“Bouncing cement really captures it.” I love that line. Because it does. It just does. “Each time water trapped between the two hulls rumbled, thundered and finally bashed its way out, I had to convince myself that we had not just hit a whale.” So true. And, yes, yes, I know that is just the offshore-on-a-catamaran experience which Phillip and I became very familiar with during our Atlantic crossing last year on Yannick’s prized 46’ Soubise Freydis, Andanza. Island hopping and on the hook, multihulls are a total floating condo, spacious and stable. But, with boats, there are always trade-offs. When Phillip and I announced last year that we would be crossing an ocean on a catamaran, many followers told us that we would “be converted.” I can assure you we were not. There’s just something about monohulls and the way they feel (and heel) under sail that we have fallen in love with. Like the fiesty little French gal we met in the Azores put it: “They dance with the ocean.” Real treat for you here followers! Many of you have often asked me and Phillip our opinion on monohulls versus multihulls. Now you can read our thoughts on the matter in my latest article in SAIL Magazine. Many thanks to Peter Nielsen and the hardworking crew at SAIL for publishing another article of mine. It means a great deal! Go grab a copy and let us know your own thoughts on mono versus multi in a comment below. Enjoy!
This was Yannick again, distinctly pointing out my “American ways,” as he called them.
One really cool thing I like about being around different types of people, particularly people who grew up in different countries with entirely different cultures and principles, is that it takes me out of my normalcy. It reminds I am not normal. Yannick is not normal. There is no “normal.” There are only people, who think and want and act—often in a way that is very different from me—and I can either judge those people and avoid them, or make new friends and learn from them.
Like these two handsome gents: Enrique from Portugal and Sandré from Norway whom we met in the Azores. Great guys!
What I was learning from Yannick at the outset were some of the funny little things I do because I grew up doing them, hearing them and saying them. Let’s see if this one rings a bell for you:
Do you find yourself saying this often to people? Who and why and do you find it is often when they have merely completed the job but not done a very “good job” at all?
In preparing for the Atlantic-crossing, Yannick, Phillip, Johnny and I all had many, many jobs to do. First and foremost our focus was on the boat and getting it sealed up, the mast up and the new sails on, and the propulsion system working again. This “good job” conversation with Yannick arose out of one of the very first jobs we ever did on the boat together: sealing the new windows on the Freydis. One of the very first things you want your boat to be before you set off in it to cross the pond is water-tight, or if not, at least taking on water only at a rate that is slower than your bilge pumps. With the Freydis missing five of its seven primary windows not three weeks before we were set to cast off, sealing the new windows on was definitely a priority.
I joked during this footage that “It’s just a pass-through, see?” as I demonstrated handing items through the gigantic hole on the side of the boat. “You want cookies? You want milk?” I mimicked. Yannick laughed and replied: “You want thunderstorm?” Well played.
Getting these windows sealed on correctly required a team effort, though.
Many hours were spent scraping the old sealant off of the surface so the new sealant would adhere and frames were then built to hold the weight of the new window in place for the team “drop.” The new windows were pre-bent to fit the curve of the boat but several were bent far more than they needed to be, which meant they had to be pressure-forced to adhere to the boat. This required a unique system of wood and human wedges (patent-pending) to ensure the window did not try to stubbornly bend itself back off of the boat while sealing.
That was merely the sealing of said windows, however, not the caulking.
Boats are such fun!
If I have not mentioned this before, I hate caulking. When Phillip and I replaced the four large windows in the saloon on our boat (a chore that earned the title “Worst Project of the Re-Fit” for a reason), the caulking was one of the worst parts. It is such a finicky, fine-tune chore that requires just the right pressure from the caulk gun and a gentle steady swipe of the finger afterward (when there is nothing gentle or steady about my fingers). Screw either of those up and you’ve got a crappy bead that will be hell to fix, particularly if it has dried to any degree. Trust me, there are several crappy runs on the windows on our Niagara that I’ve tried to hide—with little success—with curtains. Caulking is just not my talent.
Apparently, it turns out, it’s not one of Yannick’s innate skills either. He, Phillip and I had just spent a very hot hour on Andanza one afternoon back in May carefully taping the perimeter around each window so Yannick could run a bead of caulk. He did so and did a pretty bang-up job applying the caulk, but we all made a grave mistake. We let the caulk dry too long before we pulled the tape, and we all watched in horror as Yannick’s nice caulk bead was now stretching, tearing and ripping out in huge chunks. It looked awful. Like a kindergartner had installed the windows on the boat, although none of us would admit it. Yannick sat hunched over his work in silence, frowning, letting sweat roll into his squinted eyes.
The further I stepped back from it, it started to look better so I tried to console him.
“Good job,” I said taking off my gloves.
Yannick shook his head slowly, keeping his eyes on his crappy work and said to me. “No, it wasn’t. I hate when you guys do that. Don’t tell me I did a ‘good job’ when I f&*cked up.”
I told you I liked that guy. It seems in France, according to Yannick at least, they don’t give out near as many participation trophies. Yannick was cracking Phillip and I up talking about how much it surprised him when the Navy flight instructors here in the states would tell their students “good job,” after they completely botched a mission. Yannick said all he could muster was: “Well, you started the engine well.”
With Yannick, it’s all about effective and efficient communication. Here we’re testing out the I-kid-you-not “Marriage Savers” that we used to ensure good communication from bow to helm while docking and de-docking during the voyage.
It was also some time during the windows project in early May, that Phillip’s case which had been set for trial in June settled and—after speaking with his partners who graciously supported his desire to make this trip—he officially decided he could come. While we all believed that would likely occur once I had signed up for the passage, it wasn’t for sure and I cannot tell you the wave of excitement that rushed over me when I knew it was finally official. Phillip, my companion, my best friend, the only person I hate to spend a day without, would be coming on this incredible life-changing trip with me.
The only other “person” I was sad wouldn’t be coming was our beautiful Niagara. Sorry girl.
Frankly, one of mine and Phillip’s only hesitations in making this trip once it was determined schedules would allow, was leaving our boat behind during a time when a hurricane could potentially strike. Having just splashed back in late March, we had tried to squeeze as much time as possible on her every weekend in April before we got too swamped with Atlantic preparations in May so another good portion of our time in the weeks before shoving off was also spent cleaning all perishable goods off of our boat, stripping her down in case a storm came and preparing a detailed instructions sheet for a friend who we had lined up to check on her periodically while we were away and, if necessary (you hate to think about it, but you have to plan!) move her to our haul-out location in case a hurricane did come to Pensacola.
It was almost staggering to think of the 100 other office and administrative things we needed to take care of before leaving the country for six weeks but however long our “to-do” list was, Yannick’s was three times longer. It was impossible to even fathom what those weeks were like for Yannick as he bore the brunt of the boat projects while simultaneously planning and coordinating his family’s safe passage (including a dog!) to France and their living arrangements once they got there as well as the packing up of his entire house and the shipment of all their belongings in a container ship to Roscoff. With an estimated arrival date in France of June 27th, we were literally racing his container ship across the pond.
While Johnny, Phillip and I were scrambling to get our own personal work and home situations squared away, Yannick was also saddled with the bigger chore of ensuring the boat had everything necessary for 30+ days of safe and comfortable passage for four people. Text messages flew back and forth among us during those weeks about dishes, towels, toilet paper, water, propane, matches, first aid supplies and, for some reason, Reese’s peanut butter cups became a matter of high importance. Oh, and we still didn’t have a life raft. Have I mentioned the life raft?
The one on Andanza was no longer certified so Yannick was tasked with the decision to try and have it re-certified or order a new one and whether or not the new one would arrive via shipment before our expected departure date was still in question. In the meantime, the joke was this would serve us just as well:
Needless to say May was an absolute whirlwind. It was an incredibly stressful couple of weeks but I can honestly say we all did an actual “good job” getting the windows on the boat the second week of May, stepping the mast one week before our departure date as well as getting the boat out a couple of times for some test sails around Pensacola Bay.
At first she’s down …
Then she goes up!
Video “Sealed, Stepped and Sailing Again” covering our window project, re-step and first sail on the catamaran published on Patreon May 28, 2016.
While we all had been hoping to have a free weekend to take the boat offshore or even sailing overnight so we could “shake down” a few systems, with all of our hectic schedules and scheduled projects yet to be completed on the boat, time simply did not allow it. The Gulf of Mexico was going to be our shakedown. We all predicted those first 4-5 days would be the ones to truly test us and, in a way, they were. For the engines at least. As far as the sailing went, from our first outings on the Freydis, Phillip and I could tell the catamaran definitely sailed differently than our monohull. The mainsail was massive with enormous stiff battens that took a lot of wind to pop taut. It was also hard to angle the Genny like we would on our monohull to most effectively harness the wind because the Genny sheets run back almost directly to the boom. See here:
I know, super gratuitous shot of Phillip in his Third Reef Gear. This lawyer gig doesn’t work out, I think he’s got one helluva shot as a marine apparel model. Thank you again West Marine!
One thing Brandon taught us while we were out sailing and testing systems in Pensacola Bay was how to set up a “Barber hauler” to counter-act this. Don’t ask me why they call it that, because I have no clue. (If any of you know, feel free to share in a comment below!) But, we used the Barber hauler to help pull the sail away from the center of the boat to improve our sail shape and gain speed. This calls for another gratuitous shot. See here:
We were also dealing with this little novelty—Arthur.
Arthur is the line that controls the rotating mast on Andanza. Yes, a rotating mast. While there are many features on the boat that were new and intriguing to me, the rotating mast was probably one of the highest on that list. I still recall what Brandon told us about it when Phillip and I were asking him about the boat in preparation for the crossing:
“Does it have a third reef in the main?” we asked Brandon, recalling that was something John Kretschmer had mentioned was one of the first things he would recommend to consider when rigging a boat for an ocean crossing.
“It has a fourth,” said Brandon, which in and of itself would be surprising, but I saw Brandon’s little smirk when he said it so I knew there was something more to it. That Brandon, he’s a smart one and he loves boats. You can tell when a particular feature on a boat excites him.
Silence fell between us. I knew Brandon was holding something back but he was looking down at what he was doing, smiling to himself, waiting for us to ask the right question.
“Alright, Brandon,” I caved. “What’s with the fourth reef?”
“It’s not in the main,” Brandon said, raising his eyes to us. “It’s the mast.”
He wasn’t kidding. The mast on the Freydis is so large and curved like an airplane wing that it, alone, can act as a sail. With all canvas down, motoring under bare poles, you can actually “trim” the mast, turning it to port or starboard, to help guide the boat along. Can you believe that? The mast actually acts like a sail. For whatever reason, the line that trims the mast is called “Arthur.” If any of you know the origin of this title (no Googling!) please feel free to share it in a comment below.
Brandon and Yannick working at the base of the rotating mast on the wind instrument. If your mast rotates, your windex has to account for that in order to provide true directional data. This was a quandary that consumed Yannick for weeks (months maybe). Just wait …
In the meantime, thank Brandon with Perdido Sailor, Inc. for the great sailing tips. That man is a gold mine of sailing, cruising, yacht repair knowledge I swear. With all of the time Phillip and I had just spent with him during our three months in the yard as well as the last projects on Andanza, it was hard to think we would be making this trip without him.
We missed you B!
Overall, there are many (many!) ways a catamaran—Yannick’s catamaran specifically—differs from a monohull when it comes to how the boat moves and sails. I am currently working on a more detailed monohull versus catamaran article which I will share with you all soon. Neither Phillip nor I had ever made a significant passage on a catamaran at the time so we were excited to gain the experience. Many folks predicted we would be quickly converted. “Once you get on a cat, you’ll never go back,” I had followers tell me. To spare you the suspense, I can assure Phillip and I have not been converted, but our thoughts on the catamaran might surprise you. More on that soon.
But, to start with, it literally is a box:
Cool still shot from my video on Patreon this week sharing Yannick’s view from the top of his 72-foot mast during our Atlantic-crossing preparations.
Yannick imitating my Keys to the Kingdom pose. Let me know which one you prefer!
And, because it is so boxy (46′ x 25′), the Freydis is not easy to maneuver in tight spaces. Yannick will be the first to tell you, the one thing that scares him most about the boat is docking and de-docking. (Can’t say that I blame him there. You are all familiar with my many heart-pounding, horrific “Docking Debacles” and my thoughts on this issue.)
Making good use of the “Marriage Savers” during our first de-docking on the cat.
While we had initially thought the reason Yannick wanted to travel non-stop from Florida to France was because of time constraints, we learned during these last few weeks, a bigger reason was because Yannick did not like docking the boat. The fewer times he had to bring his boat to shore, the better. Assuming we were able to sail most of the way and did not need to pull into the dock to re-fuel, the Keys, Bermuda and the Azores were to be considered as contingency detours only, NOT planned stops. The plan was to go non-stop.
Free from the dock, however, the boat itself did not worry us. Primarily, the main concerns Phillip and I had, and will always have, about crossing an ocean on a small sailboat relate more to the hull integrity, communications, access to weather and safety and those items really do not differ greatly whether you’re traveling on a monohull or a catamaran. We discussed these items at length with our Captain and Phillip and I found they had been purchased, procured or sufficiently addressed (minus one gun-less life raft) by Yannick in the early phases of our discussions. Here’s what we were working with on the Freydis, straight from Yannick’s PowerPoint presentation:
Main full batten Hydranet
Old genoa as spare? (bad shape)
2 Lombardini 2 x 37HP
6+ knots with 2 engines @ 1800
5,5 with one @ 1800
90 gallons onboard (180h=990NM)
Sail drive transmission
No protection but the keels
Tracking for families via Delorme InReach
Unlimited text or short emails (160 signs, no pictures, no files, no voice)
In addition, recall Phillip and I borrowed Pam Wall’s Iridium sat phone and purchased a satellite service package from OCENS for the voyage. Detailed write-up about this HERE.
2 chart plotters (Insight US side / Cmap EU side)
iPad + Navionics as backup
Probably around 15 GPS onboard…
Paper charts for the whole route
Radar B&G 4G : awesome…
Forward Scan : to be tested
Depth, speed, temp, baro, wind
B&G autopilot fully integrated
Wifi (mirror on iStuff and Android)
Generator Onan 4kW
2 x 175W solar panels (just enough to top off)
800Ah AGM batteries
Mastervolt charger / inverter / network
220V (115 converter available)
Rocna anchor, chain only 240 feet
Watermaker (need generator on)
Water heater (slooooow!)
Plenty of tools and chemicals
In my mind, I couldn’t imagine a boat more well-stocked or prepared to cross an ocean! Looking back now with hindsight, there are some things I would have, should have, focused on more, which I will share with you during this saga, but I can assure you I had absolutely no worries about the boat not being sufficiently stocked or equipped for the passage. As if to assuage any of our very last fears, Brandon even told us the Freydis could not sink. Absolutely. Could. Not. Sink. It’s called positive flotation. Like a Styrofoam cooler. No matter how much you fill it with water, she’s not going down. So, even if the catamaran tipped over, which would suck because there would be no way to right her (one downside of the catamaran), we could all still sit aboard under a make-shift tarp/tent on the hull, with the life raft in tow while we signaled for help. You see? What’s to worry about?
Phillip and I really had no idea what we were in for as far as a blue water passage, or an offshore voyage on a catamaran, but we knew the boat was now sealed up, the mast was stepped and the box was ready to set sail for France. Let’s go!
Up next on the blog, we provision! Boy do we provision …
Thanks, as always, to my followers and supporters for helping me share this tale!