Great Ex­pec­ta­tions

The own­ers of the 121-foot Benetti No­madess chase ad­ven­ture on a world cruise.

Yachts International - - Contents - BY JUSTIN RAT­CLIFFE

CCross­ing the At­lantic is a se­ri­ous un­der­tak­ing. Cross­ing the Pa­cific, even more so. Most would choose a steel­hulled ves­sel for a world cruise, but Amer­i­can own­ers John and Ar­lene McPher­son never se­ri­ously con­sid­ered any­thing other than No­madess, their pur­pose­built com­pos­ite Benetti Clas­sic 121.

The cou­ple had pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of long-range cruis­ing in a com­pos­ite boat, hav­ing sailed around the world aboard a 78-foot Kevlar cut­ter, also called No­madess. By the time the cou­ple set off on their sec­ond tour aboard the mo­to­ry­acht, John McPher­son was in his early 80s.

“The own­ers are yachts­men and love to travel on their boats,” says Ed Collins, who has cap­tained the McPher­sons’ boats for 16 years. “The boss fell in love with the lines of the Benetti Clas­sic in the Med when we went around the world with his pre­vi­ous sailing boat. The big ques­tion was, could we take a fiber­glass yacht around the world? Was it up to what we wanted to do?”

The stan­dard Benetti Clas­sic ticked a lot of boxes. It had a proven dis­place­ment hull form, a range of 3,400 nau­ti­cal miles at cruis­ing speed, com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tions, and plenty of stowage for the in­tended jour­ney. Nev­er­the­less, some peo­ple at Benetti were not con­vinced it was the right choice of boat.

“We showed up at their door and said, ‘Hey, we want to build a Benetti Clas­sic to take around the world,’” Collins says with a chuckle. “And they said, ‘Sure, we can build a boat for you. Al­though we’re not so sure about the round-the-world part.’ We had a lot of dis­cus­sions, but in the end we were pretty con­fi­dent we could do it.”

Collins and his chief en­gi­neer, Mary Krieg, re­quested mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the stan­dard specs, such as more an­chor chain, big­ger stabilizers and wa­ter tanks, and ex­tra-tough win­dow glass to re­duce the need for storm shut­ters. They then spent 18 months in Viareg­gio, Italy, man­ag­ing the build.

“While we were monitoring the build, we were also plan­ning the trip,” Collins says. “The own­ers had a rough idea of where they wanted to go, but we also had to take into ac­count the equip­ment and spares we should carry to be self-suf­fi­cient.”

Krieg packed enough spare parts—from bilge pumps to light bulbs—to last two full sea­sons. She knew that damp­ness is ever present on long ocean cross­ings, es­pe­cially in the bo­sun’s locker, where most in­ven­tory is stowed. Her so­lu­tion was to in­stall a de­hu­mid­i­fier to keep elec­tri­cal parts and other sen­si­tive equip­ment rea­son­ably dry. As it turned out, there were no ma­jor tech­ni­cal is­sues dur­ing the 38,000-mile voy­age, ex­cept for a com­puter glitch that was re­volved within 24 hours.

“The boat isn’t ex­pen­sive un­til the boss wants to use it and some­thing’s bro­ken,” Krieg says. “There were spares that we didn’t use, but if we had needed them and they weren’t on board, it would have ru­ined the pro­gram.”

Fuel plan­ning proved key. No­body is go­ing to give you a tow if you run out of fuel mi­do­cean, nor can a yacht ar­rive in re­mote lo­ca­tions like the Mar­que­sas and fill up with close to 10,000 gal­lons. Diesel had to be pre­ordered and shipped out ahead of sched­ule.

Med­i­cal safe­guards also were put in place. The first time the owner sailed around the world, he took se­ri­ously ill in Van­u­atu; Collins, a com­mer­cial pi­lot, or­ga­nized a speedy air evac­u­a­tion for surgery in the United States. There were no such emer­gen­cies this time around, but the crew was pre­pared, not least be­cause Krieg is also a regis­tered nurse.

“Peo­ple ask me how I stay so calm when the engine is spilling oil all over the place,” she says. “‘It’s an engine,’ I tell them. ‘ It’s not bleed­ing. It’s fix­able and noth­ing to get worried about.’”

The Benetti Clas­sic 121 has quar­ters for seven crew, but be­cause No­madess was not car­ry­ing a full com­ple­ment of guests, she ran with six crew. They be­came live­aboards, much like the own­ers and guests. This involved eat­ing to­gether at meal­times, and even join­ing in for an off-duty cock­tail.

“It was very much a fam­ily boat, which is the only way when you’re on board for such long pe­ri­ods,” Collins says. “You spend a lot of time in each other’s com­pany when you’re burn­ing up the miles at 10.5 knots to save on fuel.”

The itin­er­ary was the stuff many yachts­men only dream of. Af­ter the de­liv­ery in Novem­ber 2013, No­madess spent her shake­down cruise in the Med be­fore an At­lantic cross­ing to the Car­ib­bean. She then headed up the Eastern Seaboard in the mid­dle of win­ter to Vir­ginia for Christ­mas with friends and fam­ily. Con­necti­cut-born Collins was some­what put off when he had to take on a pi­lot for the ap­proach into New York City—wa­ters he knows well from his com­pet­i­tive sailing days.

No­madess then turned back south, went on to tran­sit the Panama Canal and turned north again, hug­ging the West Coast up to Alaska, where she spent sum­mer 2015 (this time Collins came armed with the re­quired pi­lot li­censes). She then re­traced her steps, stop­ping off in San Diego for yard work, and ar­rived in the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands in Novem­ber 2015.

The Gala­pa­gos were the stag­ing post for launch­ing

deeper into the Pa­cific: the Mar­que­sas, Tuamo­tus, Tahiti, Tonga and Fiji. Weather didn’t prove a prob­lem un­til an eight-day cross­ing from Papeete to Tonga: the Benetti took the 18-foot (5.5-me­ter) waves and 58-knot winds in her stride, but the own­ers and crew were thank­ful that big­ger stabilizers had been fit­ted dur­ing the build.

When No­madess ar­rived in Fiji in June 2016, the is­lands were still re­cov­er­ing from Win­ston, the worst trop­i­cal cy­clone on record to make land­fall in the Southern Hemi­sphere. Work­ing with groups like YachtAid Global and Sea Mercy, every­one on board helped to re­build wrecked in­fra­struc­tures. At one point, Krieg kept the yacht’s wa­ter­maker run­ning 24/7 to pro­vide three months’ worth of fresh wa­ter.

“En­tire vil­lages had lost their roofs, and hos­pi­tals were down,” Collins says. “We helped out as much as we could and bought build­ing ma­te­ri­als for com­mu­ni­ties in the outer is­lands. There was a lot of give­back, which is an­other un­usual as­pect of our own­ers and a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence for the crew.”

From Fiji, No­madess cruised to Van­u­atu, New Cale­do­nia, New Zealand and Aus­tralia. In Auck­land, John McPher­son spent time with Emi­rates Team New Zealand. The meet­ing led to a change of plans when he de­cided to have No­madess trans­ported back to the United States in time for the 2017 Amer­ica’s Cup in Ber­muda, cruis­ing there from Fort Laud­erdale by way of Cuba and the Ba­hamas.

Af­ter the Cup and fol­low­ing a sum­mer cruise in New England, the McPher­sons put No­madess up for sale. Apart from a short spell be­tween Costa Rica and the Gala­pa­gos, they and their two sea­far­ing minia­ture poo­dles had spent the en­tire voy­age on board. It was time to move ashore. Collins and Krieg are also look­ing to take a well-earned break be­fore look­ing for new own­ers with a sim­i­lar spirit for ad­ven­ture.

“It’s not go­ing to be easy to re­place John and Ar­lene,” Collins says. “Dur­ing my time with them, I don’t think we’ve ever been docked in the same place for more than 10 days. What does it take to take a plas­tic Benetti around the world? En­thu­si­as­tic own­ers, lots of plan­ning and the right weather. In that or­der.”

clock­wise from top left: Capt. Ed Collins and chief en­gi­neer Mary Krieg keep­ing things ship­shape; A Gala­pa­gos fur seal takes time out; Crab on the menu in Panama’s san Blas is­lands; Krieg finds a new best friend.

be­low: No­madess spent the sum­mer of 2015 cruis­ing Bri­tish Columbia and Alaska. be­low right: The crew dressed in McPher­son tar­tan.

clock­wise from top left: The fa­mous land divers of Van­u­atu; Re­lief work in Fiji; Clas­sic Cuba; The own­ers, John and Ar­lene McPher­son, in new Zealand.

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