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Old 21-01-2010, 15:00   #1
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Catalina 38 Opinions

Hi everyone,
I love this forum, spend alot of time here reading. Would love to hear your opinions and ideas.
Does anyone out there have any first hand knowledge of the early 80's vintage of the Sparkman and Stephens designed Catalina 38's?
I am currently shopping in the 30k to 35k range for a decent sailboat. There is a good selection of C38's here on the left coast. Have looked at many brands and models and spend alot of time researching on the interent. Have looked at a 35 Person and a 41 C&C Newport. Basically have ruled out the C&C. The Pearson is stout but basically slow with small intereior. The Catalina however is quite sleek and quick. Possibly the most respected designer team in the world. Catalina is still in business so parts and equipment are available. The 38 has been written about in Royces.
Blue water or coastal, everyone has their opinions. I see Catalinas everywhere. As far as coastal, we did a Mexico curise from SF on a 30' Tartan. The worst seas and winds we found were off of Big Sur in sight of land. 40 knot wind with higher gusts and 20 ft seas with larger swells, breaking on our stern. Thought we were going to die. IMHO, the difference between off shore and coastal is a good life raft, epirb and weather info. The sea state we found within ten miles of the Big Sur CA was worse than most circum-navigators find anywhere, according to my reading. Fin keel, full keel, cut away fore foot, all are a compromise of sorts.
For my wife, the Catalina 38 is sleek and sexy, comfortable and well appointed, just like her, so she is sailing with me. The boat has some very nice wood work and plenty of storage. My wife and I may never get far from the west coast of CA or Mex. That doesn't necessarily rule out an ocean passage by myself or with other crew besides her. Mainly have sites on Hawaii, wife will go by jet and meet me there.
So let's hear it guys and gals,
Larry B

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Old 21-01-2010, 16:40   #2
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The design of the Catalina 38 was originally developed by Catalina Yachts for a 1980 design competition sponsored by the Long Beach Yacht Club that was seeking a replacement for the, by-then, aging Cal 40 for the one-design Congressional Cup Race. Beautiful and fast, the IOR influenced design was selected and the yacht became "the boat" of the competiton until it was finally replaced by the Catalina 37 in 1990 (Frank Butler built and gave the Catalina 37's to the LBYC!).

The Catalina 38 really is--to my eyes--a beautiful boat, and fast up wind, but--designed for racing--she is a little spare in the storage capacity department. Never-the-less, they are sturdy yachts and have a near "cult" following in SoCal.

Have a look at Catalina 38 National Association

"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 21-01-2010, 18:47   #3
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I raced aboard a Catalina 38 for a bit and liked the boat. It was a bit squirrely offwind under Symmetric spinnaker but we saw 9.5+ on that run.
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Old 21-01-2010, 22:33   #4
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I spent 6 months fixing a 4' X 8' hole in one and most of a new interior. Probably not mush useful info there for ya though
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Old 23-01-2010, 06:55   #5
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Raced on one for a while on Long Island Sound. Nice sailing boat. Owner absolutely loves her. Not much info, but that's what I got!
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Old 23-01-2010, 08:15   #6
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always make sure the capacity for tankage, fuel, and water will suffice your boating needs. Is there storage room for food and tool supplies?

I fell in love with a Catalina 38 about 13 years old. had a shoal keel and the interiors were in perfect condition. Looked like a New York apartment in there. However, this particular model was intended as a weekender, not a coastal cruiser - our need as a minimum - really want a blue water passage maker.

Spouse nixed it because engine access was inadequate for him and storage was too small. We want to live aboard and cruise extensively away from shore.

They are beautiful boats, nicely constructed, and reasonably priced for those of use whose last name is not Rothschild.

Good luck in your boat purchase.
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Old 23-01-2010, 08:21   #7
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Originally Posted by CharlieCobra View Post
I raced aboard a Catalina 38 for a bit and liked the boat. It was a bit squirrely offwind under Symmetric spinnaker but we saw 9.5+ on that run.
had no idea these boats could hit those speeds! impressed...
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Old 23-01-2010, 09:23   #8
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I've always liked the C38, they seem robust and pretty. As HyLite said they wee originally designed for the Cong Cup. They only downside is tumblehome so you have to be careful when pulling along side.
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Old 23-01-2010, 10:24   #9
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The hull came from the mold of the Yankee 38. Yankee had S&S design the boat based on the success of a Kiwi, IIRC, one ton yacht that won the world championship in the early '70s. Ted Turners Admirals cup boat 'Lightning' may also have had some influence or been a derivative of that design. The Yankee deck and interior was an S&S race boat style of that era, cramped with too many berths. S&S IOR designs tended to be heavy in light of todays design practices but thst's actually a benefit for a cruiser. They were extremely good upwind boats even against todays HS race boats. Once you cracked off the wind a bit, performance suffered because of the too small mainsail mandated by the IOR rule. On broad reaching to running conditions, the IOR rule pinched stern effected surfing ability and and control when pushed to the limit. In the heyday of the IOR rule, almost every issue of Latitude 38's racing coverage featured a totally out of control wild round up by one of the IOR optimized designs. As a cruiser, hopefully, you wouldn't be driving the boat to the limit and not have any concern. Still, they suffer in offwind performance as they really need a spinnaker for optimum performance. With working sails, I embarassed a KIWI ton boat being delivered to the US in our W32.

Catalina bought the molds for the Y38 when Yankee went belly up in '74. They designed a different deck for the Yankee hull and optimized the interior. The interior went from a relatively cramped race boat design to a more open design in the Catalina tradition. I've talked with a few 38 owners and all seem to be very happy, both with the sailing characteristics and interior of their boats. There's one down the dock from me that the owner sails single handed around the Bay.

None of the above is a reason to turn down the C38 for cruising, just a realistic look at their performance characteristics. I actually considered buying the last Y38 that was almost completed when Yankee filed for bankruptcy. The small interior in comparison to our W32 was the deciding point. All boats are a compromise. I own a P35 and the interior is cramped compared to a Catalina 36. Really like the motion of the P35 in a seaway and have found performance to be adequate. Definitely won't hang with a fin keel boat in ghosting conditions. It will do 4.5 knots in 8 knots of wind and handle 30 plus knot winds without much drama. I have been working get our P35 ready for a transPac and not doing enough sailing to give a full evalation of it's sailing ability.

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