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Keeping It Simple

Keeping it simple will pay big dividends in the odd chance one has to make repairs in a distant anchorage.
Clipping across a large ocean swell created by the reinforced trade winds typical of this time of the year in the South Pacific (called the August Maramu), we all put on our sweaters and socks and even jackets for the first time in eight months. The southern equatorial winter is in full force now, as cold wind blasts up from Antarctica to remind us that summer is something that happens in January at 20 degrees south. Yet, Imani, our intrepid 33-foot Roger Simpson-designed catamaran, barrels through these seas. Dancing across the waves, we pile up the miles day after day as we make our way west across the South Pacific Ocean and away from our homeport of San Francisco, CA.

We decided to build our boat 10 years ago because we were unable to find the vessel we wanted. Imani has proven to be most of what we've needed and her simple systems have allowed us to stay on top of her maintenance ourselves. We wanted a simple cat with ample accommodations for our family of four and a workspace for Marc's jewelry design and fabricating business. This design of strong, strip-planked hulls of western red cedar with a 10-ounce triaxal E-glass construction have fit the bill. We purchased plans and completed the construction phase of the project four-and-a-half years later with the help of expert building advice from multilhull builder and friend Marc Ginisty, who was also living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This piece of nautical sculpture went on to become a capable, sea-faring vessel.

It took another two-and-a-half years of exterior work, adding stanchions, mast, and rigging, before she was ready to sail for the first time in August 1996. By December of that year, we were heading down to Mexico for the first of three round-trip winter cruises we completed over three years. We have found over those years that having very simple systems works best for us.

So what do we mean by simple? Let's look at energy. Imani's energy needs are primarily satisfied by two Sieman 75-watt solar panels. Refrigeration, which is the biggest power hog on a boat, is something we have lived without since we moved aboard and it has not been difficult.
Packing butter in salt water, canning meats and jams, wrapping vegetables in newspaper and smothering hard cheeses in oil are but a few of the tricks we utilize to keep our food fresh and yummy. We have even transcended the need for cold beer by switching to Speight's dark ale, from New Zealand, which is perfect at room temperature.

The power produced by the solar panels is stored in two gel-cell batteries totalling 172 Amp hours. This runs all lights, Simrad 5000 wheel autopilot, GPS, depth sounder/knot meter, stereo, VHF and SSB radios, TV/VCR, laptop computer and 300-watt inverter. Before we left California in December '99 for French Polynesia, we added an Aerogen 4 wind generator to take care of those cloudy, but windy days that tend to happen during ocean passages. Our auxiliary engine is a long-shaft, four-stroke, Yamaha 9.9 outboard with a large prop. The 9.9 drives Imani about 4.5 knots over a choppy sea. With this energy set up we find that we can handle most repairs ourselves, and when we can't, we don't have a hard time finding experts in most ports who do know how to get us back together again.

"We are extremely happy with our cat as she is, and we plan to maintain her under the k.i.s.s. (keep it simple, sailor) philosophy, so we will have plenty of time to swim with the humpback whales that cavort in Nuie's anchorage. "

Simplicity also runs our galley and head. We have three Whale foot pumps (two fresh water pumps and one saltwater) in the galley. Our 15-liter Sunshower provides all the hot-water showering. Fresh water tanks are built in under the galley floor and hold 85 gallons. We also carry an additional 20 gallons in jerry jugs. So far, water has not been a problem as we have been able to get water at most ports. We treat any questionable water with chlorine bleach—one tablespoon per 100 gallons. We also have a large Dacron sun-awning (12 x 10 feet) with a one-inch diameter thru-hole, which also acts as our water-catcher, and since March of this year it has kept our supplies of drinking water at more than ample amounts. Before drinking any water, we pass it through our Brita water-filter pitcher to freshen the taste, since plain water is our primary beverage.

We have kept Imani's decks simple too. Two winches on the cabin sole are all we need. All halyards and reef-lines lead to the cockpit with the help of two triple clutches. Imani's sail inventory of seven headsails includes one storm jib, an asymmetrical spinnaker, and a full spinnaker. We decided to go with hank-on sails because we like to use the proper sail (weight and size) for the proper conditions, and a roller-furler system tends to compromise this decision. In addition, being a catamaran, Imani has a large stable platform for retrieval and launching of headsails. It is rare that we end up with a sail touching the water at all when we are retrieving a sail. When the air goes light, we don't usually turn on the engine, but instead we throw up one of the spinnakers—without the need of a spinnaker pole due to Imani's 20-foot beam. Together, Marc, Maya, and I can handle our large sails easily without the aid of a sock. We just have to figure out when to pull them down. Last week we blew out our asymmetrical again. This time an unexpected gust of wind took it out of service, as we approached Beveridge Reef, Niue—a small volcanic island in the middle of the South Pacific.

Sticking with robust, time-tested gear assures that your life out there is the one you imagined.
As we drop the anchor here in Nuie, it is clear that our anchoring system is hardly complicated. We have a manual Goïot windlass, manufactured in France, with 150 feet of chain attached to our primary anchor, which is a 35-pound Delta. In deeper anchorages, we add 5/8inch 3-strand Nylon rode to increase scope. Our anchor inventory includes a 35-pound Northill and a 20-pound Danforth, in addition to two smaller anchors. Given Imani's displacement weight of approximately 9,500 pounds, this anchor combination has served us well during the last four years of anchoring in a variety of situations.

What would we change about our boat if we could? We would have daggerboards instead of mini-keels to increase Imani's performance when sailing to windward. As is, she doesn't point very well. However, we must admit that is all we would change. As to what we would add to Imani—radar would be great to aid our night navigation, especially around the low lying atolls we are sailing amongst in this part of the world. All in all, we are extremely happy with our cat and we plan to maintain her under the k.i.s.s. (keep it simple, sailor) philosophy, so we will have plenty of time to swim with the humpback whales that cavort in Nuie's anchorage.

Doreen Gounard is offline  
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