440 — By Capt. Stuart Reininger — November 2000
|Part 2: Baja 440 continued|
Outside of their combined 1,245 horses, those three big boys are another reason for the 440’s outstanding seakindliness. Due to a lack of sufficient beam to accommodate three V-8s, the center engine is set farther forward than the other two (power is transmitted to the drive by a jackshaft), and that contributes to a more forward center of balance. That would be one reason why our 440 exhibited none of the excessive bow rise coming out of the hole that this breed is so prone to. In the flat water and in the slop, she came up without my ever losing the horizon, performance more akin to a single- or double-stepped hull rather than this conventional design. On the other hand, is that extra performance worth the additional 33.7 gph the third 502 burns at WOT? Your call.
Actually, it’s not that difficult to make a boat go fast. Just add an engine. The tricky part is seeing that the boat goes fast again and again without falling apart, therefore allowing the buyer to be satisfied with his not-inconsiderable investment. Baja ensures that satisfaction by cutting no corners in the 440’s construction. For instance, like many other builders, it cores the hull sides and decks (Baltek), but unlike many builders, it also cores the 440’s bottom, also with Baltek. This saves weight and contributes to the outstanding stiffness that allowed our test boat to dance merrily through Lake Erie’s displeasure. It’s easier and cheaper to build a solid-glass-bottomed boat. It’s also heavier, but the chance of delamination below the waterline is nil. A builder who cores hull bottoms has to be confident of his workmanship and quality. Baja’s been around a long time and has a skilled work force that boasts one of the lowest turnovers in the business, so it’s a good bet that your 440 will be splitting waves for your grandkids.
Another step not taken by most builders is that after through-bolting the Plexus-bedded shoebox hull-to-deck marriage (three inches between fastenings after installation of the rubrail), a solid layer of glass is laid down wherever the joint can be reached. Therefore, the hull-to-deck joint becomes one bulletproof inseparable unit.
That attention to detail is carried out on deck, also. Where most of this breed relies on a single center-mounted bow cleat for their lines, the 44 has two recessed 10-inch cleats that pop up with the touch of a button. (Port and starboard amidships cleats are of the same design.) If you do wander around the foredeck make sure you bend real low and grab the center rail; there’s molded-in nonslip in just a few strategic spots, and the sharply cambered foredeck can get slippery really fast. Then again, there’s little need to go forward, not for anchoring anyway. The CQR-type stainless steel anchor nestles under the bow against a stainless steel striker plate. A Lewmar Concept vertical windlass, hidden under a lockable anchor hatch, drops and weighs the hook with no need for you to leave the helm.
But once you’re in that race-style, deeply padded bolster seat, you probably won’t want to leave the helm anyway. The analog Faria instruments are clustered like your basic F-16 panel, and your hands fall naturally on the shifts and throttles. You might get confused, though, when you want to electrically adjust footrests and select one of the various positions for the bolster seats. All switches for those functions are marked "accessory," and until you memorize (or label) them correctly, it’ll be a hit-or-miss proposition.
The engine hatch switch, however, is well marked. Flip it, and the whole aft deck/sunpad comes up on two massive electric rams. Dead battery? You and a pal can haul it up manually. Once it’s up, there’s virtually nothing you can’t reach or do on those V-8s.
Naturally, with all of the 440’s emphasis on speed, construction, and performance, you’d expect the accommodations to be, at best, an afterthought. Think again. The forward bunk is a mattressed double with a privacy curtain on an overhead track, and the two leatherette settees that flank the saloon convert to quite comfortable bunks thanks to an electrically driven extender. The galley, which contains a dual-voltage Norcold refrigerator, a cleverly concealed microwave, and a two-burner electric stove, will also contribute to a comfortable weekend for you and your guests. The head and shower are combined in one module, but without a cramped feeling; here you’ll also find 6'3" headroom and a stylish locking door, so no one will complain.
As a matter of fact, with a boat that can effortlessly slice through five-foot seas at 60 mph and then provide a comfortable haven below, there’s blessed little to complain about.
Baja Marine Corp. Phone: (419) 562-5377. Fax: (419) 562-9848. www.bajamarine.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.