In the meantime, we've sailed back to the Sydney area (now in Pittwater harbor area, just north of Sydney). And then we've just returned from a 2 week whirlwind trip to Europe; France and the Netherlands, to be exact. 21 hours flying time each way, plus 3200 km of driving while there!!! Not purely a joy ride.
So, if not a joy ride, then what the hell? Well, as some of you know, for the past several months, we've started to look at changing boats. BRAVO has been a fantastic ride for us, taking everything we've thown of her with grace. She's a strong, capable cruising boat (stronger and more capable than us, I'd say!!!). But after the past 8 years cruising in some of the most beautiful tropical waters of the world, we have developed a hankering for some higher latitude explorations. (read: COLD!)
And that has lead to discussions about the best boat for the job. Countless hours chatting with Mr. Google, and discussions with friends, and sailors on various forums have led us to some new parameters which BRAVO simply doesn't offer. Our "big 4" became distilled down to:
- Aluminum construction vs fiberglass: Aluminum offers the best resistance to damage, whether from ice, coral, rock, or simply tying up next to a manky old fishing boat.
- Centerboard instead of deep keel: We'd like the ability to explore some of the shallower anchorages, rivers, and atolls of the world without constant concern about how skinny is the water beneath us!
- Interior helm position: Especially in cold, rainy climates, standing watches outside while sailing gets old fast. We'd like the ability to steer and navigate from the comfort of a dry interior pilot house or "raised deck saloon"
- Good visibility to the outdoors from the interior spaces. In traditional sailboats such as BRAVO, the interior can feel a bit "cave-like", both while underway and at anchor. We got spoiled while aboard friends Graham and Diane's lovely MAUNIE, with the ability to have a great view out while sitting below.
Of course, after 8 years of full-time cruising we have other design goals in a "new" boat related to rig and hull design, systems, interior layouts, etc, but these became our "big 4". With these in mind, we've been searching hard on the internet for a boat which fits the bill. And to our disappointment, none exists on the used market.....really! If we would take 3 of the 4, say, stay with fiberglass instead of aluminum, no problema. Or give up the interior helm position, piece of cake! But we could not find any on the used market which offered all 4.
That led to online viewing of new boats.....what is out there, where are they built and by who, and what does it cost to play the game? It became apparent that Europe is where these boats happen. Especially the French and the Dutch are masters at designing and building the types of boats that we were after. We narrowed it down to three excellent yards, one in Holland (KM Yachts and their "Bestevaer" line designed by architect Gerard Dykstra, famous for many ocean race yachts and the "Maltese Falcon"....(google it !!!), Garcia yachts, with a fine history of aluminum boat construction, and now building Jimmy Cornell's "Exploration" series, and a small yard in Brittany, Boreal, owned by two Belgian high latitude sailors with 20 trips to Patagonia and Antarctica between them!
There's only so much you can absorb by reading, looking at photos, and drooling, so it became time for a trip to see these boats in person. All had aspects that we found appealing, and we were eager to get aboard and even test sail if possible. So off we went, flying to Paris via Abu Dhabi, where we we picked up our car for the two week odyssey.
|Tulip season just beginning|
We enjoyed the little Dutch fishing village, Urk. (how would you pronounce it??? !!!)
Took a couple of days driving up to Makuum, near Amsterdam and had the good fortune to get to KM's annual "Open Day", where they invite many of their owners to bring their yachts to their "birthplace" and put them on display. Especially for KM, a fully custom yard building yachts from plans of several top architects, this was a great opportunity to view the various boats, talk to their owners, and get a feel for how the yard operates.
The boats are beautiful, and the folks who build them couldn't be nicer. With a sort of modern pilot house iteration of traditional channel cutter aesthetic, we liked the quality of both the design and construction. The raw aluminum hulls are almost industrial looking, with a real no-nonsense feel. The Bestevaer was initially designed as Dykstra's own boat, and sister ships have explored every remote region of the globe, from Antarctica to Greenland.
Though the basic hulls are similar, the interiors vary greatly, as each was built to spec for a particular owner. Some are modern down below, some more traditional. Some have water ballast tanks, some don't. And on it goes. But the quality is always very good.
|Bestevaer 49, "Zenith" on left, just launched, and a 45 on the right|
|Interior of "Zenith"|
|Bestaever 45 hull before sheathing and rolling over|
|Nifty machine to form compound curves into the sheathing|
|Cindi checks out the rudder of 80' "Tulip"|
|Sheep tend the grass on the dykes|
|Hopping aboard the Exploration 52|
|A 52 under construction|
|And the finished products....note the interior helm at the forward end of the salon for visibility|
After Cherbourg we saddled up and headed off to the little French village of Treguier, in the NW corner of France.
A really sweet, historic French town (our B&B hotel was built in the 1200's !!!), Treguier is home to Boreal Yachts, builders of boats from 44 to 55 feet.
|Boreal 47 awaiting her new owners|
Construction of the Boreal's are done in the small factory close to town.
|After cutting by computer (CNC), the aluminum pieces are ready for fabrication|
Like all of these boats, the Boreal hulls are built upside down, then turned upright to complete.
|The red is penetrating dye, applied to all hull and tank welds to test integrity|
|Transom of a 47. (The transoms of the 47's and 55's are "stretched" versions of the 44 and 52, with a sugar scoop transom like this one adding the extra 3 feet to the basic hull)|
|Comparison of the 2 different transom designs|
|Centerboard of a 44|
|Boreal 55 on the left, 47 on right|
Boreal basically makes four different yachts. The 44 and the 52, and the 47 and 55, which are basically the same boats as their smaller twins, but with a sugar scoop transom. Though the two sets of twins are very similar, obviously the 52/55 offers more volume and amenities. Unfortunately there were no 52/55's at a finished stage for us to compare, so these photos are all of the 47, Jean Francois' personal boat, a beauty!
|The "doghouse". Perfect for standing watch on a cold night!!!|
|View to below from the doghouse. Jean Francois in his favorite seat!!!|
|The two aft staterooms can be either twin bunks like this, or double berth. We likely would get one of each, using the double for guests, and this layout above, with cushions replaced by plastic storage totes, as a storeroom|
|Ceiling of a small abandoned 600 year old church outside town|
The town itself is amazingly well preserved, with much of the historical district dating back to the 13th century. It's far from most everywhere, which apparently is the reason it survived the two world wars so well compared to much of the rest of France. As one shopkeeper said when we asked about it said, "Bomb little Tregiuer??? Why would anyone bother???!!!" Our kind of town!!!
|Main cathedral was just outside our hotel|
|The gothic cathedral sported terrific flying buttresses all around|
|Our B&B, the Le Saint Yves, in business since 1200's|
|Amazing stone homes nestled into the rocks on the Brittany coast|
With nearly a 30 foot tidal range, Treguier takes its tides seriously!!!
|Pretty steep ramps at low tide!!! "ON BELAY"|
So that was our road trip, then a day at Chartres and back to Paris for the long return flights to Sydney. We've been doing a LOT of noodling and discussing the options, running spreadsheets, and consulting with The Google since returning 3 days ago. As the jet lag faded away, we allowed ourselves to finally make a decision between the two finalists (KM and Boreal)
.......the envelope please.........
And the winner is.........BOREAL YACHTS !!!
The Boreal has a great deal of appeal for us. Sleek, with a low freeboard and carefully thought out voyaging features, these modern yachts are built for remote exploration. They were awarded "European Bluewater Yacht of the Year, 2014/15" by Yachting World Magazine, and was the overall winner for "Boat of the Year, 2018 by Cruising World. High honors for a small company which spends near nothing for advertising. Beautifully built, yet not fully custom boats, they nonetheless have a good range of options and features, and the Jean Francois' both seem willing to listen to our input and goals for the build. The company's two owners inspired our confidence and trust, and we are eager to begin this next phase of our cruising journey with them and Boreal.
|Photo courtesy Boreal|