A boat is a set of tradeoffs, and a perfect boat doesn’t exist. That said, if you’re searching for a proven bluewater multihull that can be sailed shorthanded, has all the comforts of a luxury home and is wicked fast without beating up your wallet, you owe yourself a test sail on the Catana 53.
Design & Construction
Catana uses an infusion layup with carbon reinforcements around the chainplates and the mast step to maximize performance and load-carrying capabilities. On the 53, this approach resulted in cutting nearly a ton of weight compared to its predecessor. Even so, according to the owners of our test boat, at a little over 32,000lb the boat still loads up nicely in a squall and moves forward like a train—steady and stiff rather than squirmy and overpowered.
In terms of design, the high bridge deck starts well aft to minimize the pounding that plagues many cats going to weather. Aesthetically, the boat’s lines are both appealing and practical, with reverse bows, curved daggerboards and wide, flat, uncluttered side decks dotted sparsely with flush hatches. The result is the same angular look shared by the 53’s 62ft and 70ft siblings, a look the smaller 47 will likely someday acquire as well.
I’ve sailed a few Catanas, and I like them because I trust them. I’ve put a reef in the main, turned on the autopilot in 30-knot winds and 10ft seas, and then gone below to make a sandwich knowing the boat would take care of herself. The 53 has that kind of feel to it.
Catana has cleaned up the deck so that the boat looks clutter-free and minimalist. Nonetheless, everything is still close at hand and eminently functional. Like all Catana designs, the 53 carries twin helms set well aft, providing a great view of the rig. The trade-off is that visibility directly forward and especially of the opposite bow is not what it is on a cat with a single elevated helm or flybridge. That said, the 53’s enlarged coachroof windows do provide clear sightlines to the opposite bow via the saloon. Hatches in the bimini are also positioned so you can see the mainsail from the center of the cockpit without having to go out into the weather.
Speaking of the weather, the 53 offers a secondary autopilot control at the interior nav desk, which allows you to make adjustments without ever leaving the shelter of the saloon. Because the cockpit, saloon and helms are all on the same level, if something does ever need to be dealt with quickly, a few steps quickly puts you at the wheel and in control without having to climb up into any kind of flybridge.
Six Harken winches on the sides of the cockpit control both the sheets and dinghy davits. Once you figure out which line does what, it’s a setup that allows this large cat to be easily singlehanded. A long bowsprit carries a top-down furler for a Code 0 or A-sail.
The Catana 53 is available with three or four cabins and offers a fully customizable head layout. Our test boat had the owner’s suite in the starboard hull with an oversized shower compartment. The bows can be made into crew cabins, but for cruisers, they’ll also provide invaluable space for gear.
The saloon is spacious, with the nav desk in the forward port corner. Our test boat had at least half the main deck interior space dedicated to the galley, with four Vitrifrigo refrigeration drawers, a bottle cooler and acres of countertop space. My kitchen at home isn’t this big or well-laid-out.
The saloon also has an L-shaped settee to port that flows smoothly to the outside dining area when the doors are opened. It’s one of the best versions of an open great-room concept I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. As with the exterior, there’s an uber-contemporary minimalist feel that adds to the perception of simplicity.
Use of space is excellent throughout, and even the stowage area under the master berth is finished on both sides. Similarly, there’s great access to the boat’s various systems. There’s even an air cushion between the headliner and composite structure to minimize condensation, a nice touch.
Again, I’ve sailed a number of different Catanas in a blow and really enjoyed them. Unfortunately, our test day did not produce the gale I’d hoped for, and we ended up testing the big boat in a very different set of conditions. Large multihulls generally need at least 15 knots to get going, but we managed to sail at 4-plus knots in 7 knots of true wind at a 40-degree apparent wind angle, impressively close for a catamaran.
Cracking off to a 60-degree apparent wind angle, we still hit 5 knots, thanks in no small part to the boat’s nearly 1,200ft mainsail and self-tacking jib. The owners said that crossing the Atlantic they had logged a number of 200-plus mile days and averaged 9 knots. They also showed me a video of the boat doing 22 knots with a pair of long rooster tails astern and the wine glasses in the saloon hardly disturbed.
Due to their design, cats don’t like tacking, especially in light wind. However, we still managed to come about with barely any way on, making it through the eye of the wind without having to either backwind the sails or start an engine. Catana hulls are narrow below the waterline with knife-sharp bows, which helps them cleave the waves and glide through a tack with impressive ease.
With a nearly 29ft beam the 75hp turbo Volvo Penta diesels are set far apart, making it easy to maneuver this large boat. There are engine controls at both helms, so no matter which way you need to dock in a tight space, you will always be well positioned to see what’s going on.
At wide-open throttle and 3,000 rpm, we motored at 9.4 knots. A more economical cruising speed would be 2,200 rpm and 7.4 knots. For long passages, you can always motor at 6 knots on one engine, savoing fuel as well as wear and tear on the engines.
As you may have gathered, I really like the semi-production boats making up the Catana line. They’re fast, strong and even-tempered in a blow, with the lines on the new 53, in particular, making her look as if she’s ready for battle. The as-tested price of our test boat covered just about everything you could have ever asked for, including an 11 kW Cummins genset and 50,000 BTU of six-zone climate control. Sure, that’s more than a standard production cat, but less than half the price of the Catana’s all-carbon competitors, making for what strikes me as a fair trade-off.
Perfection is elusive, but as a fast, comfortable cruiser at a reasonable price, the Catana 53 is about as close as it gets.
Beam 28ft 5in
Draft 4ft 8in (boards up); 9ft 8in (boards down)
Displacement 32,480lb (light ship)
Sail area 1,657ft (mainsail and solent)
Fuel/Water (GAL) 227/211
Engines 2 x 60hpVolvo
SA/D Ratio 26
D/L Ratio 97
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
Designer Bureau d’études Catana
Builder Catana Group, Canet-en-Roussillon, France, catana.com
Price $1.4 million (as tested) at time of publication