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I looked at a 1986 Catalina 34 over the weekend. Went out on a nice test sail too! Oh and the guy bought me a beer at the yacht club! Boat is quite a reasonable price I think, and while I had been avoiding the big three production boats, this one looks to serve my current needs pretty well. I am a bit concerned about the lack of storage, but otherwise should be nice. She is not in great shape and priced accordingly. Rig is solid all redone (lost mast and had Seldon in mast furling installed) in 2006, mainsail in 2006, engine seems good with some reservations, interior needs some sprucing up, ports/hatches don't seem to leak, but will need attention due to hazing, exterior teak has been left gray, not my preference. Boat seemed to have nice enough electronics, certainly more than needed on the Hudson River. Boat seems to have been maintained as far as systems go, but not cosmetics. Couple of questions:

Engine (Universal M25) started nicely, did not smoke, ran fine at idle, full throttle, and at cruising speed. It seemed kind of rough between say 1200 and 1500 RPM. He said it has always done that so he avoids that range. Does that seem normal? Oil was clean as diesel ever is. Engine seemed to be covered in belt dust and oil, but not too bad.

Has original Marlon seacocks. I don't mind the idea of Marlon, but how long do they last? They all opened and closed easily. Some resistance but not a lot. Again they are almost 30 years old but has been mostly fresh water sailed.

Anything else I should be concerned about? The one thing I want to check on is keel bolts, I did not get to look at them. Took my camera but did not take any photos, I was running later than I wanted to, and had to get home. This owner has had it since 1996, he is retired and seems to want something smaller if at all.

My thought is I should not loose too much money (well it is a boat) and might sell quick enough if I want to sell in 4 years and get a more serious cruising boat. The Catalina will do well on the Hudson as we generally have light, fluky winds. I will be staying in New York for the next few years, but want to wander off someplace else after that. I know the Catalina 34 is not something I want to take to Hawaii, but should do nicely here to Block Island, and possibly up to Cape Cod and so forth. It is no Kelly Peterson 44, but she is about a tenth the cost as well.
 

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One of None
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I don't know if the C34 is one, but think Catalina's had plywood in the keel stub inside all that glass and that was the cause of the "smile" as the plywood gives out over time. Not much to not like about any of the 30ft+ Catalina boats Paul! I really like the C36.
 

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I looked at a 1986 Catalina 34 over the weekend. Went out on a nice test sail too! Oh and the guy bought me a beer at the yacht club! ...
Drinks and lunch at the yacht club. That's how we were wooed, too.

Lots of boats have the "smile" not just Catalina. We had ours fixed. It wasn't a big deal.

Before we bought our Catalina I spent time on the owners association page as well as joined the Yahoo list. I took notes on known issues so we had our eyes open going in as well as some questions to ask during the boardings.
 

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One of None
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Donna I think Catalina direct sells a kit for the smile don't they?
 

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Donna I think Catalina direct sells a kit for the smile don't they?
They might but I don't remember seeing one. We had our marina do it after researching and realizing we had no way of getting the torque required to do it properly. At the time it seemed like one of those things best not left to DIY amateurs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I don't know if the C34 is one, but think Catalina's had plywood in the keel stub inside all that glass and that was the cause of the "smile" as the plywood gives out over time. Not much to not like about any of the 30ft+ Catalina boats Paul! I really like the C36.
Yea the smile issue is on early 80's I think, but will check the bolts as best I can before calling for a survey. The 36/34 are very close. I like the rear head on the 34 a lot.
 

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The 36 and34 are very close but IMO the 36 wins the interior battle with its superior galley especially.

The later MK IIs are much prettier boats, but at a premium. Either should fit the bill, esp if a relatively quick resale may be in the cards.
 

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I have the Universal 5424 which is a very similar engine. There's a lot of vibration between about 1400 and 1700 rpm on mine. I put this down to the vibration modes of an inline 3 cylinder engine. As long as it smooths out above and below that range, it should be fine. My cruising rpm range is 1800 to 2000.

If what you are hearing is noise, something could be rattling. A banging noise from 1400 to 1700 rpm was driving me nuts, I eventually found that it was the fitting at the top of the vented loop in the raw water circuit banging on the cockpit sole.
 

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So far I'm very happy with our MkI C34. Agree that storage can be an issue, though there's plenty if you don't need easy access (under the v-berth, behind the settee backs, etc.). Galley storage is minimal. The port cockpit lazarette is huge and the aft lazarette offers a lot of space too if you can come up with a creative way to keep things from sliding too deep.

Our M25XPB with only ~70 hours is also rough in the ~1500 rpm range, but smooths out nicely enough from 2000 up to the 2400 rpm cruising speed. Check the engine wiring harness and alternator bracket to be sure they've been upgraded (Not an issue on the XPB, but the older M25's need the upgrade).

I haven't had any issues with the Marelon seacocks, but I keep them lubed up with Marelube.

You can find answers and resources for just about every problem, upgrade and issue at the C34 International Association.
 

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If you want info on the C34, go here The Catalina 34 International Association
Before buying mine, I spent a lot of time on the C34 owners website and got tons of help and am still getting help four years later. The C34 is a great boat and the owner's website is awesome. Probably one of the best owner's websites on the internet.
 

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I am definetely biased, but the C34.org website is a wonderful resource for you.

The 34/36 are basically the same boat. Cockpit is identical! V birth bigger on the 34, which is all of 8" shorter than the 36 LOA. I prefer the aft head to the forward head of the 36. The salon is really the only difference in the boats.

I shopped a lot of boats before buying the C34, and basically bought it because it was pretty much bullet proof. Great sailing boat, easy systems, and the greatest owner website you will probably ever find. If they don't have the answers....they will!

Interesting, had this conversation with the new owner of my old boat this morning as we were sailing it in 15+ kts. and having a great time.

If the boat is in good shape....buy it.
 

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Keep in mind there are multiple versions of the C34. Fin keel/shoal keel, standard rig/tall rig, MK 1/MK 1.5/MK2, etc. On the Hudson and southern New England coast my choice would be a fin keel/tall rig version. The Mk 1.5 or MK2 with the swim platform stern is a nice plus. Don't think you can go wrong with a C34 that is in decent shape and priced right.
 

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Engine (Universal M25) started nicely, did not smoke, ran fine at idle, full throttle, and at cruising speed. It seemed kind of rough between say 1200 and 1500 RPM.
Yep the Universal M25's are all rough in that range. The solution is to replace the stock motor mounts with Vetus K75's. The difference in smoothing out the engine is nothing short of amazing.

I'll echo the recommendation to check out the C34 site. It's a great source of info.

I thought the "Catalina smile" was only an issue on early versions of the Catalina 30, not on the 34, but again I'd check out the C34 site.

My thought is I should not loose too much money (well it is a boat) and might sell quick enough if I want to sell in 4 years and get a more serious cruising boat.
That was our thought process. When we bought our boat in '08 we assumed we'd go bigger. But here it is 2014 and we're still very happy with her.

If you do decide to sail off for distant horizons some day there will always be a market for a well maintained Catalina. :D

Also I wouldn't worry too much about tall rig vs. standard. There is a difference in performance but it's not night and day.

If you have specific question you might also reach out to Stu Jackson. Stu's active on this site and on CatalinaOwners.com. He's a wealth of technical info on the C34 and is active in the association.

Best of luck with her.
 

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I have always liked the 34. The only problem I have found is that, with the holding tank below the water line, the seacock has to be closed right after emptying; otherwise it fills with sea water quite quickly.

Since the OP is in the US he will not have that problem as he always pumps out. ;)

(edit) OK what should we call that valve?
 

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The M25 is a great motor. 21 HP (not 25) and it is great on fuel... I believe that it uses about 1/3 gallon per hour at cruising speed. The M25 is based on the Kubota D850 tractor engine. Parts are readily available from Kubota tractor parts sources, or on-line, at 1/3 to 1/10 the cost of "marine parts." I have made a bunch of posts about maintaining mine.
 
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The C34 was on my very short list when looking last year. The excellent owner support was a huge factor to me, although we ended up getting a Bene 331. Around here, the C34 seemed a little pricey--good if you're already an owner!
 

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Having the M25 in my C30, it's been great. Strong when I need it, Hyper-efficient, and easy to learn to fix just about anything after a few website searches. Of course, it shakes and sounds like the tractor engine that it is, but I love the sound of the diesel chugging away.

The benefits of a well-liked, mass-produced boat is availability of parts, a huge community of people who owned or own them to help you, and resale value.

Sounds like you have a good trusting relationship with the PO and a regular used-condition boat to buy. And as most Catalina owners will tell you, the 'smile' isn't that big of a deal. It's not like the keel is going to snap off and sink one day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Yep the Universal M25's are all rough in that range. The solution is to replace the stock motor mounts with Vetus K75's. The difference in smoothing out the engine is nothing short of amazing.

I'll echo the recommendation to check out the C34 site. It's a great source of info.

I thought the "Catalina smile" was only an issue on early versions of the Catalina 30, not on the 34, but again I'd check out the C34 site.
Yes, joined that site, seems to have a lot of info.

I believe the smile effects the 34 up to mid 1988 or 89. So it would effect this boat, but I don't think it sounds like a deal killer. Just something to be aware of and will need to be fixed.


That was our thought process. When we bought our boat in '08 we assumed we'd go bigger. But here it is 2014 and we're still very happy with her.

If you do decide to sail off for distant horizons some day there will always be a market for a well maintained Catalina. :D

Also I wouldn't worry too much about tall rig vs. standard. There is a difference in performance but it's not night and day.

If you have specific question you might also reach out to Stu Jackson. Stu's active on this site and on CatalinaOwners.com. He's a wealth of technical info on the C34 and is active in the association.

Best of luck with her.
It actually had a replacement mast, that replaced the custom roller furling mast the original owner installed when boat was new. Current owner does not know if it is considered tall or standard. He did say it has a water to mast top of 53 foot.
I am going to try to get back to it this weekend and get some photos.
 
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