LaFitte 44

Long of leg and sound in build, the LaFitte 44 takes the oceans in stride. From "Classic Plastic" in our February 2009 issue.

Honest 160-mile days, a comfort-able motion offshore, and liveaboard load-carrying capacity are hallmarks of the LaFitte 44, a Robert H. Perry design with a long fin keel and a skeg-hung rudder. Between 1980 and 1989, Chung Hwa Boatworks in Taiwan built 56 of these. Many have circumnavigated, and at least one has been sailed around twice.

The hull and deck are hand-laid fiberglass with a foam core. The hull is massively reinforced with foam-filled frames and longitudinals and with glassed-in bulkheads. A stainless-steel plate mounted on the hull frames carries the step for the Sparcraft mast. The external lead-ballast keel is solidly secured with stainless-steel bolts.

Our LaFitte 44, Tevai, was one of the few built without teak decks. On most of the boats that have them, the teak was fastened from below with screws. After 20 years of wear, the screw tips will become exposed, leading to cut feet and leaks. On some later boats, the teak was screwed down from above and the holes bunged, but this system, too, has proven prone to leaks.

Well-placed handholds serve the 2-foot-wide side decks, and the flush deck, which extends more than 22 feet forward of the deckhouse, provides a platform for offshore dinghy storage, sail changing, and anchor handling. On Tevai, the addition of a mast pulpit has greatly enhanced our security when working at the mast.

Twin bronze anchor rollers are mounted at the stem, and a locker in the foredeck contains the windlass, a wash-down spigot, and storage for deck gear. There are two chain lockers, one directly under the windlass and another farther aft, under the V-berth. Many boats have been refit with a hawsepipe to allow chain to run more freely to the after locker.

Two companionways, one amidships and one aft, give access to the interior, which is both elegantly fitted out in solid teak and functional at sea. Four hatches and eight opening ports admit light and air. Ventilated lockers and drawers abound, and deep storage is provided in lockers outboard of the settees and in two levels under the V-berth. The engine warms the wet locker.

The U-shaped galley to port features deep double sinks inboard, large work surfaces, and, between the top-loading freezer and separate fridge, 15 cubic feet of cold storage. A bin and numerous drawers and lockers provide volumes of dry storage.

Opposite is a spacious nav station. In the saloon, both the U-shaped settee to port and a straight settee to starboard convert to sea berths.

The forward stateroom has an en suite head and shower. In the aft stateroom, a queen Pullman berth to port and a settee to starboard convert to sea berths. The head/shower compartment serves as a walk-through to the saloon.
Early LaFitte 44s were delivered with a 60-horsepower Lehman diesel, later ones with a Perkins. Tevai has been repowered with a 75-horsepower Yanmar. Depending on conditions, motoring range can exceed 800 miles.
LaFitte 44s rarely come on the market. Recent listings have had prices ranging from $90,000 for a "needs work" boat to more than $250,000.

Tim Bittel and his wife, Pattie, have sailed Tevai, their LaFitte 44, from the Great Lakes to the southern Windward Islands.

Specs

LOA 44' 4" (13.51 m.)
LWL 35' 6" (10.82 m.)
Beam 12' 8" (3.86 m.)
Draft 6' 4" (1.93 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 927 sq. ft. (86.1 sq. m.)
Ballast 11,310 lb. (5,129 kg.)
Displacement 28,000 lb. (12,698 kg.)
Ballast/D .40
D/L 279
SA/D 16.1
Water 110 gal. (417 l.)
Fuel 115 gal. (436 l.)
Engine 60-hp. Lehman or Perkins
Designer Robert H. Perry