In 1978, John R “Jack” Van Ost, a retired dentist, introduced to the world the Caribbean Sailing Yachts (CSY) 44. Jack was an entrepreneurial genius who would revolutionize chartering. He was the first to offer boats on a purchase and charter model copied by CYC/Hylas. Purchase and charter means that the buyer of the CSY 44 paid less but allowed CYC to charter the boat for a few years. After those years, they freely owned her. This model eased the overhead of purchasing a new CSY and gave Jack a default charter fleet at the same time. The 44 along with the 37 CSY are Ted Irwin inspired designs officially attributed to Peter Schmitt and Frank Hamlin. Jack dealt directly with purchasers. CSY did not have a dealer network. To accomplish this, they made a soft marketing brochure called “The CSY Guide to Buying A Yacht.” Of course, the guide’s advise was to buy a 44 CSY which many did. It was not bad advise.
There was a Vagabond 42 docked at our marina. One time a client was interested in seeing a 42 Vagabond so while not for sale, I thought we could stop by. I hailed the owner and asked, “What can you tell us about a 42 Vagabond.” To my surprise, he said, “Well quite a bit, but this isn’t a Vagabond. This is a 44 CSY.” I felt as foolish as ever. But looking later at photos, the two are closely related designs. The trailboards, raised quarterdeck and teak highlights match. One way I try to tell is by the portholes on the 44 CSY on the forward hull. These brass, circular portholes are a giveaway. The other way is the ketch rig on Vagabond 42’s. Below the waterline, she has a modern hull to contrast with her classic good looks. A skeg hung rudder combines with a longish, cutaway forefoot fin keel. The freeboard rises quickly forward to offset the raised quarterdeck. There is a pilothouse version with a substantial trunk cabin.
CSY made all kinds of claims about quality build techniques. They made their boats Lloyd’s of London certified, used special cradles to protect freshly molded hulls, and so on. In general, this seems to have been varified though CSY 44’s have a homemade kind of feeling. CSY out of Tampa, FL built first class boats. The hull layup is 9 laminations solid fiberglass above the waterline, nearly an inch thick. Jack really wanted to start a chartering business and thought none of the boats were up to the harsh life of a Caribbean bareboat, so he was forced into building CSYs to withstand that punishment. The deck is solid on most while owners rumor that some later ones have cored decks.
The hull deck joint is a raised bulwark like on Cabo Ricos. Dave from the owners association says, “The vertical side of the hull (topside) comes up and then turns inboard at the caprail. The deck runs outboard, up to form the bulwark then outboard over the hull layer and just under the wood caprail. So from top to bottom on top of the bulwark you have the 1″ thick teak caprail, the 1/2″ thick deck fiberglass layer and finally the 1/2″ thick topside fiberglass layer.” CSY then used 5200 and alternating 1/4″ screws/bolts on 4″ centers to combine the 3 layers.
An interesting and not replicated feature was an encapsulated shoal fin keel. Usually, shoal/fin keels mean an external lead ballast. Instead CSY made shoal keels by blocking out part of the mold. On top of that, fin keels were built to later be cutoff. They designed in the expectation that owners in the Southeast would want to later cut-off a deep keeled, 6’6″ draft to the shoal level of 4’11”. Deep keels were solid concrete from 6’6″ to the 4’11” level, then a lead/concrete slurry solidified with resin above the 4’11” line. If a deep drafting owner wanted to go to shoal, they cut-off the concrete, and voila they had a perfectly built shoal draft CSY
These 44’s have large water tankage. One owner explained his choice. “Well what you okay is get a list okay of things you have to have. Then, you take this list and match it as close as you can with a boat, okay? Now high on my list water tankage so I have plenty cruising the Bahamas and the like without worrying about rationing. The CSY 44 has 400 gallons water capacity. Now there were others things, too. But this was an important feature.” The 400 gallons goes along with 100 gallons fuel capacity standard.
What To Look For
Both the fuel and water tanks are built in fiberglass. I have heard from owners of tanks blistering and cracking. It is not easy to redo the tanks as they are integral with the hull and support the sole in some places. Cutting them away and sticking in stainless or plastic tanks is a serious job. The hull deck joint is known to leak because the sealant was applied in a thin line and in some places did not make a complete seal. The water seems in through stanchion bases, the chainplates which go through the joint, or any other fastener through the caprail. A post from the owners association notes that finding the leak is difficult because water runs down from the high bow along the joint.
Like a Cabo Rico 38, the 44 comes in many different variations. Her rig could cutter or ketch as well as short or tall. The draft can be shoal or deep. The deck mold could be a pilothouse, raised saloon, or cabintrunk version. They even made fishing boats called the CSY 44 Bottom Line out of the same mold based on the inspiration of an owner who personally outfitted a scrapped hull.
On Deck and Down Below
When you talk about CSY 44’s, the first question is whether the boat is a walkover or walkthrough. Walkover means that there is no passageway between the aft stateroom and saloon. You have to “walkover” the cockpit. Walkthroughs have a tunnel like passage. The walkover idea for chartering nicely separated the guests forward and the captain aft. These are cutter rigged, centercockpits. They had clubfoot booms for a self tending jib. The cockpit itself is a nice saloon arrangement with a U-shaped seating to port and a straight seating starboard. The scuppers are large though the companionway sill is average. The main companionway has two slats while the aft companionway is a single piece.
The large athwartship king aft has good light via the piratish aft windows. These windows are usually square while later models when production was running down may have circular ones like the 37. According the owners forum, there may be differences in headroom because of differences in the molds used. I have noted low headroom while others note a 6’8″ friend being able to stand up. I previewed one the other day with 6’6″ headroom. The interior is dark because an imitation walnut Formica The bulkheads and most of the cabinetry are plywood with a thin imitation woodgrain Formica. The Formica makes for a dark interior.
Engine and Underway
The sailing ability will depend on whether the 44 is a shoal or deep draft. The short keel will point 5 degree further offwind according to a admirer from the owners association. But the differences are not that much. He says, “The designer, Peter Schmitt told me personally a year ago that there is very little difference in upwind performance between the two keels and no stability problems with the short keel version.” He goes on to talk about capping his shoal keel to improve the hydrodynamics. It’ll also depend on the rig. CSY 44’s came in tall and short rigs with most as tall rigs. Engine access is through the cockpit sole. Two raised molded hatches hing up.
In 1980, they introduced the Cygnet 44, another walkthrough variation. Shortly later in 1981, CSY went out of business. They hit a bad economic period and built too well built of boats. Antigua Yachts tried to revive the 44 in the 1980’s but after 20-30 hulls went out of business. These 44 CSY are old fashioned looking but revolutionary in their day. They ask around $100,000 on the used market. Marill.com and CSYowners.com are two worthwhile resources for more information. The owner group site has a great forum to ask questions on.