For years we nursed the dream of selling everything and going sailing. We weren't sure exactly where, but we knew our house wouldn't float, so a boat was in order. But which one? There seemed to be thousands of choices. Like many, I first thought a big, strong, steel monohull. Then we saw a few. My wife is easy going, but put her foot down when it came to living in a 'deep, dark hole'. I felt the dream slipping away.
Fortunately, we arranged to see a catamaran a few days later. The salon was bright and airy, the ride was flat, things stayed where they were placed. One could sail and cook, sail and walk around, sail and live all at the same time. We were converted.
After spending a few years test-driving the idea with a partnership boat, we realized the kids were getting older and our knees were getting weaker by the day. But which boat to choose? For us, these were the essentials:
We looked at numerous boats in Annapolis, Newport and Miami. We didn't really want a charter boat design, but none of the owner-centered layouts had enough sleeping room for kids and visiting family/friends.
Then we found this boat. She was a Jeanneau Lagoon 47. I had never heard of a Jeanneau catamaran. In conjunction with her bigger sister, the Lagoon 55, these were both the founders of the Lagoon series and built by Jeanneau before they were bought out by Beneteau a few years later. Rumor had it that they had carbon fiber in key stress areas, dual anchoring systems, dual water systems, dual fuel systems and a heavy rig with dual gear-driven steering. These features make sense if you sit down to build a great catamaran, but have long since been 'economized' out of modern production catamarans. We decided it was worth a look.
Compared to the Fountaine Pajot we owned previously, she felt rock solid, sailed like she was on rails and lay quietly at anchor. Her staterooms had ample berths, and good ventilation. The heads were small, but workable. The galley felt huge, was open and airy and featured a top of the line stove, generous counter space and huge cold storage compartments (we subsequently used for canned good storage). We didn't care for her rounded salon seating and wished for more headroom in the doorways, but every boat has its tradeoffs. We came away impressed and soon inked the deal.
Then the whirlwind of moving aboard came. There were boat issues, there were cultural issues, family issues, stuff issues and separation issues. Three years later, we look back and see some mistakes we made, some things we should have fixed sooner and some things we should have done differently. But the boat wasn't one of them. Day in, day out for over 12,000 sailing miles she has delivered. In sudden 40 knot gusts and huge seas, trailing bull Mahi Mahi in the Gulf Stream, reaching under bluebird skies in soft breezes off the Bahamas, threading through rocky Maine passages under full sail and humming quietly under the bridges of Norfolk's industrial district she has met or exceeded our expectations.
Sure, there were some bad days, UV covers shredded, ignition wiring snafus, the accidental gybe in 30 knots surfing 15 foot waves at 2am that yanked the preventer so hard it ripped a deck cleat out. But, this is normal sailing stuff common to any boat that isn't chained to a marina. We don't know if the shore power connection works because we have never used it. The previous owner didn't know either, because he had never tried it. If this shocks you, find a marina bound boat with air conditioning and a lawn growing on its bottom. Our boat is not for you.
We have since seen many, many more cruising boats and had long conversations with their owners. We have compared lessons, notes and troubles and, at the end of the day, want no other vessel. Most of our cruising brethren leave with envious eyes. We have had many "boat swap" offers made with a joking smile. We have had several serious offers to sell a half, or quarter, of her to cruising friends headed back to the cubicle.
If we were going to cruise for another decade, this would be our craft. But the itch has been scratched, family ties call and it's time to write a new chapter. Perhaps she'll be part of your story.
In short, everything you need to cruise will be aboard when you arrive. The only exception would be a laptop with proper charting software capable of receiving USB inputs for 3D GPS and AIS receivers. An iPad would be a smart option as well. Initially, we shopped around for expensive proprietary electronic systems, but started using the laptop, then an iPad and now it's all we use. We have each loaded with different charts and we cross reference them when necessary. In order of importance:
A walk-through tour of the boat just before our purchase in May 2010; doesn't show much detail, but gives a better sense of scale than individual photos.