With this, the fifth model in Catalina’s “5” series of cruising boats, head designer Gerry Douglas has taken a second bite at the competitive 40-42ft market segment. The original Catalina 42 went through several iterations to become one of the most successful boats ever in this size range, with more than 1,000 built. In today’s shrunken marketplace the new 425 is unlikely to repeat that feat, but it is certain to carve out a niche of its own.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
You won’t find any faddish features like twin rudders, hull chines or T-keels on a Catalina; quite the opposite. With thousands of boats to his name, Douglas has a good handle on what makes for an all-round cruising boat. The 425’s hull form is moderate and efficient, designed for good load-carrying capability and also, with its long waterline, for respectable performance. Bow and transom are raked just enough to be easy on the eye, and the high freeboard is disguised by the low-profile cabintop and row of hull ports set into the sheer stripe. There is a choice of shoal or deep keels. A collision bulkhead in the bow and a strengthened rudder housing are valuable safety features, and the prop shaft is housed in a molded shaft log.
One thing that’s immediately obvious is the molded toerail, a first for a big Catalina and part of Douglas’s weight reduction plan—the 425 is some 2,000lb lighter than the 42. The hull-deck joint is glued, and the stanchion bases are through-bolted for extra security—not that the glue would ever fail. The joint is then glassed over and covered by a practical rubrail. To further cut weight, the topsides are an end-grain balsa/E-glass sandwich above the waterline and a polyethylene honeycomb material is employed in the deck molding.
Many otherwise good boats are let down by poor cockpit ergonomics. If their designers were to board the Catalina 425, they would learn a few things. This is one of the most user-friendly cockpits I’ve ever seen; it feels like it belongs on a bigger boat. The footwell is wide for easy access aft, with plenty of space to pass between the twin Edson wheel pedestals to the transom boarding platform. A solid cockpit table serves as a brace point and houses an optional refrigerator to keep your drinks cool. The split backstays terminate just forward of the helm seats so they don’t cramp the driver’s style.
The cockpit benches are 6ft 5in long and wide enough to stretch out on, and the piece de resistance is the fold-out top on the starboard seat that makes a lounging platform big enough for two—just perfect for balmy summer nights on the hook. There is a reasonable amount of stowage in lockers aft, and a hatch in the port settee is big enough to admit a folded dinghy, bike or sailbag into the dual-purpose cabin below.
Forward of the working “pit” by the helms, the side decks are wide and clear, with sheet tracks set well inboard. The solid stainless steel handrail that terminates at the lifeline gate is an excellent safety feature and one I wish more builders would emulate, along with the cabintop grabrails that are carried forward of the mast. These also serve as anchor points for a large sun pad, which is hinged so that you can open the forehatch without having to remove it.
A wide, uncluttered foredeck terminates in a large anchor locker that is divided to accommodate two rodes, served by a meaty double bow roller that does duty as a tack point for an A-sail.
There’s an easy descent into the saloon via a nicely angled set of steps. The immediate impression is one of airiness; the test boat was trimmed out in a light maple, and light streamed in via two large hatches overhead, the long cabintop portlights and a pair of hull ports. The layout is conventional, with an L-shaped galley aft facing a head/shower, with a large dinette forward and to port. In place of the usual settee to starboard, there are two seats flanking a table that does double duty as a nav desk. The dinette converts to a large double berth, making it possible to sleep up to eight people, which is more than enough for a 42-footer. The galley is graced with a front-opening Isotherm fridge as well as a top-opening freezer, and the test boat was equipped with an optional wine conditioner. Air conditioning runs are positioned at head height around the cabin for improved efficiency.
Forward, the large owner’s stateroom has an island double whose head can be raised at the press of a button so you can comfortably drink your morning coffee and read the paper in bed. The forward heads has a good-sized shower compartment and an electric toilet.
Aft, the mirror-image cabins are slightly narrower than you’d see on most other boats this size; instead of the usual thin bulkhead separating the cabins there is a wide trunk running from the engine compartment to the transom. This houses the engine, the optional generator and their ancillaries, and compressors for the AC system; Douglas knows the value of easy maintenance, so the filters are grouped together in a locker and all service items are easy to access. Similarly, the steering pulleys and cables are easy to inspect.
The aft cabin design has benefitted from some lateral thinking. Since the central trunk obviates the need to run hoses and cables under the bunks, Douglas has fitted out the port cabin with a berth that converts from a double to a single, permitting side access to the trunk and its systems, and also creating useful space for storing large items that can be passed down from the cockpit via the large hatch.
While Douglas has little time for some modern design trends, he has embraced the movement toward simpler sail handling. The double-spreader Seldén masthead rig has in-mast furling as standard, along with a self-tacking jib whose sheet is led aft to the helm. The mainsheet is double-ended, with one tail led aft to a primary winch, the other to a cabintop winch—another good idea. Halyards are led aft via Spinlock clutches to a pair of Lewmar 45s on the cabintop. The result is a boat that will be easy to sail solo, with sheets that can be tended from behind the wheel, and a breeze for a couple to handle.
We did not have much wind during our test sail on Florida’s Manatee River and Tampa Bay, and what little there was changed direction enough to make tacking angles meaningless. Still, the boat lived up to the promise of its design ratios, sailing to windward at 5.5 knots in 9 knots of apparent wind, and nudging past 7 knots with the wind on the beam when we set the chute. She went about willingly and the Edson cable steering felt precise. Self-tacking jibs have their limitations, notably when sailing off the wind in light air, but the boat is also equipped with long tracks for an overlapping genoa. A Code 0 or A-sail on a furler for offwind work would really round out the sailplan.
Sightlines from the helm are excellent, whether you are standing or seated. Douglas has achieved this by elevating the helm seats above the cockpit benches, another nice design touch. A swiveling Raymarine MFD at the end of the cockpit table can be seen from either wheel.
The 57hp Yanmar diesel, swinging a three-bladed fixed propeller, drove the boat at an unfussed 7 knots at just over 2,000 rpm, a cruising speed most sailors would be happy with, and well over 8 knots flat out. The engine installation is nicely soundproofed. Tankage, at 56gal, will give her a long range under power.
The distillation of her designer’s decades of boat design and building experience, the Catalina 425 is an excellent cruising boat that will carry you just about anywhere in comfort, safety and, yes, speed and style. She’s a worthy winner of a SAIL Best Boats award.