The Orana 44 is roomy and comfortable without being a caravan. It is also fun to sail as it feels and handles like a light boat. As to that distribution of volume, which I mentioned earlier, the Orana is spot-on.
This cruising cat is great for beginners, experts and any sailors who enjoy one-level living in style.
Catamarans are bringing new people to the world of yachting. They make sense both to first-yacht buyers and to powerboat people who may be considering crossing to the dark side of boating, also known as sailing. They all like the idea of catamarans because both new boaters and powerboat people have difficulty accepting the need for a sailing boat to lean over and make everyone uncomfortable.
All of which is a roundabout way of introducing the Orana 44, whose French builders, Fountaine-Pajot, have produced a clever design with a good balance of indoor and outdoor volumes and spaces, more on that later.
The Orana is a good-looking boat. Years ago, with their usual disdain for convention, French builders adopted vertical windows for their cats' superstructures. On some boats the superstructure looks downright ugly but on the Orana the lines are nicely varied by window profiles that kick up on the trailing edge of the coachroof and the cutaway sterns on the hulls.
Importer Mark Elkington tells me that 65 percent of the Orana's mass is concentrated in the centre third of the overall length. The bows of this boat are empty; anchor and chain are housed near the mast to keep weight out of the bows. The exception to this concept is the auxiliary engines, a pair of 30hp Volvo Penta diesels with Saildrives, which are mounted well aft in the hulls with the drives behind the rudders.
There are two accommodation plans, one with four cabins and bathrooms (probably aimed at the charter market) and the boat shown here with three cabins and three bathrooms. Each hull has a bulkhead about 2m back from the bow, an excellent safety feature. The drawings show a berth in here but this option was not chosen for our boat and the bows contained only air. With the three-cabin set-up the area forward in the starboard hull can be arranged with a single berth or as a workshop and storage area. The owners of this boat have a pantry here.
The interior is light and bright. The saloon is a nice place to be, with panoramic views, white mouldings and light timber trim. The cabins, too, are roomy. The owner's cabin, aft in the starboard hull, has the berth mounted across the boat, beneath the moulding, which provides the raised steering platform. The furniture is not bonded to the hull, which provides easy access to the electronics and equipment. Mark says the 44 is an easy boat to service. The galley is big, set near the main bulkhead for easy access to the cockpit.
The 180L fridge is excellent, with a piano-style top-loading lid and sliding mesh trays so you can find what you want without rummaging. The integral freezer holds 30L, but extra refrigeration can be installed later. The owners of this boat planned to use it for a time before deciding what they need to add. The helmsman's seat holds two or three, and the helm position is quite high and exposed. All the winches and controls are led here for easy single-handing.
Behind the helm is a sun bed. A long curving settee and a small table are on the portside. If you want, you can bring out the saloon table and set it up here.
Simplicity is the Orana 44's theme. The boat lacks for nothing but everything has been carefully (and stylishly) designed. A good example is the dinghy davits, two struts projecting from the cockpit moulding.
Cruising catamarans don't set out to be hot rod performers but the latest breed performs far better than boats of only a few years ago.
On our test day the wind was moving around so fast it was impossible to get a sensible boat speed reading. Just when we got the boat settled down sailing upwind, the breeze would lift and instead of sailing at 40 degrees to the true wind we were at 60 degrees. The most spectacular lift of the day was when the breeze swung through 80 degrees.
The Orana's polar diagram, the designer's performance predictors, which never lie, shows that in 20 knots of wind this boat will do 6 knots at 40 degrees. The nature of cruising cats is shown by the fact that if you ease away only 10 degrees, boat speed tops 8 knots, and by the time you hit 90 degrees you have 10 knots on the clock.
How does she do in a blow ? Steve Fitzmaurice delivered her south to Sydney from importer EC Marine's headquarters in Mooloolaba. He told me the Orana was happy beating into a breeze of 25-35 knots, with the mainsail traveller eased well down the track, two reefs in the mainsail, the mainsheet hard on to keep the mainsail steady, and about a third of the jib unfurled.
He says there was little pounding of waves on the underside of the bridgedeck. The clearance (between the water's surface and the bridgedeck's underside) is 78cm, which seems to be an unofficial industry standard, although as Mark says, the effectiveness of the clearance depends on the buoyancy of the hulls. Skinny hulls may rise slower to a wave, and thus expose the bridgedeck to slamming, than a more buoyant hull which would tend to rise faster to a swell.
A LIGHT TOUCH
The Orana 44 is roomy and comfortable without being a caravan. It is also fun to sail as it feels and handles like a light boat. As to that distribution of volume, which I mentioned earlier, the Orana is spot-on. There is plenty of room below and in the saloon, but the cockpit too is a great space.
You can imagine spending a lot of time on board, enjoying the one-level living that cats are so good at. Boat buyers like the idea of the kitchen, living area and cockpit all being on the same level.
One of the great things about cats, power or sail, is that when the party in the cockpit gets on your nerves, moody bastards like me can head down to a bow or stern and nurse a book, a drink or only black thoughts. This is when you really need to get away from it all.
WORDS + PHOTOS: BARRY TRANTER