hat kind of additional information do you want to know about the C34 (and C36)? I have been writing on this subject on several different threads. Use the search function. To clear up a misconception right off is the draft. My C34 is 5’7”, not the 4 ˝ that someone mentioned. The biggest issue I have with the 34 in regards to long range cruising is tank size. I have a 25 gal fuel tank that gives me an effective endurance of 36 hours. C34s that cruise Mecico carry additional jerry jugs on deck. I have about 60 gallons of fresh water capacity. For a four person crew in the tropics @1.5 gal per person, that gives you about ten days. If you can do it on a gallon per day, you can stretch to 15 days. Water is pretty precious south of the border and the two friends on 34’s currently in Mexico have Spectra water makers. I wish that the long settee in the main saloon was a bit longer as it is a little cramped for me (6’1”) as a sea berth.
Now, I sail in a little more challenging conditions than a lot of folks, so what is comfortable to me may not be comfortable to everyone. (Getting pooped the first time is a little frightening, the second time is “D***, wet socks for the rest of the day”.) I would have no issue with doing the thorny path down to the Carib. However, I would consider going seaward of the Bahamas and doing it in one or two legs. I know of several C34s that migrate up and down the East Coast, but don’t know any in the Carib (but hey, I’m a West Coast guy)
Being friends with several local brokers, I get a lot of opportunity to “kick the tires”. But to be honest, I do so mostly to steal ideas on rigging and other cruising mods. Before the crash, we were seriously considering a Sabre 402 as I was impressed with one that raced in the ’08 Pac Cup. The half mill price tag became too steep after we suffered an economic reversal of our own. I also have had my eye on the Farr designed Beneteau 40.7. They gave us a lot of headache on the windward legs when I raced on the Areodyne. I do think that the cabin could be better laid out for cruising however. A perennial contender is the venerable Catalina 42. You can usually pick up a Mexico veteran at a reasonable price here on the West Coast. They are not especially fast – hard to crank off 200+ NM days, but they are very seaworthy (Sailed in 45kt wind and 15-18 foot seas in one once). Although officially out of production, Catalina said that they would build one to a specific order. Aesthetically, the C440 just doesn’t cut it for me. The C445 at last year’s Boat Show didn’t really wow me, but looking at one during last weekend’s open house, I’m beginning to change my opinion.
No offense, but the C400 is another design that I’ve haven’t warmed up to yet. Although they are supposed to be faster than a 42, they aren’t really raced out here. The one that was in the ’08 Pac Cup was pretty slow. But then again, they were using an A-kite and not symmetric, and they really weren’t committed racers. I have issues with the cockpit. Doesn’t the fixed cockpit table and the dual wheel set up inhibit movement in the cockpit? I haven’t figured out how you would single or double hand a kite with the helmsman stuck all the way in the back. The berthing spaces are in the extreme ends. Doesn’t this “force” the off watch crew into sleeping on the galley table (just like my C34)? The walk around berth in the aft stateroom is nice, but doesn’t that rob you of storage space? So I keep telling my wife all of this, but if she had it her way, I’d be writing a check today. She loves it! (And I have to admit, I like the looks of the 400’s profile). One of my dock neighbors has been offering to take us out on his 400, perhaps I should wring one out sometime.
I personally believe the 400 is the best of the Catalina lineup - though I really like the 36 also. Now, of course, I might be biased (HEHE). I have sailed the 250 (owned it), 320 (owned it), 36, 380 (owned it), 400 (owned) and 42. I have been on and not sailed the 440 and 470.
The 400 is very fast (fro a Catalina) and should have no problem outrunning a 42, though I think technically the PHRF on the 42 is a bit better. Let's see, off watch can be done in the aft berth, believe it or not. Even in the seas we were in, the motion was incredibly nice in the aft cabin. You can also rig lee cloths on the port or stbd settee if you want, where the motion is centered. You can use the tie rods to cleat off on. I have found a lot of storage space in the 400, thought I love the garage of the 42. I do not like the sleeping arrangements of the 42, though I like the head accesibility.
All I do is singlehand, for the most part. In fact, I am taking her up to a race this next week in Port Charolotte by myself. I do not fly a symetrical though am starting to shop for a cruising chute. It would be easier to sail it without the cockpit table there, but like all things, there is a tradeoff as the cockpit table is wonderful when you are not sailing. I really like the two wheel system. Other than the redundancy and being able to switch between high and low, it makes for an easy walk through to the transom and very pleasant at anchor.
The 400 is the nicest sailing of any of the catalinas. THe only boat I have enjoyed sailing about as much was the 320. The 400 is very sure footed and has a very gentle motion. The 42, 380 and to some respect the 36 can be tender in the upper teens and lower 20's (though I think the 42 less so maybe than the 380), whereas the 400 has a nice, easy, predicitble motion and very quick acceleration.
The only negative you will find of this design is tha tin tall seas, when going to weather, we tended to jump off the seas and land into the troughs with a 'BOOM'. I have said this before, but we were able to minimize this by slowing the boat down, but would rather have kept her full throttle. It did not hurt the boat, and the seas (in a gale) were not typical, but that was my only complaint. The bottom of the 400 seems flatter than many of the other designs and more like the new Beneteau (like the new 40 they came out with which looks like it almost has an identical bottom shape).
Anyways, I would be very curious of your thougths on the 400 as you have also sailed many other Catalinas. I am always praising the 400's, but the truth is that I have my boat and have no dog in this hunt! I just think it is a great product. Take her out if you can, George, and let me know your thoughts.