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Catalina Morgan 440

2005 March 7

The name says it all-this cruiser blends traditional ruggedness and modern-day styling

Catalina Yachts Vice-President, Gerry Douglas, and I are both old enough to remember the glory days of Morgan Yachts. There was a time, from the late 1960s through the 1970s when Morgan built rugged, roomy and affordable cruising boats that dominated the market. The Morgan Out Island series had production numbers that few builders today would even dream about, excluding Catalina Yachts of course. It is in this spirit that Douglas conceived and designed the new CatalinaMorgan 440.

"It was important to us to keep the Morgan name on this boat," he said as we slipped away from the dock after the St. Petersburg Strictly Sail Show. "But the boat is very much a Catalina too. Hence the double name." Catalina purchased Morgan 20 years ago, but for the most part, the two lines have maintained separate identities. The 440 is the first cruising boat to bear the long-winded CatalinaMorgan name and in many ways it represents the best of both worlds. The 440 combines the rugged features of old school Morgans, with the styling, comforts and ergonomics of Catalina.

"I took my time with this design, two years actually, we did a lot of research and talked with a lot of people," Douglas said.

My instincts tell me that it was time well spent, Douglas has really hit the mark with this new raised saloon cruiser.

While the 440 will appeal to a variety of cruisers, Douglas admits that the target customer is a couple whose children are out of the house and are now contemplating a cruising sabbatical or possibly spending their retirement years afloat.

"We wanted the boat to have legs," he said pointing out the ample tankage for fuel and water as one example. "And we wanted it to be genuinely comfortable for extended periods of living aboard."

There is no disputing that the 440 will be a very accommodating boat. However, what impressed me during our SAILING Magazine Boat Test is how well the sailing systems are laid out, how nimble the boat was underway and the overall high quality of fit and finish.

The details
The 440's hull shape is meant for blue water, it is not a weekend warrior masquerading as an offshore boat. Catalina claims the 440 is just as happy on a lazy day sail as on a passage but I don't buy it, this is a cruising boat. The stem is nicely raked, which not only looks better than today's blunt-nosed performance boats but also makes it easy to launch and retrieve the ground tackle without marring the topsides. The beefy wing keel is a lead section and attached to the hull with stainless bolts cast in place.

While most production builders use iron keels, Catalina has always used lead. I wonder if Douglas considered internal ballast for the 440. The debate continues over which ballast is better, and although I favor them, encapsulated keels are becoming rare. The rudder is hung on a partial skeg that allows for well-supported upper and lower bearings. The propeller shaft is housed in a molded skeg, making it far less vulnerable and also helps the boat track.

The hull is solid fiberglass below the waterline and balsa cored from the waterline up-a sensible way to lay up a hull. The solid glass sections can survive a serious underwater impact while the half-inch balsa core offers excellent panel stiffness and insulating qualities. Coated and scored end-grain balsa is used to prevent the possibility of delamination.

The hull and deck are joined on an internal flange and both bolted and bonded together. A lovely teak caprail, incorporating a stainless steel rubrail, covers the joint. It is not very scientific but the new 440 passed my stomping-around-the-deck test with flying colors-the boat is solid. The 440 construction scantlings also include a collision bulkhead just aft of the anchor locker, a critical feature that should be standard on all offshore boats. Catalina offers five-year warranties covering blisters and structural concerns.

On deck
Tucked behind the deck saloon and protected from the elements by a dodger and bimini, the 440s cockpit has a snug feel to it. Most sail controls are led to a standard, powered-up (electric) winch just to port on the aft end of the cabintrunk. There are handy ties to control coiled lines and mesh bags to store them out of sight. The visibility from the helm station is only adequate, considering the raised trunk, but the trade-off for a spacious, light saloon is one most cruisers are happy to make. The Edson pedestal is substantial and has all the bells and whistles. The large cockpit table seats six and also provides leg and foot support in the wide cockpit. I particularly like the cockpit sole, long teak planks are classy and, unlike grates, easy on the feet.

The companionway features a lightweight foldaway door that is convenient in fair weather. Stout hatch boards are ready when the going gets heavy. The starboard cockpit seat lifts to reveal my favorite feature on the 440, the workroom-third cabin.

"We call this area flex space," Douglas said. "We designers are always intent on utilizing every inch of space, sometimes you need an area that is flexible. It can be a workroom when a project demands it or a third cabin when the grandkids are aboard."

This useful space is also accessed from below through the aft cabin. Another feature that is impossible not to like are the comfy seats fitted into the stern rail. Catalina pioneered stern rail seats and now you find them on many boats. The stern step, or swim step, is large and functional. There is a good-sized lazarette to port and also a dedicated life raft locker. Of course there is a hot and cold shower too.

The side decks are wide enough for easy maneuvering and raised bulwark lends security when on deck. The raised saloon puts the handholds at a good height and they're matched by 30-inch lifelines. The stanchions are supported both vertically and horizontally, so you can lean on them. It is a bit of a climb up to the base of the mast, but a molded step between the forward ports makes it easier. The anchoring arrangement is well thought out and includes double stainless steel rollers and a large divided chain locker. Starboard runners eliminate ground tackle chafe. A vertical windlass is standard.

The tapered aluminum mast features double spreaders and has an air draft of 62 feet, making the 440 Intracoastal friendly. The mast is deck stepped but the engineering is interesting. The compression post actually passes through the deck and has a large plate welded in place for a metal to metal connection with the mast. As a result there is no compressive load on the deck. A Leisure Furl in-boom mainsail furling system is an attractive standard feature and demonstrates Catalina's commitment to making the 440 a world-class cruiser. The mainsheet arrangement is innovative and designed to reduce the loads normally associated with midboom sheeting.

Down below
The interior is bright, airy and nicely finished. Catalinas can't compete with the joinerwork of some custom yacht yards but these boats are not trying to. The workmanship is excellent and the price is realistic-that's a much better business plan as evidenced by the fact that Catalina has been one of the world's most successful builders for 35 years. I like that Douglas has not tried to make the interior appeal to every family. The 440 has two terrific cabins and an area of flex space. The saloon, galley and nav station were not sacrificed to make room for more sleeping cabins.

It is only three steps from cockpit to cabin sole. Once below, the galley is immediately to starboard, which makes it convenient to pass food up to the crew in the cockpit. There are the expected double sinks, three-burner propane stove, and storage lockers including a useful drawer bank with various size compartments. I like the front opening fridge that's easy to reach and the separate top-loading freezer outboard and aft. Opposite the galley is the aft head and nav station. The head is a completely molded unit with a clever foldaway shower compartment. The nav station, which is an oft-overlooked feature nowadays, includes a decent-sized desk and a stand-alone swivel chair that seems to swing or pivot in every direction.

The saloon features a very clever table that can be raised and lowered electrically, and the four corners fold in to create a cocktail table with more leg room. The table is draped by a C-shaped settee. Opposite is what Catalina calls the "sofa." These cushions are shaped for comfort and the center back piece drops down to form a table for drinks or games. The forward and aft seats have reclining backs and foot rests that raise to become ottomans. I'd be overwhelmed with guilt sitting in this wonderful chair while underway, sailing should never be this comfortable.

Back to reality, one the 440's best features is the space below the saloon floor. There is plenty of room for a generator, watermaker and other equipment and also most of the plumbing is led to a central location and is easy to access and troubleshoot.

The owner's cabin is forward and includes a centerline double with large drawers beneath, a deep locker that has enough room for shelves and hanging clothes, and a dressing table. The CatalinaMorgan includes all the small touches that fine yachts offer these days, from mattresses with inner springs to roll out shades on all the hatches, to LED lights that are bright, cool and energy efficient. The forward head is accessed from the owner's cabin and is also a fully molded compartment making it virtually leak proof. The stall shower includes folding doors. Both showers are led to a single dedicated sump, simplifying the plumbing runs.

The aft cabin includes an optional centerline berth but this comes at the expense of the workroom/flex space to starboard. If there is one feature that every cruising boat needs, it's a workroom. I'd be reluctant to opt for the optional bunk. The aft cabin is quite spacious and includes a double berth with a real mattress and a large hanging locker. Douglas proudly showed me how a large locker to port is able to hold two full-sized duffel bags. This cabin is generally the guest cabin and most guests live out of their duffels, or if they do unpack, can't find a place to store the bags. This locker solves the problem. The aft lazarette can also be reached through a clever hatch in the aft cabin making it easy to access the steering system. Douglas should be applauded for making access a priority throughout the boat.

The main engine is a 75-horsepower, four-cylinder Yanmar that offers plenty of punch and is still fuel-efficient. A single tank holds 117 gallons and that translates into a realistic motoring range of 600 to 700 miles. Electrically speaking, three heavy-duty 4D batteries make up the impressive house bank and multistage charger and 50-amp shore power cable are standard. Two water tanks combine to hold 176 gallons of water, of course if you chose the optional washer and dryer you will likely have to add a watermaker as well.

Under sail
Out on Tampa Bay the wind was fluky. One minute we'd have 10 to 12 knots then it would die away. We had the standard mainsail and 135-percent roller-furling jib with Schaefer furling gear. We eased south on a close reach and once the 440 gathered a bit of headway, it sailed quite nicely. The helm was light and well balanced, the autopilot really wasn't necessary. The sail controls were well placed and I had no trouble trimming the genoa from the helm. The mainsheet is trimmed from the aft end of the coachroof. The mainsheet traveler leads are there as well. The Leisure Furl boom makes raising and lowering the main a piece of cake, especially with the electric halyard winch.

Bringing the boat up hard on the wind, we maintained speed to about 40 degrees apparent. The wind eased as we fell off onto a reach and slowly sailed back toward the marina. I have logged many thousands of bluewater miles aboard serious cruising boats and as I conned the CatalinaMorgan toward the channel markers I felt right at home.