Hunter and Beneteau far exceed Catalina as a production boat , if you ignore the snobs Hunter is great cruising boat for the money and that Glenn Henderson hulls are really well performing and the technology is 2008 not 1977 like Catalina standing still
Beneteau "simplificated" Nauta interior is matter of taste but the building technology and performance is far superior to any Catalina now and ever will be .. Catalina like F Butler ...old and stubborn, take a look they can't give them away ... (new one's ) ..
that 440 is a morphodite ... so don't be offended by the fact they are no one's list ..
just please don't write "best production boat ..period ..for a simple reason ..no one will believe you .. not even Ray Charles would !
That has not been my impression at all. For the record, I do not work for Catalina. I get nothing out of them. But let me tell you what I have seen, first hand, with the other builders. Lets start with Hunter:
I personally have seen more than one Hunter where the glass was SO thin you could see daylight plainly shinning through. Of course it cracked, as did the arch. They also put cabinetry over the access for the chain plates The problem is that in order to service them once you get a leak, you have to pull the entire cabinets off. Access to systems is atrocious and furniture placement makes any altercations a major overhaul. Now you say ignore that? Ignore how many years of building boats like that because the new ones are great? Hmph. I am not discounting it, but I certainly have not bought it hook, line, and sinker. Only time will tell. I will say that of all three of the manufacturers, Hunter seems (at this moment) to be making the best effort for change. But after that many years of building VERY poor quality boats - they have a lot to prove and can only go up.
Regarding beneteaus, I actually liked the older ones but never got into their interior euro design. I prefer the more traditional. What I did and have noticed lately is that the cabinetry on those boats is a cheap veneer of some man made material. And is that particle board behind it?? I could not tell for sure, but it was peeling off at the boat show. And not just that one. On two of the three boats I saw. Also, the hardware was very undersized (if not alltogether missing). It only had one winch on the cabin top, I want to say four or five sheet stops, and the jib winches were way undersized. The floors and steps squealed when I walked on them (a fine trait coming out of Catalina these days too) and the whole boqat felt cheaply finished like a camping trailor. There was even a cabinet setting out away from the wall as it had obvioulsy slipped off of its holding. The rich interior I saw was nothing more than a dark colored plastic veneer to try and fool you at the boat show. How she will hold up over time is pretty obvious. And let me also mentio non the 423 (one boat inparticular) that the boat comes out of the box with a terrible list to stbd and water that lips over the stern rub-rail. That causes a nice little growth of junk on the transom (since you cannot bottom paint it there) and quite frankly, looks terrible. Why would anyone buy a boat that is always going to be listing is beyond me. Bet they do not tell you when you buy it that the only day she will set up straight is when she is sitting on the jack stands, eh?? By the way, what is your keel made of? Not a problem at the boat show, but wait until she sits a few years in salt water - especially after she has run aground! The exception to the rule I found was the First series boats which are awesome machines - but that is comparing apples to oranges as they really are not great cruisers in my opinion.
Catalina's attitude (with the exception of the 309, which I do not care for and will mention why later), is to make the same quality - but a whole lot less of it. THis is very apparent on the 387 the 350 and smaller boats. The 309 was built to a specific price point to keep the boat affordable. They worked with their suppiers and came up with many creative ideas from the pedestal to the switch board, for example, to make is a very entry level weekender for families. Your comment about Catalina not keeping up with the times is completely false - in some respects. They are still laid up by hand. In general, they put many of their systems in AFTER the boat is put together because they want to make sure it will come back out when the day comes to remove it for service. They cast their own LEAD keels. But it is actually some of the changes I do not like. The 387 (which took over for the 380) is a great example of that. They totally re-enginered it from the hull up. It is no longer the old Morgan hull, but now a lighter and flater bottomed boat with a beam that stretches from midships aft and maintains the freeboard. They did this to accomodate the new systems (generator, ac, watermaker, etc) that is so popular today and pretty much a given on the new boats. You can literrally crawl down in the lazarette on the 387 and almost stand up. And although I like that, what they also did was to take out most of their cabinetry and storage and replace it with shelves if anything at all. That makes it a tough boat to use for the very purpose they intended it for. Did you know the canbinets on these boats are teak, in many cases solid? So instead of a plastic veneer looking substance, they simply build fewer cabinets. That is just one example of the changes they made which I do not like. There are many others, like their totally wasted access to the bilge or its use for storage. They drop this liner in there and cover up a LOT of great storage space wihch I would not think would cost that much to build into their boats. On a positive note, they did maintain their hardware and kept it nicely sized. In the end, though, I still like the 380 much better. But becuase it was difficult to add modern systems to it and because of the cost to build the boat and keep it cost-comparable to the other 38 footers, they cut corners and did away with it. Like the Catalina 36 (which the did the same thing to) I was shocked. But you know what, they do not ask me before they do it either. The only boats that I am aware of that have not gone through the "refits" are the 320, the 400, the 42, and the 470. I will keep the 440 and 50 out as it is so completely different than anything else they build it is not worth mentioning. However, even the 400 went through a slight design change around hull number 307 as they tried to decrease the draw on the boat from the 5'10 (that was advertised 5'4) to the actual 5'4. THis made the bilge more shallow (which I again do not agree with) - but whatever. I will say again that the 400 is the best sailing boat I have ever sailed on of ANY sailboat in its class.
I have been called by Frank Butler more than once, and Gerry Douglas. Pick up the phone and ask for them and they will let you through. Scream at them and they will listen. When is the last time Jean Marie Finot or Francois Chalain called you?? If you do not mind learing to speak French and $1.50/minute call, try giving them a ring and telling them you want to gripe at them about their boats. See how long it takes to get a call back.
And for the record, I am not a Bene basher or a Hunter basher. I have had a bad secondary experience with Hunter, so am a bit biased due to what I have seen FIRST HAND (not this hear-say stuff that always goes on this board and others). My opinions are based on first hand knowledge. I also think Catalina could do things a LOT different. I would prefer they just make their producst a little more expensive and "fix" the things I mentioned earlier. Instead, the owners will end up having to make those changes themselves at a lot more cost than what it could have been done for originally. I think they could fit a nice niche market between the Sabres/Hylas of the world and the Hunters/Benes. When you are talking about spending 250k or more, why not spend 260,000 and get it done right?
The nice thing is that these issues (even the Bene ones) can all be corrected if the owner wants to correct them. For many owners, no matter what your boat, you will not care. Most people use these for weekends and, unfortunately, as water-condos anyways so they will not notice the difference. The truth is that is what most boats are used for - and not just the production boats.
If I was going to do it all over again, you know what - I might just cough up the money and buy a different boat. I have long been a fan of Hylas, HR (my wifes favorite), and the old Mason's. I have been on them many times and they do EVERYTHING right - from access, deck/hull connection, keels, harware, storage, etc. But the cost of those boats is extremely high!! SO you have to ask yourself if you would rather have that kind of an awesome boat and have a lot less money for cruising (or wait many more years to save up) or if you would rather have a production boat and just do it yourself and go sooner. I chose the later. Others would not. But only time will see if I made the right decision.