In 1983, with a baby daughter on the way, Mike Camarata and Carol Zipke launched a 23-foot sailboat into Long Island Sound for the first time and started cruising. Today the semiretired couple from Mystic, Connecticut, can look back on more than 30 years of sailing adventures from the comfortable cockpit of their liveaboard home, a Dean 44 sailing catamaran.
“We live in Mystic about four months a year on a mooring off Mason’s Island,” says Camarata, who’s in his mid-60s. “We spend about three months in Florida and the Keys, and the rest of the year is cruising in between the two areas.”
The Dean 44, built in South Africa and launched in 1998, is well known overseas (and is especially popular in France) as a cruising boat. Camarata came across it after 10 years of research and a one-year intense search. The couple interviewed brokers and went to the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, every year to demo boats.
The Dean 44 was a bigger boat than Camarata was looking for. The berths weren’t in the right place, the galley wasn’t up in the main cabin, and the steering stations were different than the couple wanted. “But in this boat it all worked out great,” he says. The boat was open, roomy and comfortable, comparing well to the Pearson 35 they’d last owned. They closed the deal in 2007, paying less than $250,000.
LOA: 44 feet
BEAM: 23 feet, 7 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet, 7 inches
WEIGHT: 25,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: catamaran
SAIL AREA: 912 square feet
AUXILIARY PROPULSION: twin 42-hp diesels
TANKAGE: 177 gallons water, 145 gallons fuel
BUILDER: Dean Catamarans, Cape Town, South Africa.
The 44-footer is in good shape but has had some delamination issues that needed work. Camarata also replaced the twin Yanmar 3GM30 diesels with updated 3YM30s. “It made sense to get new instead of doing a major overhaul — expensive but more cost-effective,” Camarata says. “When the overhaul cost got to be more than 50 percent of a new engine, we bit the bullet.”
The couple put about 600 hours on the boat annually, so the new Yanmars are well used. Expenses total about $12,000 a year for fuel, maintenance, repairs, mooring and docking. “We’re constantly spending maintenance dollars, but you have to realize the typical boater in New England uses his or her boat about a hundred hours per season,” Camarata says. “We are underway more than a hundred hours per month when we’re heading north or south.” The cost is less than home maintenance and heating, he says.
Cruising between New England and Florida has become routine for the couple. “We mostly anchor, and we know which spots are best to resupply, places that have groceries and other necessary items,” Camarata says. “We use Skipper Bob’s Anchorages Along the Intracoastal Waterway as our major resource for info.”
The cat can handle what the elements dish out. This particular boat had crossed the Atlantic several times and been to the Caribbean more often than that. “We are not so adventurous, never being more than 50 nautical miles offshore or farther than the Bahamas,” Camarata says. “Still, we’ve been in rough conditions, of course, but never felt in real danger.”
Motoring to windward, the boat rides smoothly about 20 degrees or more off the wind, he says. “Three- to 4-foot seas on the nose can be very uncomfortable, but 6- to 8-foot seas, our max experience so far, can be pretty comfortable if coming from a different direction,” he says.
Having settled into the Dean 44 during the past decade, Camarata and Zipke are enjoying the cruising/liveaboard lifestyle they dreamed of for decades. “As full-time liveaboards, we do what most do from their homes, except we float,” Camarata says. “We do fish, trolling while underway, but mostly it’s just cruising to somewhere or anchoring in some nice spot.”
Camarata’s philosophy? “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” he says, quoting the Water Rat in Kenneth Grahame’s book, The Wind in the Willows.
Especially if that boat is your boat.
Dean catamarans have semicustom interiors with quality joinery, high-end gear and comfortable designs. The Dean 44 and 441 have as many as four staterooms (two in each hull), each with a queen-size berth and an adjacent head compartment with an electric head and a separate stall shower and sink. The staterooms can be air-conditioned, and there are ports for ventilation and natural light.
The well-lighted saloon area is “up,” between the hulls. There’s dining for as many as six people at a C-shaped dinette, which doubles as a social area and gathering place. The galley is “down,” also well lighted and ventilated by ports. Galley equipment includes a four-burner stovetop, refrigerator, freezer and microwave.
Double sliding doors lead from the cabin to the open cockpit, which has seating for 10 and an outside dining area that seats six. Sunscreens around the cockpit provide shade. The Dean 44 and 441 are sloop-rigged, and the hulls are balsa-cored above the waterline, as is the superstructure. Auxiliary power comes from a pair of diesels as large as 50 hp each.
The fleet of Dean catamarans is the work of New Zealand naval architect Peter Dean. The signature Dean 441 is known for its heavy, rugged construction, a boat “built for boisterous sea conditions,” as the company says. As a result, Dean catamarans have gained favor with bluewater cruisers around the world. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Dean Yachts went into liquidation in 2012.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.