Written by Sue Hichens (Former Owner of Annapolis Yacht Sales)
When we returned to Annapolis in 2019 after our last 6 month trip to the Bahamas, we decided to sell our much-loved Beneteau 423 as we weren’t sure we would be doing another long trip; we had the Harbor 20 to sail, and Garth enjoyed racing on friends’ boats too. We were busy for a year, then Covid arrived. Sitting at home we felt the pull of how wonderful it would be to be back in the Bahamas, independent and away from it all again. Time to start looking for another boat!
Garth has been a lifelong sailor. He made it his career and lives, eats and breathes sailing. But there were some questions this time. We were getting older – I didn’t feel I had the stamina for sailing in rough weather. A catamaran would give us a solid, non-heeling base. But cruising catamarans generally do not sail that well and for Garth, sailing performance is all. Also, we realized that on our trips south, we didn’t actually sail that much. Down the waterway – definitely not. And even in the Bahamas, the wind wasn’t always cooperative and we would either motor sail or simply just motor. The biggest consideration was draft – there were many anxious moments negotiating passages at low tide and hoping we wouldn’t go aground. There were so many times that our draft precluded us from getting into a safe harbor in threatening weather, or simply from getting to anchor in glorious water that was only four feet deep!
Our friends have a PDQ 34 and the more Garth spoke to Dick, the more convinced he became that this might be the boat for us.
It doesn’t sail. But, it has two 100hp Yanmar diesels that cruise very economically at 7.5 knots, and can travel comfortably at 14 knots with higher, but not outrageous fuel consumption. It has a 2’6” draft. We love the flybridge (which seats 8 comfortably) but if it rains (or is too sunny) (or too cold) we can steer from down below with full all-round visibility – and wipers!! It is 17 ft wide, so still very compact and easy to find a slip in a marina. I love the flat, wide decks and stainless railing all around – so easy for attaching fenders and lines. There are no winches, stays, genoa tracks, or cleats to kick your feet on! It has two cabins each with a full queen size bed (standard sheets fit perfectly!) and although the galley and head are small, we are learning to make them work. The shower is actually great – it is narrower at the bottom but widens as it goes up, giving you lots of “elbow room”! There are opening top hatches in the head and both cabins which work as wind scoops when you are at anchor and we have slept very comfortably right from the word go.
We were lucky enough to find the right boat in Chesapeake, VA, and we were able to buy it with minimum Covid interference. Garth had a project! – and spent the next 9 months fixing, changing, upgrading, repairing, and adding the equipment we needed to make it our own.
We left Annapolis on October 19th and when we were able to go under the low bridge to the almost empty mooring field in Hampton we looked at each other and high-fived!! The waterway was a breeze – no worrying about high tides compressing the bridge heights, or low tides making it too shallow to get through. We could go under many of the opening bridges or speed up to make sure we were there for their opening times. With our 2’6” draft we were able to go to the inside of the inside dock at Fernandina Beach when the huge storm blew through – very reassuring, especially as the marina and mooring field were filled to capacity.
We were lucky that we had the perfect day for crossing the gulf stream – the boat can really rock around if you have waves on the beam – that’s when a heavy keel and steadying sail would help a lot! We put the pedal to the metal and were tied up in West End by 1.30 – that advantage made up for any bouncing.
We believe that life has seasons – not really to do with age or stage, but some things happen when they are meant to. There is no “perfect” boat and there are always pros and cons no matter what. For us, right now, we are loving our power cat – it does everything we need for this trip.
So we can’t reach a conclusion about power or sail – there is no need. Just go out on the water and enjoy to the fullest whatever you have!