|LOA||44 ft., 4 in.|
|Beam||13 ft., 2 in.|
|Engines||Twin Volvo IPS 600 (435 hp each)|
|Base Price||Contact dealer|
|Twin Volvo IPS 600 diesels, joystick control, Volvo trim tabs, autopilot, shower at platform, air conditioning, Esthec decking, “superyacht” portholes in staterooms, Tecma toilet, Lewmar anchor windlass, metallic paint on hull and superstructure (owner’s choice), TVs in wheelhouse and both staterooms, underwater lights and much more.|
|See dealer for complete list.|
|S2 Yachts, Holland, Mich.; tiarayachts.com|
|West Coast Dealer|
|MarineMax, San Diego; (619) 294-2628; marinemax.com|
Posted: January 2, 2013 | Boat Type: Express Cruiser
A unique, fast, eye-catching couples boatYou could describe it as the funny-looking boat with the funny-sounding name, but that would be a vast oversimplification of the Zeelander Z44. It’s a 44-foot boat that doesn’t look like anything else, especially given its very noticeable hull colors — including gold, Bentley blue and our test boat’s green, but Zeelander will accommodate any color — and has fine touches you’d find on much bigger yachts, plus its name is fun to say.
The boat reached U.S. shores the old-fashioned way: as an immigrant that eventually earned its citizenship. After producing a few hulls for the original patron — a man who knew exactly what he wanted in a mini-superyacht and didn’t stop until the first Z44 was finished — and a few select others, its original Holland-based builders wanted to find a U.S.-based builder to construct the yacht with U.S. labor and U.S.-sourced parts. When they found Holland, Mich.-based S2 Yachts (builder of Tiara Yachts), they knew they had a love connection. It probably didn’t hurt that the next town over from Holland, Mich., is Zeeland. No kidding.
So it came to be in April 2011 that a Dutch-imagined and -designed yacht found a surrogate home in a serendipitously named Michigan town.
The uniqueness of the Z44 begins with the transom, which slopes away from the boat down to the water at a roughly 45-degree angle. But it’s a soft slope — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a right angle or a hard corner anywhere on the boat. It’s a feature that makes the boat stand out, but its serves another purpose: The face of the sloped transom folds out and down to create a swim platform that can accommodate a couple of sunbathers, along with their tools of the trade. You can also board the boat over the transom when the platform is down. Otherwise, access to the boat is via the sidedecks and a step down into the cockpit.
Boaters who like to play host will appreciate the Z44’s cockpit/main deck. Divided into two distinct zones, the aft section includes seating for eight on a C-shaped settee along the transom, with a high-low table, and a rear-facing L-shaped settee that backs up to a dinette. Opposite the forward settee is a built-in fiberglass wetbar housing a sink, a trash container and an ice-maker. Just forward of that is a door that hides a small refrigerator and freezer. The L-shaped settee is protected by a zip-in canopy overhead, while the aft settee is a sun-seeker’s happy place, especially once it is converted to a large sunpad when the table is lowered and a cushion is added. It’s a great spot for wine and appetizers at the dock or during a sunset harbor cruise.
Forward of all that, under the hardtop and the tree-sided enclosure, is another settee, this one also C shaped, the captain’s chair, the helm and another table. Five people can sit on the settee, and the captain’s chair swivels around to become part of the scene at the table, which folds in half to be out of the way while the boat is running. All in all, there is seating for about 14 people, depending on their familiarity with one another.
At the helm, the captain will find the controls to the twin Volvo IPS 600 diesels, which crank out 435 hp each. The controls are to port, and the IPS joystick is to starboard. The dash on our test boat has a GPSMap 7212 12-inch touchscreen display, and there is plenty of room for another one, should a buyer desire. Also, there is a Volvo engine display, a Garmin autopilot, trim tab controls and switches for the wipers, horn, windlass, sunroof and much more.
The cockpit sole, sidedecks, swim platform and foredeck are Esthec, a teak-like decking composite that looks like the real thing, is highly durable, easy to clean — sweep it and hose it down — and requires minimal care. Its tacky surface also provides excellent footing, which is great for moving around while under way, and it weighs less than teak, so yachts that use it are lighter. The cap rail, which runs all the way around the vessel, is another place the builder has opted for a product that looks like wood but isn’t. It is a synthetic material that looks like a dark, rich wood, but it is easy to care for and won’t suffer the effects of wind, weather and salt water. The same material is used in the windshield frame.
Other features that stand out include the stainless steel railing and the crown molding–like teak strip that runs along the inside roofline of the hardtop. The stainless railing, including the grabrail that runs along the hardtop, is an elegant elliptical shape and laser-etched on the end with the Zeelander logo. The wood strip along the interior of the forward cockpit is rounded and curved, in keeping with the yacht’s no-hard-corners theme. It serves as a decorative element, for sure, but it also softens the light that emanates from behind it, and it serves as a grabrail during offshore runs in rough seas.
Belowdecks accommodations include a galley, two staterooms and a head. Once you clear the landing at the bottom of the stairs, which is still under the dash, you will find about 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom in the galley, the forward stateroom and the head — something I didn’t expect from a 44-foot boat.
The galley is to starboard and includes a sink, a refrigerator/freezer, a convection microwave oven and a two-burner stovetop. There are three cabinets above the countertop and drawer storage below. Two portholes let in natural light.
Forward of the galley is the master cabin. The queen-size island berth is accessible from the port side, and there is a bench settee on that same side. Overhead storage wraps around the bed, and a hanging locker is on the port side. The bed lifts up to reveal more storage. A flat-screen TV rises out of the bulkhead between the bed and the galley. There is no door to separate the master from the rest of the cabin, so privacy could be an issue, or the VIP cabin could be an option. It extends the full beam of the boat and also has a queen-size bed and a TV, but it is tucked under the forward part of the cockpit, so headroom is an issue. There is a bench settee on either side of the bed and storage on various shelves and in a hanging locker; two hull windows on each side let in plenty of natural light, but I’m going to wager that most owners will take the forward berth and leave this one for guests.
The head includes a Tecma electric toilet, cupboard space above and below the vanity top and bowl sink, and a separate shower stall.
Get Up and Go
With beautiful downtown San Diego and Point Loma as our backdrop for the sea trial, MarineMax San Diego’s Pete Zaleski and I put the Z44 through its paces. At WOT, about 3580 rpm, the yacht hit a top speed of 35 knots, at which point it was burning 44 gph. At 3000 rpm, we were traveling 27.7 knots and burning 26 gph, while 2500 rpm yielded 20.7 mph and burned 19 gph. We were on plane at about 14 knots, with the engines spinning 2000 rpm and burning 12 gph. Getting out of the hole, there was noticeable bowrise with the tabs up, but when we put them down and jammed the throttles forward again, bowrise was minimal.
The highest my soundmeter reached at the helm was about 78 dBA, and that was at WOT with the sunroof open and the rear enclosure zipped out. At 20 knots, the dBA reading was 72. The needle actually jumped higher while Zaleski and I chatted during the low-speed portion of the test. I went belowdecks while we were going about 25 knots, and in the VIP cabin the needle steadied out at around 70 dBA. Zaleski said the low readings are due to Zeelander spending a lot of time and money on making the boat as quiet as can be. Renowned engineering firm Silent Line was hired to seek out sound and vibration and quash them.
As you might expect from a 44-footer powered by twin Volvo IPS 600s, the Z44 was fast, maneuverable, tight in turns and quick to respond. We had to make our own waves, as test day was fairly calm, and the vessel handled everything with no trouble. Zaleski hit our wake while I sat in the VIP cabin with the soundmeter; the needle barely jumped, and I hardly felt it.
Zeelander models have been turning heads at boat shows on both U.S. coasts and in Europe. They’re unique looking and easy on the eyes. “It gets lots of double-takes from other boaters,” Zaleski said. They’re not going to be for everyone, even if everyone sneaks a peek. Long-distance cruisers aren’t going to see a Z44 as their vessel. Weekend cruisers and day-trippers — folks headed to Catalina Island or a favorite location on Puget Sound — are more the audience for the Z44. It’s a couples boat, especially couples who like to entertain. Listed at more than $1.3 million, the yacht is definitely high end, but that’s what happens when the original owner tells the designers he wants the best mid-40-foot yacht they can come up with, cost be darned.