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 there is a requirement to set up a Maltese Company that would own the yacht. 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 setting up and maintaining a Maltese company and 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. 

Living in a Connected World

Connecting to the world wide web and the boat wide web is an important part of our cruising life. The Badboy system we had on La Mischief is no longer an option, a victim of Covid19, but we were never really a great fan and believe we can both do a lot better, whilst at the same time broaden the scope of our next solution. 

Our Requirements

First things first, we needed to understand our complete requirements, which are documented as follows:

  1. Extend the range of our mobile devices for when sailing or anchoring away from cell towers. 
  2. Connect to Wifi Hotspots whilst at anchor or in marinas.
  3. Provide a network in the boat to hook up computers, phones, tablets, security cameras and TVs, with network attached storage to store movies, music, personal photos and video. 
  4. Play movies from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube etc as well as from network attached storage.
  5. Play music from phones and tablets as well as the web and network attached storage. 
  6. A GPS system that can track the boats position, when at anchor, with alerting to show if it moves when it shouldn’t. 
  7. Use Alexa or Google assistant for voice controls. 

I’m quite happy with using a combination of Iridium Go and InReach for Satellite.

I’ve also thought about integrating the boats ethernet network into the MFDs – mainly for Cameras – as there is a few blind spots when backing a big cat into a tight slip but I think just using a tablet to view the cameras is good enough. I use OpenCPN on my Tablet also but don’t think I need to integrate Radar and AIS onto OpenCPN as I use it only when navigating around reefs in poorly charted areas.

Components

I had originally thought Glomex’s Webboat 4G LITE COASTAL INTERNET would be my Badboy replacement but I hadn’t really done much research. Thanks to Gilbert from Vent d’Ailleurs who suggested that this was probably a bad choice, and his advice turned out to be spot on. So I needed to get serious and ramp up my research in an effort to at least become a youtube expert. Special thanks to Jeff from SV Quest, a fellow Saba 50, who shared the details of his gold standard solution for his boat. I also found some great information and advice from Steve on www.seabits.com. Finally, there are a lot of RVs out there who are trying to do the same thing and there are some excellent videos on how they are set up.

Armed with enough information to be dangerous, I was able to distill our requirements down into a list of components, that in total will meet our requirements. These are as follows:

  1. Either a cell booster or an external antenna that can boost or reach out to remote cell towers. 
  2. A Wifi Shore Extender (a la Badboy)
  3. A Router in which we can insert a SIM card for LTE Wifi access, when away from shored based Wifi hotspots. This router needs GPS capability and an app to track the boats movements.
  4. A network switch that is 12V, which we can connect TVs, Network Attached Storage and SONOS. 
  5. A Network Attached Storage unit to store music, movies, photos, video and security camera images. 

LTE Router

Now for some decisions. 

The heart of the system has to be the LTE Router. Everybody that I talked to or watched on youtube seemed to use Pepwave routers. Pepwave have several price points with varying levels of functionality, but I’ve settled on the Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2 at around $599US. This is an enterprise grade solution offering redundant SIM slots with automatic switching between Shore based Wifi and SIM card Wifi, 12V DC power capability, advanced GPS tracking (anchor alarm?), and remote management, all packed into a durable metal enclosure. The downsides of the BR1 are that you cannot bond the 2 sims for better throughput where the cell data speeds were not great; and the BR1 has a 400mb backplane, not gigabit speeds. We decided we could live with this given we don’t get great throughput from shore based Wifi anyway and we don’t chew up out Google Fi Wifi with movie downloads, etc that need lots of streaming bandwidth. We tend to download movies offline onto my tablet using Netflix, Youtube or Amazon offline functionality, when we are hooked up to free shore Wifi.

The Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2I will be connected to the separate MikroTik Shore Extender and the Poynting LTE Antenna, both of which will be mounted on the spreaders. I will plug in a Google Fi SIM, which works all over the world (provided Google don’t disconnect our service because we are out of the USA too often), and maybe use the extra slot for local SIM cards if this makes sense in a particular country. This Pepwave router will provide access over Wifi throughout the boat as well as Cat5 connections to TVs, Network Attached Storage and the SONOS system, via an attached network switch. 

Wifi Shore Extender

The choice of a Wifi Shore Extender was a bit more difficult. Badboy was out so I started looking at the Wave Rogue Pro at $633 US. This seemed like an ideal solution except for the pricetag. I had a look at Ubiquiti airMAX Bullet M Range at Simon’s suggestion, but the problem here is that Bullet has either a 2.4Ghz model or a 5Ghz model that you need to choose between, rather than one unit that does both.

Steve from Seabits uses the MikroTik solution at around $100. It was encouraging to see Someone else on the Internet pointing out that the Rogue uses the MikroTik solution under the covers. The downside of the MikroTik is that its complicated to set up;  but hopefully the Seabits Step by Step instructions will get me through this. Plus I have all the time in the world to get this sorted. 


LTE Antenna

The next step was to find a solution to give me better wifi when there was a weak signal from cell towers. This came down to using either a cell amplifier or an external antenna or both. The WeBoost Drive Reach cellular amplifier was the unit that most seemed to use and recommend. This was around $500 and you needed to leave it off most of the time, only turning it on in remote situations. Leaving it on when there is good signal was detrimental and therefore I decided that spending $500 on something that could turn out to be a pain in the rectum was not where I wanted to go. So that meant using an external LTE antenna on the spreaders to give me the extra range that we require. The Poynting Omni 0402 was the gold standard but at $400 US I kept digging. Seabits used a Wilson Antenna at $200, but Steve did a review of the Poynting Omni 400 at $209, which he rated higher than the more expensive 0402 unit. $200 seems a reasonable amount of money to get better internet access when hopping along the coast or nearing a new country. 

Other Components

To round out the solution I will need a Gigabit network switch, to allow good streaming of Movies from the NAS to the TVs. Could go with one from Trendnet that Seabits recommend, but will do a bit more research first. A Network Attached Storage solution also requires a bit more research. I also researched security cameras and are honing in on the Reolink Lumus cameras as they don’t require a base station and work over Wifi direct to a tablet or phone.

Next Steps

 The next step will be to get back some feedback from you lot; and then go ahead and order all the above components and build out the solution on land before packing them up in our luggage and carting them off to France, where we can install them on our new boat. This should be a fun little project to keep me amused and get me ahead of the game.  

Update from the Factory

For those of you who are wondering what’s happening with regards to the delivery of our new Saba 50, which was due to roll out of the Factory in June, here is the latest update from Multihull Solutions, our Fountaine Pajot agent in Australia….

Dear Client 

I hope you have had a good week since my last update. The situation overseas is as follows:

  • France is still in lock down. They are reviewing the situation and renewing the isolation in fortnightly increments. I have been told they are likely to extend again, following the fortnight they are currently in. They are optimistic the work force will start to come back from the 4th of May. This ties in with the schools in France returning following the Easter Holiday.
  • The Fountaine Pajot factory is in the Charente-Maritime department of the region Poitou-Charentes, in the north west of France. Romain is in lock down in Quimper in Brittany, further north. The west/north-west of France is the least affected by the COVID-19 virus. The east being worst affected, as it is connected to the rest of mainland Europe. The yard Managers are optimistic that the region is contained and they will be one of the first back to work……. We will have to wait and see?

Please call me or e mail me if you have any questions regarding your order.

(Note. I will not have any updates on delivery times until such time that the French Government allows the production lines to start work again)

Planning for our New Catamaran

With La Mischief sold, its now time to turn our focus onto our new Saba 50 catamaran. With the world in lockdown it’s a little tricky to put hard dates into our project plan, but there is still much planning and decision making to be done. 

The search for a name for our new boat goes on, as does our search for the best country to register it in. Australia is out as the boat will be owned in joint names. The USA is an option but I like the idea of a neutral country. We like the Maltese flag but are unsure of putting the ownership of our major asset into a Maltese company, where corruption is a known problem. A lot of the other options – BVIs, Cook Islands, Cayman Islands – still have that annoying Union Jack in the top corner – something that also bugs me about the Aussie flag. The Marshall Islands is an option, especially when you can have “Bikini” as a home port, but the Flag is a bit so so. At the moment, I am leaning towards the Cook Islands as I love the Pacific and Multihulls Solutions, our Fountain Pajot agents are well versed with registering boats there. 

The choice of dinghy is also top of mind. We are down to two options, both Highfield. We like the OC Dinghies from New Zealand, but they don’t have a console option. 

Our first choice appears to be the Highfield Ocean Master 390 tender (190kg) with Yamaha 40 HP (97kg). This will set us back about $27,000 US. We like its ocean-going capabilities, as we love to go exploring in our dinghy. We also like its false floor that will keep our gear dry. It will mean that we need to go for the more expensive Tenderlift option to hold the extra weight and getting it onto a beach will be more of a challenge. 

Our second option is a light grey Highfield Classic CL380 tender (80kg) with FCT console and Yamaha 30HP.  This is considerably cheaper at approximately $15,000 US, plus we can save an additional $3,000 in a cheaper, smaller, lighter Tenderlift option.

On the planning side, I went hunting for a good free project planning tool and came up with Wrike. I’ve managed to build out a lot of the tasks and dependencies around two guessimates of when the Factory will open back up (maybe start of June) and when we will get our Saba ex factory (my current guess is end of September). It looks like we will be spending Winter in La Rochelle doing the fitout and then leaving in April next year for the Mediterranean (on the same timetable as La Mischief in 2013).

As well as the gantt chart in Wrike, I also have the following documents and lists in various stages of completion. 

  • Aftermarket specifications in MS Word – 93 items that need quotations from Uchimata (some of which we’ve since removed – eg. Lithium batteries as we will go with the supplied AGM’s until they die). 
  • Test Plans in MS Word for each individual item (didn’t do this for La Mischief and we missed a few things). 
  • An Issue Log in MS Word – there’s always issues!
  • A Detailed “To Do It Ourselves” List in MS Word – all those things we need to do ourselves when we are on the boat in France. 
  • List of Contents of Boxes Shipped from La Mischief to France – we have packed 68 boxes of stuff (personal effects, line, lifejackets, drogues, etc. etc.). Now know why we need a bigger boat. 
  • MS To Do List for stuff we need to buy in USA and take with us (eg. Rangefinder – old one stopped working). 
  • MS To Do List for stuff we need to buy in France (eg. Dinghy anchor) 
  • MS To Do List of possible boat names. 

So as Dee and I sit out the virus in isolation at Dee’s Mums place in Somerset, California, there is enough to keep me occupied. Can’t wait for the world to return to its new normal so we can get off land and back on the water.