by Terry Kennedy
The Catalac 900 is the pilothouse version of the Catalac 9M. The pilothouse not only allows for the helm to be inside, but offers standing head room around the salon. The Catalac 900 is a warm, dry and comfortable vessel when inclement weather arrives. This is a dramatic difference from the 8M and 9M’s with their helms exposed to the weather in the cockpits, and their low ceilings in the salon area that only allows for sitting.
Naval Architect John Winterbotham designed the hull for the Catalac 8M/9M/900 based on the Sunderland, a British WWII era sea plane. By design, the vessels will slip sideways when the wind is strong rather than lift the windward hull. Because of this wide flared load bearing design, and significant storage space, the Catalacs are easily overloaded. They can hold a lot of weight without squatting down in the water and showing it, but under sail, when over weighted, they tend to be slow and slip sideways rather than where they are pointed. There is a lot of boat above the waterline with the pilot house, so the cross wind has a lot of effect on the vessel’s ability to point high. She will just slow forward progress and slip sideways. If forward progress is allowed to slow enough, the vessel will just put itself in irons.
Better time is made by falling off the wind a few points, and allowing the vessel to sail faster. Speed is also gained when you do this because your reducing drag from the rudders by letting them hang straight. Most of these sailing issues can be avoided by keeping the vessel light!
The 900 series has skegs in front of the rudders, twin diesels and sail drives. This allows for some impressive maneuvers in the marinas. With a little bit of practice you can turn them around 360 degrees either direction within their own length. The trick is to lock the rudders down straight ahead by pressing a knee or hip against the helm and “steering with the engine throttles. As long as the rudders are kept in the straight position, you can back the vessel long distances in a straight line by steering with the throttles. This is next to impossible to do with a single screw vessel.
Two of the Catalac 900’s were built with a second helm station in the cockpit on the starboard side. This is something that I immediately missed when I had to operate my vessel after dark. The tinted windows are great during the day. At night? Not so much. I was able to get around the high cost of installing a second hydraulic helm station by purchasing a remote control for the auto pilot. This is a must have item for cruising! You can lounge on the cushions out on the bow and steer. The visibility is great.
The 3’ swim platform is what initially caught my eye when I was looking for a catamaran. Entering and exiting the vessel with scuba gear is a breeze! The cockpit can easily be converted into a wading pool or a scuba washing station by putting rubber plugs in the two drain holes. If you get tired of the little geysers making everything wet in the cockpit when your sailing in rough following seas and you decide to install scuppers… Be sure to put them on backwards (facing the bow) or you can breakout the stoppers.
One other GREAT feature about the Catalac 900 that I have yet to find in ANY other vessel is the KING SIZED BED! By removing the bulkhead between the double berth and the single berth (it’s not load bearing) you have a master suite with a king sized bed. In addition there are now two entry sides, a “his and hers”. No more climbing over the other person to get in and out, and no more having to sleep against the bulkhead.There are a few things lacking in the Catalac 900 that are easily fixed. One is the faucets. The faucet in the galley is awkward to work without using two hands. The calorifier heats a tank of water from the starboard engine to four degrees above scalding. If you turn on the hot first before turning on the cold full blast, you will burn yourself. This holds true for the faucet in the head also. The shower head needs to have a shutoff button so when you do finally get the water temperature where you want it, you can cut it off and on without having to go through the long process of balancing the cold and scalding. The good part about the calorifier generating scalding water is that it goes a long way! It’s only 6 gallons, but it is so hot that you can get 4 Navy showers out of it before you run out of hot water.
The Perspex tinted windows on the Catalac 900 do not leak. Nor do they open. The vessel has two white fiberglass hatches above the forward berths that when opened completely block the pilots vision. I remedied this issue by installing Bomar hatches on top of them which can be seen through. I also installed two Bomar hatches on the pilot house, and two flush Bomar hatches on the bulkhead in the cockpit. These allow me to sit on either side of the cockpit and see all the way through the vessel directly ahead. (provided all the passageway doors are open) With the four small Lewmar hatches on the sides and the six Bomar hatches that I added, there is plenty of ventilation.
The one other thing that I wish the Catalac 900’s had that were on the older 9M and 8M’s is the tabernacle that allowed the mast to be dropped. I think that was a brilliant idea, and I don’t understand why it wasn’t repeated on these later vessels. These Catalacs are built like battleships! You can beach them, run them on the rocks, even run them aground on concrete ramps an you won’t damage them! They are safe and stable, and built for sailing in the North seas. The rougher it is, the more you appreciate the flat sailing, and smooth rocking motion of these well built family station wagons of the sea.
Capt. Terry Kennedy
Capt. Terry Kennedy
1996 Catalac 900