by Bob McCullough
November, 1997
(edited December 2010)

Catalina 36! What thoughts are provoked when we hear those words spoken? When did Frank Butler (Catalina Yachts) build the first Catalina 36? When did the National Association come into being? When were the local fleets first formed?

To find the solution to these questions I went in search of answers. A call to Catalina Yachts elicited the answer that hull #1 was built in 1982 as a 1983 model. And as of November 1997, 1,687 Catalina 36s have been built! [Ed Note: Hull #2305, the last C36 made, was completed in November 2006]

In 1985, Mainsheet was in its third volume. Subscription to Mainsheet was through Catalina Yachts. Years before the establishment of the Catalina 36 National Association, Janet Herren of Bainbridge, WA served as the Mainsheet editor gathering tidbits from owners around the country. It wasn't until April of 1989 that the National Association was formed. Allan Elliot from Marina del Rey, CA took the initiative to put an ad in the August Mainsheet for prospective Catalina 36 association members and received forty-one responses before the next issue. He took on the responsibilities of Commodore, Secretary and Tech Editor while Garry Willis, also of Marina del Rey became the Rear-Commodore and Janet stayed on as Association Editor. They started trying to organize the different fleets by getting list of Catalina 36 owners and providing them to people around the country in order to make contacts. They went to work on developing a set of by-laws to organize the fleets. By February the national fleet had grown to over 100.

In February 1990, Fleet 1 was formed with 10 original member boats. Originally listed as being the Marina del Rey and King Harbor, CA area, with Garry Willis as Fleet Captain, Fleet 1 is now listed as Santa Monica Bay, CA. On April 13, skippers of Catalina 36s met at Shoreline Yacht Club in Long Beach to form Fleet 2 to cover the area of Long Beach, CA. Bob Butts was elected Fleet Captain.

So far, all the activity had been on the West Coast. Naturally, with the builder located in Woodland Hills, this was to be expected. West Coast domination wasn't to last very long, however. Bob McCullough's article about his new Catalina 36 in the May 1990 issue of Mainsheet ended with a call to all Catalina 36 in the Chesapeake Area to contribute to Mainsheet. In mid June Allan Elliott visited Back Yard Boats in Annapolis with a group of 10 Catalina 36 owners from that area and Chesapeake Bay Fleet 3 came into being. At the meeting Fleet 3's first captain Stan Coloff took on being interim Captain. Later Ed Hoffman was elected full time. A single fleet to cover over 100 miles of Bay was indeed a giant undertaking. Covering such a large area it did, Fleet 3 drew its members from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

Around the same time frame, Fleet 4, Washington State, Puget Sound, was being organized by Lloyd and Judy Wiebe. This fleet has since disbanded and is in the process of re-organizing. Let's hope that Fleet 4 can make a comeback.

The Fleet 5 name was assigned to Connecticut and Long Island Sound and announced in the November issue of Mainsheet. Jean and Don Flintzer along with Ernie Ortiz were organizing it.

Already in 1990 the fleets were participating in their group activities. Fleet 1 held their first annual Show 'n Tell in May when they boarded each other's boats to "learn about the cleverness of Cat owners." They also attended the Catalina Rendezvous at Catalina Island in July. They had speakers at their meetings tell them about bottom paint and diesel engine care. Later Gerry Douglas, chief Designer of Catalina Yachts, talked to a SRO gathering of Fleet 1 members giving them advice from his encyclopedic mind of Catalina yacht details. Enough members participated in the Home Port Regatta at Marina del Rey that Catalina 36 had its own class. Fleet 3 held summer raft-ups and published its first newsletter that summer. Sandy Wagner of Fleet 3 also initiated the "Catalina Owners Association booth at the Annapolis Sailboat Show in October. Free one-year subscriptions to Mainsheet were given out.

Exactly when was the first C-36 National Regatta held? The first announcement for a National Championship Regatta appeared in the February 1991 issue of Mainsheet. This was to be held jointly with the C-34 National Association on August 23-25 at the Seal Beach Yacht Club in Long Beach, CA. The actual race entry form appeared in the May 1991 issue.

By then, Catalina 36 had authorized another fleet. Fleet 6 San Diego was formed with Jay Goodwin as Fleet Captain. With 10 boats attending the first organizational meeting at the Kona Kai International Yacht Club, Allan Elliott and his wife Elsie joined them to help in the organizational efforts. At that time we still did not have a regular technical column. Allan Elliot was answering letters and handling membership renewals as well as he could. That was not very surprising since the National Association was just barely one year old and still feeling its way. Along about the end of May 1991, Bob McCullough was asked if he would take on the job of Technical Editor. He said yes and is still doing the job; after all, Bob is "retired and has lots of time to do as little as possible." In the August 1991 issue of Mainsheet Bob started his first official column (he had written previous articles for Mainsheet) talking about his electrical upgrades on Felicity II.

The first Catalina 36 National Regatta was held August 25-27, 1991. Ken Dutcher and his crew won the Spinnaker Class with Paniola (cowboy in Hawaiian) and John Olson and his crew won the Cruiser Class on Katinka. It had taken almost a year of planning but it was a complete success. The partying, camaraderie and newfound friends were truly a wonderful experience.

With the National Association nearing its second birthday it was time for elections of new officers. Garry Willis became our new commodore and Don Kelly was elected Vice-Commodore. Ed and Beverly Hoffman filled the new office of Secretary/Treasurer. Janet Herren turned the job of Association Editor over to Marci Willis and Bob McCullough continued as Technical Editor.

In February of 1992 Mainsheet was 10 years old. The cover of the February issue was a collection of earlier Mainsheet covers. The magazine had developed into a beautiful, slick production magazine that represents all the Catalinas from the smallest Capri to the largest Catalina.

By 1992 we had added three more fleets: Fleet 7, Newport Beach and Dana Point, Fleet Captain Ken Dutcher; Fleet 8, Gulf Coast, organized under Randy Weaver; and Fleet 9, San Francisco Bay, CA, Fleet Captain Agusto Bianchi. Fleets 1, 3 and 6, all sound and very active had started their rotation of officers, each electing new ones for 1992. Fleet 1 continued to be most active with monthly meetings as well as on-the-water activities for 9 months out of the year (the envy of all the northern fleets). Letters were pouring in from around the country to Tech Editor Bob McCullough as he answered them in each issue of Mainsheet. By mid year Fleet 2 had reorganized and was captained by Mary-Anne Wilson. Fleet 5 participated in the awesome Operation Sail in New York Harbor on July 4th weekend witnessing the parade of tall ships and the New York City Macy's fireworks display from the water at night.

The C36 Nationals continued to be held in California. Racing was done under our July 1991 Second Edition of the Constitution, By Laws and Rules. The National Regatta Chairman was Past Commodore Allan Elliott as the 1992 Regatta was hosted by 1991 champ Ken Dutcher and Fleet 7 at the Balboa Yacht Club in Newport Beach. Sixteen Catalina 36s attended the regatta. 1992's winners were Mary-Anne Wilson, Spinnaker Division and Phil Rojas, Cruising Division. Meanwhile, on the East Coast Fleet 3 held its own Regatta with five boats participating and being won by Jeff and Sandy Wagner.

In 1993, the association officers changed again. Ken Dutcher was elected (railroaded) Commodore with Garry Willis becoming Past Commodore. Marci Willis stayed on as Association Editor and Bob McCullough was still writing the Tech Talk column. Actually Garry took over the job of Mainsheet Editor and Ed and Bev Hoffman remained as Secretary/Treasurer. The national association fulfilled another of its promised advantages of membership by offering a sizable discount on Martec feathering props to all members.

Fleet 1 moved its monthly meetings to the Santa Monica Yacht Club on Tuesday nights to avoid interfering with the Wednesday night "beer can races." Catalina 36 had the greatest representation at the Catalina Rendezvous "Pirates of the Catalinas" at Isthmus at Catalina Island in July. Fleet 2 hosted the National Regatta at the Long Beach Yacht Club in August with 12 boats entering. Mary Anne Wilson again took Spinnaker Division honors with Dave and Jan Polancic winning the Cruising Division. Fleet 7 hosted the second annual Fall Cruise to White's Cove in Catalina in October in which all three Los Angeles area fleets participated.

During the year the entire Mainsheet staff, Editor Jim Holder and Associate Editor Carol VandenBerg moved from California to Virginia, all the way across the country. Welcome to the East Coast and its four seasons. No more year-round sailing for them.

In 1994 the Association Officers again changed. The election process really works. Bob McCullough became Commodore (and still Tech Editor). Ken Dutcher moved to Past Commodore. Bob and Association Editor Garry Willis were able to meet along with Fleet 5 and Fleet 3 members at Sail Expo in Atlantic City, the start of a new tradition. Fleet 1 boasted of 32 members early in the year and grew to 42 by year's end while Fleet 9 came in with 36! The Nationals were held on the East Coast for the very first time. Arrangements were made to hold the regatta at Newport, RI in August. Fleet 5 and The Narragansett Bay Yachting Association hosted with the races conducted by the New York Yacht Club. Taking first place honors in a fleet of nine racers was Dave Cleverly. Following the regatta Thom Reeves was asked to become Association Editor to replace Garry Willis who had moved up to a Catalina 42. At the same time a Western Regional Regatta was held in Southern California to replace the National Regatta. Fleet 1 hosted it at the Windjammers Yacht Club. Phil and Ouida Rojas again won the regatta.

Also in 1994, the Association again undertook to revise the 1991 Constitution. There had been a number of ambiguities and some misspellings. After a lot of review and talk, the third revision was issued in February 1995. This revision spelled out the Association's wish to make a level racing field and to keep the ownership and racing costs at an affordable level. The new constitution also called for a re-definition of the officers and their responsibilities. We now have a Commodore, Vice-Commodore, Secretary/Treasurer, Past Commodore, and for the first time, the Technical Editor and the Association Editor became officers. They all comprise the Governing Board.

The officers for 1995 were Bob McCullough, Commodore; Jean Flintzer, Vice-Commodore; Ed and Bev Hoffman, Secretary/Treasurer; Ken Dutcher, Past Commodore; Bob McCullough, Technical Editor; and Thom Reeves, Association Editor. With most of the officers living on the East Coast a meeting/social event became a regular at Atlantic City's Sail Expo at Angelos Fairmount Tavern. It was co-hosted by the national association and Fleet 5.

In February of 1995 Fleet 10 in Hawaii was in the process of organizing. And by August of that year Fleet 11, Cape Cod, MA was organizing.

The huge success of the first East Coast Regatta prompted us to alternate coasts each year. The 1995 National Regatta returned to Long Beach Yacht Club and Nine Sails West in August. Our Commodore Bob McCullough attended and at Ken Dutcher's request skippered Paniolo to a win.

There was no 1996 regatta due to a glitch in scheduling. By now we had another local fleet. Fleet 12, Lake Michigan, had formed under the able leadership of Bill and Maria Wertz. Fleet 12 is part of the greater Lake Michigan Catalina Association. While participation in the Catalina Rendezvous had always been great at Catalina Island, Catalina Yachts began hosting an East Coast rendezvous. In 1995 the venue was Newport. But in 1996 they went to the Chesapeake to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore with some success even though inclement weather was a problem.

In 1997 Jean Flintzer was elected Commodore and Phil Rojas, Vice-Commodore. Phil hails from Manhattan Beach, CA. Then we had officer representation on both sides of the country. At the annual meeting at Sail Expo in Atlantic City the Vice Commodores, the Rojas', were flown in from California for the event. Fleet 12 hosted the 1997 National Regatta on Lake Michigan attended by Commodore Jean Flintzer and her husband Don. Ruth and Roger Teerman won the trophy.

In the summer of 1997 Ed and Bev Hoffman resigned as Secretary/Treasurer. The job was taken over by Fred and Dot Salzberg from Fleet 5. We thank Ed and Bev for their many years of service to the Association.

There are great plans afoot for the 1998. All the officers will meet again at Sail Expo with a special presentation for ex Secretary/Treasurers, Ed and Bev Hoffman. The National Regatta will be held in Long Island Sound in August at Pilots Point Marina hosted again by Fleet 5 and the Duck Island Yacht Club in Westbrook, CT.

The Catalina 36 family has been growing. Going into our tenth year we have strong, active fleets on both coasts as well as on Lake Michigan. According to our Tech Editor we now have boats and correspondents in the UK, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands and Hawaii. We are now an international organization and may soon change our name to IC36A, International Catalina 36 Association.

It is now December 2010. Several years have passed since I wrote this history. So much time has passed and the C36 is no longer built. There have been many changes to our beloved boats. There has been a so-called MK 1-1/2 with the sugar scoop stern. Then the MKII appeared with the same stern. There were changes to the interior as well,but the hull below the water line stayed the same. Not enough to make a great difference but it resulted in squatter stern. It was still a C36 though.

Another change was in the aft cabin. It was became a stand-up cabin with more room but I have heard it is still used mostly for storage. Another change is in the electrical systems. Better electrical panels have made it easier to handle upgrades and for the owners to install anything they want to put a heavier load on their batteries.

In-mast furling is now a standard and in-boom furling was also offered. There have been changes in propulsion. Whereas Universal-Medalist used to be the standard engine, Yanmar engines are on the C375. Westerbeke bought out Universal but they continued to make the Universal engines for Catalina.

Gerry Douglass, Vice-President of Catalina Yachts and the designer of the C36, brought out a C350 which the C36ers thought would go well with the 36, but no go. Now there is a C375 which has been welcomed by The C36IA, a boat that maybe can keep up with them. It seems very much as if they can. The new association is now called the Catalina 36/375 International Association, C36/375IA. Sounds pretty good to me.

There have been new fleets formed with appropriate growth in the existing fleets. They number from Fleet 1 through Fleet 12, no feet 13, and fleet 14 through Fleet 16. Besides the local fleets, we have members from all over the world. There are now East Coast and West Coast rendezvous taking place. Mainsheet, the Catalina owner’s magazine, has also grown in size and scope. The addition of a pull-out technical section is a much-used addition for all size Catalinas.

And special thanks to each of our dedicated Commodores:

  • Allan Elliott 1989-1991
  • Garry Willis 1992
  • Ken Dutcher 1993
  • Bob McCullough 1994-1996
  • Jean Flintzer 1997-1998
  • Phil Rojas 1999-2002
  • Brian Giersch 2003-2004
  • Dennis Stovall 2005-2006
  • Tom Sokoloski 2007-2009
  • Chic Lasser 2010
  • Duane Ising 2011-2012
  • Laura Olsen 2013-present