Capt. Steve Says...
Stepping aboard the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44, one is immediately struck by the refined, soft styling and finish work of the fiberglass. Italian designers believe in curves and Mochi Craft has built its reputation on lots of TLC in the tooling process. Mochi Craft makes good use of its five-axis routers to sculpture its fiberglass molds into works of art that would make Brancusi green with envy. This level of design work and tooling expense pays off with the discriminating yachtsman because he knows there are few boats on the planet executed with such consummate skill and art. In fact, this boat is so unusual even novice boaters who are not discriminating can tell the difference.The Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 has clearly been lavished with thousands of man-hours of work on the CAD-CAM because a builder simply does not come up with a boat this unusual, yet practical, simply by recycling old designs. Almost everything is rounded, virtually nothing is squared off, and this is one of the elements that sets the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 apart.
Who is this boat designed for and what is the boat’s intended work? Most Italian boats in this size range are “day boats.” That is to say, they are taken out in the morning, cruised to a beach or cove, anchored for swim and play, then returned back to the marina at night, or some variation on this theme. Boats designed for this kind of use usually have large open areas below deck and need not have a hardtop. The galley is a place to make some sandwiches or to chop up some fruit for a salad. That’s about it.But the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 not only has two large staterooms below, it also has two private heads. Not only that, but it has a hardtop and a garage for a small tender, something that most Italian day boats don’t have. And all of this is because the mission of the Dolphin 44 is a long weekend of cruising by two couples. In case you haven’t noticed, virtually all Italian boaters are gregarious. They like being around friends and cruising in company. With this 44, they can marina hop the French and Italian Riviera for long weekends with friends. Or, they can have the boat ferried off to places such as Capri or Sicily, then drive or fly in for a few days off R&R along some of the most picturesque coastline in the world. This is truly boating, Italian style, and it was the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44 was made for.Forty-four feet is ideal for this mission statement: a long weekend cruiser for two couple. The boat is easy to handle, relatively economical to operate at 20 knots, can go most anywhere coastwise, and has enough room aboard that two couples can enjoy each other’s company, but also have some privacy if they want it.
Let’s start with the cockpit because that is how one enters the boat. There are teak pads in the port and starboard quarters to aid stepping aboard. You will not do it from the swim platform because there is no transom door. Rather the middle section of the transom folds down creating what the Italians call a "teak beach.” When deployed horizontally, the transom extends about 2’ beyond the swim platform giving you plenty of room for sun bathing, or to handle a friend’s tender when he comes over to visit you at anchor. By lifting up the deck of the cockpit, the yacht’s tender garage is exposed. Mochi Craft has cleverly designed a place to stow a small inflatable. Since this is a cruising boat, it must have a tender. But because it is an Italian boat, that tender can’t be lashed to the stern because that would be far too ugly and would ruin the esthetics of the boat. The solution to the dilemma of how to have a tender but not have to look at it while under way, is the garage. This solution, however, is not without it’s compromises, and two come quickly to mind: 1) you are limited to a 9’ tender which is small; and, 2) you will have to stow your kicker separately and have the hassle of putting it on and taking it off and keeping the gasoline from leaking out in the boat. The latter problem can be solved with a system, and the former you’ll just have to get used to. Or, you could handle the tender American-style with some sort of davit or platform system. The cockpit has classic yacht teak decking that carries up to the bridge deck. An “L”-shaped corner seating arrangement on the port side leaves the deck open and uncluttered. A bench seat along the starboard gunwales seats two, so all told five or six people can sit in the cockpit, which because it is so large and open is ideal for a cocktail party. There is a canvas canopy that comes out from the after edge of the hardtop and provides shade if that is desired. We like the idea because we are all for safe sun.
A Hardtop Express
Probably the most refreshing aspect Dolphin 44, although it’s not solely limited to Mochi Craft, is the absence of a bulkhead at the aft end of the hardtop. This is the way boats used to be built in the 1950s, and it has been revived by a number of builders the last several years. I like it because it brings the outside in. One of Mochi Craft’s clever innovations is to have a canvas and isinglass “bulkhead” that automatically extends down from the aft part of the hardtop. It attaches to isinglass side curtains to button up the bridge deck when its cold or rainy. I’ve cruised extensively on boats with this arrangement and highly recommend it.
As we step from the aft deck into the bridge deck, there’s no transition between the two spaces aside from the overhead and a new seating arrangement to port. To starboard is an entertainment center with refer, icemaker, sink and storage. C-shaped seating and a pedestal table occupy the port side and with glass everywhere, there isn’t a bad seat in the house for observing the world going by. Access to the engine room is through a hatch in this area. A couple of steps down and you are between the boats twin diesels.
Also, it’s interesting to see that there is a definite lack of window frames in the enclosure around the bridge deck. Even the forward windshield is one huge piece of safety glass, rather than two or three windows that most hardtop express boats have in this class. The side windows are also huge sheets of unencumbered safety glass. If all of this isn’t enough light coming in, you can still opt for more by ordering the electrically retracting canvas sunroof.We like this design and all of the glass and the fact there are only two very narrow mullions forward. The only thing we can think of to add are some window vents. Visibility from the helm is first rate.
A double wide helm seat keeps a second set of eyes looking forward while underway. The ship’s electrical panel lies recessed into the port bulkhead. The combination of stainless steel spokes with a wood rim give the wheel a classic nautical appeal while combining a contemporary flair. The instrument panel remains uncluttered while still allowing for a nav display and longtime readers of our reports will know how much we appreciate when engine controls are mounted on the horizontal rather than an angle. Our one criticism of the helm is the fact that the steering wheel is centered right in the middle of the double seat. That means that the navigator is either going to have to be very thin or the seat is going to be very cozy, indeed. The solution is simply to move the wheel and throttles to port. I’d keep the chartplotter screen right where it is – in front of the navigator.
Descending the starboard companionway to the cabin deck, I expected to see a large saloon with a settee to one side, a galley to the other, master forward and mid berth under the helm, like most other boats this size. Was I in for a surprise!
At the bottom of the companionway, you’re faced with a corridor of sorts, with a Shoji door to port that opens to the master stateroom. In the master, a queen island berth is offset to allow additional space, and an en suite head lies just forward. There is even a small desk with chair in the master. There is a wet head, with teak great which I prefer to a fiberglass pan. There is a hanging locker to port, but most important of all, there is full standing headroom. Overall, this is about the nicest master stateroom I have ever seen on a 44’ express. Full marks to Mochi Craft for not putting it in the bow, like virtually everyone else.
Across from the master is a small galley. This arrangement leaves little room for doing much more than the casual lunch or breakfast. We suspect that dinners will be ashore. However there is an alternative. A freezer can be placed in the area in the cockpit illustrated in the drawings where a crew cabin is shown. Some pre-made frozen dishes could turn that tight galley into a gourmet prep station.Note there is a fairly large refer on the aft bulkhead. Dry goods storage is above the portlight, in the cabinets below the stove top and sink, in the bulkhead separating the galley from the master, and under the companionway steps. Obviously, the one person working in the galley will block access to the two staterooms and their heads. But I think this is a minor problem given all the utility that Mochi Craft has packed into the boat below deck.Some people, particularly Americans, might want the galley up where the entertainment center is opposite the settee on the bridge deck. While this might get the cook out of the hole below, it also creates its own new set of problems. Italian designers like to keep the unsightly mess of a galley out of public view, and that is why Mochi Craft has put the galley down.
Forward, and behind another door for privacy, is the VIP. It’s a separate twin and single berth in a V-layout that allows for a filler to convert into one huge berth. An en suite head lies to aft and starboard. I like this design because it permits all sorts of sleeping arrangements. In my opinion it is far better than the typical island berth we see forward in most boats.
With optional twin 575-hp Volvo Penta diesels, Mochi Craft reports a top end of 39.7 mph at 2500 rpm and a cruise of 28.8 mph at 2000 rpm. We have not tested the boat so cannot vouch for those speeds, however, when we compare those numbers with others we have gotten in similar boats, they seem very reasonable.
It’s hard not to imagine the quality of life onboard the Mochi Craft Dolphin 44, and spending weekends coastal cruising and evenings at anchor sipping wine and gazing at stars. In the meantime, the owner of this boat can be proud that he has selected an exceptionally well-designed and well-built vessel that stands apart from nearly everything else on the water in its class. And, by the way, in case you were wondering, I love the pink coral color of the hull.
Standard and Optional Features
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