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Category: Buying a boat

Compass Heading 180° Presents: s/y Aina

Compass Heading 180° Presents: s/y Aina

This is it! The moment you have all been waiting for! I’m sure all our readers have been anticipating this announcement as eagerly as the next sailing season! Here she is, the sailboat that will take us on our adventure. Next summer we will start our journey South – that’s 180°.

May I Introduce to You: Sailing Yacht Aina

A few weeks ago I wrote about the thoughts, hopes and requirements we have for our future boat. Over the course of perhaps two years – the same time we have owned and sailed our little boat in the Baltic sea – we have been constructing this long list of things we consider important. The list has evolved a lot during this time, and still keeps evolving. Our experience with our first boat has taught us a lot, but we expect to learn much more about life on a boat and out at sea once we start our great adventure!

We are not going to polish every little detail or try to install every imaginable equipment before departure. People have gotten stuck in their slip trying too hard to make everything perfect. We just want to make sure our boat is safe and fit to travel, and that we have reliable means of navigating to where ever it is that we’re going. There will be time to figure out the less important stuff along the way.

We actually closed the deal on our boat Aina already before Christmas. Ever since that I’ve been hoping to show our readers some beautiful or at least presentable photos of her, but my camera is a stubborn thing and just refuses to travel down there to take them pictures! So, you will have to settle for a couple of snapshots taken with frozen fingers, and for the lovely sales images obviously from a while back.

Surprise, Surprise – S & S!

Our new boat (just like our old boat) is a Sparkman & Stephens design. She’s a Stevens Custom 40, a far less known little sister to the famous Stevens 47, built by the same Queen Long Marine boatyard in Taiwan. Both models were built for serious ocean cruising, but many were also used as charter boats in the Caribbean by Bill Stevens – hence the name. Here’s a link to the boat brochure. Later Queen Long continued building the 47’s under the also famous name Hylas 47. Hylas boats are still in production today, and can be found at the higher end of the luxury spectrum.

As her model suggests, our boat is 40 feet long. She was built in 1983 and has at least one Atlantic crossing under her belt (or keel?). She’s sturdy and well built, and despite her slightly worn looks you can see the great workmanship in the mahogany interior and overall quality. This boat is clearly designed for long term cruising in mind, down to the smallest detail. The hull shape is very deep and rounded, the boat has a longish fin keel that is fully integrated to the hull, and a full skeg hung rudder. It’s cutter rigged, which means there are two headsails, a bigger genoa and a smaller jib on the inner forestay. This boat should be a very smooth and reliable performer in heavy weather, as S & S boats tend to be, but also fairly fast. She points well and runs nicely downwind. Not that we have any first hand knowledge of this – the boat was on the hard when we bought her and will be for many weeks to come! The previous owner has generously provided great information and we have also talked to a couple of sailboat experts. I also know of at least one happy family sailing the world on their Stevens 40 – check out this Youtube video, the boat has the same layout as ours.

Our boat has a fixed, deeper fin keel instead of the centerboard keel shown in this picture.

Welcome Aboard!

Aina is a center cockpit boat. Apart from the Hallberg- Rassys, you don’t come across many center cockpits in Finland – but our boat sailed here from the USA. There are at least two immediate advantages that I can think of: the visibility is great in all directions, and it allows for a really spacious aft cabin with standing headroom.

As you come down the companionway stairs, you first end up in the living room, which I think is officially called the saloon (why it is so beats me – I always thought saloon is where you stride in with spurs on your boots and order a whiskey) with a large folding table and comfortable sofas on both sides. From here you have two ways to get to the aft cabin – either through the galley (kitchen) on the port side, or though the shower and toilet on the starboard side. The aft toilet is very practical as it can be used from two sides (I’m not even trying to call the toilet a “head“…) and as it’s close to the companionway you can easily hang up your wet foulies to dry. On the starboard side there’s also a nice navigation station with all the electronics and electric panels. At the pointy end of the boat there’s another sleeping cabin, which will be our guest room, and a second, smaller toilet. So it’s basically a two bedroom, two bathroom house, with the best location, location, location, that you could imagine.

Here’s one of my Pinterest boards showing the sales photos. It’s not quite as clean and shiny today, but I’m hoping that a good scrub and some new polish here and there will do the trick.

Stuff and Techy Stuff

Under the companionway stairs is the engine. It’s called Yanmar, has 50 horse power and has been there since the early 2000s. It has low hours and is fortunately one of those good old times engines that doesn’t have too much computer technology in it. There are removable panels all around so the engine can be easily accessed and thus maintained. The navigation electronics we have onboard are mostly over 10 years old, but still working. There’s a good autopilot, a radar, a GPS, an Epirb, and VHF and SSB radios. There’s a Hydrovane on the transom that can steer our boat without using any power at all. There’s a Dickinson diesel heater in the saloon that should get us through the Mediterranean winter. We have two full sets of sails, and a storm sail and a light wind gennaker, all checked at our sail loft and found to be in good working condition. Phew, that’s one big worry off the list – new sails are deadly expensive!

But there’s still a lot to fix and buy, even if we stick to the elementary stuff. Solar panels will be essential, and fortunately they are reasonably priced and quite efficient these days. We will need to have a stern arch made to support the panels. The life raft that came with the boat can’t be serviced where we are and is at the end of its life span anyway, so it needs to be replaced. Then there’s the Big Anchor Question! If you have ever followed a sailing forum conversation about anchors, then you know it’s a very hot subject and there are about as many (heated) opinions as there are people discussing anchors. We have a good old CQR, which – or so I have gathered – might not be the best choice for varying conditions and sea bottoms of the wide world, even if it works splendidly in the Baltic Sea. If you have an (heated or not) opinion about anchors, feel free to share!

So what about the compromises?

Our boat ticks a lot of boxes from our wish list. A lot more than I ever expected, given our budget, including one secret wish that was so secret, I didn’t even dare to write it down – but surely there must be something that bothers us? Well, the boat does have an in-mast furling mainsail – another very hot subject on the sailing forums, by the way! Basically those folks who don’t have one would never ever have one, but those folks who do have one, are generally happy with the system. Who knows! There will obviously be a learning curve, and we’ll have to take good care of it, but the same applies to every mechanical system. It doesn’t feel like too big a compromise at this point. Another slight negative is lack of storage space on deck. There are no huge lazarettes under the cockpit seats that we’ve seen on some boats, as that space has been utilised indoors. But maybe we can find a solution to that.

Basically, what we have here is a near perfect boat for us. Apart from some of the lacking equipment I can’t really think of anything that’s missing. That’s pretty wonderful, isn’t it?

We enjoy reading and responding to comments from our readers – so please do not hesitate to leave one!

Sailing the Big Seas – Choosing the Right Boat

Sailing the Big Seas – Choosing the Right Boat

The first step towards the Great Journey has been taken. Last time I wrote about how we decided to put our plan into action. The first phase has been completed – we have sold our house and most of our worldly belongings. There are a million steps to go before we get to stand on the deck of our sailboat, waving goodbye to the cheering crowds on the dock. Firstly, we’ll need a boat. Secondly, we’ll have to be nice to our friends so there might actually be someone there to see us off! This time I will concentrate on the boat search, which might prove to be the easier task of the two.

Finding the Right Boat is a process involving both sense and sensibility. The decision must be based on a lot of research and at least some experience – but the boat also has to feel right for us! What works wonderfully for someone else might not work for us, and vice versa. The boat will be our home for (hopefully) many years to come, so it definitely has to feel like home!

The budget, always the budget…

As well as having a great effect on the level of luxury we might expect from our lifestyle as we cast the lines, our budget also defines the size and standard of our boat and all the equipment that comes with it. 

We will be travelling on nothing short of a shoestring budget, so the ultimate shoestring decision would be to keep our little boat and forget about upgrading. ”The best boat is the one you have” is a phrase you often come across in the replies to someone asking the sailing forums for advice about the best boat for crossing oceans. But I don’t really think anyone would offer that advice to a middle aged couple sailing a 25 foot boat. That would be pretty extreme, to say the least! I’m not saying our little lady couldn’t do it – after all, she was built for offshore. Most boats will endure much more than their crews ever could.

Still, we came to the conclusion that we would need a bigger boat. But how much bigger? And what other, just as important factors to consider?

Does size really matter?

Running and maintenance costs escalate rapidly with the size of the boat. If you double a boat’s length you don’t end up with a boat that’s twice as big – it will in fact be six times the weight and volume. The sails will be six times bigger, and so will the engine. The systems will be more powerful and complicated, and it will be much more expensive to maintain or replace them. For someone on a budget, bigger is not better, as there is not a place on Earth where the maintenance costs will not follow us. So the question is not about how big a boat we can afford – it’s how small a boat we can (relatively) comfortably live on.

Old or new?

From the very start of our boat search we agreed on the most important features of our future boat. First and foremost she has to be safe, seaworthy and strongly built. We want a boat designed for offshore and long distance cruising so we completely ruled out light, flat bottomed daysailor types, as well as any kind of boats with long, thin keel stems and delicate rudders. Many such boats have successfully crossed oceans, so it definitely can be done, but we would like our boat to stand the test of time – a long time!

Strong, seaworthy boats are still in production today, but not exactly within our financial reach, so the question about the boat’s age pretty much solves itself. Our future boat will have her teenage years well behind her – we’re talking 1970’s or 80’s vintage.

So we will be missing out on the vast interiors of modern boats, with light flooding in through large windows. But there’s a drawback to them that we wouldn’t like anyway – a wide, flat hull is not as sea kindly as a more traditional, deeper hull, and the big open spaces can be unsafe when the boat gets tossed around in rough weather. Not to mention what else could be flooding in through those large windows…

Older boats have tighter interiors compared to modern boats of the same length. But they often have more storage space and tankage for water and fuel because of the deeper hull shape. That suits us very well!

Fast or slow?

Modern boats are lighter and therefore faster in light winds. The prevailing winds along popular cruising routes are fairly light, so we wouldn’t want to make too much of a compromise in light air performance. 

We hope to be spending most of our time in pleasant areas, sailing in benign conditions. But at some point we also want to explore places that are not so pleasant. I’m sure there’s a middle ground that can be found – a boat that sails reasonably well but can still stand up to a blow. After all, a boat that’s too heavy, slow and sails poorly is too dependent on engine power, and we just love to sail!

And finally – how to find such a boat?

Our location is not exactly ideal in terms of finding a large selection of seaworthy boats with all the necessary equipment. It would be a lot easier if we lived in, say, Marseille, Florida or the Chesapeake Bay. In those places you can find more boats for sale in one single marina than in our entire country. Ocean going sailboats are not a very hot selling item in the northern Baltic Sea for a very natural reason: it’s not an ocean. Even if suitable boats could be found, they’re seldom equipped for much more than daysailing in the archipelago. Only a handful of boats leave Finland for a longer voyage each year. 

Travelling abroad to look for a boat is, of course, not a bad idea. But to stay in budget we would have to have a very succesful first attempt – it’s no use spending money on multiple pilgrimages and possibly ending up being tricked by some broker, unsuspecting as we country folks often are. So, wouldn’t it be great if the Right Boat could be found in Scandinavia, or at least somewhere in the northern Europe?

Will we find our boat? And what compromises will we have to make? Soon I might be able to tell you more!

If you’re a boat owner cruising somewhere in turquoise waters, what requirements did you have for the boat? Did you have to make compromises?

We really like reading comments and responding to them – so do not hesitate to comment!

If you’re interested in more details about our requirements for the boat, I’ve made a list of all the must-haves, like-to-haves and if-we-lived-in-a-perfect-world-where-everything-was-possibleand-money-was-not-an-issue-haves that we’ve managed to come up with. They are roughly in the order in which they should appear on our boat.

The boat, our requirements, hopes and wishes

First of all, the boat has to be… 

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