A couples coupe gets a flybridge addition and goes to a whole new level, literally and figuratively.
I’ve told boat dealers this before, and I’ll tell them again: “Catalina is right there.” I think Rick Young was tempted — who wouldn’t be? — but he had business to attend to after our sea trial. I did too, but maybe my sense of duty is more fluid than his. Anyway, we had work to do, putting the Tiara 44 Flybridge through its paces for Sea and Silver Seas Yachts.
The F44 debuted at last year’s Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, and it kept the features that made its predecessor, the 44 Coupe, so popular: namely, social spaces, comfort and ease of operation. Even with the addition of a flybridge, the F44 kept its sleek look and coupe-like profile thanks to a gentle, graceful flowing of the shearline from about amidships to the transom.
Few & Many
At its heart, the F44 is a couples boat, but it’s a bit of an extrovert, too. Its size makes it easily operable by two people, especially given the docking station that swings out from behind a panel on the starboard side of the cockpit, and its layout — single-level (mostly) main deck walkway, steps (not a ladder) to the flybridge, ample sidedecks and a 60-inch swim platform — makes it easy to get on, off and around the boat, in a hurry if need be, to place fenders and tie dock lines.
But despite its couples-ness, it does have two staterooms and two heads (and the salon dinette can convert), and there is enough seating aboard for both starting sides in a baseball game and the managers. Make all of them remove their cleats. The flybridge includes a doublewide helm seat, a three-person companion settee and a large settee with a table aft. An entertainment center houses a sink, a refrigerator and a cutting board. It’s a great location for three or four couples to enjoy a harbor cruise or sunset cocktails.
In the cockpit are a transom settee and a built-in aft-facing seat. For a small group, the cockpit is a nice gathering place but with the sliding doors both open and secured, the cockpit and interior become one space, which brings the salon’s L-shaped settee and table (up a step to port) and loveseat (up a step to starboard) into the scene. Occupants of both settees have easy views out the windows thanks to being raised just slightly from the salon sole and can easily chat with folks in the cockpit. Two more people can enjoy catching some rays on the bow sunpad.
Sharing the main cabin with the salon is the galley, which is all the way aft. To starboard is a countertop that includes a sink and a stovetop and has a microwave/convection oven, refrigerator/freezer drawers and drawers beneath it. A smaller counter with drawers underneath is to port. Cabinets are above both counters.
The master stateroom occupies the bow and includes an island queen berth and an en suite head with a sink/vanity, a VacuFlush toilet and a shower stall. The foot of the bed lifts to reveal storage. It of course has an entertainment package that includes a 24-inch TV, a Blu Ray/DVD player, and a Fusion remote control and two JL Audio speakers. Portholes and an overhead hatch, all of which open, bring in natural light and airflow.
Amidships, is the second stateroom. It has standing headroom at the entrance but not over the berths or the small settee. The twin berths can be combined into one large berth, depending on the situation. Occupants have a hanging locker, though the owners can elect to use that space for a washer/dryer combo unit, and they use the second head, which serves as the day head.
Having driven other Tiara models, both larger and smaller than the F44, I expected sporty performance and very good handling, and after about 40 minutes of no-wake transiting through Newport Harbor, I finally got the chance to see if this new Tiara would prove its place in the family. It didn’t disappoint. During a hard-over turn at near WOT, the F44 leaned over like a sportboat and closed a tight circle that had us back in our own wake in no time, all while losing just a couple of knots of speed. The transition from hard left to hard right was smooth and quick, and the sharp entry of the hull handled the ocean swell and our own wake no matter the angle of our approach.
We operated the F44 from the flybridge helm, the only helm on our test boat. Standard features include twin Garmin 7612 multifunction displays that are part of a Volvo Glass Cockpit package, Volvo autopilot, Garmin radar, a VHF radio and a sport wheel. Built into the arm of the doublewide helm seat are the engine throttles, the Volvo joystick and the Garmin GRID remote, which controls the MFDs without touching them.
For boat buyers in the Pacific Northwest or other temperate climates, the F44 can be outfitted with a lower helm station, which would eliminate the love seat. Another option would be to choose the full flybridge poly-carb enclosure, to maintain the salon layout and still have a year-round bridge.
We managed to hit 30 knots on test day, just for a bit, but we got there. A more consistent top speed was 29.6 knots at 3620 rpm, at which point the twin Volvo IPS600 diesels were burning a combined 43 gph. The F44 settled into a solid cruise profile at about 3200 rpm, at which point we were traveling at a 23.5-knot pace wile burning 33 gph, yielding a range of about 257 statute miles (with a 10 percent reserve). The reality, as it always seems to be with Volvo Penta IPS engines, is that fuel efficiency from 3100 rpm to WOT only varies by about 0.03 mpg, so range varies by about 10 to 14 miles. Slow down to trawler speed, 8.3 knots at 1200 rpm, and the range stretches out to just more than 1,100 miles. That’s more than 4 mpg.
Sometimes, the details that aren’t as obvious reveal how a builder values quality. Tiara uses bronze seacocks on all of its underwater through-hull fittings, integrates its wood and foam-core stringers into the hull with encapsulated hand-laid fiberglass, and gelcoats its fiberglass-lined bilges.
The things that are noticeable, though, are worth a look. It took me a while to notice, but the Corian used on the galley counters is present in several places throughout the yacht, tying everything together with some thoughtful design. It appears as a small “shelf” at the helm, for small devices and cupholders. It appears in the middle of the flybridge table as a sunken rack that holds four cups. In the cockpit, it appears as an inset base for the table, which folds in half and leaves a bit of the Corian exposed. And it appears as the lid for the transom grill and as the countertop next to it — oh, I haven’t mentioned that yet? Yep, there’s an electric grill built into the transom, and it takes advantage of the huge swim platform (which can be optioned as a Nautical Structures hydraulic platform outfitted with dinghy chocks) as a safety zone.
Throughout the yacht, teak and wenge wood cabinets, walls, trim and soles tie one area to the next to the next, as does the cream-colored upholstery and ceiling and wall treatments. Teak is an option on the swim platform and the steps to the flybridge too, so buyers can somewhat customize their teak level.