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post #1 of 16 Old 12-29-2007 Thread Starter
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Comparing Catalina 32's 34's and 36's

I'm shopping for my first 'big boat' and the Catalina line is currently under review. I just spent 24 hours on a 32' in San Diego sailing, motor sailing, light winds, offshore and sleeping onboard at dockside.

I was pleased with the 32's qualities but will probably go as big as a $50,000 to $60,000 budget will allow (ie, 20 year old 34 or 36 .... 38?).

Can someone offer a comparative analysis regarding what qualities I will find when I do get to try out the 34' and 36' using the 32' as a baseline for comparison.

Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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The 38 is an old S&S design, pretty boat with tumblehome, it's the design Frank Butler took with him when he left S&S to form Catalina. Big genoa/skinny main, pinched ends old school design.

The 36 has been around a while and at 50-60K you're looking at an older version (depending on where you live) Great layout (essentially unchanged through the years) The deck layouts changed somewhere around '88 and in the 90s the markII came out with an enlarged transom and a walk through. Prices jump considerably for these models.

The 34 is not as old as the 36, and also comes in old deck/new deck versions, and the MarkII with the open transom. Roomy as well, not as practical a layout as the 36 for larger groups or kids.

Catalina has done a terrific job of updating these two older designs along the way, with the newer versions being much more attractive looking boats.

34 and 36 will sport single spreader rigs, the 32 will have a double spreader somewhat more modern setup.

Those that own Catalinas are very much behind the brand, obviously they are doing something right. Other than being common as dirt (the malibu of the seas) they do the job they're intended for.

I'm sure certain Catalina owners will chime in here with more detail and comment.
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post #3 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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You don't mention the type and range of sailing you intend - both of which dictate what kind of boat you shoul;d consider much more so than the brand. Catalinas are okay for coastal sailing but many of the older ones have construction issues such as the problem some models have with wood keel posts or wood keel steps which rot and can cause lots of expensive repair. I think only certain sized Cats had this particular problem but it is an indication of other concerns you might consider before settling on any one brand.

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post #4 of 16 Old 12-30-2007 Thread Starter
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Type of sailing planned is southern California coastal, Cabo to Montery and marina live aboard for 3-4 days each month.

I'm not locked in to Catalina's but for the moment let's focus on their pro/con aspects and comparing 20 year old Cat 32s, 34s, 36s and even 38s within the Cat family.
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post #5 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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Any of the Catalina's would be fine for what you want to do. I assume the 32 you mention was a 320. That boat was introduced in the early 1990s while the 34 and 36 were introduced in the 1980s. With your budget, you should be able to find a decent mid-90s 320, or a 1980's 34 or 36. The 34 or 36 will be a MK 1 version without the walk-through transom like the 320.
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post #6 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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One thing—you'd probably be better off getting a smaller boat in better condition than a larger one that needs more work. Boats can quickly become a sinkhole financially, and a smaller boat that is in better shape is far less likely to do so.


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post #7 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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I'm also shopping the same three models for weekends and longer on the Chesapeake. The 320 being a newer design carries the max beam further aft than the older 34 or 36. This gives the 320 a roomier aft cabin than the MKI 34-36, and only the MKII boats can compete with the 320 on that count. The aft cabin on a 34MKI is arguably nicer than the cubby hole on the 36MKI, but the 36 has a lot more storage than the 34 and both MKI boat beat the 320 when it comes to storage.

I would rate the galley of the 34 to be the "worst" of the 3 boats but still quite adequate.

The head on the 320 is the smallest of the 3.

In 1990 the 34 and 36 got walk through transoms.

In 93 the 36 got a redesign of the nav station so they could add a door to the aft cabin. The forward facing Nav station on the early 36's provides a good deal more room than the later outward facing design or the rear facing station on the 320/34.

I've read that the 320 is quick for its size and will stay close to a 36 or 34 but PHRF ratings on the Chesapeake seem to counter that arguement. There is a wide gap between the rating for a 34 and a 320. The 36 generally rates a few seconds quicker than the 34 here on the bay.

As others have pointed out, the 320 is the newest design and being a smaller boat may let you buy the newest within your budget. Personally I think the 320 is a really nice boat in many aspects but it has less storage than our current 32' boat so we are leaning towards the 34 even though the aft cabin and galley on the 320 are as nice or better than the 34. Our current boat has a "sugar scoop" transom and we find its a really nice aid in boarding from a dingy, and think we'd miss the convienince of the step so we're contemplating post '90 MKI's to the 320 and trying to decide.

s/v Palmetto Moon
1991 Catalina 36

Last edited by PalmettoSailor; 12-30-2007 at 03:37 PM.
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post #8 of 16 Old 12-30-2007
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You didn't say how many people will be on board. If it is just 2 or so, the 323 is the best choice (for the same money you can get a newer 320 than an older 34 / 36). If you will have more than 4 people on board, and for longer than 2 nights, the 34 and 36 have a lot more room below. And if you will be spending more than a week aboard, the 36 has the storage capacity and tankage for those trips.


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Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY

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post #9 of 16 Old 01-03-2008
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I have to assume the last 2 posters were refering to Inside Storage as a problem for the c320 as I wish I had 1/2 the cockpit accesible storage on my NC (mine is all on the inside now) that I had for 6 years on the c320. I could literally throw 2 folded Dahons into the cavernous port lazzerette followed by say 10 throwable PFDs and 5 life vests plus odds and ends. For example also the aft port locker would also hold 10-15 thowables and the aft starboard locker another 5+. The fridge is larger than my NC and the 34 or 36 also I beleive. As for choosing one of the three I would definitly skip the 34 and choose between the 320 and 36 (with the wet bilge). The head on the 320 is probably the smallest in the 25 to 35 range of any make though but at 5'7" it didn't bother me or my wife at all. The fuel and waste tanks are small but the water is reasonable (we aren't heavy shower users).

'Christy Leigh'
NC 331
Wickford/Narragansett Bay RI
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post #10 of 16 Old 01-03-2008
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Having spent time on the 320, 34MKII and 36 MKII, I think that they can all work for you dependent on your needs.

The 320 was designed as a boat for a couple. The design of the boat is set up for a couple to sleep and sail. Certainly you can put more aboard, but sleeping room would be at a premium. It is a really good sailing boat, and it is my understanding that it holds its own on the beer can circuit.

The 34 and 36 are very similar boats with the exception of the salon. I really prefer the salon in the 36 to the 34 ( I own a 34 by the way) and prefer the aft cabin in the 34. The cockpit is identical, so is a wash. I don't understand the comments on the galley, because on the MKII they are so similar I really have no favorite. Tankage is basically the same on both the 34/36, and I think on the 320 as well.

Careful of boat and slips. The 34 is actually 35'8" LOA, and the 36 is something like 36'10". Particular marinas can cost you on that difference.

FYI, the 36 has been discontinued, and the 34 is about to bite the dust as well based on what we are heariing. All of the Catalinas have an active owners group. Catalina seems to be focusing on the 35 and the new 375, this less need for the 34 and 36.

Support has always been good, and we assume it will continue to be even after they are discontinued.
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