SILVER PHANTOM 44 • A truly elegant pilothouse sloop from New Zealand
Over the past 20 years New Zealand has produced not only many of the world’s best and most successful sailors but also many of the planet’s most accomplished boat- builders. Today, EnZed builders craft more luxury mega yachts – power and sail – than any other nation because they offer the highest degree of craftsmanship, expertise in the latest building techniques and a favorable currency valuation.
So, when Dean Frey, then based in Seattle, went looking for a builder to tackle the Silver Phantom 44 project, he naturally turned to New Zealand. There, after some trial and error, Frey ended up with the builders at McMullen & Wing who created a 44-foot pilothouse sloop to the Bill Dixon design that rivals in build and finish any custom boat we have been aboard for many years.
Bill Dixon is known for drawing wholesome, fast cruising boats with plenty of interior volume for accommodations and storage. He is the author of the Moody and Taswell lines of modern center-cockpit passagemakers and many custom designs in the 60-foot-and-up category. Among designers working predominantly in Europe, he has drawn a number of pilothouse and deck-saloon cruising boats and, coincidently, cruises with his family aboard his own pilothouse sloop.
The brief for the Silver Phantom 44 was to create a pilothouse cruiser that would be at home anywhere in the world and particularly suited to higher latitudes where rain and cool weather are common. The 44 is specified as a couple’s cruising boat and laid out to offer them spacious and elegant ac-commodations and amenities. A comfortable but small guest cabin makes room for friends to visit but has not been equipped with a second head so the friends are not expected to stay for too long.
The hull carries 14 feet, 3 inches of beam on a 37-foot waterline. The underwater profile shows a fairly flat run aft, a good amount of rocker amidships and a forefoot that is deep enough to remain immersed even at hull speed. With quite full sections forward, a long-immersed waterline and a flat run aft, the 44 promises to sail to hull speed easily and will resist pitching in short head seas. In fact, the dynamic waterline length will stretch out to 40 feet or so when underway improving the boat’s already good sailing qualities.
The underwater appendages have been designed for lift and directional stability. Both the keel and rudder have moderate cruising shapes, i.e., fairly low-aspect foils with enough surface area to promote straight-line steadiness. The keel carries a ballast bulb, which aids stability and reduces draft. The 44 has a limit of positive stability of 141 degrees, which is higher than average and indicates a lot of ultimate stability.
Given that the 44 was conceived as a pilothouse cruiser, the cabin profile is remarkably trim and streamlined. Visibility from the cockpit is good and the cockpit itself is large enough for eight people to sit comfortably. The huge port cockpit locker has been designed to act as the “garage” in which all types of gear and equipment can be stowed. Moreover, the locker, which has a ladder down into it, provides access to the main engineering systems.
The foredeck is clean and neat and will make a good working platform for flying downwind sails or when docking or anchoring. Access to the anchor locker is gained through double deck hatches that fit tightly and have been gasketed to slow the ingress of water when sailing to windward.
The SP 44 was conceived to be an elegant, cruising boat with a pilothouse and internal steering station. With that in mind, the result once drawn and built also turned out to be streamlined, very modern and pleasing to the eye.
Although created as a cruising boat without any pretensions of racing round the buoys, the 44 was designed to sail well nonetheless, hence the hull was specified to be as light and strong as modern composite techniques could provide. The nondimentional ratios give an indication of how much the design tips its hat to sailing performance. With a sail area/displacement ratio of 18, the 44 has plenty of power in the rig to drive the boat in light airs and maintain high average speeds in all conditions. The displacement/length ratio of 181 indicates that the hull is light, nimble and fast.
To achieve these performance parameters, a state-of-the-art laminate schedule was created by High Modulus, a New Zealand consulting firm that has worked on dozens of high-tech custom yachts and has been involved with the winning Kiwi America’s Cup campaigns from the start. The hull and deck were built of vacuum-bagged E-glass and epoxy resin around a core of Herex foam. Below the water, a layer of Kevlar cloth has been added to the laminate to improve impact resistance. Interior flooring and stringers are of composite laminations to save weight while adding stiffness to the hull. Bulkheads and interior furniture are bonded together and to the hull for additional strength and to prevent any twisting or racking of the hull when under compression from the rig.
THE INSTALLATION OF SYSTEMS
aboard the 44 will get the approval of even the most finicky of engineers. From the windlass in the anchor locker forward to the bow thruster in the bow to the layout of the engine room, the systems all are set up for a hard life at sea and for the regular maintenance that is routine aboard an ocean cruising boat.
It should be noted that the glasswork and interior joinery are of the highest quality; the 44 has the look and feel of a very high-end custom yacht.
The accommodations belowdecks revolve around the raised main saloon in the pilothouse from which the crew has a clear view of all that in going on around them in the anchorage or at sea. The dinette has been elevated onto a small plinth so that you can see out while seated. The dinette itself can fit only three people, while a fourth can find a place at the table by setting up a portable stool or chair.
The galley has two large, deep sinks, a Corian counter and a Force 10 stove/oven. The refrigeration selected by the builders is a top-of-the-line Sea Frost 5000 system that keeps both a deep freezer and the refrigerator cold. A second Sea Frost system has been used in the custom drinks cooler and icemaker.
The master cabin lies forward and down one step from the saloon. The large double berth has been placed on the centerline which makes it easy to get in and out of and convenient to make up. The head features a huge standalone shower stall, which has two showerheads. The compartment is the largest we have seen on a boat of this size and has the notion “master bathroom” stamped all over it. Across from the head is a built-in home-office that will be the owners’ command center while away cruising. Because there is no chart table in the saloon, this office space will double as the radio/communications center and nav station.
The guest cabin aft has been tucked in under the cockpit. Because of the raised pilothouse, the little cabin has good headroom over the floor space. The berths themselves are roomy and comfortable. Enough storage is provided in the hanging locker and drawers for a couple to stay a week or so.
The most interesting aspect of the pilothouse concept is the inside steering station. The seat has been raised so that even small helmsmen will have adequate visibility of the bow and the water around the boat while maneuvering in tight quarters. The inside steering station will be used primarily while motoring in cold and rainy weather, but the hatches in the cabin top do provide enough of a view of the mainsail to allow safe sailing from inside, too. The inside steering system is hydraulic, which is fine for motoring, while the outside steering system is rack and pinion which gives the skipper an excellent touch on the helm.
We took the Silver Phantom 44 for a daylong sail trial in the waters off Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in weather that was settled, hot and lovely. At midday, the breeze came in from the southeast and piped up to 12 knots and the chop built to a foot or two. The result was that we did not get to sail the 44 in a wide range of conditions nor did we put on enough miles to really get to know her strengths and weaknesses from firsthand experience. What we did experience, however, was a boat that sails very well in moderate breezes and has a nice, lively feel on the helm.
With the main flying from a Lei-surefurl in-boom furling system and the headsail on a roller-furling drum, we barely had to get up from our cockpit seats to set sails and get underway. The full-batten main had a pleas-
ing shape and drove the 44 well to windward. The boat tacked easily and surely and carried her way into the small chop without hesitation as we steered her through stays. Falling off onto a broad reach, the boat picked up her skirts and really put on speed. The broad hull form aft and the long dynamic waterline really kick in at this angle of sail.
Under power the full force of the 76-horsepower Yanmar diesel made itself apparent as we throttled up to see how fast the boat would go. On the flat water inside the Ft. Lauderdale cut, the 44 slipped along easily at 7.5 knots and sprinted at just over eight knots when pushed. Round the docks, the boat was a dream to handle, having the bow thruster forward and a powerful three-bladed folding prop.
A boat that was conceived to be easy to handle for a couple or lone watchstander, the 44 delivers on the concept with the added bonus of being fast on all points of sail and under power and imbued with an easy motion through the water.
In our humble estimation, 44 feet is a sensible size for a cruising couple or a family with one or two small children. (We have to admit to a certain bias on this score having lived aboard and circumnavigated aboard a 44-foot ketch.) A boat of this size is large enough to be comfortable in bad weather, has a long enough waterline to make respectable daily runs at sea, and has enough interior volume to carry the gear and stuff that seems to accumulate aboard cruising boats. Moreover, the sails on a boat of this size will not be too large for a single crew to handle alone nor will the forces exerted by the rig re-quire extra crew or a panoply of electric winches.
By selecting a pilothouse configuration, builder Dean Frey presented designer Dixon with a unique problem: how to make the boat attractive and modern while still fitting all the needed accommodations into a fairly small space. The risk, naturally, was that the boat would end up looking like a floating apartment building. Happily, the exact opposite occurred. The Silver Phantom 44 is a pilothouse cruising sloop that looks as streamlined as most of the deck-saloon models now on the market, with the added benefit that the crew of the 44 can, in fact, see out from any vantage inside the pilothouse – a quality not found on most deck-saloon designs.
After spending several hours prowling around the innards of the 44 and several more sailing it on a beautiful sunny afternoon, we came away mightily impressed with the craftsmanship of the builders at McMullen & Wing and with the design acumen of Bill Dixon. The Silver Phantom 44 is a special boat that offers her owners a rare level of comfort, performance and style.
The 44 is the first boat built by Frey in the Silver Phantom project, but the reception to the boat has been so favorable that he has now embarked on two new designs at 52 and 56 feet. Built on a semi-custom basis, the 44 and the new designs can be tailored to an owner’s specifications in many aspects of the interior and on deck fittings. Such quality and customization comes at a price. A new 44 will set you back about $700,000. Prices on the new designs have yet to be fixed.
The Silver Phantom 44 is not the boat for everyone. But for those who only want the best and want to have it tailored to their own needs, the SP 44 is a very attractive new player in the cruising market.
SILVER PHANTOM 44
Designer Bill Dixon
LOA 44’0” (13.4 m.)
LWL 37’5” (11.4 m.)
Beam 14’3” (4.3 m.)
Draft 6’8” (2.1 m.)
(Shoal option) 5’0” (1.5 m.)
Displ. 24,250 lbs. (11,000 kg.)
Ballast 8,488 lbs. (3,850 kg.)
Sail Area 1,105 sq. ft. (122 sq. m.)
B/D 35 percent
LPS 141 degrees
Water 184 gal. (694 l.)
Fuel 120 gal. (454 l.)
Auxiliary 76-h.p. Yanmar diesel
Silver Phantom Yachts
244 Parfitt Way SW
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110