Peter the Sailmaker

On one of our first time sailing aboard Fata Morgana, the headsail gets a bit torn on the edge where the sun cover is while furling it. This means we have two options: buying a new jib or repairing the old. Both options involve spending money which is the last thing we want to do.

We research in the Internet and it turns out that a new jib for our boat costs about $ 3,000 and a used one could be somewhere between $500 and  $1,000. There is a sailmaker in Stock Island, and we bike there to see if he has any adequate used sails and get a quote for a new jib or for repairs. His name is Peter and it looks like he is the only sailmaker in Key West because everyone recommends him.

Peter inspects the jib and tells us the thread on the suncover is burned and needs to be restitched, which is normal, and that the canvass is still good. He can repair it for about $250. Sounds better than buying a new or a used sail.

Peter

Peter

We tell Peter that we are “on a budget” and that we could work and help him if this will bring the price down. Turns out, he has an old wooden sign to be repaired and he hires us to do the job, Ivo will do the woodwork and I will do the artwork. He will repair our sail and we will repair his sign, no money involved. Barter. How cool is this!

Barter is a system of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money… Barter usually replaces money as the method of exchange in times of monetary crisis, such as when the currency may be either unstable (e.g., hyperinflation or deflationary spiral) or simply unavailable for conducting commerce. [From Wikipedia]

I think barter is a better micro economic system of exchange as it creates relationships and is a lot more satisfying and ultimately creates a sense of community where people interact with one another helping each other using their particular skills on friendly basis. Plus, it is a better option for people low on cash or who don’t want to deal with cash, like us. From now on, we will try to do this as much as possible.

Mira and Peter working on a sail in Peter's loft

Mira and Peter working on a sail in Peter’s loft

The next week we spend at Peter’s loft listening to some good old blues songs, helping to remove the old stitches from the suncover and fixing the sign while he sits behind his sawing machine and works on our jib. We like Peter who is all about adventure and sailing, a bit of an anarchist like ourselves. In the past, he and his late wife have organized and participated in regattas and races to Cuba many times.

Ivo repairs Peter's wooden sign

Ivo repairs Peter’s wooden sign

Thus, we not only had our jib fixed without spending money, but we also learned a lot about fixing sails. Also, we made a new good friend who is also a good sailor and who enjoyed snorkelling and sailing with us on Fata Morgana, teaching us valuable tricks about tacking with a catamaran, for example. I suspect, we will go out sailing and snorkelling some more while we are still in Key West, Florida, plus, we will probably make a dodger for our boat with Peter’s help, we’ll see about this.

The sign is ready

The sign is ready

Thank you Peter!

Share

The More We Sail, the Less We Yell

Since a few days now all that needed to be repaired and fixed on the boat is repaired and fixed. Fata Morgana is ready for sailing. And we sail pretty much every day, not more than a few hours, keeping close to shore.

Fata Morgana under sail.  -Photo by Tyler Bullock

Fata Morgana under sail.
-Photo by Tyler Bullock

Sometimes, our friend and boat-neighbour Tyler is coming with us, helping us and teaching us what to do and how, and sometimes we go sailing just the four of us in order to see if we can do it without help. We did it, all right, but we almost killed each other the first couple of times.

Everything in the beginning is stressful and difficult: anchoring and pulling the anchor up, hoisting the main sail and bringing it down, unfurling and furling the jib, adjusting the sails, tacking and jibing, reefing, even keeping a straight course, are all maneuvers that excite much screaming and panicking among the four of us.

– I told you to go port, not starboard!

– I did it! I am all the way to port! The boat doesn’t listen to me!

– Pull that rope!

– Which rope, what are you talking about?

– Use your common sense, god damn it!

– Fuck, we lost speed!

– It’s your fault!

– Watch out that other boat!

– Don’t scream at me, this is not a car, it reacts slowly!

– Don’t talk to me like that!

– We are drifting backwards!

– It’s not my fault!

– I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!

I remember once reading a heated debate about guns on board: should we have some or not. Well, let me tell you, I wished I had a gun those two initiation sails, so I could kill everyone on board, believe me.

But then, we come back to the anchorage, drop the anchor in our usual spot and all goes back to normal. Life is beautiful again. Love is in the air.

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

People tell us all this is normal. “Happens to everyone in the beginning. You can tell the newbies when you see a boat approaching a quiet anchorage and everyone on board is screaming and panicking. It will get better as you learn, though. The yelling and hating will slowly diminish, your skills will improve, and sailing will be fun.

And I believe this is true, as each time we go sailing we do a lot better than the previous time. Now anchoring is a routine two-minute operation, hoisting the main sail is a few steps job which Maya and Viktor can do by themselves. As we are getting better at sailing we are also getting more relaxed and we begin to enjoy the ride. We don’t need guns on board any more.

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail -photo by Tylor Bullock

Ivo at the helm, Mira and Viktor raising the mainsail
-photo by Tylor Bullock

Share

Happy Birthday Tony

Tony's B-day cake

Tony’s B-day cake

Tony was born thirty something years ago on June 6 sometime in the afternoon. Legend has it that he was born with tiny baby dreadlocks which grew longer, darker, and thicker as the years passed. He uttered his first baby words when he was only a few months old, still in diapers. With determination and a very serious expression on his face, he said: “beer” and “bike” (in that order). People thought that he would grow up to be a prophet or a genius. They were pretty close to the truth; he became a sailor, adventurer, punk-rocker, anarchist, freedom-seeker, beer-drinker, and biker. He became Tony Beerbike. He also became our good friend.

Chopper and Tony

Chopper and Tony

We met him and his trusty companion, Chopper, in Stock Island where he is working on his sailboat Pisces, a 28 feet Cape Dory, getting her ready for ocean travel and adventure.

On June 6 this year, we improvised a small birthday celebration and went out for a short sail on Fata Morgana with Tony and a few other friends. Tony made a huge pile of Mexican rice, so good, from now on this is how I will make it.

Tony making Mexican rice

Tony making Mexican rice

The sailing was fun and pretty much uneventful. We had a bit of waves that made the boat jump up and down. At the end we tried to anchor without using the engines, but a minor storm came out of nowhere, wind and rain, and we ended up using them.

The birthday celebration at sea ended with a traditional dinghy ride in the rain to a near-by uninhabited boat which was dragging her anchor quite a bit in the direction of some other uninhabited boats, and so an intervention was needed. Cherri, Tyler, and Ivo went aboard the stray boat and successfully deployed two more anchors to stop her from dragging and crashing into any of the other boats. We received thank you calls from some of the neighboring boats who witnessed the whole thing. We felt good about ourselves. And tired.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Share

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.

Share

Me And My Bubbles

This job is the deadliest job in the world. More than soldiers or astronauts. Combat soldiers will back down. We never back down. We are trained better than soldiers. Astronauts’ only problem is drifting out in space. Zero gravity is their major issue. We train astronauts. We are commercial deepwater divers. We go to the depth, do the work, we go to the decompression chamber.

.

.

There is the thing. Working underwater is deadly. Most guys who have been diving for a long time don’t want to know the names of the new divers because they are most likely to die. One-time divers. We know that.

When you work as commercial diver you do deepwater work on the oil rig. Welding, repairs. You also pick up side jobs inland. Anything that is not ocean diving. I’ve done both jobs.  Once, I was in deep shit. Literally. Had to do a repair inside a sewage treatment plant. I agreed to do the job. I signed up for it. I didn’t care if I am covered in poop or radiation. I had to do the job. I had to. I was trained to do it. That’s me.

.

.

The working ratio is 3:1. Anything you do for 1 hour on land equals 3 hours underwater. Whether it is striking a hummer of breathing. Breathing underwater is hard.

I loved it. “Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep! Send me deep!, I would beg. Please, send me deep!” You know why? Deeper you go more money you get. But mostly I wanted honor. I was young. My deepest dive was 311 feet. I spent four and a half hours in decompression but when I came out I was smiling.

Fuck decompression, you keep going. Never wanted to return. My happiness was underwater. It was me and my bubbles. It was romantic.

.

.

A few years ago, Richard Michael Jaworski, commercial deepwater haz-mat diver, got hit in the head by a forklift as he was preparing for a dive. Half of his face went missing. In the hospital he died three times but the doctors saved him. He had to undergo hundreds of facial reconstructive operations. They took a piece of his skull to replace his missing right cheekbone. He doesn’t look the same now.

Richard survived the accident. Thanks to science, he says, he doesn’t believe in God or miracles.

We met Rich in Key West Florida and became friends. He lives in a fishing boat out in 3D Boatyard, not far from where our boat was hauled out.

The day after we launch Fata Morgana we receive a part we have ordered a month ago. A part that costs hundreds of dollars. It is called a traveler and controls the boom and the main sail. Without it we cannot sail. Ivo is happy to finally get it. But, as he is about to install it, the thing slips and falls in the water, at the muddy bottom near the docks, some thirty feet below.

We experience a miniature death.

The water here is dirty, full of all sorts of rusty debris and it become thick with mud at only about ten-fifteen feet. Jumping after the traveler and finding it at the bottom is not an option for Ivo. We need a professional diver. We need Rich.

He arrives in his full diving gear, black as the wet feathers of cormorants. We begin hoping.

Very calm, he sits at the edge of the dock, smokes a cigarette, and tells us not to worry, he will get it for us for sure. There is a strange change in his eyes, something I haven’t noticed before. They are almost transparent and white. Like water or like ice.

He disappears in the water. We become silent. We hold our breath and stare in the direction where he vanished. Bubbles emerge. A huge one followed by millions of tiny ones swishing like champagne foam does. A minute passes, or just a few seconds. He reappears holding the traveler above his head, so that it is the first thing we see coming out of the water. A truly epic moment.

Richar Michaels Jawarski
photo by Richard

Share

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.

.

.

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.

.

.

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.

Share

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

Share

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.

Share

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

Share

The Arrival of Fata Morgana

Here she comes, graceful and languorous like a figure skating matron, gliding slowly on her enormous white-and-blue skates, as if floating above the water, barely touching it. We are standing on the pier expecting her, all four of us, looking flabbergasted as if a spaceship has just landed and we are the only witnesses to a luminous miracle. The afternoon sun setting behind us transforms everything into gold. The water in the little harbor is no longer water but flaming lava, the big fishing boats perched on the opposite shore are no longer rusty but gilded and shiny, yet we don’t see them. We only see Fata Morgana and the halo that surrounds her. She is indeed a beautiful vision, but unlike a mirage, she is real and so close now, we can finally touch her.

We help tying the lines to the dock. Instead of suspicious green Martians, out of the boat hops our broker Vanessa smiling and hands us the keys. She is all yours now, congratulations!

When adopting an exotic creature, you have to approach it with caution. You have to face it, let it smell you, tame it bit by bit. Only then, only after you know the creature and it knows you, it is truly yours. But at first, you have no clue what to do with it, so you just stay at a safe distance and look at it. And it looks at you. And this is important, the getting used to one another, the getting to know one another, and it is a long process. And even after years surprises are to be expected. Same with boats.

‘Taming’ is an act too often neglected. It means to establish ties. To us, the boat is still nothing more than a boat who is just like a hundred thousand other boats. To the boat, we are nothing more than a family like a hundred thousand other families. But if we tame the boat, then we shall need each other. To us, she will be unique in all the world. To her, we shall be unique in all the world . . .

After Fata Morgana arrives at the 3D Boatyard in Key West on April 1, she is lifted out of the water, like a sedated exotic creature, by a funny looking remote-control crane, transported, and gently placed atop four wooden crates with sandbags in a corner of the yard between two other boats. We slowly start exploring her as we have no clue what to do first. We need to domesticate her. To tame her.

Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana

Note:

with inspirations from: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Share