1981 Catalina 30' Sailboat Basic Operations Manual




Introduction: 1981 Catalina 30' Sailboat Basic Operations Manual

About: I'm a total gearhead. I love working on cars, airplanes, rockets, sailboats, whatever. Cars i've owned and/or rebuilt: 1966 Pontiac Grand Prix, 1977 Lotus Esprit, 1979 Fiat X1/9 & Strada, 1970 Ford Bronco...

Since 1974 over 7000 of these Catalina 30' sailboats have been built and are still in use today.   In comparison with other 30 footers they are one of the roomiest and best performing boats.    When I bought my first Catalina I had no idea, nor where to find instructions on how to use most of the systems on this older boat.   On the first day, my friend and i were going thru the compartments and flipping switches without knowing what we were doing.  Unfortunately, one of the switches we turned off was labeled the "Shower Sump", and a week later we had about 3 inches of water in the bottom of the boat because the bilge pump was wired (bad design) to the shower sump switch.
In order to mitigate further disasters we hired an experienced Captain who spent time with us going over all systems and operations of the boat.   His favorite expression was "follow the hose cause the hose always knows".  

This instructable goes over some of the basic operations any Catalina owner should understand.

NOTE: Systems will vary from boat to boat so parts of this instructable may not be applicable.


Step 1 - Before starting engine, locate yellow handled valve in bottom of engine compartment, which should be in the down closed position. ( image 1)

Step 2 - Rotate yellow handle into up (open) position to allow the sea water to come in and cool the engine. (image 2)

Step 3 - Check engine oil level by opening the side access door and pulling out the oil dip stick. (image 3 & 4)

Step 4 - Open front access panel and check that alternator belt is tensioned firmly. (image 5)

Step 5 - Make sure gear (black spherical handle) is in vertical (neutral) position and throttle (red spherical handle) is also in vertical position. (image 6)

Step 6 - Insert key into ignition and rotate clockwise just before engine cranks.  At the same time hold up the Glow Plug switch for about a minute (only for cold starts). There will be a loud buzzing sound due to low engine oil pressure which is normal before the engine starts. (image 7)

Then rotate the key to crank the engine and after starting release the key.  After you've run the engine for a few minutes you should be able to stop and start it quickly without having to hold up the Glow Plug switch.

Step 7 - Once engine starts check to see if water is flowing out the back exhaust port. If no water is flowing for about a minute, it is recommended that you shut engine down to prevent heat damage, and have a mechanic inspect the impeller.

Step 1 - Move yellow handled engine water lever to off switch in engine compartment.

Step 2 - After about 15 seconds (required to flush water out of the system) move red handled throttle all the way back and down to cut fuel off to the engine.

Step 3 - As soon as engine stops, oil pressure warning will sound and turn ignition key into off position.


Option 1 - Electrical

Despite the name the switch actually powers the bilge pump required to dump water overboard. When the propellor spins, water is normally allowed into the boat to lubricate the shaft. (image 1)

Option 2 - Hand pump

You can mechanically pump water out of the boat with your hand using the handle located in the compartment with the robotic arm.  (image 2 & 3)


Access to the knot meter (orange cable)  is located in the bilge area. Be very careful when replacing because water will rush in very quickly. Use the red capped plug shown in the image to plug the hole when you remove the knot meter.


OPTION 1 - Onshore  

Step 1: AC electric outlets are located on either side of the midcabin.

Step 2: You'll need to use a power cord to operate appliances like the microwave, coffee maker, toaster, etc.
(image 1)

OPTION 2 - Offshore

Step 1: Next to the control panel there is a 12 volt system similar to the old car lighters that you can plug a small inverter into, but you are very limited to low powered/amperage devices like computers and phone chargers. 
(image 2)


Behind the microwave in the first image is the switch to the onboard water heater.


This boat came equipped with the Adler Barbour refrigerator and the temperature is regulated with the switch located in the top back corner of the icebox shown in the following image. Recommend shutting this off on long sailing trips as it will consume a lot of battery power.


OPTION 1 - Pump out at fuel station.

Step 1: Unlock and open the life jacket locker and locate the gate valve located near the macerator.

Step 2: Rotate it counter clockwise into the open position. (image 1)

Step 3: Fuel attendant will then pump out waste from waste hole access located on port deck.

Step 4: After tank is emptied close the valve.

OPTION 2 - Use Macerator (ie, garbage disposal) to dump waste overboard.

Step 1: Make sure you're at least the legal 3 miles away from the shore line.

Step 2: Check that the valve in option 1 is in closed position.

Step 3: Locate waste through-hole valve located in compartment underneath ladder in the cabin. You'll need to remove the aft cushions to get access.

Step 4: Rotate blue handle into up (open) position. (image 3)

Step 5: Locate Macerator switch on instrument panel (image 4) and turn on until it sounds like the tank is empty. Sounds very much like a garbage disposal.

Step 6: Turn off Macerator switch.

Step 7: Rotate blue handle back into down (close) position.

NOTE: Failure to follow this procedure will result in the Macerator motor burning out.


OPTION 1 - Dry Flush

Step 1: Make sure red handle is in PUMP DRY position and pump handle. (image 1)

OPTION 2 - Fresh Water Flush

Step 1: Make sure red handle is in FlUSH position and pump handle. This will pull in water from the water holding tanks.

Step 2: If you want to use more water turn the Pressure Water switch to ON and fill the bathroom sink, which will drain into the toilet.  (image 2)

OPTION 3 - Ocean Water Flush (not recommended because of the smell of algae reacting with waste)

Step 1: Locate access panel (image 3)

Step 2: Rotate red handle counter clockwise into open position. Position shown in image 4 is closed. 

Step 3: Make sure red handle is in FLUSH position and pump handle. This will pull in water from the ocean.

Step 4: After you've flushed, rotate red handle clockwise into closed position.

NOTE: You'll see cone shaped pieces of wood all over the boat like the one taped to the hose in the above image. These are used to clog up holes in case of emergency leaks, etc.


OPTION 1 - Flush to the holding tank.

Step 1: Locate Y- Valve underneath port side cushion next to the removable table in the main cabin.  

Step 2: Blue handled lever should be pushed all the way towards the boat (closed position) and red taped handle should be NOT be aligned with red taped blue pipe. (image 1)

Step 3: Then flush according to one of the 3 flushing procedures.

OPTION 2 - Flush to the outside.

Step 1: Make sure you're at least 3 miles away from the shore line.

Step 2: Locate Y- Valve underneath port side cushion next to the removable table in the main cabin.

Step 3: Rotate blue handle towards you to open valve to sea and red taped handle should be be aligned with red taped blue pipe.  (image 2)

Step 4: Then flush according to one of 3 flushing procedures.




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    4 Discussions

    I have repaired quite a few of them, A lotta things going on in a 30 Footer. I nicknamed them " Lacerater 30's " Great Boats.

    you are amazing, thank you.

    Nice checklist.

    FYI these are "through hulls" not "through holes". :-)

    Thanks for this, just bought a Catalina 30 myself and I need to learn the ropes!