1989 Catalina 36 Specs: Cabin


Scanned section of original brochure.


Catalinas are solid hulls below the waterline.  The interior space is shaped by a fiberglass hull liner installed after the hull layup, then wood cabinets and trim are fitted to cutouts in the liner.  The standard layout (prior to our modifications major and minor) is described below working aft to bow.


Catalina probably neglected to include the internal elevation view in the brochure so as to obscure the actual proportions of the ‘aft cabin’ compared to the rest of an otherwise spacious boat.  A monkey would have difficulty after one fits a half-way decent mattress to the space.  Yep nope.

However, it does make an excellent overflow space for projects, much like an expansion tank on a domestic plumbing system.  While we are underway, it becomes the repository for bulky stuff lashed out of the way.  We keep the area around the shaft and transmission clear so we can pop up the hatch and check on them as part of regular watch duties.


The engine is directly beneath the companionway hatch, covered by a removable doghouse and companionway steps.  The joy of being able to access a marine engine from all sides on a 36 ft boat cannot be described.   Despite the obvious issue of increased motoring noise, the engine access is a major selling point for us.

Alas, the doghouse truly has no sound-deadening worth the name, so motoring is miserably loud, especially while working in the galley.  I have less than 20% of my hearing left, and still think being below is torture when motorsailing.  Our dog HATES the motor.


As usual, the navigation station to starboard isn’t used for navigation.  Really, it’s like a formal living room in your grandmother’s house.  Even salty seafarers have to admit they do 95% of their navigation on a tablet or chart plotter these days.  We do have mylar charts, but we’d rather lay them out on the table, settee, or mattress, and kneel on the floor.  Especially in rough weather!

On the other hand, the nav table forms an excellent base for making cuts on long/large pieces of projects using the sawzall, circ saw, or jigsaw.  Or as a buffet table for feeding guests.


On the other hand, I think the Catalina galley has the bones of greatness.  Sink on midline, facing forward.  Gimballed 2 burner and oven against the hull to port, with a nice view out.  Stainless rail to tether yourself in rough seas.  At least six cubic feet of deep storage on both sides of the stove accessible via countertop hatches, for a total of twelve to fourteen cubic feet of enclosed storage.  Deep shelves behind the stove and counter.

I mean, the aft chest storage was supposed to be a refrigerator until someone hacked a hot forced air duct through the bottom insulation, but eh, add it to the fundamental flaw of installing a refrigerator directly next to a cooking appliance *shrug.  We’ve made some alterations since the above photo, and I’ve fed guests dozens of times in the last 15 months.


I am a big fan of the starboard quarterberth on Catalinas–usable as a quarterberth, but generally set up as a two person dinette table.  Most cruisers today are couples.  They only need to seat two on a daily basis, and stowing the port settee table makes the cabin unbelievably spacious.  Roomy enough for a large dog to sprawl…!


The cabinets and trim fitted out to Meander are attractive and functional, but I wouldn’t call them securely and sturdily fastened to the boat.   I think I exaggerate, but I cannot imagine the disaster of dipping the mast in the ocean on a rough day and having half the cabinets on the boat fall on the offwatch.  The hardware is a bit suspect as well.  The cabinets latch, but the same cannot be said of the drawers, refrigerator, pantry, nav station, and floorboards.

When in doubt, some Gorilla tape will keep unsecured drawers and hatches shut underway.  We were rolling lifeline to lifeline on a downwind sail back to Seward from about 75 miles off the coast due south of Yakutat: nothing opened, nothing fell over, the cabin was quiet, no rattles.  Departing on that same trip, I’d tested not putting a strip of Gorilla tape on a drawer.  It slid out within the hour, in the often confused seas rounding Rugged Island.  Securing doors, drawers, and floorboards can be achieved by any number of more permanent, ingenious devices (which we plan to implement), but for our purposes Gorilla tape and proper stowage worked.

The settee table which came with the boat is a disaster.  The base is fastened to the removable floor board for predictably wobbly and unsecured tabletop results.  We removed the table pending inspiration on a better way to mount it, and haven’t ever refitted it–budget and our priorities (namely fitting Honey aboard in a modicum of comfort) said nay nay.  Still, I’ve fallen in love with the settee table on Sailing Uma.  I want a folding version!


The head, with a new Jabsco…head?…, is roomy for a 36ft sailboat, but not compared to my FIL’s old Cal 35 with a walk-in shower. Neither the grate over the shower pan, nor the grate on the shower seat, are secured to the boat.  The finishes in the head are distinctly NOT waterproof: the wood bulkhead common with the main cabin, and basic melamine with standard wood trim.  Still, it all looks original, great condition, no water damage of any sort.

Probably because all previous owners thought the pullout sink faucet shower head was fine, but emptying the shower pan of water every time wasn’t worth it. Have you smelled the water left in a boat shower pan?  The only worse smell is when the head shower drains into the bilge.  (I lie, the worst smell is a backed-up head.  We have avoided this by scrupulous effort.)

Oh wait.  The shower pan is isolated from the bilge, but the pump for the pan pumps the shower water from the pan to the…bilge.  We have never used the shower aboard Meander.  This isn’t a ding on Catalinas.  I haven’t ever seen a satisfying belowdeck (or below ground level) shower drain.  Have you?

The macerator pump is shot, so we can’t pump out underway.  Directly overboard past the 3 mile limit, or no go.  Pun intended.

A whole bunch of storage is to starboard across from the head.


The spacious vberth is wider than a king mattress at the head, and narrows to about eighteen inches wide at the foot.  Total length is about a foot longer than a standard queen, with a shallow shelf along both sides and the foot.Two panels under the cushions allow access to the storage space beneath, but the storage space has limited utility.  In our cold climate, the uninsulated hull is a condensing plate capable of capturing a gallon of water a week from the moist cabin air.


A hanging/wet locker to starboard as one enters is the best accessible storage in the vberth/forward cabin. The drawers under the vberth are a joke.  Items stored there seem to become perpetually damp.

Catalina did not structurally reinforce or brace the center of the fiberglass comprising the sleeping platform of the vberth.  The fiberglass is further weakened by the two cutouts for the access hatches.  There isn’t much chance of the platform failing, but occupants will find themselves rolling into the center and not know why :-).



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