Fountaine Pajot Astrea 42

Clev­erly de­signed spa­ces en­cour­age shared ex­pe­ri­ences on this at­trac­tive cat.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY LAWRENCE SCHÄF­FLER

Cata­ma­rans are jus­ti­fi­ably lauded for their space and com­fort – of­fer­ing pretty much dou­ble the ‘real es­tate’ found in mono­hulls of a sim­i­lar LOA. And that usu­ally trans­lates into hap­pier ‘per­sonal spa­ces’ – the skip­per’s eye-wa­ter­ing BO is more eas­ily avoided on a cat, not to men­tion his rig-vi­brat­ing snor­ing.

Of course, not all crews are sad­dled with such hard­ships. And for those blessed with a mea­sure of har­mony, the Astrea 42 is a per­fect ally: she’s an ac­com­plished ves­sel that en­cap­su­lates ‘con­vivial cruis­ing.’ That’s largely thanks to her well-in­te­grated spa­ces – chiefly around the helm sta­tion and up­per decks – but also be­tween her cock­pit and sa­loon.

As is com­mon and pop­u­lar on many cata­ma­rans, the Astrea’s helm sta­tion is lo­cated high above the decks, off­set to star­board. This of­fers great vis­tas un­der sail – as well as a con­fi­den­cein­spir­ing ‘spa­tial aware­ness’ for ma­noeu­vring her 7.2m beam around a crowded ma­rina and into a berth.

A flight of stairs takes you from the cock­pit up to the helm and, for me, the sta­tion’s ar­range­ment em­bod­ies this cat’s

rai­son d’etre. Rather than a post for a skip­per’s lonely vigil, the helm’s more the cen­tre­piece in a care­fully-con­fig­ured area that en­cour­ages easy com­mu­ni­ca­tion/in­ter­ac­tion with guests/crew.

Con­sider that the helm­seat com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­dates two – three if they’re close friends. And right along­side – mid­ships

and on a slightly higher level – is a large, ‘dou­ble’ sun lounger, atop the coachroof. It’s an ar­range­ment that more or less guar­an­tees a shared, fun dy­namic in­volv­ing ev­ery­one on board. It might be hard to con­cen­trate on the sail­ing – best leave the boat on au­topi­lot.

A small re­al­ity check: if you find the helms­man’s dron­ing anal­y­sis of the All Blacks’ lat­est per­for­mance a lit­tle mind-numb­ing, pour your­self a drink and es­cape to the fore­deck. There you’ll find the stan­dard tram­po­line or, even bet­ter, a lit­tle fur­ther aft, an­other ar­range­ment of spa­cious sun loungers. Bliss.

The in­ter­ac­tion theme con­tin­ues down in the cock­pit, where a gen­er­ous bench set­tee along the tran­som neatly in­cor­po­rates a BBQ (star­board end). To­gether with the large, L-shaped set­tee around the ta­ble – en­hanced by an in­board bench seat on the other side of the ta­ble and a re­cliner bench seat fur­ther to star­board – this is a cock­pit tai­lor-made for qual­ity en­ter­tain­ing.

There’s a built-in fridge un­der the stairs to the helm (no need to go for­ag­ing in the gal­ley for a top-up) and, with a steady sup­ply of canapés emerg­ing from the gal­ley, the cock­pit’s an ob­vi­ous party zone, the buzz un­der­scored by the beat from the cock­pit speak­ers. Please re­move shoes to pro­tect the cock­pit’s teak sole – it feels great un­der­foot.

So – I’d sug­gest this is a ves­sel where fes­tiv­i­ties hap­pen de­spite the owner/skip­per’s best at­tempts at so­bri­ety and re­spectabil­ity. But enough of the party fea­tures – let’s ex­plore the Astrea’s sail con­trols.

SAIL CON­TROLS

As with the Soana 47, the Astrea’s sail con­trols are at first glance a lit­tle con­fus­ing – but work­ing the sheets you quickly get used to the lay­out and af­ter a while it all seems a per­fectly log­i­cal, prac­ti­cal ar­range­ment.

The key point is that the helms­man isn’t able to tweak sails from the wheel. All sheets ter­mi­nate at three nearby winches – with their at­ten­dant spin­lock clutches – mounted on the coachroof for­ward of the helm. But a pas­sage­way sep­a­rates the winches from the helm. To trim the sails the helms­man has to leave the wheel and walk for­ward.

Of course, this is eas­ily ac­com­plished by punch­ing the au­topi­lot but­ton on the large Garmin MFD. Al­ter­na­tively, you could ask one of the nearby, sun-wor­ship­ping layabouts to make him/her­self use­ful with a lit­tle crank­ing.

I con­cede that not all sailors will warm to this lay­out,

but it’s best fea­ture – I think – is that it avoids the helm sta­tion be­ing in­un­dated with spaghetti – an in­evitable re­sult of a mul­ti­tude of tails end­ing up in the same place.

If they did ter­mi­nate at the helm, chances are good you’d end up with the wheel em­bel­lished by a macramé-like bird’s nest. I’m pleased to re­port that, with the Astrea, there are plenty of tail bags at the winches to prevent just such a mess.

A trav­eller mounted on the cock­pit roof, im­me­di­ately aft of the helm sta­tion, helps with coax­ing the main­sail into its op­ti­mum shape. And – one of the Astrea’s best sail-han­dling fea­tures in my opin­ion – the boom sits rel­a­tively low. With that ex­pan­sive coachroof, stow­ing the main­sail into its bag is easy.

On most cats fit­ted with lazy jacks it helps to be a Tall Black – or per­haps a gym­nast – for stow­ing the sail. With ad­vanc­ing age I’ve dis­cov­ered vault­ing onto a cat’s boom doesn’t come as nat­u­rally as it once did.

The Astrea’s also equipped with a bowsprit for fly­ing a code 0 – and its sail con­trols too are a lit­tle un­usual. The star­board sheet runs through a turn­ing block at the aft end of the star­board hull, and on to one of the winches. Sim­i­larly, the port sheet runs through a port turn­ing block, but it feeds to a stand­alone elec­tric winch (port aft). Again, to ad­just the sail, you’ll need to en­gage the

au­topi­lot and walk down the steps and across the cock­pit. Al­ter­na­tively, rouse the layabout from his slum­bers.

Note, in­ci­den­tally, that the cock­pit over­hang is such that there’s enough room aft of the trav­eller for an ar­ray of four so­lar pan­els. They help to keep the Astrea’s bat­ter­ies and ex­ten­sive elec­tri­cal in­ven­tory bristling with en­thu­si­asm.

SWIM PLAT­FORM

One of the Astrea’s best de­sign fea­tures is her ex­pan­sive swim plat­form. An elec­tric model, it low­ers qui­etly – to a point where it’s com­pletely sub­merged. This makes wa­ter-to-ten­der trans­fers a far more el­e­gant ex­er­cise – and it also al­lows much eas­ier ac­cess for swim­mers and divers. And for – ahem – se­nior guests, it means not hav­ing to clam­ber down/up the pre­car­i­ous, tele­scopic lad­ders typ­i­cally fit­ted to cat tran­soms.

Even bet­ter, the swim plat­form dou­bles as stor­age area for the in­flat­able. This elim­i­nates the davits typ­i­cally mounted on cats. The swim plat­form is a neater so­lu­tion – and launch­ing and re­triev­ing the dinghy is way eas­ier.

AC­COM­MO­DA­TION

When con­di­tions are hot and fine, you’ll be struck by the ‘seam­less tran­si­tion’ be­tween cock­pit and sa­loon – thanks to the fully re­tractable (slid­ing) alu­minium/glass door and slid­ing win­dow across the back of gal­ley.

This cre­ates a large, open flow be­tween the two ar­eas and, with the gal­ley built into the aft end of the sa­loon, feed­ing the rav­en­ous hordes is ef­fort­less. I like the thought­ful ad­di­tion of a duck­board at the thresh­old – de­signed to catch any residue from not-quite-dry swim­mers.

You’ll ap­pre­ci­ate the panoramic views through the sa­loon’s large sur­round win­dows – and the am­bi­ent light flood­ing in ac­cen­tu­ates the dé­cor’s sub­tle shades. For­ward, to port, is the nav sta­tion, its seat in­te­grated into the L-shaped set­tee around the ta­ble.

The U-shaped gal­ley car­ries a fairly stan­dard lay­out – a three­burner cooker, dou­ble sinks and a fridge. But what is un­usual is the oven. It’s at a de­cent, com­fort­able height – a wel­come change from the low-mounted ovens in many gal­leys where check­ing the lasagne re­quires a ‘down­ward dog’ yoga pose.

Like all ves­sels in the Fountaine Pajot sta­ble, the Astrea’s avail­able in mul­ti­ple con­fig­u­ra­tions, in­clud­ing three- and four­cabin lay­outs. This one’s the three-cabin, owner’s ver­sion, which sees the en­tire star­board hull con­fig­ured as a suite. In the four­cabin lay­out this is swapped for two cab­ins, a mir­ror image of the port hull’s lay­out.

The owner’s suite com­prises a large dou­ble bed aft and a very gen­er­ous bath­room with sep­a­rate shower up front. They’re sep­a­rated by a ‘dress­ing room’ which also func­tions as a study/ of­fice. The con­tem­po­rary, Euro styling con­tin­ues down here – grey car­pet­ing/uphol­stery, grey/white vinyl on the ceil­ing, white oak cabinetry – it all looks very classy. And again, these ar­eas carry big win­dows which let in masses of light.

In the port hull, the aft cabin has a dou­ble bed with an en suite. The for­ward cabin is al­most iden­ti­cal, though its bath­room is a lit­tle smaller.

PER­FOR­MANCE

Sadly, our sail on Syd­ney Har­bour took place in the light­est of zephyrs – so I can’t tell you much about the Astrea’s per­for­mance. We ghosted along, through the ferry wakes, grimly en­dur­ing the

guf­faws from those on pass­ing launches – and even­tu­ally re­sorted to the ‘iron spin­naker’ (and ap­par­ent wind) to keep the sails filled.

But I can con­firm that she’s equipped with de­sign fea­tures which ‘point’ to a rel­a­tively ag­ile and nippy per­former. Ex­am­ples in­clude the large, square-topped main, the code 0 to op­ti­mise down­wind per­for­mance, and the re­verse bows de­signed to max­imise wa­ter­line length.

With her twin 40hp en­gines turn­ing over at around 2200– 2300rpm (cruise speed), she per­forms well – eas­ing along at a com­fort­able 7.5 knots. Push the throt­tle for­ward to 3000rpm (WOT), and the gain is in­signif­i­cant – just over a knot (8.7 knots) – def­i­nitely not worth the in­creased fuel con­sump­tion.

The Astrea 42 is a fun, el­e­gant ves­sel – per­fect for shar­ing with fam­ily and friends – or for host­ing large cel­e­bra­tions along­side the quay. For me, her stand­out fea­tures are the in­te­grated spa­ces – de­signed for easy in­ter­ac­tion and thought­ful con­ver­sa­tions that ad­dress the world’s prob­lems.

Of course, if that all be­comes too dif­fi­cult to fol­low (logic is in­versely pro­por­tional to wine con­sump­tion), you can qui­etly re­move your­self for a lit­tle soli­tary soul-search­ing on the fore­deck. The views are sub­lime. BNZ

The Astrea 42 is a fun, el­e­gant ves­sel – per­fect for shar­ing with fam­ily and friends...

ABOVE Airy, open spa­ces and panoramic views through the win­dows – the cat feels even big­ger than it is. BELOW There are var­i­ous lay­out op­tions, but which­ever you choose you’ll en­joy the classy fur­nish­ings.

FAR LFET A trio of winches (one’s elec­tric) are mounted on the coachroof. The spa­cious loungers on the fore­deck, and the so­lar pan­els be­hind the trav­eller. BELOW Honey, I need those mar­i­nated steaks right NOW!

LEFT One of the Astrea’s best fea­tures is her swim plat­form. Low­ered to the wa­ter, it makes en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing the wa­ter a lot eas­ier, es­pe­cially for those with creak­ing knees. It also holds the in­flat­able and makes launch­ing and re­triev­ing it a breeze.

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