Catalina Morgan 440: A Cruiser for Boomers
Space, comfort, and smart ergonomics make the Catalina Morgan 440 a viable alternative to terra firma-based retirement
For aging sailors, the desire to be out on the big blue seldom wanes, but their capacity to handle physically challenging tasks and their confidence may diminish over time. When the main becomes malevolently large and the ground tackle ponderously heavy, should we tie off our beloved craft and no longer go to sea? The answer, of course, is no, and the market is responding with boats that address the needs of this demographic. With baby boomers possessing more free time and money than in any other period of their lives, there's no reason why they should be denied their cruising dreams.
"In designing the Catalina Morgan 440," Catalina's Gerry Douglas said, "we specifically targeted past owners who are ready for retirement cruising. We envisioned a manageable rig and an aft cockpit with a raised deck saloon that was large. All equipment and ergonomics were specifically selected and designed for comfort and ease of handling."
Letting form follow function is a risk in an industry driven by image. To his credit, Douglas focused on the practical needs of his maturing customers and let the lines fall where they may. The resulting vessel won't appeal to everyone, since it makes few concessions to racy aesthetics or high performance. But for those willing to trade that for extended time afloat, the 440 deserves close inspection.
True to the Mission
The four judges of the Cruising World 2005 Boat of the Year contest come from diverse boating backgrounds and approach design with different priorities in mind. But during our dockside inspection of the boat, we all noticed thematic details that were apparent from stern to stem. The aft scoop is wide and low for ease of access from dock or dinghy. Although the pushpit makes a good handhold, an additional rail fixed inboard of the top-side/transom line would improve safety. The life raft can be launched from a designated locker on the scoop, thus avoiding the Herculean task of fishing a 100-pound raft from the depths of the lazarette and heaving it over high coamings and lifelines. Two wide yet shallow steps lead up into the cockpit through an offset transom aisle. This opening is secured with a slide-in splashboard and two stainless-steel wire gates that retract cleverly into the railing when not in use. A 10-inch bridgedeck prevents downflooding, and enormous drainage capacity aft lets this cockpit quickly shed boarding seas.
The steering pedestal on the test boat featured the customary instrumentation plus a GPS chart plotter. The 44-inch wheel is large enough for easy steering but small enough to walk around. The primary winches are within arm's reach from behind the wheel. All mast control lines are led through rope clutches to a two-speed electric power winch on the cabin top.
A large folding table with stout handholds protrudes forward from the pedestal. The high coamings create a deep and secure cockpit. The captive washboard companionway hatch can be locked from above and below without having to fit or stow heavy pieces, and lifting the locker lids is assisted by gas springs.
At 31 inches, the lifelines are exceptionally high and have gates to port and starboard. While the cabin sides have a boxlike look and substantial windage, they also have handholds that complement the lifelines at the same height. Three-inch bulwarks and an aggressive nonskid surface fit well into this secure layout.
Stanchion bases wrap around the bulwark and are fastened from two angles, making a stiff attachment. Deck hardware attaches by means of threaded aluminum plates laminated into the underdeck. This system results in a hundred fewer holes in the deck and in simple maintenance access. The stem has a long overhang for ample anchor clearance. The rollers, lockers, cleats, and the Maxwell vertical windlass accommodate two sets of ground tackle. The windlass can also be used to haul the dinghy, but its switches should be capped for safety. A set of deep chocks for stowing the dinghy right side up on the foredeck would eliminate the struggle of inverting it.
A teak rubrail capped with rubber protects the topsides. The moderate canoe hull is solid hand-laid glass below the waterline and balsa core above, and vinylester resin is used to counter osmosis. The deck is through-bolted to an internal hull flange with 1-inch 316-stainless-steel bolts on 4-inch centers and bonded with 3M 5200. The encapsulated-foam rudder with a 2-inch solid stainless-steel stock hangs on a partial skeg.
The Charleston tapered mast is 62 feet 4 inches high, leaving room for wind instruments and a VHF antenna while still sliding under bridges along the Intracoastal Waterway. The 4-foot-11-inch wing keel is appropriate for the skinny waters of the Bahamas or Belize. U.S. West Coast customers may prefer the 5-foot-4-inch fin keel.
About 80 percent of the 440's new customers ordered the boat with the standard in-boom Leisure Furl. While I have a natural suspicion of any complicated equipment, I'll concede that hauling, reefing, and handling a large, stiff mainsail is perhaps the most physically demanding task on board. The advantages of in-boom as opposed to in-mast furling are that the sail can have roach, battens, and a boltrope, and if all goes awry, it still can be dropped manually like a conventional sail.