Happy ending

How would you like the end of your trip to be? Give me ten days of sailing in light winds and calm sea, beautiful sunsets, whales, birds and good fishing.

At the beginning of the passage the fact that we had very little wind was making me impatient. Motoring is not much fun and anyway we were not carrying enough fuel to cover those 1000 miles from Tonga to Opua in New Zealand.

The forecast was giving light winds and no risk of low pressure for at least the following ten days, meaning that we were not in a rush to arrive. At times there was no wind at all and the sea looked like a mirror, so we dropped the sails and waited for the slightest breeze to come to hoist back the spinnaker or the big genoa.

That is when I became fully conscious that this was going to be the last long passage of our trip, and that I’d better relax and enjoy, so I did.

The calm sea makes it easier to spot any sea life and we saw whales and plenty of different types of birds. The fishing was very good too, we had to become creative about different ways of cooking tuna, we even dried some of it in the sun to keep it for the next day.

All the way we could feel that we were heading South, the days got longer and the temperature colder, we had to fetch back thick sleeping bags, jackets and socks.

As soon as we entered NZ territorial waters we contacted the port authority on VHF and were received with a happy: “Welcome to New Zealand”. A year and a half and about 13,000 nautical miles later we had reached our destination.

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Huahine

Tomorrow we are leaving French Polynesia to sail towards Tonga, and this makes us both quite sad. We have spent an amazing time in this country of islands of which there are still too many that we haven’t visited. We feel very fortunate to have been at anchor surrounded by incredibly beautiful landscapes, to have met a lot of friendly people and experienced a different culture.

No matter how many nice places we have already seen, each time we arrive in a new anchorage we find the view stunning. Want a room with a view? Go and live on a boat.

And because very often images say more than words, here are a few photos of Huahine, our last stop in French Polynesia.

Moorea and Tahiti

It was very refreshing to see the green mountains of Moorea after a month in the flat Tuamotus. Like the other Society Islands, Moorea is surrounded by a reef which forms a lagoon around the island and so you have both the mountains and the clear blue water with coral grounds.

Being Tahiti’s little neighbour, the island is much more touristy than the Marquesas or the Tuamotus, and there is a considerable amount of traffic and many hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants, as well as larger supermarkets.

After two weeks eating coconuts in the South of Fakarava, where a tomato is worth gold and mangos don’t exist, I was craving for fresh fruits and veggetables. Luckily, Moorea is a large pinneaple producer, mango trees are everywhere, and we arrived at the beginning of the avocado season.

In Maharepa anchorage at the entrance of Cook’s bay, we reunited with Inga and Peter, and together we went off exploring the island’s mountains and valleys. In Vaianae, a beautiful valley in the South of Moorea, we met Tuke, a local producer of vanilla. He took us around his plantation explaining us how carefully he has to polinize the plants flower by flower when the time comes, and how he dries the vanilla when the fruit it is ready. He also gave us plenty of fruit from his plantation, and we felt like we were in the Marquesas again.

We sailed to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti and biggest city in French Polynesia, to do some medical checks and paperwork to apply for a New Zealand work visa. Although we were kind of psychologically prepared for it, the city and the traffic were a big shock. Papeete is everything but “peaton” friendly, and everyday we ended up nakered after running errands walking up and down along a stinky and noisy road.

After a week in the city, we were very happy to come back to Moorea. This time we anchored in the entrance of Oponohu bay, and I had an amazing time snorkelling with rays, they come so close that you can touch them!

Now we have to keep going West and after having said goodbye to some of our lucky boat friends who are staying for another season in French Polynesia, tonight we leave on a night passage to Huahine, probably our last stop in this magic country.

Kuna Yala – San Blas

Kuya Yala is an autonomus region of Panama, home to the kuna indians. It covers a long stretch of montanius mainland, from the atlantic Colombian border up to the Colon province, plus 365 islands, of which only 65 are inhabited. This territory is also known as San Blas.

On the three weeks we spent there, hopping from one island to another, we realized that there are two main different Kuna Yala: the remote eastern part, and the touristy western part. Both are incredibly beautiful in their own way: whereas western San Blas is very touristy, traditional kuna villages can be found in the East, where the interaction with the locals is much more interesting; and whilst the water in eastern San Blas is not very clear, it is crystaline on the West, with the most amazing snorkelling spots.

Since we were coming from Colombia, we entered San Blas from the east at Tupbak (Isla Pinos). It felt like entering in a completely different world. 

It is 10 in the morning as we approach the anchorage between the island and the mainland. The only other sailboat on the spot are our friends Miti, who arrived an hour ago. A white sand beach, a million coconut trees and palm roofed houses. On the horizon a kuna indian padelling on his “cayuco” and a eagle in the sky. Silence. It feels like time stopped a long time ago.

The women in San Blas are known for making “molas”, pieces of cloth with colourful designs. Inga and I were curious to see how they make them, so we walked to the village and asked a couple of women who were stitching one. They hid them straight away, and with half a smile they told us that we first had to ask the “sahila”, or boss of the village, for permission. A local kid Rafael guided us around the houses until finally we met the “sahila” sleeping a siesta on his hammock. He gave us permission to see and buy “molas” and as we walked out of his house our friend Rafael started shouting some sentences in kuna, we understood he was calling all the women in the village to come and sell us “molas”.

The kunas base their economy in fishing, agriculture, selling handcraft and tourism. They almost only collect fruit and veg for their own consumption, but they fish lobsters and crabs to sell to tourists or to Colombian lanchas who come and pick them up.

After Tupbak we went to the island of Mamitupu, also very traditional but more open to visitors. There we met Pablo, a kuna who has some cabins to rent and a lot of interesting things to tell. For example, he explained us that in Mamitupu the “congreso”, the governing body of each community of Kuna Yala, reunite every day. Each day of the week there is a different type of congreso, it can be a singing day, when the “sahila” sings the matters of the day or it can be a women congreso day. 

We kept on sailing West together with Miti and our new french boat friends from Shaitanne, a 50 footer with 6 people onboard. We visited Aridup, Puyadas, Sugardup, Chichime and Cayos Holandeses. We spent the days snorkelling and fishing and the evenings eating fresh fish.

Kuna Yala is such an special place and I hope it remains as such for a long time. There is only one thing that doesn’t match with the landscape at all: plastic rubbish. The windward side of those islands is full of it. Some of it comes from the locals, but most of it doesn’t. The kunas don’t have the means to deal with all that plastic. 

Take me back to Los Roques, Venezuela

“-do we do the customs and paperwork in Gran Roque? Asks Rocio somewhat anxiously

-hmmm… Some people advised us to skip this step though. Do you know how much it could cost?

-I m not sure but it can’t be much. You’ve heard this guy on the VHF? He told us that the Armada Venezolana is stationned there and could come onboard

-sure, last thing we want is a military officer onboard our boat with a reason to hold us back.

-we will arrive on Sunday. We can first anchor off somewhere, then we head to Gran Roque on Monday to do the paperwork

-ok, that’s a plan

-fish on the line!!! Stop the boat!! It is a tuna!!”

That is in essence the discussion we were having during our crossing from Guadeloupe to Los Roques. 

In the end we decided to go and do the paperwork, and also took the oportunity to meet up with our friend Sebas working in a posada, El Canto de la Ballena, such a friendly place with amazing food, if you go to El Gran Roque, don’t miss it 😀

Back to the paperwork, the situation was interesting for two main reasons: the desease of the bollivar and the new park cost.

Regarding the bollivar desease. Venezuela has had an inflation of over 2000% (I have not typed an extra zero by mistake, it is true). As a result there is no local currency available anywhere. For example, the second largest note is 20,000 bollivars. To pay a beer you need 150 000 bollivars. It is easy to understand that at this rate it does not work. So people pay with bank cards, which is ok if you have a local bank card. Not ok if you try to pay with a foreign one, as the official exchange rate is ridiculously low. You would end up paying your beer 100 $. 

So practically there are people working in the black market that will propose to accompany you anywhere you go to pay with their local card, in return you pay them cash in USD. In Los Roques 1 $ was worth at that moment in time 160 000 bollivars (in Caracas 250 000, at the same time, and 120 000 two months ago…).

The second surprise was the new park cost. Since the first of February the cost for being with a boat in los Roques went from 45000 to 1 000 000 per foot! I’ll do the math for you, it turns out to about 300$ for Cirrus (and us 2). For three days we could just not afford it. 

There is a solution for everything though. Here the trick is to argue that you are “in transit”, which gives you 72 hours for free. Theoretically you cannot move the boat during this time. But practically nobody will prevent you from hopping from island to island through the archipelago as you are “leaving” los Roques. 

It took us three days to get through 20 nm of sand banks, islands and reefs with cristal clear water. We visited Francisqui, good for kite surfing, Noronqui, amazing snorkelling and Cayo Carenero, incredibly beautiful. Apart from in Francisqui and El Gran Roque, we had the anchorages just for us. We were alone in paradise.

I wish we could have stayed longer… Maybe next time…

Portugal

I am now writing from the island of La Graciosa, in Canarias, where we arrived a few days ago after five days of sailing from Lisboa.
The trip has somehow slowed down a little bit since we left the waters of Galicia, with its million places to stop, there are so many beautiful moorings and little ports in there that one would need at least a whole summer to explore them all.
Once in Portugal, there are not as many places to stop along its West coast, making us stay in fewer places for longer time. This is pretty cool, because we keep on crossing the same boats that are also going South like us, and we have made a few friends, like our Viking friends from Norway, Inga and Peter, on their Hallberg Rassy 38 Miti are now in Las Palmas and Charlotte and Magnus on their Ovni 39 Aluminati are somewhere in the South of Portugal.


Our first stop was Leixoes, a commercial harbour near the town of Porto. The sailing from Baiona was…foggy… and it was not really sailing, it was more like motoring by night under the fog in a “field” of fishing pots. My face says it all in this picture, at “sunrise” approaching Leixoes. To make it worse, the autopilot had stopped working, so we had to helm under engine, clearly not my favourite activity.

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Fortunately, we were about to meet my parents and sister, who had come to visit us in Porto, so my “angriness” disappeared pretty quickly.
We were very lucky to find a spot in the marina, which was otherwise full, advantages of having a small boat! It was also possible to anchor in the port, but with my family coming to visit, we thought it was easier to walk in and out the boat.
Porto is just beautiful, really worth the visit, here are some photos taken by my sister Lucia.


After the family left, we sailed to Aveiro, 30 nautical miles of sunny spinnaker weather = The Dream. We anchored in Sao Jacinto, a village in the North of the Ria de Aveiro, amongst five or six more yachts. The bay of Sao Jacinto is in fact well protected, and there are not many of these anchorages in the West coast of Portugal. The village has all we wanted: a bakery, a bar and a super long sandy beach. So we stayed for a while. We also did a bit of tourism in the town of Aveiro,” the Portuguese Venice”.


When we left Aveiro, it was foggy again. We have read somewhere that there is 10% chance of the weather being foggy in summer in Portugal… surely somebody forgot the “not” in the sentence. The forecast was for some good NW wind coming in later during the day and so it did. It was pretty light though so we only dropped the anchor in Peniche the day after at dawn.
From Peniche, we sailed 6 miles to Isla Berlengha. We took a mooring buoy on the south east side of this spectacular island. The light forecast made us decide to spend the night in there, but we should have checked the waves forecast as well as the wind… after a bouncy night we saw that the swell had increased massively and despite being on the opposite side of the island, the waves were bouncing against the rocks. We left the mooring and surfed back to Peniche, where we anchored behind the pier, well protected from the waves.


The fog was yet going to accompany us to Cascais. This time at least, there was wind. After some hesitation, we turned the AIS (receptor) on and we decided to keep flying the spinnaker. Once in a while we blew the fog horn in case there was someone out there. We could not see more than 20 metres around the boat, and it was pretty scary when we heard the noise of an engine, but we never saw where it was coming from, probably a plane. Inga and Peter who were at anchor in Cascais sent us a picture of a clear day, but we were only 8 miles away and the fog was so dense that it looked unreal.
And suddenly, the sky cleared out and we left the curtain of fog behind, as we turned east into the river Tejo, what a relief! Feeling happy we turned the music on and we sailed into the bay of Cascais, just as the sun was setting down. We dropped the anchor and were received by our Norwegian friends on board Miti for a well appreciated glass of wine.
The anchorage in Cascais was full of other travelling boats, of all shapes and nationalities. It is very interesting to look at them and take new ideas for our own boat – and for our future boat as well 😉 – as it is also cool to watch the RC44 fleet getting ready to race – the two poles of sailing yachts in one place, amazing.


27th of September, Gaspar is turning old! To celebrate his birthday, we took the train to Lisboa and we explored the city with the excuse of fulfilling his favourite activity: visit pretty much all the “ferreterias” (tool shops) in the area. In the evening we went for a few beers with our friend EJ, who we met for the first time five years ago in the ARC. He showed us around some pretty cool boats that are being prepared for a race starting soon from Spain…
The next day we sailed up the river and saw the stunning city of Lisboa from the water. We were going to spend the next three days in the marina Parque das Naçoes, getting the boat ready for the trip down to Canarias. This marina was built for the Expo in 1998 and the place is quite surreal. We went out for a walk in the evening in what looked like a futuristic ghost town, we only started to see some people as we approached an area with glass windowed office blocks, people were working inside, we kept on walking and we found a massive shopping mall, and guess what, it was full of people. Fortunately, the area is nicer by day, there are many cool parks and buildings to look at and people are walking around in families and so on. The marina was also built for the Expo and for some strange reason, half of it dries out at low tide, so there are many empty pontoons; it makes you think whether this was the job of a group of politicians playing architects/engineers for a day? Despite all this, the other half of the marina is pretty good and so is its location, not in the center of Lisboa but pretty close by bus, next to the airport, and to a big supermarket that opens every day of the week, it fit our purpose perfectly.


With the mission of finding somebody out in Lisboa to recode our emergency PLB – which had to be done because we have changed the boat´s flag from French to British – we ended up exploring the city again, discovering some areas with not so many tourists. The job was finally done on the day by a company called Nautel.
My dad joined us on the 30th and with the boat ready and full of provisions, we set sail to the Canaries on the 1st of October. But that is another story.
Obrigado Portugal, you have exceeded all my expectations.

Exploring the Rías of Galicia

I am writing now as we sail amongst the Isla Cies, where according to the Guardian there is “the most beautiful beach in the world”. We tried it, it is good. But the most beautiful? In the world? We knew that the English liked their drinking but… anyway, carry on.

It has taken us three weeks of slow cruising to get from Bilbao to the West coast of Galicia. New Zealand seems surely like a long way away now. We take comfort in knowing that we have purposely taken our time to stop and get to know the coast, our boat, and our ability to sail her. We deemed it much better than rushing in long offshore legs, after all, that is what we are here for, cruising. Besides we need to get our sea legs back (if we ever had them), after a long time living the landlubber way.

Hence we saw the landscape change. From green it slowly turns to brown and red. The cliffs of the the Basque country and Asturias give way to the gently sloping mountains of las Rias Bajas. The accents and dialects change as you sail West; from the almost harsh Basque accent to the singing Galician one with hints of “shushuting” Portuguese.

It has been too easy to forget which day of the week we are. Only the fact of trying to shop on a Sunday reminds us of it. The Spanish coast has treated us generally with light winds, from all directions. This is good for testing Cirrus under all points of sail. We get to know which sails to use, when does Giorgio (he wind pilot) works well, when we have to use Otto (the Raymarine electric pilot). Thanks to Giorgio and Otto, one of us can practice his/her siesta skill or read a book inside without forcing the other one to be stuck on the helm, out of reach of the nibble cupboard.

So all is good under the sunshine. Because we are in Spain right? It should be sunny and no rain. At least that is what we think up North, in the UK, Belgium and the likes. But no, if the landscape is so green, there is no secret, it does  rain at times. Like that time sailing to the Ria de Viveiro. We were having another gentle day of light wind, sunny spinnaker condition. All fishing lines had been deployed in the hope of that catch that still seem to elude us, when the weather gradually changed. The wind turned hundred and eighty degrees, the skies grew grey, the visibility dropped and finally came the rain and the thunder. We could not see further than twenty meters away but for the lightning falling all around us. In those conditions, as you are approaching a headland not far from the reknown “Costa da Morte” , you are grateful to those who invented the GPS and the AIS. With the AIS you can see other boats equipped with that system (all commercial ships, most fishermen and many yachts), where they are heading and at what speed.

Neither of us wanted to stay outside on the helm for the following reason; apparently if a lightning comes to strike an aluminium yacht, it should protect those inside in the same manner as a Faraday cage. And also, did I mention the rain? It came down to the dear Otto do the dirty job of steering us through that mess while we peeked an eye outside.

It was only three days later as we solicited Otto again that we found out Otto did not like the rain either. His unique answer as we plugged in the power chord was a long buzzing sound, his little screen gave no other sign of life. We had to open him up and fill his electronic guts of rice to dry him up. Water had come in through the shaft seal.  He is now almost back to his former self but I don’t think he will bare the scars for the rest of his pilot life.

If the pilot did not come out uninjured of those nasty clouds, we did. And we made it to Viveiro, at the end of the ria which I called by the same name. Viveiro would be our first real marina since leaving Bilbao. That meant our first real shower (there is still a debate on-going whether going for a swim counts or not). Not that we could not in Cirrus, we are equipped of a solar shower, but let’s just say that life on a boat does not make you that dirty.

From there on we hopped into the next ria, Ria de Barqueiro, where we tucked ourself in the – at that hour of the evening – very lively fishing harbour of O’Vicedo. The usual chipirones fishermen stared at us as we motored in. Those who were not busy fishing had nothing better to do than to come help us moor alongside the concrete jetty. Everybody had an advice to give us about the place and within minutes we knew the most important: where to take a “caña” (small beer), that the “raciones” here have a decent size (not like those places where if you order squids, you get more chips than squid), that we could stay here overnight and that if we were unlucky the “guarda-muelle” would come ask us for money, but that it was better not to care and to speak to him in English as, anyway, he is not even from this village and no one likes him.

In spite of the weather, overcast, the call of the beach was too strong. A sad truth had to be discovered, they did not lie to us, the water is freezing in Galicia. But the location was perfect to expand our fishing skill from bare hook trailers to brave mussel pickers.

Those mussels picked would turn out to be a great comfort that same night in Cariño (slightly further West). In Cariño what had been a pleasant and almost trouble free cruise so far got a bit spicy. Not only we figured out the alternator had not been charging for the last three days, but the forward fresh water tank inlet was not screwed in properly and leaked half the water in the bilge, and one of the new cupboard closing mechanism came unscrewed. That last one is important. Not because you cannot possibly endure all night the noise of the cupboard door knocking against its framing at every wave, but because fixing it was so easy and provided us with the necessary feeling of “Yes, we got one of them fixed!”.

For the alternator things were a bit more serious. So both of us put our headtorches on and we got through the complicate task of reading what Nigel Calder has to say in his book (Boat Maintenance and Electric Manual) without falling asleep, then putting into practice his testing procedure. The verdict was: this one is no good, where can we get a new one. A phone call to the shore team (Gonzalo, Rocio’s dad) gave us the first answer: head to Sada to the chandlery “Cadenote”.

As the solar panels kept charging both batteries, we could ensure that the engine could be started and were in no big rush. Two days later, with a stop in Cedeira, we arrived in Sada. I would recommend to any yachtsman in the need in this area to head there. Within two days we got the part ordered, shipped, delivered, mounted, and best of all, it worked. Thanks to Bea, Miguel and their team, thanks also to Arturo the sailmaker who patched up our lazy bag (what holds the mainsail when it is lowered – for you landlubbers 😉 ).

The easy peasy  cruise got under way again as we sailed into the sunset towards Laxe where we arrived late in the night. The sun was short lived and when we woke up the morning, the wind had turned to the South, pushing low clouds heavy with rain. We decided for the comfort of staying at anchor for a full day until the sun comes back. Twenty four hours at anchor with neither of us wanting to inflate Cheeky Bombard (our inflatable dinghy) meant we had to find some indoor activities; reading, drawing, painting drinking whiskey (moderately of course and observing our anchorage neighbour, a fellow British ship, wondering whether the long hair made him/her a girl or a boy. We also observed the ever present chipirones fishermen aligned on the jetty, braving the weather for a few cephalopods a some chats away from the wives. That made us wish we had one of those chipirones lure, next harbour we get one!

When on Monday morning the clouds had cleared we were swift to pull up the anchor and hoist the sail to get moving along the “Costa da Morte”. We moved, at a slow pace, beating to windward in a light breeze. Skirting the fog, sometimes caught in it, we would see appearing for a brief moment the Cabo Villano and its wind turbine to be later occulted by the clouds. In those moments the only noise was from the waves crushing on the rocks in the distance. This spooky navigation was crowned by our arrival in the ghost marina of Muxia. Having been built recently it apparently suffers from its competitor across the bay, Camariñas.

Inside the harbour what marked us besides the fact that only six or seven berths were filled was the 22 footer sailboat with German flag anchored ten meters off the end of the pontoon. Its owner came rowing back to his boat aboard one of those inflatable beach rubber boats. He looked young, maybe twenty, blond and sun battered as we could not help but notice from a distance by his red peeling nose.

The town is apparently a famous stopover in the Camino de Santiago. It boasts a pretty church in an especially beautiful location (how come they always seem to get the best spots?); by the headland closing off the bay to the South, facing the Atlantic swell crashing onto the rocks opposite the majestic Cabo Villano.

When we came back from touring the town, we saw that the little German boat had made it into the marina and was moored not far from us. We invited Christof, its blond nose-peeling owner to come share a beer in our cockpit. For once that we have a larger boat than the other cruisers around, we had to take the opportunity to offer the hospitality. We did not bother apologizing for the temperature of the beer – our fridge had been switched off to save some battery – because he certainly did not have a fridge himself and was certainly used to the taste of mildly cold beer.

Christof had recently arrived from the Azores after completing in solo an Atlantic tour by the “classic route” (Europe – Canaries – Caribbean – Azores – Europe). He had discovered sailed a year before setting off for his epic trip, bought his boat for 1900 euros and was now waiting for the good weather window to cross Biscay and head back to his homeland. Call that temerity or bravery? Rocio summarised well the feeling he left us “This crazy guy makes me feel old an rich onboard a superyacht Cirrus”.

Many people recommended us la Ria de Muros, and with reasons. La Ria de Muros is the first one of las Rias Bajas coming from the North. It is famous for its mussels and seafood. The town itself dates from the medieval times with stone buildings and arches, curvy little streets. We stayed two nights there. Sailing down to Muros from Muxia was quick. Once we left Cabo Finistere behind, it seemed like we abandoned the clouds and the light winds, stuck over the mountains of the Rias Altas. We got our spinnaker out again. By now we both became pretty efficient at hoisting, gybing and dropping in two of us.

After Muros came Sanxenxo where we could not stay as the harbour was full for a race. Sanxenxo is the base of MAPFRE and DONGFENG, two of the Volvo 65 teams getting ready for the next Volvo Ocean Race. In front of Sanxenxo lies the Isla de Ons, where we had to ask for a permit to cruise and anchor. We dropped anchor North East of the island in front of a proudly claimed nudist beach. That is fine with us, we have binoculars.

Rocio knew the island for having visited it when she was a child with her parents. She warned me to get ready for a good hike to go from the beach to the village if we were to have any fresh cañas. It turned out that it was actually more like a short walk amongst the Eucalyptus tree rather than a hardcore hike. I guess that back in the time she must have had shorter legs, funny how everything is a matter of perspective.

And that brings us now to Islas Cies where I finish writing this post.

 

What it is to sail onboard a cruising catamaran

Sailing onboard a cruising catamaran of 43 feet is a new experience for us. Our experience of catamaran was limited to Hobbie Cat… and we can pretty much say it has nothing to do.

The most marking of a catamaran is all the stuff you can put on board! There is so much space! On board we have a fridge, refrigerator, two bathrooms, 3 cabins with headroom and a huge saloon. The dinghy is stored on a crane at the back of the boat, so no need to repump it each time and fight with it to make it enter in its locker, great!

Cooking is no more a horrible job in a closed small space. You can cook with view on the wake of the boat, you can leave everything lying around the sink or worktable without them falling. The sink has hot and cold fresh water! What a luxury! On a five day crossing, with the watermaker, you don’t have to worry about your fresh water consumption. The main sink even has a sea water tap with an electrical pump, no more need to pump like an idiot with your foot for 4 drops of sea water or trying to fill a bucket at the back of the boat.

Wahou (non pas les crèpes…)! Washing the dish with three different taps and panoramic view!

Speaking of water makes me think of batteries, who knows why…there are plenty batteries, solar panels, and wind generator. Result; the fridge can be kept on while sailing, but the refrigerator needs very frequent use of the engine (so it will be converted into a simple fridge for the Atlantic crossing… we had the opportunity to eat just cream for dessert, not ice cream, the kids and I still loved it though!). During the day, if it is sunny, if we are careful with our consumption we are just charging, but overall, we’ll still need to run the engines a couple of hours every one or two days.

The nav station is comfortable with all the electronics a cruising man could wish; AIS and radar to spot ships from inside, VHF obviously (inside and at the helming station outside), GPS chart plotter, B&G electronic screen to get all the navigation data anywhere you want in the boat (there could be one in the head though!…understand “toilet” for “head” for the non-boat people). On top of the fridge behind the navigation seat there is a huge space where you can unfold completely a marine chart! This is an utopia for any monohull cruiser of this size!

Finally storage; plenty! Two independent lockers at the front of each hull for the sails and fenders, storage under the cockpit sole for all the tools, hose, fishing gear, cleaning gear etc, storage in lockers and under seats and beds for the food, probably enough place to store food for a year. The engine rooms are separated from the rest of the arrangement and accessed at the back of each hull by a hatch in the deck. They are very spacious and permit to do any maintenance job easily even while sailing if needed.

But obviously, all this comfort has a price. When helming the boat, the sensations are not quite there. You do not have the same feeling as on a monohull; trying to surf down the waves is not as much fun, even with 17 knots of true wind (it still is fun but not quite as much). We did not try sailing upwind yet, but according to James, you cannot point as high as a monohull, which makes sense… The daggerboards did not really show their purpose yet but to prevent the boat to twist about the rudder stock when sailing downwind. Due to the short roll period of the boat, the transverse motions are quite rapid, therefore, if there is not a lot of wind, with a little swell the mainsail is always pumping from one side to the other… (this is why most of the time we sailed downwind without it). Altogether I’d say that it definitely feels as big, massive, clumsy, as the class 40 I sailed, but lacks of power. For safety I guess they cannot increase the sail area without increasing risks of capsize (which are almost nil here).

Illustration by Rocita of how to helm best a catamaran

Concerning the manoeuvres, the boat is very well thought for short-handed. All the manoeuvres are very easy. There is an electric central winch for all the mainsail controls, two electric winches for the mainsheets, and four manual winches for furlers and foresail sheets. The foresail halyards are at the mast and the spinnakers on socks. So altogether it is perfect for short-handed, nothing to add to that.

Our overall feeling is that a boat like this is probably perfectly suited for James and Sara’s project; sailing with their kids. Despite the fact it is a multihull, it stays a cruiser with all the comfort and thus the compromise is to have less impressive sail performance.