Buying a Boat: 1989 Catalina 36

We bought her just over a year ago.   Less than two weeks passed between walkthrough and purchase.  We did not get a formal survey.

Risky behavior!

An example of why Nathan is not generally allowed to go see boats, cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmachines, ATVs, UTVs, ultralights, or any other form of motorized transportation without supervision.  And how easily I am talked into any form of transportation if that transportation may be a gateway to new adventures.

I (mostly) kid.  We are handy, Nathan is an excellent mechanic, I am a lackadaisical but competent engineer, we come from sailing families (although interior Alaska is NOT a yachtie mecca), and we both went aft to bow and mast header to keel bolt using one of my EXTREMELY comprehensive lists as an inspection guide.  (I’ll post all the sources for the list at some point…it may result in an interesting discussion!)

The deck is completely solid, the mast boot doesn’t leak, the keel bolts were pulled and inspected in 2009, the hull is solid and uncored, the anchor locker contained 100 ft of 3/8″ chain in mint condition + 200 ft of good rope rode + two excellent anchors.  The wire rigging is in great condition, the sheets are led back behind the dodger for proper Alaska weather cockpit sailing, the Harken roller furling jib is in good shape.  The sails are in good shape.  The anchor platform is great.  The interior woodwork is in great shape, as are the cushions.  The antique radar still works.  The cockpit came equipped with a dodger and baggy bimini, and a half-completed panel to connect them into a full enclosure.  The mast is equipped with aluminum mast steps.  A previous owner had installed an Espar D2 forced air diesel heater.   The interior layout of the boat, like all Catalinas, is generously spacious, with my all-time favorite u-shaped galley layout consisting of a gimballed range to port and a sink on the midline.   The engine, shaft, and transmission appeared sound and accessible from every direction, and a dripless lip seal had been fitted at some point.  The anchor windlass isn’t frozen, though it wasn’t wired up.  We can get to any part of the boat below the waterline in 10 seconds or less.  Ready, set, go!

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Most importantly, the Catalina had good lines of access for us to help our good old dog on and off, in and out, of the boat multiple times a day.  This is hard to find on a sailboat, so hard, we’d originally planned to wait until Honey DIED before buying another one.  Not that we didn’t have to make some ramps and do some heavy lifting…

There are some cons.  Quite a few.  The PO chose to install the Espar diesel heater on the port side of the aft cockpit locker, as opposed to starboard.   He (one presumes this was a he) ran the ducts squaa in the center of every prime storage space on the port side from aft to forward, and directly under the top loading refrigeration/freezer box (through the INSULATION).  Given that there is heating demand in Seward nine months of the year, the refrigerator is one of the warmest spots on the boat for nine months of the year and thus–as a matter of power management and cooling capacity–unusable as a refrigerator or freezer.

The aluminum mast does not have a mast plug at deck level, so all the condensation and rain leaks produced by a chilly rainforest climate, along a 50ft mast equipped with mast steps, drains into the bilge.  This isn’t much water at any one time, but the excellent large bilge pumps (manual and electric) cannot get that last few inches up and off the boat and I like a dusty bilge when the boat has keel bolts!

The last several POs clearly had either extremely limited budgets (and we know limited budgets) and/or dubious grasp of marine wiring practices and power handling in general.

Most of the hoses on the boat are due for a major overhaul.

All the navigational and communication equipment on the boat is antiquated, older entry-level, or inoperational.

And last, but DEFINITELY not least, the haulout services in Seward were booked for the foreseeable future, as owners scrambled to pull boats from the water and store them on the hard for winter, so we couldn’t get a good look at the hull, prop, or shaft.  The water was clear enough we could see the hull looked all right, the keel bolts inside seemed fine, the boat scooted along under sail and power just as it should have, and the shaft had picture perfect alignment going into the stern tube from inside, with no wobble underway.  If the hull had been cored, or the boat had been located in a warmer climate, we’d have been much more worried.

After we clambered about her; and picked, poked, and prodded her, we both knew we loved her for what she might do for us: get us to places our little 4×4 campers couldn’t, and bring Honey too.  So we bought her.  Yeah, she’d be a dock queen until we did some work, but in the meantime we’d have a great winter in Seward.  No coconut palms and citrus fruits, but skiing and great coffee and a home on the water.

We got an OK deal.  Not great, super, amazing, but OK.  Comparable Catalina 36 sailboats in the states were selling for about $30-35k, I think.  This boat had sold at $48,000 two years previously–definitely too much money even for Alaska!  We bought her for $20,000.

This post is already too long for our modern sensibilities, so subsequent posts will describe the boat in more detail.  Thank you for reading to the bitter end!




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