In the absence of other comments, I will try to take a stab at this.
First, all Catalina
hulls and interiors are designed in house. Catalina
does not utilize any outside naval architects. The evolution of the mid size Catalina cruiser hull
, in my opinion, has been to chase the design ethic of Beneteau
which emphasizes interior
volume (and/or charter
business applications). This results in lots of "Wow" factor at boat shows. The downside is that storage
area and safe passage
below while underway have all taken a hit. Wide open space does not help in a seaway, which is the result when you push the settees further outboard
Second, the wide spread trend toward fat-ass boats (carrying the midships beam well aft) has resulted in cockpits that are great for dockside entertainment or while anchored, but have complicated sail handling, frequently require twin wheels, have overly large cockpits, and most of all have resulted in some strange handling characteristics while under certain points of sail. I am also curious if that extended beam affects the likelihood of similar type boats to remain inverted for extended periods in the event of a knockdown.
Third, most newer boats are better equipped that the earlier versions. The boats systems are generally of a higher quality, though I suspect it is the competition that is forcing this modest quality upgrade on Catalina. They also may
have improved blister resistance in the newer hulls, though that remains to be seen. I also think that there is a trend toward larger engines, regardless if they are needed. Lighting
systems, etc. all seem better thought out than earlier boats
Catalina still clearly remains a production builder
, focusing on the "value" end of the market, and with all that that entails. They are a US based manufacturer, as opposed to the semi-US built Beneteaus if that matters to you.
I personally think the older boats have a prettier profile, as the newer boats have less graceful deckhouse designs, partly as a result of raising the below-deck ceiling heights, and forcing in the ubiquitous aft cabin
All that being said, I am very fond of Catalina and have owned both a racing
dingy and a 36 manufactured by them. They are quite adequate coastal cruisers, they have pretty good factory support (many other manufacturers are quite dismal), and they have a excellent owners organization that enthusiastically supports the boats.
If I had to choose between the two designs, all else being equal, I would compare the stowage, the sailing characteristics, the deck
arrangement and the sail handling. And, at the end of the day, when you are paddling away from the boat in your dingy, which boat still has your admiration and pride.
I hope my opinions are helpful.