Catalina 545 Named 2020 Overall Boat of the Year

Built in Florida, the new Catalina 545 takes top honors in Cruising World’s Boat of the Year contest.

Catalina 545
Even in moderate breeze, the 56-foot-2-inch Catalina 545 ­displayed a lot of get-up-and-go.Jon Whittle

Every year, the Boat of the Year contest is an evolutionary affair that’s conducted over a nearly two-week period, and there are always surprises as the judging panel gets more at ease with each nominee and begins to truly understand their individual characteristics. For 2020, at each step along the way, the judges seemed to become more and more comfortable with one particular nomi­nee. Still, when it came time to cast the ballots for “the best of the best,” collectively, it seemed that even they were somewhat astonished at the yacht that ultimately emerged atop the 22-boat fleet.

Their final decision? The Catalina 545, conceived and designed by longtime Catalina stalwart Gerry Douglas, is 2020′s Overall Boat of the Year. So, how did they get there?

“This boat represents a ­significant change from previous Catalinas,” judge Ed Sherman said. “It’s a major upgrade from anything they’ve ever built. I think it’s not only significantly bigger, but better than anything they’ve done.”

“The largest vessel of a ­midrange production builder is a tough gamble because they’re not accustomed to building larger vessels,” judge Ralph Naranjo said. “In my opinion, Catalina upsized, upgraded and did a more-than-tolerable job of breaking through that barrier of not creating their biggest model and then suffering midsize components on it. The vision was making an ‘ocean-easy’ boat, that people who buy it will get sea time. It’s not a yacht that’s going to perpetually cross oceans. But it most certainly is a bluewater boat.”

“I like this boat quite a bit,” judge Dan Spurr said. “I don’t mean this the wrong way, but I didn’t feel like I was on a Catalina when we were inspecting it, starting with the looks of it. The profile is contemporary. They’ve obviously picked up on some of the European themes. I thought it was a handsome boat.

interior floor plan
The interior floor plan is rather traditional but extremely well-executed.Jon Whittle

“It’s also got a number of unusual features,” Spurr ­continued. “There were collision bulkheads fore and aft. The rudder stocks are inside enclosed boxes, so if there ever were a leak, the packing gland won’t find its way into the bilge or elsewhere. The shrouds were inboard so the base for the stays was a little narrower, but it really makes it easy to walk fore and aft without having to duck around the lowers. I like that.”

“I didn’t feel like I was aboard a ­Catalina when we ­inspected it. The interior is very contemporary.”

“On this boat, the ­forward stateroom is the owner’s cabin,” Sherman said. “It’s super comfortable, with a day lounge and kind of a Catalina trademark with the forward portion of the queen bed that lifts and retracts so you can read in bed or stretch out. It’s a really nice feature. And the aft stateroom also has a nifty one where you’ve got dual single berths that can slide together and create kind of a tight double. On the DC side, they’ve gone with a 24-volt system, which is a growing trend throughout the industry; we’re seeing it on many of the other full-size yachts. I’m glad to see it, because among other things, it saves a lot of weight in copper.

“Look,” Sherman ­concluded, “this boat is a totally new thing from Catalina—it really is. It’s not perfect yet; there’s still some refinement, perhaps. But ­ultimately, I think it will end up being pretty damn nice.”

And it has already earned ­substantial praise.

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