I believe in love at first sight. But why are the Italians always involved? To be fair, it's Italian design that holds a special place in my heart, from the sculpted sheet metal of fire-breathing Ferraris and Lamborghinis to the hip home furnishings of Cassina that would transform my apartment into the ideal set for a Stanley Kubrick film. And I admire the bold lines and gorgeous accommodations that grace the yachts offered by the legion of Italian boatbuilders.
In both the aforementioned cars, lines are meant to be sexy first and, for the most part, functional later. A striking design in a practical package is rare, but in a boat it's ofttimes a necessity. But that's just what the reinvigorated Mochi Craft has achieved.
Prior to being absorbed by the Ferretti Group in 2003, Mochi Craft was focused on building midsize, flying-bridge vessels much like models that were already being built by Ferretti and a number of its competitors. Rather than have a duplicate effort, Ferretti called on the Italian yacht-design group Victory Design to relaunch the Mochi Craft name as an entirely new line of boats called the Dolphin.
I was already enamored with Mochi's first two Dolphins—the 51 and the flying-bridge-equipped, 74-foot MaxiDolphin—before I saw the 44 at this year's Miami International Boat Show. Sitting among the Ferretti Group's myriad brands, the 44 looked, to quote Bob Dylan, like she'd just stepped out of La Dolce Vita. Like the Dolphins before her, the 44's exterior lines are inspired by the workaday, handsome Downeast lobster boats, but with a sexy, modern twist. Essentially she's a scaled-down 51, with a hull finished in Oriental beige—a soft, creamy yellow that emphasizes the deep brown of the teak swim platform, side decks, cockpit, and grabrails. (Each Dolphin model has a signature hull color.) The white deckhouse and shapely cleats give her a fashionable appearance, as do the retro ports and highly raked side windows on her topsides. I left her wanting to see more.
About six weeks later I was able to do just that, spending a day with her in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and again her looks made my heart flutter. And so did her performance. Equipped with optional 575-hp Volvo Penta diesels, the 44 reached a top end of 39.7 mph at 2500 rpm and a cruise of 28.8 mph at 2000 rpm. Unfortunately the one- to two-foot seas just off Fort Lauderdale obviated a rough-water wring-out, and an electrical malfunction rendered the standard BCS trim tabs inoperable; had they worked, I would have been able to trim the bow down a bit, and the 44 might have gained a few more mph. But in Port Everglades Inlet, the 44 effortlessly weaved through a tight group of vessels and cut through the confused wakes at WOT while the windshield remained dry as a bone. Credit's due to a few factors: a deep-V hull with generous flare and spray rails, smooth-shifting electronic Volvo Penta single-lever controls, and responsive BCS power-assisted hydraulic steering. The 44 also had excellent sightlines from the port-side helm, which allowed unobstructed views in all directions.
As sweetly as she ran, she looked even better. Her aft deck and cockpit make her an ideal picnic boat. As for the cockpit, I particularly like her six-seat, C-shape settee just aft of the port-side helm. With a teak table that expands to 37"Lx44"W, it's an ideal alfresco dining area. She already has ample light emanating from large forward-facing and side windows, but things really open up when the electrically actuated 5'4"Wx7'7"L canvas roof is opened. If weather's a factor, leave the roof closed and lower the aft drop curtain. That way guests can enjoy DVDs on the 13-inch LCD TV that rises just above the cockpit's slick, starboard-side teak credenza. Guests who still want sun can walk up the 12-inch-wide side decks to the foredeck sunpad or retreat aft to a pair of settees on her aft deck.
While the purpose of the above-decks layout seemed obvious, below decks surprised me. Accessing the area via a starboard-side companionway, I expected a lower saloon, galley, and forepeak master—the kind of just-enough accommodations for a cruising couple with the occasional guest relegated to a saloon settee that converts into a double berth. Instead, the 44's equipped with an amidships port-side master with a full queen that's tilted at a 45-degree angle, creating a walkaround berth, and a forepeak VIP with two single berths that can be joined to make a queen. And both staterooms are served by en suite heads. As lovely as the staterooms are, with so much space devoted to them, the galley suffers: The two-burner Gaggenau cooktop and microwave/convection oven are ready for gourmands, but there's not enough food stowage for two couples over a long weekend. The stateside version of the 44 addresses one problem directly, wisely filling the former crew berth that's accessed under the aft deck's L-shape settee with a 3.2-cubic-foot freezer; there's also room here for a washer/dryer and a pair of folding bicycles.
The tiny galley is my only gripe about this beautiful boat. I'd rather see a larger galley and a smaller stateroom with a forepeak master than the 44's current floor plan. Perhaps her layout's an apt reflection of how she'll be used, as an ideal weekend cruiser for a few couples who will picnic on the hook and then proceed to turn the heads of every salt to whatever quay she pulls into for dinner. And that cockpit is just so sexy and functional.
Someone please stop me, for I am starry-eyed for another Italian.
teak cockpit sole, side decks, and swim platform; teak-and-holly sole in saloon and staterooms; Besenzoni hydraulic passarelle, davit; hydraulic folding transom; electrically retractable canvas top, Side-Power bow thruster; Poly-Planar MRD-60 CD player; Sony speakers; Maptech radar/chartplotter, Raymarine ST60 tridata display; ST6001 autopilot; Simrad RS82 VHF; Jabsco searchlight; 9.5-kW Mase diesel genset; ProSafe galvanic isolator; Mastervolt battery charger; 2/ Techma electric MSDs; Isotherm refrigerator/freezer, 3.2-cu.-ft. freezer; two-burner Gaggenau cooktop; Raritan ice maker; General Electric microwave/convection oven; 13" Sharp Aquos LCD TV; Alessi cutlery; Mochi Craft crockery set; 48,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; Avadon hot/ cold transom shower; BCS trim tabs; Splendide 5200 washer/dryer; Quick windlass; Bruce anchor; Racor fuel-water separators
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/575-hp Volvo Penta D9-575 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 286/1.562 :1
- Props: 26X37 4-blade Nibral
- Price as Tested: available by request
This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.