Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Ride, Evaluated

OK, so this whole crazy year of travel that spawned our new blog began when we threw up our hands at the apparent impossibility of finding a semi-affordable boat to our liking in Australia.  Our backs were a bit against the wall:  we had an infant, we had been serial house-sitting in Hobart for ten months, and we were feeling that if we didn't get a boat, soon.... well, it felt like something awful might happen, like we might have to give up on the whole sailing thing for a while and start living a semi-respectable life ashore.

And that didn't sound like fun.

So I flew to California with a fist full of Australian dollars from the sale of Pelagic and spent a very frantic week trying to evaluate this totally off-the-wall steel boat on which we had an initial agreement.

And of course we bought her.

And now that we've sailed this new ride across the Pacific, and turned the odometer over on the 10,000 nautical mile mark just as we entered Hobart, the logical question is - are we happy with the choice?

Let me presage my answer by admitting that I don't really like boats.  Sailing is great.  But boats are unfortunate sorts of things, forever demanding time and sweat and money from their owners.  Some guys get all weak-kneed about the line of a sheer, and enjoy walking marina docks looking at boats and all that sort of thing.  That ain't me.  But as long as we're going to be full-time sailors, boats are something that I'm just going to have to put up with.

When we were boat shopping, we had very general criteria in mind.  All we wanted was a reasonable cruising boat that we could raise the boys in and sail pretty much wherever we wanted to.

The kicker was that I have this long-standing itch about sailing the Northwest Passage to get back to Alaska.  That's the route that goes right over the top of Canada.  Don't know if we'll actually do it, and if we do it will be years away.  But we've got a bad track record when it comes to poorly-advised ideas for big trips - we seem to end up doing them.

So that meant a metal boat.  I know that people sail the Northwest Passage in fiberglass boats.  It's just that we weren't going to.

We wanted an aluminum boat.  Specifically, a French unpainted aluminum boat with a lifting keel.  But who could afford one of those?  So instead we ended up with this very obscure design, the Noble 451, a 45', 18 metric ton steel boat, one of only two that were ever built.

And, I gotta say, we're pretty happy with her.

First of all, she sails pretty damn well.  She was rock-solid when the wind speed pushed past 30 knots at the end of our Bass Strait crossing.  It doesn't take a heap of wind for us to make 8 knots.  And we can fly the spinnaker in 6 or 7 knots of breeze and keep her moving at a respectable rate.

And, for a boat her size, she's pretty easy to single-hand.  All the sheets and furling lines and traveller lines and running backstays are right at the wheel, so you can tweak all that good stuff from a single spot in the cockpit.  The main is easy to reef.  The boat is balanced under sail.  It's all pretty good.

The interior is not production-yacht quality.  No expanses of teak, and certainly no old-world craftsmanship.

And that's actually something that we were looking for, as we figured that giving up the typical floating bordello interior was a way to reduce cost.

And then there's the space.  We'll pay the price for having a 45 footer in terms of maintenance hours and dollars, both of which increase exponentially with length.  But in return, we get some very concrete advantages.

The galley is (relatively) vast, but also secure at sea.

The engine room is, well, actually a room.  I can get at the stuff I'm trying to fix.

The boys' room should be big enough to hold them both in relative comfort for as long as we're living aboard.

There's enough storage space for months and months and months of supplies.

And there's huge deck space - we carry two dinghies pretty easily.

We didn't get the deal to end all deals.  But, having said that, we saved ourselves fifty thousand dollars or more on the price that we would have paid for a comparable boat in Australia.

And that's enough to make a sailor who doesn't really like boats smile.

Tomorrow - the stuff that we're not so happy about...


  1. She really is a nice boat that will take you many places.
    Thanks for the details, we have wondered since you left the USA how you would like her. We are looking forward to meeting up with you in a couple of years.
    Steve and Tracy

    1. Hey guys - you actually gave us the idea for doing a run-down of what we liked and didn't, so thanks...

      Can't wait to see you in the Pacific - last one to the Aukland Islands is a rotten egg!