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.
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?
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