Catalina 309: A Collaborative Compact Cruiser
How the heck do you replace an icon? Innovate.
Because, in Douglas' experience, most customers for the 309 would buy in-mast furling as an option, he made the Seldén rig standard, and he designed the sail plan with a taller fractional rig to make up for the inherent loss in area and performance one trades off for handling convenience.
I'm a stand-to-windward helmsman, so it was only when I sat to leeward that I noticed that you can't see the compass from down there-the price for mounting all the instruments in the binnacle. No matter really, because the coamings would easily accept a pair of auxiliary compasses. When steering, I was pleased to have a real pulpit behind me, with only a narrow lifeline gate giving access to the transom step. When you want to use the transom for boarding or for swimming, the helm seat lifts out and stows outboard of the cockpit on the lifelines.
The deck is cleanly laid out, and the shrouds, set inboard next to the coachroof, offer support, not obstruction, when you move along the side decks. An anchor locker occupies the bow, and to project the anchor's shank clear of both the hatch and the drum of the Schaefer jib furler, the anchor roller is on a short sprit. A bail welded to this simple stainless-steel channel makes a tack point for a colored funsail of some kind. I thought the sprit looked a little vulnerable, and Catalina has since modified it. I also see potential for a more substantial after-market fitting with a second anchor roller for adventurous owners who need Bahama-mooring capability.
In addition to fitting a holding tank under the port settee, Douglas has managed to squeeze in 10 more gallons of water (not counting the 11 gallons in the water heater) and 6 more gallons of fuel than were aboard the original Catalina 30. In reasonable conditions, the motoring range of the 20-horse Yanmar diesel with 27 gallons of fuel should be in excess of 200 miles.
Frank Butler, founder of Catalina Yachts, is credited with getting more people sailing than anyone else, and it's clear that Douglas, his heir apparent, means to uphold the tradition. In the 309, he's created an honest-to-goodness unpretentious yet modern sailboat that begs to be taken out of its slip and exercised. It doesn't have the varnished teak and retro styling of the new millennium's gold-plated daysailers, but it offers the same on-the-water fun with full standing headroom and two double cabins. It's at once an entry-level and a departure-level cruising boat. It's big enough, at small enough an investment, for a young family; it's small enough for those with flagging agility to cope with; and it's a great little sailboat for anyone in between who doesn't want or need or can't afford anything more.
Catalina 309 Specs:
LOH: 31' 0" (9.45 m.)
LWL: 26' 6" (8.08 m.)
Beam: 11' 6" (3.51 m.)
Draft (fin/wing): 6' 3"/4' 4" (1.90/1.32 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 523 sq. ft. (48.6 sq. m.)
Ballast (fin/wing): 4,000/4,400 lb. (1,814/1,996 kg.)
Displacement (fin/wing): 9,800/10,200 lb. (4,445/4,627 kg.)
D/L (fin/wing): 235/245
SA/D (fin/wing): 18.3/17.8
Water: 35 gal. (133 l.)
Fuel: 27 gal. (102 l.)
Mast Height: 48' 3" (14.71 m.)
Engine: 20-hp. Yanmar diesel
Designer: Gerry Douglas
Sailaway price with typical options: $95,000 plus freight
Contact: Catalina Yachts, (818) 884-7700, www.catalinayachts.com