Hooked on a Catalina 34

Publish date:
Social count:
The author’s Catalina 34 at anchor

The author’s Catalina 34 at anchor

A few years back I made the decision to ditch my pressure-cooker job in favor of a midlife sailing hiatus. I went searching for my floating getaway machine, and given my modest economic status at the time, one name kept popping up: Catalina. “They sail well, and you get a lot of boat for your money,” the avuncular salesman kept repeating. “And,” he added with a wry smile, “they’re very forgiving.” Fourteen years and 30,000 miles later, I couldn’t agree with him more.

On the second day of a frantic search we found a 1992 C34 in a canal behind the house of an airline pilot in Punta Gorda, Florida, who wanted to buy a trawler. I liked what I saw: a long waterline, large sail area and lines leading aft for good singlehanding capability. Down below she had a roomy saloon and galley, and a comfortable V-berth—perfect for what I had in mind.

Bam! I signed the papers, cast off the lines and discovered that there’s a big difference between sailing a Hobie 16 and sailing a large keelboat. I remember well the knots in my stomach every time we left the dock and my frustrating attempts to avoid solid objects. How in the world, I wondered, was I ever going to manage such a huge boat?

Ukiyo underway

Ukiyo underway

The answer, of course, was lots of practice. Together with my girlfriend, Kanako, I christened her Ukiyo, Japanese for “the floating world.” And indeed, she was just that for the next two years, as Kanako and I were married on the foredeck and underway the same day. To my delight, Kanako quickly picked up the basics and stood her watches as we traveled through the Florida Keys and up the East Coast to the Chesapeake, anchoring and dodging hurricanes as we went. Before long it wasn’t just the two of us—along came two additional small crewmembers, and suddenly the boat wasn’t so huge anymore.

The C34 is a stiff vessel that sails and tacks well in all but the worst conditions. It feels great being at the helm when the wind is blowing hard and my family is down below, happily playing games in the saloon as I singlehand her on the ocean. And with Ukiyo’s shoal-draft wing keel, almost any part of the St. Johns River or the ICW is open to our excursions.

The wheel is easily accessible at the end of a huge walk-through-transom cockpit with a settee that’s perfect for evening sundowners, and the aft swing-down ladder makes for easy swimming. Most owners opt to install a full bimini, to which we added a 100-watt solar panel to top off the four golf cart batteries that serve as the house bank.

Quick deployment and retrieval of the tender is a must for most cruisers. From upside down on the foredeck to floating and ready to row is usually less than five minutes: just tie on the painter, give ‘er a heave over the lifelines, and off you go.
The ultra-reliable Universal M35 diesel is at 2,600 hours and counting; I found my basic mechanical skills were sufficient to perform all but the most difficult Nigel Calder-type maintenance and repairs, and there is easy access to the engine, stuffing box and bilge.

The author and his crew

The author and his crew

On the foredeck the Maxwell “back saver” windlass has faithfully retrieved the 35lb plow, and we carry a 120 percent roller furling genoa. Belowdecks the saloon is surprisingly roomy, with a full galley to starboard, head and shower to port, and private cabins fore and aft. The settee will seat six, and drops down to create a double bunk.

My only complaints with our floating world are that it’s slow under power and the rope anchor rode tends to wrap around the keel in a narrow tidal stream, but I’m sure converting to all chain would solve that conundrum.

Every used boat buyer must consider the continuity of a line: it affects everything from parts, to service, to resale. Many manufacturers have gone by the wayside over the years, but with 75,000 boats produced since its inception in 1969 and 21 models under production, it’s clear the Catalina brand will be around for the foreseeable future. And when it’s time to fix or replace parts, a very active online owners association has been there to help me through the process.
So the kids keep growing, and we keep sailing: me and my boat.

Robert Beringer’s first ebook, Water Power!, a collection of marine short stories, is available at barnesandnoble.com

April 2016



Charter: Historic Croatia

Heaps of history—that’s not usually what comes to mind when you plan a sailing charter, but if you like a bit of culture mixed with your cruising, Croatia is the place to go. Caught between two worlds, (the whitewashed laid back vibe of the Mediterranean and the brash demeanor of ...read more


Gear: Pan-Pan man-overboard Locator

There He Goes!The Pan-Pan man-overboard locator won a Pittman award for 2017 as a great idea, and now it is in production as the Weems & Plath CrewWatcher. It’s a two-part system that employs a smartphone app to locate a small personal beacon that triggers automatically should ...read more


SAIL 2018: Reader's Photographs

Are you out there sailing, cruising and living the sailing life? If so, we’d love to see it. Send your sailing photos to sailmail@sailmagazine.comAnd don’t forget to sign up for our free eNewsletter.Check back for updates!This was taken from half way across the 26 mile crossing ...read more

Landing Page Lead

The Volvo Returns to the Southern Ocean

Since the Volvo Ocean Race’s inception, the Southern Ocean has made it what it is. And no part of the race says “Southern Ocean” like Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil. The 7,600-mile leg, which starts this Sunday, is not only the longest of the event, but far ...read more


SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comTeak deck paradise  I had a call recently from the man who replaced the deck on my Mason 44 five years ago. He was worried about the way people are wrecking their teak decks trying to get the green off. ...read more


Gear: ATN Multi Awning

THROW SOME SHADEAmong the many virtues of cruising cats is the large expanse of netting between their bows, which is the ideal place to hang out with a cold one after a hard day’s sailing and let the breeze blow your worries away. Only trouble is it can get a bit hot up there ...read more


How to Sail the Med

“After spending so many years sailing the Caribbean, I was frankly astounded at how much more I enjoy the Mediterranean,” says Scott Farquharson of charter brokers Proteus Yacht Charters. “The culture, the history, the food, the weather, friendly people, crystal-clear water—there ...read more