Catalina 385 • This mid-size family cruiser combines traditional good looks (and values) with a long list of innovations and refinements
The afternoon we test-sailed the new Catalina 385 on the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, the breeze was a pleasant 10 knots out of the northeast and the bay fairly calm. As we motored out of Back Creek, we rolled out the mainsail and then rolled out the red, white and blue screecher. The 385 put her shoulder down and started to really scream as we watched the speedo climb from 5 to 6 and finally 7 knots.
With the wind just forward of the beam, the 385 heeled to about 10 degrees. The helm was incredibly light despite the big headsail. With a tweak of the main traveler, we were able to balance the helm to neutral so the boat steered herself straight without a finger on the wheel. This is the mark of a boat that has her proportions just right.
We flew out into the bay and then rolled up the screecher to see how she sailed with the 135 percent genoa. Hard on the wind, the boat maintained a happy 7 knots in the 10 knots of true breeze and tacked inside 90 degrees quite easily. The boat we were sailing has the shoal draft winged keel and a slightly shallower rudder than the deep draft version, but this did not seem to affect her performance upwind and we noted that we were making very little leeway. Again, hard on the wind and heeled to almost 15 degrees, the 385 had a very light helm that was easily balanced with traveler adjustments.
Running back into Annapolis, we hauled the genoa to windward so we could run squarely downwind wing-and-wing. This is not the fastest point of sail, but we still maintained close to 6 knots, which proved that despite a moderate-displacement cruising hull, the 385 is a slippery and handy sailing boat.
The deck layout works really well for a couple sailing together or a larger group. The mainsail controls and traveler are all managed with line stoppers and a winch next to the companionway. The genoa sheets and control line for the headsail are within reach of the helmsman. The cockpit is not overly wide, so you always have a good foot or hip brace point, which allows you to work with both hands. Visibility from the raised helm seats to windward and leeward is excellent.
The Selden spar and headsail roller furling gear work easily and have very smooth actions, so deploying and then furling the sails was a cinch. The Selden bowsprit for the screecher fits neatly in the stemhead fitting and bow rollers so we could tack the big sail down well forward of the pulpit to keep it clear of any potential snags.
Back in Back Creek we put the boat through its paces under power. At cruising revs she will cruise at 6.5 knots easily and can get close to 8 when pushed. The boat has a nice tight turning radius for maneuvering in close quarters, and with a three-bladed prop will stop in two boat lengths from cruising speed. We had to back her into the marina slip in a crosswind, so we gave ourselves plenty of distance and then backed steadily and surely into the slip and managed to pick up both bowlines on their pilings as we slid by.
A couple’s cruising boat, the 385 packs a lot of performance and ease into the moderate hull and benefits from the developments and evolutions that went into the new 445 and 355, which have both proven so popular over the last two years.
The interior of the 385 is finished in hand rubbed and varnished teak and teak veneers, so the whole cabin feels warm and traditional. The saloon has a U-shaped galley with a large fridge, twin sinks and a propane stove and oven. The navigator’s desk faces aft and has a folding top that will accommodate a laptop computer. The electrical panel is outboard and shielded by a tinted acrylic door so you can monitor the panel without having it glaring in your face.
The L-shaped dinette to port has a quad-leaf folding table that will seat several people when open, but takes up very little space when folded. On the boat we tested, the table was varnished to a very high gloss and looked magnificent. Across from the dinette, the twin easy seats are separated by a folding table that will be useful for playing cards or board games. The bench in the dinette will make an excellent sea berth.
The owner’s cabin and the spa-style head are forward. The large double berth with an inner-spring mattress has an articulated tilt mechanism, so you can lounge in bed in the “up” position or sleep in the normal “down” position. The head has a designer sink, a huge shower stall and plenty of storage for bathroom articles and the medicine kit.
The 385 holds 100 gallons of water, so you will not have to skimp on washing up. Plus, with a six-gallon hot water heater, you should have plenty of hot water for short showers. The guest cabin aft has a large athwartship double berth and a small bench where you can sit while putting on your shoes. Plus, there are large lockers for storage of your guest’s gear and for spare parts and all the sundries cruisers collect along the way.
For a couple or a family, the 385 is laid out to provide comfort and privacy in the sleeping cabins and open living in the saloon. You could literally fit a dozen people below decks for, say, the boat christening party.
The 385 is a production built cruiser that employs proven production techniques. The hull is a one-piece hand laid fiberglass molding with a large internal grid fixed in place with aerospace adhesives and fiberglass tabbing. The deck is a cored composite molding that offers stiffness under foot and good heat and sound insulation. A large molded deck liner provides a fully finished ceiling that complements the teak joinery.
The forward section of the hull has what Catalina calls the Strike Zone; this is a watertight compartment forward of the forward bulkhead that will prevent water ingress should you run up on a half submerged object such as a container.
The mast is deck-stepped with a large compression post beneath it, which transfers compression loads to the internal grid and the keel. The mast shrouds run to Catalina’s unique Secure Socket chainplates, which in turn transfer sidestay loads to the chainplates that are firmly glassed into the boat’s structural grid; this system also helps to prevent deck leaks around the chainplates.
The boat’s engine and systems have been installed with regular maintenance in mind. The well insulated engine compartment keeps engine noise to a minimum. And special hatches and doors have been provided, so you can check and top up engine oil and cooling fluid quickly and easily. Should you need to get to the whole engine, the engine box slides out for full 360˚ access to the motor.
Under the water, Catalina uses lead for their keels and engineers massive, robust stainless steel bolt attachments to the integral hull grid. The rudder is a hand-molded fiberglass part with a stainless steel rudderpost and internal stainless steel framing for strength. The rudder post is fixed in place with a large watertight rudder bearing and is operated via the Edson steering system and quadrant.
Down below, you will find that the furniture is assembled by hand and all pieces have solid teak corner posts and solid wood cabinet doors and drawer fronts. The main interior doors are solid teak as well and have top and bottom louvers that enhance ventilation to inhibit mildew growth. Drawers are all wood with stainless self-closing steel sliders.
The engineering and construction details that go into modern Catalinas combine the best in traditional production construction techniques with a definite emphasis on quality, not only in the manufactured parts but also in the choice of OEM equipment such as hatches and ports, and optional equipment such as inverters and battery chargers. The company strives to build boats that are safe, sail well, are easy to maintain and will hold value for a long time. In the 385, they have certainly succeeded.
Draft (shoal) 4’8”
Draft (deep) 6’10”
Ballast (shoal) 6,200 lbs.
Ballast(deep) 5,200 lbs.
Displacement 16,000 lbs.
Sail Area 802 sq. ft.
Water 100 gals.
Fuel 40 gals.
Holding 31 gals.
Mast height 54’0”
Sail area/Displ 19.3(w)/20.6(f)
Ballast ratio 37.6(w)/33.5(f)
Base price $208,495