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Catalina 36 Mark II
Best Value - Midsize Cruiser 1995
Cruising World - April 1995
v21 n4 p92(4).
Author: Richard Henderson and Quentin Warren


Winner -- Best Value Midsize Cruiser

     Catalina is economy. Here's proof in 36 feet that quality and pricing need not be locked in an upward spiral
     In my opinion, Catalina Yachts has always offered a lot of boat for the money, so it was not surprising to me when the new Catalina 36 Mark II won the Best Value Award for the Midsize Cruiser category in Cruising World's 1995 Boat Of The Year competition. Notable is the high quality of her execution considering her reasonable price. For a typical sailaway sticker of about $90,000 you get a smart-sailing, well-built, essentially seaworthy vessel with enough size and volume to provide great accommodations for doublehanded cruising and reasonable privacy even with two couples aboard.
     We judges for the awards were fortunate to have designer Gerry Douglas along during our test sail on a cool fall day off Annapolis, Maryland. In a moderate, often puffy breeze the boat seemed lively, responsive and close winded with a tacking angle a hair less than 90 degrees. She impressed me as a boat that could have real potential for club racing. Douglas explained that although the boat is new, the Mark II has the same displacement as the Mark I version and she is allowed to race in the Catalina 36 one-design class. 
     The spade rudder is very effective. It has a vertical stock, preferable for efficiency when the boat heels. l and several of the judges felt that the blade was slightly overbalanced; in other words, the leading edge projects a bit farther forward of the turning axis than necessary. This can cause the rudder to oversteer unless the helm is turned gently, and could be problematic should the helm be left unattended for very long without being locked or connected to a self-steering device. On the other hand, you don't need a lot of muscle to control the boat. As far as the spade configuration is concerned, spade rudders may lack the inherent strength of sturdy skeg-hung or keel-hung blades, but the Catalina 36's is built substantially with a stainless steel rudderstock and a well-engineered, internally welded web assembly. 
     The rig is straightforward and easy to tune, with a high-aspect-ratio mainsail, forward and after lower shrouds, and a large masthead foretriangle for power. I would want a detachable inner forestay for heavy weather offshore - as on most boats, a viable retrofit depending on the intended use of the vessel. A helmsman's Bimini fits nicely between the backstay and end of the main boom. If racing is a consideration, I would choose the optional tall rig that provides a respectable Sail Area/Displacement ratio of 17.0 (with the standard fin keel).
     Built to American Bureau Of Shipping standards, the hull benefit from hand-laminated solid fiberglass. This low-tech but reliable approach offers high-impact resistance and guards against water saturation and the possible deterioration of a core. Thru-bolts are used to secure the hull-deck joint, rendered in conventional shoe-box fashion. The exterior vinyl rub rails inserted into the aluminum extrusion that finishes off the hull-deck detail are a good idea, provided they will stay in place; on some boats (not Catalinas) I have seen them work loose after a prolonged pounding into head seas.
     The mast is keel stepped and there is a short tie-rod at the partners, a sensible deck-immobilizing feature not seen on every boat. The keel bolts are hefty; although I'd prefer slightly larger washers and a deeper sump. For protection against gel coat blistering and certain hull structural failures, Catalina Yachts provides a five-year warranty. 
     Belowdeck there are at least two noteworthy features. One is an after double stateroom, seldom seen on a 36-footer such as this with her cockpit aft. In this cabin a large double berth runs athwartship under the cockpit sole.  Sitting headroom and access to the berth is from the starboard side. The other rather unique feature involves the game table in the main saloon, provided in addition to a sizable eating table. Directly across from the L-shaped or optional U-shaped dinette, the game table can be lowered to form a single berth. The trade-off for this arrangement is space, specifically at the nav station; the chart table incorporates a convertible seat that pulls out and blocks the passageway when it is in use.
     The galley is a preferred U-shaped affair with double sinks, a large icebox and a clever top-opening dry food locker intended for grocery shopping bags.  The space between the inner sink and companionway ladder is a bit tight - another trade-off, this time restricting movement a bit to provide more user-friendly galley space. Light and ventilation below are ample, but several of the hatches are quite far from the boat's centerline. Care must be taken to keep these closed when there is any threat of boisterous heeling. Access to the 30-horsepower diesel engine is excellent although it requires removal of a rather bulky enclosure, but this is not unlike virtually all production boats in this size range.
     In their advertising literature the Catalina company makes the valid point that low maintenance is a major consideration for most owners. Hence the 36 has little if any brightwork to maintain on deck. For instance, she has stainless steel handrails on the cabin top. Rails of raw leak would be a better choice in my opinion. Raw teak is not difficult to maintain, it is more pleasing aesthetically and, unlike stainless steel, it doesn't feel so cold in low temperatures or become slippery when wet. 
     The decks are reasonably wide and there is room to walk past the shrouds. The cockpit is comfortable, though it would benefit from a foot brace installed on the sole as well as a means of reaching the mainsheet from the helm. A walk-through stern pulpit provides access to an indented transom swimming platform. At the opposite end of the boat there is a good anchor well and bow roller to handle the ground tackle. 
     A boat with a short fin keel, spade rudder and exposed propeller probably would not be the average cruiser's first choice for long-distance voyaging, but the Catalina 36 undoubtedly is capable of bluewater sailing. Her offshore assets include respectable flotsam impact resistance given her solid glass hull and the raked leading edge of her keel, along with moderate displacement for buoyancy without undue compromise to easy motion, and a very respectable Ballast-to-Displacement ratio for good stability. Primarily, she is a coastal cruiser but with enough versatility to serve as an occasional sea-goer, a temporary home afloat, or a satisfactory club racer. Most certainly she is a lot of boat for the buck.
     What Catalina has accomplished in the 36 Mark II is to take a popular sailboat
and make it better, significantly without infringing on the new vessel's one-design eligibility, and without turning the original vessel into a fossil. The feat is especially noteworthy given the pressure put on so many high-output production builders to saturate today's market with unabashed novelty. In the case of the 36 Mark II, Catalina avoids the "new, totally different, previously unavailable" vernacular and replaces it simply and sensibly with "new and improved."
     Having built close to 1,350 of the elder 36s the strategy is well timed. The original boat was introduced 12 years ago and it has come to represent for its owners a happy blend of conservative, medium-displacement cruising logic and spry one-design racing potential. While intent on maintaining that trait, Gerry Douglas and the Catalina design team sought to update the vessel a la last year's 270 and 320 by creating a larger cockpit, enhancing the deck and interior, and pursuing a more modern appearance overall. They redrew the boat and built new tooling. Now for about $90,000 you can own the Mark II and enjoy a brand-new 36-footer with a burgeoning class already established and in place. There is indeed a lot of value buried within this boat. 

Construction And Execution

   
 Catalina hand-laminates the hull out of solid glass and the deck out of glass with a marine plywood core. As noted, the hull-deck joint is of the shoe-box variety, double fastened by means of adhesive bonding and thru-bolts. An aluminum extrusion running the length of the boat does triple service: It finished the detail, it carries a high-impact vinyl rub rail, and it serves as a washer of sorts for the thru-bolts themselves.
     Both hull and deck are reinforced structurally by liners heavily bonded into place. The deck is stiffened by a rigid liner that doubles as a finished overhead for the cabin interior. The hull is stiffened by a molded element that is essentially a liner, but might be considered more elaborate than that because it incorporates major architectural components such as settees, lockers and cabinets, and is designed to accept all rigging loads including torque and compression. The main chain plates, for example, terminate at hefty stainless knees that are bonded to the hull and bolted right through load-bearing sections of the liner. The liner laminate is of variable thickness depending on the structural constraints of a given area.
     In the bilge, transverse floors built up of double- and triple-glassed timbers carry the mast step and the keel. These floors strengthen the hull below the waterline, offering added protection against the rigors of pounding and grounding, not to mention good purchase for the keel and a solid foundation for the rig. The keel itself is manufactured by Catalina and consists of cast lead hardened with antimony and supported on cast-in number-316 stainless keel bolts. Boat Of The Year judges remarked that the washers on these bolts appeared a bit small but, that notwithstanding, the design overall has plenty of integrity.

Systems And Mechanical
     The 36 Mark II is powered by a 30-horsepower Universal diesel located behind a removable companionway element. Access for routine service is straightforward.  Included are a 55-amp alternator and a bank of two 4-D deep-cycle batteries rated at 215 amp-hours each. The electrical scenario is well done, with a marine battery charger built in for shore-based charging, a complete 12-volt DC onboard system with monitors, breakers and a distribution panel, and an AC dockside package that includes six outlets and dedicated breakers. There is no wiring in the bilge; instead, a network of bonded-in PVC tubular races is installed behind the overhead during construction and all conduit is messengered through this.
     Freshwater storage occurs in three separate tanks, two aft and one forward. It
is plumbed to a valved manifold within a central mechanical locker located in the galley, which makes servicing and troubleshooting exceptionally convenient. In addition to the freshwater manifold, the locker houses a 12-volt water heater and pressure pumps for water usage to the galley and to head and stern showers. All galley thru-hulls are ABYC-approved Delrin. Essentially, the boat is set up for easy systems maintenance - without shortchanging you on the scope of those systems in the first place. 

Observations

The Catalina 36 Mark II garnered Best Value honors in Cruising World's 1995 Boat Of The Year Midsize Cruiser category because it impressed our judges with
the high level of its execution at an inherently reasonable price. The boat is attractive below, airy and bright, with a sensible package of mechanical perks and workable accommodations. It is fun to sail, responsive and weatherly, with good control at the helm and an easily managed sail plan. And finally, it is born of a proven pedigree, and makes no attempt to break what more than 1,000 owners already consider a decent mold.

Specifications:  Catalina 36 Mark II

LOA 36 [feet] 4 [inches] (11.07 m.)
LWL 30 [feet] 3 [inches] (9.22 m.)
Beam 11 [feet] 11 [inches] (3.63 m.)
Draft (std fin) 5 feet] 10 [inches] (1.78 m.)
Draft (shoal wing) 4 [feet] 5 [inches] (1.17 m.)
Ballast (std fin) 6,000 lbs. (2,718 kgs.)
Ballast (wing) 6,600 lbs. (2,990 kgs.)
Disp (std fin) 13,5000 lbs. (6,116 kgs.)
Disp (wing) 14,100 lbs. (6,387 kgs.)
Sail area (100% std) 555 sq.ft. (51.56 sq.m.)
Sail area (100% tall) 601 sq.ft. (55.83 sq.m.)
Mast clearance (std) 50[feet] 2[inches] (15.3 m.)
Mast clearance (tall) 52[feet] 2[inches] (15.9 m.)
Ballast/Disp .44/.47
Disp/Length 218/227
SA/Disp (std fin) 15.7/17.0
SA/Disp (shoal wing) 15.2/16.5
Fuel tankage 25 gal. (95 l.)
Water  tankage 84 gal. (318 l.)
Auxiliary Universal M-35 30-hp. diesel
Cabin headroom 6 [feet] 3[inches] (1.9 m.)
Designer Gerry Douglas, Catalina
Average sailway price $90,000 (1995)


Choosing the winners - 1995
Excerpts taken from Cruising World - March 1995

     
Armed with comprehensive outlines of what to cover in the evaluation of a boat, the judges went about their mission of reaching a consensus on category and overall winners. The process involved plenty of debate. The judges were concerned not only with recognizing top execution and performance, but also with reflecting Cruising World's readership as clearly as possible.
     The judges evaluated category contenders according to the 10 items discussed in the previous article, then went on to rank these vessels with respect to how well they prioritized those qualities and how well, in the end, they addressed Safety and Comfort on the water...
     ...Cruising World's Best Value awards in the Midsize and Full-Size categories gave the judges the opportunity to recognize good design and talented boatbuilding in the context of reduced expense and elevated economy. "Cheap" was not the ruling criterion; "value" was. In the "most boat for the buck" evaluations, the panel considered the Safety/Comfort issue, as well as issues of affordability and depreciation down the line. The winners represented vessels with responsible physical qualifications, along with a price tag not apt to intimidate you, nor future maintenance demands apt to break your back.
     In the Midsize category, Best Value went to the Catalina 36 MK II, designed by Gerry Douglas and the Catalina design team and, built in California by Catalina Yachts. In close voting this vessel prevailed despite a very strong showing by Rob Mazza's nicely turned out Hunter 336. Available for around $80,000, the 36 MK II is, essentially a major rework of the elder Catalina 36; the builder sought to produce a new and better version of the original boat without disrupting its one-design integrity. The boat performed excellently, showed a high level of finish and represented a real bargain.
     ...The cast of 1995 nominees made this year's Boat Of The Year competition a truly memorable event for the editors here at Cruising World and for the panel of judges who shouldered the tough job of deciding who to designate the best of the best.

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