440 — By Capt. Stuart Reininger
— November 2000
|Take one Baja 440, install three Merc 502s, add waves, firewall the throttles, and hang on.|
The Baja rep had his eye on the freshening breeze when he suggested that we shoot over to Lake Erie’s aptly named Put-In Bay for our acceleration trials and speed runs. As it turned out, it was with good reason. By the time we stuck the extremely pointy bow of Baja’s new 440 Grand Prix out into the wide blue, the previously flat surface of the lake had become a whitecap farm in full bloom.
Silently regretting my East Coast assumption that all lakes are placid, I adjusted the electrical stand-up, sit-down, do-everything-but-hug-you bolsters to their most comfortable position and hunkered down behind the tempered glass and stainless steel windshield. I then put the three Gaffrig throttles to the stops and prepared to shake loose a lot of expensive dental work.
The three-footers grew to four-footers, with the not-so-occasional five-foot graybeard thrown in for good measure, all kicked up by a 20-knot northwester. Body check: lower back (the first to go in a rambunctious boat), content. Dental work: better off than the last time I took New York City’s A train. Knuckles: white. Face: big grin. Boat: no thumping, no pounding, not at 50 mph, not at 60 mph.
At a steady 60, I swung her, in a long sweeping turn, crosswise to the wind and seas. The Baja tracked steady but leaned a little into the wind. A touch of the K-Planes, and she straightened up like a marine at attention. I backed off on the throttles, and she suddenly transformed herself into a placid cruiser. Meanwhile, the seas were cockpit high, and the only other floating objects out there were the Kelly Island ferries plowing through the slop.
Is this Baja an all-out raceboat? Absolutely not, although I can think of more than a few trophy-seekers that’ll eat her wake. Sure, with a 24-degree transom deadrise, she is about as deep-V as you can get–that explains the effortless slicing through the seas. What about those three 502s? Well, they may be a notch up from the standard MerCruiser 454s, but they were driving stock Bravo One drives, not the surface piercers favored by the true race-bred. (Incidentally, with the center drive in neutral, the 440 maneuvers around the dock as docilely as any family-oriented stern drive cruiser, something you’ll never see with a surface-piercer.)
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.