Sailboat Spotlight: Catalina 30

The Catalina 30 sailboat is a typical sailboat, it was built in 6430 hulls during the 25 years of production. The sailboat has a fairly light displacement design and a displacement of 10,200 lbs. 

The boat has evolved and improved from a short-rigged, tiller-steered version, with an Atomic-4 gas engine to today’s tall-rigged, wing-keel configurations with wheel steering (introduced in 1986) and diesel power. The engine has a shaft drive and it is located midship under the aft bed and substantial vibration can be felt in the cabin, but a lot of used ones have an aftermarket sound and vibration insulation.


The deck is wide enough to move around on and the shrouds are placed inboard enough to make going around them easy. There are also teak grab rails on the cabin top which can be very helpful underway.

The cockpit is large and comfortable, with the helm’s wheel it is a bit difficult to move to the aft of the cockpit. Under all the seats in the cockpit, there are some very spacious lockers, here you can store for example your fenders, your lines, and also an inflatable dinghy. Near the genoa winches, there are two openings where you can store your genoa lines without having them in the middle of the cockpit. The Catalina’s 30 cockpit has changed a lot during the 25 years of production. At the beginning the boat was steered by a triller, then the wheel was added in the version Mk I and in the version, Mk II the aft seat was divided from the side seats, in the final version, the Mk III on the aft of the boat an opening was introduced to walk easily to the swimming ladder. There is a permanently mounted manual bilge pump that can be operated from the cockpit to drain it from the water if the drainers aren’t enough.

Used Catalina 30s are typically equipped with a main and roller furling 130% genoa, a 20-lb Danforth to fit the anchor well (on some boats there is an electric windlass), dodger and/or bimini, and a basic electronics package. Newer boats may also a cruising spinnaker, Loran or GPS, cockpit cushions, and occasionally air conditioning.


The boat feels big, both on deck and down below, let’s start our tour from the bow cabin. There we can find the typical v-berth with a shelf or a locker above. The head is large enough to have a shower (pay attention: there isn’t a shower in the head with the standard equipment), sit down, or change clothes in, all without getting stuck or bruised up. The boat has the hot water onboard with the standard equipment. The saloon is a good size, particularly when the folding table is up against the forward bulkhead and there are berths both port and starboard. The saloon is a walk around the room (with the table folded), which is unusual on a 30ft boat. The galley is to the port side and offers a very very large working space and some very spacious storage lockers for a 30ft sailing boat. There is a double berth in the aft part of the yacht but it’s pretty tight.

On the starboard in the saloon, there is the chart table with all the control panels (12v DC and 120v AC panels), there is also space for a Chartplotter or a pc.

The Catalina 30 gives you a maximum height of 6’3″ in the interiors, so if you are taller than 6ft you could have to watch your head.

To say warm also in winter for optional the boat came with a diesel heater, but it is recommended to update it, for example with a Webasto Air Top.

Engine & Systems 

The Catalina 30 comes with a 12v installation and a 120v installation in the standard equipment, and nav instruments in one location conveniently near the companionway. The older models usually need additional 120v AC breakers for the charger and receptacle circuits. If you leave in Europe you can change the charger and the 120v electrical system easily to have the 220v onboard. With the 120v/220v you can also power the air-conditioning (pay attention: it didn’t come with the standard equipment).

Be sure to buy a Catalina 30 in good condition, you can call en expert to check the boat issues: this boat is also well known for blistering, water penetration in the rudder, deck leaks, and cracked rigging swages. 

When you buy be sure to have the 3-cylinder, 22Hp inboard motor on your boat, otherwise plan to change it: the old 2-cylinder 12Hp is very old and isn’t enough to contrast waves and strong wind.

Be sure also that all the sails are in good condition: it would cost a high percentage of your budget to replace them all. 

Recommend Upgrades

I’d personally recommend changing some things, for example, the gimbal stove, the water heater, the air heater that during all those years have become more efficient (a 1980 water heater consumes the same electricity as two of them of 2020).

If you want to do some long navigations plan to install a new marine electronics system with the Navionics charts. The most suggested is a B&G Vulcan 7 or 9 Chartplotter, that has all that you need for a 30ft sailing boat and comes with the NMEA 2000 net connection, that allows you to update your network later. In addition, you can buy a B&G Triton 2 wind/depth pack to have all the information you need and an additional display. If you want an autopilot you can buy a B&G autopilot compatible with your network for about $2,000-2,500, it depends on what configuration you want. If you want to have the charts also inside on the chart table with the GoFree app you can mirror the screen of the Vulcan Chartplotter on your tablet or smartphone, so you don’t have to buy to of them.


The prices for the Catalina 30 are between $7,500, for older ones that need a lot of repairs, and $25,000, for the newer ones that are updated (navigation electronics, batteries, tanks…) and well maintained.