Our boat, our choices and why we made them
By Nick Fabbri and Terysa Vanderloo
Like most cruising couples, we spent a lot of time contemplating what boat to buy for our sailing adventure. We were living in London at the time- we’re talking 2011/2012- madly researching boat builders, boat design, and all things liveaboard cruising. We had a Hanse 32 (and even considered taking her for about 5 minutes, before we realised that was a terrible idea) and it was a challenge to come up with a list of requirements for our new boat with our limited knowledge and experience. Don’t forget, even though this wasn’t all that long ago, the internet didn’t have the wealth of information it does now. So we relied on internet forums, magazines, sailing DVD’s (such as Distant Shores) and the occasional blog (such as Windtraveler).
So firstly, let’s talk about the things we originally wanted in a boat:
- It had to be about 40ft. Enough for 2 of us to handle without relying on masses of electrics, yet stable enough to cut through the waves.
- It had to have an island berth. Neither of us wanted to have the coffin berth or sleep in a triangular forecabin. Also Terysa has this weird thing where she can’t sleep properly unless she can get her foot out of the bed.
- Finally it had to be well built. Very well built.
- After that everything else was a bonus!
Pretty short list, right? After four years of liveaboard sailing, our requirements for a cruising yacht has increased dramatically. But hey, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.
So we trotted off to the Southampton boat show in 2011 with a calculator, an overnight bag and a booking for a ridiculously priced hotel (there were no budget options that weekend!). The idea was that we would see the boats on our shortlist, sleep on it and go back the next day, hopefully with a decision.
Three boats made the shortlist. At the time Hanse had just launched the 385, and the staff at Inspiration Marine had been so nice when I bought the 320 that we had to consider it. So a Hanse 385 was our first visit.
It was a lovely modern boat, and we were very happy with the look. However the build seemed a little flimsy. Flimsier than my 320 from a few years earlier. I think that “handsome Phil” (as Terysa calls him) did a stirling job of selling it to us. However it wasn’t right for what we had planned.
The second boat was the Jeanneau 409. Again, lovely to look at but even flimsier than Hanse. We discounted it immediately.
The third was a Southerly 38. This was a bit of a wild card. We knew that we would have to take a marine mortgage to buy one, however the boat was lovely. Very, very well built. Beautiful inside, and it had the island bed that we wanted. It also had a large aft cockpit, which we assumed (correctly) we’d get a lot of use out of, as well as a swing keel which would allow us huge flexibility in where we could sail and anchor.
It was also British built which meant we could easily watch it being built and spec it to our exact requirements.
So we went to a local pub, ordered a pint and sat with a calculator working out if we could afford it. It cost nigh on twice as much as the other boats and it was a difficult decision. Do we buy a boat we could afford outright but deal with the compromises in build quality? Or do we take out a mortgage and buy what we considered to be the ‘perfect’ boat?
The next morning we went back and signed with Southerly.
We have now owned the boat for almost seven years and have sailed about 20,000 miles. We still love everything about her. Given our time again, we would definitely buy the same boat for what we planned at that time, which was an Atlantic circuit.
The boat isn’t perfect, of course. There are some small niggles regarding the Southerly 38. The first is the top loading fridge. We hate it. It seems like a small thing, but it’s a massive pain. I would have liked to see it moved so that we could gain side access as well. Secondly I would happily have sacrificed a foot of forecabin space (which is a very large cabin for a 38 ft boat) for a separate shower stall. The heads don’t have separate showers and it can be really difficult to keep them clean. We’ve tackled this by turning the forward head into a shower and laundry room, and the aft head into a, well, head. Other limitations are inherent in a sub-40 foot boat, such as the slower sailing speeds, limited storage, and lack of space for plant machinery. However, for Europe and the Caribbean, these compromises have been easily dealt with and offset by the lower running costs of a smaller boat.
So, without further ado, let’s get on with the tour.
Let me start with the cabins. We have two. One at the front and another at the back (fore and aft). Some boats of similar size cram up to four cabins into the space, however just two larger cabins suited our needs perfectly.
I think that the cabins were one of the greatest deciding factors when we chose this boat. We wanted a good sized queen bed. It seems obvious if you have never stayed on a boat. However many boats make compromises regarding the cabins. Either the beds (or berths) are a strange shape, or more often than not one person ends up against a wall and needs to climb over the other to get out of bed. We wanted what is called an “Island Berth”. It looks like a normal bed, and sleeps like a normal bed and has space on either side. It is also really comfortable thanks to our custom marine latex mattress. We have two settees inside the cabin as well as a seat.
We have lockers, drawers and a wardrobe as well as numerous areas under the bed and sofas for all of our clothes, bedding and the like. We also mounted a television against one of the walls (or bulkheads). Terysa at first indicated that this was outrageously decadent. However on dark winter mornings, it is lovely to hide under the duvet, coffee in hand and watch the news without getting up. Or at least, that’s what we used to do when we had dark winter mornings on the boat! Now we generally sit in the cockpit and watch the sun rise over our morning coffee. But we’ll get to the outdoor living space in a moment.
The fore cabin is similar. We have ample storage space for most of our things under the forecabin bed, including spare sails and other occasionally used bits and bobs.
Both cabins have numerous opening hatches and blinds to keep out the light and let fresh air in. We also have good quality Caframo fans above the bed to provide cool air when it gets too hot.
Finally, both cabins are en-suite. They have separate doors leading into the heads.
These are our bathrooms, or rather shower rooms. They both have toilets, hot water, sinks and showers, as well as cabinets. This may seem obvious, however my first boat had no hot water, a basic toilet and no sign of a shower. Both heads are possibly slightly more compact than your average bathroom (unless you live in Hong Kong), but functional, and provide no significant compromise to living on land. The only real compromise is the lack of a separate shower stall, however we deal with this by turning the forward head into a shower room, and keep the aft head for everything else. Of course, when we have guests come to stay we have to rethink this arrangement but for the 95% of the time we’re alone on the boat, it works well.
This area is undoubtedly the most versatile within our home. It has 2 long settees which run the length of the saloon, as well as a table in the middle which extends for eating. We have lockers, cupboards and bookshelves and everything we need fits into these for easy access. The saloon also has our chart table, akin to a desk in a home. We use it for navigation while at sea, but it is a good area to work. It also has the controls and monitors for our solar, wind and hydro power, our radios and our stereo. The boat is all made in cherry wood, and with the pictures on the wall and our books on display, it is as comfortable and homely as the flat we left.
We fitted a television and a blu-ray player and connected it all to a surround sound unit. We also shucked all our DVDs and blu-rays from their cases and brought them with us (seems a bit old school now!). Add to this an Apple TV unit and a hard disk with about 200 movies, we have all of our home comforts with us.
The galley in any boat needs to be practical and useable, at all times. Here we had to make some compromises from living on land, but these have been more than offset by the change in lifestyle.
When we left London we gave up our dishwasher, double oven and our microwave. We now have a gas cooker and oven, sink and a fridge, as well as our beloved coffee machine. There is a decent amount of storage in the galley, but we do need to also use lockers in the saloon for dried and canned goods.
A lot of people ask us about our essential galley items. We’ve yet to make a video about this, or write a separate blog, but it’s coming! In the meantime, check out these videos of us cooking some of our favourite boat-friendly recipes.
As with all areas of our boat, the cockpit has multiple uses. When at anchor or port, or when sailing, it is the area we tend to spend most time in. We have the twin helming positions at the very back of the boat. However forward of these is the cockpit itself. Like the saloon it has a folding teak table which will happily seat 6, although we have managed to cram 14 into the cockpit before. We have cushions to allow lounging in multiple positions. Another set of good quality speakers allow us to listen to music while underway.
We also have a bimini and sprayhood. The bimini keeps the sun off and allows a cool breeze to circulate. It also does a fair job of keeping the rain off when the skies open. We now also have an entire cockpit enclosure that Nick made which does an excellent job of protecting us from the elements while underway and in port.
Want more information on our boat and it’s features? Our Technical Tuesday series might be for you.
The Sails and Rig
The Southerly 38 comes with a self-tacking jib and an oversized main. It’s definitely a main-driven boat, designed for quick and easy tacking upwind. We’ve had to increase our sail wardrobe in order to get the best performance out of her while sailing in light winds and downwind.
We have three other headsails in addition to the jib: a storm jib (which we’ve never used, and hope to never need), a Code Zero, and a Parasailor.
The Code Zero is a flat-cut 150% sail which is a cross between a spinnaker and a genoa. It performs amazingly well in light winds between 60 through to 160 degrees (when it was new we could sail it far closer to the wind, around 40 degrees). Once our apparent wind strength starts to hit 10-11 knots however, we take it down and rely on white sails; it really is for those light wind days only. Some sailors leave the Code 0 up in stronger winds, but we find that our boat is overpowered in anything more than 11 knots apparent. This is our favourite sail as it gives us excellent performance in light winds and it’s very easy to use.
The Parasailor is a type of spinnaker which has an opening about a third of the way down, with a wing on the leeward side (the ‘front’ of the sail). Therefore, when wind fills the sail, it flows out of the opening and the wing creates upwind lift. This means that the pressure on the bow is minimised (and prevents broaching), and the sailing performance is improved. We use our Parasailor both symmetrically and asymmetrically with a cuff. We get very good performance with our Parasailor and she’s easy to manage once she’s up and flying. We’ve learned a few tricks over the years that make using this sail easier for us on our particular boat, and when the conditions are perfect, flying this beauty is a lot of fun.
Our renewable energy sources:
Specialised equipment for offshore sailing:
Tools and spares:
Got any more questions? Comment below and we’ll be sure to answer them!
Nick & Terysa