There’s a very old joke that goes, “How do you make a million dollars in the marine industry?” Answer: “Start with three million dollars.”

It’s an old crusty relic of a joke, but it still resonates with great truth. There are countless boat manufacturers and building companies that have gone belly-up through the decades regardless of how the economy was faring at the time.

It’s a capricious industry and many believe that here in Southern California, in terms of established boat-building companies, there are two that stand head-and-shoulders above the fray — MacGregor Yachts and Catalina Yachts.

There may be others, but these two companies have their marketing model operating on a very high level, boasting thousands of boat sales per year throughout the nation.

On March 29th at the Catalina Yacht Anchorage in Marina del Rey, the company brass was on hand to celebrate the past and the future. Two boats were on display — the 1,000th Catalina 42 and the newly-designed Catalina 375.

The 42 represented Catalina’s achievement of being the only current manufacturer to produce more than 1,000 boats over 40 feet. And the 375 is a brand-new design that is replacing the very popular Catalina 36, of which over 2,300 were built.

The 36 is considered one of the most spacious, affordable and well-performing cruising boats on the market today, so replacing the model was a mission the designer treated with great importance.

“It’s a boat we’re very proud of and it’s a boat that’s really a reflection of what [Catalina 36 owners] told us is important about boats,” said Catalina designer Gerry Douglas, who is responsible for the design of the boat. “We listened to a lot of 36 owners.

“Many told us, we need a new boat. We need something to fill that spot that will have the same resonance and importance to the marketplace as the 36 did — a boat that’s perfect for a couple but also great for guests and family groups.

“So we developed a little focus group of Catalina 36 owners, really listened to what they had to say, then tried to distill all the important designable elements of the 36 into a brand new boat.”

The company states that the 375 is greater in both length and volume than any of the same size comparable models from the other leading manufacturers and it also has a larger engine, real teak wood interior and a larger cockpit than its competitors.

The 42 that sat opposite the 375 was not looking to impress anyone with a new and improved model, but was there rather to represent the attributes of a luxurious and enduring design.

“It’s a remarkable boat,” said Gary Willis, technical editor for the newsletter Mainsheet. “When we started looking for a boat we had a criterion. It had to be good-looking, and it had to sail well and fast, and had to be strong. It’s one of those classic boats that you love to row away from in a cove and just linger and look at it.”

While both boats on display looked forward and back, more than that, as they say, high on their lines, they were emblematic of a company that seems to thrive no matter what the rest of the market is doing. Today, Catalina Yachts has a strong owners association and loyal return customer quotient satisfying what owner Frank Butler set out to do back in the 1960s.

Having entered into the business by accident back in those days, Butler has always been in the business of making good quality affordable sailboats that mimic a Chevy sedan kind of an identity — not flashy, but solid, durable and safe.

For more about the Catalina line, www.catalinayachts.com/.

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