Catalina 22

A note of caution: The biggest mistake I made was to get into this project of modifying the Catalina 22 to make it seaworthy. Now I think that I should have simply bought a much bigger boat and sailed it as is, without making too many modifications.

But at the time when I was beginning, I did not know what I wanted, where I wanted to navigate, where I might keep the boat, and what is really needed. I also did not have the money necessary to buy a bigger boat then, and I also underestimated the costs involved in making all those changes and upgrades. I did not know how to get a big sailboat relatively cheaply, nor where to keep it. My premise was that I needed a trailerable sailboat which can be launched easily without any cranes. In part, I still think that this is very valid option for Chile, where marine infrastructure is extremely limited. Just to give an example, along the coast stretch of 500 miles between Puerto Montt and Constitucion, there are only 3 places where a sailboat can be launched!

On the positive side, I really liked that engineering stage of thinking how to make a “perfect” boat and implementing the modifications…

In terms of size, I feel that 22 feet is (almost) enough for one person or for a couple to navigate in comfort during a couple of weeks, maybe up to a month, and a 24 - 26 foot sailboat is all you may need. When learning, it maybe even better to have a smaller boat, because if you practice sailing in 6 meters waves in 22 footer, it is (almost) the same as sailing in 10 meter waves on 35 footer! 30 knots wind on a Catalina 22 feels like 50 knot wind on a bigger boat.

So, some background: in February 2014 I purchased a bareboat Catalina 22, from the distant 1974. The only “extras” it had was a genoa and standard Jib, all original sails (with their original number on the main!), and a 7 pound anchor. And the price was ridiculous (for North America) – 9,000.- USD! But we are in Chile, and Chile has lots of other advantages, so that ridiculously high price had to be tolerated and accepted…

It was baptized as "CHILEFLORA," its call sign is CA 4931, and its port of registration is Constitucion, although she never sailed there, because there were no options for lowering the boat there after the earthquake in 2010. The name "CHILEFLORA" simply makes reference to my other website, www.chileflora.com, dedicated to botany and landscapes in Chile.

It was sailed and upgraded during almost a year, and by April 2015 I would say I have finished all the major improvements and purchase of safety equipment which altogether cost me another 11,000.- USD. So now I have a golden 22 foot sailboat which cost me 20,000.- USD…, and it sailed only 2000 nautical miles so far...

There were several types of changes I had to do:

  • The simplest ones were just "repairs", i.e. fixing what was broken. These were realtively few. Catalina after all may not be such a bad boat, and it single-skin was much better suited for repairs.
  • The second group of improvements included purchase of safery gear, electronic equipment, etc.
  • The third group, by far the most numerous, included installation of items which made the life at sea easier and safer.
  • The final group were changes to improve structural integrity of the boat.