Seraphina is a 1988 Catalina 30 MKII, hull # 5310.  We purchased her in November 2016 and moved her to Watergate Marina in Kemah, Texas. Seraphina is equipped with a standard rig and shoal wing keel that drafts 3’10”.  Her auxiliary power is an inboard Universal MX-25P diesel.

Why We Chose a Catalina 30

When we decided to seriously consider sailboat ownership, we didn’t really know a whole lot.  All we really knew were the sailboats we had sailed on during our vacations and Boat Dad’s ASA101 course.  We sailed on Cloud 9, a Beneteau in St. John, USVI.  We sailed on Toucan, a catamaran in Cozumel.  We also sailed on Stray Cat, another catamaran out of  Port Aransas, TX.  We sailed on a few club boats through South Coast Sailing Adventures in Kemah, TX.  The weekend club sails tended to be on their larger boats above 36ft.  We knew we wanted to cruise and really weren’t too interested in racing.  So that was a good first step.

So where does one start when looking for a sailboat?  Naturally…the internet.  Research.  Forums. Craigslist.  Yachtworld.  More research.  More forums. Craigslist. Yachtworld.  Older larger boat?  Newer, smaller boat?  Classic plastic or newer Euro-influenced designs? Trailerable?  Blue water?… Boat porn, as my wife calls it.

My first boat crush was the Ericson.  I don’t know why, really.  The lines, the hull form, the cool Viking helmet logo on the sail…Ericsons were cool in a sort of classic, understated way.  Ericson was the 1964 Ford Fairlane of sailboats.  Then it was Pearson.  I enjoyed reading about the Pearson story and how Pearson bucked the old IOC racing rules to produce a well designed cruiser.

Then my wife mentions one day, it would be nice if we could go sailing on Lake Travis.  You mean, like tow our sailboat from Houston to Austin?  Then the gears start turning.  We could tow the boat all over the country.  Now I was looking at MacGregors, Com-Pacs, small Catalinas and Hunters.  Water ballasted, swing keels, mast stepping, and so on.  We could tow it back to Florida for our annual Christmas trip home.  This could work!  Ultimately, however, we decided that heavier displacement hulls and wider beams  would be more along the lines of our planned voyaging.  So after 132 hours of research, I pulled the plug on trailerables.

After several grueling months of research, I finally convinced myself to visit a local broker, Little Yacht Sales.  I met Captain Rick Weiler and we had a chat about what I was looking for.  Well, since I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, we looked at just about every boat under $40,000.   Over the course of months, we looked at Catalinas, Hunters, Island Packets, Pearsons, and Ericsons.  Slowly, the ideal boat started to take shape.

  1. 30ish ft length, easy to handle, easy to sail.  We figured I would need to be able to handle the boat while Mom tended to Connor.  Being a novice sailor, I wanted a comfortable and stable platform that was, shall we say, forgiving of rookie sailing mistakes.
  2. Large cockpit.  We planned to bring friends and family sailing, so a large cockpit was a top priority.
  3. Accommodations for us, our son and the occasional guest(s).  Although cruising was in our long term plans, our first boat really only needed to sustain us for weekending.
  4. Air conditioning.  After spending 20 minutes in the cabin of a sailboat in August in Houston without air conditioning, it became quite apparent that marine air conditioning was high on the priority list.  After all, Boat Mom and Junior were most likely going to be spending some time in the cabin while I was getting the boat ready. And since we weren’t planning on spending a lot of time on the hook, having A/C at the dock was indeed a fine choice.
  5. Large and active owner’s network.  I actually didn’t fully appreciate this factor until after we bought our boat.  But having an active owner’s network with forums, old manuals and specifications all digital and at your fingertips is worth its weight in bitcoin.
  6. No major structural, rigging or mechanical issues!  Working full time and performing my fatherly duties at home did not leave time to take on a project boat.  I did NOT want our first foray into boat ownership to end unceremoniously with a pissed off wife and a half-finished boat. ‘Nuff said.

Captain Rick did a great job helping us understand and navigate all of these options in the boat buying process. If you are thinking about buying, head over to his webpage and check out his listings and shoot him a message, We ended up stepping aboard Playful Winds (now Seraphina), a 1988 Catalina 30.  After stepping onto the Catalina, I can’t explain it.  It just felt right.  The cockpit was large enough to fit a small crowd.  It has an aft quarter berth for guests, convertible dinette to double berth in the saloon for us, and a smaller vee berth that we could convert into Connor’s sleeping quarters.  She has adequate tankage for weekending.  Seraphina was also equipped with air conditioning and hot water, as well as wheel autopilot.  She was stable when boarding from the dock and when moving across the beam, which is important when boarding with our young son.  The cabin is comfortable and the u-shaped galley with propane stove and icebox provided sufficient means for our culinary needs. On the downside, the headroom is just shy of standing room for me at 5’11.  The handhold in the salon headliner along the center line tends to catch me square in the forehead, as does the sloping cabin top walking forward to the head and into the vee berth.

Now, anyone who researches older sailboats knows that the 1980’s economy and oil crisis basically sealed the fate for several manufacturers.  Catalina was one of the few American manufacturers that survived.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily say anything as to the quality of Catalina boats, nor does it to the manufacturers that did not survive.  But I believe the fact that Catalina continues to produce boats today and competes with the Beneteaus and other relative late-comers to the American market brings a certain level of comfort to the buyer.  And the Catalina 30 was one of the most popular sailboats, ever.  With a production run of over 30 years, 6000+ hulls and 2 major re-designs in the MkII and MkIII, one would be hard-pressed to find a marina without a C30.  And along with the 6000+ hulls comes a huge owner’s network and aftermarket parts suppliers.

Seraphina at her new home in Watergate Marina

Survey day!