Lots of options

One of the objectives of visiting the Outremer factory and test sailing a 5X, was to get the information we needed to select the options we will be installing on Wildling during construction. Although the 5X is a series production boat, and not a custom build, there are still many options that each owner can select that will affect the way the finished boat will perform, and how well it will fit with the intended usage. For example, a boat that is used by a large group of people for short durations in a limited cruising area, would be configured differently than a boat sailed long distances by a small family of full time cruisers. Knowing which option to select for what purpose, takes a mixture of experience, research, and advice from people you trust, that understand your requirements. I relied on all three to make our option decisions. After sailing a 5X and talking with other owners about their experiences and meeting with numerous people at the Outremer factory, I was able to answer the remaining questions that I couldn’t resolve at a distance. Again, I found the Outremer folks to be really helpful during this process. In this post, I’ll provide a list of the various types of options available, and in future posts, I’ll go into more detail on some of the choices and tradeoffs that we made. The options offered by Outremer on the 5X, generally fit into the following categories:

  1. Performance and handling
  2. Long distance voyaging
  3. Comfort and convenience

Let’s take a look at what Outremer offers in each of these areas: Performance and handling options This is where the bulk of the attention is focused. For a given hull design, performance of a catamaran is the result of the weight of the boat and the amount of sail area deployed. Too heavy and the boat slows down and the motion increases, which slows the boat down further. Weight is the number one enemy of performance on a catamaran, and Outremer provides a lot of assistance when fitting out each boat, as every item that is available for the 5X is listed with the price and the weight. In some cases the weight is negative, which allows a weight savings over the standard specifications. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any cases where the price was negative! Some of the choices available to build a light boat are:

  • Using carbon fiber instead of conventional fiberglass and epoxy laminate for some of the structural bulkheads and the salon roof can save over 250 kg
  • Swapping the standard aluminum mast for a carbon mast and using kevlar shrouds (cables that hold up the mast) instead of stainless steel saves another 280 kg
  • Using Lithium batteries instead of the standard lead acid batteries saves around 140 kg

Of course it makes no sense to save all that weight, and then fill the boat up with systems and gear that weigh it down again. Some of the things we had on our last boat that we won’t be adding:

  • No clothes washer & dryer – These are heavy, use a lot of energy and water, and we found we hardly ever used ours on the last boat. Whenever we were at an anchorage we were always able to find a laundromat or local laundry service.
  • No scuba compressor or scuba tanks – Instead we will have a surface air (hookah) system, which is small, light and uses very little energy. We found that during our last cruise, we mostly went snorkeling, and in 90% of cases when we went diving with tanks on our own, a surface air system would have been just as good. We also found we preferred diving with the shore based dive operations whenever we were in a location with good diving, as we were able to use their tanks and air, their boat, and their knowledge of the best dive sites.
  • No generator – No Scuba tanks, dive compressor or clothes washer means we don’t need a generator, so that’s another 250 kg saved, along with all of the fuel, spare parts and work needed to keep it running.

Long distance voyaging options These options cover things that make it easier and safer to sail long distances with minimal crew. Things like:

  • Reverse osmosis watermaker
  • Sail inventory and reefing systems to handle a full range of conditions, from a light breeze to a full gale, and everything in between
  • Electric winches to make it easier to raise and trim the sails. Particularly for younger crew
  • Seats at the wheel helms
  • Dodgers over the wheel helms to protect from sun and rain
  • The size of the engines, their fuel economy and range and the propeller design
  • Electronic instruments and navigation systems
  • Satellite and radio communications
  • The type of dinghy and motor and the system for raising and lowering it and securing it rough seas
  • The anchoring system
  • The type and size of the refrigeration equipment
  • Electrical generation systems: solar, hydro and engine driven
  • Safety equipment

Comfort and convenience options Although these add some weight, there’s a minimum set of comforts that we aren’t willing to live without. Our list includes:

  • Air conditioning. We usually don’t need this at sea or at anchor, because there is nearly always a breeze. But at a dock or marina this is a must!
  • Microwave. Robin and I have gone back and forth on this for years. Robin won! 🙂
  • Media system – TV, Stereo and speakers
  • Convertible dining table that can be made into a queen size bed for guests
  • Electric toilets
  • Full set of blinds for the salon windows
  • Awning system for the cockpit

In addition to all of this, there are the choices for cushions, fabrics and internal surfaces, and also logo artwork on the hulls and sails. Some of the choices we had to make were really complicated and took a lot of discussions to weigh up all the pros and cons. I’ll go into more detail on these in future posts.

Test sailing

I just got back home to Brisbane after a busy few days in France with the folks at Outremer. I had an excellent visit, and was able to spend a day on board the 5X, Addiction to really get a feel for how the boat sails and to help us make some decisions about the feature options that we are considering for Wildling.

Here’s some video I took of the test sail. I apologize for my lack of skill with the video camera, I promise to do better next time! 🙂

All in all, I was very impressed, not only with the 5X, she is a beautifully designed and constructed boat, but also with the Outremer team and their construction operations. The care and detail they put into building their boats is very impressive, and it really shows in the finished product.

I also really appreciate their collaborative design process. They were very happy to discuss all my ideas, and were comfortable telling me when things made sense, and when their experience has proven that something wouldn’t work. This is exactly what I am looking for in a builder, and I left feeling confident that they will deliver us a boat that fits perfectly with our needs.

So we finalized the purchase contract and locked everything in, and now we’re on our way! There are some design issues that I will need to work out with them before we start construction, and I’ll write more about those in another post.

Getting ready for a test sail

Well, we’ve signed the contract and paid the deposit, but there’s still one condition that we have to satisfy before we are 100% committed, and that’s a test sail. Because the performance and sailing abilities of our boat are so important to me, I need to sail a 5X before we give the final go ahead to start construction.

I’ve been in Stockhom, Sweden for the past week for work, but on Tuesday I’m headed to Marseille for a few days to visit the Outremer factory and sail a 5X. I’ll be taking plenty of video and photos to share when I’m done.

The Outremer guys have arranged for me to sail Addiction which is the closest configuration they have built to what Wildling will be, in that Addiction is equipped with many of the performance and weight saving options that I am choosing for Wildling. I’m really looking forward to it!

Here’s a video of Addiction sailing at 18 to 20 knots of speed so you can get an idea of what’s in store! In fact, this is the video that convinced me I had to own a 5X. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it. Going 20 knots in a cruising sailboat!?! OMG, I have to have one!!!  (yes, I realize I have a problem).

More about Wildling

I added some details and pictures of our new boat, and the decisions Robin and I had to make in order to choose which one to buy. You can find them here.

Welcome aboard

Welcome to our blog, where we will be sharing our adventures building, launching and sailing our new catamaran, which we have named Wildling.

We recently sold our former sailing catamaran, Zangezi, after an incredible 4 years and 4,000 nautical miles of sailing around Australia and South East Asia. When we arrived in Singapore at the end of our voyage through Indonesia, our intention was to take a month off to visit family back in Australia, and then continue on to the Philippines. Unfortunately, typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and created so much devastation that we had to delay our plans until things settled down.

During this time, the kids went back to school and I went back to work, and the plans for our continued voyage seemed to be moving out of reach. We considered exploring SE Asia during our vacation time, but increasing reports of piracy around the Philippines and the areas we most wanted to visit made that unsafe and out of the question.

Since our long term objective has always been to cruise the South Pacific from the Galapogos to Australia via Tahiti and Fiji, we decided to explore the options for making that voyage a reality at some point in the future. There was no way for us to sail Zangezi eastwards, and we didn’t want to continue west beyond Asia, which involves running the pirate gauntlet to reach the Med, so we decided that rather than have Zangezi sit in Singapore, not being used, which was really heartbreaking, we would sell her and buy a boat in a more suitable starting location for our intended voyage.

And so we came to the decision to purchase a boat in France, and to spend our vacation time exploring the Mediterranean until we’re ready personally and professionally to set off westwards, across the Atlantic and into the Pacific. We don’t know when that will be, but right now the important thing is that we are on the path towards it.

After a lot of research and discussions we decided to purchase a new boat, rather than used, which means that it will take a while before we will be sailing again, but the project of building new really appeals to us both as we can get closer to what we really want. For many reasons which I won’t go into here, but will describe in detail in other areas of the site, we decided on an Outremer 5X catamaran. Since we’re not in a rush, we decided to schedule construction to begin next March, with a planned launch date in December 2015.

Between now and then, we will be posting updates on the construction during our visits to the factory in France. I’ll focus more on the technical details of the design and the options available when building this class of offshore sailboat, and Robin will give her perspective on how crazy I am to want to buy a 59 foot boat that can sail almost as fast as the true windspeed, but more importantly, how she is fitting out Wildling so we will be safe and comfortable during our long ocean passages.

We’ve learned a lot during the last 4 years, so we really know what works for us, and what doesn’t. We hope to share all of that with you during this project, and give you a sense of what cruising and crossing oceans together as a family is really like.

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