Sailing La Vida Gypsea

Catana 471 Owner’s Review

Catana 471 Owner’s Review: La Vida Gypsea

Many thanks to Linda and Kurt for this Catana 471 owner’s review. We have always had a softy spot for the 471 – one of the high water marks for Catana, this performance catamaran was designed by Christophe Barreau. We were looking forward to this one! “La Vida Gypsea” was launched in 1998 (hull no. 5).

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your Catana 471 catamaran. When was she launched? What are your plans on La Vida Gypsea?
My name is Kurt Wehner, and I have always been drawn to the water and to a life lived a bit out of the norm. Before taking the leap to living aboard a catamaran, my wife, Linda, and I were living off-grid on an island in Bocas del Toro, Panamá. This experience living off-grid really helped to prepare us for a self-sufficient lifestyle on the ocean. In 2021, we sold our home in Panamá and bought our 1998 Catana 471, La Vida GypSea, located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

La Vida GypSea is the fifth Catana 471 produced and was launched in January 1998. Our plans are to take her around the world. We are currently planning to go against the flow and take her from Mexico over to the Mediterranean before beginning the traditional westward route around the world.

Why did you choose the Catana 471? You were also looking at the Nautitech 40 and Seawinds right?
We were looking at several different models while shopping for our catamaran, including the Seawinds and the Nautitech Open 40. All of the boats would make great live-aboard options, but we kept leaning towards the Catana for a couple of key reasons. First, the Catanas are built very stoutly and are made to last.

The components are all high quality and heavy duty. The hulls are stout as well, and are built using a Twaron fibre that is extremely impact resistant. Second, the early Catanas are a great value. The Nautitech and Seawinds are both newer models and have been in high demand lately, and their price reflects this. By purchasing an older model Catana, I was able to spend less than the newer boats and get a much larger catamaran.

Most of the depreciation of a boat occurs within the first ten years, so I should not experience much depreciation with my 1998 471. As long as the older boats are well maintained, there are great values to be found.

What’s the best thing about her?
She is very comfortable, and, even though her design is over twenty years old, she always turns heads when we enter an anchorage. She looks so sleek and has so much presence.

If there was one thing that you would change, what would that be? Or wouldn’t you change anything?
In terms of design and performance, I am very happy with La Vida GypSea. If I were to change something on my particular boat, it would be to replace the water-maker. The water-maker is a 220v unit that requires the generator to operate. I would like to have a model that would operate on the 120v inverter or the 12v battery bank.

Currently, if my generator is out of order then so is my water-maker.

How do you find the Catana Bridle Mainsheet system?
I like the twin mainsheets. It takes a bit more effort to trim both sheets, but it can better control the boom movement in light winds. It also reduces the risk of accidental jibes by giving you a sort of ‘built-in’ preventer. The Catana has the ability of moving either block further outboard on a deep downwind angle that then keeps the sheets clear of the helm positions.

Once you get used to shaping your sails with the two sheets, then it doesn’t have many downsides.

How about sailing with daggerboards? Can you give us an idea of the pros and cons
Overall, the Catana’s daggerboards are a great benefit. With the boards down, they help to point higher and truer into the wind. With the boards up, they reduce drag and will reduce your chances of tripping up with a breaking wave on your beam. The drawbacks to the daggerboards is that the trunks take up a little bit of interior space, and they can be noisy inside when the boards are hitting the trunk in waves.

Does she carry weight well, or do you have to be careful to not overload her with gear?
I try to keep La Vida GypSea as light as I can, but we have lots of gear and spares. I keep the weight centrally located as much as possible. We probably suffer a bit in our speed, however the handling does not suffer.

What are the “Must Have” Options in your opinion? eg Types of sails, watermaker, generator, solar,
The way you option your boat will depend on the way you plan to use your boat. We are living aboard and blue water cruising, so we depend on options like water makers, generators and plenty of solar power. These are ‘must have’ options in order to be self sufficient.

I also feel that our updated electronics, with chartplotters on both helm stations are ‘must have’ options for safe cruising. We do not have options like racing sails or a bowsprit, because these options are not essential for us to cruise safely.

What are the “Nice to Have Options”?
‘Nice to have’ options that we have onboard La Vida GypSea include our SSB radio, air conditioning, electric fresh water heads, and other comfort items. I would like to add engine controls to the second helm station someday. That is a ‘nice to have’ option that I currently do not have. This is also the category that I would include the bowsprit and a Code 0 sail, as well.

How are the electrics, plumbing etc. Can you give us an idea of how you have set your power system up, amount of solar, hydrogeneration, batteries etc. Do you need to charge the batteries with the engines?
The earlier Catanas have a reputation of having troublesome electrical systems because they utilize a ‘Cartes’ distribution system that is no longer produced. As these ‘Cartes’ go out, many Catana owners are rewiring their boats with an updated C-zone system.

My original system is still hanging in there, but I would like to update before I start having issues.

For power, I currently have a solar system consisting of 1050 watts of panels with a 600ah lithium battery bank and a 3000watt inverter. I used all Victron components so the system would not have compatibility issues between components. On most days, it produces enough power to to be self-sufficient.

However, on cloudy days or heavy use days, I am able to top of the batteries with the diesel generator. Our diesel generator is also used to power our water maker and our air conditioning units.

Is she easy to maintain? Servicing engines, standing rigging etc
Maintenance is pretty straightforward and engine compartments are very roomy with access to all sides of the engines.

Is she easy to sail short-handed? To shorten sail? Is the running rigging complex? Do all the lines lead back to the helms, for example? How does that central winch work out in the cockpit? Can you give us an idea of your sail plan.
I often sail the boat single-handed. All lines are run to the cockpit, and other than rigging and hoisting the spinnaker, I never have to leave the cockpit. The main halyard, topping lift, outhaul and reefing lines are led to the central winch at the aft of the cockpit.

The mainsheets have dedicated winches on either side of the central winch. The jibsheets are run to two winches further outboard towards each helm. Finally, there are two additional winches by each helm that are used for daggerboard and spinnaker sheets. I have a full batten 80 square meter mainsail with 3 reef points, plus a 57 square meter Genoa and a 150 square meter asymmetrical spinnaker.

What’s she like in heavy weather / a blow / big seas. How is the ride in general? (pitch/roll)
I cannot comment on her performance in heavy weather and big seas, because I have not experienced either in the 10 months that we have been cruising in Pacific Mexico. We have not seen winds over 22 knots. So far her ride has been very comfortable, but she has not been truly tested.

How are the helm positions? How is the visibility? I know you owned a Leopard before, how does the Catana compare?
The helm positions shine when it comes to visibility and access. I can see everything from either helm. I can quickly get from the helm stations to access dock lines when necessary, and I can see right down the length of the hull.

I feel the helm station is much nicer and more in touch than the helm position on the Leopard 48 that I previously owned. However, the helm positions are exposed to the weather and I know that this is a big point of contention for many.

How does she sail in light winds?
We have done much of our sailing in light winds, and she still gets the job done. I will often sail in 6-8 knots of wind and still squeak out 3.5-4.5 knots SOG. We do even better downwind, sailing close to wind speed.

How does she sail close hauled? How high does she point to true in a good sea state?
When sailing close hauled, I usually hold a course 45 degrees off the wind and she points true and sails well. It is not that she points a lot higher than a catamaran with a keel, but she does not lose as much leeway. I can point higher but then you will see a significant drop in performance.

Typically, what’s your average speed on passage? What´s the top speed you have logged surfing?
As I mentioned earlier, we have sailed in mostly light wind conditions without ever seeing winds above 22 knots. I would guess our average speed on passage is around 5 to 6 knots. there have been many passages where we will average 8 knots, but that has not been typical. Our top speed so far has been 13 knots, but she is capable of much more.

What’s she like under power? Speed, manouevrability?
We have two Volvo Penta 55 hp diesel engines with Volvo Penta saildrives and folding props. We cruise at 6-7 knots at 1800 rpms. The maneuverability is good as long as there is not a brisk breeze. The 471 sits high with a lot of freeboard, and will get pushed around with the wind easily. Sometimes the engines will struggle to fight the force of the wind.

Is she easy to dock?
Because of the position of the helms, she is very easy to dock. The visibility and access to dock lines from the helm is great. I only dock to the starboard hull as that is where the engine controls are located. By placing a second set of controls on the port helm, I would be even more flexible with docking options.

What is she like at anchor? How much chain, what anchor do you have?
We carry 250 feet of 3/8″ G4 chain and a 48kg Mantus anchor. I also have a spade anchor as a secondary anchor with 50 feet of 3/8″ chain and 300 feet of nylon rode.

What length of tender can she carry?
We carry a Highfield 340, which is 11’2″, and I wouldn’t recommend much larger. There is room for a Highfield 380, if you need a larger tender. Our dinghy has the console and seat, and I would like to remove this option to lighten the weight of our dinghy.

What’s she like when it´s raining hard?
We have owned La Vida GypSea for 10 months in Pacific Mexico and have yet to see one drop of rain.

Is she comfortable down below? Cabins/saloon/galley/heads. How are the forward cabins?
The Catana 471 is a very comfortable boat. She does not have the volume of a Lagoon, but still has plenty of space. No one is cramped in any of the cabins and living spaces are large. The only tight space on our catamaran is the guest head, but this is a custom design on our particular boat that took space out of the head to create a separate shower area. The remaining space in the head makes it tight to maneuver with the door closed.

Is there plenty of storage space on the boat. For your gear and sailing gear?
I have way too much storage space on our boat. It can tempt you to overload the boat with more and more things. I have all the tools, spares, equipment and toys I need and have room to spare. I would think it would get full with a family of four, but the two of us do not have enough stuff to fill this boat.

How is the finish of the interior? Does she creak under sail?
Our boat is 24 years old and has held up pretty well. The interior woodwork shows some signs of discoloration and age, but overall is still beautiful. The boat still feels solid and the only area that creaks under sail in rough conditions is the front center saloon window. I suspect that once I get a chance to reseat the window the issue will be resolved.

What is your favourite spot on the boat?
Inside, my favorite place is at the comfortable, large couch at the saloon table. Outside, I like to lounge on the bean bags on the trampolines.

Is she good for hosting guests?
On our CATANA 471, we have three cabins and two heads. As I mentioned earlier, our guest head is a bit tight. Because of this, we like to have either family or very close friends sharing the guest head. The best case is to have one guest in each of the two guest cabins, but we could easily accommodate two couples.

I know you have a dog. How does Rigby get on? How does she go about her “business”… just interested as we have a dog that sails with us, getting her to do her stuff is pretty hard!
We have a Golden Retriever on the boat and it was actually one of the considerations when we chose the Catana 471. The decks are very wide and flat and easy for Rigby to navigate. She is a great boat dog. She easily jumps from the sugar scoops onto the paddleboard or the dinghy and can even climb the ladder on her own when she jumps off to go swimming. She does, however, refuse to relieve herself on the boat unless we have been underway for days. She will always wait for a trip to the beach to do her business.

What kind of modifications have you done and why?
We are 10 months in and I am still enjoying the boat as is. I am not planning on any modifications for now. Instead, I am focusing on keeping all systems in tip top shape and well maintained.

Any plans for further customisation?
The only thoughts I have had at this point for future customization is to design and build customized shelving/storage for the forepeaks to better organize the watertoys, fishing gear, sails, lines and fenders that are stored in there.

If you were to swap her for another boat, what would that be? Let’s say, what is your dream boat? Or maybe you wouldn’t swap her?
I have a feeling that this may be my last boat. I cannot think of another boat in the 500K price range that I would rather own. If I came into a fortune, then I would love to purchase a Seawind 1600 or I would certainly love to get a look at the new Catana Ocean Class.

How is the support from Catana?
There is a large and very active group of Catana owners that maintain a database of info on all the Catana models. The owners have a wealth of information and they are always eager to share knowledge and experiences. I have yet to have a need to contact Catana.

Anything else you would add to help people thinking of buying a Catana 471? Is there anything you should particularly look out for on a survey for example?
I would highly recommend a Catana 471/431 for someone looking for a solid, dependable, well-performing catamaran at a fraction of the price of a new boat.

Follow La Vida Gypsea

You can follow Linda and Kurt on La Vida Gypsea on their Youtube channel or on Instagram.