Frank Butler - 8 bells


Super Anarchist
Great Lakes
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.



Super Anarchist
Great Wet North
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.



Super Anarchist
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.


Meat Wad

Super Anarchist
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.



Super Anarchist
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. 



He designed a nice home for me 





Innocent Bystander

Super Anarchist
Lower Southern MD
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.  



Super Anarchist
What a tremendous life lived!  The sailing world owes a lot to Mr. Butler.  I know that my life was better because of what he brought to the world.  I love my Capri 25!  Fair winds and following seas, Frank Butler.

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.



Steam Flyer

Sophisticated Yet Humble
Eastern NC
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


no shoes

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. 



Super Anarchist
The 805
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.


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