Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

The Schooner Wolf

Last week a friend took us for a sail on a legendary Schooner here in Key West. 

The WOLF is a classic 74′ topsail schooner built in 1982-1983 in Panama City.

She is the Flag Ship of the Conch Republic Navy and a symbol of independence. 

www.schoonerwolf.com

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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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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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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

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Axis Mundi. Our Mandala House

After weeks of creating the intricate pattern of a sand mandala, as a meditation on impermanence, the sand is brushed together and placed in a body of running water to spread the blessings of the mandala.

Today I have disturbed all the spiders in our house. Some got their long legs twisted beyond repair while I was reaching for the farthest corners. (Stumbling cripples, so fragile they are.)

The world’s point of beginning: a connection between Heaven and Earth where the four compass directions converge, a place that is sacred above all: our house, has been disturbed.

We are leaving our house forever. The house where a bird once entered trough the open window two years ago, frantically flapping her wings, terrified, creating commotion for a brief minute before finding the open window again. The house where, four years ago, we placed the two rocks we found at the two ends of the continent: one white and perfectly oval like a dinosaur egg from a beach somewhere near Halifax, the other black-red, scorched by the belly of the under-earth, we found somewhere in California. The house where Maya, purple, was born, nine years ago. The house where my father came after so many years and stayed for a night. Is no longer our house.

One by one, every object disappeared. Every object we have so carefully placed in its place. Other people are having dinner at our table tonight. Maybe mashed potatoes or soup made out of snails. Kids I have never met are sitting on our couch watching a film on our TV tonight. A man and a woman who were born in Alger will make love in our bed tonight and the night after.

Tonight, I am sad, so sad. I never thought it would be so painful all this leaving thing. Leaving everything almost, except a few clothes, a few books, a few board games, and a photo camera.

From now on, we will live on a boat, and the boat will be our new mandala.

The boat we named: Fata Morgana.

rock

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Marine Survey and Back

From Key West, FL to Montreal, QC the distance is about 1800 boring miles. Baba Ghanoush, cautious and focused as a mule, is capable of going at not more than 50 miles per hour, which means about four long days of driving through three different types of climates, going from tropical through moderate to continental.We have done this trip many times in the past aboard one of those commercial trucks, and so we don’t think it is a big deal. Plus, we have a stop in the middle.

In South Carolina, we detour from our rout to visit Brian and Joyce, our neighbors from Bois-des-Filion and good friends (the guys who helped us repair and clean Baba Ghanoush in October, and prepare for the trip), who are snowbirding in a nice three-bedroom-three-bathroom condo in Myrtle Beach. We spend there two days and nights, enjoying the condo and all its comforts, a walk on the beach, some discount shopping in OldNavy, and Joyce and Brian’s exquisite cuisine&company.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

We are now driving back north on Interstate 95, somewhere in New York state. The heater is on. The sky is the same color as the highway: dirty-grey. So are the leafless trees and the dead grass, and so is our mood. We are even starting to see patches of grey snow. The tiny transparent ants who descended from a tree somewhere in Jacksonville climbing aboard our RV in the beginning of this trip are nowhere to be found. Either they abandoned the premises knowing deep in their guts that we are heading towards below zero temperatures, or are presently hibernating in some cosy unknown to us place in Baba Ghanoushe’s old body.

Going back from Key West, Florida to Canada in the beginning of March sucks. It is like going back from summer trough fall into winter. But we have to return to Quebec and deal with our bank, our house, our stuff, and then go again to Key West by the end of the month to take possession of the boat, and basically, to move aboard.

Her name is B&B Adventure but that will change soon. She is a 2001 Robertson and Cane Leopard 38 owner’s version, which means, she is 38 feet catamaran and has three big cabins. Built in Cape Town, South Africa in 2001, these boats are heavy and stable, not as fast as other catamarans the same size, but very roomy and comfortable. Which is more important to us, as we are not going to race her, but live aboard, spend lots and lots of time in the galley and the salon, in the cabins and in the cockpit.

Haul-Out for Marine Survey

Haul-Out for Marine Survey

We did a marine survey and a sea trial in Key West a few days ago, and we have signed the acceptance papers. The survey showed a number of little things that need to be fixed, and a few bigger repairs, but nothing major or urgent (or that is what we are thinking right now, optimistically…). Still, my head hearts just thinking about what are we getting ourselves into… For sure, every (used) boat needs some taking care of; being a boat owner means also a permanent state of fixing, maintaining, and upgrading (or paying for it). But before the repairs, we need to worry about bank transfers, vessel registration, cruising permit, etc. So, Montreal, here we come!

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2013 Miami Boat Show

The Miami Boat Show is considered also The Greatest Boat Show in the World. For five days over 3,000 boats and 2,000 exhibitors from all over the globe can be visited on three locations in Miami Downtown and Miami Beach. It is truly overwhelming. The show features not only boats and marine products, but also seminars and special events.

Catamarans at 2013 Miami Boat Show

Catamarans at 2013 Miami Boat Show

We hoped to be able to go the first day, Thursday, February 14, and meet Bear Grylls at the Convention Center promoting life rafts. He is Viktor and Maya’s Number One Hero, Ivo’s as well (and I worship him too, I have to admit). We have all his shows and when we have nothing to do, and when we have electricity, we watch them over and over again. So when we learned he will be there the first day, we were so excited, and Maya prepared a drawing and a hug for him. But, alas, our RV broke down and we couldn’t meet Bear… Maya cried…

Here Bear Grylls was standing just a couple of days ago...

Here Bear Grylls was standing just a couple of days ago…

We had to deal with Baba Ghanoush the next three days, so we were only able to go to the Boat Show on Sunday and Monday, the last two days. We spent our time mostly in the Strictly Sail section, visiting all the catamarans, from 34 to 82 feet! Each time we had to deal with a broker trying to sell us a boat. It was exhausting, I don’t know if I will survive another Boat Show…

Catamaran Interior (a big catamaran, over 60 feet)

Catamaran Interior (a big catamaran, over 60 feet)

Down bellow, one of four cabins.

Down below, one of four cabins.

Besides visiting boats, we also bought three books on cruising, catamarans, and galley secrets, and we we went sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800 for two hours, after the end of the show.

Getting valuable books and advise from Corinne C. Kanter, 15 years cooking aboard a catamaran!

Getting valuable books and advise from Corinne C. Kanter, 15 years cooking aboard a catamaran!

Oh, and we also met the broker for a 2001 Leopard 38 Catamaran we are interested in, and we got ourselves an accepted offer and a signed contract! Next week: marine survey, and sea trial. If all goes well, we will have a boat by the end of March.

Sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800. Lots of wind and waves- fantastic!

Sailing on a 2012 Leopard 4800. Lots of wind and waves- fantastic!

Ivo steering the Cat, shining with happiness...

Ivo steering the Cat, shining with happiness…

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