley and head.

The companionway offers plenty of elbow room as you descend below, while the stairs lift out to reveal direct access to the freshwater-cooled, three-cylinder, 27hp Universal engine.

This engine, by the way, consumes just two litres of diesel per hour at cruising speed, so it won’t cost you much to get back home if the wind fizzles.

So David Lockwood is corroborating what I continue to read everywhere. The Catalina 310 is comfortable, practice, and well built. But how does it sail?

A couple will find the 310 a cinch to sail… the yacht is said to have a balanced helm brought about by a deep, elliptical spade rudder. The view forward was reassuring and the telltales easy to see… The 135% genoa drives the boat through the tacks and provides almost as much power as the main when underway. (Source: BoatPoint.com.au)

Sounds promising, right?

Catalina 310: California Clean

2002 Catalina 310 Da Capo 2014
2002 Catalina 310 Da Capo 2014

Here’s another look at the Catalina 310, this written by Bob Perry originally appeared in Sailing Magazine and was republished on August 25, 2000 at Boats.com.

Like my last “abstracted” (blurbed?) review I’m culling the information that is most relevant to me as I contemplate buying a sailboat. But please don’t rely on my esoteric selections alone. If you’re in the market for a Catalina 310 or you just want to learn more, please read the full article.

Now, on to my scrapbook of useful tidbits. What better place to start this is gem?

The Catalina 310 is a good-looking boat that avoids the silliness of Euro styling. It’s California clean. (Boats.com)

I’m not going to pretend that the 2002 Catalina 310 I’ve been boggling is the most elegant pocket cruiser for sale, but it does have a certain pop that many other sailboats in this market do not. Like that transom. Not just the wall-through (which I like a lot), but that crisp, clean, slick, minimalist look. Nice!

It’s a good hull shape… I was impressed with how slippery it looked. It’s a chubby boat… But beam isn’t all bad. Beam adds stability, interior volume and cockpit space. (Boats.com)

It really is chubby. These are not racing lines. Nor is the Catalina 310 a bathtub-scale model of Luca Bassani’s prototype, Wallygator, which has sailed across the horizon of my dreams for two decades like the Holy Grail.

But I’ve actually grown quite fond of the chubby lines in no small part because they make for such a practical first cruiser for us. Comfort will play a big part in convincing my bride that “bigger boat sailing” (compared to her favored sailing vessel, a windsurfer!) can be safe, comfortable and enjoyable.

The forward cabin is very roomy with a big double berth… The aft cabin has another double berth, but it looks pretty snug to me in terms of vertical clearance. (Boats.com)

The way I see it, the Catalina is a whole lot more accommodating that a tent and a bedroll. That’s basically my point of comparison, but my bride will be the final judge once we actually settle on a boat. She’s more favorably disposed with beauty ergo has stricter requirements for sleep and other creature comforts.

This would make a good little boat to introduce a family to the joys of cruising. (Boats.com)

An this is exactly what I’m hoping to find. A well priced 25′ to 35′ sailboat with good sailing, minimal upkeep, and a wide welcome mat to the world of sailboat cruising. Could the Catalina 310 be just what  I’m looking for?

Catalina 310: Talk of the Dock

Catalina 310 Review (Credit: Talk of the Dock)
Catalina 310 Review (Talk of the Dock)

Early in my research on the Catalina 310 I came across an invaluable review on Talk of the Dock. I’ve quoted the most pertinent sections below to help me in my decision making.

Catalina Yachts’ chief designer, Gerry Douglas, introduced the Catalina 310 in 1999 and well over 300 hulls were built through 2008 when the design was discontinued.  Unapologetically optimized for a couple, the 310 was a departure from other brands of this size as it didn’t make any promises it couldn’t keep – it’s a very functional boat for two. (talkofthedock.com)

My bride and I are footloose and childfree, so a cruiser “unapologetically optimized for a couple” sounds just about perfect! Let’s take a closer look at what “functional” means in the case of the Catalina 310.

The shrouds terminate on the cabintop leaving 18” wide decks for easy movement fore and aft. (talkofthedock.com)

Given that this is not a huge vessel, a design that optimizes access and ensures convenient and safe traffic fore and aft, especially under sail, is a bonus in a market/size when overly compact can result in tricky topside navigation.

Four self-tailing Lewmar winches – two primaries and two on the coachroof manage the lines – all of which are led aft for easy single handing. (talkofthedock.com)

The romantic current pulling me forward in this sailboat quest is a dream of single handing slowly around the globe. One day. My bride is petrified that I will perish on a tiny sailboat in the middle of a huge ocean with a rogue super-wave swallowing me up. She doesn’t like to talk about it. Instead I focus on the short term value of being able to sail solo around Lake Champlain: no pressure on her to join me if she’d rather windsurf/waterski/yoga…

My passion for sailing is at least partly rooted in a lifelong appetite for independence and autonomy. So every sailboat I’m considering needs to be designed with single handing in mind.

[The Catalina 310] sails well in light air.  On a beam reach, she’ll do 6.0- 6.5 knots in 12-15 knots of breeze and like most cruising boats, will need to be reefed when winds exceed 17 knots… the Catalina 310 reportedly sails just as well and stayed dryer than either a Hunter 326 or a Beneteau 311. (talkofthedock.com)

I’m a Beneteau fan. I like that this boat is solid and comfortable but can potentially outsold the Beneteau 311. Infantile? Maybe. But honest.

(And note to self: I need to learn more about reefing. In most of my sailing up until this point, big wind, small craft advisories, lots of sail, and speeed have been the goal. But the stakes were lower. Less rigging to break…)

Catalina cockpits are renowned and the 310 is no exception.  This cockpit will easily accommodate eight for cocktails, especially with two perched on the stern rail seats.  Access is easy via the walk-through transom… (talkofthedock.com)

This will appeal to my bride. So far her primary (only?) interest in owning a cruiser involves entertaining. Picnics. Cocktails. Eight snug guests might be just the ticket to entice her. And the walk-through transom — aside from being an aesthetic that appeals to me — is a practical solution for a water-loving Labrador Retriever and two equally water-loving young nieces plus two now-teenage-but-still-water-loving nephews.

Below is where the Catalina 310 really shines for two.  Although a family with small children or the occasional guest can be accommodated in the aft berth, this boat is really built for a couple due to its open floor plan… Having few real separations, the boat provides an airy and generous space for two rather than a cramped and compartmentalized boat for four. (talkofthedock.com)

Sounds perfect! Now if I can just talk my bride into exploring Lake Champlain and sleeping on the hook…

The review ends on an especially high note, pivoting from the value of big boat utility and convenience packed into a 31′ pocket cruiser to the value of a liquid asset that appears to be holding stronger than most.

Catalina 310s are listing for $75,000 – $80,000 on Yachtworld and originally they were around $85,000.  Now that’s a powerful statement in a world of depreciating assets. (talkofthedock.com)

According to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine this review was published on December 5, 2012, but the assessment has held up throughout my research. I find this pretty reassuring, especially since this is my maiden voyage into larger sailboat ownership. I’d love to be able to offset my exuberance with at least a modicum of prudence!

Catalina 310: Time for Research

I love that transom! Catalina 310 Review (Credit: Talk of the Dock)
I love that transom! Catalina 310 Review (Credit: Talk of the Dock)

Okay, let’s take a look at the Catalina 310. The more I read about it, the better it seems to fit. Maybe I’m just talking myself into it? But why? There are a lot sexier vessels, faster boats, more elegant boats, more affordable boats (and lots of less affordable boats!)

So there must be some reason the 2002 Catalina 310 for sale at the Willsboro Bay Marina resonates with me. In the next couple of posts I’m going to draw together some of high points in what I’ve been reading about performance, value, exterior and interior configuration, bed sizing, etc. Maybe laying it all out will help me size up the situation.

Maybe some day I’ll revisit the topics of the Catalina 310’s performance, configuration, bed sizing, etc. Perhaps once I’ve overnighted aboard? Perhaps not. Perhaps another sailboat is in our future. But at the moment the Catalina 310 seems like a pretty smart fit.