Multihulls Match

Multihulls match - Off-piste cruising: North vs South

Published on 01 october 2016 at 0h00

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We choose the south, by Paul and Anne Buttin


Paul and Anne appear to lead a normal family life; but beneath this social disguise, they hide the character of seriously hardened adventurers. After having built a steel monohull and set off as a family, they owned the Val 38 ‘Elle’ (Newick), then launched brilliantly into the complete restoration of the proa ‘Godiva’ (another Newick!), and now sail either on their trimaran ‘Stripling’ (Kelsall) or the monohull, which they have kept. They have been exploring the Greek archipelago for decades, without ever tiring of it. Have these new Argonauts discovered the Golden Fleece?

Our first cruise to Greece goes back to 1972. As a young crew of students on the family boat, we already understood what Greece was all about: the light, the Meltemi, the resinated wine and the ouzo! A 4-year Atlantic trip as a family in the 80s, firstly towards the south, then the north, convinced us for good: warm seas, short passages and sunshine would be our projects for the years to come. From then on, we decided we would leave the saloon heater, winter on the St Lawrence, the Isles de la Madeleine, and St. Pierre and Miquelon as good but distant memories. On our return from a winter in the Red Sea in 1988, via Cyprus, we got quite used to this Greco-Turkish sea. The Aegean Sea is very small; it’s not the Pacific! 2 days under sail in any direction and you arrive at the coast, but the cruising areas are well differentiated: the Dodecanese, the Sporades, W and E Cyclades, the coastal gulfs, each with its own special character and weather conditions. Easy on-board access to weather forecasts, thanks to good telephone coverage, allows you to envisage the program for the days to come serenely. There are islands everywhere, big, small, high, low, wooded or bare; you will discover ‘yours’, avoiding sailing to windward, if you exploit this precious information. At the far end of every anchorage there is a little chapel with a blue dome, a chalk-whitened house, sometimes a village, a quay, a grocery, or just some people sitting peacefully - life! During the summer, the heart of the Aegean (the Cyclades) is subject to the Meltemi; it blows hard in the lee of the islands, and the katabatic gusts can drive the anemometer crazy! It is extremely important to wait two or three days for it to calm down, hence the previously mentioned importance of the harbor cafe and the ouzo, facing the setting sun. You can take advantage of the opportunity to rent a scooter and explore the island’s interior. Seriphos, Chios, Paros, Naxos… The choice of islands is important: above all, there must be no international airport! No mass tourism. We therefore avoid Mikonos, Kos and Santorin, and stop over at Amorgos, Harki, Hiraklia, Denoussa, Folegandros, Psara, and so many others. If you like deserted or absolutely wild spots, anchor for an evening or a week at Kinaro or Rinia. Night owls who like to party, go to Ios. In the small islands life is pleasant, theft is almost unknown; often the locals’ beach equipment is simply stowed in a corner for the night. Come the evening, life in the taverna is busy and not to be missed: stifado, ktapodi, melizanes, gavros, lefko...you will discover these wonders of Greek food, and the Mediterranean way of life for a reasonable price, accompanied by the bewitching sound of the bouzouki. Everywhere, history and monuments are plain for all cruisers to see; Ulysses is never far away, and the memory of a passage to windward between Delos and Rhiniavous will accompany us forever. In the spring, the orthodox Easter is a unique moment in island life. All the Athenians return to their real island homeland. The ferries are full to overflowing, the landings are incredibly animated. With arms full of presents, they whistle and shout at each other, embrace, get together again. It’s party time for the reunited Greek families. Until the middle of November the boats cruise, the weather remains good overall, and swimming temperatures are acceptable. In winter we cruise in short stages. A few islands, Egines, Siros remain lively. Contacts are warmer, the evenings a little long. We sometimes miss the saloon heating. You are the happy skipper of a cat, cruising in the Aegean Sea, and your crew members want to join you? Easy, a charter flight to Athens, a bus (1h, 9€) to Piraeus then daily ferries to almost all the Greek islands, which avoids all the worry of planning and essential meeting places, in the case of a prolonged Meltemi. Marinas are rare; harbor dues and formalities are ‘friendly’. The services – fuels and water – are delivered and billed on request. The only slight downside to this very appealing area: to fit a big multihull into a cramped Greek harbor, you have to get up early in the morning and take a shoe-horn! A motorized dinghy is therefore useful. Learning a bit of Greek (via the free app Loecsen, for example) is always much appreciated. Part of the ‘attention paid to others’, the key for all cruisers (Note: the Loecsen app also offers...Breton. Kenavo).
Lyon, summer 2016.

Match North South

I choose the north, by Christophe Barreau

Christophe Barreau is an architect-sailor who doesn’t hesitate to engage in off-piste programs (Patagonia, Iceland, Greenland) aboard his products. He is the successor to Lock Crowther for the design of the Catanas, and also designed the Outremer 45’ and 51’, the TS 52’ and 42’, and the Mcat 52 catamarans.

Two o’clock in the morning, the anchor drops. A light breeze makes the water shimmer slightly. The very soft, low-angled light gives a diaphanous perspective to this bay in the north of Spitsbergen. A few growlers from the glacier at the back of the bay rub against our hull. The shades of blue and transparency compete for beauty with the sculptures of the wandering ghosts. We are protected from the ocean swell by a tongue of white sand, on which thousands of migratory birds nest. A noisy, joyful atmosphere, overflowing with vitality. Time has stopped... (A few seasons later): For several hours now we have been zig-zagging between the floes looking for an anchorage, as the one we spotted on the chart is full of ice! We advance carefully. An atmosphere muffled by the mist, great concentration, all senses alert. From time to time a break in the mist makes the ice around us sparkle, or lights up a snowy summit, which seems to reach a fantastic height. The chart is ‘white’ in this sector, we possess no information at all about the depths. Are we the first to guide our bows into these regions? A fabulous illusion! The mist thickens just at the moment we decide to anchor in a creek bordered by shingle. An exploration of the coastline with the binoculars reveals the presence of the ‘lord of the manor’, Nanuk (the polar bear)! We postpone our walk ashore, and gather round the stove. Evoking these memories motivates the preparation of other voyages beyond the Arctic Circle. The question is then about the boat which is suitable for these cruises. I don’t believe that there is just one type of boat suitable for this program; there are as many answers as crews, even though marketing wants to make us believe the contrary. Among the first to cross the North West Passage under sail alone were a Hobie Cat 18’ (1986 – 88), and Seb Roubinet’s 8m catamaran Babouche (2007), and for the boats which completed the northern circuit, a 31’ folding trimaran and Quingdao China (former Idec), which crossed the North-East Passage in 13 days (2015). I have been lucky enough to sail in these regions aboard various types of boats – catamarans and aluminum monohulls. Our first polar cruise took us to 81°N, off Spitsbergen; the Catana 40’ ‘Diabolo’ had all the qualities necessary for this sea/mountains/paragliding program, thanks to the comfort it offered at sea and at anchor. Its very shallow draft made access to the shallow anchorages protected from drifting ice easier, and we didn’t intend to play at ice-breakers, or spend the winter here! It was a fast boat, capable of covering great distances in favorable weather conditions, unsinkable, equipped with watertight compartments, a double skin sandwich, as well as two engines and two rudders, all important safety elements! Boosted by this experience, we returned to Spitsbergen two seasons later with our Hobie Cat 18’, to get as close as possible to nature and the abundant fauna, in 5 weeks of total self-sufficiency. Imagine sailing in the middle of a group of beluga (so close that we could touch them), our camps where we listened to the birds, observed the walruses, sometimes taking advantage of the former trappers’ or sealskin hunters’ huts, next to the fire. We had reduced the distance separating us from our environment, and had gained in simplicity. The exploration of the coast close to the shore, the unknown and the surprises of every instant delighted us. This was an adventure! These regions are the first victims of climate change, and there is a paradox in using an internal combustion engine to move around. I have therefore dreamt up a sailing boat which is self-sufficient in energy, and offers the Diabolo’s safety qualities and the Hobie’s simplicity. It’s a little 35’ catamaran, light and well-canvassed, to be efficient in light weather. This performance, associated with modern weather information, will allow cruising in stages at average speeds of eight to ten knots, in ‘safe’ mode. Its 35cm draft opens up a range of sheltered anchorages, especially with pivoting rudders and centerboards or daggerboards. The TS 53’s hulls shortened to 35’ will offer longitudinal stability and load-carrying capacity. A nacelle for 3/4 people, structurally independent from the hulls, and crossbeams with low windage; two double berths and a small galley complete the accommodation.
The totally watertight hulls are divided into many compartments, and are only accessible via hatches in the cockpit.
Propulsion is taken care of by two retractable electric pods/hydro-generators, being developed at Naviwatt. Six flexible solar panels on the coachroof complete the charging arrangements, especially at stopovers. In my wildest dreams, I sometimes imagine leaving the Breton coasts, heading for Japan, via the north, in almost coastal navigation.
Iceland, summer 2016.

Match North South

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