Catalina 320 MKII

A venerable cruiser and racer gets a new lease on life while the hull numbers just keep on climbing. "Boat Review" supplement to our June 2007 issue.

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After 13 years and a thousand or so hulls, Catalina Yachts design guru Gerry Douglas figured it was time to tweak a few things on his venerable 320, a boat that over its production run has been a hit with cruisers and club racers around the world.

And so new molds were built, tooling created, the aft end of the cabin windows were squared off for a more stylish look, a few inches were added to the V-berth, cockpit coamings were pushed outboard 18 inches to give crew more room to lounge, a new Edson helm pedestal was borrowed from the recently introduced Catalina 309, and deck hardware was revamped to include ball-bearing blocks and a neat new traveler from Garhauer Marine that has control lines that are both adjustable from its port side.

What didn't change, though, was the hull, sail plan or weight distribution, which means the new MkII can go up against its older brother maño-a-maño on the racecourse and gain immediate acceptance with the brotherhood of owners represented by the Catalina 320 International Association.

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the new boat, hull number 1,104, from Mr. Douglas himself one morning on the dock at the Miami Strictly Sail show and then got ample time to sail and get the feel of the MKII one afternoon and evening a few days later on Biscayne Bay and the mansion-lined mangrove creeks nearby.
I say lucky, because Gerry was able to point out several construction details he designed into the second-generation boat that could have been easily overlooked. Let's start at the transom, which is where we climbed aboard, across the swim platform and open stern. By changing the way it built the molds for the MKII, Catalina has incorporated the transom into the hull, rather than as a part of the deck. This means there's no seam or joint on the radius of the transom, some of which is below the waterline. While the immediate benefit is obvious-a water-tight surface-an added benefit is that there's no seam to be filled, glassed and faired on the shop floor.

Another change made at the stern was to locate the folding swim ladder so it can be deployed by someone in the water-a small, but welcome detail to be added to the safety side of the ledger.

Decked out with an optional folding wheel, traffic flows well through the cockpit. A large under-seat locker to port includes plenty of room for a refrigeration compressor; there's a conduit leading from it to the galley in case an owner wants to turn the ice chest there into a second fridge. Under the seat to starboard is an escape hatch for the aft cabin that helps make the boat CE compliant and the space below more airy.

On deck, all hardware is mounted on pads (so it won't sit in puddles when wet) above glassed-in aluminum reinforcement plates into which fasteners can be tapped. The boat comes with a double-spreader Selden rig and full-batten main, although about 70 percent of the boats these days leave the factory with the optional in-mast furling. Schaefer roller-furlers are standard equipment for headsails. Catalina also employs a mast-step system that ensures metal-to-metal contact between the mast, deck step, compression post below, and grid.

Below decks, rich teak, an off-white liner and lots of light pouring in through hatches and ports make for a cheery saloon. At the base of the companionway ladder, the galley's to port with its double sinks, two-burner propane stove and oven, and refrigeration unit. Floating above the counter is a glass rack and shelf that doubles as a handhold. To starboard is the door to the aft cabin, with its double berth running athwartships. Light enters this cabin through ports on either side of the cockpit, which means the foot of the berth is about as bright during the day as the head of it-another Douglas touch.

Forward of the aft cabin is a one-piece head and shower unit that's lowered into the boat during construction. Since there are no seams or joints in the corners, there won't be leaks or the need to re-caulk later, says Douglas.
A dinette dominates the starboard side of the saloon with its tear-shaped table wrapping around the mast's compression pole. The table folds down to make a double berth and the settee across would make a dandy single. Between the galley and settee is the nav station, which uses the latter for its seat. A hanging locker and double berth are found all the way forward. Overhead, the molded liner is asymmetrical, with a flange running along the starboard side for AC ductwork.

Under way, the 320 Mark II is a nimble performer even with its shallow (4-foot, 4-inch) winged keel (a 6-foot 3-inch fin is also available). Leaving the dock, the helmsman demonstrated this by doing a donut in the relatively tight confines of the adjacent piers. I took the wheel as we motored toward Biscayne Bay, cruising at about 6.5 knots with the 27-horsepower Yanmar turning at 3,000 rpm. Maxed out (3,800 rpm), we pushed it to 7 knots.
Even in the hot Florida sun, I didn't break a sweat setting sails and trimming them home. Closehauled we made a little better than 5 knots over the ground (according to my Garmin Geko GPS) in about 12 knots of breeze, and the boat tacked through about 100 degrees. Later, off the wind on a beam reach, we managed to breeze along at just over 5 knots in about 7.5 knots of wind. Seated outboard, I was comfortable driving, and visibility was good for both telltales and traffic. Standing behind the wheel felt a little cramped and I might prefer to leave the removable transom seat off.

Elsewhere in the cockpit, coamings provided a good backrest, although I found leaning back against the cabin for longer periods would have been enhanced with a pillow or cushion.

Straightforward on deck and appealing-but not overly lavish below-the 320 MKII reflects Douglas' approach to boat design. With only so many dollars to work with, put them towards structure and gear that'll make the boat sturdy, safe, and fun to sail. This new 32-footer seems to do all three and might just make a few older 320 owners consider an upgrade.

Catalina 320 MarkII Specs

LOA: 34' 3" (10.44 m.)
LWL: 28' 00" (8.53 m.)
Beam: 11' 9" (3.58 m.)
Draft (shallow/fin): 4' 4"/6' 3" (1.32/1.91 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 520 sq. ft. (48.3 sq. m.)
Ballast (shallow/fin): 4,400/4,000 lb. (1,996 kg.)
Displacement (shallow/fin): 11,700/11,300 lb. (5,307 kg.)
Ballast/D (shallow/fin): .38/.35
D/L (shallow/fin): 238/230
SA/D (shallow/fin): 16.2/16.5
Water: 51 gal. (193 l.)
Fuel: 19 gal. (72 l.)
Mast Height: 47' 7" (14.5 m.)
Engine: Yanmar 3YM 30
Designer: Gerry Douglas
Price: $115,000
Catalina Yachts, (818) 884-7700, www.catalinayachts.com