Miami Serves Up a Cruisers Buffet
While walking storied South Beach after the close of the Strictly Sail Miami show last February, it struck me that both venues had at least this in common: Whether your tastes tend to the slender and sleek or the big, beamy, and comfortable, there was bound to be something that'd catch your eye in either location.
Joining the dozens of boats introduced in 2006 and the many more tried-and-true designs that still draw a crowd, builders brought seven new cruising models to the marina at Bayside this year. And although the Miami show is sometimes notable for the latest catamarans on display, five of the new sailboats boasted only one hull, and they ranged in length from 32 to 54 feet. One of the new cats, meanwhile, was new only in that its propulsion system-electric motors driven by a diesel generator-was unveiled for the first time.
The day I arrived, a brisk wind had battle flags snapping; temperatures dipping to the lower 40s F had the locals running for parkas-even the dogs were wearing sweaters. My colleagues and I, having come from the frozen north, weren't sure what to make of it. But we were rarin' to get on the water and sail these new boats. Meanwhile, although several dealers speculated that chilly weekend conditions were to blame for a light crowd, as the sun climbed and the mercury rose, the docks began to fill. Judging from reports in the weeks following the show, a few early-morning and late-day shivers had no chilling effect on sales, with several builders reporting ample business in the wake of the show.
A trio of 30-something-foot monohulls were among the boats making their debuts, and from a sailing and cruising standpoint, they couldn't have been more different.
The Catalina 320 Mark II
Front and center at the Catalina display was the new 320 Mark II, brought to life by designer Gerry Douglas to update and improve upon a cruiser and club racer that in 13 years of production had sold more than 1,000 hulls.
Built from new molds and tooling, the Mark II features a pleasant, functional interior, a well-laid-out deck, easy sailhandling, and good performance, at least in the 8 to 12 knots of breeze we had for our test sail. In the redesign, Douglas added 18 inches to the width of the cockpit by pushing coamings outboard. On-deck hardware is mounted on pads to keep it out of any puddles, and fasteners are tapped into aluminum plates glassed into the deck. The Mark II features a double-spreader Seldén rig with full-batten main, although the majority of boats being sold leave the factory with the optional in-mast furling main. A Schaefer headsail roller furler is standard.
While much about the 320 Mark II is new news, its hull, sail plan, and weight distribution remain the same. This means that the Mark II can race as a one-design against older Catalina 320s, and the boat's been immediately accepted by the Catalina 320 International Association.
With four of us aboard under sail, we cruised along closehauled at a little better than 5 knots in about 12 knots of breeze. Later, cracked off to a reach in winds that dipped to 7.5 knots, we still managed to hold on to that 5-plus-knot pace. The boat's powered by a Yanmar 30-horsepower diesel and cruises easily in the 6.5- to 7-knot range. It's nimble, too, turning in its own length when moving along at a pretty good clip.
Below, an athwartships double berth aft and generous double in the V-berth would serve a family or a pair of couples well. With a crowd aboard, the tear-shaped dinette folds down to make a third double, and the settee opposite would make a fine single.
The Mark II we sailed had a shoal-draft wing keel, but a 6-foot-3-inch fin is available. With a price of about $115,000 delivered on the U.S. East Coast, the Catalina Mark II is likely to catch the attention of a new-boat hunter and might just offer enough in improvements to encourage the owner of an older model to go for a trade in.