Catalina 30

By Jack Hornor

Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012

Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer's specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.
Length Overall29’ 11"
Waterline Length-
Maximum Beam10' 10"
Maximum Draft3' 10" - 5' 3"
Displacement/Weight10, 200 lbs
Fuel Capacity18 Gallons
Water Capacity50 Gallons
Sail Area 100%
Fore triangle
446 - 505 Sq ft.

In 1998, I was preparing a survey of a Catalina 30 for a client and found myself looking for other Catalina 30s offered for sale to help me establish an approximate value. I quickly found more than 75 for sale and was again reminded of the remarkable popularity of this cruiser/racer. Quite frankly, I found myself a little surprised that I hadn't included a review of the Catalina 30 earlier in this series.

Introduced in 1974, as the big brother to and natural step-up from Catalina's popular 27 footer, the original design remained nearly unchanged for 20 years. In 1994, Catalina introduced the Catalina 30 Mark III with some subtle changes in styling to give the boat a more "Euro" look. The hull was widened slightly from about station seven (70% of the waterline length) aft in order to incorporate a transom-boarding platform and ports were added to the hull sides.

Since 1974 the principal dimension have remained the same at LOA 29' 11", beam 10' 10", displacement or 10,200 lbs and standard draft 5' 3". From 1977, shoal draft was offered as an option first with a fin keel drawing 4' 4" which was replaced with a winged keel design drawing 3' 10" in 1988. The displacement and ballast of shoal draft boats are 100 lbs greater than the standard draft versions to compensate for the higher center of gravity of the ballast.

By the end of 1997 more than 6,400 Catalina 30s had been built. This is an impressive number but it becomes even more remarkable when looked at in perspective. Consider that you could combine the production of ten of the most popular 30' model sailboats built in the US over the last 25 years and still not approach the number of Catalina 30s built. Catalina literature boasts this is the most popular 30' boat worldwide, a claim that would be hard to argue with.

Catalina utilizes a standard lay-up of various types of fiberglass cloth and plastic resin in the construction of the hull. Deck construction includes either balsa wood or plywood sandwiched between fiberglass laminates. There are fiberglass pans and liners and random full and partial plywood bulkheads for structural support. The deck and hull are joined with the deck fitted over the hull in a shoebox fashion, with a sealant in between. An aluminum rub rail and stainless steel self-tapping screws on about 3" centers secures the deck and hull together. The keel is external lead fastened with stainless steel bolts. The rig is a simple deck-stepped masthead sloop with single upper shrouds and spreaders, double lower shrouds and split backstay.

Some of the more common problems encountered include deteriorated deck cores, compression fatigue at the mast step, failed wooden spreaders, failure of lower chain plate attachments on older model boats, leaks and separation at the keel to hull joint and delamination and damage along the vulnerable deck to hull joint caused generally from minor docking incidents over the years.

Catalina 30

Photo by David Brinley and Hal Slater, Brewer Yacht Sales

The original standard power for the Catalina 30 was the Atomic 4 gasoline engine, or the 11 hp Universal diesel as an option. Later, the 18 hp Universal diesel was substituted for the 11 and currently the 23 hp Universal diesel is standard equipment. The 11 hp engine is very marginal power under anything but calm condition in protected water. The engine of the Catalina 30 is located amidships beneath the dinette seat. This is, in fact, the best location for an engine in terms of weight distribution, however it complicates the installation of the engine exhaust, leaves the machinery more vulnerable to bilge water and makes sound insulation more difficult. Except for sound insulation, these drawbacks can be overcome with careful maintenance.

The accommodation plan of the Catalina 30 has been so popular that even though it is one of the easiest modifications for a builder to accomplish, the layout has remained unchanged for the first 25 years. The V-berth cabin forward is followed by a port side head and shower and starboard side-hanging locker. Further aft the main saloon has an L-shaped dinette to port and settee to starboard followed by a good sized galley to port and navigation station to starboard. There is a starboard side quarter berth which is plenty wide for two people but half is under the cockpit with only about 14" of room overhead and useless for an adult. The companionway opening is exceptionally wide which, when open, makes the cabin appear even bigger than it is. A cockpit dodger or awning is a must with this design for adequate ventilation of the cabin in inclement weather.

A combination of wide beam, good ballast/displacement ratio of .42, and relatively low sail area/displacement ratio of 15.1 results in the Catalina 30 being a very stiff boat under sail. This is a feature many sailors find comforting. Other than developing considerable weather helm as she heels, the Catalina 30 doesn't have any particularly disturbing characteristics under sail. She is likely a bit slower than some of her contemporaries, such as the Pearson 30 or Ericson 30. If you're planning on racing, you may want to consider the optional tall rig which increases the sail area by 60 sq. ft. and the SA/D to 17.1. This should result in a much more lively and competitive boat.

There are a number of construction and design features of the Catalina 30 that, in my mind, restrict recommended usage to coastal areas, lakes and bays, but then this is true of many production boats in this class. On the other hand, Catalina founder and president Frank Butler has been quoted as saying that the company goal is to provide its customer with "as much boat for the money as we can." Size-for-size and feature-for-feature the Catalina 30 is tough to beat. Selection is plentiful and prices range from the mid-teens to the mid-seventies.

Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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