Boat Reviews

Catana 50

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Catana is back, and with a vengeance. This builder of performance-oriented cruising catamarans foundered when the fin-de-sicle dot.com crash decimated its customer list. But the company reorganized and is again building these swift, dramatically styled yachts in its Catalonian factory. This new 50-footer is very different from the 52-footer Catana was building under the old regime. Hull and deck molds are new, the interior is new, and there are several smaller design changes, including a hardtop over the cockpit, which is cantilevered with no aft supports. However, the deep daggerboards, large sailplan, twin aft helm stations, and lightweight vacuum-bagged interior joinery that distinguished earlier Catanas still remain.

Speed comes from an efficient hull with an efficient rig. The yacht’s long waterline and subtle underwater shape at the bow helps minimize wave drag and increase volume. Above the waterline, the only hint of this bulbous form is the slightly concave bow. Stern platforms also help stretch waterline length and provide easy access from a dinghy or dock; the result is an exceptionally clean stern wake. Laminar water flow along the hulls is good under the bridgedeck, as well as at the transoms.

The bulbous bow also helps deliver a stable ride through waves. A number of catamaran ferries in the Caribbean, Maine, and New York Harbor now use this wave-piercing profile to prevent hobbyhorsing and provide reserve buoyancy. The concept is, of course, an adaptation of the much larger bow bulbs used for years on large ships to lower resistance and fuel costs.

Unlike most other cruising cats this size, the Catana has daggerboards to increase lateral resistance under water. These are much more efficient than the long, shallow keels found on many cats. Catana’s boards are carefully shaped and are angled slightly inward to maximize lift under sail. Not surprisingly, this cat performs well to windward. Off the wind, of course, the boards can be raised to reduce drag.

To preserve hull integrity, the board trunks are very strong and the boards will shear off if there is a severe impact. The boards are controlled by a purchase system led to the cockpit. The mechanism works well, with occasional friction when a board is under load while the yacht is moving. The board trunks take up surprisingly little interior space; nothing more than a small storage locker is stolen from the living area. Watertight compartments located forward and aft also help to protect the hull’s integrity in the event of a collision.

The large full-batten main has a substantial roach, and the double-headsail foretriangle features a single-sheet Solent jib with a traveler on the foredeck and a Code 0 headsail in front of it. The self-tacking Solent jib makes it easy to tack the yacht without touching a sheet or cranking a winch—you just turn the wheel and go. It’s a nice feature to have when beating out of a harbor or off a lee shore.

Jim and Adean Bridges, owners of Jadimean, sailed a number of boats over a seven-year period before buying this one. After chartering yachts in the Caribbean and on the East Coast, they focused on two performance traits: the yacht must not roll, and it must be able to sail itself out of trouble. The first requirement eliminated monohulls, while the second nixed most charter cats. They did appreciate the luxurious accommodations found on many charter cats, but out of four layout options on this Catana—including two charter versions—they decided on the standard owner’s version.

The joinery belowdeck is precisely matched. “I’m someone who judges quality by the first imperfection I find,” says Jim Bridges, “and so far I haven’t found anything, except perhaps an occasional screw that has pulled out of the laminated interior because it doesn’t have anything to bite into.”

Styling is modern but subdued, with white fiberglass in the cabins and a gray fabric overhead that together produce a clean and current look. The saloon sole is a dark-gray composite material with an excellent antiskid surface that also adds to the contemporary feel of the space. A traditional wooden sole is also available. At the entrance to the saloon is a hanging locker to starboard that’s perfect for wet gear. While overhead panels cannot be removed to access wiring and the underside of the deck, the small halogen lights do pull down for bulb changing. In the galley there’s a husky-looking four-burner stove and oven that is not quite big enough to handle a Thanksgiving turkey, but has plenty of room for anything short of that. Stowage space is excellent, particularly for bottles—this is a French yacht, after all.

As on many catamarans this size, the nav desk can accommodate a standard chart book or a laptop computer, and there’s a clearly labeled electrical panel above it. There’s also space for a chartplotter display. The yacht is prewired for an SSB, and there’s a grounding plate in the hull. All heads are electrically powered with both water-conserving and full-flush modes. Because they use fresh water—there is a watermaker that produces about 60 gallons an hour—the system is free of odors. The two hot-water tanks can be heated either electrically or off the engine, and a combination washer/dryer is standard. There are four bilgepumps, one in each hull and one in each segregated engine compartment.

Eight solar panels mounted on the hardtop produce power for everything except the watermaker, A/C, heat, and the washer/dryer. A 3kW inverter converts DC current from the battery bank to AC and can handle everything except the heaviest appliances; the genset runs only occasionally. Separate starting batteries for the two engines, genset, and house batteries are stored across the bridgedeck just forward of the dinette seat.

The owner’s stateroom takes up the entire starboard hull; an attractive, curved sliding door separates the space from the main saloon. The queen-size berth has flexible slats that provide ventilation and a resilient base for a mattress. A head and separate shower compartment are located forward.

The aft stateroom in the port hull can be ordered with either a single queen or two twin beds. There’s another stateroom forward with a double berth; both have their own private heads. Storage and hanging lockers are sprinkled generously throughout both hulls. The Bridges have spent time in the tropics on other yachts and know the importance of good natural ventilation. In late September on Chesapeake Bay, the air flow at anchor was more than adequate.

While motoring out of the Sassafras River at the north end of the bay, I found the electric throttles moved easily and the transmission clicked in and out of gear with great precision. With the two engines running at 2,500 RPM, the yacht did an easy 8 knots with sound levels in the main saloon at 69 dBA (about equal to the volume of a normal conversation). Top speed under power was just under 9 knots at 3,000 RPM, which suggests that the standard Volvo saildrives with folding three-blade props are a good match for the yacht. The genset is located in the port engine compartment; the watermaker is in the starboard space. Both compartments are spacious and provide plenty of room to access the machinery.

While twin engines make any cat easy to maneuver, this yacht can turn in about one boatlength with both engines running ahead at 1,500 RPM. Because the yacht can stop and reverse itself with exceptional control, it won’t embarrass any reasonably adept owner around the docks.

That said, the helm stations aft are exposed to sun and rain, and the cabintop blocks diagonal visibility. The Bridges have added a stainless-steel railing next to each helm station so they can stand on the seat. It is easy to move from one helm to the other, but the tachometers and other instruments are on the starboard console. Shifting steering control to the port helm station under power requires you to go to idle first, then push a couple of throttle buttons before walking across to the port helm. That can be an awkward maneuver on a yacht this wide.

Walking around on the wide and flat decks proved easy, and the steps up the cabin front and onto the cantilevered hardtop make for simple mainsail handling. For example, I could walk right aft to the end of the boom, which is positioned at chest height. Sailhandling is made easier by lazyjacks and a canvas catchment system built into the mainsail cover.

A very large and open foredeck blends two trampolines with hard space. There is a cushioned sunbathing area aft of the mast on the cabintop, but you do need to watch the boom clearance at that location. High winds on the passage across the Atlantic from France had damaged the Solent jib enough that it wasn’t available, but the Code 0 sail was perfect for the light conditions off the Sassafras River. Close-hauled in 6 knots of wind, the Code 0 produced almost 5 knots of boatspeed. Electric winches made sheet handling easy, and the boat tacked in less than 90 degrees.

As we bore off to a beam reach, the breeze picked up a knot and boatspeed climbed to well over 5 knots. All lines run from the mast aft under the deck cover to stoppers and an electric winch at the aft end of cockpit. The rod-linkage steering was smooth, with no play or lag in either wheel; clearly it’s been engineered correctly and installed properly.

The new company is working hard to get everything right. Careful quality control is matched with an emphasis on customer service. While Bridges was at the factory he engaged the services of a skipper who used to work for Catana. “Not only did he show us everything about the yacht,” Bridges says, “he also made sure that everything was done correctly.”

Because the yacht is delivered as a complete package there are few options needed. The washer/dryer, watermaker, generator, and an easy-to-operate energy management system are all standard. Of course, the strong Euro doesn’t help make this yacht affordable, but if you’re thinking about serious extended cruising and want to cross oceans comfortably and with a nice turn of speed, this yacht is worthy of serious consideration.

SPECIFICATIONS
Catana 50
Designer: Christophe Barreau
Hotel Industriel Berlier
15, Rue Jean Baptiste Berlier
75013 Paris, France; Tel. 011-331-53-61-04-85 www.christophe-barreau.com
Builder: Catana S.A.
Zone Technique du Port
66140, Canet en Rousillon cedex
France; Tel. 011-334-68-80-13-13; www.catana.com
U.S. agent: The Multihull Company
149 Fairview Road
Penn Valley, PA 19072
Tel. 215-508-2704, www.multihull
company.com
LOA 52’6”
LWL 49’3”
Beam 2’11”
Draft (shoal/deep) 3’11”/9’8”
Displacement 36,384 lbs
Auxiliary Twin 75-hp Volvo diesel
w/saildrive & 3-blade
folding props
Fuel 211 gal
Water 422 gal
Watermaker 64 gal/hr Aquabase
Genset Onan diesel 9 KVa
Sail area 1, 443 sq ft
Displacement hull speed 9.5 knots


Tom Dove has been sailing for half a century and writing about it for the past 20 years. When he is not test-sailing new designs, you can usually find him on Severn River in Maryland aboard his Ranger 33, Crescendo.

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