Our boat is a Stevens Custom 40. She was designed by Sparkman & Stephens, and is a far less known little sister to the famous Stevens 47, built by the same Queen Long Marine boatyard in Taiwan. Both models were designed for serious ocean cruising, but many were also used as charter boats in the Caribbean by Bill Stevens – hence the name. Later Queen Long continued building the Stevens boats under the also famous name Hylas – they’re still in production today, but in a somewhat bigger size group.
We found and bought s/y Aina before Christmas 2017 in Helsinki, where she had sailed from New York many years ago. After a spring refit we launched her in May 2018 and began our journey in June. This blog is about our adventure – welcome aboard!
As her model suggests, our boat is 40 feet long. She was built in 1983 and her strategic measurements are as follows: length 40.58’ / 12.37 m, beam 12.25’ / 3.73 m, draft 6.5′ / 2 m, sail area 768.58 ft2 / 71,40 m2, weight 24 000 lbs / 11 000 kg (with her tanks empty and without all the stuff we’ve managed to pack in all her lockers).
Rig and Hull
Our boat is cutter rigged, which means there are two headsails, a bigger “yankee” genoa and a smaller jib on the inner forestay. All sails are furling, including the mainsail, which furls inside the mast. The hull is built of solid grp, and the hull shape is very deep and rounded. It has a longish fin keel with internal lead ballast, and a full skeg hung rudder. She’s a sturdy, moderate to heavy displacement, very well built ocean cruising boat that performs calmly and reliably in higher winds and seas. Naturally she’s a little slower in light winds compared to modern, light displacement boats. 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. Our standing rigging passed the inspection with no worries, and at the start of our journey, we replaced just about all running rigging, which means lines, sheets, halyards and other such things that under no circumstance should ever be called ropes. Many of them really look like ropes, but there are no such things on a sailboat!
Deck and cockpit
Aina is a center cockpit boat. 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. The aft deck also has great space for fishing, or just lounging during passage (and for storing a lot of stuff).
We had a sturdy stern arch built for two large solar panels and various other equipment. Two smaller solar panels hang from the side railings. We also added a swimming platform with a ladder, which also helps getting in and out of the dinghy. There’s a Hydrovane on the transom that can steer our boat without using any power at all.
You enter the boat down the companionway stairs into a saloon, although we just call it the living room. It has a large folding table and comfortable sofas on both sides. For comfortable living in the winter, we have a diesel heater, situated next to the mast. Following an extensive plumbing refit, our saloon was completely rebuilt and reupholstered.
Just aft of the saloon, on the starboard (meaning right) side of the entrance is the heart of our boat’s systems – the navigation station with all the instruments and electric panels. On the opposite side, to port, is a great sea-going galley, which we call kitchen. It forms a passageway to the aft cabin, that is our bedroom, and you can also get there via the bathroom on the starboard side, because it opens in both directions. The bathroom has a separate shower stall, where you can shower sitting down, if you like (and yes, I know, I know, it’s not a bathroom, it’s a head – but we still call it bathroom). Forward of the saloon there’s another sleeping cabin with its own, smaller toilet, and a V-shaped bed aptly called the V-berth. Mostly we use the forecabin for storing spare sails, ropes (oops! no ropes!) and other bulky things, but it’s also meant to be our guest room. At the very front is the chain locker, where our anchor chain lives.
Before we embarked on our adventure we modernized the boat’s galley, meaning the kitchen. We put in a new 3-burner gas stove with oven. It’s gimballed, so it will always stay horizontal no matter which way the boat heels. The cold boxes that have opening lids on the worktop are big American style boxes, and originally they were run with only the engine or shore power. We wanted to change that, so our solar panels could provide the required energy, and chose efficient keel cooled 12 volt compressors. We added insulation to one of the boxes, turning it into a freezer, and filled it with game, rye bread, cloudberries and other goodies from our homeland that can’t be found elsewhere. Perhaps in the future you’ll find tuna and mahi mahi in there! On the opposite side, there are two kitchen sinks along the boat’s centerline, as they should be in a seagoing boat. They are very deep, too, so you can wash the dishes even in rough weather without splashing water all over the place.
Every possible nook and cranny on our boat has been dedicated and designed for storage. There are countless lockers, drawers, hatches, shelves and little pigeonholes to fill with all kinds of things (and then forget where you have hidden it all). Fuel tanks are under the floor, water tanks under the settees, and lockers behind the back rests are full of canned food and tools of every kind.
But we don’t have a lot of outside storage space. There are no huge lazarettes under the cockpit seats that we’ve seen on some boats, as that space has been utilized indoors. To compensate for that, we moved the life raft from its dedicated place on the aft deck to the pushpit, and built a storage box in its place. It’s good to have a place for fenders, ropes (here we go again!), jerrycans, barbeques and other such important stuff, and keep the decks nice and clear.
The engine on our boat is called Yanmar. It’s from the early 2000’s with 50 horse power and fairly low hours. It lives under the cockpit and can be accessed from all sides, so it’s easy to maintain. Because our boat is originally an American lady, we have a 110 volt AC electrical system and a powerful engine alternator. We also have plugs for both 110 and 220 volts, so we can plug in anywhere in the world to charge the batteries, if we ever need to. We put in new house batteries, because we wanted to increase the capacity for our solar system, so that we could be self-sufficient in our energy needs. A lot of the electrical wiring has been updated, and most of the lights have gradually been replaced by LED lights.
Our navigation instruments are mostly 10-15 years old. At the start of our journey we had problems with the autopilot and the wind instruments, but since having them fixed in Germany they are working nicely. The radar is old, and with a black-and-white display, but it’s a good, reliable unit. The boat didn’t come with a plotter, and after much thought and investigation, we decided not to add one. They are expensive, and the charts that go with them are also expensive – particularly if you need charts of many different areas. We use a tablet with Navionics and a waterproof case, and a laptop down below at the nav station running OpenCPN. And we have paper charts as backup, all the way from Finland to the Atlantic islands and the Mediterranean.
Our biggest investment regarding navigation electronics was an AIS transceiver. It allows us to monitor other ships and boats and their movements, and transmits our own position so they can see us. We also got a couple of portable vhf radios in addition to the fixed one that came with the boat. For long distance communication the boat has an mf/hf radio, often called the ssb radio by sailors. It works even in the middle of an ocean. Because this great assembly, complete with a Pactor modem, came with the boat, there is no need to buy an expensive satellite phone, at least for now. Satellite calls and messages cost a lot, too, while using the hf radio is free. There’s still a big chunk to learn, but one of our boat’s captains became so interested in the whole thing she even got a ham radio licence.
Safety is paramount in sailing and cruising, and not the place to make compromises. We bought a new life raft, a new epirb emergency beacon, and all the usual safety equipment. The anchor and the dinghy, two of the most important pieces of equipment on a cruising boat, were also replaced.
Follow our journey
These links will show you whether s/y Aina is currently sailing or not.
Our AIS tracker shows our position on the Marine Traffic website.
You can find us on Amateur Radio Winlink website using our call sign OH2AINA.
You can also click the map links on the right hand sidebar above.
This blog post sums all the hopes and requirements we had when looking for a cruising boat.
This is about our first sailboat, the reason why we chose a Sparkman & Stephens boat all over again.
If you’d like to know more about s/y Aina and her equipment, click here:
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Sparkman & Stephens