As we work toward our dream to sail around the world, we continue to weigh the pros and cons of each sailing catamaran we come across.
At this year’s Annapolis Sailboat Show, the Leopard 44 was at the top of our list, but we hadn’t yet been aboard the new Helia 44. (Watch the boats.com short take video of the Helia 44.) My husband was gunning for the Leopard’s unique front cockpit and the guaranteed income program offered by Sunsail to pay off the first five years of the mortgage, however I’ve always been skeptical of some features on the Leopard.
The Leopard would be an awesome boat for coastal cruising, but it doesn't seem like the right boat to go around the world. First losing the nav station in the main salon, and then the odd concept of a forward cabin door. I’ve resealed leaking portholes and I can’t imagine a door would be fun. The front cockpit drain holes don’t appear they could drain a big wave over the bow, an inevitable occurrence on a circumnavigation.
By the close of the boat show, the Helia 44 had won me over. The roomy cockpit has great visibility and communication with the pilot up in the helm station, and there’s the added bonus of a lounging area on the cabin top beside the wheel—my perfect sleeping spot, so I can take the wheel when my husband nods off to never-never land.
Since the Helia has no need of a forward door, I get back my nav station. I also like the U shaped galley layout. Many galleys eliminate the wraparound to provide more open space for charter guests; this one would, in rough seas, let me brace myself and keep on cooking.
I like the wider feel to the living quarters in the pontoons on the Helia, and I prefer the three-cabin layout. The Sunsail charter program requires purchasing a Leopard with a 4-cabin layout, but Helia programs allow a bit more customization.
As far as construction goes, the Helia is a foam core molded hull versus the balsa wood core found in many production charter boats. While sailors can find pros and cons in each, foam core is known to be impervious to water, tough, lightweight, and resistant to impact. And you just don’t know what kind of beating a boat will take on a charter.
Our next step is to charter a Helia 44 and see how we really like it. Meanwhile, let me know if you've chartered any of these boats, and what you found.
Read the boats.com full review of the Helia 44.