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by Larry Charlot
May 05, 1998
Catalina 25 #1205 "Summertime Dream"
Here are some comments and advice to help you with shopping for a Catalina 25. The total production of C-25's was around 6,500. The first model year was 1976 and the last was 1991. Actually, the last "regular production" year was 1990; the factory produced a few more boats in 1991 for specific customer orders.
There were three keel types offered: Initially, you could order a boat with a 5' draft fixed keel or retractable swing keel, then in 1986, a 3' shoal draft wing keel was added as an option. The swing keel is made of cast iron, and these boats are not recommended for long term use in salt water marinas, since the salt water will eventually damage the cast iron. The wing and fixed keels are made of lead and are therefore non-corrosive. The fixed keel boats generally have slightly better performance than the wing keel or swing keel, and can point a few degrees closer to the wind, but they sit so high on the trailer that they're much more difficult to rig and ramp launch. The swing keel is probably the greatest percentage of the total production, and you see more of them for sale than fixed or wing keel boats combined. The swing keel adds some additional maintenance to the boat, as the cable and pivot hardware needs to be inspected periodically and replaced when worn. The pivot pin is 1-1/2" diameter bronze, much softer than the iron keel, so it erodes with time and repeated raising/lowering cycles. If the cable or pivot ever fails, the results can be catastrophic (especially if the failure occurs with the keel in the fully raised position), as the 1500 pound chunk of iron free falls out of control. On impact at the bottom of the swing, it can severely damage the fiberglass trunk, which could possibly result in the boat sinking, if the leakage rate was faster than you could pump or bail. I don't mean to scare anyone, it's just something to keep in mind. Inspect the swing keel every two or three years and replace the hardware as needed (these parts don't cost much, maybe $40 for a pin or cable).
In my opinion, the shoal draft wing keel is the all-around best choice, if you are not a dedicated racer. The height of the boat on the trailer is about the same as a swing keel Cat 25, so launching and retrieval is easy. The wing keel won't rust, even in a salt water marina, and there are no moving parts to wear out as with the swing keel. Also, the wing keel boats are the newest and usually best condition. The deck and cabin interior underwent a major redesign in 1986, with lots of small improvements, including the wing keel. The floor was lowered a little, since the wing keel doesn't require a trunk in the bilge as does the swing keel, so the wing keel boat has a little more headroom in the cabin. The only problem with the wing keel is expense: these were the least-produced of the three different keel types, so there are fewer of them for sale at any given time, thus the law of supply and demand makes them more expensive. The fixed keel boats are usually the lowest priced, but many of these that you spot in the classified ads turn out to be boat-only, with no trailer. WARNING: A new tandem-axle, 7500# capacity trailer costs about $4,800 (I just priced one last month at DHM Trailers here in Sacramento). Used boat trailers are about as rare as snowballs in the Mojave Desert in July, so don't count on being able to easily and quickly buy a cheap used trailer. If you see a boat without a trailer for sale, keep this in mind when negotiating price, if you intend to trailer the boat and not just keep it permanently in a marina berth.
Some other design items and features to watch for:
Gas Tank Locker. On pre-1982 boats, the outboard motor's fuel tank sits down in the lazarette on the port side of the cockpit. IMHO, this is a bad design, as any leakage from the tank can allow fumes to invade the boat's interior and bilges. Also, the back of the main electrical switch panel is right there in the lazarette, with the possibility of a spark touching off gas fumes. On the 1982 and newer boats, the gas tank has it's own locker separate from the lazarette, and open only to the cockpit. Fuel leakage will drain out through the cockpit drains.
Cockpit Drains: Also on the newer boats, the cockpit drains themselves are better: Look for a pair of 2" holes in the transom just above the cockpit floor. If the boat doesn't have drains in the transom, it is an "old style" boat and they are located in the cockpit floor; two bathtub-type screened drains. IMPORTANT: If your boat is parked anywhere near trees, whether on the trailer or in a berth, you need to keep an eye out that blowing leaves don't plug up these drains. In the rainy season, the cockpit could fill with hundreds of pounds of water, possibly damaging the boat from the excessive weight, or flooding into the cabin if it gets high enough to flow over the companionway sill.
Stern Pulpit: The 1986 and newer C-25 has an improved stern pulpit that incorporates the main sheet traveller. It's a smoother working part than the old rod-mount traveler on the pre-'86 boats.
Interior: Three distinct interiors were offered in different model years. 1. A "traditional" style with a dining table that folds down from the main bulkhead, with seating athwartships on port and starboard outboard settees. 2. A dinette table that telescopes up and down on a vertical pipe stand (my boat has this), with seating on an "L" shaped settee, port side forward. 3. a dinette table that clips onto the outer hull liner, and seating fore-and-aft. These interior styles are not specific to a given keel type. All three styles have a sette on the starboard side of the cabin, and the galley sink and stove arrangement is the same. All boats have an enclosed head, large V-berth, and double width starboard quarter berth (except inboard diesel equipped boats, which have a single width starboard quarter berth). I think all C-25's have an anchor locker on the foredeck, except perhaps the very earliest '76-'77 boats (I am not 100% sure on this). Most C-25's have a porta-pottie, but there are a few that have "honest-to-goodness" marine toilets with MSD's and holding tanks. I prefer a porta-pottie; it's much cheaper to repair or replace, and easier to keep clean and non-stinky.
Rig: There were two masts offered, a "standard" 25' mast, and a "tall rig" with a 28' mast. The PHRF rating of the standard rig is 228, and the tall rig is 225 (I think).
Auxiliary Power: Most Catalina 25's have an outboard, a few late model boats have a 9hp Universal (Kubota) Diesel inboard. The outboard is supposed to be mounted on the STARBOARD side of the transom. If you see a C-25 with the outboard mounted on the PORT side, some previous owner goofed. The boat will be poorly balanced, with a marked list to port, and it's sailing performance will be poor on Starboard tack. You will occasionally find these, most often installed by a former owner of a Catalina 22, which has the outboard on the port side, wherein he (or she) incorrectly assumed that the C-25 would also have the outboard on the port side. The Catalina 25 needs at least an 8 horsepower motor, 10 is better, especially if your home waters get rough in a blow. An outboard smaller than 8 horsepower will not adequately propel a C-25 against a stiff headwind in choppy conditions.
Spreader Socket: On any prospective boat you are looking at, check the Spreader sockets. If they are cast aluminum, they need to be replaced ASAP. The newer boats have welded stainless steel spreader sockets, due to reports of fatigue failure in the aluminum ones. When these fail, the whole rig could come crashing down. The factory offers a retrofit kit that has everything needed to change out the old aluminum parts with stainless steel, for $45 or so. Installing them isn't too difficult, but the mast needs to be down, of course.
Chain Plates and eye bolts: The older boats have 3/8" diameter eye bolts for the four lower shroud attachments. The newer boats use a heavier duty 1/2" bolt, with a better backing plate. This is also available as a retrofit kit. The upper shrouds attach to a chainplate. These chainplates have a rectangular trim plate covering the hole where they go through the deck, and you need to pop these loose and re-seal them with marine polyurethane sealant every two or three years. It's an easy, 15 minute job, but necessary as rainwater will come through in buckets if the sealant loses adhesion and starts leaking (I know from firsthand experience).
Cabin Windows: The older boats have aluminum frame glass windows, the '86 and newer model years have flush mount lexan windows. The aluminum frames are no longer available as a replacement part, as the original manufacturer has long since gone out of business. The lexan windows are easier to re-seal if they spring a leak, and they are easily replaceable if broken. This is another reason to get an '86 or newer if you can find one in your budget range.
Rudder: All Catalina 22 and 25 rudders seem to be doomed to lateral splitting. This is due to the plywood core swelling with age and moisture absorption, and causing the fiberglass lamination on the surface to split apart. Once this process starts, there's no stopping it, short of replacing the rudder with a new one ($350). However, a rudder in the early stages of splitting will likely last quite a while, maybe several more years, if you pull it out of the water when you are not actually using the boat.
Accessories: On the pre-1982 boats, certain items like the Pop-Top, Lifelines, Stern Pulpit, and backstay adjuster were extra cost options that some original owners did not purchase. I strongly recommend you avoid boats that do not have the pop-top, stern pulpit, and/or lifelines installed. Lack of these items will make the boat difficult to re-sell, and installing a pulpit and lifeline stanchions is a MOTHER of a job. It really needs to be done at the factory, before the deck and hull are joined, when the underside of the deck molding is still easily accessible. I am pretty sure that the pop-top cannot be retrofitted to a boat that doesn't have one, as the companionway opening is shaped differently on those few C-25's that have a plain sliding hatch without the pop-top. If you are over 5'-8" tall, you will want the pop-top regardless. Headroom when the pop-top is raised is 6'-6" (plus or minus an inch).
Stove: Catalina 25's were originally equipped with a pump-up pressurized alcohol stove, that we owners call "The Factory Curtain Burner", for it's tendency to flare up without warning and ignite the cabin window curtains. If you buy a boat that has one of these, and it's not functioning well, I recommend you don't bother to repair it. Replace it with an absorption-type Origo 2-burner alcohol stove. These will fit in the same space as the factory stove, they cost less (about $250 from West Marine) and are much easier and less stressful to use. A good alternative to alcohol is Compressed Natural Gas, and you will occasionally see C-25's that some owner has retrofitted for CNG. Just make sure you have a CNG supplier in your area before buying one of these.
INSPECTION: When looking at a used Catalina 25, here are some replacement prices for major items that you should consider, if they need replacement on your prospective purchase: 1. Outboard Motor, Honda 10hp Long Shaft, $2200 (A two-cycle Nissan 8hp runs about $1250, but personally I don't like 2-cycle motors on sailboats due to the stinky exhaust smoke). 2. Mainsail $650, 135% Genoa $750 (the most all-around useful size headsail). These prices are for Catalina Factory sails; they are less expensive than what most custom lofts charge, and they're good quality, designed by Hood for Catalina. 3. Standing Rigging: 8 new shroud and stay wires, plus swaging fittings and 8 new 5/16" turnbuckles, about $1200. 4. Running Rigging: all new rope for halyards, main and jib sheets, and boom vang (assuming blocks are still serviceable), about $400~$500 for basic Sta-Set dacron. Fancier grades of rope will of course cost more. 5. Galley & Head sink pumps and water supply hoses, $150 or so. 6. New deep cycle batter y $50~$75. This is just a tiny sample of what kinds of gear could be problematical on any used sailboat, the list goes on and on... Just remember that a 20 year old Catalina 25 can easily need $4000 or more worth of repair and replenishment of worn out parts to make it "nice" again, so a newer model, like an '86-'91, may be a better deal even if it is priced a few thousand more than an older one. Any way you cut it, "A BOAT IS A HOLE IN THE WATER THAT YOU POUR MONEY INTO" (g).
I hope the above gives you some basic info for intelligent shopping. The main thing to keep in mind is that the Catalina 25 went through several distinct design stages, with significant revisions and improvements in 1980, 1982, 1986, and 1988. The 1986 and newer wing keel boats are really the cream of the crop, with so many improvements compared to the '76-'79 boats, that I wish I had waited and shopped around more carefully before I bought my '79. My ideal is an '89-'91 wing keel, standard rig, "traditional style" interior, with a Yamaha 9.9 "High-Thrust" outboard, and Cruising Design roller furler up front, with a new full-batten main and 135% Genny installed on the furler. Mmmmm, I could spend a year or two (if not forever!) cruising the San Juans or the ICW in a boat like that! Good luck and have fun shopping!