To get yourself from any Southern California harbor to Catalina Island, you’re typically going to set full sail in a moderate breeze. Half a day later you’ll moor in a sunny lee where you will hang out and probably socialize boat-to-boat for a few days before reaching back home to your freeway connection.
That’s the classic Southern California cruise weekend, and a lot of the world cruises or daysails in much the same way. A simply rigged boat with good sailing performance and lots of accommodations hits the sweet spot, and the new Catalina 387 puts high priority on the sweet spot. All the boat’s tooling is new (except for the icebox), but not because this new design takes off on a tangent. It was simply time to bring out the next, tuned-up version of “what people tell us they want, tempered by our experience of what works,” as chief designer Gerry Douglas puts it.
The cockpit is the biggest I know of in a cruiser this size. The seats are 9 feet long, and I think you could seat 14 people on them or lounge half a dozen. Living in the cockpit is the best part of “being there,” and this boat is on your side. Halyards, reefing lines, outhaul, and cunningham are led to the cockpit through a sheet-stopper console on the cabintop that is identical throughout the Catalina line; learn one and you’ve learned them all.
There are many intelligent touches. A built-in bracket on the transom will keep the dinghy motor secure and below your line of sight. To fiddle with the dinghy or the motor, you can walk through to the swim step, where you will find two storage lockers in addition to two cockpit lockers.
Sit on the cabintop, facing out, and there’s nothing poking you in the seat. Instead, the grabrail is neatly recessed, but when you need it, it’s easy to find. The genoa tracks are 12 feet long, so you’ll have plenty of room for adjusting the cars, and the tracks are elevated above the deck to keep them out of standing water, minimizing the risk of leaks. Mooring cleats along the rail are likewise elevated. Screws for most deck gear are tapped into metal backing plates bonded into the deck, reducing through-deck holes and the risk of leaks. For safety, items such as mainsheet turning blocks and stanchions are through-bolted.
The lifelines are solidly mounted and higher than standard, adding to the comfort zone, and the chainplates are inboard, so they’re not in the way as you walk around. The deck-stepped mast is supported by single-point aft and cap shrouds and a babystay. It’s a sturdy, tunable arrangement.
Tell me you need 6 feet, 9 inches of headroom in a 39-foot, 10-inch boat, and I’ll tell you to check out the 387. And since it’s open from end to end rather than chopped up for storage, the 387 feels bigger than most boats its length. There’s plenty of light and air from multiple fixed and opening ports. The saloon accommodates three tables of different sizes, and there are brackets in the aft cabin to stow tabletops not in use.
High-abrasion surfaces surrounding doors and cabinetry are solid wood (others use laminates), and the mock teak-and-holly, high-density laminate sole should prove durable. Built-in shades for the windows disappear behind the grabrails when they’re not needed, promoting a clean appearance, and, on a purely practical level, easy-access conduits run throughout the boat channeling its well-organized wiring and plumbing. Ball-and-socket chainplate fittings are exposed in the interior and tie into a load-bearing grid in the hull. There’s four-sided access to the diesel, and you can’t do better than that.
The head has an electric toilet, standard hot-and-cold pressure water, and a separate stall shower (the original Catalina 380 was the first production boat under 40 feet to have a separate shower stall).
Opposite the head, the galley is sensible and welcoming, with top- and side-accessed refrigeration and a double sink near centerline. It’s right at the bottom of the steps, so you can easily pass up the goodies when your 14 best friends show up in the cockpit.
I sailed the 387 on a day when a high-pressure system tricked normally choppy San Francisco Bay into behaving like the Catalina Channel, with a warm breeze in the teens and smooth water, ideal for the boat, which proved very maneuverable in our hat-overboard drill. Over the course of the afternoon I watched our speed build into the 7s as the breeze perked up to 18 knots, and the boat felt good upwind and down.
Catalina builds its working sails in-house. The standard offering is a furling jib and a full-batten mainsail with a Dutchman flaking system. In-boom furling is an option, as is in-mast furling, as on our test boat. In-mast furling is not my cup of tea, though I admit the system was seductively easy to use and the sail actually looked pretty good. Under power, the 387 will turn within its own wake, in both directions, without throttle manipulation. We made 5.8 knots at 2,000 rpm; when we boosted her up to a more sprightly 2,500 rpm and I wandered around below, I noticed some engine noise throughout the interior.
The Catalina 387 is a satisfying coastal cruiser from a company that pays attention to detail. The boat’s calculated balance between accommodations, performance, and price could have wide appeal.
Price: $159,967 (approx. base, FOB Woodland Hills, CA). Price as tested: $177,179 (base, FOB San Francisco, CA) includes: full-batten Dutchman system mainsail and roller-furling headsail, bottom paint, covers for mainsail, pedestal, and table, electric windlass, refrigeration, LPG stove and oven, knotmeter/depthsounder, freight to Northern California, dealer commissioning, and prep.
Designer: Catalina Design Team
Builder: Catalina Yachts, Woodland Hills, CA; tel. 818-884-7700
Construction: The hull is built of solid hand-laid E- and S-glass and vinylester resin. The deck is cored with balsa with solid fiberglass in areas where deck fittings are mounted and through-bolted. Stringers are built of high-density foam glassed to the hull.
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
719 sq ft
Sail area-displ. ratio