The Booze Cruise Turned Survival At Sea.

“Waiting is not a waste of time. The patient man succeeds.”

-An ancient Inuit saying

Wednesday May 29th.

The boat is finally ready to sail and we decide to move her to the anchorage near Key West, north of Fleming Island, about two hours of sailing from where we are in Stock Island. It is getting late, the sun is almost ready to dip in the ocean, and this means we will either have to wait for tomorrow or navigate at night. We have no charts, we have no sailing experience, and we have a problem with the starboard engine, it won’t start. We decide to get going anyway. We have been waiting way too long.

The crew members are: our family of four plus Tony and Tyler who are coming to help with the sailing and guide us. We have no experience except the one month sailing school in Saint Petersburg, where we learned the basics of sailing on 18 feet keel boats.

Tony

Tony

Tony has been crewing and working on boats for some time, but he is also pretty new to the sailing world. He is currently working on his Cape Dory 28 on the hard at Robby’s Boatyard getting her ready for the sea.

Tyler

Tyler

Tyler has a lot more time spent on boats. He is the one who knows what he is doing. He has two boats anchored at the same place where we are heading.

Sailing into the sunset

Sailing into the sunset

As we get out in the channel we hoist the mainsail for a first time. We are finally sailing! We have captured just a bit of the wind, a tiny air stream, which is filling the sail and is making the boat move swiftly in the direction we want.

Hoisting the main

Hoisting the main

I once saw a baby struggling with a toy, trying to fit the right shapes in the correct holes. I remember the triumph in his eyes when after much effort he finally succeeded. He laughed and he screamed with excitement jumping in his place, and he was thus proud with himself as if he had performed some sort of a miracle.

First time sailing on your own boat feels the same way.

Ivo at the helm

Ivo at the helm

It gets dark. We are sailing with a speed of six knots. At some point we have to jibe. Jibing is much more radical than tacking and as the boom swings from one side to the other, the stopper for one of the lines breaks and the same traveler that Richard just saved a few hours ago breaks loose and flies off the track! We hear bearings rolling down the deck and into the sea. But the traveler is attached to the lines and so it doesn’t fall in the ocean. It hangs in the air swinging around. Tyler and Tony rush to attach the loose mainsail which is flapping in the wind with much noise. They succeed to secure it in place and the traveler is saved again.

During these 10-15 minutes of panic, nobody pays attention where the boat is going. At some point we see boats anchored where there shouldn’t be boats anchored. Or maybe we are not where we think we are? In the dark, we are navigating by looking at the channel’s green and red lights and the lights on shore. Without a GPS and charts, the only electronic device we are monitoring is the dept sounder. And the numbers it shows us begin to get smaller and smaller so fast, we have no time to think and react. Twenty feet, eighteen feet, fifteen, twelve, ten, eight, six, five, four, alarm!, alarm! , three feet!, two feet!

We run aground. The boat gently stops, there is no crushing sounds.

Remember that excited baby with the toy? He just pooped himself.

The shore is far away, there is just water around us. We are stuck in a sandbank. Great. First time sailing and this is what happens.

There are some weird metal structures sticking out of the water. One is pretty close to the boat. In the dark it looks white.

We take the mainsail down and we try to start the port engine and go in reverse in order to unstuck the boat. But it doesn’t start. Both engines are dead.

With the dinghy Ivo takes the spare anchor away from the boat, in deeper waters. The anchor line is not very long. Tyler says it would be much better if we had a longer line.

The plan is to deploy the anchor and pull ourselves away from the shallow waters by pulling on the anchor line. We work like crazy, pulling at the rope, and it is a heavy job. Tony does an incredible job pulling. I’m sure he won’t feel his arms tomorrow. I just hope no one gets hurt.

We get unstuck but the wind picks up and pushes the boat towards the metal structure. It is now just a few feet away. If we hit it we will damage the boat for sure. At least the port engine starts and we now have a hard time pulling the anchor up by hand. We finally succeed and we start motoring away from these forsaken shallow waters full of strange metal structures. We motor back to the place where we got lost and sometime after midnight we finally get to the anchorage in Key West.

As we go to sleep for a first time anchored out at sea I reflect back at what has just happened. On the positive side of it, I think that we have acquired a valuable experience; we have learned what to do in a situation like that without any damage on the boat. We have also learned that charts are important, engines are important, and most of all: patience. We should have waited and sailed in daylight.

Lesson learned.

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The Launching of Fata Morgana

Tuesday, May 27, the day of the launching of Fata Morgana.

The day doesn’t look good. During the 57 days we have spent in 3D Boatyard in Key West FL working on our boat, there were only two gloomy rainy days one of which Tuesday, May 27. The problem with the rain is that we still need to paint a couple of spots on the hulls where the boat has been perched on two wooden props, and this needs to be done when the hulls are dry and the boat is lifted in the air by  the boat crane, an hour before launching.

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

All day we wait for the rain to stop or just give us a few minutes brake, but it doesn’t. It rains persistently, hopelessly: a monotonous female rain, filling the puddles with grey waters. It’s trying to hold us back, to worry and discourage us, and it succeeds for a while. We consider postponing the splash for a dryer day but decide to go ahead and paint in the rain trying to keep the spots on the hulls dry by holding towels above them. This is Tyler’s idea. Tyler, Cherri, and Tony have been helping us with the final works for the last two days, great guys, and together we do a good enough job painting in the rain.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Around 4 pm we are pretty much ready to splash. Tony and I stay on the boat, all the others watching from beneath as the crane gently lifts Fata Morgana like a sedated exotic animal and makes its way among the rest of the boats who watch paralyzed with nostalgia from their places in the boatyard.

The end of the day

The end of the day

Afloat, after so many dry days, Fata Morgana awakens, slightly starts rocking back and forth, feeling content and happy. She doesn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean after being loaded with so many heavy things and that is reassuring for me. The two hulls are submerged exactly to the waterline. Altogether she looks beautiful. She is everything we have imagined.

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And then all sorts of miracles happen. The sun, glorious, makes its way beneath the thick clouds to the west and sets on fire both land and sky. With vengeance.

A rainbow appears in the ocean like a mountain of candies, and you could reach up and touch it.

Three frigate birds like slow kites descend from their usual heights and begin circling above us.

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All this time, a grey carrier pigeon in a cage not much bigger then a shoe box has been sitting on the deck, watching us with one paranoid eye.

Cher Ami.

It becomes evident that we need a ceremony. We are now a tribe of water people aching for a ritual.

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

So, we sacrifice a bottle of champagne (which like the rainbow, the frigate birds, and the caged pigeon, materializes out of thin air) spilling its foamy white blood with a violent explosion over the bow of the boat. Glass shatters, Fata Morgana is christened.

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

We decide to take her for a short sail. We motor in the night without stars, with no horizon, only red and green lights blinking in the blackness. We release the pigeon. A ball of feathers disappears in the dark.

In the times of Pharaohs, sailors used pigeons as a sole communication with the land world sending news to their families that they were on the point of returning home. We send a message to ourselves.

It’s time to return to shore and wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we are going to the anchorage near Key West, where Tyler’s boats Rocksteady and En Cavale are too. Tyler and Cherry stay for the night. We are all exhausted.

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Final Touch-Ups. Painting the Name

Last day in the boatyard. Our sufferings will soon be over. The adventures shall begin.

(By ‘sufferings‘ I mean living in a place full of dirt and toxic dust where people are constantly sanding and painting their boats; with one toilet and one shower for all, men and women; no beach near by, nothing much to do; constantly working on the boat, mosquitoes and noseeums every evening; no AC, etc.)

Tomorrow is the big splash, Fata Morgana will finally go back to her natural habitat: the sea. Today, we finished painting the bottom and some final touch-ups.

Maya Painting

Maya Painting

Still, a boat will always look unfinished until you put the name on. Also, that is the most artistic and heroic of all jobs done on the boat (in this case, by me, of course). I am totally being sarcastic here. First, you spend months choosing a font and a design for the boat’s name. Next, you measure and decide how big will the letters be, what color, and where to place them. Usually, you place them on both sides of the hull(s), port and starboard, and on the back of the boat, where the name of the home port has to appear as well. Next, you go to a vinyl shop and you order your signs: big stickers which you stick to the boat.

This is one way of doing it. The guy in the vinyl shop told us it would cost us somewhere between a few hundred and over a thousand dollars, depending on the size and color of the letters. More than a thousand dollars for a name?!!!

Plan B

We went and bought special boat paint, couple of brushes and a clear-coat spray (all for under $80.00, black paint for the name, red and blue for the stripes on the sides) and I painted the name and the stripes myself. Took me a few hours for the two sides.

Here is the whole process of how you can (and should) do that yourself with pictures and all.

1. Design your letters or just choose a font and print them as big as they have to be on paper. I designed mine combining two fonts. I started with the letter A, because there are four A-s in Fata Morgana. Next, I based the letters O and G on the A and used the A again to create the T and the R. The capital F and M were hardest to come up with. I drew them with a pen on paper and I cut them out one by one.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

2. Next, I measured the place where the name will appear on the hull and  Ivo sanded it lightly to prep it. Then, I drew with a pencil contours around the paper letters on the hulls.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

3.Then, with a tiny brush, I colored the letters. I used tape around all straight edges, but mostly I just held my breath and, with as steady hand as possible, just painted directly on the boat.

Step 3: Tape, Paint

Step 3: Tape

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4.5: Ponder

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Note: Have you noticed the red and blue stripes on the boat? Same technique. I used tape to make them as straight as possible and I painted them on.

Also, if you wonder about the name Fata Morgana, please read on here.

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How We Survived Our First Storm

It has been exactly one month since we are in 3D Boatyard in Key West, Florida working on our newly acquired catamaran Fata Morgana, getting her ready for liveaboard and cruising. Since one month, we are hearing people talking about “hurricane season”. Our neighbor  Dale in the wooden boat on our starboard side said that the hurricane season officially starts May 1. It started a day later.

On Thursday, May2, a storm hit us, totally unexpected, unpredicted, and unannounced. Our first ever Tropical Storm.

Around 10 in the morning the sky became dark and thick with mean hefty clouds like a herd of buffalos galloping from the northeast at 40 miles per hour, coming straight at us. We closed all hatches and doors. Suddenly massive sheet of rain and fierce winds swooped over the boatyard. The few trees next to the fence almost let go of the ground and flew away. Hell, our catamaran Fata Morgana gently perched on four wooden crates almost flew away, shaking and jerking like a freight train. At times I thought we were airborne, it felt like it. There were lightening followed by impressive explosions so loud and so near us it seemed we were caught under cross artillery fire. Small rivers formed quickly around the boats, puddles transformed into lakes. The earth became liquid. “Good thing we are in a boat”, I kept thinking, “We might as well float away.”

Then the winds calmed down, the rain almost stopped, and we thought the storm was over. Lasted just about a few minutes, we thought. But the clouds kept moving above us, darker and fuller, lower and faster, and it hit us again. And again. And again… Every time: heavier rains and stronger winds from a different direction. The monster kept roaring, attacking, retreating, and coming back again more ferocious and bloodthirsty. It swirled around and hit us five times in five interminable hours, giving us a few false hopes during the short calm intervals of a minute or two. “Please stop, that’s enough”, I pleaded whoever was in charge of the storm. “I am scared”. I get an electric flash of blinding blue light in the face and a mighty thunder for a response.

At one point the jib of the boat behind us, a big fifty feet sloop, unfurled with much noise and started thrashing about. Looked like some maniac in a bridal dress dancing before a sacrifice. Ivo and Jessie, the young guy from the boat next to the sloop, run aboard, as the owners were not there, to furl the jib. The whole boat shaking, and with the wind pushing the open sail, she would surely tip over and crash to the ground. But they saved her.

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

Ivo and Jessie furling the jib

The storm lasted so long, that after a while I stopped being so afraid and accepted the future, whatever it was. I even started enjoying this uncontrollable display of energy and might. Nature at her best: raging, exploding, attacking, devouring.

Then the sky brightened, the wind calmed down and life was beautiful again. Even more beautiful than usual; it was perfect.

The Boatyard after the Storm

The Boatyard after the Storm

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Our First Sponsor: The Foam Factory

Fata Morgana sailed into our lives almost a month ago. But she came with her little caprices and peculiarities (no one is perfect).

No mattresses.

Big white cabins with big berths and lots of space and storage, but no mattresses. What happened to them? Did they get wet and rotted away? Did someone stole them one night when the boat was alone? Did they burn or evaporated or flew away like flying carpets do, but in a more clumsy corpulent manner? We will never know for sure.

We concluded: we had to get new mattresses.

So we asked around:

–  Who can help us? Who has what we need?

The Foam Factory, they said.

We Googled The Foam Factory and we found them!

The assortment of different products they offer baffled us: seven varieties of mattresses; eleven types of cushions; thirteen different sorts of open cell foams; an array of closed cell foams, nine variations of acoustic foams, outdoor foams, foams for pillows, for seats, for basements, for children, for pets (each coming in tens of different sizes and thicknesses)! How to choose, how to decide?

So we sent messages to The Foam Factory, and we called them, and we pleaded for help. We were a child lost in Marrakesh, and they saved us. They took us by the hand, and they led us through the whole process of choosing and ordering.

First, they helped us decide which is the best foam for Fata Morgana, for the conditions we will be living in, for our personal preferences of mattress hardness and thickness.

Second, they sent us the foam: two big round packages more carefully wrapped and exciting than birthday presents. They came after two days only all the way from Michigan right here in the boatyard in Key West, where Fata Morgana was waiting for them. Shipping and handling: FREE!

Third, as we opened the rounded packages a miracle happened: they did the opposite of what balloons do when you let them free in the air: they gasped and they grew big and they stretched, and out of their plastic cocoons, thick sparkling blue sheets of foam spread in front of our gazes. We admired them for a wile with tenderness, then we measured, we cut, and we placed them in the boat cabins’ berths with much care and satisfaction.

And this is not the end of the story about our new mattress. Here is the most important part:

The Foam Factory was the first company to believe in our journey, in us. They became our first sponsor by giving us a pleasant discount!

Thank you, The Foam Factory, for all your professional help and your generosity, you are the best!

 This is the foam: before and after we opened the package.

This is the foam: before and after we opened the package.

This is one of the cabins: before the Foam and after the Foam.

This is one of the cabins: before the Foam and after the Foam.

Maya is trying the foam. She likes it!

Maya is trying the foam. She likes it!

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The Sound of The Sleeping Sea

Once, when I was a small child, I pressed my ear to my sleeping mother’s belly, I remember. I listened to her inner world. The murmur of rivers running inside her, the screeching of doors, the eruption of miniature volcanoes, the distant cry of a whale. Thus, I was drifting away in my sleep, my ear pressed to her body, my head rhythmically capsizing a bit with every exhaling of her breath. 

They are longing for freedom. As we all do. A total and simple state of weightlessness, like kites high above the world, detached from their strings, lost in the upper corners of the atmosphere, long forgotten by the kids who made them, who knew they would never find them again.

Thus, they float. In small illuminated vessels, pushed by the winds, carried by the waives, as if the sea herself has heaved them up overnight. A tiny subculture outside the rest of the world, outside the confinements of your familiar city, outside the buildings where you work, where you live, and where you die.

We were anchored out in the bay, far from all other boats. There was music coming from the radio. Familiar old songs I was hearing from the first time. More people showed up on dinghies and climbed aboard. The sun did its usual trick and gloriously left the scene provoking much admiration and delight among all. The night fell. We ate and drank and talked and laughed. Someone remembered his childhood aliens. Someone else revealed a secret about this uninhabited phantom-island, not far from here, that is still Spanish territory as a result of some ancient agreement, but nobody knows. A woman’s voice on the VHF radio announced that there were reports of  ‘a man in the water’ and the coastguard was looking for him. Over.

Kids went to bed first, then I curled up next to Maya in the aft cabin under the deck. I heard goodbyes as some people left; I heard dinghies detaching themselves from the boat and disappearing; I heard the people who stayed still talking and laughing. We were ten left on the boat, the music still playing, the VHF woman still desperately searching for her man in the water. Then all was silent. The sea was sleeping beneath us.

The sea was sleeping beneath me. I pressed my ear to her belly. I listened to her inner world. The murmur of rivers running inside her, the screeching of doors, the eruption of miniature volcanoes, the distant cry of a whale. Thus, I was drifting away in my sleep, my head rhythmically capsizing a bit with every exhaling of her breath. 

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Boat Punk Video reportage by Anne-Cécile Genre

Weekly Photo Challenge 

 

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The Ubuntu Family

Not only Viktor made a new friend here at 3D Boatyard. We all did. Dylan’s family came in a package of four: a dad, a mom, a brother, and a sister. The package: a catamaran a lot like ours.

Well, our family’s configuration is pretty much the same, and so we all got a friend each, or, at times, two friends each, or even four friends each!

Viktor and Dylan

Viktor and Dylan

While Viktor and Dylan go fishing after the work for the day is done, or playing soccer, or videogaming; Maya and Kashara go to the park for a walk, or draw, or polish each other’s nails, or watch movies while eating pop-tarts.

Maya and Kashara

Maya and Kashara

Boatyard Feet Close-up

Boatyard Feet Close-up

During that time, Ivo and David talk about boats and repairs, sailing and navigating, David patiently explaining things and giving Ivo invaluable information like: how to clear customs in some island of the Bahamas for example, or which VHF channel to use to talk between boats.

David and Ivo

David and Ivo

Lori and I, we might go for a walk and talk about literature, homeschooling, life on the boat, and life in general.

Lori and me

Lori and me

We also spent many evenings together, the four kids in Baba Ganoush having fun gaming or watching films, the four adults in the cockpit of our boat drinking beer and getting to know each other better, the way new instant friends do, discovering, with pleasant bursts of surprise, more and more common interests, worldviews, and passions. For me, two such moments of joy were finding out that David is an artist, and that Lori is an English and Icelandic Language major who, like me, has a great passion for reading and writing.

Viktor, Dylan, Maya, and Kashara aboard Fata Morgana

Viktor, Dylan, Maya, and Kashara aboard Fata Morgana

There was also a lot of exchanging and lending of instruments and machinery going on between our two catamarans on a daily basis, as well as a constant flow of little dishes and boxes full of home-made exquisites like David’s famous banana muffins or my eggplant stew, Kashara’s  macaroni salad, or Maya’s potato salad.

And this is happening in a boatyard while working ten hours a day to fix the boats, no beach nearby! Imagine when our two catamarans meet again near some tropical Caribbean island with nothing to do, but snorkel, fish, and explore the local villages…

I long for that moment.

Ubuntu, sanded and painted all shiny and new, left the Boatyard yesterday, everyone waiving goodbye. Floating away, the boat left a big space in the boatyard and in our hearts incomprehensibly empty.

Looks unnatural.

Feels sad.

Ubuntu Tango with Lori and Me

Ubuntu Tango with Lori and Me

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Engine Room Chipmunk

Two weeks on the hard in 3D Boatyard, Key West. We are trying to repair and fit our catamaran Fata Morgana for cruising and off-grid livaboard.

Ivo has been working like crazy from dawn till dusk, me and the kids helping from time to time.

First, he spent a week grinding the hulls, then he took care of the engines.

One morning, he moved in the engine rooms and lived there for many hot days like a chipmunk, emerging on rare occasions to gather food and beer, or to jump from one engine room to the other. Out of compassion, many people in the boatyard suggested we should install a small hammock in one of the compartments of one of the engine rooms, so that he could sleep there and wouldn’t have to come out at night.

For the fibreglass works and repairs we hired Ed, a fibreglass specialist. He turned out to be Ivo’s soul mate  working in a similar fashion, never resting, never stopping, grinding all day, covered in thick white dust. When Ivo and Ed work together, they never talk, but telepathically exchange thoughts: two yogis working in perfect Krishna harmony.

Here are the results of their joint efforts so far:

April 1 to April 17

Repairs&projects already done:

1.  Engines Westerbeke 44 a (there are two engines on a catamaran)

  • cleaned the engine rooms and engines from nasty oils
  • changed all hoses and clamps
  • fixed the alternator
  • changed oil filters and oil

(All the work on the engines has been done by Ivo. After the work was finished, some people in the boatyard who saw the sparkling results, suffered mildly from an engine-room envy.)

2. Stanchions

  • unscrewed all stanchions
  • replaced all stanchion’s aluminium bases with stainless steel bases.

(All the work on the stanchins as been done by Ivo, Maya and Mira helped a bit)

3. Hulls (there are two hulls on a catamaran….)

  • sanded 
  • repaired a few spots with fibreglass
  • repaired starboard bow badly repaired previously

(Ivo, Viktor, and Mira did the sanding, most of it Ivo, Ed did the fibreglass repairs)

4. Keels (guess how many keels there are on a catamaran?)

  • sanded
  • ground
  • still waiting to dry
  • will repair them with six layers of fibreglass

(All work on the keels has been done by Ed)

5. Bimini

  • removed the bimini and frame
  • building a hard-top bimini (in progress)

(Ed is in charge of the hard-top bimini, working together with Ivo. I will publish a separate post entitled The Making of The Hard Top Bimini with pictures of all stages as soon as it is finished.)

Next, we will be painting the hulls, installing a water-maker, and will order foam and make mattresses for two of the three cabins ( there was only one mattress in the boat). We will also be doing many other things, but we can do them in the water, so I think for the boatyard, that’s pretty much it.

Hull after sanding

Hull after sanding

Starboard bow repair in progress.

Starboard bow repair in progress.

Ground keels drying

Ground keels drying

Stainless steel stanchions

Stainless steel stanchions

Sparkling engine and engine room.

Sparkling engine and engine room.

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Wunderkammer. Things We Found on the Boat.

In Renaissance Europe, Wunderkammers or a Cabinets of Curiosities were extravagant encyclopaedic collections of objects of all kinds, (precursors to museums),  such as objects belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), archaeology, ethnography, geology, religious or historical relics, works of art, and antiquities. They were also known as Cabinet of Wonder, and in German Kunstkammer („art-room“) or Wunderkammer („wonder-room“), and later as Theatre of the World or Memory Theatre. Their purpose: to convey symbolically the owner’s control of the world through its indoor miniature reproduction. A typical cabinet of curiosities would include: an Indian deerskin mantle that had belonged to Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, a stuffed Dodo bird from Mauritius, the upper jaw of an armadillo, wampum belts, lathe turned ivory, Oriental footwear, carved alabaster panelsa mermaid’s hand, a dragon’s egg, two feathers of a phoenix’s tail, a piece of the True Cross, a vial of blood that rained in the Isle of Wight, and other rarities.

Although we have already been on the boat during survey and sea-trial, as we started exploring her more boldly now as owners, we found a cosmos of stuff: all kinds of things, in all kinds of hidden places. I was planning to write a list of the objects, which would be an impressive list in length and variety almost as the Wunderkammer collections, but I have no time for such a thing, so I will just give you an idea by mentioning a few.

In the galley there were all sorts of pots and pans, dishes, cups and glasses, electrical appliances  such as a toaster, an electrical one-burner stove, ice-maker, small heater, and other such contraptions, some of which I don’t even know what they are for, and anyway, I will not be using them much, as they require electricity. I am planning to give them away to Cuban people (in Cuba). In the cabins, there were more such appliances, as well as a whole cabinet full of thousands of cleaning products, dehumidifiers, filters, gloves, sponges, and a cool little plastic hanger for drying clothes. Under the deck we dug up harnesses, life-jackets, buckets, flippers, goggles and snorkels, a pirate towel, some spare parts and instruments.  And last, but not least, as I opened the storage under the bench in the salon, there they were, nice and cosy, forgotten, lonely, waiting to be rediscovered: two opened bottles of rum, one white and one dark, a bottle of French champaign, and two cases of beer! Who in their right mind will leave behind such a stash? Don’t worry, little stash, we’ll take good care of you, you won’t be forgotten never again.

We are still looking for hidden treasures, fumbling through the previous owner’s Memory Theatre.

"Home is where our boat is"- a beautiful clishe door sign, we are keeping it!

„Home is where our boat is“- a beautiful clishe door sign, we are keeping it!

Two wine glasses, we will probably get reed of these.

Two wine glasses, we will probably get reed of these.

A nice fishing book and a postcard (one of many)

A nice fishing book and a postcard (one of many)

A fraction of the thousands cleaning products aboard.

A fraction of the thousands cleaning products aboard.

A strange cool-looking sponge. Purpose- unknown.

A strange cool-looking sponge. Purpose- unknown.

Little plastic laundry hanger, made in China. My favorite find! I use it every day, washing a few clothes at a time and letting them dry in the sun.

Little plastic laundry hanger, made in China. My favorite find! I use it every day, washing a few clothes at a time and letting them dry in the sun.

An unidentified object. If someone knows what it is and what is its purpose, please let me know.

An unidentified object. If someone knows what it is and what is its purpose, please let me know.

Our finest find

Our finest find

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Why a Catamaran?

There is no such thing as a “perfect boat”, everyone will tell you. No matter the performance, layout, space, there are always a couple of things that bug you and you wish they were done differently. But there is no such thing as a “bad boat” either. Monohull or a catamaran, Beneteau or Island Packet, they can all sail and take you places if you know what you are doing. It’s a question of preference and budget. Compromises are made every time.

As we were shopping for a boat in the past five months, we learned that the boat has to suit your individual needs. What are you planning to do? Where are you planning to go? How many people will be on board? You may want a boat to have some fun day sailing around the shore twice a year with a girlfriend, or you may live aboard permanently docked at a marina most of the time, or you may go racing, or go around the world, alone or with your family. In order to get a prescription, you got to be diagnosed first. A family of four, two kids: a boy and a girl, one 15 the other 9, planning to live aboard and cruise extensively, eventually crossing oceans, anchoring most of the time as opposed to docking at marinas; these were our symptoms. We were thus diagnosed with a catamaran and even second and third opinions confirmed it. A catamaran it is.

Fata Morgana is a catamaran, or a multihull sailboat made in South Africa in 2001 by Robertson&Caine Leopard. She is 38 feet in length and 21.3 feet wide.

The draft is 3.7 feet. The draft basically indicates at what depth she will touch the bottom. Catamarans are notorious with their shallow draft. A monohull with the same amount of space inside will have at least two times bigger draft of 7-8 feet. This is a big advantage for the catamaran, as often there are shallow waters around reefs and islands which can be accessed only by boats with such shallow drafts. A monohull cannot go everywhere a cat can.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

The space. Our boat of 38 feet has two cabins in one hull and one cabin and a big shower in the other, three cabins total. The beds (berths) are enormous. Guests can be easily accommodated. A monohull with the same space inside will be about 50 feet long or more, instead of 38, and thus haul out, dockage, and marina fees will be higher as they are usually calculated by the foot (a catamaran 38 feet, even though it has two hulls, is not charged double in most places.) And of course, in the bridge between the two hulls there is a large salon and a big galley (here ‘big’ is a relative and subjective term), but most exciting is the cockpit, or ‘the porch’, as I call it, covered with a blue bimini. There is a big (‘big’) triangular table surrounded by benches with space for 8 people. This, I predict, shall be my favorite spot on the boat.

Robertson&Caine Leopard 38 layout

Robertson&Caine Leopard 38 layout

Stability, safety. Two hulls mean not only lots of room, but also stability and virtually no heeling, we’ve been told. Where a monohull needs its heavy keel for balance, the cat has its two legs spread. Try standing on a skate on one foot and have someone (maybe the wind?) push you from a side. Oh my god, you might fall! At least, you will lose balance and shake a bit. But what are the chances of losing balance or falling if you are standing on both your feet spread wide apart? Not huge. Of course, if the wind is strong enough and you are stupid enough to have your sails out in such a wind, you will defiantly flip the boat. But it won’t sink! Even if it ‘turtles’ upside-down, God forbids, the catamaran will stay afloat. Its hulls are divided in watertight compartments making the catamaran unsinkable. Not so are the mono hulls, unfortunately…They sink in minutes after impact, sometimes even seconds.

Heeling. I already mentioned that the cat does not heel like the mono. As the wind blows nicely, the sails fill tightly, and the boat silently gallops over the waves, but not quite in a straight up position if it has only one hull. As the wind pushes from one side, the boat inclines to the other. Imagine having to cook, eat, walk, sleep, or anything else with the boat leaning to one side. You will be annoyed and maybe even injured pretty soon. Not so with the cat. The cat has two feet, remember? And its mast stays vertical most of the time. You can now cook, eat, walk, sleep, and even drink leaving your beer bottle on the table and finding it pretty much on the same spot while on a beam reach. Some will place this advantage on the top of their list.

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer(you see what I mean?)

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer
(you see what I mean?)

The sole disadvantage of the cat is its higher price. (Usually, when something costs more it is better, isn’t it?) Well, in our case, we found a good catamaran for cruising, made in 2001, at a surprisingly low price. Almost half of the market price and less than all mono hulls we have been considering. Maybe there is something wrong with the boat? we asked ourselves. It’s too good to be true… But it is true. The survey showed: there is nothing wrong with the boat except a few small things we are working on already. Like any boat, used or new, there are things to do before setting off into the sunset.

You can find many articles about the catamaran’s advantages vs. monohull. Here is one, not too long:

http://www.westcoastmultihulls.com/why-a-catamaran/multihull-vs-monohull.htm

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