3 ½ minute read Windelo, the French performance catamaran yard who are based in Canet-en-Roussillon, have announced the sale of their third boat, a Windelo 54 catamaran. It will be available for charter in the Îles de Hyères Bay.
The new customers are two couples who were drawn to the Open design and the eco credentials of the Windelo brand and have made the decision to invest in a catamaran business together. Production of the boat has started and it is due to be launched in the summer of 2021.
This will be the first Windelo to be put into Charter Management, so if you fancy a week long test of this cat, now could be a good time to book!
The Windelo 54 Yachting will be managed by APACA Catamaran, a charter management company, who will rent her with a skipper around Îles de Hyères Bay.
The owners are planning to explore the western Mediterranean, heading to the islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros, Corsica, Sardinia, the Balaerics and along the Italian and Catalan coasts. You might spot her in Cadaques.
Windelo and their new customers will be working together to promote the Windelo range, chartering the yacht and organizing sea trials for new customers interested in the brand.
They have yet to decide on a name for their new Windelo 54, but she will be fitted with 4 cabins with double beds, two shower rooms and two separate heads. The skipper will have a cabin with an ensuite shower and heads in the starboard hull. The nacelle will be fitted with rear tilt-up door, opening the space up to a 360° view, maximising the space between the interior and exterior and making a great living platform at anchor.
She will come with an electric power unit with extended range. The coachroof of the Windelo 54 offers plenty of space for 3326W solar panels.
She will be powered by two 24kW electric engines, capable of charging via hydrogeneration, and will have a solid cruising range. The batteries can be recharged when the catamaran is under sail. The power from hydrogeneration unit will be supplemented by solar panels: generators will only be used as a last resort back-up, after several hours of running the electric engines for example.
The generators will bring the boat’s range to about 1,100 nautical miles, but the idea of this boat is to get the sails up in light winds to minimise your fuel bill and carbon footprint.
The catamaran’s winches are also fully electric.
The Windelo 54 was designed by Christophe Barreau and Frédéric Neuman, who are famous for their high-performance catamaran designs.
This 54 “Yachting” version is the most luxurious Windelo model available, kitted out with high-spec materials and equipment and higher comfort levels.
The 360° Windelo Modular Space
The architects have created an open cockpit and living space combined with a helm station, opening fully onto the sea. It’s an innovative solution that give you lots of living space.
In the words of Christophe Barreau: “The team really welcomed new ideas with regard to how space was organized and this helped us to develop a really original concept that leverages all the positive features of the catamaran.”
The result is a single, interconnected space including the cockpit and galley, with a 360° view of the sea, and retractable bulkheads opening the interior up to outside at anchor
Open Day – Every Friday by Appointment
The build has already started. If you would like to to see the first Windelo 50 Adventure, you can arrange to see one that will remain in Canet until the summer of 2021. And, of course, the current Windelo 54 Yachting build is available to see: you just need to make an appointment and Windelo will show you around the factory and design office where you will be able to meet the design and production teams to get a deeper understanding of the innovative design and build process and the high level of quality.
APACA Catamaran (Agence Pasquier Catamaran) was the first company to sell and charter cruising catamarans in the Mediterranean. Since 1985, this company has been well known for its professionalism. Its headquarters are on the port of Hyères les Palmiers in the Var department. www.apaca.fr
Windelo Catamaran has been based in Canet-en-Roussillon since 2019. It is a recently established boatyard, building comfortable, innovative, high-performance ecological catamarans. After many years of research on eco-friendly materials with the Ecole Nationale des Mines d’Alès and guided by strong family values, Olivier Kauffmann and his son Gautier Kauffmann, who are both passionate about sailing, founded Windelo to build comfortable environmentally-friendly recreational craft.
5 Minute Read 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! You can also read our Gunboat 60 review if you are interested in this yacht.
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.
The G-Force 1400 is one of the best known of the Schionning Designs with many of them racing in Australian and Asian regattas. The design is available in a Cruise variant (G-Force 1400 C) which carries more payload and has more space for cruising toys.
Interview with Andrew Rogers
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your plans. Why did you decide to build a Schionning catamaran? I’m a Professional Boatbuilder who has built 6 Schionning cats and been involved with 3 more, also built 2 of his mast designs.
Which model did you last build? The last cat I built was a Schionning G-Force 14C which was set up for single handed sailing with electric drives
Were there any other brands you considered? An Outremer catamaran, but I decided it was too heavy and slow.
Did you consider using a yard for the build? Any you would recommend? Yes, Noosa marine or myself.
Did you consider buying a second hand yacht? No.
How long did she take to build? 2 1/2 years because of complications, I wasn’t there at the start and had to pick the projects up after someone that was not able to finish the project.
Can you share some of the challenges you have faced /expect to face on a project like this? Building the boat under staffed and short on good Boatbuilders in an isolated community.
How much space do you need for a build like this? We had a 18 metre x 16 metre insulated shed that could have been 3 metres wider to make life a little less cramped
In your opinion, what kind of experience is required to successfully pull off a project such as this? Attention to detail and a drive to succeed
Are you completing the build on your own or do you have a team? Completed with a team…it’s a long road, it’s about a 25,000 man hour job to complete successfully.
Can you give us an idea of the rough price differential between a self build and a comparable manufactured cat? That’s a hard question for me, I have never priced a manufactured boat directly against a totally self built one.. but a professionally built boat that is customised for the owner will start at about 20% dearer and go up in my experience
What is the best thing about the design? If the weight is kept out of these boats they sail remarkably well, we can sail over 20 knots in 15 knots true with code 3 and main reaching and in 5 to 8 knots we achieve 6 knots up wind, production boats don’t even come close without motoring
What are the main advantages of a self-build catamaran like this over a production cat? Customisation.
Is there a design feature you don´t like? What would you change if anything? We widen the cabin top to get better access into the holes and widen the decks to make it more user friendly.
What are the “Must Have” options for the boat over and above the essentials? eg electric winch, engine size, folding props, heating, watermaker, inverter, solar, gen set etc…. Keep things simple and light and don’t get caught up with all the bells and whistles as you will be way too heavy. A heavy boat means a slow boat. Also forget about electric winches, We use an electric winch handle made by Milwaukee Tools….This saves a lot of weight and expense and turns every winch into an electric winch
How did you configure the helm? Twin outboard homes so we can see the sails and ease of docking. Was configured with dynema to quadrants each side with a link bar between, which gives you nice light responsive steering.
How will you configure the living space – is there room for personalisation here? Keep it simple, light and airy, and don’t fill it full of lockers to store excess stuff for the sake of it that you will never use
What kind of average speed on passage are you aiming for? Over 10 kts
How is the Schionning Owner´s community? Good.
Anything else you would add to help people thinking of building a Schionning? Don’t get conned into going too big!
Every now and then we run a short feature on noteable semi- custom catamarans.
Say hello to “Skimmer”, a 76 foot performance catamaran from South Africa: a Balance 760.
This cat yacht has plenty of space for luxury cruising. Balance 760s are semi-custom, like most Balance boats: you can from two to five cabins. In the two-cabin version, each hull is a huge private suite.
All of the sail lines lead back to the flybridge helm.
LOA 22.00 m / 72.18 ft LWL 21.15m / 69.36 ft Beam Overall / 10.58 m 34.71 ft Beam Hull CL / 8.00 m 26.25 ft Hull Beam 2.58 m / 8.46 ft Freeboard (Bow) / 1.93 m 6.33 ft Freeboard (Aft) / 1.48 m 4.86 ft Hull draft 0.64 m / 20.09 ft Draft 1.80 m / 5.91 ft Air draft 32.33 m / 106.06 ft Bridgedeck Clearance / 1.20 m 3.94 ft Displacement (DWL) 25.5 tonnes / 56, 228 lbs Sail Area Total 300.2 m2 / 3230 ft2 Mainsail 190.3 m2 / 2048 ft2 Sail Area (100% Foretriangle) 109.9 m2 / 1183 ft2 Power 2 x 132 kW / 2 x 180 hp Fresh Water 2300 L / 630 US Gallons Fuel 3800 L / 940 US Gallons Holding Tanks 394 litres 58 US Gallons
When you are seeing true wind speeds of 18 knots put in the first reef
When the wind gets to 22 knots it is time for reef number 2. Then manage by reducing the solent up to 60% up to 28 to 30 knots TWS.
When the wind is hits 28 to 30 knots TWS put in the third reef
When the true wind speed is 30 Knots and gusting, it is time to furl the jib away and sail with a fully reefed mainsail only
In very windy conditions the fully reefed main can be set to luff and spill wind (going upwind) or sheeted in going down wind which will allow you to sail in very strong winds without damaging the rig or sails. Or get the mainsail down and run before the wind bare poles, trailing a drogue.
In a Squall / Gust
If you spot a nasty squall coming, prepare early. Furl the jib in and head onto a beam reach. Spill the wind by luffing the main and keep it on a beam reach through the squall. Unfurl the headsail, once the squall has gone through.
We spent 6 or so hours in La Línea de Concepción opposite Gibraltar for a well earned cold beer and some tapas (it’s tough to find anywhere open at 10pm in this town, it’s no Madrid) and after a short kip on Gecko we set off for Fuengirola at 3.30 in the morning on the 21st November 2019.
Then we all stood watch as we threaded our way through the tankers and container boats in Algeciras Bay, rounded the Peninsula and headed North-East to the Costa de Sol (no sun though) on a wet but calm passage north-east, picking through the local fishing boats.
Mid morning, after an uneventful motor sail along the coast we finally reached Fuengirola in pouring rain, 19 days after first arriving in La Rochelle. All the crew at this point needed a break from the delivery after so many delays due to the weather – there was not much left in the tank. I booked Gecko in for a couple of weeks in Puerto Deportivo Fuengirola (that was a mistake- more on that later) and we all headed our separate ways to catch up with family commitments: Jim back to Yorkshire, Pedro to Barcelona and me to the UK.
Although we hadn´t made it all the way round, we still felt good about getting the boat round to Andulucia in such adverse weather conditions. Hopefully from here on up it would all be plain sailing, but before that a break and a close watch on the weather conditions.
Delivering “Gecko”, a Nautitech 40 Open catamaran from La Rochelle to Barcelona: the fourth leg.
Once we’d arrived in Vigo and moored up at the excellent Real Club Nautico de Vigo after another eventful crossing, the plan was to head for a shower, and then do the provisioning for the next leg south. Oh and try and find a phone shop to replace my mobile which had died in the waves coming out of La Coruña.
In the end, we made the shower, but all the other plans were trumped by an offer from an old Galician friend of Pedro´s for lunch at his restaurant in the “Celtic Territory” of Vigo, 30 minutes drive inland from the marina. And this turned into an all day (and night) event helped along by quite a bit of the locally produced moonshine. We never made the supermarket or the phone shop.
We did, however, get to discuss the relative pros and cons of the British and Spanish empires, Galician and Catalan independence and how to measure the alcohol content of the local brew (pick a number between 40 and 60 % depending on your timing of extraction).
When we had pulled into Gijon on the 13th and survived the Bay of Biscay, I remember talking to the other guys, something along the lines of: “Hmm, that was an experience, but at least it should be plain sailing from here”.
Well, that’s the last time I tempt Neptune with a line like that, because things were about to get a whole lot more serious on this next leg.
We had been eyeing a weather window while in La Coruña that would allow us to nip along the coast to Gijon- some 120 nautical miles: 17 hours of sailing at an average speed of 7 knots. Although the weather had been pretty ferocious in La Coruña since our arrival with waves smashing over the sea wall and almost sweeping a van into the sea at one point, by Friday it had started to calm down to more moderate levels.
Looking at the forecasts on PredictWind and Windy, we decided to give it a go and continue along the coast and slipped the lines at around 16.30 in a breeze and headed out into the bay from the Real Club de La Coruña.
As soon as we got into some space, and still behind the sea wall in flat water, we raised the mainsail with one reef in (forecast 15 knots of wind). We soon lowered the sail and clipped in the second reef as we were hit by gusts of up to 22 knots and had to swerve around a big tanker in the bay. I was beginning to feel more concerned about the conditions – I had originally intended to pass downwind of the tanker, but there was so much weather-helm on the boat that I ended up passing it to windward.
Once we got out into the Bay, we realised that the conditions were pretty rough. The wind was blowing 25 knots and the sea-state was pretty angry. In hindsight, we should have made the 30 minute walk around the bay from the marina to double check the waves.
With 2 reefs in, some solent tucked in, and both engines running we started punching through the waves funneling into La Coruña. There are some nasty shallows in the Bay as you head out of the city which you need to navigate through. We’d seen some pretty big waves coming in 2 days earlier, breaking over the Bajo Cabanés. The sea state and waves were worse today.
As we got out into the Bay, we realised that we were fully committed as going beam on in these kinds of waves was just not an option. With 2 reefs in and both engines going, Gecko was now smashing into 5m waves and they were still building. We threaded our way along the deeper channels avoiding the shallows, tacking NE then NW and it was at this point I figured that the skipper Pedro had a different acceptable level of risk than I did. However, he was doing a great job navigating out into deep water, and as I said earlier, we were committed, so there was no real point in debating that one.
As we tucked in between 2 areas of low water through the deeper channels, the waves built to around 8 meters and things started to feel a whole lot like a roller coaster. Gecko was powering up the steep faces helped by the freshening wind, and we were smashing down the other side, often with both bows under the water as we hit the face of the next wave -pretty scary yet exhilarating at the same time: adrenaline levels were topped out at this point.
Pedro was on the starboard helm, while I was checking the charts on the port helm. I had my phone out at one point filming the proceedings: that was an error, as a big wave swept over the coach roof and onto the port helm: end of phone.
I don’t know how long it took us to get out of the Bay, it seemed like a long time, but was probably only 20-30 minutes. Once we started to get some offing into deeper water, the wave frequency decreased and things calmed down. The deeper we got , the safer we felt and there was a communal sigh of relief as we veered WNW to avoid the Bajos de Laixiñas, another area of relatively low water and the sea state calmed from high to very rough and then rough.
However, La Coruña wasn’t done with us yet: as we headed offshore the wind started to build to 28 knots from the North. On a close to beam reach, this had us right on the limit for the second reef with 60% solent, which covers you up to 35 knots apparent wind speed. On some of the gusts, we were hitting 37- 38 knots apparent, and Gecko took off on a gallop – she felt overpowered, but it was getting dark and we were in no mood to put the 3rd reef in with these kinds of waves about, so we managed the gusts by loosening the sheets and continued west heading to the Costa de Morte or “Coast of Death”.
La Coruña Radio came up on Channel 16 at one point to check on us (translation: what the hell were you doing out in the Bay), but once we explained that the sea-state was much better offshore, they calmed down a bit and told us they’d continue to track us. Later on, we received an All Ships transmission warning everyone about the conditions around La Coruña which did nothing to calm the nerves.
The Coast of Death is Europe’s western frontier. The ancients believed this place to be Finisterrae – the end of the world – the gate to the afterlife. Hmmm. That was where we were now heading. We had a run west with the wind on the beam and the worry of the increasing apparent wind until we cleared Isla Sisarga, at which point we’d be able to bear away south and hopefully get the apparent wind speed down.
The watch system went out of the window on this leg as we rounded the top of the Iberian Peninsular and sailed south in a Force 6 past Cape Finisterre and along the Costa de la Muerte. The oceanic floor rises up very quickly along this coast going from 1500-2000m to 2-300m in a short distance which can create some nasty waves, particularly if the weather is coming in from the west. We had northerlies, which reduced the risk, but even so, we were glued to the chart and stayed well clear of any aggressive looking gradient changes and patches of lower water.
As we turned south, the wind calmed to a Force 5 and we rode a following sea south along the coast. Surfing down the waves, we were hitting speeds in the mid teens and making great progress. Just before daybreak, we spotted the leading lights for the channel into Vigo and threaded our way past the Isla do Norte towards Vigo, and as the sun came up, the weather calmed further giving us a lovely 2 hour run into the Galician City past the beaches and fishing communities in the bay. What a stunning setting- it reminded me of the landscape around Sai Kung County Park in Hong Kong- that’ll be all the granite I guess.
At 10.30 on the 16th November, we arrived safe and sound at the Real Club Nautico de Vigo – a lovely little marina in the center of the city with a few other catamarans including another Nautitech Open 40.
Time for a hot shower a chat to reflect on the last 24 hours.
Video by Pedro (from the Catamaran Center) who skippered this leg. I must have been in my bunk at this point.
Translation from Spanish: “Well, after a pretty hard passage, the wind has died, the sea is calmer and we are coming into the Bay of Vigo. We´re passing these islands to starboard. Here´s my mate Jim. To all of you, the passage for Catamaran Center from La Rochelle to Port Ginesta. See you soon”
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