Chris-Craft Catalina 23: One Sweet Ride

One of the most versatile and beloved boat designs of all time, center-console boats have a reputation for being rugged, utilitarian craft with a bend toward fishing. But what happens when we turn that concept on its head and mix in luxury and style? Some might think you’d get a boat that’s off the mark from the theme, compromising the center console’s generally practical, no-frills nature with too much cushiness. In the case of the Chris-Craft Catalina 23, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a center console that successfully blends luxury, style, elegance, and utility.

The first glimpse of the Catalina 23 will make you think "wow, that's sophisticated." And it is.

The first glimpse of the Catalina 23 will make you think “wow, that’s sophisticated.” And it is.

Most Chris-Crafts come out of the factory pretty well gussied up, but you can order the Catalina 23 just as basic as you like. That’s worth mentioning because folks who fish may want a less trimmed-out Catalina 23, while those with entertaining and lounging itineraries will likely want to check some of the cushier options boxes.

Our test boat was equipped to the nines, with faux-teak decking, a sport arch with a canvas Bimini soft top, an electric windlass, vinyl “sea grass” snap-in cockpit deck covers, a Yeti cooler, an electronics package, a head in the console, and an upgraded engine. Chris-Craft says they’ve not yet fitted this boat with teak that’s the real deal, but that “We’d do it for the right customer.”

There’s tons of seating aboard. Aft is a three-person bench at the transom; there’s room for two folks in the rugged helm seat; two more can sit ahead of the center console unit; and a huge, U-shaped lounge rounds out the bow area. Everything is upholstered exquisitely, feeling both comfortable and durable at the same time.

Even with all the luxury options, there are still plenty of fishing features. A wide transom door facilitates bringing big critters aboard, while rod holders—seven of them—are scattered around in convenient, easy-to-reach places. Fish boxes lie on both sides of the helm and a Yeti cooler underneath the helm seat can be used for smaller catches. So while you’re not likely to be running to the canyons for billfish with this boat, there are still plenty of accommodations for light-duty coastal and inshore fishing.

Our test craft had a 300-horsepower Mercury Verado that gave a speedy top end of around 60 mph and a cruise in the mid to upper 30s.

Our test craft had a 300-horsepower Mercury Verado that gave a speedy top end of around 60 mph and a cruise in the mid to upper 30s.

While we hit 60 with out test boat, keeping the engine options standard gets you a 250-horsepower Yamaha F250 four-stroke outboard that launches the Catalina 23 up to around 50 MPH on the top end, with a 30 MPH cruise. The Catalina’s deep-V hull and a bow that’s well flared allowed us to rush across Sarasota Bay in a moderate two-foot chop both smoothly and dryly, and the 21 degrees of transom deadrise split the oncoming waves stirred up by a large sportfishing yacht with ease. Cornering and tracking at speed are impressive, and handling the boat is delightful thanks to a beautiful stainless-steel destroyer wheel with a suicide-knob and steering that’s oh-so-easy but not mushy or vague-feeling.

It was difficult to find things not to like on the Catalina 23, but we did find a couple of areas for improvement. The pop-up cleats didn’t stay up when we came back in to the dock, so you need one hand to start the cleat hitch and one to keep the cleat up. The other nit-pick is helm size. Since the 23’s console is fairly low-slung the dash is a bit smaller than many others, and folks who want to install a larger multifunction display are going to run out of room for other electronics.

Those small things aside the Catalina 23 provided performance, handling, attention to detail, sophistication, and style. Whether you’re planning on fishing or sundowner cruising—or everything in between—it’s one sweet ride.

Other Choices: A similarly-sized center console that offers even more in the way of pizazz and luxury is the Vanquish 24. Those with a fishier attitude will gravitate towards boats like the Regulator 23.

For more information, visit Chris-Craft.

See Chris-Craft Catalina 23 listings on Boat Trader.

Length 23’6″
Beam 8’4″
Draft (hull) 1’4″
Deadrise 21 degrees
Displacement 4,484 lbs
Fuel capacity 103 gal.
Water capacity 13 gal.