Valiente, you and I are on the same page on this one. When planning our trip the weather forecast was pretty good for the 1200 miles. We were taking a route directly from St. Thomas to a point about 100 miles east of Cape Hatteras and then to the Chesapeake. We made several mistakes. One, we made the trip the first week of April which is about 3 weeks too early. 3 low pressure systems came off the east coast and unexpectedly formed into a monster storm which rotated the wind to the southeast while we were 350miles off St. Augustine. Next big mistake was to ignore weather advice of our weather router. He warned us to turn southwest and head for south Florida and not to sail north of the 29th parallel. Our skipper decided to go against the advice and trust a forecast we had for our Maxsea nav software provider. (daily gribs by modem that overlayed our electronic charts
). Unbeknown to us, our skipper had a time constraint which influenced his decision. Next we were going with the storm which meant we experienced the storm for 3 days. Although heaving to or beating into 25ft waves really didn't look like a great option, we would have been in the storm for a shorter period of time. 25 ft waves are doable but not when they are confused, steep, and breaking. Unbelievable power in those waves.
The things we did right. We were 3 reasonably fit men with a fair amount of experience, mechanical expertise and sea miles. Not the place for the wife and kids. We had a proper boat, although designed by the owner (architect), it was professionally built by a quality boat manufacturer Hike Metal Products Ltd.
and the design was reviewed by a naval architect and engineering firm. The boat was fast with a hull speed of over 10 knots and it was very stiff. We maintained a constant watch system and made every effort to conserve our energy. Sleeping was near impossible even with lee cloths, pillows, and numerous life jackets as we tried to wedge into our berths. We maintained communication with our SSB
and Satphone which at times was reassuring. Because we had a proper pilothouse we were never cold or wet which would have contributed greatly to fatigue. We had 2 underdeck hydraulic autopilots
. Both pilots had electronic rudder sensors and we could manually adjust the yaw rates. The engine and battery compartments were completely watertight and designed to survive a rollover. For the record, the boat was an aluminum 55 foot pilothouse (53' waterline) that weighed 32,000# all up, 10.5' lifting keel with a 12,500 bulb on the bottom of it. The engine was a 110hp turbo diesel laser aligned and bolted between the 2 longitudinal stringers that ran the length of the boat. The mast, hydraulic lifting keel and engine was secured to the stringers. The construction also included ring frames that provided transverse support.The boat was constructed with a forward watertight crash compartment, accessible only by deck hatch
which is where stored spare sails, lines
, etc. The were also 2 watertight bulkheads with gasketed doors. We carried 320 gallons a fuel
in 4 tanks that were centrally controlled. The tanks could be pumped from one to another with either the electric or manual pumps
. For electronics, we had full instrumentation, 36 mile Radar
fax/modem, Satphone, 3 cell phones, DSC VHF radio
, Electronic Navigation software on laptop in Nav Station, Epirb
in main cabin, second Epirp with liferaft
, Offshore liferaft
with full provisions and crash bag.
Essentially we were prepared for just about anything and the preparedness saved our bacon. I would imagine if you bought a custom French alloy cruiser equipped the same as this boat you are looking at 750-900K to get an equivalent boat. The owner did a lot the interior work himself, supervised construction, and diligently sourced the components using a rig
off a Frers 45 that had been destroyed in a fire (rig not on boat). He reinforced the rig
, designed new spreaders that had a wider sheeting base and basically made the rig
pretty stout. With all of that I would estimate that he had in excess of 275K in the boat when finished.
The point of all this is: This is the reality of what a true offshore boat costs. From my experience, production boats are not built that way nor should they be. Most boats are perfectly fine for taking to the Carribean or doing reasonable distance offshore in weather seasons and areas where severe storms are extremely rare. Yes, you can go around the world in a Catalina 27 but you have to be both lucky and skilled in your planning, boat preparation, and seamanship. People have done it and others have failed miserably. It is your risk albeit a big one. Through unpredicted or unforeseen circumstances if you are caught out in a big storm in an area where seas get rough you can have a very unfortunate outcome without the proper equipment.