[PCW] Catfisher 28 and Catfisher 32 motor-sailer cats

Rod Gibbons rodgibbons at mindspring.com
Thu Dec 29 01:52:31 EST 2005

I owned the first Catfisher 32, and thereafter imported 15 additional 
models of the approximately 18 made by a small boat yard in Lymington 
along England's south coast. The last CF 32 was built in about '87 or '88.

Prior to ordering hull #1, I was crew aboard a Catfisher 28 for a 500 
miles cruise of the US East Coast. I liked the boat enough that I was 
convinced to order hull #1 before construction began on it.

Immediately upon taking delivery of CF-32 #1 in the UK, I set off on a 
9-month/9,000-mile, singlehanded voyage (western Europe, Windward and 
Leeward Islands, up to NYC, back down through the Bahamas thence to 
Florida -- thereafter I had the boat trucked to Seattle, WA.). Overall, 
I very much enjoyed the CF-32. Between the 2 boats I would not recommend 
the CF-28 unless it was due to a very appealing price. (i.e., under 
$40K). But even then, I'd warn you that the pitching motion aboard half 
of the CF28s built was quite pronounced. They made about 54 of the 
CF-28s (made by Fairways Marine, the manufacturer back in the '70s and 
'80s of the Fisher monohull North-Sea-style motorsailers). The 
Catfisher's designer, Terry Compton, told me that after about hull #25 
or so, the pitching motion (due to the builder's request for canoe 
sterns to match those of the Fisher monohulls), was severe enough that 
the builder thereafter added something like a vestigial swim platform at 
the aft end of each hull, at water's level, to dampen the pitching. 
Terry tells me it was a discernable, but modest improvement. If I recall 
correctly the LWL for the CF28 was about 24'. Conversely, the CF-32 had 
completely redesigned transoms that, like today's modern cat designs, 
were convex in shape, thus ADDING 4' of extra waterline to the boat. The 
bows still lifted noticeably when heading into a seaway, but the 
"rocking-horse" motion of the 28' was almost eliminated. And, the longer 
waterline increased performance under sail and under power. In essence, 
the CF-32 was the same boat as the 28, with simply an extension of the 
aft ends of each hull. However, that also allowed for appreciably larger 
aft cabins in each hull.

 From a sailing standpoint, the CF-32's sloop rig was MUCH better than 
the 28's ketch rig. I'm told that a very few of the CF28s were built 
with a sloop rig, but the public was keen for the supposed "benefits" of 
a ketch rig, just like the Fisher monohulls affected, and so all but a 
handful of the CF 28s were available only as a ketch. However, as I soon 
learned during my 500 mile cruise aboard one of the 28s, the ketch rig 
was waaayyyy under-canvassed. (Again, perhaps much more acceptable for 
the North Sea's stiff winds, but greatly inadequate for the typical 
summer breezes of North America.) Owners seldom bothered flying the 
mizzen sail (that's so long ago I forget -- that is the name of the aft 
sail on a ketch, yes?). As with most small boats fitted with a ketch 
rig, the aft mast served much more time as a clothes line, and cockpit 
handhold, or home of the radar reflector.

The engine setup on the CF28s -- a single diesel operating twin 
hydraulic props was great in theory, but cause of frequent complaints to 
the builder in actuality. Though one would think that properly 
installed, the hydraulics would be a nifty system, they had a reputation 
for leaking on the majority of CF28s. Boats could follow us in the fog 
just by posting someone at the following boat's bow and watching for the 
CF28's oil-drip-every-4-seconds on the water's surface. (One wanted to 
carry plenty of extra oil on the CF28s.) Also, the 28's aft cabins were 
really cramped (involving folding beds, Houdini-esque contortions, etc.) 
The forward double berths were "honeymoon doubles" -- I believe each of 
them were only about 48" wide. ON most of the CF32s, the fore-and-aft 
bulkhead between those two cabins was offset, allowing for a full 
queen-size bed on one side, and a roomy single on the other, with a 
"honeymoon double in the aft end of one hull, and a head with separate 
shower in the aft end of the other hull.

The CF-32s were equipped with about a 34 HP diesel, connected to a Sonic 
outdrive (as were many of the Prout catamarans up to 37' at that time, 
and all of the Gemini sailing cats of the past 10 years). I quite like 
that unit. You can raise it when sailing, yet when in the down position 
while powering or motorsailing, that lower unit pivots (like an outboard 
motor's leg), thus allowing for great maneuverability in tight quarters, 
yet with none of the drag or corrosion problems that can plague any boat 
with props that are fixed under the hull(s). CAVEAT:  the factory never 
did come up with a fully reliable lock-down for that power leg. So, 
shifting into reverse was always a slight crapshoot. As such, one was 
smart to enter cramped passageways and marinas at a low speed. If, in 
fact, the leg had not locked fully, a quick bit of legerdemain at the 
controls -- rapidly shifting into forward while goosing the throttle to 
ensure a locked drive leg, then just as quickly shifting back into 
reverse accompanied by an even stronger goose of the throttle to offset 
the just completed forward thrust -- was sporadically required. I recall 
the company even tried Volvo automobile engine-hood latches in its 
search for a reliable lock down. I suspect that the small hydraulic pump 
that Gemini now uses so effectively for its Sonic drive legs would be a 
shrewd retrofit for any current CF 32 buyer.

As a quite accurate rule-of-thumb, all well built sail-cruising cats of 
5 to 30 years old typically resell for the base boat price that the 
original buyer paid. If I recollect correctly, hull #1 of the CF 32 cost 
about $45K. Within 3 years time the US-list price for hull #18 
(excluding shipping) was about $85K. So, that's approximately the price 
you might consider paying for the CF32s, between #1 and #18. (That's why 
I'd say a CF28 priced over $40K is not a great buy.)

Under power the boat could cruise at 7.5 to 8.2 knots (1.25 GPH!!), and 
under sail alone I had mine up to as much as 12 knots. Going to 
windward, she was a GREAT performer with the engine turning over at just 
1000 RPM and the sails drawings. Under sail alone, I could always sail 
at at least 45% of the wind speed. (i.e., in 10 knots of wind she'd do 
4.5 knots...like any well-mannered monohull. But in 20 knots she'd 
deliver 9 knots, superior to most any similar length monohull). She 
tacked quite well without need of back-winding the jib. (No small thing 
among cats back then -- I remember offering a $10 payment anytime during 
a test sail if I were forced to back-wind the jib in order to come 
about....and never once having to make that payoff, though there were a 
couple of other brands of cats at that time that could NOT tack without 
back-winding the jib.)

The boats were offered in a wide variety of hull colors (as were the 
Fisher monohulls back then). I remember delivering CF 32s of the 
following colors:  dark blue, British racing green, coffee, turquoise 
(!), yellow (!!!) and black. Curiously, no one ever ordered a white one.

Worst features about the boat? Well, this is subjective, and I quite 
liked the "unique" styling....but there were more than a few sailors who 
thought the boat downright ugly. At the time, she was a bit spendy, too. 
I use to be berthed next to the Geminis back then at the Stamford and 
Annapolis sailboat shows. The CF 32 was always about 50% to 80% more 
expensive than the Gemini. The Gemini was always a knot or two faster 
under sail, but the CF32 was larger and more luxuriously equipped and 

Best features? Production built sailing (not to mention motorsailing) 
cats were very rare back then. So the monohull sailors were utterly 
amazed by how roomy the CF 32 was. The salon included standing headroom 
(very rare in sailing cats back then), but the BEST feature was the 
inside helm. I could (and did) sailin in conditions ranging from 
blizzards to blistering tropic sun, always comfortable in just a 
T-shirt. Whether hot or cold outside, within the salon was always more 
comfortable thanks to the fully enclosable (or near-fully openable) 
salon/helm compartment (opening windows on all four sides). Of course, 
there's also a cockpit helm position, too.

If someone were to offer a 36' or 37' version of the Catfisher today, I 
think it'd be a major success. (And I'd be first in line to sell/rep the 
boat here along the west coast.) What's more, with today's refined 
cat-hull designs and construction techniques, it could easily be made to 
offer both 14-knot sailing speeds and 12-knot powering speeds, truly the 
BEST of both worlds....and all with the no-heel, no rock-n-roll 
advantage of the catamaran design.

Production of the CF32 ceased in approximately 1988.

Smooth Cruising,

Rod Gibbons

>Today's Topics:
>   1. Sue and Graeme Gardner introduction (ggsg)
>   2. Fisher 28 Catfisher (Robert Deering)

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