Catalina 315 • The new Catalina offers sprightly sailing performance in a hull with a remarkably spacious interior
The morning after last winter’s Strictly Sail Miami show wrapped up, I met Gerry and Tina Douglas on the deserted piers at Miamarina so we could take Gerry’s new creation, the Catalina 315, out for a test sail. The day had broken clear and fine, with the easterly trade winds rattling the palm trees and a light dew still wet on the decks.
We unmoored the 315, and with coffee cups in hand motored southward into Biscayne Bay. The 315 handled sweetly under power. With only a 21 hp diesel that literally sips fuel, the boat motored at 6 knots at cruising revs and maxed out at 6.5 knots with the hammer down. The 315 has a big rudder that gives the helm a positive feel and allows it to turn in tight circles. Backing, the boat steers almost as well in reverse as it does going forward.
Even though the boat is a small cruiser and all her gear and rigging are light, the 315 has been equipped with both a roller furling genoa and an in-mast roller furling mainsail. Sailing her is a snap. Once we cleared the William Powell Bridge to Key Biscayne, we rolled out the main and then set the genoa.
As the sail filled and we hardened up to close-hauled, the 315 leaped forward and seemed to relish the breeze and the close angle of sail. When we test new boats, we always work the boat hard to windward first if we can so we get a good feel for how weatherly the design is, whether it has any vices like lee helm, and how well it falls into the groove with the sails properly trimmed.
The 315 exceeded expectations. She put her shoulder down and accelerated neatly. As we trimmed sails, we were able to dial in as much weather helm as we wanted, which is about five degrees, or just enough to give the wheel a positive feel.
In the 10 knots of breeze, the 315 sailed to windward at close to 6 knots and was able to tack inside 90 degrees. We could pinch her up closer to the wind, but that killed her boat speed and robbed the helm of the nice sprightly action.
We tacked our way down the bay for an hour or so until we met up with a Catalina 385 that was also out for a test sail. The 315 is seven feet shorter than the 385, but side by side the two boats seemed amazingly equal in sailing ability, which told us just how well the little sister sails.
Heading back to the marina we rolled out the screecher, which was rigged to a demountable Selden bowsprit, and had a really fun run up the bay. The wind was puffing to 15 knots so we had plenty of breeze, and in the stronger puffs the 315 would absorb the punches like a pro and accelerate sweetly. With the big sail flying, you have to stay alert at the helm to keep her from rounding up in the puffs, but once you get the feel this is not a problem.
Sailing the 315 on that lovely day with a good breeze blowing left us all smiling. Here indeed is a fun new design that puts the emphasis solidly on ease of handling and really good sailing qualities.
THE INSIDE STORY
The 315 has a beam of 11 feet, seven inches, so even without looking at it you know the hull has a lot of volume. And the design has a broader stern than you would see in earlier Gerry Douglas designs, so the wide beam is enhanced by extra volume aft. But even knowing this, when you go below it is almost as though you are stepping down from the cockpit of a 31-footer into the interior of a 37-footer. I found myself in a true optical illusion and was left wondering how on earth Gerry did it.
Douglas was trained as an architect before he got a real job as a yacht designer and builder with Frank Butler at Catalina, so he knows a lot about light, space and the sight lines that enhance the sensory impression of both. To make the maximum use of the boat’s beam, he has pushed the furniture out to the hull as far as possible and made the cabinets that run along both sides shallower than you would find on larger designs. Combine that with large windows, ports, hatches, and an off-white headliner and the effect is amazing.
From the base of the companionway ladder, you have the compact but complete galley to port with the U-shaped dinette just forward of it. The dinette can be converted into a double berth with the table lowered and a cushion inserted.
The open area of cabin sole down the middle seems enormous for a boat of this size. The bench settee along the starboard side is long enough to be a good berth, too, and has the aft-facing chart table at the after end and a two-drawer side cabinet at the forward end. Just forward and across from the head is a large hanging locker.
The dinette will seat four, the settee three, and you could certainly fit four or five more standing about the cabin. If the urge arises, you could happily host 10 to 12 friends for a party—not counting those who have snuck off to the forward and after cabins.
The forward cabin has a good-size V-berth that is easy to get in and out of, with large storage lockers and drawers beneath it. The forward hatch provides good ventilation and adds a lot of natural light.
The after cabin has a large double berth tucked under the cockpit, a hanging locker and storage cabinets for clothes. Both cabins can be closed off with solid teak doors.
For a couple who cruises with friends, or a family of four, the 315 offers amazing communal space in the saloon and very livable private spaces in the cabins—all of which is pretty unusual in a 31-foot cruising boat.DETAILS,
Catalina has always built honest, straightforward boats that do their jobs well without gimmicks or marketing slights of hand. And they have been able to keep their pricing in line by using efficient build techniques and top quality (but not exotic) materials.
The 315 has a lot of features that make it a good cruising boat and that set it apart from the fleet. From the collision bulkhead in the bow to the seats built into the stern rails, the life of cruising sailors has always been kept at the forefront.
Mildew can be a problem on a cruising boat, so the hanging lockers are lined with cedar panels that will help combat it and there are opening ports in every cabin to enhance ventilation.
You should check the engine’s crankcase oil daily and top up the engine coolant regularly, so Catalina builds in special small hatches that give you access to the dipstick and the fill caps for oil and coolant. And you need good access to the whole engine now and then, so the cabinet around the engine is completely demountable.
These days, sailors tend to come aboard with their laptops, iPads and smartphones—all of which need charging—so the chart table has been designed to accommodate laptops, and outlets are provided for 12 volt and 110 volt power.
The 315, like the rest of the fleet in the new Catalina 5 series, offers a lot of value in a very well thought out package. The boat sails well and is fun and easy to handle. It motors well and maneuvers easily around the docks. And, the interior living spaces are as large and commodious as you will find on any 31-footer.
How’d he do that? The old-fashioned way. Attention to detail.
Draft (fin) 6’3”
Draft (wing) 4’4”
Displ 10,600 lbs.
Ballast 4,400 lbs.
Sail area 506 sq. ft.
Fuel 27 gals
Water 41 gals
Holding 17 gals
Engine 21-hp. Diesel
Woodland Hills, CA