From on-line forums and blogs to magazine articles, there is no shortage of advice on how to choose the right offshore boat. But a recent article published in Cruising World magazine really resonated with us. From identifying the right vessel size to looking at safety and storage capacity, Jimmy Cornell has put together a concise check list of criteria for consideration when buying a circumnavigation class boat.
[link on photos to enlarge]
As the founder of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC), noonsite.com – an online resource for sailors, and writer of numerous books including the quintessential World Cruising Routes, Cornell has a solid reputation as an offshore sailor. That, combined with surveys conducted with other experienced circumnavigators, lends a tried and tested credibility to his article “The Best Boats for Globe Girdling”.
What struck us most was how the article reads like a check list of all the design elements that went into building the Antares 44i:
- good performance under sail or power;
- comfort underway and at anchor;
- a feeling of continuity and community in the boat's public spaces
- primary safety through professionally engineered structures and manageable sail-handling gear, and
- secondary safety through watertight bulkheads and energy-dissipating structures
We’ve taken this opportunity to isolate a few key points from Cornell’s article that we feel exemplify our design priorities at Antares Yachts.
J Cornell writes:
“Many factors can make a boat unsuitable for a long voyage, but size – a boat that’s too large for easy handling by a shorthanded crew or too small to be comfortable – is the most common problem. Other factors include limited capacity and a lack of speed on long passages. Comfort is indeed a major aspect, and this has a bearing not only on the wellbeing of the crew but on safety itself. “
The decisions that went into building the Antares 44i were largely influenced by our designer’s sensibilities. Ted Clements’ number one priority is that your boat should protect you and the size of the vessel contributes to safety. While a larger 50’ catamaran will obviously give you more real estate, the compromises made as far as visibility from the helm, ergonomics and sail handling become a liability for a cruising couple. [Read Ted’s analysis on his blog Catamaran Concepts]
It is common knowledge that the weight of the catamaran is a contributing factor to performance, the lighter the vessel, the better the performance. Even when fully loaded for circumnavigation, the Antares 44i continues to perform. Proper bridgedeck clearance, narrow hulls and light-weight interior all contribute to great blue water performance.
The Antares hi-tech interior construction, as opposed to heavy, fiberglass inserts found on common charter catamarans means we don’t have to overcompensate with the size of the rigging. A smaller rig can easily be managed by a cruising couple, at all times.
The interior space on the Antares 44i is built for living aboard. You’re unlikely to bump your head or trip going up the stairs aboard the Antares. From seamless movement around the boat, bright and well ventilated spaces, to plenty of head room, and raised seating for maximum visibility, a complete ergonomic study was made during the design process. Even the placement of the master suite aft provides a more stable location both while underway or at anchor. Comfort, as Cornell says, not only has a bearing on the wellbeing of the crew but on safety itself.
“As important as size and comfort may be, the most essential consideration when choosing a boat for a long voyage is safety. Many boats on the market may be perfectly suitable for weekend sailing or short cruises but may not be up to the demands of a voyage in tough ocean conditions.” JC.
Ted’s extensive experience gained from refitting coast guard vessels, and researching and engineering a prototype roll-over lifeboat for the Canadian Coast Guard have greatly influenced the design decisions on the Antares 44i.
Through his exposure to working with coast guard vessels, Ted notes that the greatest contributor to safety at sea is the ability to stay dry, warm and as comfortable as possible to be able to keep your wits about you. The ability for a couple to handle the boat and its sails in the safest way possible should be the first parameter of your ocean cruising design and no compromise is excusable.
The cockpit is such an example. It is designed to protect you from the weather with a standard full enclosure integrated into the hardtop. A glass dodger with windshield wipers also contribute to keeping you dry and warm, and a substantial stern bulwark aft prevents any solid water from a breaking wave from entering the cockpit.
The Antares’ watertight compartments both in the forward and transom lockers provide safety at sea and protect you in case of collision. In addition, the fixed keels, which are an integral part of the hull, have a barrier between the hull and hollow keel to prevent any structural damage in case of impact.
The decisions made when selecting construction materials, placement and equipment are all contributing factors to the overall safety of the Antares. The Antares is equipped with a robust shaft steering system that can withstand the heaviest water conditions and custom-built skegged rudders that resist bending and protect the rudders from accidental groundings are amongst the safety features aboard.
We only install shaft drives onboard the Antares. They allow us to place the propellers in a protected area at the end of the keel where there is minimal water disturbance. Another advantage to shaft drives is concentrated weight distribution amidships. By placing the engines, fuel and water tanks beneath the floorboards and below the waterline, fore and aft pitching is minimal. This enhances the responsiveness of the Antares and makes sailing more comfortable. Again, comfort and safety are integral to one another. [Read Ted's blog on helm positions]
“What some owners found to be a more serious handicap on long voyages than actual size was the lack of storage space, a deficiency they blamed on the fact that many current boats are built for charter, for which storage capacity isn’t a priority. “ JC
5. Storage Space:
We have intentionally left the 2 forward lockers - typically assigned for extra beds on charter catamarans - empty. These watertight compartments as well as the two transom lockers and the cockpit lazarette provide substantial exterior storage for sails, life jackets, fenders, bikes, extra fuel container and other "dirty" items.
Because the Antares is not crammed with additional beds and heads, there is plenty of storage onboard. Two full-size closets in addition to the drawers and cupboards in the master-side wardrobe, 15 full-sized cupboards and 4 large drawers in the galley and additional storage beneath the saloon settee provide ample space for a full-time liveaboard to store all their provisions and gear.
“Regardless of the size of boat, the most common feature that people wished they’d had was a comfortable, sheltered watchkeeping position. Several mentioned that importance of a protected and ergonomically designed cockpit, one possibly outfitted with a hard dodger, that would make passages more comfortable in both hot and cold climates.” JC
6. Protected Helm Position:
As noted earlier, the Antares 44i is the first production catamaran built with a glass windshield and wipers and comes standard with a full removable enclosure designed into the hardtop. The removable enclosure creates a separate living area for cold weather conditions, and provides a protected helm position from both the beating sun and cold, wet weather.
“Asked to specify any design features that would’ve made a considerable contribution to the enjoyment of their voyage, several owners mentioned shallower draft, which they said would’ve extended their cruising range. Other features mentioned were better access to the engine room for maintenance, a compact and safe galley, comfortable sea berths, but also provision for a double berth when in port.” JC
While a shallow draft is common to the majority of catamarans, the decision to use fixed keels is consistent with the ocean voyaging intentions for the Antares design. By deciding not to install daggerboards, we have eliminated the complications that are associated with them including possible grounding, repair, loss of space inside and outside the boat and the difficulties of blocking when ashore. [Read Ted's analysis on daggerboards vs. fixed keels ]
8. Engine Access:
As mentioned earlier, Antares does not install sail drives which are typically found aft beneath your bed. Regular servicing such as checking fluid levels does not require you to pull apart your bed. Instead, the central location beneath the floorboards in each hull allows for easy access. The service bilge is clearly labeled and all the floor boards, including the stringers, can be removed to have unfettered access for servicing your engine.
While the size of our galley may not necessarily be considered ‘compact’, like everything else aboard the Antares, ergonomics and usability are key to the functionality of our kitchen. Unlike in a galley up configuration where storage is an issue, the location in the port hull means that all necessary provisions are within reach. The stairs leading to the galley use house-size risers and don’t pose a tripping hazard, and the passageway gives lots of room to maneuver but still maintain a stable area for cooking in rougher seas.
While the design of a large single forward cabin may be stunning while docked at a marina, we’ve placed the two main berths with full standard queen–sized beds astern where there is the least amount of movement both underway or at a rocky anchorage.
“Suggested improvements at the bows were a retractable bowsprit, quick and easy access to the chain locker with a vertical drop to avoid the chain getting snagged, and a powerful and reliable windlass. For sail handling, many considered essential a well-planned reefing system with lines led back to the cockpit, ideally to an electric winch.” JC
11. Stowable Bowsprit:
As suggested, the ability to stow the bowsprit on the front crossbeam prevents potential accidents in tight marinas. It also gives you the ability to service the furling gear and lines with ease. The stowable bowsprit on the Antares supports the furling Screecher and puts the sail in better air by pushing it forward and away from the mainsail for better downwind performance. More on that later.
12. Twin Anchors & Windlass:
The Antares 44i comes standard with a two anchors on an integrated double roller. The anchors are stowed in a dedicated anchor locker that is flush to the deck and away from any tripping hazards. A standard Quick 1400 windlass with remote and custom-built bridle simplify deploying and retrieving your anchor.
13. Sail Management:
Antares Yachts is one of the first catamaran builders to pioneer the use of a closed line management system. The running rigging is lead through an underdeck raceway to stopper equipped winch pedestals in the cockpit – the sheets are at the helm station and the halyards, including the reefing lines, are at the aft winch pedestal. Both winches are powered with Harken self-tailing winches.
The Antares 44i comes standard with your choice for an electric in-mast furling system with a vertically battened mainsail or the Antares exclusive MainTamer for easy handling. The self-tacking jib and a flat deckhouse to access your sails and rigging enhances the manageability of the sails – even for a short-handed crew.
“The three most commonly mentioned pieces of essential equipment that some sailors had acquired under way or were planning to buy at a later stage were: a watermaker; a strong autopilot…; and an automatic identification system, or AIS.” JC
14. Essential Equipment
A Sea Recovery Aqua Mini 350 water maker is standard on the Antares 44i and can produce 15 gallons of fresh water per hour and 350 US gallons per day supplied to the 2 separate 75 gallon water tanks.
Antares uses a Jefa shaft and gearbox system with an integrated Furuno autopilot motor for superior course keeping capability.
“[Steve Lochner] also pointed out that some production oats are sold without an electric wiring diagram, which can make it very difficult to trace a fault.”
“Make sure that your electric-power demands can be satisfied with the quantity of electrical storage and generating equipment that you have on board and that you have a diversified portfolio of options available…” JC
15. Power Systems
Managing your power systems requires a multi-source power station and distribution grid. With a little guidance, the power system onboard the Antares can easily be managed [see Antares University]. The sources of power are certainly diversified, from shore power, an inverter and a 7.5 kw generator supplying the 120 volt system to solar panels, battery charger and alternators topping up the 12volt systems.
The standard battery capacity onboard the Antares is 780 amps. That combined with a total of 220-watt solar panels recessed into the hard top and standard low power consumption LED lights throughout, the Antares is well suited for long voyages.
And yes, of course we provide an electrical diagram. Link here to view the diagram.
“Since most of those interviewed had spent long periods sailing under trade-wind conditions, several mentioned as important having easily handled downwind sails…”JC
16. Downwind Sailing
Along with the standard main, jib and 130% Genoa, the Antares offers a furling Screecher made from North Sail's NorLam 1.7 laminate sailcloth. The sail is mounted on the bowsprit on a Harken Code Zero furling system. This puts the sail in better air by pushing it forward and away from the mainsail for better downwind performance. In lighter air, you can have a much closer reaching position, and in strong winds, you can put the screecher up without the mainsail for an easier and more comfortable downwind passage.
A line is already secured onto the bowsprit and is used to deploy an asymmetrical spinnaker. Of course, some of our customers have also outfitted their boats with ParaSailor Chutes.
Link here to read Jimmy Cornell's article published in Cruising World Magazine: "The Best Boats for Globe Girdling."
Link here to find out more about Jimmy Cornell: Cornell Sailing