Boat Review Date: July 2010
Author: Mike Brown
Perhaps it is because Catalina yachts are designed in California, with such a similar climate to WA, that they work so well here. All models have an extra-big cockpit and an airy interior to cope with the warm to hot climates, and they have good ballast ratios to balance the powerful sea breezes the two states share.
The latest model, the 13.5m Catalina 445, actually has less than the typical 35-40%, but its 33% is still more than its European competitor. It is also lead rather than iron, and it is in bulb form to carry its weight deeper and increase the righting moment. The hull is a bit lighter than it would otherwise be, and Catalina considers the 445 an enhanced performance model. A sail area of 93.1sqm (using a 135% genoa) provides another plus for performance, as does the low profile and the slightly slender beam of 4.13m.
The mainsail is loose footed, as it has to be to cope with its roller reefing system, and has vertical battens for the same reason. The headsail, of course, has the cruiser’s now-universal roller furling-reefing. The whole rig is supported by a bit more wire than typical: twin spreaders, twin lowers, and twin backstays. The running rigging, with everything led to the cockpit’s fore end, features oversized blocks that look ready for a lifetime’s work.
That cockpit is something: twin wheels and wrap-around seats that give good sightlines to the helmsman, and a swag of room ahead of them. The cockpit deck is naked gel coat, as are the side and foredecks. This is standard stuff for a Catalina – you are scratching to find any timber exposed to the sun, and it is in the name of lowered maintenance. One timber item is the folding table on the mid-cockpit console. This has an internal icebox, and carries the larger electronics on its rear.
There is no shortage of timber below: deck, bulkheads, joinery and cabinetry using large quantities of it, in shades paler than the Americans often inflict on their boats. This is all to the good, lightening an interior that already benefits from a large glass area.
Although a boat of this size could easily provide three sleeping cabins Catalina have stayed with two – which is what they say almost everybody prefers. Instead, opposite the aft cabin is a storage room that by the use of ingenious drop-downs and fold-ups can convert into a two or three-sleeper for occasional use. If you want, it can contain a clothes washer-dryer. Hey, this is an American boat, so it can contain almost anything. A huge battery capacity is standard, and on any Catalina from 31ft up you can have a genset and air-conditioner.
The forward and aft bathrooms are on opposite sides for a logical reason. Each electric mascerating toilet has a gravity-draining holding tank, so whatever your tack one will be useable. Tanks like these are so much better than those underfloor; odours do not sneakily build up.
Mattresses are innerspring, and the forward one lifts electrically to expose huge storage volume. Everywhere else on board it was possible to fit storage has just that. It is possible to sleep a total of ten, which might happen on the occasional Rotto weekend, by converting the starboard side dinette into a single and the port into a double.
The main compartment has a lot of space, also housing a dedicated chart table and a large galley. This has a three-burner cook top, oven, fridge, freezer and lockers in abundance.
Everything is housed within a tough structure. The fibreglass hull, solid below the waterline and balsa sandwich above, has a one-piece sub-floor grid bonded to it. At half height, the hull has aluminium stiffeners. Everything says this boat is not going to come apart.
Just like high battery capacity is typically American so is decent auxiliary power. Their view is that the engine should be a real propulsion alternative, not just a device for getting you into a pen. The 54hp Yanmar has real grunt, meaning manoeuvring is straightforward whatever the wind, and motorsailing a realistic choice for the likes of getting down the coast in October or November after a winter in the Kimberley.
Almost every keelboat sold in WA is to an owner with at least occasional racing in mind. Nothing wrong with that, but if everything important about racing, other than weight, is what is above deck, then everything that is below deck might as well be all about cruising. Cruising, after all, is what permitted you to buy the boat, and it is what all you friends and family want to do with it. The Catalina 445 is mainly a strong cruising boat, but it can get around the cans with the best of them
Length overall 13.5m
Hull length 13.15m
Fresh water 676L
Sail area, with genoa 93.1sqm
Motor 54hp Yanmar diesel