|Catalina 309 wins Boat of the Year honors from CRUISING WORLD Magazine|
| Domestic Boat of the Year honors went to one of the smallest sailboats in the running, the Catalina 309, which is built in Florida. The 309 is a sweet sailer with room below to take the family along at a price a family could afford, and the BOTY judges concluded that Catalina was right on target with this entry-level cruiser.
The winner: After visiting and sailing both entries, judges found the Catalina 309 to warrant the title of Best Small Cruiser. In order for the judges to make fair comparisons between boats, we ask builders to give us prices with certain pieces of equipment included and others excluded (actual purchase prices may vary). Based on these, the Catalina cost about $100,000 - $40,000 less than the competition, and it's the next generation's take on the venerable Catalina 30, a model that can be found in nearly any harbor in the States. (See "A Collaborative Compact Cruiser," August 2006.)
Designer Gerry Douglas, who was on board for the test sail, said he intended the 309 to be a durable, simple, good-performing, and affordable family cruiser. And according to the judges, Douglas and Team Catalina hit the bull's-eye with this delightful little boat.
Under sail in light winds, the 309 , moved smartly, tacked well, and carried a helm that was comfortable. A high bridgedeck offers protection from any seas that might come aboard, and these would flush quickly from the self-draining cockpit. Some inspired thinking went into the placement of deck gear, the judges noted; systems were well thought out, and with the exception of a missing gasket on the LPG locker, well installed.
Below, there's good ventilation, tanks are installed properly, and BOTY judge Peter Wormwood appreciated the labeling on through-hulls. The dining table is stowed in the aft cabin, opening up space in the saloon when the table's not needed, and the layout provides both a roomy V-berth and a double aft cabin. Topsides, the judges noted the wide, clear decks and easy access to the cockpit.
For BOTY judge American Boat & Yacht Council systems guru Ed Sherman, the Catalina's electrical panel incorporated innovation that helped the builder achieve its ambitious price point. Rather than breakers, well-marked automotive-type fuses were used. Not only were they color-coded; they also could be easily removed and replaced with ones of a different amperage (within the constraints of the wiring) when new equipment is added.
In their discussions of the 309, the judges touched upon an issue that also would be a deciding factor in the boat being named Domestic Boat of the Year. By accepting perhaps smaller margins from the sale of an affordable, easy-to-handle boat, Catalina hopes to attract new sailors to the sport. If they like what they find, they'll learn the ropes and likely buy up to a more-profitable model in years to come. Such an approach is important for the health of the entire industry, the judges said.
Summing up his thoughts on the Catalina 309, Peter said, "I really like the boat. I think the company hit what Gerry Douglas said the target of the boat was: sailors entering into the sport buying their first Catalina, an entry level boat, something that would keep them in the Catalina family. I would recommend the 309 to someone getting into it. I was really pleasantly surprised with the boat."