Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nautitech 441 Catamaran

There is a big, boxy-looking Lagoon 40 berthed on the next gangway over from us in the marina and it got me thinking about cruising multihulls and how they have evolved since the partnership of Rudy Choy, Warren Seaman and Al Kumalae developed the first offshore racing/cruising cats back in the 1950's. Back then catamarans were exotic, and were shunned by the offshore racing crowd. Today, thanks to those pioneers and countless others, offshore cruising multihulls are totally mainstream.  I did a bit of research on the Internet and came up with some interesting numerical comparisons for medium sized cruising cats and after reviewing three of the more popular models in that size range I decided to take a more thorough look at the Nautitech 441. But first, here are the numbers:

The squarish Lagoon 440 is a beefy boat with lots of accommodations
Lagoon 440 
LOA:  45.83'
Beam:  25.75'
Draft:  4.25'
Displacement:  37,265 LB
Sail area: 1,472 sq. ft. with square top main and roller furling genoa

The Leopard 44, designed by Morelli & Melvin offers more performance in a better looking package

Leopard 44
LOA:  42.56'
Beam:  23.75'
Draft:  4.18'
Displacement: 32,930 LB
Sail area: 1,270 sq. ft.

Nice proportions on the Nautitech 441

Nautitech 441
LOA:  44.18'
Beam:  22.33'
Draft:  3.92''
Displacement: 20,286 LB
Sail area: 1,055 sq. ft.

Each of these boats seems to emphasize a different aspect of cruising performance. At over 37,000 pounds, the Lagoon offers the most amenities. The Nautitech, at a little over half that weight should be the most fun to sail, while the Leopard falls somewhere in between. Of course it's never just about the numbers. Hull design, ergonomics, rigging and other facets of the overall design play important roles in determining the overall desirability of each of these yachts. I chose to take a more in-depth look at the Nautitech because of the three boats, it's balance of looks, comfort and performance comes closest of the three to what I think a good cruising cat ought to be. However, I should say out front that my ideal cruising cat would be lighter than all of these boats and be fitted with dagger boards instead of keels.

Efficient hulls, long and shallow keels and a short but wide rig. Most new cats incorporate  a square-top mainsail  instead of the one shown in the drawing.

N441 with square-top main sail

With all that said, let's start with the hulls of the Nautitech 441. If you visit the web sites for the Lagoon and Leopard boats you'll get a sense of how much bigger they are than the Nautitech. For the way we cruise, just the two of us with occasional guests, this boat has more than enough space. These hulls are relatively narrow compared with the other boats which translates to less drag. The Leopard hulls incorporate substantial chines above the wateline, while the Lagoon's hull are just plain beamy. These factors indicate that the 441 should be the better performer. All three boats have shallow fixed keels, so none will be particularly fast upwind, but that's not what these boats are about. They all have fairly large fuel capacity,  over 100 gallons in the 441 and 170 gallons in the Lagoon, so my guess is that the serious upwind work will be done mostly under power. The shoal keels will enable the 441 to venture into lots of places where deeper boats can't go, and also protect the sail drives from harm, but they don't help much in getting the boat upwind.

 The deck plan shows that not only are the hulls significantly narrower than the other boats, but there is less deck area and the deck house is relatively smaller as well. I like the wide open spaces on deck. Also notice that the anchor is stored on the port bow. I would prefer to see it mounted on a bow-plank along the centerline of the boat. The helmsman's perch is on the port side of the deck house and elevated so the driver can see over the top of the cabin. The photos show a hardtop over this area, I'd like to have a windscreen as well. It will be a cold helmsman that stands the midnight watch on this boat in anything less than balmy weather. The trade-off is much better visibility compared to helm stations located in the cockpit or at the aft end of each hull. The sail controls are also clustered in this area. This can be a good thing for the shorthanded crew, but it can make for a very busy helmsman at times and I question the ergonomics of this arrangement. Notice the locations of the jib sheet winches on the cabintop. There is a pair of winches at the aft end of the cockpit for spinnaker sheets.  The drawing shows a mainsheet winch also located there, but I think it has been moved to the cabintop along with the other sheet winches.

Unique deck arrangement lines on the N441

The helm station is set up with instruments and sail controls. A dodger would be a welcome addition 
The cockpit is smaller than the other boats but certainly large enough for a cruising couple and guests. I like the rounded contours aft that provides lots of space on deck. This layout doesn't provide as much shade as the more squarish designs, which would be noticeable in the tropics. Another difference between this boat and the others is the lack of a forward cockpit. The Leopard has a passageway from the cabin to that area while on the Lagoon there isn't one. These details account for some of the difference in the weight of the 441 compared to the others. I think the forward cockpit would be delightful on an inshore boat, but would find it less appealing for offshore work. One of the great things about all of these boats is their speed compared to monohulls of similar length. That translates directly to being able to do more of your passagemaking miles in good weather.

Nautitech offers the 441 in three and four cabin versions. I chose to focus on the three cabin version, which incorporates an owner's suite in the starboard hull and a pair of double cabins to port. The owner's suite is luxurious, with a large head and shower toward the bow, a desk and lots of storage space just forward of the passageway and a double berth arranged longitudinally aft. On the port side, there is a double berth way up in the bow, which will inevitably be converted to storage on most 441's. It is followed by a comfortable looking double cabin with an adjoining head. This head is also accessible from the main cabin. The aft stateroom offers more space and a private head.
Condo-like accommodations in fairly slender hulls

The main cabin works really well. The galley is large and the sinks, with lots of counter space, are located along the centerline of the boat. This makes them accessible from both sides, making the galley seem bigger than it already is. Opposite the galley is a large nav station with a large desk and plenty of room for instruments and all the other items I like to have handy when I'm navigating.  The forward part of the cabin is dedicated to a large wrap-around dinette that incorporates a circular coffee table.

Lots of hatches and light colored wood adds to the sense of spaciousness

There has been a significant migration of sailors from monohulls to multi's in recent years and it's not hard to understand why. Vast amounts of living space, sailing flat instead of heeled, more speed, and shoal draft all add to the appeal of catamarans. I think it's worthwhile to give these boats a look if you searching for a family style cruising boat.

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