Carver 44 SojournBy Capt. Bill Pike
We test two radically roomy, pod-equipped Carver cruisers, one with gas power and the other with diesel.
Coming up with this test report on Carver Yachts’ 44 Sojourn required two separate wringouts. I did the first on Georgia’s Lake Lanier last year, using a model fielded by Carver dealer Singleton Marine Group and outfitted with twin 400-hp Volvo Penta IPS550Gs, the only gasoline-powered pod propulsion package Volvo was selling at the time. The 33.7-mph top hop I recorded was sporty, and sound levels at the helm were serene (80 dB-A at full throttle), but largely due to the boat’s gasoline engines, dockside handling with the joystick was a tad less satisfying than I’d counted on. “She’s fine,” I told Singleton’s Darren Mathews as I backed into a slip at day’s end. “But diesels would pack more maneuvering wallop, I’d say. Guess it’s as tough pulling low-end torque out of gas-powered pods as it is out of conventional gas-powered inboards.”
My second wringout took place more recently, not long after I’d heard Carver was no longer selling the 44 with either gasoline-powered pods or gasoline-powered inboards (see “Bye-Bye Big Block,” on page 60), a development that knocked the starch out of the data I’d collected on Lake Lanier. Luckily, Legendary Marine, a Carver dealer in Destin, Florida, was able to provide a 44 for a do-over on short notice, complete with a set of diesel powerplants: 370-hp Volvo Penta IPS500s.
Of course, Legendary’s boat was virtually identical to her gasoline-powered sistership in terms of layout and looks. And when I lifted the engine-room hatch—a heavy, actuator-assisted affair that doubles as the cockpit sole—I noted similarities in the engine room as well. For starters, the basic layout was reassuringly simple—IPS technology, after all, incorporates a host of complexities (steering gear, raw-water intake, exhaust components, etc.) into a single, unified, easy-to-deal-with whole. And then there was the roominess of the place—it made accessing filters, drive fills, and other maintenance points look easy. Only one problem presented itself: no protective, convenience-enhancing central walkway over the Deka marine batteries in the bilges between the inboard engine bearers.
When Legendary’s Jeremy Holcomb and I actually headed for the briny, the surface of Choctawhatchee Bay was darn near flat, a sea state that mirrored the one I’d experienced in Georgia. Although our top speed of 27.3 mph was about 6 mph off the gasoline version’s, a difference due primarily to a deficit of some 60 horsepower, speeds in the cruising range were way more fuel-efficient. Consider, for instance, the data points for the long-legged lope of 23 mph. At that velocity the 44’s diesels were burning 31 gph at 3000 rpm while the gasoline version had consumed about 38 gph at 3500 rpm, almost 20 percent more. Indeed, when I stopped to compare notes on the two vessels for a moment, I could find only two data sets where the diesel version lagged. One was running attitude, which tended to be higher by approximately one degree over all, presumably due to more machinery weight aft, and the other was sound levels at the helm, which were higher by a couple of decibels toward the top end of the rpm register.
The driving experiences seemed equal. Visibility from the diesel 44’s immense, hardtop-equipped flying bridge was superb all the way around and her tactical diameter in hardover turns was two boat lengths, if that. Trim tabs were seriously helpful: With them fully deployed, we enjoyed a super-smooth 18-mph ride while burning just 23 gph at 2640 rpm, a setup that cut fuel consumption by roughly two gph when compared to a tabs-up, same-speed scenario), and full-chat handling felt as lithe as a sportboat’s.
But here’s the kicker. The low-end torque I’d missed while docking the 44 during the first wringout announced itself with authority during the second. In fact, in league with a trusty IPS joystick, it transformed our diesel-powered test boat into a veritable ballet dancer, capable of walking sideways with gusto, spinning rapidly in place, and pulling alongside Legendary’s fuel dock with consummate ease.
Both boats, as noted earlier, had virtually the same two-stateroom-two-head interior, with a layout that does justice to Carver’s avowed forte for maximizing space onboard. The staterooms constitute a perfect example. Not only was the forward master capacious, with a large six-foot-by-seven-foot inner-spring-equipped island berth and en suite head with shower stall, it gave off a comfortably residential vibe as well. And in the similarly roomy VIP, I measured the foyer’s headroom at a lofty seven feet, the length of the twin berths there at six feet plus, and the width of the berths at slightly over two feet, with plenty of headroom above.
The saloon/dinette/galley area was equally pleasing. Natural light poured in through two sealed side windows, port and starboard, as well as through the aluminium-frame glass slider at the entrance aft. Headroom was approximately 6'5" and, happily enough, the sole shared a seamless, single-level floorplan with the rest of the interior. Hatches in the sole (which were tough to pry up, unfortunately) revealed stowage spaces, crisply labeled electrics, and occasional white-gelcoated swathes of hull, a laminate made of Knytex substrates with a vinylester barrier coat.
Test day ended in Destin with a tour of topside arrangements. As an average-size guy standing 5'11" and weighing 170 pounds, I found I could walk normally and safely forward via the wide side decks, with lofty rails (28 inches high at the rear and 32 inches high at the bow) flanking the whole journey. And I discovered the anchor- and line-handling area forward was virtually flat, another safety feature. And finally, I noted the easygoing nature of the two broad stairways to the bridge, each rising gently upward, one to port, the other to starboard.
My conclusion? The 44 Sojourn is a comfortable, spacious cruiser with a midrange LOA, economical cruise capabilities, and superior joystick maneuverability. Pod propulsion gets credit for the latter two virtues, of course. But then, so does ol’ Rudolph Diesel.
This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.