This year we did a 'non-traditional' Christmas and went to Florida Dec 21st and returned Dec 28. For a lifelong New Englander, this is a very big deal! We stayed at Treasure Island, outside of St. Petersburg and the day after Christmas we went to the Catalina factory in Largo for a tour.
Our tour guide was Warren Pandy, Manager of Service and Technical Support. The tour was about an hour and we went through most of the production facility. I had never seen a fiberglass boat manufacturing plant so this was very interesting to see the process. In the case of Catalina's', each hull is hand layed up. The average boat takes about 2 months from initial gell-coat spray to shipment to the dealer. We saw a couple Catalina/Morgan 440's in initial stages (huge hulls when they are empty!!!), many 320's in various states of completion and the brand new 375 (C36 replacement), hull number 1 with hulls 2 and 3 close behind (hull no. 1 is going to the Boston Boat Show in January and on to the Chicago Show later in Jan). We were amazed at the complexity of the lay-up and most importantly, the attention to detail Catalina puts into building their boats. All chain plate areas of the decks have 1/4 inch series 316 stainless backing plates glassed in and are later drilled and tapped to receive bolts. All winch bases, traveller, and stanchion bases have stainless backing plates glasses in. The hull and decks have integrated raceways for wiring that eliminate the possibility of chafing from hull movement under sail/power. The walkways in each deck have a balsa-core that is cut in 1 1/2 inch sections and held together on the backside by a vinyl adhesive. When these sections are layed up, the resin penetrates in between the individual sections forming an encapsulated piece. Warren said that should an area of the deck fracture and the core become impregnated with water, the damage would be isolated to a very small area that can be fixed. He showed us a core sample from a C42 hull that was removed for a depth sounder and it had to have been about 2 1/2" thick!!! All through-hull flanges are glassed into the mold on initial gell-coat layup and the mat and roving are added as the layup progresses. They manufacture all their interior wood (teak) framing and fiberglass molded head/galley components. We were very impressed with the overall quality and attention to detail that goes into these boats and are very glad we own one!!! They let us take some pictures of the hulls and production process but we had to agree not to distribute them. I would highly recommend that if you have a chance, that you take a tour of the facility (CA or FL).
A few months ago there was a post on the site about the C34 molds being shipped to the Florida plant. I asked Warren if production had started and he wasn't aware that the molds were being sent there. He thought they may be in-transit.
Today I was at Eastern Yacht Sales (South Shore Boston area dealer) and was told that the 34 is going into 'limited production' for 2008.
Anyway, that's my tale. As I mentioned, I'm sure glad I own a Catalina and feel very confident in the construction methods and overall quality of the boat!