My wife Eileen and I searched Leopard catamarans almost exclusively because they represent a combination of blue water cruising capabilities with production efficiencies. In other words, they were a good affordable catamaran to sail around the world. As proof of their seaworthiness, most have been delivered to their owners by sea from Cape Town, South Africa either by their owners or a delivery captain. Because of their outstanding reputation, we also considered the 450 Lagoon; however, we steered away from them mainly as a result of their fly bridge helm positions which we think is less ideal for ocean crossings.
WHY WE CHOSE THE LEOPARD 44 OVER THE 39, 40 AND 48
Check out our Leopard catamaran's video below on our first day touring Leopard catamarans with our buyers broker Bill Regan and be prepared to be entertained and informed of the specifics on why we chose the Leopard 44 and in the process learn more about the rest of their line.
On this crazy busy day, we toured a 2014 Leopard 39 and were glad we had rescinded on our contract last spring on one in the Moorings / Sunsail Belize fleet. We loved it's design, price ($215K) and sailing reputation; however, it was too small for us as a full time home. For someone who lived in Ft. Lauderdale and took one to two-week sailing trips to the Bahamas this would definitely be a boat to consider.
After we let go of the 39, we latched onto a 2018 Leopard 40 ($225K) with contract that had been damaged and repaired in Irma and included had a new mast, boom, standing rigging and generator and we by far the cheapest of the limited Leopard 40 lot being phased out by Moorings / Sunsail. After having toured it, we realized that it too was too small for us as a live aboard and in addition we were leery that there might be some undetected trauma from from Irma that might compromise our blue water safety so we released that contract also.
Reluctantly we drove 2 1/2 hours north of Ft. Lauderdale to the Ft. Pierce Marina where we looked at a 2015 Leopard 44 with owners cabin on the hard for sale for $575K which was MUCH more than we were willing to pay but at least we could see the layout. Initially, we didn't like this model because we thought it has wet bathrooms but were soon relieved to find that that wasn't the case and were delighted to discover the front cockpit whose innovation catapulted this popular sized 44 footer to a dual "Best Boat of Year" fame with both Sail Magazine and Cruising world in 2012. Most importantly it seemed to have enough from for our new permanent life at sea and was affordable purchasing from Sunsail Charters for $315K on a model we found in St. Lucia so we quickly placed this cat in a cage with a contract on an no hurricane damaged model which had just been released from the Grenada Sunsail fleet and was heading to Sunsail St. Lucia to undergo phase out repairs.
Make sure you also click on the following links to read critical reviews about this special boat:
Ultimately, the Leopard 44 was the boat we chose, but let's learn more about the Leopard 48 which we REALLY liked and the main reason we did not chose it.
We loved the Leopard 48 because it was so enormous compared to the previous one and almost seemed to be as large as our apartment in China. Not only did the rear cockpit seat 10 and have plenty of room for all of our water toys, but the combined saloon and galley with nav station was cavernous and in our opinion, leaving nothing to be desired. Add to that a large front cockpit and full size rooms and bathrooms in the hulls, this cat had us in a trance and all we wanted to do was to stroke and pet its luxurious fur while it purred with delight. Our only issue was that the price on these are mid $450K for the cheapest non hurricane damaged and older with the medium cherry veneer interior which we liked the least and will touch on a bit more later. That extra $135K+ represented a lot of cruising kitty (perhaps 3 years) and this being a larger cat means that both repairs, upkeep and insurance are all part of what comes with owning this pampered puss. Add to that the opportunity cost of investing what we save in a lively stock market over the next 5 to 10 years, and the price of this one increases way more than we care to spend especially when the Leopard 44 has everything we need, albeit it's smaller size.
At the end of the video, we tour the Leopard 58 which was due to be surveyed the next day. As you can see from our comments and reactions, it was pure joy touring this regal feline because the 58 was an ocean palace nicer than most homes, but just way out of range for our pocketbook and limited knowhow.
DESIGN AND COLOR
One of the reasons we LOVE and chose the 2015 Leopard 44 year is that it was the first year of only two years (2015 & 2016) out of seven years total that the Leopard 44 was made which incorporates the new modern sophisticated, yet casual light gray aged driftwood interior which is now standard on all Leopard catamarans which certainly inspired by Restoration Hardware's sophisticated modern, yet casual neutral shaded gray color pallet. Also special, as shown below, is the generous use of LED lighting which makes the salon below sparkly, dazzling and uplifting as well as easy on the energy being supplied by DC power. The pre 2015 versions with the traditional medium cherry cabinetry and finish just seemed too outdated and spending an extra $15K for this new boat and overall look and feel was totally worth if for us. In addition, we think it will eventually add to its resale value.
INSIDER INFORMATION FROM EXPERIENCED SUNSAIL TECHNICIAN
Once we arrived in St. Lucia and took possession of our boat, we was further reassured of buying Leopard after talking with Moorings / Sunsail St. Lucia base long term employed technician affectionately nicknamed "Small Change".
This beloved senior maintenance manager of 35 years is chief Leopard tamer and is master of the ins and outs of Leopard repair and maintenance. I mean, he even meets with senior management and technicians of Leopard South Africa to provide valuable feedback that help Leopard's renowned manufacturer Robertson and Caine make manufacturing improvements to future models that will require less maintenance, ultimately leading to less warranty work and resulting in unnecessary repairs from busy bases saving both time and money for everyone. For these reasons, I really trusted and took to heart every nugget that left his mouth.
WHY VERY FEW LAGOONS ARE IN THE ST. LUCIA FLEET
First, he said their company used have a lot of Lagoons in the fleet but switched to Leopards almost exclusively because of their improved build quality and performance. Leopards more narrow stepped hulls allow them to perform better under sail and overall they require less maintenance over their charter tenure.
HOW THE LEOPARD MODELS COMPARE - BUILD QUALITY
When asked to rank his favorite Leopard catamaran models, Short Change pays with big bills as he draws from his wellspring of experience and knowledge that goes back to Robertson and Caines inception back in 1991. He ranks his favorite Leopard models by build quality and gives the following reasons.
In his opinion, the best made Leopard (10 out of 10) is the Leopard 43, known to Moorings as the 4300 and made famous by Nicki and Jason Wynn of the popular YouTube channel Gone with the Wynns has the highest quality build in the history of the company with regards to hull strength.
In addition the Leopard 46, made from 2006 to 2012, is a 10 out of 10. Not affected by the devastating Irma, St. Lucia has more in use than any other base in the world so he should know.
I was happy to know that he considered our Leopard 44 an 8 out of 10 with regards to build quality and used the fact that most all along with the older models such as the 43 have been delivered at sea by a delivery captain and then put to grueling charter use and then sold to private owners.
When asked about the Leopard 48 and current, Leopard 40 and 45 he gives them all a 4 out of 10 backing that up with the assertion that they now are almost exclusively delivered from the factory to their owners by ship because they cannot stand the grueling 7700 mile sail without substantial repairs before delivered to the owner. It seems that possibly the bean counters have taken over in their attempt to balance new design innovation with profitability.