I''ll be happy to share my observations. I recently had the chance to see the new 350 side by side with a 36-II, along with my friend who has owned a 36-II. I''ll start by giving Catalina good marks for continuing to improve and evolve their designs. That and their popularity tells me they serve their market well. It was interesting to note that the price of <this> 350 was $13,000 more than the 36-II along side it. (Both were "loaded", i.e. air conditioning, autopilot, etc.) I didn''t take a hard look at the numbers because I was not a buyer...just a looker
I think it is probably safe to say that the selling costs are sufficiently close enough that it comes down to which boat you prefer. To me, the major differences were:
The lines of the 350 are the obvious result of attempting to maximize interior space. The freeboard of the 350 is considerably greater than the 36, the cabin top is more pronounced and the foredeck has all but disappeared on the 350 relative to the 36-II.
The lines of the 350 were not unpleasant, but the 36-II looked much more aesthtically pleasing to me.
I immediately noted the hardware on the 350...Harken winches, properly sized, an anchor roller designed for two anchors (an improvement over the 36-II), an incredibly goofy setup whereby the furling line for the headsail meanders across the foredeck, up the cabintop and then back to the cockpit. Who thought that up? A real toe hanger in the wrong place. Most sailors have those lines running back along the toe rail for a reason...they are out of the way! I will give Catalina credit for the midship cleats on the 350 and the fact that they seem to have extended the jib tracks farther forward than on the 36-II. (More on this later).
The cockpit was generally well laid out. I personally prefer not having an enormous fixed cockpit table taking up all that room. I personally prefer the "fold them up when you need them" starboard cockpit tables, which attach to the pedestal guards. Not an option, here. The wheel on the 350 is smaller than the 36-II, which will undoubtedly make the cockpit more easily navigated, but is a trade-off for the helmsman. Locker space is very impressive and the propane locker has been upgraded and improved to hold two propane bottles. The only negative was the remarkably small and totally inadequate scupper drain size. What is up with that!
Down below is always a compromise, but Catalina has done an admirable job of making use of the space. I really don''t understand the need for 6''9" headroom, though. The forward cabin would barely be adequate for someone of my height to sleep in that peculiarly shaped v-berth. Why not let that thing extend all the way from side to side?
The main thing you are giving up in the 350 is the ability to sleep anyone in the "main cabin", as compared to the 36-II. The "nav station" seemed an afterthought, but the truth is the the average boat buyer would probably rather have a place for the TV/VCR, which the 350 has, than a nav station, which it does not. The electrical panels and system were impressive and well laid out.
Beyond that, the 350 seemed well laid out and comfortable.
All told, I like the 350. I would probably prefer the 36-II for a number of reasons. The nonskid issue (molded vs rolled/sprayed) doesn''t bother me. I am a little concerned by the freeboard, particularly given the average Catalina buyer''s odd preference for tall rigs, wing keels and carrying way too much headsail most of the time. (The jib tracks on the 36-II do not extend far enough forward to even allow a sailor to properly fly a small jib, and don''t even bother telling me that a mostly furled 150 light air sail is going to serve in heavy weather).
At least Catalina seems to have fixed that on the 350, although the fact the most Catalina owners never seem to notice such things says a lot about what they hold important in a boat.
Oh, one last thing
Deck stepped mast (350) or keel stepped mast (36-II). Both are nice boats and I commend Catalina for their continued success in building boats that are popular and successful.