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 !