In its more than 50 years of boatbuilding, Carver Yachts has never wavered from its sensible and practical approach to providing a good bang for your nautical buck. The latest Carver to join the lineup and spread this gospel is the 44 Sojourn. The 44 gives a nod to her popular younger sister, the 36 Mariner, which has a reputation as one of the biggest 36-footers on the market.
My test boat was waiting for me at the Florida Yacht Group dealership in St. Petersburg, Florida, and, killing time until manager Phil Crane returned from an offsite project, I had a look around.
I've spent time on many Carvers, including the 36 Mariner, and was one of the first journalists to review the Voyager line. No matter which model I was aboard, Carver's ability to maximize comfort, stowage, access, and entertaining and living space was noticeable.
I stepped aboard the 44 Sojourn via the large swim platform, where there is a sizeable locker for fenders and lines on the outboard side of the transom. Standing in the cockpit, it was easy to see that the space could hold a table and chairs for four. I decided to have a look at the engine compartment, unsnapping the carpeting, unlocking the hatch, and lifting it effortlessly to reveal a well-designed space with easy access to all critical maintenance areas and an optional 10 kW Kohler diesel genset. Helping Carver along with its space allocation are a pair of 370-horsepower Volvo Penta diesels and IPS 500 drives.
The one-level salon, galley, and accommodations area was next. If there were no other places aboard that showed Carver's skill with total use of space, this area would be enough to make the case. Considering this is a 44-footer, the salon has an open and airy feeling that is enhanced by large windows to either side and an Lshape Ultraleather couch to port with an entertainment center just forward. Opposite is a dinette with seating for six and, if necessary, it converts to a berth for two. The fully equipped galley lies amidships and to starboard and features plenty of counter and stowage space. The master stateroom features an en suite head with a large shower compartment. A twin-berth stateroom is to starboard and its guests would use the day-head.
When Crane arrived, it was time to get the boat off the dock. Access to the bridge is via a pair of wide stairways that I found safe and easy to use. I also noted the wide walkways to and from the bow area, where a chaise longue provides comfortable seating.
Here, too, Carver's skillful use of space was evident. When I sat at the starboard helm, the large console allowed for all switches, gauges, readouts, the Volvo Penta electronic monitoring system and joystick controller, and navigation equipment, including a Raymarine E120 chartplotter, to be within easy reach. To port is a bench seat, with another seat for two abaft. Across the aft end of the bridge is more seating with a sunpad on the overhang. For entertaining up here, there is an electric grill and Nova Kool 2.4-cubic-foot refrigerator. The boat was also fitted with a sun-blocking hardtop, an aluminum electronics arch, and a full clear plastic enclosure.
Getting the 44 Sojourn out of her rather tight dock space was simplified by using the innovative Volvo Penta IPS system. And while my sightlines forward and to either side were excellent, I could not see the stern of the boat from my chair, due to the aft seating/sunpad configuration in the middle. However, if the boat was equipped with an optional second IPS joystick on the port side, getting her back in the slip would not be a problem.
Running in calms seas in about 15 feet of water, I pushed the 44 Sojourn to a top speed of 29.1 knots. At 3300 rpm, we were cruising at a respectable 25.2 knots with a 31.7 gallons per hour fuel burn. And when I dropped her down to 2900 rpm, I noted a 20.7-knot speed with an economical 24.9 gallon per hour burn rate. With her 412 gallons of fuel, and subtracting 10 percent for safety, her range at cruise is just less than 300 nautical miles.
Good range, a quality build, and lots and lots of space: Who needs a second home? The Carver 44 Sojourn will provide any boating family with lots of good times on the water.
Carver Yachts, (920) 822-1600; www.carveryachts.com