Changabang was loaded on the cargo ship MV STAR LIMA today. Departure is imminent, or something like that. It looks like she’s not alone; there seems to be a catamaran too.
All along this project, every step of the way, things are not smooth. I had planned to get a slip at the Redwood Landing Marina, close to where I live. They had requested liability insurance, which Boat US declined (technically, they declined insurance as they don’t do liability only) but Progressive approved. Now, the management office at the marina is declining the slip because the owner is not a US resident. I’ve learned to sail there, I’ve been an instructor there, for seven years.
On another front I’m trying to understand what procedures I will need to follow when Changabang arrives in San Diego. I’ve tried to reach out to the CBP office of San Diego without success. Nobody answers and I’ve left several voice mails, which are not returned. Apparently, that’s how they operate.
Who owns this boat?
I’m still trying to figure out how to transfer Changabang to me in a way that will be legal. My understanding is that a boat must be documented to a country. I can’t US Document the boat since I’m not a US citizen. Registering the boat in California is not going to work as explained here and there (I did contact the writer of that second article, who confirmed this and indicated a $400/hr fee with a retainer of $3,000 to assist!).
Even with a CA license/title, the boat would not be considered documented as I’m not a US citizen. The boat would then assume my citizenship, i.e. Belgian, and I would require a cruising permit, which is fine. But then Changabang would effectively not be documented with Belgium. Plenty of foreigners do just that (title with CA) and do not realize that they do not have permission to move in the US.
If I document the boat with Belgium, then, on the other hand, California State still requires that I register the boat with them with 120 days of taking ownership, as a US resident. It’s all a nice catch 22 situation.
Thursday morning, a truck showed up in Frossay to pick up Changabang’s cradle. The cradle had to be partly dismounted to meet height and width requirements for road transport.
The cradle arrived in the port of Antwerp on Friday. Another hired skipper and his partner then moved Changabang from the Willemdok marina to the quay where the cargo ship will load her. She was then picked out of the water and dropped back in her cradle. My contact in Antwerp took a bunch of pictures so I grouped them together in the slideshow below. It looks like Changabang still looks great. The next step will be loading and securing her on the cargo ship, which should happen in a few days. The cargo ship is now passing the West corner of Spain.
As far as updates are concerned I must share that Thursday morning, as part of a large operation at 8×8, Inc, I was laid off (it took 5 minutes at best). I’m still processing that; it’s never fun to feel so disposable. Maybe, I’ll leave in fall 2020 after all. This is exactly what happened the last time I had offshore sailing plans with Clipper and then the Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race.
Before Changabang can leave for a circumnavigation there are some key fabrication jobs that I need to consider, primarily adding hydro-generators brackets and an emergency rudder. Yesterday I discussed these jobs with a boatyard in Berkeley. Some of these jobs will take some creative thinking as the stern of Changabang is fairly busy as it is! Ideas and suggestions (based on practical experience) are welcome.
The latest update as of this morning is that Changabang is safely tied in Antwerp. Getting into the marina was delayed yesterday evening due to a lock being out of service. The delivery went really well; they sailed with 3 reefs in the main and one reef in the J1. The keys were transferred to the next skipper who will deliver the boat to the loading dock Friday.
I have received feedback from the delivery skipper about Changabang. So there are some good news: the boat is solid and not slow. And there are some not so good news: the aft ballast scoop is leaking; all on deck plastic needs replacing (sunlight does no good to plastic); the boat will need a serious cleaning inside (moldy) and outside (moldy too); the J1 needs some good maintenance work; some deck hardware needs adjustment. And that’s for the little that the skipper saw during his delivery. I feel like I’m in for a bunch of surprises when I’ll finally get quality time with Changabang.
Things are progressing well. And as usual cost items are showing up where none was expected, and budgeted items are more expensive than anticipated. Hopefully, in a week or so, the boat has been loaded and she’s on her way to her new home. It will soon be time to prepare for the San Diego landing.
It was not easy but we’re finally on our way to Antwerp. Similarly, the ship, which will carry Changabang to California, is making her way across the Atlantic. Now, the focus is on the transfer in Antwerp. If you know someone nearby Antwerp who could move the boat from the Willemdok marina to the cargo ship, please let me know 🙂
Allow me to start by wishing you all a happy new year, in the hope that we’ll overcome the many hurdles to a healthy Earth and happy societies, with recent news and events making it sound like a tough proposition.
So what’s up with the boat?!?
I’ve had my own share of drama over the past few weeks. I’ve booked the transportation for the boat (yes, I realize it’s time to name her, see below) with Seven Seats Yacht Transport (more on that when the boat is safely in the US). The loading is scheduled for around January 20th. I had a skipper lined up to help deliver the boat from St Nazaire to Antwerp. That plan was thwarted when the delivery skipper on point told me he couldn’t get started until January 8th, which happened only a few days ago. You might think, so what, that’s plenty of days to sail, even motor, the 600 NM to Antwerp?
That’s without considering the weather in the Atlantic. It’s winter time and sometimes the French Coast gets hit by consecutive storms, which would making passing the tip of Brittany a very dangerous proposition. So, even though there were 15 days left to sail to Antwerp, I reached out to the few contacts I have in France to identify an alternate delivery skipper. Someone did cautiously step up to the job, at least partially. Now, until yesterday, the weather looked very unpromising. However, to cite one friendly resource in Nantes, during the night of Saturday, things settled big time and a window seems to have magically opened. Oh how lucky! I’ve been a nervous train wreck for the past week!
The potential skipper checked out the boat this morning and liked what he saw. If all goes according to plan, Monday, the boat will leave dry storage for a short stint to Belle-Ile, after a long period of immobilization. Then we will decide what happens next. The new skipper doesn’t want to sail solo for the crossing of the Manche nor make his way alone to the port of Antwerp, a 10 hour long motor stint on the river L’Escaut (The Scheldt). I get it. Check the video below for how this goes in Amsterdam …
What’s in a name?
Maybe it is time to refer to the boat by her name. The previous owner named her Changabang, a mountain in the Garhwal Himalaya of Uttarakhand, India. I’m not sure if there’s a backdrop story to the naming other than the previous owner was/is a climber. Should I change her name? Changabang does seem like a difficult name to spell over VHF or a sat phone conversation …
If we get her on time to Antwerp for shipping to the US, she and her cradle will likely be offloaded in San Diego as there doesn’t seem to be enough cargo (yet) for Stockton. That will be our first sail together then: SD2SF.
I’ve continued to monitor hurricanes (3 more!) and weather along the course. This helps in at least two ways. I get familiar with the weather events in the oceans I plan to cross. And it makes everything more real. I’m becoming intimate with my plans, and that is good. Of course I’m nowhere near to being ready but I’m making progress, at least mentally.
This post is going to be the combination of a few things. Hopefully enough to keep you entertained until the end.
Or lack thereof … I’m officially boat poor. Funds have been transferred to the seller and my Euro funds have been wiped. We’re finalizing paperwork and I’m lining up the delivery to Antwerp, shipping company, import agent and other small things. After that, my US funds will be next in line for decapitation. Is it worth it? Yes! I can’t wait for the boat to be here and start preparing. But … read on. Or go here and donate a little to help replenish funds.
Of course I’d lie if I wrote that I feel super happy and excited. It’s quite the opposite. There had always been doubts about this undertaking, fears. This particular transition to being a boat owner again crystallized them a little more, which is good as I can now better see what they are, where they stem from.
Nobody and nothing is putting me on this path. It is solely an individual decision. I am not embarking on this adventure to prove anything. It is just something to do and I do love the vision of sailing solo, being immersed in Nature. And, maybe, I want to find myself.
When I hold the thought of this project in my heart, I feel naked, exposed. There is nothing I can lash onto, no obligation, no dependence, none else’s direction. I stand alone. Maybe, that’s what adulthood is about. Making decisions, charting one’s own course, without moral guidance, but one’s own, whether familial, professional, social or religious. Of course, I’m receiving help from folks and that will continue, I hope. I’m not saying that I’m executing this project completely alone. I am saying that when I go up the lighthouse to see who’s shining the light: it is only me up there. Can I be trusted?
I’ve been keeping an eye on weather, mostly using this and that. My goal was to study the course from San Francisco to Torres Strait. The common way is to go South, pass the Equator somewhere between Samoa and Tahiti, with the hope to avoid doldrums (ITCZ/SPCZ), thunderstorms and light/variable wind areas. But that adds about 800 NM to the Great Circle route. That’s about 4-6 days of sailing. What I am finding is that:
Leaving from San Francisco may not be as easy as I initially thought. In November there are all sorts possibilities. I could find myself in strong headwinds, no wind or storm conditions. And then sometimes the tradewinds are well established.
Similarly it is not clear that crossing between Samoa and Tahiti is best. Sometimes the ITCZ appears to duplicate itself. As the picture above shows I could get trapped in light wind and thunderstorms. Things usually change pretty quickly though.
Forecasts for the Arafura and Timor seas usually show light head winds (3-6 kts). That’s going to make for a long passage! We’re talking about 500 NM at a speed of 3-6 kts or about 5 days.
All that was fine; the big surprise was extreme weather! I knew my course would go through hurricane season in the East Pacific, the South Pacific and the Indian. But I just shrugged it off. Can’t do that! Oh boy, three tropical cyclones have already materialized near my course. There was Rita between Vanuatu and Fiji. And then Ambali; oh gosh Ambali! Explosive intensification they say. Based on JTWC data, Ambali’s winds increased by 185 km/h (115 mph) in 24 hours, marking the fastest 24-hour intensification recorded in the Southern Hemisphere since 1980. Winds topped at 155 mph! It really took less then 48 hours for this thing to develop into a killer. If you were close by there would have been nowhere to run. Add Belna, North of Madagascar, not as explosive, not as strong but larger and longer lived. Ok then … can’t shrug this off. I must continuously monitor extreme weather.
Is there a silver lining? Those 3 hurricanes were NOT on my course.
I’ve updated a couple web pages on the web site, here and there.
I came to the realization that, when we will go around Cape Horn for the last third or so of the journey, the boat will likely have about 30,000 NM under her belt and will need to sail another 8,000 more. I’m not a hard core racer so I wasn’t likely to push the boat hard but I will need to sail conservatively if I want to keep the rigging and everything else as fresh as possible. So, I’ll have a boat heavily loaded, sailed conservatively; I wonder how much slower that’ll make us. Time to downgrade our polars!
I had the best intentions of leaving with the boat. The plan seemed aggressive but doable. Things turned out differently. I’m sure for the better. So what happened?
The owner is taking this transaction very seriously. He understands what I’m setting out to do and he intends to leave me with a solid boat. We ended up sleeping together at the same AirBnb I had rented for Friday night. The owner of the dry storage marina where the boat resides is also very helpful in helping close the transaction. We have lunched multiple times together. This sales transaction is certainly the most intense they have seen in a while, and it’s probably all because of my own doing, what with my overly analytical approach, which somehow doesn’t fit with the French way. I need to let go and trust more, which I ended up doing by returning the sales contract signed. It’s now on its way to the seller for countersignature, then funds will be transferred and titles processed.
Further Inspection revealed that the starboard lower backstay sleeve cut had also pulled the threads and weakened it. So the owner is graciously replacing it. We didn’t test sail nor test engine. Instead, the owner requested a maintenance by Volvo Penta technicians, the report of which should be forthcoming.
Playing with the autopilot uncovered issues with the primary L&S drive motor. Apparently that thing failed twice now. Again, the owner is requesting service from his NKE contact. The rest of the electronics was tested to the extent that they came on and displayed relevant info.
We did have an opportunity to hoist the mainsail and the solent, which was good. The old mainsail is now in the boat; it’s dacron and for the most part it looks ok (the leech cord needs fixing). I’m being told it’s very bellied so there’s that. I do plan to use the old sails while I learn the boat, just like I did with Double Espresso.
The keel repair was finished. In the end it was all cosmetics (sanding, fairing, primer), which is good. We did find a way to insure the boat. Shipping the boat will have to wait for January as the December ship didn’t allow mast up.
I had hoped to organize a dinner with the folks who worked on the boat but that was not to be. The architect Francois Lucas did come to see the boat, which was wonderful.
Before returning home I was able to meet with my mother, an uncle and an aunt. A bit of family time was good! I came back with an old laptop with Adrena and its USB dongle, a load of manuals and a high fever, which took a few days to subside.
Everything is falling into place. Slowly … So what’s next?
Complete the sales transaction;
Firm up shipping arrangements;
Figure out how to get the boat and cradle to Antwerp;
Decide what to do when she arrives in the US (a bottom job will be needed);
No, I didn’t fall. I just thought that post title jived well with the above picture.
After flying to Paris Orly, taking the bus to Masssy TGV train station, the TGV to Nantes, the RER to St Nazaire, sleeping in cheap Airbnb, I hitchhiked on the seller’s broker ride to make it to the boat again. Yeah! I took several hours on the plane to go through pictures and start inventorying what I knew of.
Things are going well with the inspection. Temperatures have dipped in the past week. When I climbed on deck there were streams of water that had frozen, which made walking about treacherous. I thought about some of the stories I read of skippers stuck in freezing temperatures: respect!
I went through the standing and running rigging (without operating it I would say everything checks except for: staysail halyard chafe, textile backstays sleeve cuts), did a boat tour again (radar plate not really gimballed, one lifeline’s attachment replaced with lashings), checked the keel repair (not satisfactory to my taste), inventoried everything I could see, poked at the sails (some new, some newish, some old, some good for trash).
Tomorrow I plan to check a few loose ends, spend time with the electrical/electronics.
After many tribulations, we finally have a deposit on a boat. It’s the Class40 #31, designed by Francois Lucas and built by Pascal Doin. It’s an early generation Class40, simple, strong and recently refitted by Jacques Valente for the Route du Rhum 2018. I’m going to Frossay again to do a final inspection, test sail and maybe move the boat closer to Antwerp, weather permitting. Why Antwerp? I’ve decided to ship the boat instead of sailing her to San Francisco. I didn’t want to take the risk of suffering damage en route, plus the logistics are really difficult and then there is this.
Why I like this particular boat
First of all, I feel good about her. There’s something zen about her. She has wonderful looks. For an older, well-traveled Class40 (3 Transat, 1 transequatorial), she still presents very well. I like her and I think she has what it takes to finish the RTW course. Looking at her record she finished all the races that she was registered for, except for one due to auto-pilot issues.
The construction, I was told by the architect, is excellent. It’s red cedar strip planking and Epoxy on the hull. She was built at a time when the Class40 was still giving minimal lip service to the cruiser side of the racer-cruiser equation. As a result, it’s cavernous inside and space is well organized for storage (allowing for stacking). I can stand straight and not touch the roof. There are some built-in storage spaces. The mast is carbon and very sturdy; the boom is aluminum. There are only 5 through-hulls, which I really like. Although the cockpit is not as well protected as more recent offshore designs, it does provide for an outdoor protected space, which is nice.
She was recently refitted, with a focus on ensuring that the boat is fresh from the inside out, not so much on getting the latest gadgets, which jives well with my “keep it simple” preference. The deck was stripped of all hardware and repainted. The same was done for the underwater section of the hull. The rudders were dropped and the bearings replaced. The engined was serviced and the sail drive joint was replaced. A new NKE system was installed to provide a primary auto-pilot system. New sails were acquired (of the right type for my project). The mast was inspected and lateral standing rigging was replaced with wire.
I’m being told she’s very seaworthy and does well upwind.
There are a few weaknesses. The secondary auto-pilot, although working, cannot be engaged right away (I think it requires a run at the masthead to replace the windvane) and is old (as in “2007 old”). There is no energy generation besides the engine (and a solar panel for when at the docks). There is no watermaker. There is no emergency rudder. Satellite communication is minimalist. Those are the big-ticket items; as always with boats, there are plenty of incidentals.
She’s also a little heavier than some of the other boats. And, of course, her design is outdated compared to recent Class40 designs. The 24 hours record was just broken in the Transat Jacques Vabre with a scow bow design reaching 415 NM.
Ultimately, she’s the only one standing after triaging for quality and budget. She’s the best I can have. I hope to be good enough for her too and that our partnership will be fruitful. Maybe we’ll sail together in San Francisco Bay this coming Spring.
That Class40 boat in Los Angeles would have been really nice, especially considering where all the others are! Unfortunately, the owner and I couldn’t find common ground and the transaction is not going through.
I’m pursuing the LC40 in France then. It is a very nice boat; it’s just that it’s in France, and as we’ve discussed before, the logistics are daunting. I have opted to ship the boat for now: transfer to Antwerp, transfer cradle to Antwerp, move cradle to cargo ship, move boat to cradle, wait, wait, wait, reverse the process in the US. And I’m not even thinking about all the customs and import stuff. Regardless, I “mustered enough energy” to put a formal offer through. We’ll know over the next few days the fate of this offer. It is now the 3rd boat I’m trying and I’m down about $3,000 just in travel and other expenditures to see and survey boats.
My offer, I must admit, is demanding. So … more hurry and wait now.