Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Nautical Christmas

Brittany is a region encircled by rough seas that claim the lives of many each year.  It is no wonder that most of the churches around the coast of Brittany are closely linked to the sea through their architecture, art, and their stained-glassed windows that offer hope and prayers for the safety of those at sea.  For this Christmas season, we present our small collection of (very amateur) photos of some of these artworks.  Happy Holidays everyone !

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Sun Odyssey 379 Options

Outfitting a new boat is equal parts excitement and bewilderment.  It’s a bit like walking into Starbucks for the first time thinking you’ll just order a small black coffee. 

When we went to the dealer to discuss prices, he handed us a 3-page small-print list of options.  He explained awkwardly that many of the options weren't really optional. (Hmmm… do I really need an anchor?

Patrick and I rushed home and went to work outfitting our dreamboat: deck hardware, power supply, water reservoirs, navigation electronics, sail rigging, upholstery, and kitchen equipment. 

And then we pulled out the calculator to see how much this was going to cost us. 

And then we went back to our list and started removing options. 

After several days of research and tense negotiations, we designed the boat you see in About Mareda. There are, however, a few features that Mareda doesn't have that may surprise you:

A heating system.  We have 2 types of heaters on board: an electric blower and an electric oil-bath radiator, which provide all the heat we need when in port and hooked up to shore power.  On those rare occasions when we might want heat at anchor, we’ll just have to throw an extra comforter on the bed and think warm thoughts.  If it happens too often, we’ll buy a small fuel heater.  With plans to sail in the Mediterranean from April to October, we thought we could forego this 4000 Euro ($5000) option.

Bow thrusters.  These are very popular but for a 37 foot boat we think it’s entirely unnecessary, especially for 4500 Euros ($5600).

An adjustable backstay.  We have one on Spray and we use it, but we’re never sure we’re using it correctly.  We’re just not that keen on chasing fractions of a knot of speed if we have to pay 650 Euros ($800 US) for the pleasure.

A detachable forestay and set of headsails.  This wasn’t an option and would require an expensive custom order and very expensive set of sails.  On Spray, there were occasions when we greatly appreciated the sail options we had, but there were other times when we really should have changed the headsails and didn't because it was too rough or just too much of a bother.  A friend who sailed from Brittany to the South Pacific said that his set of headsails was the worst investment he made for his cruise.  I believe we do need a storm jib, however.  We have plans... 

A spinnaker.  We decided to buy a Code D furling sail instead of a spinnaker.  A Code D can be used from approximately 60° apparent wind to a full 180° using a whisker pole.  It is easy to deploy and douse by a shorthanded crew.  It is smaller in surface area than a standard spinnaker (65m2 instead of 90m2) but the tissue is more rugged and has to be able to stand up to being rolled without ripping.  Because it’s so easy to install and handle, people use it more often and keep it up longer than with a typical spinnaker.  The price is similar to a traditional spinnaker, even for ours which is made-to-measure for Mareda.  As an added bonus, our sail maker tells us that he can make a storm jib that can be yanked onto the Code D furler in under 5 minutes.  That will be our next purchase !

A radar.  I want one, as well as a Navtex system, but the budget is screaming for mercy already.  We’ll grow into these.

So what do you think?  Enough energy and water for Med cruising?  Enough chain length?  Any must-haves we forgot?  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Make way for Mareda

With Spray nestled down for winter and Mareda’s preparation demanding more of our attention, we need to prepare the blog to host a new boat.  We've chosen a responsive blog template (I think?), which should optimize viewing depending on whether you are using a smartphone or computer, and we've added a few new widgets to highlight content.  There are still some kinks to work out with the new template, but we’ll figure it out eventually.

Coming soon !

I have resisted for a very long time, but am now convinced that we need a Facebook page for the blog. I worry about the time and effort required to manage it appropriately, but it’s just so much easier to interact with readers via FB than with the blog comments feature.  As new pseudo live-aboards (6 months / year) with a new swing keel boat to master, we hope to draw on the expertise of others out there so we’ll need to build up an interactive community.

But of course we can’t keep calling the blog The Spray Logs, now, can we?  I like the idea of having a neutral blog name, one that doesn't use the name of the boat, but in the end we decided that simple is best.  The new blog will be called simply Sailing Mareda. 

As soon as I get up the courage, I will change the URL of the blog to keep our existing content, then make a new one-page Spray Logs page to redirect people to the new address.  Hang onto your hats !

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black Friday

I'd rather eat a bug than go shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving (black friday).  In fact, I'd rather eat a bug than go shopping at anytime, and I'm not particularly fond of bugs.  But we did participate in a black friday of sorts:  we finally managed to wash the head sail, and the resulting pail of water was indeed black.

We also decided we needed to edit our advertisement for Spray, and replace "good" with "tired" where we describe the quality of the sail.  It's probably good for another year of gentle coastal cruising but anything more ambitious than that will likely result in a few rips.

Once the sail is dry and folded neatly in its sack, our winterizing will be almost complete.  Next week we have a mechanic coming to put the motor to sleep (changing the water pump turbine, all the filters, belts, anodes, filling with anti-freeze, etc.) and then we can finally say that the 2014 sailing season is officially over for us. It's been a wild ride with high highs and low lows.  It was a milestone in our cruising careers and has given us the courage to go further (if not faster).  And it was the last season sailing Spray, who has been infinitely patient with us and who has taught us so much.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

What happens on the boat

In a move earlier this week that, I believe, surprised no one, French sailing legend Michel Desjoyeaux disembarked from the MAPFRE sailing team participating in the Volvo Ocean Race where he was serving as a watch captain. In an interview, he cited various irreconcilable differences with the Spanish skipper Iker Martinez. 

Disputes and tension between skippers and crew are part of cruising life, even more so in the professional realm where careers and big money are on the line.  Finding a crew that sails happily together is a rare and precious thing.  Jimmy Cornell, the godfather of world cruising, points out that almost all of the world cruisers you meet are couples, not a bunch of pals. 

"So, have a good day?"  From Mike Peyton, the world's greatest yachting cartoonist.
Before we started sailing “alone together”, Patrick and I crewed for 25 (!!) different skippers.  Crewing for others is a great way to learn to sail.  You can sail on a variety of different boats and learn from a range of skippers (sometimes learning what NOT to do…) .  Most importantly, we learned what kind of skipper makes a good match for us, and what kind of skippers we want to be.

For anyone who is thinking of taking off on a long voyage with a skipper you barely know, it is imperative to go for a short trip of 2-3 days with the skipper before agreeing to crew for him on longer voyages.  You may meet up for a drink somewhere, swap sea stories, and find yourself charmed by him or by his boat, but nothing can replace an overnight sea test. 

My personal opinion is that the sea makes people more concentrated versions of themselves.  This magnifying capacity can be a joy or a real hell, and, as Forest Gump would say about life and chocolates, you just never know what you’re gonna get.  This is not, of course, a one-sided evaluation.  The mix of personalities has to work, too, and a skipper may work out well with some crew members and not others. 

The first thing you have to do is to decide on some basic criteria and be unforgiving when they are not met, meaning a quick and definitive decision not to sail with the person again.  For example, one of our basic rules is that the skipper has to be Zen, which means that he is calm, confident, and happy to be at sea.  It doesn't mean he has to do everything perfectly (whatever that is), but that he can handle surprises in stride and in complete security.  Nothing says “I don’t know what-the-*&%$ I’m doing” louder than a skipper screaming at his crew, especially when it’s during some mundane manoeuvre like pulling into a slip or dropping the anchor.  And once a bad situation has arisen, don’t make excuses for him by saying things like “he’s just had a bad week” or “he apologized afterwards, so it’s okay”, etc.  Throwing a tantrum is never an isolated incident.  Be ruthless or you’ll regret it.

After a bad experience with a skipper, the best course of action is to simply not sail with that person anymore.  There is a strong temptation to blow off steam by telling others about your horrible experiences, but this is an exercise best done with a small select group of close friends if necessary.  When I was in the maritime academy, the mantra was “What happens on the boat stays on the boat.”  At the time, it pertained mostly to shipboard romances.  But I've come to appreciate this as a mantra for all at-sea personal happenings in general. 

This reminds me of the television show Hee Haw that parodied southern life and culture, where a group of southern maidens sing:

Now, we’re not ones to go ‘round spreading rumors
Why, really we’re just not the gossipy kind.
No, you’ll never hear one of us repeating gossip.
So you better be sure and listen close the first time !”

But I digress… 

The point here is that the sea can have a powerful and sometimes unpredictable effect on people, liberating them from constraints they may feel in their lives on land or providing a therapeutic stage where they can exorcise their frustrations.  And that’s one of the things we love about it. Getting caught up in someone else’s therapy is never fun, but that magical, restorative nature of sailing is worth protecting, so what happens on the boat stays on the boat.   

Unfortunately, journalists wouldn't let Michel Desjoyeaux off that easily and he recounted some tense moments on board.  These anecdotes didn't do Michel or Iker any good, and I don't feel any smarter for having read them.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Time keeps on slippin'

I had an epiphany of sorts yesterday:  I’m not getting any younger.  This idea flashed through my head as I was falling off a ladder in my attempt to haul a heavy suitcase filled with summer clothes up to the attic.  Crumpled on the floor gasping for breath, another thought ran through my head:  I’m not getting stronger or more flexible as time passes, either.

With a prescription for painkillers with codeine and orders to rest for 48 hours (what?!  But I have sails to wash !) I’ve had time to reflect on my little accident and how it could have been avoided.  It was 50% bad luck (the ladder broke…) but also 50% bad judgement.  The luck I can’t do anything about, but the judgement needs some adjusting.  I knew, but failed to accept, that the suitcase was both too large and too heavy for me.  Patrick was away at the fateful moment and I was too impatient to wait.

Being a woman sailor, I’m always trying to prove to myself that I can physically handle anything alone on the boat.  There are always ways to manage sails and manoeuvres alone, even if you’re petite (I’m 5ft 4, 125 lbs / 1m63, 56 kg).  These manoeuvres may not be very elegant or fast, but in a pinch, I know I can handle almost anything alone.  But there’s the rub:  I need to learn when such bravado is necessary and be humble enough to ask for help when it’s not.

I can’t stand the image of myself as a frail little wisp of a woman, waiting patiently for my husband to come to my rescue, but after much reflection (and codeine), I've decided it’s a better image than the one where I’m black and blue and out-of-action for days or weeks.  Humble pie for Thanksgiving, me thinks.      

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hibernation Time

We took Spray back to her home port this week to tuck her in for a long winter’s nap.  The cruise reminded us of why we don’t sail after October: squalls-a-go-go and waking up in a cold, wet boat with condensation raindrops dripping on our foreheads. 

Spray is waiting for the travel-lift to be repaired and then will be lifted out until… someone buys her !  We don’t hold out much hope for a winter sale, so we will start winterizing her next week (motor care, sails off, etc.).  In the meantime, I now have a garage full of boat stuff waiting to be sorted, washed, dried, and put away.  While I’m going to miss being on my boat over the next few months, it will feel good to take a break and see another side of life for awhile.  And looking at the degrading weather patterns, I don’t think I’ll be missing much great sailing anytime soon.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Full-time skippering

I’m often asked what I do for a living.  No one is willing to let me be retired at 45 so I have to come up with another job description.  Usually I tell them I’m the skipper of our sailboat. Since we only sail for 6 months of the year, that only buys me 6 months of time in their eyes.  What do I do the rest of the time?

My next 6 months look like this:

1.  Selling our old boat:  Managing adds on the web; responding to inquiries, showing the boat to prospective buyers, etc.

2.  Offloading the boat for winter:  sails, cushions, lines, blocks and tackles, boom break, cleaning products, spare parts, tarps, kitchen equipment, small electronics, foul weather gear, etc.

3.  Winterinzing the boat: pulling Spray out of the water, cleaning the bottom and preparing the motor for a long winter’s nap. (Note: our boat is 40 minutes from home, so trips back and forth also take up a lot of time…)

4.  Washing and drying sails, lines, and foul weather gear and storing everything in the basement, the attic, and any available floor space in the corners of rooms.

5.  Contacting the boat dealer and sailmakers to calculate the size and price of a Code D headsail for Mareda, and getting price estimates for a 3rd reef point in the mainsail (which also involves studying how to rig the boom for a 3rd reef.)

6.  Looking for a good used dinghy and outboard motor for Mareda.

7.  Reviewing new insurance policies and guarantees.

8.  Studying the specs of the new electronics on Mareda:  what electronic charts are delivered with the B&G Zeus Multifunction GPS?  Can we use the same charts on a PC with a chartplotter program?

9.  Do we really need the wifi module that will allow us to control the GPS from inside the boat?  If so, what tablet would be best  – Apple or Android? 

10.  Mareda’s sound system is entirely radio or MP3 based.  Need to convert favourite CDs to MP3 format.

11.  Buy new folding bikes!  But which ones are best for storage, exposure to salt water, comfortable for long outings, etc.?

12.  Buy new galley equipment: plates, glasses, utensils, bowls, etc.

13. Planning next year’s adventures !  This one takes months but is the most fun. Since we will have a 2 year all-inclusive guarantee, we want to stay near France at least for the first year and shakedown everything that is susceptible to wear and tear.  Since we have never skippered a swing keel boat, we will take advantage of the exceptional sailing zone for swing or lifting keel boats presented by Brittany, the Scilly Islands, the south coast of England, and the Channel Islands.  Planning involves, inter alia, deciding exactly where to go, when to go, what to see and do once there, routing taking into account nautical or meteorological conditions (e.g., is it best to sail East to West or West to East ?), studying mooring and beaching techniques with a swing keel, listing special equipment needs (aft anchor for beaching?), making sure we have all the electronic and paper charts we need, buying new nautical guides for areas where we have not sailed before.

14.  Vacation time !  Yes, scoff if you will, even retirees need a vacation from time to time.  For us, this involves visiting family (Florida, Paris) and heading someplace warm and sunny for several weeks.  It also means doing all those home repairs that have been building up in a home that is abandoned for 6 months of the year.  Hey … that’s another thing to add to our to-do list:  investigate pros and cons of renting out the house for the summer.

Now I don’t expect any “poor you” messages to come flowing in.  I simply hope I’ve convinced you that I’m far from bored when we’re not on the boat, and that our cruising life requires near full-time engagement.  We take it slowly when we can, doing a few jobs each day, and mix it all in with some of our other favourite pastimes (running, biking, reading) and hanging out with friends…where, admittedly, we almost always talk about boats !  It’s a beautiful life, 12 months per year.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Boat Show Blues

After 5 days at France’s largest used-boat show, we can now paint a portrait of today’s used-boat buyer.  Here are some of the gems from prospective buyers who visited Spray this week:

1.  “I absolutely love this boat, but my wife insists on having a lateral galley.”  (She doesn’t plan on cooking at sea, does she?)

2.  “Only 2 cabins?!  Where am I supposed to put the grandkids?”  (We have a few suggestions…)

3.  “Great boat, but I really want a lifting keel.”  (So why are you visiting a Dehler?)

4.  “I want 2 cabins but I want them both to be aft cabins.” (Not going to ask why. Good luck with that one.)

5.  “No hot water?!  Honey, did you hear that?  They said no hot water…”  (No shower, either, toots.)

6.  “Ah…wheel steering.  For a 34 foot boat, tiller steering is best.”  (We later met a Dehler 34 owner who had tiller steering and he said it was a beast.  He finally installed a powerful auto-pilot directly on the rudder sector to take over when things got too stiff.)

7.  “We really like the boat but we have to check with our 8 buddies who will be co-owners.  We’ll get back to you.”  (I won’t hold my breath, okay?)

8.  “Oh, a mahogany interior!  Can’t stand mahogany.  I prefer clean white plastic.”  (I have to say, this one was my favourite of the week…)

9.  A speed-dating visitor with a clipboard: “Mind if I just poke around?” (He came, he saw, he scribbled a few notes, he left.)

10.  After what I thought was a rather promising 10-minute visit:  “Would you mind terribly if I use your toilet?”  (…and he didn’t know how to work a marine toilet).

We DID have three serious visitors, but they all had to sell their boats first.  We aren’t holding our breath for any of these guys, either.

I found the whole process depressing, not because we didn’t sell the boat but because the vast majority of visitors were looking for a floating camping car for family coastal cruising.  It's no wonder we had such difficulty finding a new boat that wasn't a floating caming car.  Very few visitors appreciated the robust and ergonomic features of a Dehler that make it such a pleasure at sea.  I also found the local nautical culture quite parochial.  Most did not know what a Dehler was. (If it’s not a Beneteau, Jeanneau, Dufour, or Bavaria, it must be Polish or something…too risky).  When we told them the name of the boat was Spray, no one made the connection with Joshua Slocum, and few had heard of Slocum once we explained it to them.  They said, “Spray?  You mean, like a deodorant?”  Sigh…

One of the organizers of the boat show told us that 60% of the boats sold are based on the choice of Madame, where Madame is not a sailor.  Men are convinced that if they can just provide enough interior comforts their wives will consent to go sailing with them.  I’ve got news for them.  Their wives will go sailing with them for one season, after which they will re-affirm what they suspected all along: they don’t like sailing, no matter what.  We are members of two sailing associations filled almost exclusively with abandoned husbands who are saddled with floating camping cars, when what they really wanted was a smaller boat with a more performance.  If both partners are sailors, the decisions should be made together.  If only one partner is a sailor, why-oh-why should the advice of the non-sailor win out? 

And so it's back onto the hard for Spray, waiting for, I suspect, a divorced man under 6 feet tall looking for a robust performance cruiser to whisk her away for new adventures. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Thoroughly Modern Mareda

We bought a new boat !!!!!

At the end of April 2015, we will sail away in Mareda (Ma-RAY-da), a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379 with 2 cabins and a swing keel.  Over the last month, we have visited other Category A swing keels, but none matched our interests as well as the SO 379.  (Note: all photos below are catalogue photos.  Mareda's hull hasn't even been constructed yet.)

Now, we could regale you with a list of our criteria and cruising plans, discuss the technical aspects and relative merits of various boats we considered in an attempt to convince you that we made the right choice, but that would be boring and fruitless.  We know that boat buying is not a rational exercise anyway, so we’ve decided to adopt Benjamin Disraeli’s philosophy: Never complain, Never explain.  (This application of philosophy is a one-time only thing, mind you, since there would be little to blog about without explaining and complaining…).

But we will point to others who can explain it better than we can.  For Cruising World Magazine, Alvah Simon said, “It’s the rare boat I test that I would personally want to own and operate. But for me the 379 hits its marks perfectly regarding safety, size, style, speed, accommodation and equipment.”  Having followed The Roger Henry File (Simon’s CW blog of his world cruising adventures), this review carried a lot of weight with me. 

Bill Springer for Sail Magazine had this to say: “Plenty of boats call themselves good-looking and rewarding to sail. Many boats are also designed to be comfortable at sea and in port. But after testing the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379 in a healthy sailing breeze, I can honestly say it comes closer to achieving these goals than most. It was a blast to sail. It was easy to sail. It was comfortable to sail, and its accommodations are both spacious and stylish.”

We live two hours away from the Jeanneau shipyard where these boats are built.  In the seduction phase of our relationship with the dealer, we were given a private tour of the facilities.  We saw every step of the production, from hand-laid fibreglass to the new injection methods (no photos !) to create lighter, stronger, and more rigid deck and bulkhead mouldings.  My favourite part was the assembly line room, where a dozen hulls were lined up along a conveyor belt.  A naked hull arrives at the beginning and a fully finished hull leaves from the other end, to be sent to the tank room where the water tests begin.  In between, the hulls are fitted out with electric cables and plumbing, the motor and reservoirs, the bulkheads and furniture.  It was like walking through Santa’s workshop !  Granted, most of the interior reminds me of IKEA furniture, but the final result feels quite solid.

And what of our dear little Spray, you ask?  You won’t believe this, but we turned away yet another tall man who wanted to visit the boat yesterday.  That’s FIVE in a row over 6 feet tall.  Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot ?!  But yesterday we got a call from an interested buyer who, he assures us, is only 5 feet 8 inches tall and we’ll show him Spray on Friday.  We are also planning to take her to the Crouesty boat show at the end of the month and will do our best to find her a good home.  The dealer offered to buy her as a trade-in, but we didn’t like his price and Patrick is sure we can do better ourselves.  Fingers crossed !

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Return to Winter Haven

Like the first frost of the year, Patrick’s winter beard has set in, signalling that it’s time to settle back into life on land after nearly 6 months of boat life:  yard work, appointments with doctors and dentists, reconnecting with friends, travel arrangements to visit family, renewing our library card.  We’ve been so busy with preparing Spray for the used boat show at the end of the month that I haven’t had time to get the back-home blues yet.

But that doesn’t mean my mind hasn’t been wandering wistfully back to our adventures from this summer.  We wonder about the whereabouts of friends we made along the way (sailing friends who don’t blog…how frustrating !) – did Tony find a good place to winter-over in Spain?  Did Ulf and Pia make it to the Canaries?  So much envy …making it to exotic shores, wintering over.  When will it be our turn? 

Back to reality here in our own little winter haven, I found a “note to self” from this summer listing informational tidbits, useful items, and helpful hints from new friends for our next cruise:

1.  Spanish mosquitoes are impervious to Deep Woods Off.  Use plug-in bug repellent in port, citronella candles and mosquito netting at anchor.

2.  To save on cooking gas when in port, use an electric cooker / frying pan (good for baking and more economical than using the ship’s oven).

3.  Wine corks have countless uses for fix-it jobs on a boat. 

4.  We need a real power drill on-board, not just a cordless one. 

5.  Heaving-to in 4-5 meters of swell is a perilous process.  (It may be okay once you are hove-to, but getting into the hove-to position with large swell is tricky.)  Ed and Sue Kelly on Angel Louise have convinced us that a Jordan Series Drogue is the way to go. 

6.  Remember to charge the battery of your backup computer from time to time so that it’s ready when you need it.  (We have a 12V power cord for both computers, but still…).

7.  Useful things to have on board that we didn’t really think of before: 

  • A sewing kit.  I almost never use one at home but boats are rough on clothes.  I ended up sewing on buttons with sail twine a few times this summer…
  • A small vacuum cleaner or handy-vac
  • Hurricane-strength clothes pins
  • Small no-skid rugs (tired of tracking sand into the bed !)
  • Cockpit cushions
  • Indoor shoes / slippers
  • A folding trolley for hauling heavy stuff like jerry cans
  • Big plastic containers or sacs to protect clothes from humidity
  • Umbrellas.  Somehow, we thought we wouldn’t need umbrellas because we have foul weather gear…but walking around town in foul weather gear is no fun, is it?
  • A bike helmet.  Not necessarily for biking, but also for diving under the boat when there is swell.

I suppose there is a positive side to down-time from sailing.  Pulling together all this stuff will take time !

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Last Sail 2014

We started our end-of-the-year sail around southern Brittany in shorts and ended it in full foul weather gear as we bobbed in and out of three successive gales and torrential rain.  It was clearly time to head home and declare the sailing season over. 

We did have some beautiful days of sailing but mostly we sailed to various appointments to visit boats and to show Spray to perspective buyers.  We visited an Ovni 36 that was in a pathetic state, followed by a pristine Feeling 39 that had an enormous saloon but teeny weeny cabins.  At the same time, it was so wide (4.02 meters or 13.2 feet) that there was no visibility from the helm except through the dodger panels and no way of steering while sitting on the cockpit benches or gunwales. In the meantime, we learned that the Sun Odyssey 379 that we visited earlier is, indeed, Category A (stability rated for “all oceans”) and not Category B as we previously thought.  The boat is only rated Category B if it has in-mast furling, since that puts a lot of weight high up and raises the center of gravity.  That’s not something we wanted anyway, so we’re going to go back and look at that great little boat again next week.

Two statues facing each other on either side of the entrance to the old port of Haliguen.
Much to our dismay and increasing bewilderment, Spray continues attracting tall men.  The last 4 out of 5 visitors have not been able to stand up fully in the saloon.  We have decided to start the guided visit from inside the boat from now on.  We will probably take Spray to the largest used boat show in France in 3 weeks (Le Mille Sabords in southern Brittany) in hopes of selling her before winter sets in.  It sounds so odd to talk of selling her – she’s such a great boat and we’ve invested so much time (and money) in her.  But our sailing plans have altered and she’s not the right boat for us in the long term.  They say that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are 1) the day he buys the boat and 2) the day he sells it.  I’m not sure this will be the case for us.  We’ve grown quite attached to her and she’s taught us a lot. It sounds schmaltzy but I really hope we can find her a good home.   

Scenes from river cruising along the Vilaine (where we hid out from the gales).

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Rationality is Over-rated

As much as we like to think of ourselves as devil-may-care adventurers, we are, in fact, little old ladies trapped in the bodies of young retirees.  We only pretend to live adventurously.  This fact was thrust upon us today as we pondered the purchase of our next boat.

There are innumerable articles and blogs about how to choose the right boat.  The only one I’ve ever thought was spot-on was one with the headline:  “Choosing a boat is rarely a rational process.”  That’s really all you need to know. 

We’ve managed to fall in love, somewhat irrationally, with a boat that has the following attributes:

The Sun Odyssey 379 DI

Sails well in light winds (important for the Mediterranean, and frankly, any other sailing area where you prefer ticking off the miles in light winds rather than heavy winds), weighing-in at just under 7 tonnes for 37 feet.

Is SMALLER than we were looking for, but the intelligent design of the interior space make it perfect (even luxurious) for us.

Has a swing keel.  Pros and cons abound, but for us, this will open up many possibilities for exploring (more important to us than pure sailing, truth-be-told), including the canals of Europe and the innumerable shallow areas around the English, French, and Spanish coastlines.  As an added bonus, the architect (the architect of the famous French OVNI line) has designed a swing keel that only loses 3% of its windward performance. 

Has dual helms and dual rudders.  Redundancy means safety.  Dual helms also provide good visibility. 

In its 2 cabin version, has enormous living and storage space (reviewers refer to this storage space as “the shed”).

Has numerous options for ease-of-handling, including all lines (mainsail and headsail) led back to the helmsman.

Won the Cruising World Boat of the Year Award (category Mid-size Cruiser) in 2012.  Reviews were sparkling.

So what’s not to love?  Very little, except…

The boat is listed as a Category B boat.*  Here in Europe, that rating means that the boat has been designed to handle conditions with winds up to and including Beaufort Force 8 and waves up to and including 4 meters.  Who would want to sail in conditions that exceed this, you ask?  Unfortunately, you don’t always have the choice, as we found out this summer.  Category B also indicates that you should not navigate more than 200 nautical miles from a safe haven.  Crossing the Bay of Biscay from southern Brittany to La Coruna, for example, is just at the limits.  Still, all of Europe IS accessible with this boat, but the Atlantic Islands (Azores, Canaries, Cape Verdes) exceed the recommended limits. 

Like the little old ladies that we are, we have always approached our sailing projects in a very cautious, step-wise process: 

Step1: buy a boat and cruise between England/Ireland and Spain to see if we really like the sailing life and want to go further.  Check. 

Step 2: buy a bigger boat for longer cruising and head down to the Med for several years.  In progress. 

Step 3:  assess aspirations and capabilities for a trans-Atlantic voyage or more.  We’ll see about that one later. 

What I’m resisting is the idea that we should buy a different boat for each step.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  We have some visits lined up to look at a couple of other boats that are resolutely category A (all oceans).  While they are much less comfortable for living aboard than the flashy new one, they are robust enough to do anything and go anywhere. 

And with that, we’ll stop trying to rationalize an irrational process and … go sailing !  We’re off tonight to drift around southern Brittany until the cold wet grey weather sets in.

* But wait !  The dealer just called me back with the good news:  the swing keel is CATEGORY A except if it has in-mast furling, which is not something we want.  This little gem can handle all the sailing we want to throw at it (considering we will not be rounding Cape Horn or attempting the Northwest passage) and we'll never have to buy another boat to expand the range of our cruising. YooHoo !