Home . Articles . Boats . Boat Test . Island Packet 440

Island Packet 440

2006 February 7

Tradition and modern thinking combine to make a bluewater cruiser with liveaboard comfort

This powerful new cruiser from Island Packet has Bob Johnson's stamp all over it. It looks like what his boats are supposed to look like. It is a beamy aft-cockpit model without apologies for what it is not, and a pedigree that is pure Island Packet. Naturally it's a true cutter and robustly constructed. It is loaded with innovations above and below deck that make it particularly user-friendly, and it is tailor-made for a cruising couple with ideal accommodations for guests. The 440 is just another example of why Island Packet is revered by its clients, the company knows what they want.

We tested the new 440 on a blustery, rainy morning after the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland. Broker John Helwege of Gratitude Yacht Sales, Island Packet's local dealer, luffed up as fellow SAILING writer Bob Pingel and I scrambled out of the photo boat and into the cockpit. We hastily introduced ourselves and met Terry and Barbara Jones, who had just placed an order for a new 440 to be delivered in the spring. A little wind and rain had done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. Hard-hitting journalist that I am, I got right to the meat. "Why did you choose the Island Packet 440?"

"Because we wanted a boat that we could sail anywhere but one that was also comfortable to live aboard," Barbara said.

"We also feel it is a solid value," Terry added. "We want a company we can trust because we're making a big step up from a Catalina 22." He said they were looking forward to an active and early retirement.

I slipped behind the pedestal and took the wheel. The Lewmar "Cobra" rack-and-pinion steering felt solid and was instantly responsive. The sheets were eased and the 440 found its footing on a close reach. The winds were gusting to 20 knots, and with a full mainsail, staysail and genoa we were a bit over canvassed. Still, the 440 punched through the Chesapeake Bay chop without a hint of pounding, and although the flared forward sections kicked up spray, the cockpit was wonderfully dry-a key advantage of an aft cockpit boat that often gets overlooked during the boat show lovefest when prospective buyers ooze over the centerline queen berths served up by center-cockpit competitors. The GPS flashed 7.3 knots and that was without trying. Tweaking the traveler, tightening the mainsail leech line and flattening the staysail translated into 7.9 knots, which we might as well round up to 8. Falling off the wind we continued to flirt with 8 knots, good going for a 32,000-pound dedicated cruiser. The 440 was in its element.

The details
Island Packet has done a fine job of refining its boats over the years while maintaining trademark features that clearly identify the brand. Long keels and roomy interiors are standard issue for all Island Packets. The 440 is the natural progression from earlier models like the 380 and 420. There are no gimmicks, from the raised bulwarks, to the integral bow platform, to the rakish swim step, the linear flow is natural and refreshingly low profile. The hull form holds its beam well forward and aft, producing less efficiency sailing to weather and more efficiency living down below-a trade-off many cruisers are happy to make. Johnson has stuck by his long keel designs, and the "full foil" keel has proven itself through countless ocean crossings. Off the wind his boats are deceptively fast. This keel shape allows the designer to offer moderate draft, full bilges with a high-load-carrying capacity and a ride that is smooth in a seaway, key ingredients to happy cruising.

The 440's hull is a solid laminate, infused with Island Packet's proprietary pressure-fed roller application system. A molded grid provides structural support. Naturally the ballast is internal and placed in cavities in the wide keel section. The hull is finished with Island Packet's proprietary gelcoat system, Polyclad3, which offers superior protection against blisters, so much so that Island Packet offers a 10-year blister and delamination warranty. The deck is joined to the hull on a molded flange and is both chemically and mechanically fastened. The deck is cored with Polycore, a chemical substitute for foam and wood cores that really helps prevent delamination. Most deck hardware is backed with aluminum plates.

On deck
The 440's cockpit easily accommodated the crowd we had aboard, and even with the boat heeling considerably, the seating was comfortable and secure. The visibility from the helm was good, especially for an aft-cockpit boat. The standard RayMarine sailing instruments are housed in a seahood pod. Reeling in the mainsheet required all of the mechanical advantage offered by the Lewmar Ocean Series 44CST winch, a result of the midboom sheeting, but pushing the mainsheet and traveler forward allows for an extensive dodger installation. All sail controls are led aft and can be efficiently worked with the dodger in place. A roller-furling mast is standard, although buyers can request a conventional spar with no cost difference. Hardware throughout is top quality and oversized. There is good storage in the cockpit with two deep seat lockers and clever bins for line tails. Island Packet pays attention to details too. I like the four harness padeyes and the emergency pull strap on the boarding ladder on the stern platform.

The integral bow platform is wide enough to stand on and can support two beefy anchors and associated ground tackle. The anchor rollers are another impressive Island Packet exclusive and make for both quick deployment and fully captive rodes. The large anchor locker features deck access through a hatch and a watertight bulkhead. This is a great feature on a cruising boat, it is not just a safety feature but also serves as a garage on the foredeck.

The mooring cleats are massive, the stanchions and double lifelines well supported and the stainless steel handrails run the entire length of the cabintop. The molded diamond pattern nonskid offers good traction on the wide side decks. In addition to a standard roller-furling mast, a Hoyt boom is standard on the furling staysail. This clever curved spar helps the staysail maintain shape without the need for barber hauling-it's basically self-vanging and self-tending. A 110-percent genoa is standard and both headsails are controlled with Harken furlers.

Down below
I made my way below and was instantly impressed. Not just by the spacious accommodations but also how quiet and comfortable the interior was as we blasted along on a close reach. The companionway steps are easy to negotiate and the stainless handrails are well placed. The galley is immediately to starboard. I like the slip-resistant molded sole-let's face it, the galley sole is occasionally going to get messy, there is no reason for teak flooring. The wraparound Corian counter provides plenty of surface area and the fiddles are incorporated into the countertops. A Force 10 stove/oven, a water purification system, a clever slide-out trash bin and a built-in microwave are a few of the standard features that make the 440 galley a pleasure to work in both at sea and alongside.

Access to the aft cabin and aft head are opposite the galley to port. This cabin features an angled island berth, which is a clever use of space. There is also a large, cedar-lined hanging locker and storage beneath the berth and along shelves outboard. The cabin has good ventilation with both an overhead hatch and side portlights. Overhead lights are on dimmer switches. The aft head includes a separate stall shower with folding acrylic doors, Corian counters and a VacuFlush electric head.

The nav station is tucked just forward of the galley to starboard. The inlaid chart table is beautiful although there isn't much room for chart storage. The electrical panel and radio station are outboard, and easily accessed. A quick look behind the panel revealed immaculate, well labeled wiring schemes. The 440 features premium pre-tinned electrical wire.

The fold-up table in the saloon is a terrific feature. It provides a sense of spaciousness when up and can be mounted on either side of the saloon when down. When mounted on the main bulkhead the drop-leaf table conceals a handsome liquor locker. A choice of designer fabrics are available for the plush dual density foam cushions. The teak-and-oak sole, louvered locker doors and teak trimmed fittings represent superb workmanship. There are three overhead hatches and opening portlights down each side. Because the tanks are housed in the bilge, the area beneath the settees is available for storage of gear and equipment. The settees also make excellent sea berths, which is important because both cabins have island berths.

Continuing forward, the owner's stateroom includes an offset island berth, a dressing chair and vanity, and plenty of storage. This is where you feel the beam, most boats don't carry their beam this far forward. And while you can certainly debate the merits of beamy hull shapes underway, there is no disputing the fact that they serve up more space below. The owner's head, like the aft head, includes a separate stall shower and Corian counters. Island Packet has made the conversion to electric heads, and while old salts like me shake our heads, the rest of the world thinks, "What took you so long?"

The 440's systems are, simply put, top notch. From the five standard AGM batteries, including a stand alone engine battery, to the heavy-duty high-output digital charge controllers, to the pre-wiring needed to add beefy gear like bow thrusters and a windlass, the 440 is well engineered. A 75-horsepower, four-cylinder Yanmar is the power in front of a large three-bladed prop that pushes the 440 along at 7 knots. Overall access is more than adequate, however daily maintenance items are very easy to reach. The aluminum fuel tank is pre-plumbed for additional pickup and return lines, making it easy to install a generator. There is 160 gallons of fuel tankage which translates into a realistic motoring range of more than
800 miles.

Under sail
Back in the cockpit, the rain finally stopped but the wind held. We headed south, on a deep reach, and managed to keep the boat moving at more than 6 knots despite a lack of downwind running gear. The wide beam helps prevent rolling and we ambled downwind pleasantly. Eventually we hauled the sheets in and put the 440 through a series of close tacks. The 110-percent genoa slipped around the staysail stay without much trouble, which is not always the case with a cutter rig. The main and self-tacking staysail made trimming up a snap. While the 440 won't blow you away with acceleration it doesn't loose momentum as soon as the wind eases.

I have been test sailing Island Packet sailboats for many years. It has been a pleasure to watch them evolve from building small cruising catboats to world-class yachts. The new 440 is a welcome addition to the the company's fleet of accomplished bluewater cruisers.