Music to Our Ears

Listening to music is a really important part of our boat life. On our old boat we used to download music to our phones or tablets using Google Play Music so that we could access it offline …internet or no internet. We also had an old iPod with music downloaded on it that was connected to our Fusion Stereo. But most of the time we would connect up our phones or tablets and play the downloaded Google Play music.

The biggest problem with this was bluetooth’s short range and one user at a time restriction. Quite often we would sit out the back and suffer poor or no bluetooth connectivity. With the Saba being a lot bigger this was going to be even more of a problem.

Enter Sonos with its capacity to play music over a much better (than bluetooth) Wifi connection (provided by our Pepwave router). Our Saba comes with the same Fusion Marine Stereo as before and our plan is to hook up a Sonos Port unit to the Fusion and voila…we can use Sonos to play all our Google Youtube music over Wifi from ANYWHERE on the boat. Likewise our guests will also be able to download the Sonos app and hook into our system so we can listen to their music as well. And finally, we can download all our music that sits on our hard drives (and in Google Play Music) to our DS118 NAS that sits on our boat network so we can access this from Sonos as well.

I loved my previous Sonos system from my time as a dirt dweller, and I’m keen to use it once again.

The Sonos Port is an upgrade from the Sonos Connect and I should now be able to turn the Fusion Stereo on and off from the Sonos system – how cool is that. And it will also control the volume of the Fusion as a whole, but I don’t think it will control the volumes of the individual Fusion Zones.

The other purchase will be a Sonos Move, the new Sonos outdoor battery powered speaker, that has got rave reviews. We have gone ahead and purchased one Move (we plan to get a second in France) and are loving it. The Fusion System that comes with the boat only comes with speakers in the saloon and the cockpit and the Sonos Moves will fill in the sound gaps – the upstairs lounge and the front deck in particular. And we won’t have to drill holes in the boat to provide for additional wired speakers. As the Sonos Move uses both Wifi and Bluetooth we can also take it to the beach where there is usually no Wifi.

The final piece of the puzzle is a Sonos soundbar for the TV downstairs. Upstairs in the saloon, we will have a Bose system (same as before) and I need to think about whether I hook this into the Sonos system via another Sonos Port or just leave the Bose as a standalone movie and TV system. Kim suggested that Music sounds so much better with a subwoofer, which the Bose system has, or is our money better spent just buying a Sonos Sub? And do I need a Sonos Playbar upstairs with the Bose system for watching movies? Ummm. A little bit more to think about. Especially since I need to consider battery draw in the equation.

Even with the Bose System upstairs, TV sound was always a problem downstairs and a good soundbar will make movies much more enjoyable. Plus we can use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice controls.

The beauty of using an all Sonos solution is that we can play the same music throughout the boat across both the Fusion stereo, the Sonos Playbar and Sonos Moves.

I’ve just ordered a Sonos Move to use at home so it will be interesting to see how the first piece of the puzzle goes. The rest of the Sonos components will be sourced from the Sonos dealer in La Rochelle.

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. We found a great little Android/iPhone application called “PlayOn Cloud” that allows us to copy movies and shows off Netflix, Youtube, Amazon etc and get a hard copy to load up onto our NAS so we can watch them using the Plex application on our NAS without internet.

I’ve now purchased the Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2I and connected it to a separate MikroTik Shore Extender and the Poynting 5 in 1 Antenna, all running at home for the time being. I have plugged 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. Our Pepwave router will provide access over Wifi throughout the boat as well as Cat5 connections to TVs, our Synergy DS118 Network Attached Storage and the SONOS system, via an attached network switch (which I have yet to buy). 

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 also 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 supposedly complicated to set up;  but I managed it using the Seabits Step by Step instructions.  


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 this is pretty expensive and I will do a bit more research first. I went with a Synergy DS118 Network Attached Storage solution, with a 6TB NAS Drive, as the data I will store on it (Movies and Music mainly) is not precious enough to justify the additional expense of $100 at a time redundant drives. I also bought a Reolink Lumus camera as they don’t require a base station and work over Wifi direct to a tablet or phone and this looks good enough for as a backing camera, doubling uo as a security camera.

Next Steps

 After getting a lot of feedback from you lot; I’ve gone ahead and ordered all the above components (except for a network switch) and have built out my solution on land. And I’ve got to say everything is pretty good and well integrated at the moment. I will then pack them up in our luggage and cart them off to France, where we can install them on our new boat. This was a fun little project to keep me amused and get me ahead of the game.  

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

In buying our new Saba 50, there are lots of decisions to make. We used the configuration of our old Lagoon 421, La Mischief as a baseline, trying to make sure we weren’t going backwards on any items and by and large we have managed to do this.

The big exception is the batteries. In the end it just didn’t make sense to go straight to Lithiums given that Fountaine Pajot don’t offer this as an option and this meant throwing out a perfectly good set of AGMs (600AH). Instead we are purchasing one additional AGM to bring the house bank up to 750AH (12V) and hopefully with 2000 watts of solar out the back, these batteries will keep their voltage up and the beer cold. We will still provision a Victron Colour Controller and a Victron BMV-712 Smart Monitor to keep a good eye on the state of the batteries, both when we are on the boat and remotely when we are on shore.

Continuing on the power theme, we decided against going Victron Quattro invertor/chargers because of a space issue in the engine room. Instead we will supplement the supplied Victron Multiplus 2000W with a second unit of the same spec; in parallel; to give us enough oomph, together with some redundancy (albeit with some manual reconfiguration). What we lose is the seamless cutover from genset to shorepower and vice versa that the quattros provide, but I think I can live without that. I haven’t been able to find out what else I’m doing without by going down this path; but one of the reasons I’m writing this blog post is to get feedback from people that know a lot more than I do. 

A larger cat means we can have a larger dinghy. We wanted something a bit more comfortable – maybe we are getting old. The Saba 50 allows for a 3.8m dinghy, which meant the Highfield Ocean Master 390 was 10cm too long. New Zealand’s OC Dinghy looked interesting but it’s too small and does not offer a centre console. We kept coming back to a Highfield as Uchimata is an agent and Uchimata can get us stuff VAT free. We came down to either a Hypalon Highfield CL380 Deluxe tender (181kg) with a Yamaha 40 HP (97kg); or the Classic CL380 tender (80kg) with FCT console and Yamaha 30HP. Even with the extra weight, we are leaning towards the Deluxe version because its a bit more comfortable and is drier with a self draining floor. Yamaha seems to be the logical choice for an outboard based on the availability of parts around the world.

Coupled with the dinghy decision is choosing the right hydraulic lift platform for the dinghy. We look like we will go with the Tenderlift platform rather than the one that Fountaine Pajot offers, because:

  • it supports a heavier dinghy. This is even after we found out the FP model supports considerably more weight that its spec says, based on feedback from Quest who have a similar Highfield CL380 Deluxe dinghy with a Evinrude 40HP outboard (we will go a Yamaha 40HP) on the FP Platform.
  • It has a grab bar that we can use in rough anchorages to steady the dinghy.
  • It offers the ability to ride up in the dinghy (we saw a video suggesting you need to get out of the dinghy before lifting it with the FP Platform. The video shows that you need to stand on the submerged platform – something that doesn’t thrill me coming back after dinner).
  • We also suspect it might be better built.   

The downsides are the significantly extra pricetag and the fact it will not be factory fitted, meaning another contractor to manage – albeit Robin Marine who we are familiar with from our Lagoon commissioning days in Sables D’Olonne.

Wifi on a boat is very important to us and we wanted something better than the Badboy system on La Mischief. SV Ghost put us onto Glomex’s Webboat 4G LITE COASTAL INTERNET, which is both a Wifi extender a la the Badboy; and a 4G booster, where we can insert a Google Fi SIM and get Internet further out to sea than just with a phone. 

One of the most important items is a watermaker. We liked our Dessalator watermaker on La Mischief, but this time we have decided to go with an Aquabase 12V 105l/h Watermaker. They come well recommended from other FP owners; and it is the brand that FP offer as a factory option. However we didn’t like either of the two factory options (the 60l/h unit was too small and the larger unit was only 230V – we like to make water using the solar panels). So we opted for the 105l/h model that Lady Roslyn has and as a company called Uchimata is doing a lot of our aftermarket items and they are an Aquabase reseller and installer, this made sense. We will get the Auto Flush feature as well. 

Manoeuvring a much larger cat got us thinking; and I have asked for a quote for an extra set of throttles to be installed on the rear deck to help me back into marina slips. These don’t have to be electronic (expensive) as Lady Roslyn has a second set which are mechanical. Lets see what the quote comes back.  I will also pick up and install a Garmin GC100 wireless camera, interfaced to the chart plotter to help with backing into tight places. 

Other aftermarket items include: 

  • Replacement swim ladder 
  • Stern (sugar scoops) grab rails 
  • Fuel Polisher/Fuel Transfer System 
  • Passerelle/gangway 
  • Additional European 230V Outlets 
  • Isolation Transformer
  • Automatic Anchor/Tricolour Light
  • Automatic Fire Extinguishers – Engine Rooms
  • Fresh and salt water Washdown pumps 
  • Fans in Rooms. 
  • USB Outlets
  • Filtered fresh drinking water 
  • Fortress FX55 Secondary anchor 
  • Jacklines
  • Liferaft 
  • Genneker
  • Ladder at base of mast and Mast Steps
  • Five 400W Sunpower Solar Panels and Controllers
  • Starboard Winch for coloured sails
  • Parasailor – 170m2
  • Ultrasonic Antifouling
  • Second Autopilot
  • Dive Tank Holders and Compressor
  • Dockwater inlet
  • BBQ
  • Third Electric Winch at Helmstation
  • 40kg Rocna Primary Anchor 
  • Propane gas detection system
  • 12mm Dyneema Main Sail Halyard
  • New Bed for Master and Bed Slats
  • Underwater Lights
  • Garmin Charts
  • Spares
  • Forward Facing Sonar
  • Propeller Anti-Fouling
  • 70%  Phifertex Vinyl Mesh for Window Shades
  • All around Sunshades

All input welcome!

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. 

Lagoon 421 Review – Improving on the Lagoon 420

Above is an excellent review of the 421 Catamaran from Multihull World. It explains how the Lagoon 421 corrected the problems of the Lagoon 420 that was designed to motor sail rather than sail. To quote the opening paragraph of the article….

Here is the revised and corrected version of the 420. With its less bulky lines and more hydro-dynamically efficient hulls, the 421 should make a name for itself as one of the most widely-distributed catamarans on the market.

Cruising Colombia

THIS IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE LAST YEAR THAT I”VE JUST GOT AROUND TO POSTING

After two seasons cruising the Eastern Caribbean aboard La Mischief, our Lagoon 421 catamaran, it was time to look westwards and check out the “other” side of the Caribbean. When we heard about the Ocean Cruising Club’s Suzie Too Rally from some of our cruising friends, we jumped at the chance to explore this part of the world in the company of both old and new friends.

Suzie and David

The Suzie Too OCC Rally is the brainchild of Suzanne and David Chappell, who first ran the rally in 2016. Our rally started in November 2018 from Curaçao, visiting Aruba, Colombia, San Blas, Panama, San Andres, Providencia, Roatan, and Utila before finishing in Belize in April.

The first major leg of the rally was the passage from Aruba to Santa Marta in Colombia, which has the reputation of being very challenging. Trade Winds funnel across the top of Colombia and the waves have a very long fetch in which to build up size. Folklore has it as being one of the five worst passages in the world. But having researched and now done it, I believe that the Rally got it right; and you can dramatically improve your chances of a pleasant non-eventful passage by planning to go at the right time of the year – before the Christmas winds kick in;  penciling in an optional rest stop at Cabo De La Vela; staying close to the coast to make use of the beneficial land effects; and applying a little patience to wait for a good weather window.  

Setting off from Aruba at 5pm with my partner DeAnne, and our crew of Richard and Christy, we ended up having rather benign conditions all the way to Cabo De La Vela (the Cape of the Wind), with an annoying one knot current against us, instead of with us as advertised. Progress was slow but okay, made worse by our overly conservative sail plan, choosing not to deploy our parasailer when conditions were perfect. The folklore had got the better of us! 

As we left Cabo De La Vela, we pulled out the light wind gennaker for a few hours until the wind built to 20-25 knots as dusk approached. Down the gennaker came and in went a reef into the mainsail. Around midnight the wind completely died and on went the motors so that we could see the sunrise over the Sierra Nevada mountains, which run down to the sea and are very spectacular. These are the only mountains in the Caribbean where you can see snow on the mountain tops. 

The approach to Santa Marta is stunningly spectacular. As we approached the headland, distracted by the snowcapped mountains, the wind picked up and the waves grew in size. We were having a great downwind sail, but we needed to reef. As we were close to Santa Marta, we decided to drop the mainsail instead of going through the rigmarole of reefing. We turned into the wind to lower the main, just as a large wave broke over us thoroughly soaking DeAnne as she stood on the coach roof to help with the sail drop. 

Santa Marta Marina was fantastic. Kelly, who manages the office, is awesome. Colombia requires that you use an agent to clear into each port, and Santa Marta Marina provided us with an agent free of charge because of our extended booking. We soon discovered the famous Santa Marta katabatic winds that appear every afternoon and blow around 40kts. A good reason to be tucked up in the marina rather than out at anchor with reputedly dubious holding. 

We spent two weeks soaking up the sites, culture and food in Santa Marta, which was celebrating its 500-year anniversary. We hired a car and drove the countryside. We spent two days exploring Tayrona National Park, which has some great walks and beaches. We checked out the Caiman crocodile floating in the river just behind the Park’s most popular swimming beach. Yikes. The marina also arranged three complimentary buses for the rally to go to another part of Tayrona for a wonderful beach day. We spend the night up at Minca in the mountains and did a wonderful motorbike tour to several waterfalls; an old coffee plantation; and Casa Elemente for lunch, complete with giant hammocks, a swimming pool and a view to die for. We went river tubing on Rio Don Diego and visited the bohemian hangout of Palomino. 

Rally members organized regular rubbish cleanups to do our bit to try and clean up the ocean; Spanish lessons were organized; we had some OpenCPN sessions in readiness for the San Blas; and Suzanne had organized for the rally to donate heaps of children’s clothes, toys and school equipment to a local charity. 

We also took the opportunity to do some provisioning. We found the supermarkets to be very good, with the exception of canned fruit and vegetables that some cruisers wanted for the San Blas, which they had to get in Curaçao beforehand. This was entirely understandable as the fresh produce in Colombia was extensive and of high quality. 

But by far and away the best part of Colombia was its super friendly people. They loved helping, even if they couldn’t speak any English and I couldn’t speak any Spanish. Luckily, DeAnne was fluent in Spanish and loved practicing with the locals. 

Two weeks was not nearly long enough and before we knew it, we were at the farewell party put on by the Marina and on our way at first light the next morning. 

The leg from Santa Marta to Puerto Velero was more like what we had heard about. Very lively with big following seas. We got caught out when a big breaking wave came over the back-starboard steps and into our cockpit, before proceeding through our open door into our saloon.  From there we watched in stunned silence as it went down both sets of steps and into each of our hulls before we were able to pull up the floor boards for our bilge pumps to do their thing. We spent the next 30 minutes mopping up and rinsing everything with fresh water. Needless to say, the saloon door was pulled shut to avoid any repeat performance.  

Once we got close to the mouth of the Rio Magdalena, we had a new potential problem to contend with. Rio Magdalena is the biggest river in Colombia and spits out large logs, whole trees and all sorts of large debris. As the water color dramatically changed, we were on the lookout for anything big that could ruin our day. On the plus side, the river water seemed to dampen the waves, making for a more comfortable ride. 

Turning the corner shortly after passing the river mouth provided further relief from the large seas and we had a wonderful sail down to Puerto Velero, where we anchored for the night, under the watchful eye of our friends from the Colombian Coast Guard, who were escorting us right through Colombia, with their boats patrolling our various anchorages night and day. We felt very honored and safe in their presence.

We were off again at first light and this time the wind was nowhere to be seen. We motor sailed in calm seas, with winds less than 10kts towards the Rosario Islands, instead of heading directly to Cartagena, where you normally have to go first, as the Rally had got special dispensation for a three day stay in these islands, something that is not normally allowed. 

The Colombian Islands aren’t to be missed and we were allocated an anchorage off Isla Grande in the Rosario group. We had a pleasant three days, swimming in crystal clear waters and exploring the island with its interesting pathways and beach bars. It felt good to get back to a bit of island life between city stops. 

Refreshed and relaxed, we all set off together, proceeding in single file into Cartagena. It was quite a sight with 38 boats following Suzie Too past the forts and into the inner harbor. We felt like Sir Francis Drake as we lay siege to the city. We had a choice of two marinas (Club De Pesca and Club Nautico) or an anchorage that the coast guard had set aside for the Rally, just outside the old city walls. Colombia has a great attitude towards cruisers and is trying really hard to realize the potential that visiting cruisers represent.  

Cartagena itself is one of the great cruising destinations in the world.  It’s a must see with its old city, its magnificent fort and its wonderful architecture. And it does Christmas incredibly well with its many beautiful churches, its great decorations and a festive atmosphere unlike anywhere else.  The Rally celebrated Christmas at Club De Pesca with a Pot Luck lunch and a bit of fun with a Secret Santa session, where fishing lures seemed to be the catch of the day.  

New Year’s Eve in Cartagena is also an event not to be missed. Half of Colombia seems to descend on Cartagena for the festivities. To accommodate the crowds, all the restaurants spill out into the streets, and pop-up restaurants appear across the city. The Rally booked various restaurants around the town, before spilling out onto the streets to watch the fireworks at midnight. DeAnne and I then spent several hours walking the streets listening to the music and soaking up the festivities.  

Colombia certainly impressed us, and we wished we could have stayed a little longer. But with the New Year upon us and the San Blas Islands calling, it was time to head West.   

Ten Tips for Colombia

  1. Try and make it to Cartagena by Christmas to avoid the Christmas Winds.
  2. Christmas in Colombia is awesome. New Year’s Eve in Cartagena is also an experience not to be missed. 
  3. Brush up on your Spanish. Not many locals speak English. 
  4. Don’t go too shallow. The charts don’t have all the rocks. Locals suggest staying 5nm off the coast on approach to Cartagena. 
  5. Visit Colombia’s Islands – Isla Rosario, San Bernardo Group and Isla Fuerte before departing for the San Blas.
  6. Take advantage of the cheap airfares and accommodation to fly to some of Colombia’s amazing inland cities and attractions. Medellin, Bogotá, and the Amazon Jungle are all worth considering. 
  7. Hire a Car in Santa Marta. There’s so much to see and do. Do a Motor Bike tour in Minca, go river tubing on Rio Don Diego or Palomino, and visit The Tayrona National Park, staying overnight in small hotels. Or take a four-day hike to the Lost City. 
  8. Soak up the culture in Santa Marta and Cartagena. These places are full of history.  
  9. Get a 10USD steak dinner at 13 Reses in Santa Marta. Eat out at many fantastic restaurants in Santa Marta and Cartagena. 
  10. Look at joining the next Suzie Too OCC Rally, you won’t regret it!

La Mischief is SOLD!

The Admiral has decided she wants an even bigger boat than a Lagoon 421 and we have recently put a deposit down on a new 50 foot catamaran. As a result, the Captain has reluctantly put La Mischief on the market, pending the move to our new catamaran. 

If you are after a world cruising catamaran, it would be rare indeed to find a boat better equipped than La Mischief. We purchased her new from the Factory in March 2013 and she has never been chartered. With twin upgraded 75HP engines, twin Autopilots, 2000W of solar and Victron Lithium batteries, you can step on board and head straight out to the Bahamas, the Caribbean or indeed around the world. We have set her up with everything needed to cruise as a couple off the grid with a circumnavigation in mind.
 
The Lagoon 421 is a highly sought after model, with limited stock available. It is a strongly built world cruiser, designed for the liveaboards to sail fulltime, with unbelievable storage for a 42 foot catamaran. She is the popular 3 bedroom version with the port hull totally dedicated to the owners, with a large luxury bathroom and outstanding living areas. She was built just before the catamaran market shifted its focus to the charter market, where the requirements for full time living aboard are largely reduced.
 
As you can read below, La Mischief has a host of aftermarket improvements and additions not typically found on other boats, that add safety, maintainability and comfort to your cruising experience. 

Accommodation

With a spacious cockpit that can comfortably sit 8 around a custom-built mahogany dining table, that also converts into a cocktail table, this boat is the ultimate entertainer. The teak floor adds a nice touch. As well as full all around cockpit enclosure, La Mischief has a full set of sunshades for the cockpit. There’s the obligatory cockpit fridge as well as a custom-made sunbed. Being an Australian boat, there’s a large Galleymate 2000 Gas BBQ with own fiberglass propane tank.


 
The saloon has standing room of 6’ 7” and is extremely well appointed, with special blue leather seating for 8 around a large saloon table. There are a separate set of blue leather Cushions that can be used to convert the Saloon Table to a bed. There is a forward facing Navigation Station, with  a Fusion stereo system with  4 speakers in the saloon, 2 speakers in the cockpit and 2 speakers with separate Fusion amplifier for the front deck.  There is also a Bose Lifestyle V35 Home Cinema with sub woofer and a Bluray DVD Player hooked up to a 37” TV for movie nights.


 
The owners version has the entire port hull dedicated to the owners with a semi – island type berth with front and lateral access, together with its own 22” TV, a leather sofa, two large mirrors and a luxurious bathroom with a walk in shower and fresh water quiet flush electric marine head. There is also a 3kg Washing Machine in its own separate cupboard.
 
Guest accommodation is generous with two large staterooms in the Starboard Hull, each with its own separate shower and separate bathroom with quiet flush electric marine head.

Galley Equipment

The galley is a chef’s delight, with good communication to the cockpit and the helm station via a sliding bay window. There’s a 3 burner stove and a separate oven with grill (broiler), all protected with a propane gas detection and shutoff system.  There’s a 130L (34 US gal) fridge (plus an additional fridge in the cockpit),  a 110L (29US Gal) freezer and a unique 3 sink arrangement, with a dish drainer in the 3rd sink. There’s also an additional storage area designed for a Microwave.

Galley

There’s a sea water foot pump, and a fresh water foot pump with a drinking water filter.

Mechanical Equipment

The large 75 HP Yanmar engines are an important safety feature when operating in large adverse sea conditions. Engine hours are 2402 and 2351. The SD50 sail drives have been modified with an optional kit to eliminate the cone clutch slippage problems that typically happen every 600 hours. Folding propellers provide extra speed whilst sailing.  Aftermarket automatic fire extinguishers were added in each engine bay, as were secondary fuel filters with clear bowl water separators.


 
The 100L (26Gal) per Hour Dessalator Watermaker runs both on 12V and 220V and typically runs off the solar panels providing free fresh water.  
 
There are four separate CRUISAIR airconditioning systems that provides separate cooling and heating in all the staterooms as well as the saloon.
 
The electrical system is fed by four 90AH Victron LiFePO4 Batteries together with Victron  BMS, Li-Charge and Li-Load units. Charging these batteries is performed by:

  • 3 Sunpower SPR-X22-360 Solar panels on an Aluminum and Stainless Steel Frame connected to a large Victron 150/70 MPPT Solar Panel Controller
  • 10 Stick on solar panels on the roof (1000W) connected to separate Victron MPPT Solar Panel Controller
  • D400 Wind Generator
  • A Victron Quattro 3000VA/120A Invertor Charger providing 230V alternating current,
  • Two 40Amp Cristec battery chargers,
  • Two Alpha Pro  Smart Charger regulators for each Alternator
  • A 9.5Kva Onan Generator (1300 engine hours)
Solar Panels and Wind Gen

Battery Monitoring is achieved using VICTRON BMV 602 and a Victron Colour Controller.
 
Shore power supply is protected by a 360W 115 / 230 V Galvanic Isolator, that accepts both 110V and 230V and is rated for lightening.

Navigation Systems

La Mischief has a comprehensive set of Navigational equipment, accessable from both the helmstation and the safety of the forward facing Navigation station in the comfort of the Saloon. 

  • AIS 650 RAYMARINE TRANSCEIVER WITH ANTENNA
  • RAYMARINE REMOTE SMART CONTROL
  • RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT HELM STATION
  • RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT NAV. STATION
  • Raymarine I70 Displays (2 at Helmstation, 1 at Nav Station)
  • RAYMARINEHD DIGITAL 18″ 48 NM 4 Kw RADAR
  • RAYMARINE 55 E VHF RADIO WITH DSC
  • 2nd HANDSET AT HELM STATION FOR VHF RAYMARINE 55E
  • Two independent autopilots with full redundancy – one in each engine bay (L&S and Raymarine)

Deck and Hull Equipment

La Mischief has an extensive list of optional, upgraded and aftermarket equipment, and is fully equipped and ready to sail around the world. 

  • Lofrans 1500W Windlass new in November 2019.   
  • Three Harken 46.2STAEH electric winches at helm station
  • Forth Harken Winch on Port Side for Spinnaker and Geneker use. 
  • 66m2 Square Top Mainsail
  • 36m2 Furling genoa with UV protective band 
  • 69 m2 Gennaker (blue / white), together with Genaker rig, including optional bowsprit
  • Backing Plates for Parasailor attachment points
  • Foldable mast steps to spreaders
  • Deck wash pump with both sea water and  fresh water.
  • Freshwater dock inlet
  • Four Underwater LED lights on Stern (LEDS hybrid Serie 30i 9-32vDC  Midnight Blue)
  • Ground Plate for HF Radio
  • 4 Stainless steel dive tank holders (new in 2017)
  • Aftermarket Stainless steel reinforcing to protect fibreglass during anchor retrieval
  • Waterproof loudspeakers under coach roof with additional Fusion amplifier to drive these and provide music for front deck.
  • Quick Chain Counter 
  • Upgraded 33Kg Rocna Anchor and 100m Chain
  • Spare Fortress anchor
  • Aftermarket stainless steel handrail on sub and port transoms
  • Ultrasonic Antifouling Units in each hull.
  • Pirate Lights Security Alarm System with front and rear sensors
  • Badboy WiFI Booster (Antenna  plus router)
  • Hypalon Ulta Light 340 Dinghy with Honda BF20HP Engine
  • Dinghy Davits with Harken 40.2STAEH electric winch.
  • OUTBOARD ENGINE BRACKET ON PUSHPIT
  • Viking 8 person Rescu You Liferaft  in canister
  • Folding Carbon Gangplank 2.6m (8.53ft) with cover and handrail
Helmstation

To give you an idea of the additional value that has been added to La Mischief, here is a list of the optional and after market items that have been added.

  1. Upgraded 75HP Engines (an important safety feature)
  2. Two independent autopilots with full redundancy – one in each engine bay (L&S and Raymarine). Losing an autopilot mid ocean is not a good scenario and is too common to ignore.
  3. Four 90AH Victron LiFePO4 Batteries together with Victron  BMS, Li-Charge and Li-Load units. Lithium batteries are great at keeping the voltage up and the beer cold.
  4. Square Top Mainsail (for extra performance)
  5. Custom-built mahogany dining table in cockpit (folds into a cocktail table, which also allows easy access to the lockers)
  6. Teak floor in cockpit
  7. Lofrans 1500W Windlass new in November 2019 (standard Windlass is underpowered).   
  8. Three Harken 46.2STAEH electric winches at helm station (makes sailing a big cat easier).
  9. 100L (26Gal) per Hour Dessalator Watermaker runs both on 12V and 220V and typically runs off the solar panels providing free fresh water.  
  10. There are four separate CRUISAIR airconditioning systems that provides separate cooling and heating in all the staterooms as well as the saloon.
  11. AIS 650 RAYMARINE TRANSCEIVER WITH ANTENNA
  12. RAYMARINE REMOTE SMART CONTROL (Can hang around your neck and control the boat from anywhere on board).
  13. RAYMARINE E125W DISPLAY AT NAV. STATION (great redundancy)
  14. RAYMARINE HD DIGITAL 18″ 48 NM 4 Kw RADAR (RADAR is great for night passages, fog and for spotting and avoiding squalls)
  15. 2nd HANDSET AT HELM STATION FOR VHF RAYMARINE 55E (where the watch keeper is)
  16. VICTRON BMV 602 Battery Monitor and a Victron Colour Controller.
  17. Victron Digital Multi Control for remote management of Victron Quattro (no more going under the bed to switch the invertor on and off)
  18. 3 Sunpower SPR-X22-360 Solar panels on an Aluminum and Stainless Steel Frame connected to a large Victron 150/70 MPPT Solar Panel Controller (these are the best panels going around and provide an amazing amount of free electricity)
  19. 10 Stick on solar panels on the roof (1000W) connected to separate Victron MPPT Solar Panel Controller (not as good as the Sunpower panels, but still provide extra battery charging)
  20. D400 Wind Generator (great at night in the trade winds or when the sun doesn’t shine)
  21. Victron Quattro 3000VA/120A Inverter/Charger providing 230V alternating current (the Quattro provides a passthrough capability for when the genset or mains is connected. Victron’s high end inverter/charger.
  22. Two Alpha Pro Smart Charger regulators for each Alternator (provide more charging capability and better for the batteries)
  23. A 9.5Kva Onan Generator (1300 engine hours)
  24. 360W 115 / 230V Galvanic Isolator (to protect against faulty shore power)
  25. 3kg Washing Machine in its own separate cupboard (we run this off the inverter on sunny days)
  26. Special blue leather seating in saloon and master
  27. Separate set of blue leather Cushions that can be used to convert the Saloon Table to a bed
  28. Owners quiet flush electric marine head converted to fresh water (reduces possibility of odours and blocked pipes).
  29. Other two heads upgraded to quiet flush electric.
  30. Forth Harken Winch on Port Side for Spinnaker and Geneker use. 
  31. 69 m2 Gennaker (blue / white), together with Genaker rig, including optional bowsprit (every Cat needs one of these)
  32. Backing Plates for Parasailor attachment points (Parasailor being sold separately)
  33. Foldable mast steps to spreaders
  34. Deck wash pump with both sea water and  fresh water.
  35. Four Underwater LED lights on Stern (LEDS hybrid Serie 30i 9-32vDC  Midnight Blue) – great for diving and showing off the boat at night
  36. Ground Plate for HF Radio
  37. 4 Stainless steel dive tank holders (new in 2017) – at the back of the boat where they are easily accessed.
  38. Very large Galleymate 2000 Gas BBQ with own fiberglass propane tank. Every Australian boat must have a big BBQ.
  39. Cockpit fridge
  40. Aftermarket Stainless steel reinforcing to protect fibreglass during anchor retrieval – that swinging anchor can make a mess of the fibreglass at the front of a Lagoon 421.
  41. Waterproof loudspeakers under coach roof with additional Fusion amplifier to drive these and provide music for front deck.
  42. Full all around cockpit enclosure – we hardly used these as we were hardly in any cold weather areas.
  43. Full set of sunshades for the cockpit – we used these instead.
  44. Fusion stereo system with  4 speakers in the saloon, 2 speakers in the cockpit and 2 speakers with separate Fusion amplifier for the front deck.  
  45. Bose Lifestyle V35 Home Cinema with sub woofer and a Bluray DVD Player hooked up to a 37” TV for movie nights.
  46. 110L (29US Gal) freezer
  47. A unique 3 sink arrangement, with a dish drainer in the 3rd sink – never seen this on any other cat.
  48. Quick Chain Counter – can drop the anchor from the helm. More redundancy.  
  49. Upgraded 33Kg Rocna Anchor and 100m Chain (standard is 20KG Delta and 70m of chain and this is woefully inadequate)
  50. Spare Fortress anchor
  51. Aftermarket stainless steel handrail on sub and port transoms
  52. Ultrasonic Antifouling Units in each hull.
  53. Electric winch for Dinghy Davits
  54. Outboard Engine Bracket on Pushpit
  55. The SD50 sail drives have been modified with an optional kit to eliminate the cone clutch slippage problems that typically happen every 600 hours.
  56. Folding propellers provide extra speed whilst sailing.  
  57. Aftermarket automatic fire extinguishers were added in each engine bay,
  58. Secondary fuel filters with clear bowl water separators for each Engine, Genset and Dinghy.
  59. Viking 8 person Rescu You Liferaft in canister
  60. Folding Carbon Gangplank 2.6m (8.53ft) with Cover and Handrail
  61. Pirate Lights Security Alarm System with front and rear sensors
  62. Badboy WiFI Booster (Antenna plus router)
  63. Hypalon Ulta Light 340 Dinghy with Honda BF20HP Engine – our car

You will find other Lagoon 421 Catamarans on the market with some of these items but you won’t find any with all of them.

  • 2013 Lagoon 421 For Sale

 

Bongo School Project

One of the joys of cruising the world is that we visit places where we can make a difference to a community by pitching in and helping the locals. Steven Elliott at Catamaran Island is an all round good guy, and he rounded up the cruisers at not only Catamaran Island Marina but elsewhere as well to help out with a 300 pupil school over an hours drive away with a few projects that desperately needed doing,

They had managed to fund raise some money to buy a water pump and some piping and lumber to get water from the public service down the hill to a tank higher up to gravity feed the toilets and the kitchen. Previously, water has to be carried up to do this manually. Everyone got busy building stands, wiring the pump and connecting up the plumbing.

A second work group  set about a playground upgrade.

It turned out to be a big day and the beers did taste really good when we made it back to Catamarans.