On The Move

Well she is out of the factory and safely on the hard in La Pallice, where she will stay until we get there in a few months. Disappointed not to be able to drive behind her as she was trucked. Roms from Multihulls Solutions got us some video footage but its worth watching Out Chasing Stars video of their boat being trucked from the factory at https://youtu.be/REohRp_5X6k.

On The Truck

Arriving at La Pallice

Leaving the Factory
Safely on the Hard at La Pallice
Safely on the Hard at La Pallice

First Photos out of the Factory

We were excited last night to see the first photos of our new baby as she emerged from the Fountaine Pajot factory. Disappointed not to be there – but we are still working on getting into France.

It will stay in the factory yard until 20th October, getting its finishing touches. It will then be lifted onto a truck and transported to a secure hardstand in La Pallice. Here it will be vinyl wrapped, and have some of the aftermarket items we ordered installed by Uchimata. It will sit here until we fly in, hopefully in January (or before). Then it will be splashed, its mast and rigging attached and taken around to the marina at Port Des Minimes, the largest marina in France. This will give us a couple of months to get ready for our departure in April next year.

3 More Months

We have decided to look into delaying taking delivery of our new Saba 50 until January next year, as we were running out of runway given we still haven’t cracked the code to get into France from the USA. We had considered flying to London, quarantining there and then sneaking across to France but there is too much of a risk of becoming stuck in England with UK cases spiking.We also have run into a problem with the USA government dragging their feet with Dee’s passport renewal (she filled up her last passport).And finally we have got a lot of loose ends to tidy up here in California so the time won’t be wasted.

Its not all bad as hanging out in the relative seclusion of Meyers Ranch is one of the better places to be as Covid runs rampant and the US Cities are rather unsettled in these trying times. With 27 Acres to roam around on, we are certainly not cramped for space.

Meyers Ranch – our Home until it is Sold.

Multihulls Solutions have been really proactive in organising trucking firms and securing hardstand space in La Pallice, so we are able to put our new baby on the hard without any extra effort on our part. And it will save the antifoul and extend the warranty so all good there. And snow skiing will happen here in the USA (Vail?) rather than in Europe. Oh well. So now we are looking at storing the boat for 3 months, and flying over in mid-January to take delivery. This will give us a couple of months to get her ready to sail south to the Med in early April (as we did with our previous Lagoon 421). Frustrating, as we were really keen to get on the boat, but given the circumstances discretion is the better part of valour. This delay will allow us to get a letter from Fountaine Pajot so we can go back to the French embassy to get permission to fly to France as well as applying for a French Long Stay Visa.

SECURITY, SECURITY, SECURITY

I was reading a Delos post the other day about their BRNKL Security System and this prompted me to do something about Spec’ing up our own system. In the past, we’ve used Jeff’s Pirate Lights system, which gave us excellent service, but this time we wanted to include a more comprehensive set of requirements and find an integrated system that met all our “must haves”. 

So this is the requirements we’ve come up with broken down into “Must Haves”, “Nice to Haves” and “Not Really Required”.

MUST HAVES

  • I’ve often felt a level of anxiety when we have anchored our boat and gone to shore. Whilst we use an Anchor Alarm when we are on board, we really do need an Anchor alarm that works whilst we are away from our boat. One that uses geofencing on a map displayed on our mobile phones. We originally thought we could use our PEPWAVE system to do this but it turns out that this is really more suited to Fleet Management of the land variety rather than the marine environment.
  • IN the same vein, this needs the ability to track our boat if it is ever stolen. 
  • The system needs to works internationally everywhere we cruise.
  • Like Pirate Lights, it needs to sound a Siren and turn on Strobe/Deck Lights if an intruder gets on the boat, with motion detectors in both the cockpit and the saloon. 
  • We also need to be able to track the dinghy if its stolen (we will probably use SPOT Tracker for this). 
  • We need to monitor Engine Room Temperatures and raise an alert and sound an alarm when too high. Our house batteries are also in the engine room so we need to be able to monitor engine room temperatures for the health of these babies. 
  • We want Cameras to capture videos of the bad guys. 
  • We want to monitor Fridge and Freezer Temperatures and alert if high – both whilst on the boat and off the boat. We lost a freezer full of meat in Cartegena whilst we were on a trip to Medellin .  
  • We want to monitor the Automatic Bilge Pumps when away from boat, so that we can detect any problems. 
  • Whilst on land, we want to receive alerts to our mobile if the house batteries are low.    
  • We need to keep the Insurance Companies happy so they give us discounts from having a security system installed.  

Nice to Haves

The following requirements are ones we felt would be nice but we could live without.

  • Battery backup if power is cut
  • Ability to turn on deck lights when dinghying back to boat.
  • Collision Detection (0.5G or higher impact) whilst boat is on anchor and we are ashore. 
  • FOBs to arm and disarm system (otherwise will need to use phone). 
  • NMEA2000 Integration for engine and tank monitoring. 

Not Really Required

We’ve decided we can do without these:

  • Shore power monitoring. Charging and power management done remotely with VRM. 
  • Remote monitoring of starter batteries. 
  • High Water Monitoring in Bilge. The extra cost is not really warranted  given we are already monitoring the bilge pumps (see must haves) 
  • Motion Detectors inside Hulls. Just in cockpit and saloon.

With this in mind, we have narrowed it down to two suppliers that were reasonably priced, and did the following SWOT analysis. It feels good to be back in Solutions Mode…..

Strengths

  • The BRNKL Mate add-on helps future proof the system – can use Samsung SmartThings and other appliances built for home security, which is a bigger market than marine security.
  • Therefore, adding Additional Sensors and Accessories is cheap (not paying BOAT Dollars for marine componentry).  
  • Comes with a FOB to arm and disarm system (as well as using the Mobile App)
  • Can get detachable motion detector for front of boat

Weaknesses

  • Subscription Plan is more costly that Siren Marine’s. 
  • SmartThings aren’t necessarily manufactured for Marine environment.

Opportunities

  • Can connect up sensor pads for intruder detection. 
  • Can connect up to an Iridium satellite solution. 
  • Smaller Company run by founder = usually equals more Personalised Customer Service

Threats

  • Motion Detector False Alarms from Cockpit Sensor.
  • Small Company risk.

SIREN MARINE

Strengths

  • Sensors are manufactured for marine environment
  • Has satellite comms option for where mobile phone access is not available. It is also good to use satellite, as professional boat thieves sometimes use blockers to disable cellular tracking. 
  • Subscription service is cheaper ($180 per year for international coverage)
  • Have internal backup battery (48Hours) for when power is cut. 
  • Bigger company – sells through West Marine, Hodges etc., and partners with other marine suppliers.

Weaknesses

  • No Camera (coming in Winter)
  • Extra Sensors are expensive (marine pricing)
  • No FOB – everything turned on and off with phone  app.
  • No Water Proof Motion Detector for front deck .

Opportunities

  • Can buy through West Marine Port Supply for an extra discount.
  • Siren Marine are releasing their new Siren 3 Pro next month, which is their latest and greatest.
  • Siren Marine are working on having a beam sensor which is supposed to be better suited for outdoors but they do not have any more information at this point as it is still in development

Threats

  • Motion Detector False Alarms when installed outside (see above).

As usual, I wanted to get this out there so I can get some good feedback. There’s a bit more work and research to do to come up with a decision and place an order, but I need to do it next month and have it sent to East Coast Shipping who will include it in our shipment to France.  

Power to the People

On the new catamaran, we have gone with 750AH of AGM batteries (hurts me to say but we couldn’t justify throwing out the existing batteries and going Lithium straight away). These will be charged with: 

  • 2000W of Sunpower solar panels out the back. 
  • An Onan 11KVA genset hooked up to two Victron Multiplus 80A/2000W Charger/Inverters
  • Two 115A Mitsubishi alternators that come with the Volvo Engines, which I’ve been told are excellent alternators.
  • No wind generator this time!

One of the useful additions I did to my previous boat was install a pair of Mastervolt Alpha Pro regulators, hooked up to the standard alternators to provide intelligent 3 phase charging; making the alternators much more efficient, whilst providing an added level of protection for the batteries. After putting in a bit more research waiting impatiently for our new Saba to be built, I’ve looked at three solutions:

Installing two Wakespeed WS500 regulators (http://wakespeed.com/products.html). 

Seabits(https://seabits.com/wakespeed-ws-500-regulator-review/), Panbo (https://www.panbo.com/how-wakespeeds-ws500-alternator-regulator-solves-complex-charging-issues-a-new-approach/), Ghost and Catamaran Impi all use this solution and I rate their experience highly. This solution requires that I get the alternators modified to bypass their internal regulators. However there are a few internet posts suggesting that Volvo take a dim view of these alterations, vis-a-vis their warranty. 

My second option is to leave the alternators as is and use a couple of Sterling DC to DC chargers to charge the house batteries. 

My third option is to install a couple of VRC-200 Charge Reference Controllers (http://nordkyndesign.com/product/nordkyn-electronics-vrc-200-charge-reference-controller/) from Nordkyn Designs, a small New Zealand outfit. The beauty of this solution is that I don’t have to modify the alternators, their reference engine is the same Volvo D Series engine as isused on our Saba 50 Catamaran, and this option is also the cheapest one. It’s quite a clever solution, using the voltage sensing input on the alternator to drive intelligent 3 phase charging. In talking to Eric from Nordkyn Designs, he suggests hooking each of the VRC-200 units (NZ$475) to a Victron Argo FET Battery Isolator ($140US each) to charge all three battery banks from each alternator, eliminating the possibility of a flat starter battery causing any grief.   One running engine will start the other, even with a near-dead battery.

All three options provide intelligent 3 stage charging for the house batteries. They also work for both AGM and Lithium Batteries.  I’m leaning towards Nordkyn Design’s solution because of its simplicity and seamless integration.  

To complete my solution, we will install a Victron BatteryProtect after the house bank to ensure my batteries don’t drop below 50%, even if it means turning off the boat power. I will set up an alarm on the Victron monitoring so that we know when it is approaching this low SOC. 

Talking of power monitoring, Victron also has some interesting upgrades that we will take advantage of. We want to hook up all our battery monitoring to a Cerbo GX and it’s companion screen – the GX Touch 50. We can connect our two Multiplus 80A/2000W Charger/Inverters, MPPT Controllers and BMV-712 Battery Monitor, as well as some temperature probes for the engine rooms, to give us a complete view of all our power usage and generation. These units supersede the GX Colour Controller we had on our last boat. We can hook this Cerbo GX up to Victron’s VRM solution to allow us to see what’s going on when we are onshore or travelling away from the boat.      

My plan is to buy all the necessary parts in the USA and take them with me to La Rochelle, where I have the whole winter to install stuff and get it working.

Boatless in Somerset

LATEST UPDATE

  • We are still hanging out in the relative seclusion of Meyers Ranch. It is one of the better places to be as Covid runs rampant and the US Cities are rather unsettled in these trying times. With 27 Acres to roam around on, we are certainly not cramped for space.
  • We have been allocated an ex-Factory date of 15th October. Then there’s about one month of commissioning work before she’s ready to move on board. Exciting!

  • Dee still hasn’t decided on a name that I will agree to. We have a shortlist.
  • By process of elimination we have decided on the Cook Islands for our flag.

As part of this process, we will become members of the Cook Island Yacht Club.


  • Have finalised our aftermarket list with Multihulls Solutions/Uchimata. Still working on options for the Vinyl Wrap and screen covers for the heads, which we will probably organise ourselves. We also changed our factory order, dropping the swim platform and going back to hydraulic davits.

  • All our stuff (60+ boxes) from La Mischief is still sitting in East Coast Shipping’s warehouse in Ft Lauderdale (http://www.ecshipping.net/contact/). We will add to this with a few more things (Keenan Fuel Filter system etc.) and will ship sometime in August to give it the time to get to France just after us.
  • We are still waiting for France/Europe to allow us to fly there. At the moment, the USA is banned. Hopefully things will change in the next couple of months, before we try and fly there in October. My USA Visa is about to expire, but because I have applied for an extension I should be right to stay where I am until we fly. Extensions are taking 12 to 18 months to process!!!
  • Have been busy getting quotes for insurance from the likes of Topsail UK, Jacklines and Pantaneus Australia. Looking like around $8K for the Med (will jump a lot the next year to $20K+ when we head across the Atlantic). Will finalise this closer to the time.
Kerstin
  • We are still trying to organise our pre-delivery survey. Another Saba 50 owner recommended Kerstin and Hans from KPYM Yacht Management (http://www.kpym.de/team/) in Germany and they sound really good, especially given all their experience with FP in La Rochelle.
Hans

However, they currently don’t have any other clients that need their services in La Rochelle in October so we need to find some way to make their trip worthwhile. They offer a whole heap of services geared to new FP owners in La Rochelle so if you are interested…..

Movies In the Middle of Nowhere

Like a lot of cruisers, we like to watch movies; but most of the time the Internet is either nonexistent or slower than a one-fingered typist, making flicking through Netflix and Youtube impossible. Over the years, us cruisers have instead met in beautiful anchorages and marinas and “swapped” movies stored on our respective hard drives. With luck you would get quite a few unseen movies amongst a whole heap of movies you have already watched; scattered on multiple hard drives that you’ve collected over the years. 

Recently, we’ve got a bit more cleverer, downloading Netflix and Amazon shows to our Android (or iOS) tablets so we can watch them offline. Youtube Premium also allowed us to download offline copies. We tried to play these using Chromecast on our TVs but we still needed a little bit of Internet to do this.  

With my enforced downtime, I set about coming up with a much better solution, using a combination of a Synergy DS118 NAS with a single 6TB hard drive (as I didn’t want to cart anything too big on the plane with me – maybe I will invest in a bigger RAID system in time).

 My first job was to consolidate all our existing movies spread across various hard drives onto a single NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit. The Synergy DS118 has a useful USB Copy function that allows me to plug in my USB Hard Drives into the NAS and copy the movies and music straight across.  

Installing the  Plex Media Server on the DS118 was pretty straightforward, and with this installed we can consolidate all our movies in the one place. Using Plex, we can easily scroll through all our movie titles, without seeing any duplicates. We can view all our movies  on our smart TVs and tablets – all we had to do was install the relevant  Plex app on each particular device. We have one older style TV in our temporary land based abode, and for this we use our Chromecast dongle.  We will definitely buy smart TVs for the new catamaran that have Plex capability. 

Plex is a wonderful piece of software, collecting all the metadata for each movie, including Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB Ratings, a short description, and a list of actors. This makes choosing our next movie a lot easier, especially in remote anchorages without internet.  Plex also allows us to remove duplicates using the “Show Duplicates” feature of Plex that not only identifies all the movies that have multiple copies, but also allows you to identify the best copy to keep. Its super easy in Flex to delete all the other (inferior) copies.   

For new content, we are going to use an Android app called PlayOn Cloud, which looks like a groovy solution.  PlayOn Cloud is a streaming video recorder (SVR) located in the cloud. I can ask them to record content from Netflix, Amazon, ABC iView, Youtube and the BBC plus a few others and once  that recording is complete, they email us an .mp4 file download link, which I can use to download the mp4 file to my Plex installation on my NAS. Each recording costs 50c a copy or less if you buy a larger pack. 

We are also using Plex for our offline music. Our Sonos system has a Plex client so that makes integration easy. We were using Google Play Music for all our music and we were able to download an entire copy from the Internet to our hard drive so we have over 11,000  songs on our NAS, that can be accessed from our Sonos system. Now that Google have migrated me from Google Play Music to Youtube Music Premium, I’m not sure if this will allow us to continue downloading our music to a computer. Have yet to try this one out.   

Finally we decided to invest in a 1080P Android TV mini projector. We ended up going for a XGIMI MOGO Pro, with Harman/Kardon Speakers and its great. No need to connect your phone, tablet or laptop, it can pull up Youtube, Plex, Amazon etc straight from the Wifi. And its battery powered meaning we can have movie nights in our upstairs lounge or on the beach under the stars.

So with all this sorted out it will be super easy for Dee to watch movies and for me to fall asleep 10 minutes in.  

The Money Shot

Everybody I know who sails into Belize’s famous Blue Hole ends up posting some dramatic drone footage. So why should we be any different? Thanks to Alsino, we got some great footage and I’ve finally got around to editing it.

Last year in November, Dee, Alsino and I left the Rio Dulce and headed up to Belize. After a couple of weeks of cruising and land travel, we headed out to Lighthouse Reef, one of only a few coral atolls in the Caribbean (you have to head to the South Pacific to get a good dose of coral atolls), and dropped anchor at Half Moon Caye, after spending most of the day sailing out from Cucumber Marina (Belize City). Next morning, we picked our way across shallow water to the Blue Hole, 5nm away. And there we stayed until the next morning, secured to a marine park mooring ball.

The Blue Hole was first made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. In 1971 he brought his ship, the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths – 124m for the record.

The Money Shot – La Mischief in the Blue Hole.

Flying the Flag

But which flag?

Now that its not an option to have an Australian Flag with the name of my Footy team (Fremantle) on the back on the boat, we need to have a good think about where to register our new Saba 50. Australia is not an option as Dee and I will be jointly owning the boat and for it to be an Australian boat it needs to be majority owned by an Australian. 

So we need to look around for an alternative. And there are a few that spring to mind. 

But there’s a few factors to consider: 

  • Cost – Initial and Ongoing Year to Year
  • Risk – Can we use a US Limited Lability Company or do we need to set up a Company in Country. And how much does that cost?
  • Radio License and EPIRB Registration
  • Insurance options for the various flags. 
  • Reputation and Coverage.  
  • And finally….Do we like the actual flag? Does it have an annoying Union Jack in the corner?

USA Flag out of Delaware is the easiest and cheapest solution – we can set up a jointly owned Limited Liability Company in Delaware and have Wilmington as our home port all for $947USD (using http://www.boatandyachtregistration.com). However, I’m not so sure I want people to think I’m from the USA. 

As far as a homeport goes, Bikini from the Marshall Islands sounds rather cool. However, we would need to set up a Marshall Islands company. Every Marshall Islands LLC must appoint a registered agent and maintain a local office address. Not 100% sold on either an LLC in a far-off land; or the flag for that matter, but at least it doesn’t have that annoying little Union Jack in the corner.  Interestingly, the Marshall Islands Registry permits private yachts to be chartered out for up to 84 days per calendar year, provided that some additional requirements are satisfied. Fees are: $2800.00 Year 1 (Company setup and Boat Registration) and then $1800.00 (Year 2 and onward – Company and boat renewal).

A good looking flag is important and we really like the Maltese Flag. However a Maltese flag means we cannot get VAT exemption if we are in the EU. So that rules it out in the short term whilst we are in Europe. Registration Fees are 115 Euros, plus an annual fee of 425 Euros plus VAT. To this we need to add costs for a Radio license and an MMSI number. Plus the cost of local representation. 

Multihulls Solutions are very experienced with registering boats in the Cook Islands and Captain Cook is pretty much up there when it comes to sailors. Fees are $800 for one year, $2100 for 3 years. The easiest way to register a boat in the Cook Islands is to join The Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS).  Members of the Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS) are eligible to have their yacht registered in the Cook Islands without having to register a company. The definition of person includes companies and trusts as well as individuals or partnerships of individuals. In this way foreign corporation can become a member of CIYS without having to register that corporation in the Cook Islands. However the Cook Islands flag has that annoying little Union Jack in the corner. Cook Islands is the only option that my current insurer, Topsail Australia (who I am very comfortable with) will cover, however interestingly they can’t provide cover when we actually sail into the Cook Islands because of some strange licensing quirk.   

We saw a lot of boats with Jamaican flags and again Montego Bay has an air of the exotic as a home port. Jamaica also has a Private Limited Charter option where the yacht may charter up to 84 days per calendar year where permitted. Ownership can be with any legal entity in good standing or an individual.  There is no requirement to create a new owning entity in Jamaica. Fees are The Private Yacht Only (PYO) option is $1950.  The Private with Limited Charter (PYLC) option is $2500 (plus $4100 for a survey).  Ongoing annual fees are $750, and if chartering an annual charter survey is $3,575.   These fees include vessel registration, radio license, tonnage, registered agent, all documentation, and a flag.

Quest, a fellow Saba 50, went with a Cayman Islands flag and that’s not a bad choice (except for that annoying little Union Jack in the corner once again).   A USA LLC can own a Cayman Islands Registered Vessel so that’s a tick. However, a foreign LLC must appoint a representative in the Cayman Islands (at an additional annual cost no doubt). Like the Marshall Islands, the Caymans also have a Yacht Engaged in Trade (YET) program for yacht operated privately that provides the option to charter their yacht for up to 84 days per year. Costs are $1200USD for initial registration and $530USD for each year after that (according to https://www.cishipping.com/feesandcalculators).

Having digested all this, I’m not sure there is a clear cut option for us, so some more thought is required. Once again, all suggestions and further information will be gratefully received. 

Its a Wrap

Now that we are reduced to watching sailing videos on Youtube, Delos pointed out that there are 50 people who called Delos home; and that got me thinking about how many people stayed on board La Mischief during her time on the high seas.

So I started to count them up….

  • 2013 (Sables D’Olonne to Marmaris, Turkey)

Countries/Islands Visited: France; Spain; Gibraltar; Balearic Islands, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 16

  • 2014 (Marmaris to Leros)

Countries Visited: Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 14 (New 11)

  • 2015 (Leros to Cyprus)

Countries Visited: Greece Turkey Cyprus (South and north)

Total Persons on Board : 11 (New 9)

  • 2016 (Cyprus to Barbados)

Countries/Islands Visited:Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Balearics, Spanish Morocco, Gibraltar, Canaries, Cape Verdes, Atlantic Crossing, Barbados

Total People on Board: 16 (new 9)

  • 2017 Barbados to Florida

Countries/Islands Visited: Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Monserrat, Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, St Barts, St Eustatius, St Martin, Saba, St Barts, Anguilla, BVIs, Bermuda, USA (Newport, RI to Maine to Florida)

Total People on Board: 16 (New 9)

  • 2018 (Florida to Colombia)

Countries/Islands Visited: USA, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Culebra, USVI, BVI, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Tobago Keys, Union Island, Petit St Vincent, Carriacou, Grenada, Tobago, Guyana, Trinidad, Bonaire, Curracao, Aruba, Columbia.

Total People on Board : 13 (New 6)

  • 2019 (Colombia to Rio Dulce to Mexico)

Countries/Islands Visited: Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama, Panama Canal, San Andres, Providencia, Guanaja, Roatan, Rio Dulce, Belize, Mexico

Total Persons On Board: 7 (New 2)

  • 2020 (Mexico to Florida)

Persons on Board : 3

Grand total 73

  • 34 Aussies
  • 22 US
  • 1 Slovenian
  • 3 Germans
  • 4 Canadians
  • 1 Polish
  • 1 Curacao
  • 1 Cypriot
  • 4 Poms
  • 1 Vietnamese
  • 1 Uruguayan
  • 1 kiwi