Sunday, December 12, 2010

Davidson 44

A few days ago an interesting looking boat showed up a few slips down from the Honcho in Paradise Marina. It's all rigged for cruising, with a dodger, dinghy, kayaks, windscoops and lots of the other things that cruising boats carry on deck, but beneath the cruising gear I could see the lines of a grand prix type racer from a bygone era, and a familiar one at that. So I spoke to the guy who was washing it down, and sure enough, it's an old Davidson 44.

I'o showing the original bow.

Laurie Davidson is a yacht designer from New Zealand who is probably best known for his work with Americas Cup racers, but he has also designed a string of custom racers for individuals. The D-44 was one of his more successful racing boats, but an unlikely design for a cruiser. Imagine converting something like a Maserati Ghibli into an SUV.  The I'o (formerly Shockwave) is a very high performance cruising boat. The folks aboard love it and include in their crew three humans and a pair of german shepherds. Over the last fifteen or so years I've worked on another Davidson 44 called Pendragon. My previous post shows what it looked like back in 1993. I'o looks a lot like that drawing. The 2002 version is the result of our program of continuous modifications and upgrades over a roughly five year period. During that time we changed the bow and stern, added a new keel, rudder and rig including a carbon fiber boom, converted the steering from tiller to wheel, redesigned the deck layout, and many other smaller changes. The owner's most recent changes were to enhance the accommodations below to make it into a comfortable live-aboard boat for two.
44 Davidson 1980 Pendragon San Diego
Pendragon II  after I redesigned the bow and converted the steering from tiller to wheel.
Photos courtesy of
The D-44 may not be everyone's first choice for a cruising boat for several reasons. First, it has a tall and powerful sailplan with running backstays and checkstays. This type of rig is requires more of the crew than a shorter, stouter rig would.  Second, the interior is designed for racing with a crew of 12. That means that the bunks are pipe berths, there is no place to stow cruising gear, and cruising comfort was not a significant part of the equation when the boat was built. But the question is whether the D-44 is, or can be made into a good cruising yacht. I would venture to guess that the owners of both boats would say the answer is yes, after they customized the deck, the systems and the interior to meet their needs. Both owners are happily living aboard their boats as well as actively sailing them. Pendragon and I'o are fast boats that perform very well in light air. Speed and light air performance are valuable commodities for cruisers. Both boats are very solidly built and have lots of room below, and the owners of both have made major changes to the interiors to make them suitable for living aboard. Finally, both boats are beautiful. That's important...everyone wants to live in a nice looking house.


  1. Are you familiar with the Davidson 44, Pacific Coast Hwy, reportedly built in 1990 by Captial Yachts though we can't find any info to confirm this. She was built as a cruising boat though we are not aware of any modifications made to the hull. She does have a sugar scoop and boardng ladder on the stern. The displacement is given as 18000 lbs with a 7.5 draft. We love the boat but need a boat that will cruise across the pacific with just two people on board. Perhaps you know this boat? What's your opinion of her suitability for off shore cruising? Does she have any of the deficiencies common to IOR boats? Any knowlege or suggestions you might have would be appreciated.

    1. I am not familiar with the D44 'Pacific Coast Hwy'. My info is also that it was built in the early 1990's by Capital. I sailed aboard Pendragon for many years and we had great success in southern California after it was modified. In recent years the boat has served as a comfortable home for it's owners, who still do some racing. By coincidence, we sailed in the last Angelman Series race out of Newport Beach a couple of weeks ago and scored two firsts and a second with a PHRF rating of 12. D44's typically rate about 60.

      I think there are many other boats in that size and price range that would work better as a cruising boat. But if the D44 is the boat you have, you can certainly turn it into a perfectly satisfactory cruising yacht by shortening the rig a bit, adding the standard amenities such as a dodger, bimini, solar panels, watermaker,suitable ground tackle, roller furler, etc. The accommodations plan, at least on Pendragon and I'o, needs extensive modification to be truly comfortable for cruising. At least one big double berth with plenty of ventilation, a dinette with a table and some real stowage lockers would be the minimum, in my opinion. All of this has been done on I'o, and to a lesser extent on Pendragon. There is more, but I think you get the idea.

      Structurally, both boats that I'm familiar with are well enough built for open ocean passages. I'm not sure about the quality of construction for boats coming out of Capital Yachts, except that I've seen many old Newport 41's cruising all over the Pacific. Pendragon as it is configured today is a good boat. Davidson designed the 44 to the IOR rule and consequently the boat was quite tender. So much so that the bottom of the keel was made of wood instead of lead. If you're taking a D44 offshore, you'll want to make sure it's stiff enough to stand up to the conditions you expect. I hope this helps. Please feel free to email me at if you'd like to know more.

  2. I just read your comments about the D44 Pendragon and was wondering if you might have more info in what type of modifications were made to the keel regarding weight ,draft and also the actual dimensions of the boat, width,actual lenght,etc.warm regards daniel