Hooked on a Catalina 34

Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
8
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.
[advertisement]
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

Related

180521-Lead2048x

Volvo Fleet Heads to Europe

After days of rain, calms and fog, the Volvo Ocean Race Race fleet enjoyed perfect sailing conditions for the start of Leg 9 in Newport, Rhode Island, on Sunday. It then promptly plunged back into yet more fog as it headed offshore toward the finish in Cardiff, Wales, a little ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comImpeller Practice Engine raw-water pump impellers don’t last forever. Even if they are not destroyed by running the engine dry following a blockage, they still deteriorate with the years. If you’ve never ...read more

Waves1(1)

Know how: Weather 101, Basics

OverviewThe first thing to know is that “Weather 101, Basics” is a science course. Its goal is to prepare boaters for a second course launching later this year called “Weather 202, Advanced.” Taken together, these classes are designed to teach boaters to become their own weather ...read more

05-Close-reaching

Light-Air Sailing

Some of the best times aboard a cruising boat are in light airs—those quiet, relaxed sunny days with gentle sailing that just wouldn’t be the same if you were motoring. However, many cruising yachts are not set up to truly fullfill their potential in these kinds of conditions.One ...read more

VOR-BoatYard

Volvo Ocean Race: the Boatyard

The Volvo Ocean Race stopovers are a chance for sailors to rest between grueling legs of the race and for fans to enjoy seeing their favorite boats in person. Behind the scenes of the festivities, however, Nick Bice and his team of expert riggers, boatbuilders, sailmakers and ...read more

20160711_Klampe_Alu_013

Nomen: Folding Cleats

Springtime for CleatsIt’s not every day you see a new take on the humble cleat. There are two problems with these essential items: lines tend to get snagged in them when you least want them to and they attract bare toes with painful accuracy. German company Nomen, maker of the ...read more

WS-POD-600

Watt & Sea: Power Pod Hydrogenerators

Power PodHydrogenerators are an increasingly common addition to bluewater cruising boats, but for all their benefits many sailors don’t like to mount them on the transom, where they may interfere with self-steering gear or drop-down transom platforms. Instead, Watt & Sea’s new ...read more