The decision on how to choose your sailboat is a very personal one. Then finding the right one is a wonderous, and sometimes painful, adventure.
My choice evolved over the years. At the time I was thinking of living aboard a sailboat, I was sailing mainly Jeanneau’s — 37, 40, 42, 45 foot models. This was compliments of my good friends Gary and Patti Feracota of Pinnacle Yachts in Chicago. This wonderful couple run a fractional yacht leasing program which is sold out every year (www.pinnacleyachts.com). I was a client for many years, and highly recommend them if you are in the Chicago area.
After captaining for many years with Pinnacle, I had the opportunity to join friends sailing Lake Michigan, down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and across to Key West on a Fountaine Pajot 44 catamaran. I skippered that boat for a number of years in the Caribbean. I also rented various Moorings monohulls in the 45-50 foot range. In addition, I got to crew on a Hunter 50 in the Race to Mackinac. I skippered a very wet trimaran in the Tri-State race, across Lake Michigan.
These experiences influenced my decision points.
- I wanted to live aboard.
- I wanted to be able to sail anywhere in the world.
- I wanted to be able to sail short-handed, and single-hand if necessary.
- I wanted to be comfortable and safe.
While I learned a lot from racing and my racing friends, I discovered that I was, at heart, a cruiser. I would rather go 0.5 knots slower and enjoy my coffee.
I therefore created a number of desired characteristics. I wanted something in the 40-50 foot range. I decided that I like catamarans in beautiful locations, but that I really didn’t like the pounding when going upwind. Therefore, I chose a monohull. I wanted a lot of storage space, water and fuel for those long passages. I wanted a solid boat that would cut through waves, rather than be bounced off of them.
For the comfort side, I was done with hauling clothes to a marina laundromat, if I could avoid it. I really like a/c in hot climates. I really like good heat in cold climates. I like a well-protected, dry cockpit when it is blowing like stink outside. I wanted to be able to anchor out without power concerns. I love the look of teak decks, but I would be happy to avoid the maintenance that goes with them. Mandatory items included an electric windlass, at least one electric winch and a bow thruster. I wanted good refrigeration and freezer space. A microwave was essential.
Based on these criteria, with the help of John and Amanda Neal (almost any boat show worldwide — I highly recommend their full day sessions on boat selection and sailing around the world) and their website www.mahina.com, I narrowed my list to 42 boats. Yes folks. That was the narrow list. Then, based on models currently for sale, and my price point, down to 14.
Then I started looking. Well, to be honest, I had been walking docks for years, and looking. I walked some more. And started talking to boat brokers. And making appointments to go see boats. I saw steel ones. Some were very good. I love the Swedish ladies — Hallberg Rassy, Malo, Najad. I came close on a Malo in Antigua. But lost her because I didn’t move quickly enough. I saw Nigel Calder’s Malo in Seattle, and was tempted, but it was a bit out of my range. I saw a number in Victoria, BC and in Vancouver. I actually put in an offer that was accepted on a Taswell 56, but the deal fell through. (In retrospect, I am happier with a smaller boat).
One boat maker that I kept coming back to was Amel. Yes, part of it was watching Brian and Brady on their YouTube channel — SVDelos. Their adventures aboard their Super Maramu are awesome to watch. Again, though, for me, something over 50 feet seemed a bit much.
Finally, after years of searching, I found her. Air Ops is an Amel Maramu 46. Henri Amel launched the first Maramu in 1978, after sailing for 2 years, delivering one of his earlier yachts from France to French Polynesia. He spent time during that delivery, thinking about the features to incorporate into his perfect blue water sailing vessel. Like Henry Ford’s Model T (any option, as long as it was black and just like the rest), Henri Amel did not believe in many custom features. He just did it right the first time.
Things like — watertight bulkheads (think a submarine) for safety. An engine mounted under the cockpit, so you could actually get at it. A 1000 L water tank, built into the keel, to keep weight low. A ketch design for more balanced sail handling (I had never sailed one of these, so this was a learning experience for me). Not only a spinnaker on the head end, but one on the mizzen, too. Being able to roll in the 2 headsails at once from sailing downwind, to reefing by furling. A fully laid up keel with biaxial fibreglass that has no deck joint — the deck is added, then glassed in to the hull. Apparently the boat can sit on its keel, if need be. There is a long fin keel and skeg hung rudder.
The dodger is fibreglass. I am told there are over 130 storage compartments. I did witness the previous owner disappear into the port lazerette (it also houses the generator). Literally. He disappeared. And later surfaced.
Maramu’s have 2 cabins which each have double beds plus more that can be converted into 2 queens / kings. And 2 heads. 3 showers (including the outdoor one).
The joinery inside is dark mahogany. Air Ops has been modified in the galley, to add a return countertop with extra storage below. The counters have been upgraded to Corian. I am assured that the bilges easily hold over 12 cases of wine (she is French, after all….).
So, after seeing her, I contacted the broker. Marisa lives in Mexico. She is from the Philippines. But was the head of HR for a California company. We hit it off right away. After a few chats, I put in an offer. Yes, sight unseen. You see, this is the COVID-19 era. Subject, of course, to a sea trial, personal inspection and survey. (More on this process in a separate post). I just got back yesterday. I have waived all conditions. I am in love! We are scheduled to close next month.