Catalina 38 Pros and Cons
As a Catalina 38 owner let me add my two cents worth. This last season with a crew of six we won our class in the Oregon Offshore, downwind for 200 miles in 20-25 knots, then we won the Coastal Cup from San Francisco to Catalina seeing 35 down wind the first night and 25 the second night, we entered Transpac and were in the lead for the first five days before having to drop out due to water maker issues, on the return trip we saw 25 knots the whole way with big ocean seas. It was one of the most enjoyable three days of sailing I have ever had. As on any race boat when you do a sail change it is prudent to have all hands on deck regardless of the design. Just this last weekend I brought the boat home in 40 knots with one other person, a double reefed main and a #3 and we had a blast for the eight hours we were sailing. Yes downwind she rolls but who is driving down wind? crack off your angle, follow her polars and she becomes a stable platform. Get some Asyms if your uncomfortable with symetric chutes and its that much easier. Even easier is to go with a poled out jibe, we did that too and in 25 knots maintained hull speed throughout the night in big confused seas with very little effort. We do have a new high aspect rudder that adds an additional six inches of depth and that makes a nice difference. Going into the wind if you have done your job correctly and distributed your weight like you should then the bow stays out of the water and she powers through the waves. load up the bow and the vee berth and your taking on blue water. As far as the light wind comments again as with any boat the proper sail plan makes the difference, we have a Light #1 for up to 12 knots and a heavy number one for above, the heavy one is a dog in light air, maybe thats why they call it a heavy #1. She is nimble and tender and does require you to pay attention, but thats the fun of the boat, who wants to sleep at the helm and let the boat drive itself?
Just this month in Cruising World Lin Pardey picked the Catalina 38 as the first boat he would look at when looking for an entry level offshore cruiser, citing its price, seaworthiness and pedigree. I had a delivery skipper with over 200,000 miles under his keel deliver the boat up the coast from LA to Washington, he loved the boat and was actually very impressed with its performance at the usual unhappy points such as Pt. Conception, Pt. Blanco and the Columbia Bar (there is a reason they call it the graveyard of the pacific, and the Cape of the west)
Yes there are lots of other boats that are easier to sail, perform better in different situations but I challenge you to find one for 20-30K in the 38 foot range that is as capable of an offshore cruiser/racer as the Catalina 38.