Jump to content

Frank Butler - 8 bells


Recommended Posts

Can't say DTS since Butler was 92. He has had a huge impact on sailing, particularly in North America. Under his leadership Catalina built 85,000 boats. His company has survived at times when most others went belly-up.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Another sad day. He really got it right with his boats - as proven by the number built and the number of years they were built.

Offhand I can't think of another manufacturer in North America who lasted the way Catalina has - and very few worldwide.

A very smart and shrewd man - the world is poorer for his passing.

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Fair winds, Mr. Butler. 

I own C50 #19 (1991), which was Frank's personal yacht for the first 10 years of its existence. Needless to say, I feel an obligation to keep her in good shape in Mr. Butler's honor.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

I was thinking about Frank the other day. I got to sail with Gary Swenson on the Catalina 30 super tall rig with bow sprit. I remember doing the Whitney series in it. Frank sold a shit load of those floating condos.
Then the Catalina 38 (old Yankee 38), completely stripped out, named "The Hound Dogs on my Trail"

Yep, lots of good times to remember.

Link to post
Share on other sites
38 minutes ago, SloopJonB said:

 

A very smart and shrewd man - the world is poorer for his passing.

But richer from the impact of his existence.

Good boats for the masses at a reasonable price. Hard to believe that his business model still works after 6 decades...RIP

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Sail4beer said:

But richer from the impact of his existence.

Good boats for the masses at a reasonable price. Hard to believe that his business model still works after 6 decades...RIP

Good value for money, active solicitation of customer feedback, and continuous improvement is a pretty timeless recipe for success. No guarantee, of course, but a damned good place to start. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sad news.  For some years, the day to day running of the business has been in the hands of Sharon Day and Gerry Douglas.  As a past commodore of the C-42 fleet, I had opportunities to work with them several times. Catalina has long been a "family" of close friends and business associates all focused on the customer experience and a good boat, well priced.  The sailing world will miss Frank greatly.  He did find the magic line between "cheap and nasty " and "bespoke but unaffordable" and eared massive customer loyalty.  Many, many owners of larger Catalinas started with a smaller and older Catalina.  You have to earn that loyalty.  

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
Catalina Yachts Announces Loss of CEO Frank W. Butler
Woodland Hills, CA – November 15, 2020 – Catalina Yachts today issued the following statement:
It is with great sadness that we announce that Frank Willis Butler, President and Chief Executive Officer of Catalina Yachts, passed away November 15, 2020 in Westlake Village, CA, due to unexpected complications from a recent illness. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Frank's family. Our thoughts are with them at this most difficult time.
A sailing icon and industry “kingspoke”, Frank Butler has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to sailing during his lifetime. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Frank have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Frank leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Catalina Yachts.
***
Born in California in 1928, Frank’s line of popular sailboats put more than 85,000 Catalinas on the water throughout the yachting world. His boatbuilding career began in 1962, when he contracted with a Southern California builder for a 21’ daysailer. The builder was unable to finish the boat, and gave Butler the tooling. He completed building the boat himself, found he enjoyed the process, and agreed to take over the company.
A few years later he founded Catalina Yachts, which has grown to become the largest builder of fiberglass production sailboats in the United States, a position it holds to this day.
A key to Butler’s success in the sailboat industry was his attention to Catalina customers. Handling warranty issues himself, owners were nearly always surprised and reassured to get a personal call from Frank to discuss their concerns.
Butler was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2013. In recognition of his support of the Congressional Cup, a world match racing event, Long Beach Yacht Club awarded him the Crimson Blazer. He was also a founder and lifelong member of the Westlake Yacht Club in Westlake, CA.
Following his graduation from Glendale High School, he served in the US Navy. He met his wife, Jean, at a school dance; they recently celebrated their 71st anniversary.
Frank is survived by Jean, their four daughters, Deborah Reese, Mary Linn, Nancy Bear, and Karen Butler; three sons, David, Robert and Steve; 20 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.
Awakening the joy of sailing for so many people in past generations, Frank Butler’s sailing legacy will certainly continue well into in future generations.
 
  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

End of an era, indeed. I last spoke with Mr. Butler at the Annapolis Boat Show about 11~12 years ago, and he had slowed down a bit but why would he retire when he loved doing what he did? He remembered Mrs Steam, with whom he had discussed a medical procedure of vital interest years before. After meeting him at a Boat Show back in the early 1990s, every time we went to one of the 'biggies' (which I don't make a habit of) we stopped by Catalina to see if he was present and he always had a minute or two to chat.

Super nice guy, and I don't think there is any bigger success story in the sailboat business.

FB- Doug

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sad news indeed. I just came in from an awesome fall day sailing my 1987 Catalina 30 hull number 4884. 

92?  85,000 boats? Well done. 

sail on Mr. Butler. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

he was a good man. my father won 3 different cat30 nationals in the 80's, we knew the catalina brand well. great boat to grow up on doing island weekends as a kid. the 192 rating on the other hand.. man were they pigs. i had a few saturday nights under sail doing N2E which was painful. fair winds frank.

Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Sail4beer said:

He designed a nice home for me 

1D8121C3-FE0C-432E-A264-3774B0814CAF.jpeg

39F77515-D9FC-4841-AEFA-1CC14DD01D67.jpeg

E661D509-A50F-462A-837E-D11D099CABE6.jpeg

The best lay out for the Cat 42, which I think is the best sailing of the Catalina range.

Truly an Icon of American Yacht building. I think I can safely say that in 30 years of surveying yachts in California, I have surveyed more Catalinas than any other brand.  Many of them complete pieces of shit.  But man he put more people in boats than anyone, possibly excepting MacGregor.

Fair winds Frank.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Hitchhiker said:

The best lay out for the Cat 42, which I think is the best sailing of the Catalina range.

Truly an Icon of American Yacht building. I think I can safely say that in 30 years of surveying yachts in California, I have surveyed more Catalinas than any other brand.  Many of them complete pieces of shit.  But man he put more people in boats than anyone, possibly excepting MacGregor.

Fair winds Frank.

blister city iirc.

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, bigrpowr said:

he was a good man. my father won 3 different cat30 nationals in the 80's, we knew the catalina brand well. great boat to grow up on doing island weekends as a kid. the 192 rating on the other hand.. man were they pigs. i had a few saturday nights under sail doing N2E which was painful. fair winds frank.

Tall or short rig?

I was on a tall in '85? in Pedro and we got second. The year before the boat got a chevron (or was it a diamond).

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, bigrpowr said:

blister city iirc.

My buddy's C320 got a case of the pox about 10 years after he bought it new. He called Catalina to ask them about it and they said they'd get back to him. Lo and behold, he gets a call from Frank Butler himself telling him that Catalina will pay for a complete strip job and epoxy barrier coat.  

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember talking with Frank about a friends Catalina, it was relatively new that had cracking in radiusses and around some deck fittings.

He aked me a few questions to establish thatI if I knew what I was talking about and was satisfied,  2-3 days later arrived the factory batched gelcoat to do the fix.

Man knew how to stand firmly behind his product and he was well aware that while bad news could travel fast looking after the customer would pay in spades.

Its a great shame more CEO's especially in the marine biz, didn't go through the Frank Butler School of Customer Service.

Link to post
Share on other sites

What an amazing force in the business.   Went to the factory in the late 80's to beef up a fleet of Coronado 15's we bought for our sailing school (i.e.: 2" x 4" 's under the foredeck, beefy chainplate and mast steps, etc. etc.)   Frank was right in there with us with ideas.   You would have thought we were buying a fleet of his big boats.   My favorite part was his "spanglish".

The scale of the operation was amazing.    '

Great guy .... great life!   Sail on Frank!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

My first 'real boat' was a '74 Catalina 27. It was cheaper than a single house payment, had a solid hull, no smile, and about a hundred things wrong with it, a couple of them design flaws, a couple having to do with it being a 35 year old boat.  I learned how to fix most of those things on my own.  It was dead simple and easy to sail, and if a repair job had gone totally to shit, well, I was out a mortgage payment.  I now have a boat that is superior in every way except cost and simplicity... but I still miss that Catalina.  It was a very good boat for the inshore / coastal sailing we did.  What a great design, and man, did it put some people out on the water and bring them home again smiling.  Can't pay a boatbuilder a higher compliment than that.

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites

Building sailboats is a tough business, it's quite an accomplishment that Catalina Yachts has survived, constantly improved its products and created so much customer good will through all the ups and downs.  I owned a C-27 for 10 years, a C-380 for 15 years, and my in-laws owned a C-34 for 12 years.   We had a lot of good times with these boats, they were pretty forgiving and relatively easy to maintain.  I met Frank at a Catalina rendezvous at Two Harbors a number of years ago.  I contacted the factory once about something I needed for my 27, I don't remember what now, but I do remember they were helpful.

Fair winds Frank.

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, flyingdog said:

Tall or short rig?

I was on a tall in '85? in Pedro and we got second. The year before the boat got a chevron (or was it a diamond).

standard rig. i think san pedro was 86 we got 2nd . i forget their names but there was a trio from long beach that owned a tall rig and raced there. good bunch. my dad won 85, 87 and 88 .

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Cristoforo said:

What you say is true!  If you have only been looking up your own asshole!  You continually say dumb Trumpian shit like this. Try Googling Catalina sailboat blisters.  Sure Frank Butler was a great guy. He wasn’t fucking Jesus. 

You seem pretty wound up over what a random dude is saying on the internet.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, climenuts said:

You seem pretty wound up over what a random dude is saying on the internet.

He really lost it when I put the asshole on ignore.

From what I see when people quote him like this he is virtually a stalker.

It would be kind of amusing if it wasn't so pathetic.

Link to post
Share on other sites
A quick Frank Butler story- Frank had the corner office in his Victory Blvd factory. As you might expect the office was adorned with a beautiful desk, bookshelves, an elegant executive chair and stunning leather couches and chairs. Very swanky.
 
But what you may not expect was that those same leather couches were covered in warranty items customers had submitted for replacement or repair. I am talking barnacle-covered Catalina 30 rudders, old 1:19 chalky wire rigging, and various other items people felt were defective. I was 26 years old and Frank had set us up as a dealer two years prior in Long Beach, CA. He and I had a wonderful bond and shared a propensity to bet on silly things. Bets that went on for literally 25 years. While sitting in Frank's office one morning waiting to talk about the upcoming spring sailing season Frank took a call from a Coronado 15 owner that had submitted a rudder for warranty. Frank put the customer on speaker so that he could get up and inspect said rudder for defects. He picked the rudder up off one of the couches while he continued to ask the customer (Robert) what had happened. I could clearly see from where I was sitting that there was a horizontal hairline crack in the rudder. "Robert" when on to tell Frank that he and his wife were just out sailing in Marina del Rey, CA and when they took the rudder off the back of the boat they noticed the crack.
Continuing on the speakerphone Frank seemed amused although I had no idea why. Frank told Robert that "Yes, we will honor the warranty and send you a new rudder..." Then Frank flipped the rudder around so I could see the other side which clearly had a tire tread print across it... Then Frank said "Robert, next time be more careful where you drive your car..." and promptly hung up the phone... Frank's smile was ear to ear like the Cheshire cat. I learned a valuable business lesson that day. Miss you Frank...
  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn, I'm sorry to read this.

I kept telling @Hike, Bitches! to send Catalina photos of his pristine C-30. He owns one of the earliest boats and has given it love like no one else. It's practically a museum piece. I owned a Coronado 25 also designed by Butler. It was a great boat to learn and cruise locally on.

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, bigrpowr said:
On 11/18/2020 at 10:32 PM, SloopJonB said:

I have literally never seen a Catalina getting a blister job done.

it was a recurring theme on our boat, and many others who owned them. it was an 1984 cat 30 , purchased new.

I think my location affects my experience with blisters. The cold water apparently reduces the likelihood of catching them.

I've only seen a handful of boats here with really terminal acne - the worst was a modified Evetts 1/2 Ton which was especially odd since he was a good builder. It looked more like smallpox than acne.

As I said, I have literally never seen a Catalina getting a full on blister job and that's after 45 years of hanging out in boatyards. The 27's were built here under license so that too may have affected it.

I have also seen way more C&C smiles than Catalina smiles.

If all CEO's followed Butlers methods rather than the Harvard B-School the world would be a much better place.

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, SloopJonB said:

I think my location affects my experience with blisters. The cold water apparently reduces the likelihood of catching them.

I've only seen a handful of boats here with really terminal acne - the worst was a modified Evetts 1/2 Ton which was especially odd since he was a good builder. It looked more like smallpox than acne.

As I said, I have literally never seen a Catalina getting a full on blister job and that's after 45 years of hanging out in boatyards. The 27's were built here under license so that too may have affected it.

I have also seen way more C&C smiles than Catalina smiles.

If all CEO's followed Butlers methods rather than the Harvard B-School the world would be a much better place.

+1. WELL SAID.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I delivered several Catalina 34/36s between Northern and Southern California and can't think of any negatives about those boats.  Easy to sail, reliable, comfortable, well laid out interiors, easy engine access and decent performers.

They may not have been the sexiest boats around, but I can't think of a better family racer-cruiser.  Butler understood the market better than anyone else and delivered boats that sailed well and sold consistently.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Buddy of mine bought a new C-34 with tall rig close to 20 years ago.

3 weeks into ownership the damn thing would not shift properly.

Called the engine manufacturer whose local distributor checked it out and said it had a bad damper plate.  They and the manufacturer were out of stock and it would be several weeks before they could replace it as the part needed to come from overseas.

 

He calls the complaint line and was surprised that Frank himself answers the phone.

Explains this sucks being a new boat and he was going to lose half the season.

Frank told him to hang on and he would take care of it.

3 hours later he gets a call from the engine rep.  They were ready to replace the damper plate tomorrow morning or whenever he could get the  34  over to them.

They said Frank had called the manufacturer and explained my buddy was out of commission.

The manufacturer reiterated there currently was no stock in country.

Frank then explained if they wanted to ever sell another motor to Catalina Yachts, they were either going to put a new motor into that boat or snag a damper plate off a new motor stat!

They immediately uncrated a new motor and cannibalized  the damper plate.

 Buddy was up and running in a couple days.

 

How many other CEOs go to bat for customers like that?

As Sloop says, MBA programs would do well to teach such ethics instead of focusing exclusively on costs.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/21/2020 at 2:46 AM, Foreverslow said:

Buddy of mine bought a new C-34 with tall rig close to 20 years ago.

3 weeks into ownership the damn thing would not shift properly.

Called the engine manufacturer whose local distributor checked it out and said it had a bad damper plate.  They and the manufacturer were out of stock and it would be several weeks before they could replace it as the part needed to come from overseas.

 

He calls the complaint line and was surprised that Frank himself answers the phone.

Explains this sucks being a new boat and he was going to lose half the season.

Frank told him to hang on and he would take care of it.

3 hours later he gets a call from the engine rep.  They were ready to replace the damper plate tomorrow morning or whenever he could get the  34  over to them.

They said Frank had called the manufacturer and explained my buddy was out of commission.

The manufacturer reiterated there currently was no stock in country.

Frank then explained if they wanted to ever sell another motor to Catalina Yachts, they were either going to put a new motor into that boat or snag a damper plate off a new motor stat!

They immediately uncrated a new motor and cannibalized  the damper plate.

 Buddy was up and running in a couple days.

 

How many other CEOs go to bat for customers like that?

As Sloop says, MBA programs would do well to teach such ethics instead of focusing exclusively on costs.

and this isn't a one off situation. Frank did that for a lot of customers. You are right about MBA programs teaching that valuable tidbit as well.

Link to post
Share on other sites

A Catalina 22 was my entrance into real boats. I now have a souped up O’Day 34 (the only in the world like it) I miss that little Catalina 22 for it’s simplicity. Frank’s 22 can be directly linked to my families enjoyment with sailing and the water lifestyle.

Hooked for life because of his boat.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/20/2020 at 12:51 PM, SloopJonB said:

I think my location affects my experience with blisters. The cold water apparently reduces the likelihood of catching them.

I've only seen a handful of boats here with really terminal acne - the worst was a modified Evetts 1/2 Ton which was especially odd since he was a good builder. It looked more like smallpox than acne.

As I said, I have literally never seen a Catalina getting a full on blister job and that's after 45 years of hanging out in boatyards. The 27's were built here under license so that too may have affected it.

I have also seen way more C&C smiles than Catalina smiles.

If all CEO's followed Butlers methods rather than the Harvard B-School the world would be a much better place.

My 320 had a smile that magically healed when I properly torqued the keelbolts. I wonder how long the previous owner let it be that way knowing there "are" Catalina smiles....

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yrars ago I was repairing a new catalina and I was peeved  about how it was built. I thought the problem was inexcusable. The dealer whined to Catalina and told them I knew how to keep the problem from happening in the first place. 
a few hours later my phone rang and it was Butier himself. 

I told him I was not one of those guys who bitches about Catalinas. I used to build boats and we weren’t anywhere near as successful. 
but... The boat in question was NOT up to Catalina standards. 
We had a wonderful conversation best summarized as “He was immediately going to fix the problem, fix all those boats already built, and he wasn’t going to do it quite as I would.”

He initially had complained I was charging a little more fir the repairs than he thought he should pay. At the end of the conversation he told me he was going to pay more than I had asked because, “You should charge more. I want you to stay in business.”

 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...