Hatching the Plan, Part Two: The Boat

Thirty years ago Hallie and I sailed across the Atlantic and back aboard a 43’ monohull (single hull, as opposed to a catamaran with two hulls or a trimaran with a main central hull and two smaller outrigger hulls). I spent long hours sailing home in the trade winds, wishing we had a multihull (catamaran or trimaran). Monohulls have weight added in their keels to keep them from tipping over. Multihull rely on the stability of their shape, so they have no ballast, and they are lighter weight (at least if they are designed for sailing, as opposed to being floating apartments). Here I was sailing in the perfect trade winds, downwind all the way, dragging 10,000 pounds of lead ballast across the ocean. And rolling from side to side in the waves, making it hard to get dressed or cook or handle the sails or even sit and read. A multihull would be faster and more comfortable, and would be my next offshore boat.

 My preference was a large (50’) trimaran. In my experience as a cruising sailor (not a serious racer) trimarans are faster and more fun to sail than catamarans. The drawback is that the accommodations are limited to the long narrow central hull, which means they are fine for a singlehander (solo sailor) but poor if living aboard with my wife and hoping to have guests aboard for a week now and then. Would I care about that? Well, it’s hard to imagine working on a boat for a year or two to get it ready, then sail it around the world, and then have to get rid of it because it wouldn’t work for Hallie and me to hang out for the winter in the Caribbean…

 So is there any boat that could satisfy my sailing desires, and also be a good live-aboard afterwards (and still be affordable)? A catamaran might compromise the sailing fun somewhat, but would have much more accommodation space. But I did not want what is commonly called a “condo-maran” which makes all the design trade-offs in favor of comfort over sailing qualities. These thoughts led me to the Atlantic catamarans designed by Chris White (www.chriswhitedesigns.com).

 I googled “chris white atlantic catamaran” and stumbled upon a message board post by a guy in Vermont who was looking for a partner to share ownership of an Atlantic 42 for cruising on the coast of Maine. The Atlantic catamarans are not production boats. There may have been 20 of the 42’s built over the years. The fact that this guy was specific about wanting this design caught my interest. I had to contact him. So I had a nice exchange of emails with Bill, and we agreed that our goals overlapped only in that we had an interest in the same design (and we both love the Maine coast), and we ended with, “Good luck. Stay in touch…”

 I flew to Florida to look at an Atlantic 46. My reaction? “Holy crap, that is a BIG boat!” The idea of trying to singlehandedly maintain all the systems aboard scared me. Instead of enjoying a year of sailing I would be spending a year repairing things and being scared about what would go wrong next. (Some say the definition of cruising is repairing a boat in exotic places!) I met with Chris White, who offered some perspective. “Yes, it’s a big boat when tied to the dock. But it gets small very quickly when you’re sailing offshore.”

 Then I got another email from Bill. “There’s a guy who just bought an Atlantic 42 on Chesapeake Bay. He wants to sail around the world, but he’s looking for partners. Want me to put you in touch with him?” A few hundred emails, two days of sailing, and a lunch in New Hampshire (midway between my home in Maine and Bill’s in Vermont) later, the three of us formed a partnership. Yes, three of us – because the opportunity was irresistible to Bill, too.

Bill, Zeke, Tim

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