The journey of a couple who built the catamaran of their dreams and then went sailing – the hows, whys, and wherefores of it all.
After years of roaming boat shows up and down the coast, dreaming of what ‘our’ boat would be like, and chartering with our family and friends all through the Caribbean, we have decided to build our own catamaran!
In the end, the decision, like all good outcomes, was really the only choice that made sense. All of the boats we’ve chartered have always had many good points and then some bad; certain comforts that would make us exclaim, “What a great idea!” followed closely by other discoveries that elicited a disbelieving “Really!? Are you kidding?” Every voyage caused us to add items to our list of what we did and didn't like on that particular boat. Eventually we realised that no single design we’d met so far would be perfect for us, and that even refinishing a used catamaran would limit us in certain ways due to the inherent design of the craft.
Buying a new boat was financially out of the question for us, and even had it not been, we would still have to live within the scope of a narrow design, with only limited ability to customise our dream. It was then that we first looked at the Fusion 40 solution, and right from the beginning, it fit us perfectly.
So, we sent in our initial deposit, which placed our order into the queue for production, and we are expecting our delivery sometime around April of 2012. But in between now and then, we have tons of decisions to make and plans to put together. As we plunge ahead into our Fusion Adventure, we want to chronicle the process for you: our family, friends, and other sailing enthusiasts that might consider this the solution to finding their heart's desire.
Helm station with Dennis's prized steering wheel.
So after our first post, most likely all of you are thinking, “What has happened to Deb and Dennis? They’ve always been such level-headed people; now they've really gone off the deep end! Can you imagine trying to build a boat yourself?” And admittedly, we did toy with the idea of tackling our Fusion 40 on our own ... for a couple of months. But we ran into tons of basic, logistical issues right away, such as where we would work on something so large, how we would find people to do the pieces we didn’t have the expertise to do ourselves (most), and if we ever completed it, how would we launch it? Fusion Cats (http://www.fusioncats.com/) has a wonderful website showing many ambitious boat builders ploughing down trees to get their catamaran to the water. While that would certainly not be our experience in Florida, land near the waterfront is pretty expensive, and we did not want a finished product that screamed ‘homemade!’
That settled, we proceeded to look for a builder to help us out.
Living aboard a boat, whether permanently or just for long cruising periods, is a delicate balance of comfort and convenience versus weight and performance. In other words, one can travel light and lean, living in survival mode, and improve the boat’s speed and performance, or one can load up on all the conveniences of life, and weigh the boat down so much that it cannot get out of its own way! Of course, a boat does not have the same amount of living space to start with, that most of us do, with a house, yard, and garage. (our son and daughter-in-law, in their Manhattan apartment, might come close, though!) While catamarans do have more space and storage than traditional monohull sailboats, space is still a limiting factor. Most cruisers settle for some compromise between survivalist and luxury; thus we needed a list to help pare down what goes aboard.
Raised helm with central controls.
There is a philosophical component to putting together such a list, which quickly became apparent as we researched and contemplated our own. Among the sailing community there is deep division between the ends of this spectrum. Many sailors eschew all but the bare minimum and take pride in doing without all the conveniences of modern life. Others cannot bear to be separated from their full array of creature comforts, TVs, and electronic accoutrements. Most people, ourselves included, go cruising to try and eliminate the clutter of life, get ‘back to basics’ and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature, family, and travelling. We used to go camping for the same reasons, when our kids were little. Unfortunately, a computer and Internet are staples of keeping our business running, and these days, hand pumping a toilet and sleeping in 100% humidity is somehow no longer appealing. I’m beyond the point in life where I feel I have something to prove by suffering through it. (For those of you who knew me back when I was a snotty, rebellious teenager, yes, I have changed!) So, compromise is again the word of the day.
Luxurious main cabin – a home away from home.
The first things on our ‘must have’ list include whatever the latest technology is to maintain Internet connectivity. We don’t see ourselves not working (different than retiring!) any time soon, so this is at the top of the list. Currently when we charter, we always bring along our cell phone extender which gets mounted to the top of the mast, and increases our cell phone (and thus Internet) range substantially. Another category close to the top is marine electronics. While we don’t want to become the type of sailors that can't sense how to set the sails without checking the console, or tell that the water is too shallow by its colour, we do appreciate the advances in technology for what it brings to safety while sailing.
Owner's cabin with island bed.
Moving on to items in the comfort category, we have a watermaker on our list, which we feel is necessary for an adequate water supply. A watermaker will allow us to create fresh water from the frequent showers and rainfall of the tropics, and supplement what we can carry in tanks. When we cruise, we don’t usually go into severe water conservation mode, as many cruisers do. Obviously, we don’t take 30 minute showers, and I have no problem, when in the clean, clear waters of the Caribbean, using biodegradable soap and shampoo to wash up in the ocean, and then rinsing in fresh water. But I am NOT going to bed coated with sticky salt!
This discussion leads right into the inclusion of a mini clothes washer/dryer on our list. Many people we’ve spoken to have poo-pooed the idea of having a clothes washer and dryer aboard. Their solution? Take extra clothes, towels, and suits, and just do masses of laundry whenever you come to a port. This is fine if you are cruising for one or two weeks, but not realistic if you are going for a month or living aboard. It starts to become a trade-off of space: dirty laundry/extra clothes vs. the convenience/expense. We’re going for the washer/dryer! Remember, no judging! There’s no right and wrong answer here, just compromise.
Plenty of space for lazing around.
Electric versus manual heads (on board boats, toilets are called heads) to me is a no-brainer. Why would I want to spend many minutes in a hot, stuffy bathroom, pumping out a toilet, when I can just press a button? This needs very little discussion, in my mind. We once visited a friend’s boat which had three heads. One (his, of course) was electric. The other two were manual. Guess which two were clogged? Yep, the manual ones. Okay, I was judging just a bit there ...
Moving on to recreation, work, and sentimentality, we can score points because books and photos are easily stored electronically, or better yet in ‘the cloud’. (Clouds take up very little room on a boat!) And with NetFlix and Amazon, our ‘TV’ can be combined with a computer screen, which doubles as a console for the marine electronics. Our client files and documents are securely stored on a hosted computer somewhere on land (or in a ‘cloud’), which I can easily access via my iPad or Smartphone. So no filing cabinets or bookshelves needed on board. I'm still trying to talk Comcast into hosting our DVR, so I can ‘log in’ and watch my recorded TV; we're working on it.
Flat and clear decks – also notice custom windows to allow heaps of light into interior.
And so it goes. The idea of a ‘Must Have’ or ‘Can't Do Without’ list is really something worth considering. It is a very cathartic experience to whittle down one's life to an acceptable minimum designed to fit comfortably into a small space. Even if you are not actually moving onto a boat yourself, there is a lot to be gained from such a mental exercise.
You can follow our progress, lend your help and comments, ask questions, and vicariously sail along with us on our journey. http://fusion40adventure.blogspot.com