Well, we made it. After almost a year of planning we are currently sailing the Baltic Sea down the coast of Sweden. To kick off the sailing stories I’ll cover the first part of our journey south, and for anyone contemplating a project like this, I thought I’d also share some thoughts about the process of getting a yacht in the water and ready for an ocean voyage.
Building a yacht
I’ll step back several months for some insights. Firstly, let me say this. I completely underestimated the size and complexity of this project. The number of decisions required through the build process (that can’t be delayed) were endless. I’d also never attempt a process like this again doing it all remotely. Let’s face it, New Zealand and Finland are on opposite sides of the globe. Trying to envisage how all the components were going to come together without seeing things in real life was extremely difficult. Making calls on what to put on in terms of systems and add-ons without understanding the impact on little things like storage space was a real challenge. Trust me when I say putting in things like aircon (however in the Baltic it’s been a life saver), dive compressors, washing machines, sail choices and storing those, kitchen appliances etc all have a huge impact on your available storage space. So we have things crammed in all sorts of places (mind you I guess that’s not unusual). Systems like water makers, fuel, navigation systems, communications, radar, AIS, generators, fuel & water mean that making this yacht tick is like running a small and highly sophisticated village! Under the floorboards are more taps, wires, filters and tanks than I’ve ever seen – and yes, that all takes up space as well.
However, we are super pleased with all the choices we have made in these items, and the whole yacht has come together awesomely – she’s a really beautiful and functional yacht. I don’t really think there’s anything I’d change.
The final days before launch
So, that aside, if you think you are going to turn up at the boatyard, climb aboard and sail off into the sunset, then you’d be deluded. As I noted in my last blog, Selden really messed up the mast and boom and that created delays for us in getting away. We were saved by the guys from Allspars (they came up from the UK) who worked tirelessly to get the rig put together and cleaned up Selden’s errors. So thank you Steve & Johnny. You were bloody awesome. Also, a big thanks to Jasper form North Sails in Denmark. What a great job you did. And because of that work, Coco sails like a dream. What a bunch of pros.
Because of the delays, we ended up being in Jakobstad for nearly two weeks (that wasn’t the plan). In hindsight though, we needed every single day of that time to get everything ready. The rest of the crew (Bill, Brendan, Annie & Trevor) arrived in the second week and went hell for leather to help get us ready in time. There were provisions to organize, bedding, kitchen, all the safety gear and a million other thing to do and get stowed. We had list after list after list. But everyone pitched in and we made it. Seriously, you might as well be moving into a new house – but it’s even more complex.
Then there was the team on the ground from Nautor Swan led by Mats Lövsund. The number of last minute things that needed doing; well that was another long list. They didn’t flinch and just got on with it. So thank you guys – I was super impressed with the way you delivered and I’m sure you were pleased to see us sail out of your harbor! We really enjoyed working with you.
And finally the team from Vicsail in Sydney (they are the South Pacific Swan agents) – Brendan, Sue & Renata. I can’t thank you enough. If anyone is ever thinking of buying a yacht, call these guys. Their attention to detail, advice, guidance and help with the logistics, paperwork and compliance in getting a new yacht in the water was impeccable.
By the time we did finally leave Jakobstad everyone was exhausted!
The start of a long journey
We left Jakobstad on September 21 and had our first taste of the Baltic. Holy. It’s a shallow sea so the sea state is usually confused, short sharp and steep chop (read between the lines here – it was shit). And wind; we’ve had days blowing over 35 knots. Cold – yep winter is on the way up here. I’m currently wearing 3 layers of thermal, a woolen jumper, my waterproof sailing boots, two pairs of socks and my Musto gear over all of that. And my toes are still cold! I’m not quite sure this is a great environment to sea test a new yacht – thank god the guys from Nautor know how to build great boats!
So we are bailing south as fast as we can. First day we headed across the channel to Sweden and we are now making our way down the coast. We’ve stopped at some really beautiful little villages and the locals have been warm and welcoming. “Come for a sauna, would you like some vegetables out of the garden, I’ll show you how to find Chanterelles, have some herrings, the hotel is closed but come in and have a drink anyway, plug into our shore power”. The Swedes have been amazing (however if anyone ever offers you fermented Herrings, just say no. And for Christ’s sake, don’t open them onboard!).
We are currently about 100 nautical miles (that’s about 200km) north of Stockholm. We are also down to 4 crew for the next few weeks (Jacqui has headed back to NZ for a bit and Brendan from Vicsail has cut us loose) and headed for the Kiel Canal that cuts through northern Germany, then bound for Southampton in the UK. We’ve probably got 4 or 5 days there getting the proper boom fitted, another sail to pick up, and some fine tuning to get done on the rig. Plus another long list of other bits and pieces (I’m bloody sick of lists). Once we are done there it’s off to France & Portugal.
So what’s the verdict?
That’s simple – what a beautiful yacht. The Swan 54 is without a doubt the most awesome yacht I’ve ever sailed. She looks great and sails like a dream. In 35 knots of wind with a couple of reefs in the main and the genoa furled a bit, she cranks along at 10 knots like it’s a walk in the park. She’s quiet, even in a heavy sea, feels strong and safe, and is just beautifully balanced. The sails and the rigging are amazing (full carbon mast, 3Di carbon main and genoa) and makes handling her in rough conditions amazing. Inside its all style – beautifully finished and really comfortable. So overall, we are just seriously stoked with her.
We are slowly settling into yachting life with a long journey ahead of us. It’s exciting and challenging with a lot to learn about ocean sailing – but that’s all part of the fun. However, I just can’t wait to get south and into some warmer weather! Roll on the lower latitudes…
In the next few blogs I’ll update our sailing progress and give some insights into the way the yacht works with some details on the inner working of our floating village.