Our Boat

Our boat is considered a “Coastal Cruiser”. If you are familiar with this term, or the term “Auxiliary Sailboat”, this article will be wasted on you. On the other hand, if you are not familiar with the terms, I will attempt to define them and more specifically describe our boat. We live in the beautiful Piedmont region of North Carolina where lakes are numerous. In conversations about our boat with friends and family, questions like “What do you pull it with?” or “Isn’t that a long way to pull a boat?” or even “Bring your boat along!” tell me that not everyone has a good understanding of either term. 

“Southern Star” is a Catalina 30, built by Catalina Yachts in Woodland Hills, California in 1983. She is roomy and comfortable for a 30-footer, and is well behaved under sail. She is 29’ 11” long and the displacement (weight) of her bare hull without water, fuel, crew or provisions is 10,200 lbs. She is actually on the small side as far as size but still, this is not a boat that you pull anywhere with a normal vehicle. Moving a boat this size requires a machine called a travelift to remove her from the water and a crane to un-step her mast. A hefty truck (at least 3/4 ton) with a specially designed trailer is required for the actual hauling. 

 The boat is of good quality but there are plenty of boats that are of higher (and lower) quality. On a scale from “Yugo” to “Mercedes” the C-30 is about a “Buick”. She is not designed to sail around the world, but rather to ply the more protected coastal areas like the areas that abound in coastal North Carolina. This is why we apply the term “Coastal Cruiser”. Every boat is a compromise. It is a balance among the features you want, what is available and what you can afford. A 45 foot blue water cruiser designed for ocean passages would be a pleasure to own but would be of little value for a weekend on the Pamlico Sound. Most of the boats at our dock are 30 to 36 feet.  Their ages range from nearly new to early seventies vintage. A fiberglass sailboat, properly maintained, will last a really long time.

Another important consideration (at least to us) is cost, both initial and on going. A boat broker once told me that when you purchase your boat, you have only paid the “entry fee”. Truer words were never spoken. It’s always something. I do the majority of the boat work myself which keeps the costs in a believable range, but there are some expenses that are based strictly on the size of the boat. For example, a halyard (rope for raising the sails) for a 30 foot boat may cost $75 but a halyard to perform the same function on a 40 footer might cost twice as much because it will be longer and bigger in diameter . When you travel and rent a slip, the cost is by the foot, so a larger boat is always going to cost more. As I said, every boat is a compromise. Larger boats are much more comfortable, they handle better in heavy weather, and typically have room for more niceties, gadgets and just plain stuff, so it’s all in what you are willing to pay for.

For many years before we purchased our boat, I had been researching, comparing and looking at boats. I was already familiar with the C-30 and knew it was a very likely possibility. When we started shopping, we looked at dozens of boats. I compared each one to the Catalina 30, and my comparisons typically favored the Catalina 30. My broker finally said that she thought I had already made the decision and I should simply wait until the right boat came on the market. I had an advantage here as well because C-30s are very common. They are well known and typically a good value.  I didn't have to wait long. We soon found a nice clean Catalina 30 living on Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, Her name was "Sea Breeze II" and she would become "Southern Star".

Now that we have established why we bought a Catalina 30, I will attempt to describe the vessel. All Catalina-30s come from the factory with pretty much the same features. I’m sure any broker could load one up with fancy things, but “Southern Star” is basically the stock version. The other term I promised to explain is “Auxiliary Sailboat”. This means that the boat has an auxiliary means of propulsion. Wind is free and a most excellent fuel, but sometimes you just have to crank that old "iron sail" to get out of a jam. It’s nearly impossible to back a 5 ton boat into a narrow slip under sail. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am saying it’s difficult even with the engine running. Our boat has a Universal (brand) M-25 diesel engine. It is a 3 cylinder 21 horsepower power plant that is a marine version of a Kubota tractor engine. The first time my son Jason heard the boat engine he said, “Dad! That sounds just like Grandpa’s tractor”. I said, “And there’s a reason for that, Son”. The diesel is preferred over gasoline for two reasons, safety and reliability. Safety, because diesel fumes, although unpleasant, are not volatile like gasoline. It is more reliable because there is no electrical ignition system. Less to go wrong equals more reliable.

“Southern Star” is self contained so that we could, and have lived aboard her for a considerable time. She has a galley (kitchen) complete with a stove, a sink with hot and cold pressurized water and built in ice box. Each slip at our dock has a 110 volt electrical outlet that provides 30 amp electrical service for the boats. The boat’s electrical system is 12 volt DC much like a modern camping trailer. There are two marine batteries. One battery is used primarily to crank the diesel and the other is for house power. Away from the dock, the batteries are charged by the engine’s charging system and at the dock, a built in battery charger keeps them “topped off”. When we are at the dock, we use electricity to heat water. When running, the diesel engine heats the water, so hot water is available even when we are at anchor without 110 volt power. The stove runs on alcohol and has two burners and an oven. The alcohol fuel is safer than propane because, again, the fumes are not volatile. The galley has drawers and cabinets just like the one at home although obviously smaller. The head (bathroom) is a miniature version of the one at home. There is a small toilet with a holding tank. It uses seawater for flushing. There is a sink and what I call a “telephone” shower because the showerhead looks like a telephone receiver complete with cord. When you use the shower onboard, the entire bathroom becomes a shower stall, so since our dock has very nice bathrooms, we don’t use the boat’s shower except when we are at anchor or docked where facilities are not available.

So far, our boat has either met or exceeded expectations. She is well suited for what we are doing now and plan to do in the near future. In coastal North Carolina there are many destinations that we can easily reach in a day and we have covered only a handful so far. When we travel to the coast we always have a place to stay. We can honestly say that our “beach house” as a 360 degree view of the water. We enjoy being around the water, the boats and the people. I even enjoy the chores that seem never ending. There is always something to do on a boat, even if it's just relaxing.

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