A WHOLE DIF­FER­ENT AN­I­MAL

CAN THE SPEED, SPACE AND STA­BIL­ITY OF A CATA­MA­RAN WOO EVEN THE MOST DIE-HARD MONO­HULL SAILORS? THIS PAIR OF VET­ERAN VOY­AGERS AIMS TO FIND OUT WHILE DE­LIVER ING A BLUE­WA­TER 50 ACROSS THE POND.

Cruising World - - Contents - By Sh­eryl and Paul Shard

An At­lantic cross­ing on a big cruis­ing cata­ma­ran gives a crew of mono­hull sailors a taste of what life is like atop two hulls.

Mono­hull or multihull? I-lave you ever gone back and forth pon­der­ing the pros and cons of cruis­ing on each? We cer­tainly have, so when my hus­band, Paul, and I were given the chance to de­liver a brand-new Blue­wa­ter so cata­ma­ran across the At­lantic from Las Pal­mas, Gran Ca­naria, in the Ca­nary Is­lands to St. Lu­cia in the Caribbean last­win­ter, we jumped at the chance. Paul and I have been cruis­ing and liv­ing aboard since 1989 and have sailed more than ioo,000 nau­ti­cal miles on the four boats we've owned over our nearly three

decades of global voy­age-mak­ing. The boats were all mono­hulls, but ev­ery time we bought a new one, we toyed with the idea of mov­ing to a cata­ma­ran. Why? We dis­cov­ered that we en­joy shal­low-draft sail­ing, which most mul­ti­hulls of­fer, as much as we love off­shore pas­sage­mak­ing. For long-term liv­ing aboard, the space of­fered aboard most mul­ti­hulls is cer­tainly at­trac­tive. We were proud of our first boat, Twostep, a Spark­man & Stephens de­sign called the Clas­sic 37, but af­ter a while, we found her depth re­stric­tive as we dis­cov­ered how much we en­joyed gunkhol­ing and nav­i­gat­ing through small in­land wa­ter­ways. Cruis­ing had be­come a lifestyle for us, and we wanted more space on board plus a few more com­forts. Paul and I feel blessed since, as in­de­pen­dent tele­vi­sion pro­duc­ers and travel-doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers, we are able to earn our liv­ing while sail­ing full time, but all the cam­era, au­dio and edit­ing equip­ment we need to carry takes up a lot of stor­age space. We needed to ex­pand.

The cri­te­ria for our next boat was a good shal­low-draft de­sign with safe and com­fort­able off­shore ca­pa­bil­i­ties, so mul­ti­hulls were def­i­nitely un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. In the end, we stuck with what we knew and ended up choos­ing a mono­hull with a swing keel, a con­fig­u­ra­tion that has suited us on our cruis­ing jour­neys for many years.

Al­though we are now in the process of build­ing our new boat, a Southerly 480, we con­tinue to be in­trigued by cata­ma­rans. Feel­ing out of sorts be­ing “be­tween boats,” we char­tered a Voy­age 50 cata­ma­ran in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands to get a much-needed sail­ing fix in the trop­ics, and spent the time with friends aboard. It was a lux­u­ri­ous boat, with four en-suite cab­ins with queen berths, and was set up well for char­ter­ing, but we won­dered what a cata­ma­ran this size would be like for se­ri­ous ocean cruis­ing. We were soon to find out.

Dis­cov­ery Yachts builds sev­eral brands of high-qual­ity cruis­ing yachts, in­clud­ing Southerlys and Blue­wa­ter cata­ma­rans, and the com­pany reached out to us with an op­por­tu­nity to de­liver a new Blue­wa­ter 50 called Zão (pro­nounced

zay-oh by the own­ers) from the Ca­nary Is­lands to the Caribbean, leav­ing Gran Ca­naria in early Novem­ber. Zão’s own­ers, John and Caro­line Charn­ley, highly ex­pe­ri­enced sailors and the newly re­tired for­mer own­ers of Dis­cov­ery Yachts, had fam­ily and busi­ness com­mit­ments un­til Christ­mas but wanted the boat moved to the Caribbean so they could en­joy a win­ter of is­land-hop­ping be­fore go­ing through the Panama Canal. They asked us if we would take the boat across to St. Lu­cia for them. See­ing this as a great chance to sail a pur­pose-built 50-foot off­shore cruis­ing cata­ma­ran to learn how it per­formed on an ocean pas­sage in the many con­di­tions we were sure to en­counter on a 2,800-nau­ti­cal-mile At­lantic cross­ing, we ac­cepted the of­fer.

We flew to the Ca­nary Is­lands the first week of Novem­ber 2017 to meet up with John and his new Blue­wa­ter 50 in Las Pal­mas. Soon to join us would be four friends as crew, all fel­low sail­ing blog­gers and videog­ra­phers — Alexandra Pal­cic and David Macdon­ald of Sail­ing Banyan; Dan Krughoff, pro­fes­sional chef and videog­ra­pher; and sail­ing vlog­ger and po­lice of­fi­cer Craig Bow­man, of Cruis­ing Off Duty. All were mono­hull sailors with some cata­ma­ran ex­pe­ri­ence, mostly through char­ter­ing. Dave and Alexandra lived aboard their boat in the Caribbean, hav­ing sailed from Canada sev­eral years ago. Dan and Craig were each in the mar­ket for a cata­ma­ran for full-time voy­ag­ing.

Novem­ber is a pop­u­lar time to make the east-to-west cross­ing of the At­lantic Ocean be­cause hur­ri­cane sea­son is of­fi­cially over and you ar­rive in the Caribbean in time for Christ­mas, a nice time to start a win­ter of ex­plor­ing the is­lands. More than 200 boats par­tic­i­pat­ing in the At­lantic Rally for Cruis­ers were de­scend­ing on the ma­rina in Las Pal­mas to be­gin prepa­ra­tions for their ocean run to St. Lu­cia, as were many other in­de­pen­dent non-arc cruis­ing boats and crews, so it was a crazy, busy, fes­tive place at that time of the year. Las Pal­mas has one of the best mari­nas in the Ca­nary Is­lands for sailors since ev­ery sup­plier and ser­vice needed for yachts pre­par­ing for an ocean cross­ing can be found there.

See­ing Zão at the dock when we ar­rived in Las Pal­mas was such a de­light. Her long, swoop­ing mod­ern lines were a con­trast to the more an­gu­lar-shaped cata­ma­rans gath­er­ing in the ma­rina. What a dif­fer­ence from the 50-foot cat we had char­tered ear­lier, which, in fair­ness, was set up purely for va­ca­tion­ing.

Zão was de­signed for long-term liv­ing aboard and long-haul pas­sage­mak­ing. This was the sec­ond Blue­wa­ter cata­ma­ran the Charn­leys had built, so they had

THE NEXT THING I NO­TICED, AS ONE WHO LOVES TO COOK, WAS THE EX-PANSIVE GAL­LEY ON THE BRIDGEDECK, WITH AN ALL- AROUND VIEW AND OPEN­ING WIN­DOWS INTO THE COCK­PIT.

thought through ev­ery de­tail for com­fort­able liv­ing in their re­tire­ment but also set the boat up for se­ri­ous ad­ven­ture on their up­com­ing around-the-world voy­age.

When Paul and I stepped on board, the first things we no­ticed were the fine ta­ble lamps and two free-stand­ing lounge chairs in the main sa­loon, nei­ther of which ap­peared to be bolted down. As mono­hull sailors, this made us ner­vous.

I asked John about how these were to be stowed off­shore. He just smiled.

“You’re on a cata­ma­ran now. They will just sit here for the whole pas­sage. You don’t have to stow things the way you do on a mono­hull,” he as­sured me. “You can even move the chairs around to watch the large-screen TV.” He con­tin­ued to grin. This was go­ing to be a very dif­fer­ent pas­sage com­pared to what we’re used to.

Paul and I had got­ten some­what com­fort­able with leav­ing things sit­ting on ta­bles and coun­ter­tops while sail­ing on the cata­ma­rans we had char­tered in the past, but in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands we were sail­ing in the com­fort­able con­fines of the pro­tected Sir Fran­cis Drake Chan­nel, not on the open sea. John showed me how the chairs were po­si­tioned on the floor with mere strips of Vel­cro and how the heavy ta­ble lamps sit­ting around the main sa­loon and nav­i­ga­tion sta­tion were sit­ting on non­skid mats. I still wasn’t con­vinced that once we got some se­ri­ous waves at sea these things wouldn’t go fly­ing.

The next thing I no­ticed, as one who loves to cook, was the ex­pan­sive gal­ley on the bridgedeck, with an all-around view and open­ing win­dows into the Clock­wise from left: Paul in­ves­ti­gated a noise at the mast­head; while the view was out­stand­ing, he found the mo­tion aloft to be quite jerky com­pared to a mono­hull. Upon ar­rival in St. Lu­cia, the crew of Zão re­ceived a warm wel­come from friends and fel­low cruis­ers. Sh­eryl was happy to have “land ho” on her watch. With a large fridge and two freez­ers, ev­ery­one dined well on this pas­sage. In light con­di­tions, drop­ping sail and cool­ing off with a mid-at­lantic swim was a high­light for the crew. cock­pit. There were large, easy-to­clean Co­rian coun­ter­tops, in­clud­ing a penin­sula coun­ter­top that you could work at from three sides. There would be six of us aboard, and al­though Alexandra, Dan and I would be shar­ing most of the meal prepa­ra­tions, ev­ery­one liked to cook and would be pitch­ing in, so it was nice to see that there was space for all of us to work.

To add to our culi­nary cre­ativ­ity, there were a four-burner propane stove and oven, a mi­crowave and a large front-open­ing fridge with two ad­di­tional fridge/freez­ers in the own­ers hull to port. These had ex­te­rior tem­per­a­ture mon­i­tors and alarms. There were also nu­mer­ous cup­boards for stor­ing sup­plies, so stow­ing our pro­vi­sions was go­ing to be a breeze!

Then Paul no­ticed a high-pow­ered elec­tric ket­tle.

“The elec­tric ket­tle is just for port, right?” asked Paul.

“No, you can plug in this ket­tle any­time, even at sea,” John told us. “It’s the only one we’ve got or use.”

Paul looked skep­ti­cal, think­ing of the power drain. Then John ex­plained the elec­tri­cal sys­tem — a hard Bi­mini the width of the cock­pit, cov­ered with so­lar pan­els; a 6 kw gen­er­a­tor; and a large lithium bat­tery bank. Right. The ket­tle wasn’t go­ing to be a prob­lem.

Paul and I made our home in the own­ers cabin, which fea­tured a queen bunk aft and a head with sep­a­rate shower and front-load­ing washer/dryer at the for­ward end. There were two other en­suite cab­ins on the star­board side. Dave and Alexandra took the queen berth aft. The for­ward cabin had a V-in­sert in the berth, which was re­moved to make twin bunks for Dan and Craig.

As soon as the crew was set­tled in, Alexandra and I be­gan the mam­moth job of pro­vi­sion­ing for a crew of six peo­ple with help from Dan and Craig. Dave and Paul went over the boat’s sys­tems with John, or­ga­niz­ing re­pairs, do­ing main­te­nance and en­sur­ing that ev­ery­thing was in good work­ing or­der and that we un­der­stood the equip­ment be­fore leav­ing for sea. Dan set up and tested

our Irid­ium Go/pre­dictwind satel­lite and weather-rout­ing sys­tem, and be­came our com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer. Ev­ery­one pitched in when­ever and wher­ever help was needed.

Alexandra is an im­pres­sive or­ga­nizer and re­ar­ranged the con­tents of all the lock­ers for ease of ac­cess while we were un­der­way, tak­ing notes so we could re­turn things to where John and Caro­line had put them. She grouped all like items to­gether, and put things close to where they would be used and where it would make the most ef­fi­cient use of stor­age space. Then we started stow­ing bags and boxes, bot­tles and cans, long-life car­tons of juices and milk, bas­kets of fresh pro­duce, freez­ers full of frozen meat and shell­fish, piz­zas, berries and desserts. Since ev­ery­one on board was a foodie, this was not go­ing to be a beans-on-toast cruise across the At­lantic!

Be­cause we’re mono­hullers who don’t worry too much about weight on a boat,

Zão was a bit heavy when we set sail from Las Pal­mas on Novem­ber 12. An ad­van­tage, though, of a large cruis­ing cata­ma­ran is that the boat can han­dle it, and as we were about to find out, we would be at sea for a lot longer than the two weeks we had planned on.

Fortunately, wa­ter us­age wasn’t a con­cern ei­ther. Dave ran the gen­er­a­tor twice a day dur­ing his and Alexandra’s 0800-to-1200 and 2000-to-2400 watch, and made plenty of wa­ter with the Des­sala­tor wa­ter­maker at the same time. All six of us could have had two show­ers a day if we’d wanted to — and of­ten did.

We had light but good breezes the first day out, which helped ev­ery­one get their sea legs and al­lowed us all to get used to the equip­ment on board and prac­tice han­dling Zão’s sails. The boat has Elvstrøm Epex lam­i­nated sails, which hold their shape and work well with the Seldén in-mast furl­ing sys­tem. It took us a few tries to get the hang of the furler, so we ap­pre­ci­ated Craig’s in­struc­tion on how to use it. He has it on his boat. The trick is to main­tain ten­sion on the main­sail at all times while furl­ing it. We came to love it and, as a re­sult, we or­dered the same for our new boat.

One of the things we didn’t like about the other cata­ma­rans we had sailed was the noise of the waves slap­ping the bridgedeck, which was loud and never rhyth­mic. It got on our nerves, so Paul and I were rather anx­ious about how we would han­dle this on a long pas­sage. How­ever, on the Blue­wa­ter 50, the hull shape was de­signed to counter this, With such easy sail­ing, we had plenty of time to fish. Alexandra prac­ticed her fil­let­ing skills, and there was sushi for lunch. The asym­met­ric spin­naker (right) had a work­out on this pas­sage. It was flown around the clock for days on end. and we found that star­tling wave slaps hap­pened less of­ten and weren’t as loud or bone-shak­ing when they oc­curred. Granted, we never got the big seas we had been hop­ing for to test out the boat.

This was our eighth transat­lantic pas­sage, and it turned out to be the light­est-wind At­lantic cross­ing we have ever made, with sev­eral days of to­tal calm. Where were the trade winds? Like all the other boats around us (we were re­ceiv­ing po­si­tion re­ports from the ARC and ARC+ fleets), we all ended up be­ing at sea for at least an ex­tra week longer than planned.

We checked the weather us­ing Pre­dictwind a cou­ple of times a day, and there was noth­ing but days of ex­tremely light wind or no wind at all in the fore­casts. The Blue­wa­ter 50 is a fast cat and, thank good­ness, han­dled the light airs well, but we never got the con­di­tions to re­ally put her through her paces.

We started by sail­ing wing-and-wing us­ing two head­sails but ended up fly­ing

THIS WAS OUR EIGHTH TRANSAT­LANTIC PAS­SAGE, AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE THE LIGHT­EST - WIND AT­LANTIC CROSS­ING WE HAVE EVER MADE, WITH SEV­ERAL DAYS OF TO­TAL CALM. WHERE WERE THE TRADE WINDS?

the asym­met­ric spin­naker day and night, do­ing two-per­son watches around the clock just to keep the boat mov­ing. We all got pretty good at sail trim. When the wind dropped, we doused the sail and, mid-at­lantic, had a swim 1,000 miles away from the clos­est land. We fished. We cooked. We ate. We slept. We cel­e­brated Thanks­giv­ing. Alexandra baked cakes. We read. We danced. There was lots of room. We chased birds off the deck, which must have mis­took us for an is­land. We shouted with de­light when dol­phins came to play. Craig flew his drone. We saw amaz­ing sun­sets and shoot­ing stars. We played cards, which in­cluded a three-week Wiz­ard tour­na­ment. We watched TV. Had pizza-and-a-movie nights. We left our cam­eras and com­put­ers ly­ing around. Were we on a boat? It was way too com­fort­able.

One thing I no­ticed about pas­sage­mak­ing on a multihull is that I had much more en­ergy than when I go to sea on a mono­hull. Not be­ing on a heel all the time means it doesn’t take as much phys­i­cal ef­fort to do sim­ple tasks. Over­all, ev­ery­one in the crew felt the same. We also dealt with tasks more read­ily since it didn’t take much ef­fort to get up and deal with things.

Un­for­tu­nately, or fortunately, this ap­plied to cook­ing. We were con­stantly pre­par­ing meals and feast­ing. No one lost weight as we usu­ally do on a mono­hull pas­sage, where you some­times eat min­i­mally since food prep and eat­ing just feel like too much ef­fort at times.

On De­cem­ber 3, 21 days and 3,000 nau­ti­cal miles af­ter set­ting sail from Las Pal­mas, Gran Ca­naria, we made land­fall in St. Lu­cia. The boat felt enor­mous as we came into Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina, but with the twin Yan­mar 80 hp diesel en­gines, we could turn on a dime. Twin screws make even large mul­ti­hulls easy to ma­neu­ver. We were greeted by the happy own­ers, John and Caro­line.

So, have we be­come multihull converts? Well, we can def­i­nitely see the ad­van­tages now and un­der­stand why for some sailors they are a good choice for cruis­ing. It all comes down to what works for each of us. Af­ter all, it’s love for be­ing on the wa­ter that all cruis­ing sailors share — be it on one hull or two.

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