The Kelly Peterson 46 and her smaller sister, the 44, have a place in the hearts of cruisers. One interested client I met said, “Oh there’s a Kelly here?” in a soft, careful tone that let on a tender affection for the feminine name. Calling one “Kelly” feels like naming a lover. These are beautiful boats with nice overhangs, sweet sheer, and spectacular sailing skills. They were meant to sail about the best possible in all conditions. In the 1970’s, Jack Kelly was a San Diego, California yacht broker. Seeing what all his clients were looking for, he decided to build the perfect boat. He joined with designer Doug Peterson famous from racing designs such as the Van De Stadt’s Storm Vogel. In 1976, they came up with a centercockpit performance cruiser instead of the aft cockpit Valiant 40. Kelly thought he might build 10, sell 9, and go cruising. Instead, he built about 200 44s in Taiwan over a six year production run. Formosa Yachts, another yard in Taiwan, started building an 2′ extended variation of the 44 they called the 46 Formosa in the early 1980s. Jack Kelly extended the 44 into the 46 Kelly Peterson. This review will mostly deal with the 46-foot versions. These two especially the 46 Kelly Petersons are much more prized in the brokerage market.
Essentially, the 44 Kelly Peterson was a double ender with her stern cut-off. This made a rather abrupt ending to a pleasing design. The 46-footers added a counter stern which improves her tremendously. The design has a low profile trunk cabin and sleek fast look. The bow has a moderate rake allowing a soft motion and clean entry. The beam is carried slightly aft of midships. Her sheer curves gently up forward giving 2 inches more of freeboard. Lovely teak frames the rail and handles. I really like her look. Underneath, Peterson was a racing designer, and his skeg hung rudder and long fin keel are fast. There is more wetted surface than you see these days. The keel is slightly greater than most look for at 6’4″. Okay for Jack Kelly on the West Coast but unfortunate for the Bahamas. The beefy 2 spreader cutter rig has more than 1000 square feet of sail area. She is not undercanvased.
There is some confusion about the actual builders of these different models. The simplest version claims that the Kaohshing yard Yu Ching Marine built the 44s, Formosa Yachts built the 46 Formosas, and Queen Long Marine built the 46 Kelly Petersons. Likely, both Formosa and Queen Long built 44s as well as maybe other Taiwanese yards. Some claim another 400 KP 44’s were built in addition to the 200 by Yu Ching. As well, other yards may have built the 46 Kelly Petersons along with Queen Long. According to brokerage records, the last true Kelly Peterson built, hull #30, was Esprit in 1990.
The construction depends on the manufacturer, and it is hard to make generalizations. Her hull almost guaranteed to be the common Taiwan construction of mat and roving with polyester resin. The deck and trunk cabin are cored with plywood. The hull-deck joint is the common lip-tongue. Most 44’s had iron internal ballast while the Queen Long 46’s had ten thousand pounds of lead. I have heard of solid glass rudders. A member of the KP44 owners association rebuilt his rudder which had 2 inches of fiberglass cored with plywood. He writes that he had heard that “the internal structure consisted of several ‘rods’ that were butt welded to the stock, sticking out like fingers into the rudder.” Because his rudder weeped a black, smelly fluid during haul-outs, he decided to rebuild the rudder. It turned out that the internal structure of his was two stainless steel plates shaped like epsilons. This illustrates the kind of variations in Kelly Petersons.
What To Look For
Who was the builder? Jack Kelly built 200 in the Yu Ching yard. Queen Long is the finest yard in Tawain, builder of Hylas Yachts. Formosa is a lower quality yard in Tawain. According to one source, these and possibly other yards in Taiwan built an additional 400 more 44’s. Sources say that Formosa then moved onto an extended version that reportedly cut out Doug Peterson and certainly Jack Kelly. One thing is for sure – these 46 Formosa or 46 Petersons sell for less on the market because of a perceived lower quality build. Queen Long built 46 Kelly Petersons have the best reputation. Whether Formosa or Queen Long, the 46s have an extended stern that produced a much roomier interior. One client who had seen both the 44 and then a 46 said, “Wow, there’s so much more room. I need to recheck my bank accounts. I loved the 44, but the 46 is such a nice interior.” There is really no comparison. Although the 46 is a better boat, this does not diminish my admiration for the 44.
Rudder problems are common. Whether due to shoddy stainless or the bronze heel bearing, keep an eye on your rudder because rudder failure is one of the worst experiences. Britt Finley of the KP44 owners group talks about breaking his rudder on a sail from New Zealand to Fiji. The welds broke at the rudder stock. He says, “Be careful and avoid putting any extra load on the rudder. If your rudder is leaking, like mine did, perhaps you should fix it soon. You will have more peace of mind.” The 44 Petersons are victims of the shoddy stainless steel which plagued the early Taiwanese builders. The stainless steel water tanks are prone to cracking. Be careful on these Taiwanese boats from the 1970’s. The fuel tanks were black iron and should be okay. As a final note, Bill Stevens of Stevens Yachts Charters and others chartered 44/46’s in the Caribbean during the 80’s. Stevens commissioned them at his yard in North Carolina.
On Deck and Down Below
The KP has two companion ways fore and aft to the master stateroom. The 46 even has an entrance through the portside combing. I could not find the key when showing a KP 46, so I opened this combing up. We jumped through to see the interior. It is a surprising entrance. The 46 both Formosa and KP have lengthened cockpits. They are centercockpit cutter rigged and great room, full wide decks. Down below, aft is a centerline queen. These are 2 staterooms like a Hylas 44 with the V-berth forward. A galley is portside – no double walkthrough. And there is space on the KP 46 where that portside combing opens for a workroom.
Engine and Underway
Engine access is excellent from both sides. Most 44’s have a 62 Perkins 4-152 diesel while a few have 80 HP Ford Lehmans. Doug Peterson was a famous IOR racing designer. The Kelly Peterson was part of the era of performance cruisers started by the Valiant 40. She has a long fin keel and skeg hung rudder. She sails fast and even well offshore reeling off 180 mile days in the trades with ease. She was meant to sail well in any wind. Her sheerline sharply increases forward making her a dryer than usual centercockpit. The 44 and later 46 was a popular charterboat used by Bill Stevens of Stevens Caribbean Charters in the 1980’s. He would purchase them from Queen Long in Taiwan and commission them at his North Carolina yard. This relationship further developed with the legendary Stevens / Hylas 47.
Kelly’s sell for up to $200,000 on the used market. There is usually a good selection of them as they produced many hulls. Just make sure you know the manufacturer to gauge the quality. An excellent resource for more information is the KP44.org owners’ group site. There is a helpful Yahoo mailing list run by this owner group that you can ask questions on.