Of all the pocket cruisers we sailed this year, the Catalina 275 Sport offers the most boat per length. Tally up the big-boat features in this versatile sportboat — the inboard diesel, the enclosed head with shower, the wet locker, for crying out loud — and you’ll start to get the idea.
“I was aiming for a boat that would be priced more like a nice SUV than like a second home,” Gerry Douglas, Catalina’s chief designer, said of his design brief for the 275. The value he packed in for that price is truly impressive. These days in the wider business world, “design thinking” is all the rage, with magazine cover stories touting multinational corporations that hire teams of ethnographers to observe customers’ behavior and then design products and strategies accordingly. Well, the marine industry, though Lilliputian in scale, has its exemplar in Douglas. His knack for understanding how actual people use the boats he designs is uncanny.
The versatility of this 27-footer starts with its designed-in options list: an a la carte menu that will largely define any particular boat. Inboard versus outboard power; self-tacking jib versus genoa tracks; portable toilet versus installed head — each choice is yours. An optional retractable sprit and asymmetrical chute is your choice too.
Douglas envisioned a young family with wide-ranging interests, so he created space inside the cabin to store a kayak or a stand-up paddle board. A slide-out bin in the galley perfectly accommodates a large cooler that can be carried home for packing or to the beach for unpacking. Dedicated duffel bags slide into tracks to make seatback cushions around the settee. On deck, ergonomic cockpit settees invite you to stretch out, port or starboard, for a nap under way. The coamings are a comfortable place to sit and steer with a tiller extension.
The 275’s hull form features a relatively plumb bow and modest beam, together with a powerful mainsail-driven rig. Like the other boats in the category, this one is trailerable. As with our other sea trials last October, we were cheated out of a good breeze when we sailed the 275; still, with her asymmetric kite heated up, this Catalina brought smiles as she bubbled along.
Once again, Catalina’s Gerry Douglas has burnished his application for a lifetime-achievement award in some yacht designers Hall of Fame. Alas, neither the Hall of Fame nor the award exists, but with the 275, Cruising World‘s Boat of the Year judges added Best Pocket Cruiser of 2014 to Catalina’s growing list of accolades.
See the full specs of the Catalina 275 Sport here.
Tim Murphy, a CW editor at large and a 2014 Boat of the Year judge, is the co-author of Fundamentals of Marine Service Technology (ABYC, 2012).
This article first appeared in Cruising World, May, 2014.