For those contemplating buying a boat, talk to people who work in a boat yard, or better yet, spend some time in a yard. We get to know our fellow boaters well as they work on their vessels and we see every kind of boat imaginable from brand new to decades old and at all stages of repair. Take the information with a grain of salt as we all have our biases but it is interesting to see and hear about what is being worked on and why.
It's hard to know what normal wear and tear is and what kinds of repairs are the result of original construction, operator error, or manufacturer issues. There are hundreds of components on our boat that are manufactured all over the world and each company has its way of doing business that becomes crystal clear when we make our first contact with them (see blog January 19, 2012) especially since getting parts and fixing anything while at sea is a challenge. Finding a Fed Ex office when we can't see civilization for hundreds of miles is laughable.
Although Alberta Crewed was built at the Argentina factory, the hull molds are the original from the PDQ 44 which was a catamaran built in Whitby, Ontario. As a result, there are close to thirty boats similar to ours that are up to 8 years old and sailing around the world. There are also top notch boat design and repair experts who have worked on boats like ours for years and have seen everything. Along with direct contact with our original builders in Argentina and North America, we have access to this invaluable support team as we make our way through life on an Antares. We get immediate responses to our requests about parts numbers and manufacturers and any one of our company contacts are at the other end of the phone or email when we are trying to figure out why our bilge pump won't turn off or what the strange noise coming from the generator fuel pump is. I don't know if this kind of access is a common experience for new boat owners but we couldn't continue without the level of support we have. James and Jackie are experts on PDQ and Antares boats and having them with us here in Florida has been the graduate school follow up to AntaresU. I am so grateful for their patience, knowledge, and attention to detail. Note James' fancy footwork as he sends Craig up the mast.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon cleaning one of our propellers which was covered in small barnacles. I took several hours to carefully sand each section of the blades and the hub that holds them together. While sanding between each cog, I pictured how each blade fit together, into the hub, connected to the propeller shaft attached to the boat with a strut which goes through a cutlass bearing into the boat through the stern tube. I'm trying to draw 3-D pictures in my head to get a sense of how things fit together and work. I regret not being more engaged while my brother, sister, and friends played trucks in the sand box when we were little. I think childrens' construction play helps them create different understandings of how machines work than what I had with my nose in books. I'm starting at the beginning and cleaning the props is my time in the sand box.
One of my favourite resources is Ted Clements' blog Catamaran Concepts found as a link on the left hand side of the Features section of the Antares website (or http://catamaranconcepts.com). Ted was one of the original designers of our boat and has a reason for every angle, bolt, and cleat placement. A critical design feature is the placement of our engines in the centre of each hull, inside the boat, with access through the floor. Many catamarans have their engines in the back of the boat in the transoms or inside under beds towards the back of the boat. Having the engine weight in the centre of the boat creates better balance and less hobby-horsing. I can stay at the helm with Craig inside where he is safe and dry, and has good access to the engines by pulling up all of the floor sections. I am obsessed with making sure no one falls off of the boat and could not imagine Craig hanging on to a back handrail out in a storm, trying to fix the engine, or for that matter steering the boat at a helm on the transom. I'm also not partial to trying to sleep on top of a running engine.
We see Ted's work when we take things apart. For example, the boat is designed to remove the prop shaft I referred to and get it past the rudder without taking the strut off (the device attached to the boat that holds the prop shaft). Our SSB radio needed some work and all of the wires are accessible right under the floor beneath the radio. I wondered how Ted could envision every problem we might have and make design decisions that would help prevent those problems and at least make fixing them easier when they occurred.
Safety is at the forefront of good boat design and it was in Ted's article analyzing an accident of a catamaran (not an Antares) that had flipped over where I learned about the design, placement, and components of our escape hatches. These are windows at the bottom side of each hull that open up down to the water and end up on top of an overturned boat. From Ted I learned that they are more likely 'getting back in' hatches. First of all, the odds of us flipping over are extremely rare and Ted explains why. At the same time, one is usually safest back inside a flipped catamaran while waiting for help (an activation of our EPIRB alerts the coast guard) and anyone outside (usually everyone) needs to be able to get back in. We were not diligent in removing the safety bar while underway because we thought we could always do it if we needed to at the time. Now the bars come off when we leave. Again Mom, we won't be flipping our boat.