Around July of 2017, we started researching sailing obsessively and watching every youtube sailing couple’s videos we could find. We hung out with sailor friends and surrounded ourselves with all things sailing, except at that point, actually sailing! We had work and no access to a boat.
We went to a few boat shows, Southampton first, then London, Dusseldorf and a smaller London one. All very tempting and inspirational.
We also went on a few test sails for new boats one of which was the original one we looked at in Southampton. A Lagoon 42. That one, funnily enough, ended up being closer to the bottom of our favourite boat list in the end. We also test sailed a Nautitech Open 40. Then at the London boatshow Jim bumped into an old work colleague who had had a recent windfall and was telling us of his sailing plans. We sat at the bar reflecting when we got talking to a few sailors. One of which suggested we look into Catana sail boats due to their high performance attributes. We hadn’t even heard of Catana but that was to be our boat although we didn’t know it then.
First sailing experience
Let me make this very clear. I am a complete beginner. I had never sailed and so despite the expense we felt it a good investment to charter a Catana. Firstly to see if I would like sailing and secondly to see if we like how a Catana sails and is laid out etc. Ok, granted, we went to the British Virgin Islands, who wouldn’t enjoy that. But I really did. I loved it. I loved the physical nature of sailing, I loved that I was learning something challenging and new from absolute scratch. I loved sleeping at anchor or mooring ball, being rocked to sleep. Going to bed early from sheer exhaustion and waking up early with no alarm because I sensed the sun rising. And those quiet moments over an early coffee looking out for turtles. And at night watching the plankton sparking under the moonlight. And the drama of actually sailing and knowing we got ourselves to where we wanted to be or even close.
But I’m not naive either. I know that storms can rock the boat and situations can arise out of nowhere which demand urgent and correct action based on skill and experience. With my current inexperience I am most definitely a crew member not skipper. I am very dependent on being told what to do based on Jim’s judgement however one of our goals is to ensure I can manoeuvre the boat should something happen to Jim in the same way that Jim is able to virtually sail single handed. I’m not nearly there yet but that is where I need to be.
A first example of why we BOTH need to be capable happened about one week before we flew to the charter boat in the Caribbean. Jim was walking from a hotel to a car which would bring him to the office. He turned on his ankle and sprained it. Total nightmare followed. He literally couldn’t walk for about 4 days, I even had to get him crutches. All the while we are thinking we have just wasted a huge chunk of cash on a holiday which Jim wouldn’t be able to (a) Enjoy and (b) be the skipper due to immobility. Anyway a few days later, a couple of wheelchairs through airports and his foot was much better. We did, though, decide to hire a skipper for the first few days to take the pressure off. Sore foot or no sore foot, it was the right thing to do. Every boat is different and while Jim has a reasonable level of experience, he had never sailed a cat. The skipper spent a good hour and a half showing Jim how to moor the boat against the dock and bring her out again in quite tight spaces using the motor etc.
Starting to understand what we want
We came back from that holiday with renewed motivation and focus. We were now able to narrow down our requirements: we decided that it was a Catana we wanted. Preferably second hand, but not too old. Three main reasons for second hand: Reduce the depreciation, gain higher spec.equiptment hopefully and reduce risks associated with brand new boats- defects etc. We wanted at least a 42 foot owner’s version which had never been chartered. Our charter Catana had been a 2012, 42 foot, 4 cabin version… as it was a charter boat it was quite beaten up- we learned we didn’t want an ex-charter. It being 4 cabin meant the sleeping quarters were smaller and there was just a small bathroom separating the two cabins in each hull with multi-purposes: to use the toilet, wash your hands and using the extended the ‘tap’ in the sink to become a self-held shower head-have a shower…totally cool for 10 days holiday sharing a boat. Maybe a bit frustrating though if you live on the boat full time. The owners version by contrast has one dedicated owners hull i.e.: one double bedroom on the owners side only but with lots of storage space, a corridor area, a dressing table, a ‘toilet’ in a room which is separate to the shower room, where the shower is suspended as you would expect a normal shower to be..
Another requirement of ours we discovered was that we really wanted to boat to be VAT paid.. Whether VAT is paid on a boat or not can heavily influence travel plans. Initially when we were starting to daydream about buying a boat we were adamant that we would take it to the Caribbean. However we realised a few things. We are still beginners and if the boat we buy is in Europe it becomes extremely complicated to get it to the Caribbean.. We aren’t ready to sail there ourselves. We wouldn’t necessarily be ready to finish work and so we would either need to be able to hop back and forth to the UK or at least have a good phone signal where we can create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot to work from.. This can be very unreliable in the Caribbean. In addition to this we would like to be close to family at the start of this adventure, in particular Jim’s dad, because he has been instrumental in helping us understand the difference between a good deal and a bad deal, he has participated in test sails and we generally run everything by him due to his significant experience. We want to be able to share this with him and the rest of our families.