Home . Articles . Boats . Boat Test . Cherubini 44 MKII

Cherubini 44 MKII

2009 April 1

Performance, seaworthiness and beauty define this redesigned classic bluewater ketch

The Cherubini 44 makes me feel young again. On one hand it is hard to believe that it was introduced more than 30 years ago. It seems like just yesterday I first saw the Cherubini in Annapolis. It was the most beautiful boat at the show, maybe the most beautiful production boat I'd ever seen, but remembering beauty is always fraught with risk. On the other hand, seeing the boat reintroduced at last fall's Annapolis show made me realize that some things do get better with age and some memories can be trusted. I can state emphatically, and I know I'm going to get in trouble for it, that the new Cherubini 44 MK II was once again the most beautiful boat at the dance.

Designed by John Cherubini in the early 1970s, the family-built 44-foot ketch is a classic, and it's terrific that it is once again available as a new boat. The original model blended a traditional hull and deck design-at least traditional looking-with state-of-the-art engineering. That same ethos drives Dave Cherubini, the 42-year-old hands-on president of Cherubini Yachts, who is dedicated to restoring the luster of the Cherubini brand, which by the way, is pronounced with a hard C.

The details
The design premise remains unchanged and timeless, the Cherubini 44 continues to be built for serious cruising. The target audience remains a seasoned couple, ready to buy their ultimate boat. The engineering process also remains unchanged, and that means incorporating the latest materials and construction techniques into what is essentially a hand-made boat. The Cherubini brothers, who began building boats in the 1930s, were early pioneers in fiberglass and sandwich construction. The new 44 MK II is a beautiful blend of modern materials, innovative concepts and time-tested attention to details, the hallmark of all great builders. The Cherubini 44 has a knifelike hull shape. It's long and narrow with a fine entry, inspired by the legendary Baltimore clippers and purposeful Chesapeake Bay bugeye ketches. While this shape does not create much interior volume, it does translate into exciting performance under sail. Double-digit speeds are not uncommon, and not just off the wind. By slicing through the bow wave instead of always settling in behind it, the Cherubini 44 is unshackled from the drudgery of strict displacement waterline rules. I am not going to tell you that it is as fast as a sport boat, but I will say that the 44's overall performance will surprise you. A 20-year-old Cherubini 44 won the 2007 Marion-
Bermuda race.

The 44 has a long, moderate draft keel and attached rudder. A close look at the specs reveals less than 30,0000 pounds of displacement and 1,138 square feet of sail area for an SA/D of 18.9, a nice number for a cruising boat. But numbers don't tell the whole story. The low freeboard, narrow beam, sweet tumblehome and proud clipper bow that extends the LOA to 50 feet combine to create an easily driven hull that is both swift and seaworthy. The Cherubini 44 sails fast and does it without knocking your fillings out in the process. You don't have to be a yacht designer or bluewater veteran to know that the 44 will have a soft ride in a seaway, it's obvious from the graceful way the boat sits in the water. Another inspiration for designer John Cherubini was the sagacious designer and writer L. Francis Herreshoff, who firmly believed that nothing was more revealing about a boat than the way it bobbed at a mooring.

The Cherubini 44 hull is hand-laid solid fiberglass impregnated with vinylester resin and comes with a lifetime structural warranty. The sheer clamp is robust, and the through-bolted hull-and-deck joint incorporates a molded bulwark. The MK II bulwark is slightly larger than the original, providing more security on deck. The cabintrunk also is just a pinch higher, giving a bit more room below. The deck and cabintrunk include a structural foam core. The bulkheads are cut and fit and then tabbed to the hull the way a boat of this quality should be made. The lead ballast is encapsulated in the hull. The rudder is formed around a massive stainless stock that actually curves inside the rudder and then flattens out. The advantage of this detail is that there are no welds inside the rudder, no way for the rudder to come adrift of the stock.

SAILING Contributing Editor Bob Pingel and I joined Dave Ballard and Dave Cherubini for a boat test last October. Ballard is a longtime Cherubini sailor. His father bought a 44 in 1984, and Ballard and his brother and their families sailed the boat for more than 20 years.
"When it was time for a refit in 2006, I decided to trade in the old boat and launch the new one instead." The navy blue hulled Elysium sluiced effortlessly through the chop spawned by the hordes of powerboats jostling for position waiting to be assigned a berth for the upcoming Annapolis Power Boat show. Soon we were clear of the clutter and noise and gliding along under main, mizzen and genoa.

The Cherubini 44 is a ketch It's big sister, the 48, is a schooner. The 44 features aluminum spars stepped on the keel. The chainplates are very well thought out. Instead of traditional channels that steal away into the hull, Cherubini uses case-hardened stainless U-bolts. These are attached to stainless steel angle irons that run below the deck flange and are supported by a beefed-up fiberglass layup. This serves two purposes, it transfers the rig load to the whole side of the hull and also allows easy inspection of the U-bolts. With more and more riggers suggesting chainplate replacement as the problem of crevice corrosion becomes prevalent in older boats, this is a feature you'll appreciate down the road. Cherubini's are built to last a lifetime. Dave Ballard opted for a self-tending staysail without the attendant club boom; a good choice. He also chose a genoa instead of the standard yankee, which is more effective in the light airs of the Chesapeake.

On deck
The 44's cockpit works well, especially for a ketch, which often feels cluttered. The helm station is isolated by curved molded sections that prove to be an ideal spot for mounting the electric primary sheet winches. Visibility is never as clean in a ketch as in a sloop. Still, with that being said, the low freeboard and low-profile cabintop are easy to see over from the helm, especially when peering over the low side with a touch of heel. The mizzen mast is mounted in the center of the forward section of the cockpit, which you'll get used to in short order and it does provide great leg support when heeled. The mizzen stays are positioned well outboard.

The side decks are wide and the molded bulwark provides a nice anchor for your feet as you work your way forward. Handsome teak grabrails line the trunkhouse. The woodwork on deck is stunning. From the varnished butterfly hatch over the saloon to the teak dorade boxes and hatch surrounds, it's nice to see that someone is willing to build a boat that still requires some love and attention. Don't laugh, one of the joys of owning a sailboat is taking care of it and nothing looks better than shimmering varnish. The bowsprit provides a good platform for two robust anchor rollers.

Down below
The interior arrangement is practical, especially for serious cruising and is beautifully finished. However, you can't compare the Cherubini 44 to a modern production boat-they're different creatures. The 44 has a beam of 11 feet, 6 inches and tapers dramatically at the bow and the stern. The overall volume is significantly less than an XYZ 44 with a typical 14-foot beam. Ironically, the narrow beam lends a sense of Old World charm to the interior. As you make your way below you immediately realize that there is a place for everything including the crew. Open spaces are nice at the dock but borderline useless underway. I'll take the Cherubini in a blow, even a moderate one, over the XYZ 44 every time.

From the companionway you enter into the aft cabin. The navigation station is aft, under the steps. The desk is on top of the engine access box and there's a clever fold down seat. It sounds more awkward than it is. Speaking of engine access, it is quite good. Once you remove the box and side panels there is a lot of room around the standard 75-horsepower turbo-charged Yanmar diesel. The aft cabin on Elysium features single bunks on each side, with a comfortable seat to starboard and a wet locker. Forward to port is a chest of draws with the electrical panel above, a good location that is close to the companionway but well out of the spray zone.

Continuing forward, the large head is to starboard and can be entered from both the saloon and aft cabin. The head is now a molded piece, a practical idea that makes cleaning up a lot easier. The U-shaped galley is opposite with two deep sinks facing aft. Recessed back-up foot pumps are standard, a nice touch for a real cruising boat. The microwave and stove are outboard and the large fridge and freezer face forward. The lockers above the countertops have wicker faces that look nice and also provide natural ventilation.

The saloon is bright and surprisingly airy. The white painted panels on the main bulkhead are classy and not only lighten the cabin but also contrast brilliantly with the rich teak and mahogany joinerwork. The white laminate headliners with beautiful varnished battens produce the same Down East ambiance. The large overhead hatch floods the interior with natural light. The bronze portlights are a Cherubini trademark and feature a simple but rugged wedge locking system. There are opposing settees with handsome arm supports on the end and an elegant drop-leaf table between. Aft of the starboard settee a locker houses the entertainment center controls and there are lockers and shelf space above. A 65-gallon water tank is located under each settee. One feature I like is the deep, main bilge sump; no water will slosh over the sole when the boat is heeled.

Continuing forward, the forward cabin includes a decent-sized V-berth with lockers above and forward. There are hanging lockers and drawers on each side just aft of the bunk. There's enough floor space to change clothes comfortably. While some 44 owners will opt for a double berth aft, most will stake out the forward cabin as their private domain.

Under sail
Back on the bay the wind was light but steady. We cut through the water on a close reach, touching 6 knots on the GPS. Considering the true wind speed was less than 10, I was impressed. The steering was light and incredibly well balanced. You could leave the helm for minutes at a time. A well-balanced helm and sailplan makes life dramatically easier for an autopilot, an important feature for serious cruising. Bringing the boat hard on the wind we maintained good boat speed up to 45 degrees apparent, pretty good going for a cruising ketch.

We brought the boat through the wind several times and also executed a few jibes. I was impressed with how quickly the 44 gained way on in the light air. The headsail and staysail controls are within reach of the helm. The mainsheet is led to a winch on the trunkhouse. Fortunately the wind piped up as we headed back toward the harbor. Cracking off onto a broad reach we were steadily above 6 knots. The ride was silky smooth despite a fair bit of Chesapeake chop. I would have loved to make one more tack and point the bow south toward the open Atlantic, that's where the Cherubini 44 belongs.