Written by Suellen Tomkins, owner of FP Helia 44 Wild Heart
Have you seen the classic John Cusack film “High Fidelity”? He’s a depressed record store owner who compulsively creates his top 5 lists of films, records and ex-girlfriends. Inspired by High Fidelity’s list-making, I’ve created my own top 5 list of “must haves” on our catamaran which gives us ultimate cruising freedom and comfort.
Ordering a brand new boat was thrilling. Taking delivery of our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 straight from the factory, fitted with everything we wanted in a boat in La Rochelle, was a great experience. Once we placed the order, the “exactly what options did we want on the new yacht “ decisions started. Although we had previously owned a monohull, we bought it second hand; the previous owner had predetermined the inclusions. So, specifying factory fitted inclusions on a new catamaran was uncharted territory for us. Now the biggest challenge was balancing what we wanted (and needed) within our budget. It’s really tempting to tick all the optional extras boxes. Choosing between factory and aftermarket options was also tricky especially as we wanted to get sailing as soon as possible.
What kept us on track in this decision making process, was prioritising sailing and safety options, like an extra winch over “glamour” options, such as blue underwater lights. Ultimately choices of inclusions depend on everyone’s preferences, circumstances and lifestyle. We opted for a “keep it simple” (KIS) approach. We wanted to maximise our sailing time by minimising any potential lengthy customising at commissioning after the factory pick up. We also wanted to experience cruising on the boat before investing in any further customisation. In short, we chose to:
- Stay within a predetermined budget, including making allowances for last minute spending to complete the catamaran fit out
- Opt for factory fitted options where it made sense from a cost, warranty and performance perspective
- Select straightforward tried and tested ex-factory installation options to be done at the time of commissioning
- Make sailing and safety inclusions an expenditure priority.
The KIS approach worked for us. We left La Rochelle, 13 days after arriving at the boat, delayed only by a couple of days waiting for the shipment of our personal items to come from Australia.
I won’t delve into the technical detail of different equipment as that’s discussed during the ordering process plus there’s a wealth of information available on the Internet. My list is about those items that make cruising and living aboard comfortable and enjoyable. So, here they are my 5 must-haves for our catamaran after 6 months living aboard:
- Solar and generator power. This may not sound sexy, but this is off-grid power generation, which keeps us independent of marinas. We chose the factory fitted option of 4 x 100W solar panels and an ex-factory Fisher Panda 5000i 5kw backup generator. We have 2 fridges, a freezer and no air conditioning, so this is sufficient for our needs. As technology rapidly evolves, we may increase the solar panels in future, but for now, it works for us.
- Watermaker. We had the factory fitted Aquabase 60L/hr version installed and are very happy with it. Having the water maker means we have ample water on board for drinking, showers and dishwashing, and don’t need to go ashore looking for fresh water. The watermaker also allows us to have enough water for a high-pressure wash down to keep the cockpit clean and salt-free. Between the power generation and water maker, we are self-sufficient and can stay offshore as long as the food lasts. This means freedom to us.
- Sena SPH10 headsets; otherwise known as “marriage savers”. These are lightweight, Bluetooth headsets that are paired with each other and to other devices. It took us a while to start using the headsets as we had so much happening during our first few weeks at sea; once we did use them, we realised how useful they are for 2 handed sailors. The headsets are brilliant when berthing stern to or port side to with reduced visibility for the helmsperson and anchoring in high winds. With clear communication and no yelling, the stress levels drops significantly. These are also invaluable if you need to talk to each other when in different areas of the boat when troubleshooting.
Enjoying a turquoise blue cave at our Menorcan anchorage with our SUP}
- On water accessories and ‘toys”. There are several items I’ve grouped in this category. Things like fins, mask and snorkel, fishing rod and reels are pretty much a given on a boat. What’s critical is a good dingy with a reliable, high power motor allowing you to anchor off and tender in to go ashore and explore. A higher horsepower motor makes a difference to how far you can travel; having used underpowered motors on a tender in the past, trust me, it’s no fun.
Also, an exercise routine while cruising can be challenging to maintain; this is where an inflatable Stand Up Paddle (SUP) board comes in. They are a great option to stay active, explore your anchorage or go ashore without the dingy; plus they are convenient to store away. We chose Red Paddle SUPs for quality and reputation.
- Cockpit and helm enclosures plus sunscreens. These enclosures make such a difference to being able to stay warm, dry and comfortable especially in bad weather. I’d highly recommend them; a dry helm in bad weather makes the situation more bearable. We had sunscreens installed in the aft cockpit and around the windows, offering much needed shade in the Mediterranean summer and privacy in marinas.
One last item, which didn’t quite make the top 5 but is right up there, is our Coffee Machine. It’s my little luxury in the gallery. We have a Nespresso on the galley bench selected for size and convenience. As not every country has suitable pods (think Croatia and Montengero), we have been known to have guests arrive carrying a substantial resupply. In the future, I will consider using refillable alternatives. There’s nothing like contemplating the start of the day over a slow coffee, watching the anchorage and marina as it comes alive.
Then there’s the tech gear, which I haven’t covered in this post: like cameras, GoPro, Apps and software. This is a topic in itself for another day. On a side note, we did include a TV and the music system but found we rarely used them. However, they are a great addition to the entertainment options onboard, especially on rainy days.
During our first season in the Mediterranean, living on “Wild Heart”, we felt we had everything we needed on board to make cruising life comfortable and fun. Our choices meant “Wild Heart” is full of creature comforts and we have the freedom to anchor away from peak period crowds, which was a significant plus during the busy European summer holidays.
You can read more about our travels, and sailing experiences in the Mediterranean at www.wildheartgypsyspirit.com, including a map of our anchorages and marina stops. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or connect on Instagram: @wildheartgypsyspirit and Facebook: Travel Sail Explore with SV Wild Heart