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Catalina 30 Review: Features, Performance and Tech Specs

The Catalina 30 has had a long and illustrious life and remains to this day a favorite on the used market. Over 6,400 Catalina 30s were sold during its 25-year production run starting in 1974, testament to its solid construction, functional layout, ease of sailing, a modest price, and the strong Catalina dealer network. 

So what makes it so popular? While it’s not really intended as a bluewater cruiser, the Catalina 30 handles coastal and inshore sailing with ease. It is ideal for weekends or week-long cruises thanks to its cleverly thought-out interior space. Overall, the Catalina 30 sails well, is a stable design in stiffer winds, and can be sailed single-handedly by a competent skipper. 

Despite several versions throughout its production run, including the MKII, first built in 1986, and the MKIII, in 1994, the basic dimensions of the model remained unchanged: LOA 29’11", beam 10’10", displacement 10,200 lbs., and standard draft 5’3". Likewise, the interior was never altered. Catalina’s approach to the huge success of the 30 seemed to be ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’.


Catalina 30

Catalina 30. Rightboat seller photo. 


Catalina 30 Key Features 

There have been many versions of the Catalina 30 throughout its long production run, with different configurations. There have been standard and tall rigs, each with a bowsprit option, as well as shoal, wing, and deep fin keels. Following on from the MKII in 1986, the MKIII in 1994 made some noticeable changes, namely a slight widening of the hull aft, which allowed for a transom boarding platform. 

The Catalina 30’s hull, like all of Catalina’s models, is built of fiberglass and polyester resin, with a deck constructed of either balsa or plywood between fiberglass laminates. Belowdecks, the Catalina 30s layout remained unchanged throughout its life. With a wide companionway creating a spacious feel to the cabin, able to accommodate up to four with a separate head, large galley, and cozy saloon, it proved popular and user-friendly. The boat has an aft cockpit with a closed transom.  

While this model undoubtedly ticked a lot of boxes for many sailors, it had a few common problems, as described in various owners forums. Compression fatigue at the maststep on deck and in the bilge under the compression post has been commonly reported over the years and may need to be fixed. Likewise, old wooden spreaders sometimes fail, and leaks and separation may be experienced at the keel-to-hull joint. Ensuring these are all inspected in a thorough marine survey when buying will highlight any issues the boat might have. 


Catalina 30s spacious interior with separate cabin and dinette

Catalina 30s spacious interior with separate cabin and dinette. Rightboat seller photo. 


Catalina 30 Performance

The Catalina 30 impressively straddles the line between performance and comfort, offering decent speeds compared to competitors of the same era, despite a lower sail/displacement ratio of 15.22. The fin keel version has deeper draft, lowering the center of gravity and providing better performance upwind. A higher ballast/displacement ratio means the Catalina 30 stands up well in stronger winds. 


Catalina 30 Why Buy It  


  • One of the top-selling 30-foot sailboats ever
  • Spacious accommodation for up to 4 people including saloon and galley
  • Wide, deep hull creates exceptional space above and below decks
  • Known for its stability under sail
  • Variety of models and variations to be found on the used market
  • Good value for money on the used market with lots in circulation
  • Buying used?: Possibly compromised deck cores and mast steps merit checking before purchase. For other tips when buying a used boat, read our Boat Inspection Checklist 


Galley and saloon of Catalina 30. Rightboat seller photo.


Catalina 30 Technical Specifications


  • LOA: 29.92 ft
  • Beam: 10.83 ft
  • Draft: 5.25 ft
  • Rigging Type: Masthead sloop
  • Hull type: Fin w/spade rudder
  • Displacement: 10200.78 lbs
  • Ballast: 4200 lbs
  • Ballast type: Lead
  • Fuel tank capacity: 21 gallons
  • Sail area/displacement ratio: 15.22
  • Ballast/displacement ratio: 41.18
  • Critical hull speed: 6.70 knots
  • Engines (after mid-1980s): 3-cylinder Universal M-25 diesel engine


Enclosed cockpit and seating of Catalina 30

Enclosed cockpit and seating of Catalina 30. Rightboat seller photo.


Check out all the Catalina boats for sale



John Burnham is a marine ​editor and writer with ​decades of journalism experience as ​Chief Editor of​ boats.com,​ Sailing World, Cruising World, and ​other boating websites. As a competitive sailor, he has led teams to world and national titles in the International One-Design, Shields, and other classes. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, John is a​ PCC leadership coach, a member of the ​America’s Cup Hall of Fame Selection Committee​, and a ​past board member of Sail America and US Sailing. For more, see johnsburnham.com.


Samantha Wilson has spent her entire life on and around boats, from tiny sailing dinghies all the way up to superyachts. She writes for many boating and yachting publications, top charter agencies, and some of the largest travel businesses in the industry, combining her knowledge and passion of boating, travel and writing to create topical, useful and engaging content.

More from: John Burnham / Samantha Wilson

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