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Moonwave Gunboat 60

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We recently caught up with the crew of Moonwave, a Gunboat 60. A big thank you to Sophie and Seb for this fascinating insight into sailing one of these beautiful luxury performance catamarans. Do we have job envy? You bet!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and Moonwave. It must be a pleasure to work on the boat, how long have you been sailing on her? She’s 60-03 right? When was she launched?
The answer to this question will probably surprise many in the yachting industry as almost 9 years on the same boat is a long time. I (Sophie) joined the project back in spring 2012 and Sebastien came on board about a year later.

Moonwave was launched in 2012, she was the first of the series to go in the water. Since that date she has never stopped improving: we have done many upgrades and modifications over the years. This has ranged from improvement readily available on the market to the design of specific custom projects & parts. The most spectacular has been the hybrid system, of course but others like the steering system have been well deserved successful projects. You can follow up on all of these improvements on moonwave.com

Do you both tend to sail her or does the owner take over when on the boat. How does that work? How did you end up sailing Moonwave?
The owner of Moonwave loves the boat and what she represents, and so it is natural that he loves to sail and take the helm when he is onboard. Moonwave is so much fun to sail that we love to share this.

We always try to involve the guests, they get their turn at the helm going full blast and the resulting smile is always a great reward for us. And then there are those times when only the 2 of us have to sail Moonwave: 2020 was unfortunately a long year where no-one could join us on board due to the restrictions. So only the 2 of us crossed oceans.

This is nothing to brag about as we meet lots of cruisers who do this all of the time, and right now there is this race called the Vendee Globe where they sail single handed in the high latitudes at insane speeds! But people often ask this question: “Can you sail this boat with only 2 of you?” And the answer is simply: “Yes!”, but we have to be modest about it because really Moonwave is doing it all.

We just have to feed her with some wind and make sure she is in good shape at all times, and off she goes.

What has been your most memorable crossing. Do you have a favourite anchorage?
That’s a tricky question. We have lots of great memories on board Moonwave. We love to anchor in the turquoise blue water of the Bahamas. Recently we have fallen in love with French Polynesia. Thailand was also a highlight… As you can see, it’s hard to choose, there are just so many beautiful anchorages around. A good anchorage from our point of view is quiet, with good holding, a nice breeze and warm clear water. Lots of places fall into this category 😉

How does Moonwave sail? Is she a difficult boat to manage?

In short, a performance catamaran like Moonwave needs a lot of attention but she is easy to sail. There are 2 different aspects to consider.

The first one is preparation and maintenance, and this part requires constant attention, involvement, effort, organization and finance. This is why these high end cats, despite what the builder/sales team will tell you, require a full time presence and if you do not have this kind of time you are going to need crew.

The second aspect is the pure sailing/navigation, and this entirely depends on the program. A racing program brings its own difficulties, but if we are only talking cruising and simple navigation, she is the easiest thing to sail.

With the level of technology available today you could easily fool a beginner into thinking he knows how to sail after spending few hours onboard Moonwave.

Can you talk us through some of the sails that you have in the locker. What is your favourite sail?
Our ‘motto” is to keep things simple and versatile. We are not racing and therefore we try to keep the number of sails to a minimum as sails are heavy and take a lot of space. Our furled Solent is always ready to be deployed and it’s our work horse when things get complicated: it comes out. We have a J1 and a A3 that are also furling sails. And an A2 (300 sqm) in a sock and soon a new smaller storm spinnaker in a sock as well. The main sails has 3 reefs with hooks and we also have a lock system for the main sail from Rigging Projects.

Have you ever flown a hull? Is she easy to sail safely?
Yes, we have flown a hull but often avoid doing it. As we are mostly in full cruising mode with toys, tender, wine, food and lots of amenities on board, we don’t want to stress the boat too much. But in light mode, it’s not that difficult to fly a hull.

What’s the best thing about Moonwave?
The fact that Moonwave became “easy” through all the development we put into her. This breaks down in different aspects: sailing performance (also in light winds), comfort and the hybrid propulsion system (bringing a level of comfort that a standard propulsion system would have difficulties to match at the same weight). Reliability and all the maintenance on board so as to have easy access to systems with good build quality and choice of materials has resulted in a massive improvement in reliability and she is a pleasure to operate.

What would you change if anything on the basic design? Maybe you wouldn’t change anything?
Moonwave has gone through a lot of modifications in recent years and the layout works really well. It’s interesting as the design of the Gunboat 60 was an evolution of the previous models (Gunboat 62s and 66) and they nailed the ergonomics and the use of space and volume very well. It’s a pity that they threw a lot of “working” concepts overboard with the new designs. I guess the logical next thing to do is go up in size.

Does she carry weight well, or do you have to be careful to not overload her with gear?
Moonwave is a performance catamaran and so “weight” is not a good thing. We managed to remove 3.5 t during the big refit in France in 2017/18 so she is nicely floating on her lines. But, here comes the “but”: we still need to keep an eye on not to overload her too much. At the moment we are sailing around the world in more or less remote places, so we have a lot of spare parts and tools on board. We can feel the difference when all the tanks are full and we are fully loaded with food for a long passage.

What are some of the features of Moonwave that you really appreciate compared to a more “run of the mill” catamaran?
The list is too long to start answering this question. And it is also not a fair question towards production catamarans as all of this comes at a price.

If you were to pick one Nigel Irens piece of design that you admire the most, what would that be?
We love the “hull lines” of Nigel and he did some great boats. IDEC is one of them – a record breaking trimaran.

Is she easy to maintain? Servicing engines, standing rigging etc
During the refit in France, we put a lot of effort into making all the systems easily accessible and invested into quality and simplicity over redundancy. It’s much better to have one big water maker where you can change the filters in less than 5 min than having two water makers and you need to take the boat apart to get to them.

Simplicity is actually more difficult to achieve on a boat than complexity. Everything is accessible on board and maintenance times are cut down by the fact that you can reach all the components. Most boat yards only keep their installation time in mind but not maintenance and use of the systems through out the life of the boat. We managed to redesign all the systems and install them strategically – that’s a big change and one of the reasons why we love to work on board Moonwave.

Is she easy to sail short-handed? To shorten sail? Is the running rigging complex? How do you like the helm position and forward workspace arrangement? How is the feel at the helm?
I guess the best answer to this question is the fact that we just sailed 15000 nm double handed in 2020. We really like the forward working cockpit as it “safe” and well arranged.

We also have some Hydraulic systems which make handling the mainsail almost a push button job (not our favorite part). Reefing is a two person job, could be done alone but I always make sure that the mainsail is not caught in the reef locks and that it nicely arranged in the boom. We have great walky talkies for these occasions, and they help a lot. Other than that, it’s fairly easy to reduce sail.

We have powerful electric winches so you need to know what you are “doing” and be attentive to each manoeuver as the loads are impressive. The feel at the helm is great. It might take some time to get used to the indoor helm but it’s great once you figured out where to look and get the information from. The recent upgrade of the rudder bearings did a great job in smoothing the feeling at the helm and Moonwave is very reactive. We actually have been contacted several times on the rudder systems and the last time was a naval architect office. We are really proud of the work achieved there and the fact that it is recognized.

What’s she like in heavy weather / a blow / big seas?
We have been through very few strong storms. We are still here with Moonwave to talk about it, so that must be a good sign. The storm subject is so relative to the circumstances it is difficult to say. In any case Seb has been in very large storm and for him it is unacceptable to be in a storm with all the technology and tools available onboard that allow us to avoid them.

How does she sail in light winds?
Amazing, she just need 5 knots of wind and you are going 6.5 to 7 knots of boatspeed in a lot of configurations. One of the main reason we rarely motor as the light wind performances are really great.

Typically, what’s your average speed on passage? What´s the top speed you have logged surfing?
This question is always tricky as it all depends on the wind and conditions. Our recent passages in the Pacific and Indian Ocean have been very light in wind so the fact that we didn’t have to motor is already great. But during the first part of the Pacific we had days above 300NM. For the top speed, we have hit the 30 knots before and she easily sails in the high 20’s without effort [also short handed].

What’s she like under power? Speed, manouevrability?
The electric propulsion helps for maneuverability with its high torque. The electric engines are powerful but quiet. We only ever use the engines to get on or off the dock and for anchoring or channels (when sailing is not allowed) but other than that we mostly sail. Moonwave gets moving easily in light winds so why bother using the engines when you can use the sails and wind?

Is she easy to dock, what’s the visibility like?
Sebastien, the captain, is a very experienced and so docking looks easy when he does it 😉 The electric engines are a big advantage for docking as they can turn very slowly if necessary and have a lot of torque. No need to “shift into and out of gear” like with a conventional propulsion system. The visibility from the indoor helm is very good and Sebastien often prefers to go in reverse as he can see both transoms from the helm. A nice feature is the hull window just below the step into the hulls. It is perfectly aligned to see the dock from the helm – not sure if this was actually planned or just a very lucky design feature.

What is she like at anchor? Where do people tend to end up on the boat? What´s your favourite spot?
The advantage of a catamaran at anchor is the space and the stability. From the salon there is a 360 degree view which makes it very nice.
Most guests spend their time in the aft cockpit or the salon area. We also spent countless nights sleeping on the spinnaker bags/trampoline.

What´s she like when it´s raining hard?
In fact this is a funny question as we just made ourselves an awning over the forward cockpit. Here in Bali it is rainy season, and I mean rainy!!!! And we had the issue that facing the wind we had to close the forward cockpit doors to avoid the rain inside. And as it is very hot here it was unbearable, hence the idea of the forward awning, so now it is DRY and VENTILATED. It can rain cats and dogs now it will only go through the drains. (we had not planned to be in South East Asia during rainy season but we adapted our plans).
When sailing we just keep the doors shut and stay by the indoor helm.

Is she comfortable down below? Cabins/saloon/galley/heads.
From our perspective yes but we notice that most of our guests and ourselves love to live “outdoors”. The salon gives you also an “outdoor feeling” with the doors and the big windows opened in the back and the 360 degree view. And it has the advantage of being protected from the sun, same for the aft cockpit.

Is she good for entertaining and preparing food?
Yes, the galley is in the salon and it is really well set up. We have a big induction stove, an oven/microwave combo, two double drawer fridges and all the nice amenities to have (coffee maker, toaster, blender, kettle). There is sufficient storage and we have optimized the available space over the years and it’s a nice set-up for preparing meals. Washing dishes is an other topic 😉

Can you tell us a bit about Moonwave´s luxury features – entertainment, communication systems for example.
Moonwave has a nice audio system (Sonos), Sat internet (Certus) etc. and these items get changed a lot as the owner likes to test the latest technology on board. The next thing we will want to try is OSCAR (collision avoidance).

What kind of modifications have you done and why? Can you tell us a bit about the hybrid propulsion system?
The list of all the modifications would take too long. Some of the big items are the “daggerboards” (so much better in performance, handling, maintenance, weight than the original centerboards), our lighter fishbone boom (instead of the heavy original park avenue), the titanium rudder bearings and the several upgrades of the hybrid system.

Moonwave has always been fitted with a hybrid system but we did a lot of research & development over the years and especially with Torqeedo. The actual Deep Blue Hybrid System works great and give a lot of comfort for the boat handling but especially for life on board. Lots of battery power is available for the watermaker, cooking, washing machine etc. which adds to the efficiency at anchor and offshore. We “tested” the self efficiency in 2020 by being at sea and anchor for 116 days in a row without touching land. Have a look in the news section of the website to learn more about this time on board. (Lifeaboard, Lockdown & Autonomie, March to July 2020) & ABC of Quarantine at Anchor (March to June 2020).

There are also a couple of blog entries that explain the Hybrid System in details and if they are further questions, please don’t hesitate to come back to us.

Are there plans for further customisation?
For the moment we are cruising in more or less remote areas and no big modifications are planned.

Would you swap her for another Gunboat? Or maybe you wouldn’t swap her?
We really “love” Moonwave so we haven’t thought about this…

How is the Gunboat Community?
The Gunboat Community is very a nice crowd, some are more competitive (racing) than others. The community has definitively changed a lot over the years. It’s always a pleasure to spot an other Gunboat and they are sailing all over the world. We are even docked next to one in Bali right now 🙂

More Information
To follow Moonwave, head to Moonwave.com. They have a great news section.

You can also follow them on Facebook (search “Crew Moonwave”) and Twitter @gunboat60.