The New Flagship Catalina 545 Wows the Annapolis Show

Catalina Yachts, one of America’s most venerable and influential sailboat builders over the last 50 years, introduced their all new Flagship Catalina 545 at October’s Annapolis sailboat show.  The American-designed and American-built family cruiser follows the very successful 425 that was launched two years ago and is a big sister to that design in many ways.  This is the new look of Catalina’s Ocean Series yachts.

The boat is immediately distinctive when you first see it lying at a floating dock, as it was at the show. There are three large square windows in the hull, tinted dark so you can’t see inside; the sheer line is quite flat and modern; the bow, with it’s built-in bowsprit, is not exactly plumb but is more vertical than in earlier designs and similar to the 425’s bow; and, the cabin top is streamlined and low so it fits neatly with the curve of the sheer and the cockpit coaming.

When I saw the boat for the first time, I noticed that, unlike many of the designs coming from Europe, the boat does not have extreme beam that is carried all the way aft, nor does it have hard chines running the length of the hull. Instead, it has a moderate beam that narrows slightly as it flows aft to the transom.  This touch says  a lot about designer Gerry Douglas’ focus on blending traditional American yacht concepts with the benefits of modern hull and deck design. The design isn’t trying to be trendy; instead, the 545 is a modern American classic that will endure the fashion shifts of the next generation.

Gerry Douglas, who is the chief designer and builder at Catalina, is an old friend so it was a pleasure to find him on board and to spend an hour with him going over his latest creation. It has been a long time coming. I saw the first sketch of what was to become the 545 five or six year ago when visiting the Catalina factory in Florida. It was a 50 footer then. But during the design process the boat and the concept grew.

Like the other boats in the Cruiser and Ocean Series, the 545 is a couple’s cruising boat that will be used for regular coastal cruisers and then taken offshore occasionally to move it to some new and interesting cruising ground.

Starting in the cockpit, the new boat has twin wheels, with useful instrument pods, a large drop-leaf table on the center line and bench seats that fold out into wide sunning beds.  All lines lead aft to winches on both sides of the cockpit so a single watch keeper (with an autopilot) can handle the boat alone and from the helms.  The seats aft are large and comfortable for long watches and the coamings are high enough to provide good back support and to keep water out of the cockpit.  You spend a lot of time in a cruising boat’s cockpit, so getting it right is one of a designer’s most important tasks. In the 545, Gerry seems to have got it very right.

The side decks are wide and have a low molded bulwark for a toe rail the keeps dropped tools on deck, funnels water to the scuppers and adds structural strength to the hull-to-deck joint. The side stays are placed inboard on chain plates next to the cabin side. This keeps the genoa sheeting angle as narrow as possible and means that you don’t have to duck under a diagonal when the boat is heeled over. The foredeck is uncluttered and large enough to carry a good-size dinghy when going to sea. The forward locker is huge and roomy enough for spare gear and extra rodes.

As a sailing and cruising machine, the 545 has been set up with a good combination of proven traditional design aspects and innovations that make life aboard easier and sailing more efficient.


Living Aboard

The 545 has a three-cabin, two-head layout below decks with a spacious saloon.  The two quarter cabins are fairly good size; the port cabin has a double berth and the starboard cabin has a pair of single berths that can be slid together to form a double. The saloon has a large L-shaped dinette to port and a bench settee to starboard. The galley is on the port side and has an acre of counter space. The twin sinks are on the boat’s centerline so they will drain on both tacks.

The real story about the 545’s interior is the master cabin forward. It is huge. It has a double berth on the centerline that you can walk around when making the bed or getting in and out. The large head and shower are to starboard and Gerry has added a chaise lounge to port. I’ve never seen one on a boat under 70 feet or so but it makes perfect sense.

As Gerry explained it, the 545 will be a boat for couples with older or grown children and it will be a boat that can accommodate two visiting couples. So, it stands to reason that one or both of the owners will want to have a place of their own where they can escape for a while or for the night. The chaise offers a great place to relax and read that is well insulated from saloon noise by the large hanging lockers.

The finish of the 545, the woodwork, the laminates and fabrics are all modern American yacht style with solid wood doors and drawer fronts, quality hardware, well thought-out lighting and a lifting TV.  Catalina makes a statement about quality and this shows in every new boat.

With 225 gallons of water and 130 gallons of fuel, the 545 will make a great liveaboard boat that you can take well of the beaten track for weeks on end.  With a genset, watermaker, solar panels and even a wind generator, the 545 will take you far and wide in complete self-sufficiency.

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