Catana 53 Owner’s Review: PolePole
Many thanks to Rowan for helping us with this Catana 53 Owner’s Review. He has already sailed his catamaran: PolePole across the Atlantic with his family and plans to cross the Pacific next. So he knows the boat in other words!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your Catana 53 catamaran. Which layout did you go for?
We are a retired couple, who plan to cruise from Europe to the Pacific. We crossed the Atlantic this year, and are heading to Tahiti next year. We went for the owners cabin 3 berth layout, which accommodates the various family and friends who have joined us along the way
Why did you choose the Catana? Was it the long history of Catana, the performance or the layout for example?
We chose the Catana because it suited our plans…it covers long distances in great comfort, the layout suits tropical living, and Catana’s engineering and design skills make for a boat you can have confidence in. Everything is overbuilt, and there are endless clever touches which are the hallmark of a boat built by sailors rather than accountants
When was she launched? How was the build process?
She was launched mid November 2021, amazingly on her due date! The build process was weird because of Covid, but Catana were very good at keeping us informed and welcoming us into the yard when we could visit
What’s the best thing about her?
Comfort at speed. When crossing the Atlantic, I woke at 3am one morning, because I could hear that we were going really fast…I went upstairs, where my non sailor daughter was on watch to see we were doing 19 knots…and she was totally relaxed. And so could I. Light air performance is also much better than my previous boat. With an asymmetric we would do 6 knots of boat speed in 8 knots of wind
If there was one thing that you would change, what would that be? Or wouldn’t you change anything?
The solar panel set up – the option was twice the price and generates half the power of my previous boat
Does she carry weight well, or do you have to be careful to not overload her with gear?
She carries weight very well. It is actually hard to tell the difference with full fuel and water tanks vs empty, a 1.6 ton difference.
What are the “Must Have” Options buying new in your opinion? eg Sails, watermaker, generator, solar, carbon options, push button sheet controls.
Aside from the obvious, the one thing you absolutely need is spare autopilot. Catana rigged it up so it is completely independent and can be engaged at the flick of a switch. With the rear helm position it is an essential
What are the “Nice to Have Options”?
I got a lot of sails…and I am using them! With a high performance boat the ability to move from a 90sqm Code 0 to a 200sqm Asymmetric to a 230 sqm Wingaker really makes a big difference
Which options did you “pass” on?
No aircon. Our plan is to sail in the trade winds, and spend as little time as possible in marinas, and the C53 is very well ventilated, so I felt like there was no need for it. The only time I have regretted that was when we spent 4 weeks in a marina with no wind getting work done
How are the electrics, plumbing etc. Can you give us an idea of how you set your power system up, amount of solar, hydrogeneration, lithium batteries etc
Catana goes for tried and tested bombproof solutions rather than innovation. So the formula is 1. Big ole generator (7kw) 2. Solar is a toy 3. Vitifrigo fridges 4. 600amps lithium 5. Aquabase watermaker. The good news is that it all works well and is very robust. The bad news is that 99% of the power comes from the generator
Is she easy to maintain? Servicing engines, standing rigging etc
With one exception, everything is accessible, well built, tried and tested. The exception is that the electrics are badly documented if they are documented at all. For example, the first time I wanted to turn the fridges off to leave the boat, I found that there is no switch to do so. And no documented fuse on the fuse plan. And when Catana told me which fuse to remove…it didn’t work. Luckily it was not an urgent or dangerous situation but it seems astonishing that Catana could be so careless
Is she easy to sail short-handed? To shorten sail? Is the running rigging complex? Do all the lines lead back to the helms, for example? Can you give us an idea of your sail plan.
Very easy to sail single handed. The only time I need another pair of hands is when I put up a spinnaker on a sock. The design and engineering are superb and you build real confidence that you can sail aggressively and get the sail down quickly in a big blow – all from the cockpit. The sail plan is 110sqm main, 55 sqm solent, 90 sqm Code 0, 200 sqm Asymmetric and 230 sqm wingaker. All of the sails are North, except for the wingaker. The main and solent are 3di. One of the interesting things I have found is that she goes faster than her polars, even when fully loaded. It is certainly not my sailing skills so it must be the sail plan
What’s she like in heavy weather / a blow / big seas. How is the ride in general? (pitch/roll)
Brilliant. This is when you feel good about spending a lot of money. we got caught out with 310 sqm of sail up in a 30 knot blow, turned downwind, pulled up the daggerboards, and she flew along without ever feeling like we were in danger
How are the helm positions. The aft helms always generate a vigorous debate. How do you find them? How is the visibility when docking? I know you owned a Nautitech before.
Anybody who has sailed with aft helms cannot understand what the debate is about. They seem to me to be the perfect place to helm from whether you are cruising on autopilot, racing or docking. With a spare autopilot, and very little risk of being forced to hand steer, there seems to me to be no downside. Certainly when I have tried to dock from a flybridge, and found myself skating down the stairs head first, I really appreciated them!
How does she sail in light winds?
A revelation. Will sail at 75%-80% of wind speed in light winds, and because of the well designed rig it is safe and quick to put up coloured sails
How does she sail close hauled? How high does she point to true in a good sea state?
With daggerboards 3.5m long, she can point 45 degrees true without losing speed. The upwind performance, together with low wind performance means I do a lot more sailing
Typically, what’s your average speed on passage? What´s the top speed you have logged surfing?
In the Caribbean, with 15-20 knots of wind, we expect to do 200-220 miles per day on average. Top sustained speed is 22 knots, which we did with 20-30 knots on the beam. Although she can sail 45-160 degrees, she absolutely flies at 90-110
What’s she like under power? Speed, manouevrability?
we got 80HP diesels so she can sustain 8 knots without over revving. We do not have bow thrusters and have not missed them
Is she easy to dock?
er…not in a cramped mediterranean marina, with a howling crosswind! One of the things I learned very quickly, to my cost, is that you have to have the boards 50% down, otherwise she skates sideways in any cross wind. In the Caribbean, spaces are wider, there are no mooring lines so it is much easier
What is she like at anchor?
Steady as a rock. I got a 55kg Rocna and have sat comfortably in 55knots of wind swinging through 90 degrees
What’s she like when it´s raining hard?
Very comfortable. The coachroof is a single piece so there are no places for wind to howl through and the side curtains are very effective.
Is she comfortable down below? Cabins/saloon/galley/heads. Can you give us an idea of the configuration you went for?
The one thing we changed from the Catana design was to move the owners heads from a tiny cupboard into the main bathroom, which gives a lot more space. Interior design is great, beds are very comfortable, storage space is insane
How is the finish of the interior? Does she creak under sail?
Once we had eliminated a few creaks and groans the only sounds we hear are wind, waves and “are we there yet?” from the kids. She is built like a brick shithouse.
What is your favourite spot on the boat?
At night, on one of the aft helms, watching the stars and phosphorescence. And ducking from the flying fish!
Is she good for hosting guests?
Great boat for hospitality. we did the Arc in January 2022 and she became the party boat because of the space
What kind of modifications have you done and why?
Very minor tweaks…we suffered a lot from halyard chafe so have replaced the standard halyards with spectra covered ones.
Any plans for further customisation?
I would love to have solar that works
If you were to swap her for another boat, what would that be? Or maybe you wouldn’t swap her?
No, I am happy with her as is! We looked at Gunboat, HH, Outremer, Balance, and just felt that the C53 had the magical combination of speed, comfort and most importantly, confidence
How is the after sales service from Catana?
Much better than it needs to be. For some reason (and I don’t think Catana is alone in this) they skimp on quality control and compensate with great after sales. They would save themselves a lot of money, and their customers a lot of time, if they got some basic QC processes in place so stuff could be fixed before the boat leaves the yard
Anything else you would add to help people thinking of buying a Catana 53?
Yes. Plan to spend 3 months near to the yard, so the you can get all the teething issues fixed by Catana. We spent 3 weeks and it was not enough. Secondly, check the handbook, wiring diagrams and fuse labelling. Because they don’t
How would you rate the Value for Money of a Catana 53, bearing in mind future re-sale potential, quality, price and so on.
Lets be honest…Nobody buys a C53 for value for money. Anyone buying a new C53 will take a loss, because people who can afford a second hand one would rather have a new one. However, if you asked “would I buy a second hand Catana?” yes I would.
What are your thoughts on the Catana Ocean Class?
Honestly don’t know. I have not seen it in the flesh