Catalacs were built in England and were designed to sail the north sea. They have a solid reputation for their strength and durability. Many of the boats found in North America today, were sailed there from Great Britain. The boats were designed with blue water sailing in mind. Even the small Catalac 8M and 9M (equivalent interior room to a 38' aft cabin mono) with twin diesels are considered pocket cruising catamarans. By this I mean that the twin diesel models can easily motor almost 1000 kilometers without refueling. The 70 amps of charging and 70 gallons of stock water tanks in the 8M and 9M make even these smaller boats terrific pocket cruisers. Their designs are dated by today's standards, however there is a hidden benefit as their solid GRP hulls can not delaminate.
Chuck Kanter calls them one of the catamaran brands that live through the decades. In his new book , Cruising Catamaran Communiqué , he writes:
"Catalac catamarans, with over 600 units built and sailing, have probably brought as many hours of happy, comfortable and safe boating to more people than any other vessel. It is hard to find any comparable production vessel that has so well achieved its design objectives. One that comes close is the monohull, Morgan Out Island series, the most popular cruising boat ever."
The boats are masthead rigged with a relatively short, but thick mast.8M's and 9M's have the mast cabin stepped in a tabernacle. These can be raised and lowered single handed. The standing rigging is oversized to withstand the extra loading experienced by catamarans (the rig doesn't unload because the boats don't heel). 1/4" 1x19 SS on the 9M and 8M, and 5/16" on the 10M and 12M. They were sold with a mainsail, working jib and a 150% Genoa. When the rig is set up correctly, they sail with a very balanced helm. Twin rudders contribute to their agility and later models (>1980) have matching skegs just forward of the rudders to increase windward ability. The most popular models were the Catalac 9M (30 feet) and Catalac 8M (27 feet), but there are also some 10M's and 12M's around. Even though hundreds have been built, the combination of growing catamaran popularity, and North America becoming aware of these boats, suddenly they are hard to find. The entire product line feature solid fiberglass hulls, very large cockpits and comfortable accommodations and quality construction. These boats are built like battleships.
Although the Tom Lack Corporation is no longer in business, there are active Catalac support groups both in the USA and in Great Britain where owners share information and upgrade projects. Original boat brochures, magazine reviews and full boat specifications can be found at:
Catalac USA Web Site
If you are looking for a catamaran with stellar performance, buy a Hobie Cat. Catalacs were built for safety and comfort. As cruisers they will carry heavy loads for their size while delivering 6 knots in 10-12 knots of wind, and maintain windward speed right up to 35 degrees apparent. They also have high bridge deck clearance for their size.
Anyone who's evaluating used catamarans and is searching for a solidly built boat which is a dependable cruiser and great island hopper with moderate performance and plenty of interior and exterior room, at an affordable price should consider a Catalac, if they can locate one.
I would highly recommend these boats.