by BWS Staff
Blue Water Sailing
The new mid-sized family cruiser from one of America's leading sailboat builders offers traditional quality in a design that is both a comfortable home afloat and a lot of fun to sail
The afternoon breeze on Florida's Biscayne Bay was just right for a short boat test of the new Catalina 375 that had just been introduced to the Florida market at February's Strictly Sail Miami. The wind was in the east and blowing a steady 10 knots with gusts to 15 under the low clouds that were rolling in on the trade winds. And the bay was relatively flat since we were sailing in the lee of Key Biscayne.
We rolled out the in-mast furling mainsail from the Selden spar, trimmed the sheet and then fell off so we could roll out the 140-percent genoa. The 375 behaved perfectly through this simple maneuver and gathered way as the sails filled with pleasing determination. Within 10 boat lengths we were close reaching at 6 knots. The helm was nicely balanced and we found that we were comfortable steering standing behind the wheel or sitting to windward or to leeward.
We trimmed in the sails and headed up hard onto the wind for a while. Sitting to leeward we could see the genoa clearly and could watch the telltales of both the main and the headsail. With 15 knots of apparent wind over the deck, the 375 stood up well and showed a comforting level of stability. The optional 6,200-pound wing keel fitted to the boat we were sailing provided plenty of ballast down low while also creating a noticeable lift as we sailed close to the wind, despite its four-foot, eight-inch draft. A deep fin keel is also available for those who normally cruise in deeper waters than you find in Florida. Catalina continues to cast their keels with lead instead of iron despite the rapid increase in the commodity price of the heavy metal.
Off the wind, the 375 settled down nicely on a broad reach and was simple and easy to jibe. The stern wake ran cleanly off the transom, which is an indication that the hull shape aft is fair, and the boat naturally slippery. As the wind puffed up and down, we adjusted the main traveler and sheet to keep the boat upright and sailing at optimum speeds. All sheets and lines were easily accessible in the cockpit; with an autopilot steering, a lone watch stander can easily sail the boat alone.
The cockpit is comfortable and laid out ergonomically for four to sit at the centerline table and for two or more to sit behind the wheel. There are convenient places to brace a foot or to hang on when the boat heels. And, with the cockpit dodger up, you will find the forward end of the cockpit a great place to relax and read while your mate steers or trims sails. By using twin backstays, Catalina leaves the fold-up passageway aft to the swim platform unobstructed.
Moving around on deck, we found the boat to be well laid out with the chainplates and shrouds positioned inboard and plenty of handholds in the right places. The foredeck is not huge but certainly big enough for raising and lowering sails, for handling docking lines and for anchoring. The large anchor locker is designed to hold two anchors and rodes, which are handled with the vertical axis windlass.
All in all, the 375 sails well and is easy for her crew to handle in a wide range of wind conditions. With roller furling main and headsails, you can always shorten or add sail area as the wind strength requires. The 375 likes to be sailed fairly upright—the crew likes this, too—so being able to reef and unreef easily is a great boon.
The Catalina Way
And when they set out to replace the 36, they went to their owners and asked them what they like and don't like about the 36. So the new boat is an evolutionary design created to serve the needs and wants of the Catalina family of sailors. That's the Catalina way—Butler, Gerry Douglas and Sharon Day together listen to their owners and respond accordingly—which is why Catalina owners remain Catalina owners as they move up from one boat to the next. The builder consistently gives them what they want.
The 375, which is actually 38 feet, six inches overall, has a sleeker look than the 36 and a longer waterline. The interior is voluminous by comparison. Climbing down the companionway you will be amazed at the expanse of the saloon. In the version we sailed, the chart table and bench settee seat were to port and the galley and two easy chairs to starboard. Catalina also offers a version with an L-shaped dinette and a fixed table to port.
The version we sailed has a fold-down table fitted to the main bulkhead that is supported by an ingenious folding and extending table leg. When the table is stowed, the saloon appears roomy and very comfortable; plus, it will hold eight adults standing and sitting. With the table down, you can seat three on the bench settee and three more on the folding bench that is normally stowed away behind the aft double berth.
The galley has been laid out for regular cooking aboard and for preparing meals while underway. The twin sinks are nearly on the boat's centerline so they will drain on both tacks. There is plenty of counter space on either side of the three-burner gimbaled stove/oven. Useful cabinets have been built in outboard while four drawers are positioned inboard of the sinks.
The after cabin has a large athwartships double berth with plenty of locker and hanging space. The forward cabin has a centerline double berth that will be easy to get in and out of, plus plenty of storage space for clothes and gear. The head is huge by traditional standards and sports an enclosed shower stall.
The fit and finish of the cabinetry and furniture is all teak with clear coatings. You will note that all doors and door frames are solid wood and that real wood louvers have been built into the doors to provide the air flow that you need to eliminate mildew.
The cabin soles are faux teak and holly laminates called Lonseal that look great, offer better nonskid than varnished wood and are extremely durable.
Catalina pioneered the build process using a full inner liner or pan that provides a huge amount of hull stiffness while allowing the furniture to be fixed in place and attached to the hull. With a solid fiberglass hull and liner that are fused together, the structure of the new 375 is both light and very strong.
The boat's engineering systems are all simple, well thought out and reliable. The main electrical panel at the chart table is easily accessible and the wiring plan logical. The engine installation under the companionway ladder and cockpit permits access to all four sides of the engine for routine maintenance and repairs. Aft, the larger lazarette compartments are spacious enough to hold a generator, air conditioning units and a watermaker. The boat's deep sump is large enough to keep any water that gets into the boat from sloshing to lockers and cabinets and large enough to mount a high capacity bilge pump.
The Catalina way of doing things—simplicity, safety, durability and value—has evolved over the decades and the net result can be found in the new Catalina 375.
Catalinas have always been wholesome boats that serve cruising families well. The new 375 is an honest design that sails well, is easy to handle, has a comfortable cockpit, and offers accommodations below decks that are After 40 years of building Catalina sailboats Frank Butler, Gerry Douglas and Sharon Day know what works and what doesn't aboard a 37-foot cruiser. But they didn't rest on their laurels and past successes when they drew the new 375. They listened to their owners and they relied on these valued opinions to help them shape the new design. spacious, useful and very tasteful.
The Catalina 36 was in production for 25 years as it went through regular revisions and upgrades. Given the thought, care and owner input that went into the new 375, we fully expect to see new 375s in a Mark III version rolling out of the Catalina plant in 2033.