Getting started, part 6 – Is this our future boat?

Discovery 55 in build | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55Is this our future boat? We arrived at the Discovery yard full of anticipation, like children visiting Disneyworld for the first time.  I had a feeling in my heart that this was to be “the boat”.  But we wanted to have that feeling in our brains as well as our hearts – that the emotional side would agree with the logical, analytical side.  Sometimes, as you know, these two sides don’t always agree.

We were greeted on Monday morning by Mark Williams, Discovery’s sales director, and were ushered into the conference room.  After tea and shortbread (so English!), we were taken to see the yachts in build. There were two 57s and two 55s.

Yacht construction | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Early stages of construction in a Discovery 57

Seeing boats in their various stages of build enabled us to see the quality of materials used underneath the floors and behind the bulkheads and ceilings, something you don’t see in photos or at boat shows.  Since Discoveries are constructed with the hull in an open state (the deck and cabin top are attached later in the build) we were really able to see everything. It was both fascinating and enlightening – something I’d never seen before, as my previous boats were bought as “previously owned”.First visit Discovery Yachts | Cruising Attitude sailing blog - Discovery 55

Woodworking area at Discovery | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

The woodworking area at Discovery.  In the foreground, you see a few lockers, a settee and walls ready for the varnishing chamber.

Finally, we stepped onto a 55.  It was almost at the end of it’s build process.  What an elegant and above all, solid-looking boat!  Sitting the deep centre cockpit, I thought, “this is a boat that makes you feel safe.”  It was then I noticed the hot tub that we saw in the Discovery video.  Yes, folks, there is a hot tub in the cockpit.

Hot tub in Discovery 55 | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Jacques standing in the hot tub

For anyone who sails in the colder parts of the world, this is a serious plus.  For us, Discovery racked up some serious bonus points with the hot tub. We imagined ourselves being in an anchorage in Norway in early spring, snow-blended rain coming down and sitting in our warm hot tub, glögg (nordic hot-mulled wine) in hand.

Hot tub in Discovery 55 | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Here you see the hot, cold and salt water faucets for the hot tub

John and Caroline Charnley, the founders of Discovery and owners of hull number one, come up with this genius idea. It was simple.  The helming position had been designed as a separate area from the rest of the cockpit, so it was just a matter of installing hot and cold water faucets to pour water into the area.

The companionway has only three wide and comfortable stairs to get into the saloon area.  This was important as we have two large dogs.  Too large to carry up and down the stairs.  These stairs they could handle!

The nav station was just amazing with it’s 270° view.  The nav station to us was always “sea sickness central” as it’s normally located deep down in the darkest part of the boat, with no view of what’s going on outside.  The dinette also provides a 270° view. I started to daydream about being anchored up in a lovely anchorage in Sweden, reading a book or having a meal or drinks, and observing the beauty outside. We noticed that the windows in front open up to let a breeze through.

 Testing out the nav station in Discovery 55 | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Jacques testing out the nav station

We were impressed with the galley. It had as many linear centimetres as our kitchen at home. The fridge and freezer had more capacity than ours at home.  It also had one of those famous GN Espace 4-burner ovens. We had read about them in Yachting Monthly’s test of marine cookers, in which GN Espace won “Best on Test”.

To make a long story short, we were enchanted with the boat.  Next, we sat down with all of our questions about the build process and materials used.  And finally, we talked about an offer.

To our surprise, the boat came with a lot of standard items that are usually options on other boats, for example:

  • Electric primary and control line winches
  • Electric in-mast furling
  • Solent rig or cutter rig with furling headsails
  • Bow thruster
  • Kevlar reinforced hull
  • Folding Gori propeller
  • 40 kg Delta anchor and 60 m of chain
  • Bosch washer/dryer
  • 7kW Victron generator
  • Raymarine autopilot
  • Raymarine chart-plotter
  • Raymarine 4 kW radar
  • 2 electric fresh-water toilets
  • Eberspacher central heating
  • Water-resistant leather seating for all seating
  • 3 kW inverter/charger
  • Pocket-sprung owners’ mattress
  • Microwave oven
  • Stereo systems with speakers inside and out
  • Heavy-duty Sonnenschein deep-cycle batteries
  • Victron Isolation transformer
  • GN Espace 4-burner stove with oven
  • Extractor fan over stove
  • Lee cloths for all berths including in between the double berths
  • Flush Lewmar hatches including mosquito and sun screens
  • Icom VHF with DSC and masthead antenna

This was really great news because we knew just how much all of these items (or similar items) on this list cost.  With one or two exceptions, they were all on the options list for the 3 other boats for which we had offers.

Here’s a list of the options we wanted and why at the outset:

  • Extra hanging locker instead of desk/vanity in the owners’ cabin (closet space is always welcome, but a vanity??  I can fix my face in the heads, thank you, and we can use the navigation or dining table as a desk.)
  • 55 kg Spade anchor and 100 meters of chain instead of the 40 kg Delta/60 meters (following the advice of John Harries on the excellent  Attainable Adventure Cruising website, who wrote “two anchors don’t increase holding, holding is linear and heavier anchors set better.”)
  • Hot tub plumbing (of course!)
  • Full height pantry with sliding baskets instead of the wet locker (you always need lots of space for storing food).
  • Fans in each cabin for ventilation
  • Settee (sofa) instead of the standard pilot berth on starboard side (provides more floor space for the dogs and a place to sit down to put on your boots).
  • Retaining catches on floor hatches (safety feature in case of capsize — see this video from Yachting Monthly magazine about what happens when you roll over.
  • Bimini with full enclosure (a tent for the cockpit, something you see often in the colder climates so you can enjoy your cockpit when it rains or when it’s cold).
  • Reckmann electric furlers (customer feedback and maintenance records at Discovery had shown they work pretty much flawlessly while the Furlex ones didn’t)
  • Hydraulic boom vang (makes the topping lift superfluous – which means we’d have a “crane” to lift things from the water, such as the inflatable kayak we’ve been eying).
  • Spinnaker halyard (this also serves as a “crane” for lifting things or a MOB from the water)
  • Two additional mooring cleats aft and forward, giving us a total of 12 mooring cleats (would give us lots of margin for the “each line should have it’s own cleat” rule)
  • Ribeye RIB and outboard (will be our Smart car whilst at anchor. This is a good model for people with dogs as the floor is flat and the dogs will be able to lie down.)
  • Grey water tank (to fit in with new rules on water pollution/ecology in the Baltic Sea).
  • Shoal keel draft of only 1.8 metres/5.9 feet (a shallow draft makes the Baltic Sea archipelago areas more accessible and it’s essential for some of my favourite anchorages in the Stockholm and St. Anna archipelagos in Sweden) instead of the standard 2.3 metres

This was the basis for the offer we requested from Discovery.

The last part of our day was a visit to Ocean Village Marina in downtown Southampton to see a 57 that was already in the water. We turned down an offer to test sail her. We thought that the 55 was so different from the 57, it wasn’t worth the extra day it would take.

Gamesa at Ocean Village Marina | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Mike Golding’s Open 60 “Gamesa” at Ocean Village Marina. He finished in 6th place in the Vendée Globe race (88 days, 6 hours).

The huge, twin-helm centre cockpit of the Discovery 57| Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

The huge, twin-helm centre cockpit of the Discovery 57 – it felt much too big for us.

We had a chance to speak with John Charnley, the founder of Discovery Yachts.  He was at Ocean Village getting his Discovery 50 catamaran ready for it’s next owner.  We got an excellent impression of John. He seemed to be the quintessential British gentleman: soft-spoken, articulate and pleasant.

We now had a short list of three boats to consider.  It was July, 2013 and we would have to make a final decision by October or November. We also had our appointment to visit the Hallberg Rassy yard at the end of August coming up.

Dreaming about our future boat” was about to become “planning our future boat”.

Getting Started, Part 5 – the Search for Our Dream Boat Continues

The Search for our dream boat continues | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55It was now 2013, and our search for the perfect cruising sailboat, our “dream boat”, continued. We visited Düsseldorf again in January, mostly because Hallberg-Rassy had suddenly replaced the 54 with a brand-new 55.  We had to see it and compare the old 54 with the new 55.  We also wanted to check out a Solaris, as one of our “classmates” from the offshore theory course had just bought a Solaris 48 which he keeps in Genoa, Italy, and he absolutely raved about it.

We were well-received at the Solaris stand, and they are indeed beautifully-crafted boats.  But we could tell right away that we were not going to buy one.  A Solaris is a great Mediterranean or perhaps Caribbean cruising yacht, but the boat and especially the huge aft cockpit did not install a feeling of security in our minds. We intend to start our cruising life in Scandinavia and northern Europe and then perhaps Iceland, Greenland and Canada – places where the water temperature rarely rises above 18°C – places where you want to stay put on the boat. The wide and roomy saloon did not offer much in terms of handholds and bracing needed if going through a rough sea, but it did provide great entertainment space for a Mediterranean-style dinner party.

So on we went to our appointment at the Hallberg-Rassy stand.

The new H-R 55 was not very different from the 54. The greatest difference was the addition of two port lights on each side of the hull in the saloon area.  The upside was more light in the saloon and a tiny bit of view.  The downside was that it took away quite a bit of storage (removal of cupboards on each side of the saloon).  We weren’t sure if the change was a good thing. Storage is, after all, something you never have enough of on a boat.

We discussed what options we wanted/needed, such as the double bed configuration in the owner’s cabin instead of the standard twin beds separated by a little seat in the middle. There were four or five pages of options to go through. Dishwasher?  No.  Washing machine? Yes.  Microwave? Yes.  Television? No. Double bed instead of the standard bunk beds? No.  Shoal keel?  Yes.  And so on…  An hour later, we felt we were almost ready to order the boat! We left the H-R booth with an appointment to visit the yard at the end of August in conjunction with the Open Yard boat show there.

One of the absolute highlights of the 2013 Düsseldorf show was meeting someone who was to become a friend, coach and a big influence on the construction of our boat, Freja.  This person was Leon Schultz.

Leon Schultz onboard his Hallberg-Rassy 46 "Regina Laska" | Cruising Attitude Sailing Blog - Discovery 55

Leon onboard his Hallberg-Rassy 46 “Regina Laska”

Leon was in Düsseldorf to promote his book The Missing Centimetre (recently re-named to Sabbatical at Sea), which I had bought and read a few months earlier.  We met standing in a cash register queue!  I immediately recognised him from all of the photos in the book and we had a short but lively conversation about life after quitting everything to go cruising.  He proved to be just as kind, open and insightful as he seemed to be in the book.

Leon found it impossible to go back to the “office life” after his one-year cruising sabbatical, and was at this point (early 2013) providing cruising/sailing training on his new boat, Regina Laska, a Hallberg-Rassy 46.  We thought it would be a good idea to do some sailing with a private coach, so we took his business card, fully intending to get in touch in a year or so.

We left Düsseldorf with the H-R 55 in our sights. We received an offer, detailing all the options we discussed, a couple of weeks after the show.  But after seeing what Leon had done with Regina Laska (a total refit of an older boat), we started to entertain thoughts of doing the same.  What about buying an older boat, at a much lower price, and then refitting it to suit our requirements?  Were we getting analysis paralysis, or were we being wise in considering all possible options?

It was only February of 2013, and our goal was to have a boat in the spring of 2016, so we weren’t quite worried about making our final decision yet. Plenty of time to get through our analysis paralysis.

Fast forward to June 2013…

On a sunny day in June, I stumbled upon the yacht builders page on sailnet.com. Just for fun, I paged down just to see if there was a builder I didn’t know about yet.  We had decided to go through with ordering the H-R 55 in August during the Open Yard boat show in Ellös, but why not?  I had finished a big task for work, and felt entitled to disappear down a rabbit hole for 15 minutes while I drank my coffee.

Discovery Yachts”.  Well, this was one I’d never heard of!   Click.

Oh holy crap!

Wow!

Houston,  we have a problem.

I waited for Jacques to return home for lunch, and showed him the photos and then the video (since taken down as it is of the “Mark I” rather than the “Mark II”) of the Discovery 55.  Same reaction.  Suddenly, our well thought-out plans were turned upside down.

The lightening bolt effect had happened yet again.

I knew in my heart after seeing the photos and the video, that this was “the one”.  I sent for the brochures and I phoned the sales manager directly after lunch to set up a visit to the yard in Southampton.  A few days later we received a packet in the mail with brochures, reprints of press articles and photos of the Ron Holland-designed Discovery 55.  We had 10 days to go through everything before heading up to Southampton to visit the yard.

Discovery Yachts Info Pack | Cruising Attitude Blog - Discovery 55

This was the info pack that Discovery Yachts sent us in anticipation of our visit.