Center of Attention
By Chris Landry
The Catalina 29 is the largest center console in the four-boat fleet for Sarasota, Florida-based Chris-Craft, known for its premium runabouts, bow riders, and sportboats. The same levels of luxury, craftsmanship, and fit and finish on these boats were evident on the Catalina 29 I tested on Sarasota Bay.
The Catalina delivers on its mission to provide comfort and convenience from bow to stern with posh seating, sunpads, pop-up tables and a cockpit awning. The boat has redesigned stern seating—a straight seat in the aft cockpit. The builder uses diamond-pattern upholstery for this settee and all others. You board the boat from the swim platform—covered with PlasTeak, a composite faux teak—and through a port-side transom door. I like the fold-up teak table that emerges from its recessed home in the leaning post’s aft end. A beefy rail surrounding the post gives crew a sturdy, easy-to-reach handrail to grab while running. The entire forward section of the console swings up on gas shocks to reveal the head. The wraparound settee in the bow seats at least four. A pedestal dining table also serves as an insert to hold the centerpiece sunpad. A two-person settee on the console’s forward end rounds out the seating offerings.
Chris-Craft constructs the Catalina 29 with a solid-glass bottom and hull sides. “There is no core in the hull at all,” says Chris Collier, vice president of engineering for Chris-Craft. Collier previously worked for a performance boatbuilder that used coring for the entire hull. “Coring is done to achieve lighter hull weights,” says Collier. “You can use less material and achieve a lighter hull that’s just as strong [as a solid one]. But we’re not building performance boats. We’re not worried about the weight as much as the strength, so we’d rather just have the solid structure with no chance of the core delaminating. [The Catalina] is probably overbuilt, but you know it is strong and going to last.”
Chris-Craft hand-lays the hull and uses vacuum infusion with vinylester resin to build small parts such as deck-sole hatch lids and seat tops. The builder uses a composite coring material in the decks. All fiberglass parts are cut on a CNC router. The one-piece fiberglass stringer system is chemically bonded to the hull with a high-strength adhesive and filled with foam. Chris-Craft bonds the hull and deck with 3M 5200 and mechanical fasteners.
The twin 300-horsepower Verados pushed the Catalina from zero to 27 to 36 knots in seconds. Talk about midrange acceleration. With the trim tabs tucked in and drives completely down, I pegged the throttles and watched the boat’s bow rise only a few feet. I never lost site of the horizon—and I was seated. The Chris-Craft dove in and out of hard turns at 25 knots seamlessly and held a straight course with my hands off the wheel. I toyed with the trim tabs a bit, which are occasionally undersized on some boats. Not here. Response was swift and effective. It took 3½ turns of the wheel to get from lock to lock, which provided just the right amount of steering control. And she’s fast, topping out at nearly 47 knots. I found the boat’s maximum fuel efficiency at 4000 rpm where it travels 1.3 nautical miles per gallon—decent mileage for a 600-horsepower boat.
Chris-Craft, 941-351-4900; www.chriscraft.com
: 1'9" (engines up)
: 7,000 lb. (without engines)
: 220 gal.
: 31 gal.
: 2/300-hp Mercury Verados
: $181,219 with 2/250 Mercury Verados
: $240,897 with 2/300 Verados
Underwater lights ($1,459); Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards ($21,117); Raymarine e165 ($13,292); windlass with SS anchor and chain ($3,499).
Air temperature: 85°F; humidity: 90%; seas: 1'; load: 80 gal. fuel, 2 persons, 100 lb. safety gear. Speeds are two-way averages. GPH taken from Mercury SmartCraft display. Range based on 90% of fuel capacity.