Before stepping onto Tiara Yachts’ Q44 for a trial run on Lake Michigan, I wondered if the builder would be able to expand upon its cruiser mindset.
It turns out the Q44 truly is a breakthrough, so well thought out that it will attract imitators.
“We sweated over every detail,” Tiara Yachts founder Leon Slikkers told me. “For example, we changed the design of the windshield probably a dozen times to make sure we got it just right.”
This obsession with perfection was clear to me well beyond the windshield.
ON THE SURFACE
The Q44 shares the Tiara 44 Coupe’s seaworthy hull, but the family resemblance ends there. This new Tiara is all about the topsides. Its designers adopted a multizone approach.
Sliding electric doors beside the helm and companion seats? A Volvo Penta Glass Cockpit electronics suite? Joystick handling and reverse-cycle A/C and heating? These features add to the big-boat feel of the Q44 — plus, they make it a blast to drive.
THE BOW LOUNGE
Tiara envisioned three generations of family on board the Q44. The bow area is a natural gathering point, with a U-shaped sun pad and a love seat etched into its front, so a half-dozen people can sit up here and enjoy a sundowner on the hook.
Modeled from the sterns of many superyachts, a 60-inch teak swim platform at the transom combines with a 75-inch-wide adjoining lounge, making this area a secluded piece of waterfront real estate.
Tiara worked closely with bike-rack makers Yakima and Thule to get the proportions right on its roof rack. The racks held a kayak and mountain bike during our test, and they never wavered in 3-foot seas. Tiara used stainless steel to avoid corrosion, too.
The Q44 has an exterior island cooking space between the cockpit dining table and aft lounges. It’s a serious setup for grill masters, with a molded sink, Isotherm refrigerator/freezer, Kenyon electric grill and stowage drawers.
FOR THE ANGLER
Tiara Yachts is known for building high-quality vessels of all types, including sport-fishermen. And the builder can easily make your Q44 fish-ready. The boat can be configured with the island cooking space moved 36 inches aft in the cockpit. Doing this allows room for fish boxes in the cockpit sole. You can add rod holders, a livewell, Top Gun outriggers, a rocket launcher on the hardtop and a number of other angling features. Look for the first Q44 sport-fisherman with Hull No. 5.
250 NAUTICAL MILES MAXIMUM CRUISING RANGE AT 23 KNOTS
Yes, the Q44 is primarily a day boat, but a little time around the interior could easily entice owners to stay on board longer.
ONE BIG STATEROOM
Tiara’s designers configured a single stateroom for a couple rather than having multiple smaller staterooms. The result is more open interior space that might turn the long weekend into a full week aboard for a couple.
Stepping belowdecks into the cabin of a boat with such a large cockpit, you would think it might feel small. But headroom is 6 feet 2 inches, rising to 6 feet 9 inches under a sunroof that bathes the interior in natural light.
Using scissor berths allows the sleeping space to double as a lounge area. A 29-inch flat-screen TV, cedar hanging locker and Blu-ray player add more of the comforts from home.
In addition to the cockpit cooking space, a galley setup below will primarily be used for warming up food in the microwave and stowing dry goods. This galley includes a microwave/convection oven, Isotherm refrigerator/freezer and cabinet.
Tiara was smart to separate the head, which serves as the day-head for guests, from the owners’ shower compartment. They’re opposite each other on either side of the stairway. Both enclaves include full-framed doors and air-conditioning vents. The shower also has teak seating.
Tiara designed sizable stowage into the deck, accessed via the helm area. The space allows for water toys, life jackets, snorkeling gear and all that a boating family tends to want.
WHAT MAKES IT SO MUCH FUN TO DRIVE
We ran the boat on a blustery day in 3-foot seas on Lake Michigan. The builder says it connects Volvo Penta’s 435 hp engines via a jack shaft to IPS pod drives to lessen vibration and to give the Q44 excellent maneuverability. It works. Our test boat hit a top end of 33 knots at 3,600 rpm. Joystick steering makes it a fun ride, even in tight turns. A Volvo Penta Glass Cockpit is paired with a Garmin electronics suite, making the helm intuitive to manage. If you prefer a conventional engine setup, Tiara offers twin Cummins QSB550 diesels, also with Garmin electronics and joystick docking system.