Discovery divides its build process into 3 stages (A, B, and C), depending on when each item needs to go into the boat. By May of 2014, we had made decisions on the “A” items and most of the “B”s as well. Here are some of the decisions we made and the reasons behind them.
Beginning stages of building Freja’s interior.
Sofa that converts to a berth for the starboard side of the saloon, instead of the pilot berth many people choose on their 55’s. One couple ordered a kind chest of drawers/cabinet there, for charts, drinks bottles and cocktail glasses. Another wanted 2 easy chairs like you sometimes see on the Najads and Hallberg-Rassys. We liked the sofa solution because it gives you somewhere to sit and take off your boots. It also gives more floor space for our dog to lie down. Finally, it makes a nice single berth with the lee cloth up.
Fuel and water tanks going in
Pantry cabinet with sliding stainless steel baskets instead of a wet locker at the end of the galley. These four baskets hold an incredible amount of stuff and we can always hang wet clothes in the showers (a bar for hanging clothes is always provided in both showers.)
The woodworking shop at Discovery
Additional hanging locker in the owners cabin instead of a seat. I don’t know why anyone would need a seat in the aft cabin, when you could just sit on the bed. This additional locker would give both Jacques and I our own hanging lockers for our “off-duty” wardrobe, and we would have equal storage space on both sides of the cabin.
Cherrywood walls going up. On the left, you can see the beginnings of a galley
Deck equipment decisions
Upgraded windlass to Lewmar V5 and modified anchor chain stowage. Because we ordered the 55 kg Spade and 100 meters of chain we upgraded the windlass to handle the increased load. There is also a capstan next to the windlass.
Upgraded to all-stainless Andersen winches. These winches are known for being the kindest to lines (less long-term chafe) and the easiest to maintain. They are also beautiful to look at!
Integral boarding ladders on both sides of the boat. This is something we saw on the Discovery 57, which had recently been launched at the time of our visit. You can see them on the Discovery 57 in this video at 4.09.
Stainless steel bow protector plate. We wanted this after seeing so many boats with their bows nicked and scraped.
Additional mooring cleats. Keeping with the philosophy of “each line its proper cleat”, we requested two additional cleats at the bow and at the stern, giving us a total of 12 on the boat.
The Onan generator is installed
Twin fuel filter with alarm. After witnessing what can happen when you have only one fuel filter, this decision was a no-brainer. (A fellow member of the Swiss cruising club was crossing the English channel with a chartered boat on a windless day, when the engine died in the middle of the shipping channel. After informing the coast guard on both sides of the channel, it took him an hour to change the filter.)
Hot tub plumbing. Well, of course! We’ll be sailing in Scandinavia and northern Europe for the first few years. The bathtub is also a great place for rinsing and washing things like our diving suits and equipment. This is one of the unique features of the Discovery 55.
You can see the two waterproof bulkheads in the bow that will be fiberglassed in – the first contains the chain locker and the second, the sail locker.
Grey water tank. My previous boat did not have one and I always felt embarrassed seeing our washing up water bubbles surrounding the boat. It’s better to keep your grey water in the boat until you get out of the anchorage or marina and into open waters.
Backup Autopilot. Thanks to some great advice from our friend Leon Schultz, we decided to install a fully independent backup autopilot. Leon’s words: “you don’t want to be trying to repair your autopilot in the middle of a stormy ocean. If you can afford it, install a second autopilot to switch to in case the number 1 fails.”
The deck is being built separately
In part two, I’ll go over some more of our equipment decisions and show the continuing build process.
As we entered into the fall of 2013, we realised it was time to make a final decision. All three boats that we were interested in had combined waiting list and building times of up to 18 months and we wanted a boat for early 2016.
Why we decided on the Discovery 55
All three boats, the Discovery, the Hallberg-Rassy, and the Regina af Vindö fulfilled all of our original requirements. The most important reason for our choice was that the Discovery is a semi-custom build. It was not the most expensive of the three.
End of November 2013
Signing the contract and our first meeting with John Eustace, Discovery’s Owner Care Manager
During our first meeting with the yard as “owners”, we realised that building a Discovery was going to be a lot of work for us. There were a million possibilities in terms of options and customisation.. We had researched and discussed lots of good ideas to steal and bad ideas to avoid on other boats. We wanted to incorporate the good ones into our boat.
For example, we found out that we despise rounded-off, oval-shaped dinettes while sailing the Bavaria 40. Why? Because our favourite activity at the end of the day is putting our feet up with a good book and a cup of tea or a glass of wine. In the cockpit, that’s easy, you lean against the cabin wall and put your legs up on the bench. Inside, if the saloon is oval as they are in most Discoveries and recent Oysters, you can’t lean against anything flat. So we requested a rectangular dinette with perfect 90° angled corners.
At the time of signing the contract, we needed to have decided on four things to begin the design process: the colour of the hull, the hull option, the keel option (regular or shoal) and the choice and size of anchor (because the anchor determines the stem head design).
The only thing that is always the same for each Discovery 55 is the hull form, although there are two options — for either vertical or horizontal windows in the rear cabin. The the vertical ones are larger, we thought the horizontal ones looked more balanced.
You can choose any colour you want and we chose the classic and elegant navy blue that most Discovery owners have chosen. At first we wanted a white hull, thinking that the dark blue would make the interior of the boat hot during a sunny summer day. But after speaking with John and checking with some other owners, we felt assured the insulation was thick enough to prevent this, and we changed our minds.
I had already done tons of research on what anchor was best, and although the is no “one best anchor”, the Spade won out over the Rocna and the Ultra because:
- We did not want stainless steel
- The roll-bar of the Rocna takes up a lot of space for the size of anchor we needed
- The weighed tip of the Spade gave us more confidence of good performance in the sea-weedy anchorages you’ll find in some parts of Scandinavia.
After reading the excellent advice of John Harries over at the Attainable Adventure Cruising website, we specified an oversized 55kg (120 lb) S-200 galvanised Spade. John advises that you should go, if possible, two sizes up from the table specifications. He gives a number of compelling reasons for it. He jokes that if the marina isn’t laughing about the size of your anchor, it’s not big enough.
According the Spade Anchor Selector wizard, for a boat that’s 55 feet, for extended cruising and difficult sea beds, you should chose the 37 kg (lb.) S-160. The next model up is the 44 kg S-180, and then you have the S-200 that we chose.
We wanted the shoal keel to give us more possibilities in the archipelagos of Scandinavia. We were to be the first 55 with a 1.8 metre (5.9 ft) keel.
Discovery now had the answers to this three questions and could officially move our boat into the construction pipeline. The build was to begin in February 2014.
Fast-forward to February 2014
The laminating process begins – and here are the first photos of Freja. We had to decide about everything that has through-holes since the balsa layer needs to be cut out from each of the hole areas.
Gelcoat and epoxy layers finished – first layers of fibreglass go in the mould.
Another view of the fibreglass layers going in
The end-grain balsa wood layer going in. This is the insulation layer.
Kevlar layers are added for extra strength at the front of the hull. The yellow sheets are Kevlar, the white sheets are fibreglass.
Jacques checking out the Kevlar layers
The final fibreglass layers are laid in
Is 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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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”.