Boat Review: Cavileer 44

Many aficionados claim that a 44-footer represents the ideal size for a sportfishing boat...

Many aficionados claim that a 44-footer represents the ideal size for a sportfishing boat: big enough for comfort yet small enough to maneuver when battling a fish. I won't be drawn into that argument; however, I do know that many fine designers in the yachting world share a particular fondness for hulls that come from the studio of this boat's designer, Don Blount. Personally, I've never been disappointed by one of his creations. The performance numbers of the new Cavileer 44 showcase Blount's talents and keep his perfect record safe.

Upon arriving at the docks in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I admit I was glad to see that "The Donald" finally decided to do some upgrade work on the Trump Marina (originally known as Sen. Frank S. Farley State Marina).

Conditions couldn't have been more ideal for fishing. A 15-knot breeze out of the northwest kept the water calm within quite a distance from shore. Ocean swells up to about 3 feet loped their way out of the southeast at a long-enough period to be hardly noticeable, and tons of baitfish dappled the water's surface just outside the inlet. We didn't have enough time to run all the way out the canyons for white marlin, but the fluke and striper ran strong.

Performance
Some boats take time to get used to. Maneuvering around a dock can be problematic if the boat reacts too quickly or dramatically when put in gear. Nothing like that occurred on the Cavileer 44; it performed with refinement and predictability every step of the way - the highest compliment I can pay any vessel.

At wide-open throttle, I cranked the power-assisted steering wheel hard over to see how tight she could turn and accomplished a 180-degree about-face with very little loss of speed in just about one boat length. Yes, that's what I said: one boat length.

The Cavileer 44 backs down at 5.6 knots with the water only about halfway up the transom. And I don't believe I know of a fish that could outrun this boat when it's spinning. Trim-tab adjustment proved sensitive with only minor corrections needed, but I'd like to see the tabs retract automatically when the gears get shifted into neutral.

Drifting in a beam sea, the 44 displays a long roll moment with moderate transitions. Some people might think that the 44, sporting a pair of 700-hp Caterpillar C-12 diesels, might be slightly underpowered. But she came up on plane in seven seconds, hit a top speed of more than 30 knots and consumed a much more modest amount of fuel than she would have if equipped with larger engines. Overall, the Cavileer 44 handles magnificently with the 700-hp Cats.
One of only two changes I would make concern the loudness of the exhausts. I'd love to see a quieter design. Unfortunately, that usually costs more money, and Cavileer does a fabulous job of building extremely nice boats at more affordable price points than many other companies.

Interior
The overall ambience of the interior speaks to minimalist elegance. If you want flash, or, as my wife calls it, "the French-bordello look," Cavileer probably isn't for you. Rather, the sophisticated elegance comes with fine materials executed with simple perfection. The industry-standard interior layout starts with an L-shaped settee to port. Here, Cavileer bows to a trend I've seen a lot these days by increasing the size of the dinette to starboard so more than two people can sit and eat comfortably. This layout works wonderfully as those seated on the settee in the salon feel included in the table conversation as well.

The portside galley features undercounter refrigerators and a mammoth pantry storage compartment hidden under the galley sole. Cavileer also builds an interesting microwave oven/coffeemaker combo into the outboard bulkhead. Other galley features include a ceramic cooktop, stainless sink, Corian counters and tricked-out exhaust fan hidden in the countertop.

Being a large person, I personally appreciate the 6 feet 5 inches of headroom throughout most of the boat. In the salon, the air-conditioning vents funnel cool air through the valances above the windows.

Belowdecks, a centerline island berth in the forepeak with private head and separate stand-up shower stall constitutes the master cabin. Another guest cabin with over/under berths to starboard also incorporates a separate head and shower.

Cockpit
Modules on the forward end of the 150-square-foot cockpit contain tackle drawers to starboard. Engine-room access rests on centerline. To port you'll find a bait-rigging station with a sink, storage beneath and a freezer outboard of that.
A 104-gallon fish box runs athwartships in the deck and holds a plumbed lift-out box. A well-lit, 66-gallon baitwell mounts in the transom and doubles as another fish box. Large scuppers in each corner look at first glance as though they'd leave water sitting in the corners. The scuppers not only drain the cockpit quickly, but also leave the deck totally dry with no pooling anywhere.

Though Cavileer offers no undergunwale rod storage, you get two rod holders in each coaming, four in the gunwales and six more across the back of the flybridge - all as standard fare. There's also room belowdecks to build in a handsome, lighted tackle showcase if you desire. Otherwise, you'll find additional rod storage beneath the salon settees and under the seats on the flybridge.

Flybridge
The flybridge features a straight settee to port with a refrigerated drink box at the aft end. Hopefully you won't need to take advantage of all the storage in the console and brow, as well as under all the seats.

Cavileer provides more than adequate space for flush-mounting even the largest new video navigation displays. The company builds a space to mount teaser reels just above the helm seat in the overhead compartment, and a removable hatch

Specifications
LOA 44'5"
BEAM 16'0"
DRAFT 3'3"
WEIGHT 44,000 lb.
FUEL 730 gal.
WATER 120 gal.
POWER T 700-hp C-12s

hides the reels when not in use. I especially liked the placement of the DC distribution panel in plain view at the helm. It makes operation much easier. Following on that, Cavileer installed the main distribution panel in the salon at eye level. Personally, I hate having to kneel down and squint to find the breakers I want to flick. This one simple accommodation should be an ABYC requirement.
Visibility - always a challenge on sportfishing convertibles - seems excellent in all directions on the 44. I discovered that without the seat back on the helm chair, you get an unobstructed view of the aft two-thirds of the cockpit, including the entire fighting chair.

The owner of our test boat opted to install all Furuno electronics, including NavNet, GP37 GPS/WAAS Navigator, plus an RD30 Digital Display.

The other change I would elect to make involves the mounting of the EPIRB. I'm not sure whether the factory placed it or the owner, but mounted directly over the companion helm seat, the locking pin that holds it in its mount could easily bang a passenger's head if the boat launched off a wave. I'd move it 2 feet forward to alleviate the problem.

Engine Room
Twin 700-hp Caterpillar C-12s leave more than enough room for even the largest owner or crew member to crawl outboard of the engines. Filters placed conveniently along the forward bulkhead make for easy routine maintenance. Each 44 comes with a 10-kW generator as standard equipment. And to keep the hull sides clean, Cavileer mounts the air intakes for the engine room in the cockpit. All surfaces in the engine compartment clean up easily, and a standard oil-change system helps keep it that way.

Design and Construction
A solid fiberglass hull bottom transitions into hull sides cored with end-grain balsa. Cavileer spends extra money where it counts, using vinylester resins instead of polyester for much greater laminate durability. Perhaps the most impressive hull statistic is the 44's draft. The hull boasts pockets for improved performance, as well as remarkably shallow draft. This 44-footer floats in just 31¼4 feet of water.

The boat's great performance stems from channeling the prop thrust through the tunnel, as well as from a shallower shaft angle, which aligns the thrust more parallel to the water's surface so there's less wasted thrust pushing downward.

Walking along the cabin side to get to the foredeck proved easy and secure with adequate handholds and nonskid everywhere it should be. I particularly like the three large hatches in the foredeck that provide ventilation and ambient light belowdecks. A windlass and a hefty bow rail also come standard. Whether you clean your boat yourself or you have a crew, the process will be easier thanks to the cabin-front and brow design. Every spot you might want to wash can be reached simply and safely.

Cavileer just keeps getting better and better at what it does. And what it does is build superb offshore fishing boats for price-conscious owners. I'm sure you'll find that hardly anyone ever buys a Cavileer as a first boat. It takes knowledge and a very critical nature to truly appreciate just how well Cavileers are designed and constructed.