Charter Review: Dream Yacht Charter - Catana 47 Carbon, Moselle
Dates Reviewed: July 25th - 30th, 2012
Charter Location: Maya Cove / Hodges Creek, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Yacht Chartered: 2011 Catana 47 Carbon
Locations: Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Asia, Pacific, Western and Eastern Med.
Charter Advisors Recommendation
A Speedy Sailor's Yacht with All the Amenities
The Catana 47 Carbon from Dream Yacht Charters is one of those rare finds. It's a Catamaran that appeals to the truly hard-core sailors, but is easy enough for anyone to sail, while carrying all the amenities that non-sailors "need." Try light carbon reinforced hulls, double head-sails, a square topped main, adjustable dagger boards, and twin helm stations for the sailor and full A/C, generator, microwave, water-maker, iPod / iPhone connector and a sunbed for the non-sailors. The combination of creature comforts and an all out sailing yacht would seem to fight each other, but they work in perfect harmony aboard Moselle, our review Catana 47 Carbon. If you're the type that loves to sail, but wants all the "extras" for your crew, this Dream Charters bareboat is very much worth looking into.
Charter Company Overview
Once again, Scott Farquharson of Dream Yacht Charter / Annapolis Bay Charter got everything set for our review of their sparkling 2011 Catana 47 Carbon. Like he does for any charter guest, he took care of all the details leading up to our charter and got us in touch with their Maya Cove, Tortola base Manager Yann though email and phone. The hand-off from booking to the charter base was seamless, even when we threw them for a loop with a start date delay. More on that later...
Our second visit to the Dream Yacht Charter Base was better than our first. They've been busy since our last visit. A new fuel dock was built and the marina "facilities" have had a major facelift, including a new fuel dock and renovated showers and restrooms. These upgrades are especially important for a sleep aboard the night before setting sail on charter or if you want a land-based shower at the end of the trip. A nice long shower with unlimited water takes on a whole new meaning at the end of a sailing vacation! Dream Yacht Charter's Maya Cove / Hodges Creek location is centrally located on Tortola providing easy access and a short cab ride from the Beef Island airport and the Road Town ferry terminal.
Dream Yacht Charters' fleet is uniquely French with Catana, Lagoon, and Fountaine Pajot catamarans dominating the docks with Dufour, Jeanneau, and Harmony monohulls round out their sailing charter offerings. Over the past year, we've been impressed with the new and innovative additions to their fleet. It's clear they've stayed in-tune with the needs of chartering sailors well.
What They Say About Themselves
Established in 2001 Dream Yacht Charter proposes charter boat and cruises in Seychelles, Caribbean, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Thailand and in many other destinations in Mediterranean as well. The fleet comprises mostly of catamarans ranging from 38' (12m) to 82' (25m) with also a selection of mono hulls and powered catamarans.
Dream Yacht Charter is the exclusive partner for the Harmony boat range and a privileged partner for Catana. Therefore you have a unique opportunity to sail aboard an assortment of the finest seaworthy vessels available on the high seas to date, which also includes the new Ocean Class range. (Catana OC 41, 43, 47, 50 et 52).
The company was created and is still operated by Luic Bonnet who has been actively involved in the yachting industry for many years. He has been responsible for overseeing several of the largest prestigious companies within the industry. Each charter is unique and the demands of each charter party are varied, this is a world we know and understand from many years of experience and our expertise and personalized attention to detail will guarantee you of a unique sailing vacation. Whether your desire is to charter a bareboat, skippered yacht or a luxury fully crewed vessel, Dream Yacht Charter will ensure that you experience the ultimate yachting holiday.
Dream Yacht Charter is a member of the Federation des Industries Nautiques, part of the International Council of the Marine Industry Federation.
The 2011 Catana 47 Carbon infusion is ranked as one of Dream Yacht Charter's "Super Premier" yachts. She's one of only two Catana Carbon's plying the waters of the British Virgin Islands. Yachts at this end of the high tech sportiness spectrum generally keep the amenities to a minimum. Sporty, speed, comfort, and amenities are things that normally describe two different yachts. Not so aboard Moselle. She's two yachts in one. The Catana 47 Carbon is built for speed and live aboard comfort. She's a racer-cruiser catamaran with all the comforts of home. Plus she's easy to sail! There are not many charter yachts that can pull this off in one boat. Getting this much versatility in one yacht doesn't just make for a good value, it makes for an awesome time under sail and in the mooring field.
Recommended or Chosen Charter Yacht
When I first got word that the 47-foot Carbon Catana was joining the Dream Yacht Charter fleet, I knew this was one we had to review. Why? Mainly because she is so unique. And because I had a ton of questions. What would be different about a carbon infused yacht on charter? How would her lightweight affect the experience? Would it be a stripped down "purist" yacht? Could a more sporty boat like this give the same level of comfort as other yachts we've reviewed? Would any of this matter to the average charterer? I had to find out.
Let me start with this... Online provisioning is awesome. This time I opted to forgo the long distance phone fees associated with faxing in an order. Yes, Dream Yacht Charter will help with provisioning and offers options to its bareboating clients, but in this day and age, even a remote provisioning market on a island in the middle of the Caribbean is online. True, it's not like ordering on Amazon but it's close enough for me.
I chose Ample Hamper for our provisioning needs (www.AmpleHamper.com). Ordering for a crew that included one of those "non-meat eaters" turned out to be quite easy. I went to the Ample Hamper website, clicked on the various provision categories, and checked the boxes for the items I wanted added to my shopping cart. The list of food and beverages is broad and encompasses just about anything you could want from basics like milk and eggs to high-end steaks, deli meats, and the all-important Carib beer. Ample Hamper even had gourmet cheese (a big plus for a Frenchman like me). There is a bit of back and forth navigation between each food category, but the shopping cart kept track and tallied everything up accurately. I've been frustrated in the past with online provisioning, but not this time. Their online system allowed me to enter the delivery date / time, where to deliver, and our charter yacht name. Delivery to our boat was free of charge. The only extra step was calling their 800 number to give my credit card for a deposit on the order. Like I said, not exactly Amazon functionality, but you're not going to hear me complain. The remainder of the bill (beyond the deposit) to be paid when the food was actually delivered to the yacht. There were zero mistakes, zero problems, and great customer service. Ample hamper got thrown for the same loop Dream Yacht Charter did when we had to adjust our charter start date by a couple of days, but they didn't miss a beat. I highly recommend giving online provisioning a try. Check out the options with your charter company or get online out and see what you think yourself.
The best way I've found to fly to the British Virgin Islands (read: cost effective, shortest time flying, earliest arrival into the BVIs) is to not fly to the British Virgin Islands. Stay with me here, I'll explain. Instead of reserving a flight to Beef Island Tortola, try planning flights to St. Thomas (airport code STT). Airlines from the United States arrive there between three and three thirty in the afternoon (earlier than flying to Tortola by five hours on average). On arrival, our crew hopped a short ten dollar taxi ride (ten dollars per person) to the ferry terminal. We boarded the last ferry for Road Town Tortola around four thirty p.m. Ferries require no pre-arrangement or reservations. I've never missed the last one out, even when our plane has been running a bit behind. A thirty dollar one-way ferry ticket got us to Road Town before five forty five (plus we got a nice tour of the U.S. and BVIs along the way). Customs and immigration at the Road Town ferry dock took about twenty minutes, then it was one more short twenty minute cab ride to the Dream Yacht Charter base. The crew and I were standing at the stern of Moselle by six thirty. If we had flown directly to Tortola, we would have been sitting in San Juan waiting on an eight p.m. flight. Check flights from your area and see what works best for you. Chances are you'll find the shortest path to Tortola takes you to St. Thomas too.
Arrival at Base
The Caribbean laid-back attitude is one of those wonderful things that needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated. Our arrival, if taken out of this context might be taken the wrong way. We worked with Yann the base manager previously when we reviewed their Dufour 405 Grand Large. He knew we knew the base, the docks, and our way around a yacht. We arrived a couple of days later than originally scheduled, so this caused a bit of a conflict. Yann had made plans to sail in a regatta based on our original schedule, but because our arrival was delayed, his regatta day was now our arrival day. This is where the laid back Caribbean thing comes into play, on both ends. He asked if we'd mind showing ourselves to the yacht when we arrived. If not, he was glad to make adjustments to be there for us. Being that we did know where we were going and how to get comfy aboard a yacht, it was no big deal. In fact it was almost preferable. It's nice just to walk down the dock like you own the place, jump aboard your sparkling new yacht, and get settled in with no formalities. Yann had prepped our review Catana 47 Carbon for our arrival well. The lights were on, the A/C was blowing cold, and there were rum and Cokes at the ready! That was all the welcome we needed to start our sleep aboard night.
I'm proud to report Ample Hamper's online ordering experiment went well. When we arrived, our provisions were waiting for us, delivered right on time. There were a couple of items swapped out for like items (my strawberry jelly for one), but the replacements were very similar, making it hard for me to complain. There are two things in particular that anyone charter sailing will notice when they first arrive at their boat. First is the boat, the second is if their food is there. Both play a very big role in starting the trip out on the right foot. We showed up a little later than the delivery time, missing the provision delivery, but Ample Hamper didn't let us down. I'll order from them (online!) again.
Sleep Aboard Night
Our sleep aboard began with a question... Is the generator running? Everything was quiet, but water was flowing out of the generator exhaust. I put my ear to each engine hatch and finally heard the generator. Yep, it was running. But why? Maya Cove has shore power. It was more of a curiosity than a concern, but regardless, the A/C was running and I was happily "limn" on island time. Without getting technical, Moselle's A/C runs off the generator rather than shore power. With a genny as quiet as this one was, it really didn't matter to me. We couldn't hear the thing running, nor could our neighbors at the dock. Everyone's happy!
Our review Catana 47 Carbon was situated at the end of A dock. The sea breeze was a perfect complement to the sound of waves rolling into the nearby reef. That was all I needed to unwind from a day of traveling. The crew loaded their bags aboard, stowed the provisions and got down to the hard work of picking cabins. The saloon space, the cozy cabins and the air-conditioned chill in the air all pleasantly surprised us. As the crew put up the provisions, they discovered that Moselle was outfitted with a proper freezer. Proper is the right way to explain it too. It kept ice cream more ice than cream. A rare commodity onboard a bareboat charter yacht!
Though we had all the provisions we needed, Pussers was only a five-minute walk down the road. So walk we did. A good friend Andre, a local, was tending bar, there was no wait, and lobster was in season! We congratulated ourselves on a wise choice and had a memorable dinner watching the stars sparkle over the Caribbean Sea and I got a chance to catch up with an old friend. Not a bad way to wrap up our first day in paradise. Stuffed, we walked back to dock A, boarded our twin-hulled home and drifted off to sleep in Dream Yacht Charter's still marina. No dock bumping, no fenders squeaking, just stillness. We had none of that weird unnatural motion stuff that comes with poorly sprung lines or meagerly sheltered slips. Funny how small things like this can make such a difference when you're sleeping aboard dockside.
We awoke the next morning nearly frozen thanks to my turning the A/C down to low (darn that metric system!), but well rested, ready for the warm Caribbean sun and the day ahead.
Morning Of the Charter - Chart Briefing and Check In
Our first day involved a few extra items on the ol' checklist. Ours not Dream Yacht Charter's. To help manage our timeline and to get off the docks at a reasonable hour, the crew split up into two groups. One group headed to check out the new "natural" food store in Road Town while I stayed with the boat to handle the last of the paperwork, the chart briefing and to gather up the sailing goodies provided by Dream Yacht Charter.
Dream Yacht Charter has an on-call taxi. The shopping portion of our crew let the Dream Yacht Charter base know they needed to make a run and within 10-minutes the taxi man was pulling up. Yan had our shopping crew off for tofu and veggie chips (not for me) quicker than I can spell "vegan." Once they were away, I dug into the last of the paperwork giving our deposit and taking care of the last of the charter fees. In exchange I received our national parks permit, receipts, snorkeling gear, and boat phone.
There are benefits to chartering with the same charter company multiple times besides the repeat client discount. One of these comes in the form of a truncated chart briefing. Once a charter company gets to know you and your knowledge of the area, chart briefings become shorter and shorter until it's down to more of a reminder briefing of the no-go zones. This trip Yann treated me as if I wrote the book on BVI Chart briefings, which was nice being that I actually had! (Check the iBook store for the "British Virgin Islands Chart Briefing Certification"). But the point of all this is, that this is how Dream Yacht Charter treats all its repeat guests with multiple BVI charter trips under their belt. Chart briefings are tailored to fit each individual's local chartering knowledge. But even in my case, I still have questions. There's always something new to learn. After all, the folks running the charter base live there. They have lots of wisdom to pass on. I asked about the north swell and if the Bubbly Pool was "bubbly," weather conditions for the coming days, sea-state and swells, if there have been any comments about jellyfish, dolphins, whales, or any other cool marine life. And, info on the more popular destinations and " local scene" like the color of the beach flags at The Baths lately, if any cruise ships were arriving during the week, if there were any regattas or parties / gatherings at the usual haunts (Bitter End Yacht Club, Cane Garden Bay, Jost Van Dyke, Bomba's, etc.)
Yacht Check-out Checklist
With the chart briefing and "local knowledge" portion of our check out over, Yann and I moved our attention to that pretty Catana 47 Carbon, Moselle, our review yacht for the week. The timing was perfect too. The crew "shoppers" had just arrived back from their foray into the world of anti-meat. As the Professor likes to remind our readers, "The more sets of ears listening and asking questions during the checklist and yacht mechanical briefing, the better!"
The Base Manager Yann took us through the yacht checklist, covering all items onboard starting with the cockpit. We checked for each and every item: took kit, spare parts, life jackets, propane, boat hook, full tank of gas for the dinghy outboard, etc. The Catana 47 Carbon is one of Dream Yacht Charter's newer yachts, that being the case, she was highly outfitted and very complete. Every item on the checklist was accounted for within 15 min. down to the deck brush and pail.
Yacht, Mechanical, and Safety Briefings
With the checklist completed, we quickly moved on to the yacht briefing. Yann took us through each system that makes the Catana 47 Carbon tick and the unique items that make her "Moselle".
Starting in the cockpit we reviewed operation of the powered winch (with an extra remote switch at the helm!), the operation of the helm instruments and auto-helm. We checked to be sure speeds and depth were in feet (not meters for us Americans), and paid a visit to each of the two engine rooms. Yann pointed out all the master breakers and showed us how to run the water maker and what to look for to be sure we had it set as it should be. While in the engine room we went over our morning engine check routines and marveled once again at how quiet the generator was (it was running a foot away from our ears and I barely noticed!). Before getting into the sailing systems, Yann took us into the saloon to show us the water changeovers for each tank under the galley sink and how to operate the nav station located chart plotter. While we were there, we went over each of the switches organized in neat rows up on the nav bulkhead. They were all clearly marked in both English and French. There was also a diagram of the yacht with small LED indicators. When a switch was flipped in the Nav station, the corresponding light on the diagram would illuminate. It made it really easy to keep up with that pesky mooring light each morning (something I tend to forget about)! With the "guts" of the yacht no longer a mystery, we moved back out to the cockpit to make sense of the sailing lines. The Catana 47 Carbon has her sailing systems very neatly organized, complete with tailing boxes and horizontal main winches, one of which is of the powered variety. All reefing lines are located just under the main starboard winch and all running lines for everything else under the port main winch. All lines are lead under the deck keeping things very neat and tidy. As we moved forward up the starboard hull, we got a demonstration of how to raise and lower the huge dagger-boards that took our draft from prop depth to 6-feet with the release of one line on each side. Then it was on to the double headsails. Both operate as any roller furling jib would, but Yann gave us good insight as to when each should be used and at what sailing angles: the Solent for general cruising and upwind work and the massive gennaker "screecher" for downwind speed. Yann was thorough in his briefing. Starting and stopping each system on Moselle, demonstrating and insuring everything was operating as it should. It was a good thing too. The water maker hadn't been run in several days and needed a little TLC before we left. No, nothing broken, she just needed a bit of priming.
The Catana 47 Carbon mechanical and yacht briefings took about 30 min. to complete. Everything was very straightforward leaving few questions. I do have to admit, before the briefing I was slightly worried that the operation of the dagger-boards would be cumbersome and just one more thing to have to deal with. After our briefing I learned these things were about as simple as simple can be. Yann hopped off the boat to take out another charter group who and been briefed earlier while we prepped to do the same. Time to batten the hatches, unzip the stack-pack, and don our sunscreen and swimsuits. It was time to go sailing!Leaving the Docks
Twin helms on a catamaran. That's what entered my mind as we prepared to leave the dock. How cool! Or would it be? As I stood at the starboard helm warming up the twin Volvo engines, Yann hopped back aboard and said, "Are we ready Kev?" With a nod, he signaled his dock crew and the bow line was pulled aboard, followed by the spring and the stern lines. The twin engines made easy work of the confined space in the marina, pivoting the big cat ninety degrees, pointing her bows right at the channel entrance. Clear of the dock, Yann handed me the helm and went forward. I wasn't really sure what he was up to. Was he coming with us? I'm use to the folks from the charter base hopping into a waiting dinghy at the first possible opportunity. Instead I craned my neck to see Yann up on the foredeck taking down fenders, untying the dock lines from their cleats and stowing everything neatly below in the forward deck hatches flanking the anchor windless hatch. Those who have read our reviews before know I'm a service oriented person, both in how I treat others and how I want to be treated. Not to over use the word, but this was a real treat. It's nice to see this level of service when pulling out of the docks. About midway though the Maya Cove / Hodges Creek Channel, Yann hopped into that waiting dinghy and headed back to the smooth marina water.
Navigating the channel here can play with your mind if you let it. It seems like the green channel buoy is about an inch off a breaking reef (it isn't). The red marker to port looks like it has deep water for miles on the other side of it (it doesn't). Here's the trick. Treat the channel like any other channel. It's well marked curving gently to starboard as you exit the marina. Ironically, the water is deepest closer to those reef-side green channel markers. I prefer to stay closer to the green marker coming or going just because it's the deepest part, but you can sail down the middle and be just fine too. You may see 9-feet on your depth finder briefly (I did), but it gets deep sharply.
Clear of the final channel marker I cranked the engines up to their cruising 2000 RPM and pushed Moselle out into the Sir Francis Drake Channel, pointing her for Virgin Gorda. We were underway!
Charter Advisors Note: Anytime you're leaving a charter base, especially a new one, be sure to glance behind you on your way out. It will give you a good mental picture of what you'll be looking at when you come back.
Noteworthy While Underway
A Visually Striking Yacht
Before we left the dock it was apparent Moselle, our review Catana 47 Carbon, is one good-looking yacht. She stands tall on long tapering hulls that pierce the water with a knife-edge concaved "reverse ax" bow. Her low-slung cabin-top twin helms and dagger-boards made it clear that she had something a bit different in store for us this time around. When I first boarded and was taking it all in I got the feeling that there was something else subtly different. I was standing in the cockpit at the stern looking all around when it hit me. Hatches! There were no aft cabin hatches. To be sure I wasn't crazy, I went below. Nope, not crazy, there were no overhead hatches to be found in those aft cabins. I went back above deck, and looked over the aft portion of the hull where the hatch would have been. It was about then that Yann walked down the dock and caught me staring at the hull under my feet. "Everything ok?" he asked. I replied with the obvious question, "Where's the hatches?" His French accented answer was short and actually made sense aboard this particular yacht. "Hatches there! They are not sexy." True enough, as I stepped back I saw Moselle's graceful uninterrupted lines gently curving from stem to stern. Yes, Moselle is sexy. But then again, sexy also means hot. I hoped that wasn't to be the case. The days ahead would tell that tale. The absence of those hatches also added to the side-deck space of which there is plenty. But in this configuration, there was even more. Her clean decks meant uncluttered space with nothing to bust toes on. Bonus!
From the front the Catana 47's high bridge deck it look as if Moselle was sporting a pair of stiletto's. The higher the bridge deck, the less wave slapping and the smoother the sailing. She was obviously not only designed to look good, she has a real sportiness about her. Very purposeful in her execution with an eye toward art, comfort, and quick sailing. Catana yachts are instantly recognizable on the water. There's just nothing else sailing the British Virgin Islands that looks remotely like them. The 2011 Catana 47 Carbon is no exception. She keeps her stylish Catana Profile and wears carbon fiber where it counts. When I moored her up during our review, a sense of pride set in, pride that "this one is mine." Well, at least during our charter!
Twin Personalities - Speed and Comfort
We've established that the Catana 47 Carbon has a split personality. Fortunately they get along nicely with each other. As we've noted throughout this review, she's built for speed and fun under sail but she's also built to be comfy while out on the water and when parked for the night. This blend of extremes is rare in a charter yacht.
With the sails set, clicking along above 13 knots there is little sense that we were actually flying though the water. Every time I got behind the helm and checked the speed numbers I was always amazed at how fast we were actually sailing. Pacing at double digit speeds usually takes keen awareness for sail trim, angle to the wind, and is generally accompanied with motion underway that let's you know you're really "cooking." It's just not the case on the Catana 47 Carbon. It's like one of those big high power sports sedans. You get on the freeway, settle into a groove and wonder why traffic is going so slow. It's not, you're just doing 80 mph. It just doesn't "feel" that fast. Speed comes easy with the Catana 47 Carbon, she finds her groove easy and keeps moving without telegraphing every wave and swell. Her ease of speed fooled me. More than once I got caught wondering, why was everyone sailing so slow?
Comfort comes in two forms, when we were underway and when we were moored up. Like I said above, no matter how quick we were moving though the water, Moselle's ride was smooth. Though I had two new sailors aboard, one of which admitted to getting carsick easy, neither ever showed a single sign of seasickness. Upwind, downwind, on a beam reach, it didn't matter, the motion though the water was liner and smooth. That's what I call comfort underway. The second type of comfort on charter comes when the sailing is done for the day and the boat is swinging on the mooring ball or at anchor. Yachts built for the kind of speed the Catana 47 Carbon is capable of show you the trade off for all that sailing fun once you're in live-aboard mode. Not so with Moselle. She carries every comfort of home. With the generator lit and the A/C blowing cold, being aboard this speedy yacht is more like living ashore in a luxury suite.
What are the trade-offs for these split personalities? I really can't say. Neither my crew nor I could find any. Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon is an ideal mix of both worlds that left me wanting for nothing, other than another day aboard, sailing of course.
The last time we raised a sail on a Dream Yacht Charter Yacht it was on their sporty Dufour 405 monohull. During that review we were surprised to see a set of high tech golden laminated sails waiting to be raised and put to work. We'll.... I got caught in another happy surprise this time too. The first time the mainsail went up I noticed something special right off. Cheers of "Oh-yea!" went off in my head when I saw we had a square topped main rising out of the stack pack. Not only did we have one of the lightest 47-foot cats out there, with some of the sleekest hulls, but we also had extra power. The boom is low and long, close to the cabin top allowing for as much sail area as possible. I started grinning even wider when I remembered we also had a double headsail set up with that massive downwind gennaker. I had to take a moment to look captain-esqe again (I was a grinning idiot). We had less weight (carbon fiber boat), sleek wave piercing hulls with dagger boards, a square toped main sail (more horsepower), and a huge screecher (even more horsepower!). I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
Dagger-boards on a bareboat charter catamaran were a totally foreign concept to me and my crew before this review. Catana catamarans are unique in this aspect being the only type of BVI charter catamaran with them. In the days leading up to sailing Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon, I found myself working though catamaran dagger-board routines ala America's Cup AC 45. True, Moselle is not an America's Cup boat but I had to start with some kind of frame of reference. The routine aboard a laser, Hunter, or Flying Scot was not going to cut the mustard. So, I would rehearse the dagger-board routine in my head, raising the upwind dagger-board and dropping the downwind as I worked through a mental tack. The last thing I wanted to do was look like an armature and leave the upwind board down (not that I knew if this would cause any problems or not). I just wanted to do it right. All these mental exercises were thrown out the window during our dockside yacht briefing. After Yann demonstrated how easy the dagger-boards were to raise and lower, he told us to go ahead and leave both the dagger-boards down for the duration of our trip. They have a max depth of about 9 feet, but Dream Yacht Charters had them preset to drop to a depth of 6-feet. This kept them from bearing max loads and made it possible to leave them down for the duration of our trip. It was nice to finally put my mind to rest! But then it fired right back up! I suddenly realized, we had a lightweight catamaran with lots of sail area, waive piercing hulls, and now 6-feet of "keel" in the water, the most "keel" depth of any catamaran I've ever sailed. No, I wasn't concern about them being too deep, or shoal waters that got my attention it was the combination of her sporty set up with the addition of 6-foot long, foil-shaped dagger-boards turning all that power into forward motion. It wasn't concern that came over me, it was elation! And as you can tell by the Under Sail section, we were not let down. I never did notice leeway under sail. All that sail area horsepower was translated into speed without having to fuss with the dagger-boards at all. So what's the bonus to the Catana's dagger-boards? First is the combination of flat out speed and stability and second it's shoal draft. With the pull of one yellow line near each helm station, we went from ultra plush a wave slicing sport cat to a "prop depth" water skimmer capable of anchoring closer in than anyone else, with the ability to nearly join the shore-side landscape, turning Moselle into a luxury beach condo. Pretty cool extremes on charter if you ask me.
Full disclosure: We did very little motoring due to two things: awesome weather and a super fun and easy sailing yacht.
The crew on this review was hand picked from the Charter Advisors ranks for their limited sailing experience. Getting a new-to-sailing perspective is important when we're reviewing charter yachts. A good portion of folks that go charter sailing in the British Virgin Islands often take people with them who have never been aboard a boat let alone charter sailing on the Caribbean sea. Our job is to review the yacht and the experience, and to do that we must bring folks new to the experience like you might. Luckily we still know a few! Our first day involved a windward run in some mixed up seas, I decided it was best to get our two new crew members acquainted with the sea without adding sail handling 101 into the mix. For them, just leaving the protected waters of the marina was a new adventure. In other words, it was looking like a good day to test the engines and motor to windward.
Nosing out of the Maya Cove Marina, I pressed the throttles mounted on each side of the helm pedestal up to their cruising RPM as we headed out into the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Both engines ran smooth and quiet, pushing us into a 12-knot breeze and choppy 4-foot seas at 7 knots. Cruising RPM's run between 2000 and 2300 on the Catana 47 Carbon. I left our RPMs at the lower end of the cruising range. No sense in burning the extra fuel only to save about 15-minuets on our trip. Besides, who's in any rush?! If extra power is needed, Moselle keeps plenty of power in reserve with a 3000 max RPM on her twin Volvo diesels.
Our first day's run took us to from Maya Cove, Tortola to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda (Gorda Sound). Under motor power alone it took us right around three hours to make the trip. While underway I noticed very little motion other than the gentile rise and fall of the bow. This Catana was truly lives up to her name, slicing through the chop head on, leaving a smooth wake streaming astern. My crew got spoiled their first day out. A smooth ride, no deck duties, and sunny skies all the way.
Maneuvering the Catana 47 Carbon in close quarters is just like any other twin-engine catamaran. She spins on a dime, holds position for mooring like she's glued in place, with zero prop-kick in reverse (when the wheel jerks from prop wash hitting the rudders when reversing). The pedestal mounted throttle levers were the only thing I had to get use to. They are mounted on each side of the steering pedestal rather than side-by-side up on top and neutral comes when the levers were positioned at a 45-degree angle forward. I realized this was done by design. If neutral was in the vertical position, reversing the throttle would cause the levers to interfere with the operation of the wheel. Every yacht has these little things that add to its personality. This was one of those things. When the throttles are pulled into the neutral position they clicked letting me know I was in the right spot. That made getting use to the new lever position all that much easier. Having the throttles on each side of the pedestal actually felt quite natural. It's kind of like driving a track vehicle or playing a video game. It somehow just translated well.
Our first day motoring gave us a full day testing her under power. It was a good thing we didn't raise sail that day. Once we discovered how Moselle sailed, we really only used the engines and those fancy throttle levers for mooring the rest of the trip. It would have been very hard to do our motoring day test knowing the awesome sailing we would have be missing.
Mooring a catamaran with a fixed bowsprit and twin headsail was also a new experience, but it wasn't much different than mooring one with a single stay and no bowsprit. I did have to be sure I had the lines prepared a little differently though. I'll explain. The Catana 47 Carbon has an extended, fixed bowsprit with her big downwind sail furler attached to the end of it. The crew couldn't simply drag the mooring lines along the front of the trampoline running each lines though the mooring pennant and back to each bow cleat as usual. Mooring lines have to be run around the front of the bowsprit.
Motoring up to a mooring and holding position with the twin engines was a snap. Frankly, I would have been surprised if it had been anything other than simple with one throttle in each hand. Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon maneuvers with confidence and has little windage with her low-slung cabin top. Once at the ball, she stops and stays on point intuitively. And that's good, because running the mooring lines does take an extra moment longer than your typical cruising charter catamaran.
We attached the mooring lines to the bow cleat as usual. From there the crew took the port line and passed it in-front of the forward headsail and around the front of the bowsprit, leading the line all the way over to the starboard side. Rather than motoring up and putting the mooring ball on the centerline of the trampoline, we caught it on the inside of the starboard bow, running the starboard mooring line though the mooring and cleating it off on a short line. This way we could pass the port mooring line though the pennant (while secured to the ball on starboard), and walk it back around the bowsprit, and back to the port bow cleat. From there all we had to do was balance the lines so we had equal line out on each side and we were done. The whole process took us about an extra 30 seconds but the trade off to have that extra downwind headsail was well worth it .
Comfort Cruising Amenities
Sporty often means stripped down, stiff, "hook in and hold on!" Not so on the Catana 47 Carbon. She's loaded without being loaded down. Moselle is outfitted with a generator so quiet it's not noticeable anywhere in the yacht, zoned A/C, full galley with microwave and large stand alone freezer, big saloon and cockpit tables, an Alpine stereo with built in iPod connector and USB plugs, and an onboard water-maker (yea!). As living aboard amenities go, Moselle is outfitted to the gills.
The Saloon is mixed with French / European style with light colored wood with dark wood accents, curved cabinets, in a clean uncluttered space. The saloon area incorporates a dining table with wrap around settee, galley, and nav station, all executed for space efficiency. The saloon cabin sits right in the middle of the bridge deck rather than sprawling out into the side hull area. This has a double effect. First it creates a dead on center balance point aiding that planted ride quality. The second space usage. Nothing feels cramped or crammed, it's all very neatly organized. Though the cabin roof is low slung, there's no ducking anywhere and I never had to do the "sideways shuffle" even when the entire crew was standing in the saloon. The main dining table and settee sit front and center as soon as you enter through the sliding glass door. Six adults can sit down for dinner comfortably while enjoying the A/C. The galley situated on the port aft portion of the saloon is arranged in an L-shape and has room for two to cook side by side. The galley has a sliding glass window looking out over the back cockpit. With the window and the saloon sliding glass door open, the galley becomes an island in the middle of the cockpit and saloon, instantly connecting the two spaces. It made for easy serving and kept the cook included in the action.
Moselle has a four cabin set up. Two in each hull (fore and aft) with ensuite A/C controls, heads and showers. The forward cabins have full size queen bunks and the aft sport split bunks with inserts to convert them to queen births. We went for queen-size bunks all the way around for this review.
The forward cabins are built into the hull and forward bridge deck with bunks positioned across rather then in-line with the hull. Access to the bunk is gained via a fold away kick-out mini-step of sorts due to its elevated position in elevated bridge deck. I found a surprising amount of stowage space given the narrow hull form. The ergonomics have been thought all the way through from stowage space though to the light switches. The first evening I got comfy in my bunk only to realize that I left my cabin light on. I looked across to the end of the opposite side of the cabin at the light switch and wanted to kick myself. I really didn't want to get back up to turn the silly light off. A comfy bunk at the end of a day on the water can do that to you. But then things looked up, rather I looked up. As I rested my head on the pillow trying to motivate myself, I noticed a silver button right above my head. It looked like a lot like a light switch. So I pressed it, and to my lazy pleasure, off went the cabin lights! I was almost too happy to fall asleep. Laying in the dark, Moselle had turned me into a grinning idiot once again. Hey... simple pleasures for simple minds. But what a concept. Turn on the light as you walk in the cabin, turn off the light once your settled into bed. That's the kind of detail I can truly appreciate!
The aft cabins share the same stowage and ergonomic advantages as the forward cabins. The only real difference is the inline arrangement of the bunks, an extra inboard bedside shelf and stowage cabinet with a neat roll-away top. The aft cabins can either be two split bunks or one queen bunk depending on your preference.
All cabins share large rectangular opening port windows with snap on bug screens (bonus!) and blackout curtains that work way too well. On more than one occasion we all slept in past 9 a.m. This is unheard of for me when on a sailing charter. Down with the sun and up with the dawn is the norm for the Charter Advisors crew and I. Not so this time. Those blackout shades kept the cabins as dark as a cave. Combine that with cold A/C and that was all it took to get more shut-eye than actually intended. Not that I'm complaining. It was an odd experience to wake up and walk out the cabin door to discover sun streaming in the saloon and sailors leaving their moorings to start their day. I learned to be a happy slacker. Besides, I wasn't worried about those that got a head start on us, we'd pass them once we got out there anyway!
Every cabin has its own private head with enough space for two people to get cleaned up for the night, side by side. All heads are equally sized and outfitted with a manual marine pump style head, their own in-board facing opening port window, sink and shower. Like all good things French, Moselle adds a touch of style to this "utilitarian" space with a sea-glass blue frosted glass entry door and slotted teak floorboards. It's refined, totally private and totally cool looking.
A small but worthwhile item to note. Our review Catana 47 Carbon was set up with a cabin top mounted sunbed. Sunbeds come in two forms: after market add-on or as a planned option. Moselle's was the latter. The sunbed is integrated into the design complete with a padded pillow shaped around the leading edge of the bimini top. Mounted center on the cabin top it spanned each side of the boom. It was soo comfy, even underway, I often lost at least one crewmember to it. The only time I wouldn't advise taking a nap is if the boom has a chance of coming around. The Catana 47 Carbon is set up for max sail area with a low boom hovering just above the center of the sunbed. Best to hang out when the boom is snugged down on centerline or when parked. I found myself up there many a night, counting shooting stars into the wee hours. I've always been a trampoline stargazer, but that sunbed convinced me to change my ways on more than one starry night.
Carbon and Solar
Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon is the full blend of the latest technology. From stem to stern she's one high tech charter catamaran. Carbon infused hulls save tons, and I mean that literally, tons of weight and the solar cells integrated into the rigid bimini top save on the batteries. So much so that we went a good 18+ hour's one day before even thinking of starting the generator. And even then, it wasn't "needed." Battery levels depleted much more slowly even with a fridge and dedicated freezer set to their coldest levels.
Little design tweaks can make all the difference. The Davits fitted to the stern of the Catana 47 Carbon are a perfect example of this. Most dinghy davits have the lifting pulley set at the very end of the davit arm. Not so on our review Catana. The davits extend farther out, placing the pulley about two-thirds the way out the davit arm. With this set up, when the dinghy is raised, it snugs up against the arm extending out past the pulley and prevents the dinghy from swinging. If there is one thing I really don't like, it's swinging dinghies! You can quote me on that one.
Ahh the weather... it was perfect! Arrival day we did had squalls in the area, but that was our sleep aboard night at the dock. From the morning we shoved off to the day we returned we had blue sky's, easy seas, trade winds between 11-18 knots, and temps ranging from 70's over night to low 90's during the day. Even the sea was warm running around 82 degrees. The British Virgin Islands were in the middle of a dry snap (if you can call the humid tropics dry) with little to no rain. In fact, we didn't see a drop of rain over our week aboard. The normal occasional rain shower wasn't the norm this time around. If anything it was a bit hotter than I'm use to in the islands. Now, I might have something different to say about the daytime heat if we didn't have A/C aboard. The extra warm days made that little amenity quite handy. But even with the warmer than normal days, the trades blew cool each night. We even shut the down A/C a few evenings because the air was soo sweet and cool. The conditions for this review were beyond ideal.
Start Late, Arrive Early
This is probably the most noteworthy item here. Because of the speed and comfort of the Catana 47 Carbon I found we could leave later and arrive earlier. Like most discoveries, this one was found by out unintentionally. Once day, after a later than expected departure I began wondering if I had chosen a destination too far off. Arriving early demonstrated just what Moselle could do and how it affects the chartering experience. After that first day I didn't stress about what time we left a particular place to get to our next spot. No mater where we were heading, so long as we were on the water by noon, we could go anywhere we wanted and even stop for a swim along the way. I have to admit, the Catana 47 Carbon spoiled us. I had the latest sleeping crew in the mooring field, and I was just fine with that. Somehow Moselle made us speedier sailors and more lazy at the same time. Talk about an ideal combination on a sailing vacation!
The Flooded Outboard and The Reef
To start off with, neither of the outboard or the reef have anything to do with one another. I'm pretty sure I'm to blame for one and the others, we'll chalk up to being in the right place at the right time or wrong place at the wrong time depending how you look at it.
The Reef And An Alert Crew
We had just returned to the Dream Yacht Charter Base at the end of our charter and sat down to a late lunch in the marina restaurant. From our table in on the second floor of the open-air restaurant, we had a real good look out over the marina. Our food had just arrived when one of our crewmembers noticed a smaller sailing yacht having trouble with its sails entering the Maya Cove channel. He brought our attention to it noting how close it looked to the reef. It was only a second later that he stood up, squinted and said, "she's on the reef!". We all took a hard look. Sure enough, we saw a 24-footer with what looked like lots of people aboard hard on the reef and beginning to heel. I took this as my queue to get the word out. I ran down the dock, found Yann and let him know what had just developed. He and two other dockhands quickly dropped the dinghy from the stern of Moselle and raced out to render aid. No sooner had he entered the channel when two other bigger tenders loaded with rescuers shot out of the marina to join them.
A training sail from one of the other sailing schools was out for a training run with students aboard. Their engine failed on their way down the channel and there was not enough wind in the protected harbor for them to sail out of danger. The boat was holed but everyone onboard was fine short of a scratch here or there. Thanks to an alert crew and quick action from everyone in Maya Cove / Hodges Creek the sailing students were sitting down to lunch swapping stories of their adventure at the next table within 30-minuets of striking the reef.
Later that afternoon, the small sailing yacht was pulled from the reef, hauled up onto the hard and parked next to the dumpster. It seemed to be quite a symbolic placement, but if it we're me aboard that boat, there would be nothing symbolic about it!
So I admit it, this one just may be on me. The first time we put our dinghy in the water I went though the usual routine "prep the dinghy routine". Get the gas can, plug in the fuel line, prime, choke, and yank on the outboard start cord. Though I tested it at the dock before we left, the outboard just wouldn't start once we were our there. Murphy's law had finally reared its head. So, I primed the fuel some more. Yank, yank, yank. Nothing. Prime, prime, yank, nothing again. It was at this point I started counting how many times I primed the fuel realizing I just may have flooded the thing. A few more pulls and a half an hour later I admitted defeat and called Yann at the Dream Yacht Charter base. He went through the usual trouble shooting questions and then decided it would be best to have a mechanic come out for a visit. Right away I thought, "great, there goes the day!" We were moored up on Virgin Gorda a good 15 miles away from base. As it turned out, it wasn't a problem. Yann had a mechanic pulling up to the back of Moselle within 20 minutes. He tinkered with the outboard for a couple of minutes and, vrooooom! She fired right up. With my masculinity in check, I thanked the mechanic, took the dinghy for an aggressive spin (for good measures of course), and we were good to go for the rest of the trip. This is actually a good example of on charter "adversity." The "self-inflicted" type is more common than you might think.
Time to stay objective. Low power to weight ratio makes me happy, but how would that translate for the average charterer or those new to sailing? When we raised sail the first time I found out quickly. The sail and hull set up on the Catana took us to double digit speeds without trying while fooling me and the crew into thinking we were just cruising along nice and easy. One of the crew commented after looking at the speed on the GPS, "Did you realize we're doing 13 knots?" I had to be truthful, I didn't. The speed climbed a few knots higher as we continued underway, but the ride remained smooth and stable.
Sailing along under the high end "canvas" outfitted to Dream Yacht Charter Catana 47 Carbon is nothing short of amazing. Low drag hulls combined with all that sail area, planted with retractable dagger-boards was almost too much for my senses to comprehend. What got to me most was ease of speed. I had to look at the GPS otherwise I'd have no idea we were going as fast as we were. The ride was so smooth and the speed so easy to attain that it was almost incomprehensible. No spray off the bows, no waves slapping the underside for the bridge deck, no surging deck. None of that usual "whooping" along stuff. Under sail she was like a Ginsu knife though tomato soup. Sharp, high quality, with next to no effort to get her to do more than you'd expect.
The starboard helm is the primary sailing and motoring helm. Twin-throttle levels, RPM, compass, auto pilot and depth gauges all reside here. I tended to only use the port helm when I needed sight lines down the port side. The wind direction and wind speed gauges are located above the sliding glass door in the center of the cockpit. The central location makes them visible to both helms and in full view of the crew trimming the sheets.
Raising mainsail can be done three ways. Manually with a winch handle, with the push of a button next to the winch, or from the helm with a toggle switch. After trying all three we decided raising the main was best done from the helm (better sight lines to the sail). I raised the sail while the crew kept eyes out for batons angling for the lazy jack lines. The solent jib and the screecher both set on their own roller furler with separate jib lines led aft to dedicated secondary port and starboard winches. After unclipping the furling lines, the crew cranked the manual two speed winches, unrolling either headsail in a matter of seconds for a big boost in speed. With all sails set, we could play with the wind angles and sail trim until we found her groove, which is about anywhere you want to put her between 20 and 160 degrees (upwind / downwind) on a starboard tack. Our lowest speed under sail was a downwind run in 6 knots of apparent wind doing 4 knots. Our highest speed dash was another downwind run on a more brisk day clipping just over 18 knots (!) with the big screecher up and a quartering breeze. And it was an easy 18 knots. No extra work to squeeze out the speed. The Catana 47 Carbon just did it. I probably could have pushed her faster, but why?! We were flying past every other sailing yacht out there and doing it smooth and easy. Put it this way, if I had my mother aboard she would have never known I was "speeding." Once again, Moselle turned me into a grinning idiot. But I'm kinda ok with that.
Moselle tacks and jibes like a sporty monohull and tracks with very little leeway thanks to her dagger-boards, slick hull design and lightweight composites. I enjoyed my time behind the helm quite a bit and found myself sailing when I might otherwise be motoring (like in those light winds downwind). She encouragers you to sail her, and she rewards you with low effort, maximum speed and comfort. The sailing set up on Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon also created new opportunities. We either had more time at our destination and we could cover more ground sailing. It was almost as if we had more hours in the day to play.
Our Trip Through The British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands were at our disposal. All of em! With the kind of speed we had on tap, we could go anywhere just about whenever we wanted to. It's funny how traveling at double the usual cruising speed does that. Oddly though, we chose to do the "home base" sailing thing, spending our evening in two of my more favorite places. We spent our days just sailing for the pure joy of sailing, visiting stops along the way. A yacht like Moselle does that to you. At least that's what it did to me!
Day 1: Maya Cove to North Sound Virgin Gorda
We got a bit of a late start on day one. But by design. Just being in the BVIs means I'm right were I want to be, so I was in no rush. Where did we have to go? Rather than push off first thing in the morning, we hopped a cab for breakfast over in Nanny Cay at the Gennaker Cafe. Why not? It's a great place to grab a bite and do a bit of gift shopping. After stuffing ourselves full of eggs and French toast and picked up a few gifts for friends and family back home, we headed back to Maya Cove for a few more provisions and a noon departure. Why Nanny Cay? Why not? Might as well visit the places and people you remember fondly. Especially if you're not planning on stopping there while on charter!
Maybe it was the delayed gratification thing, but we were all amped up to get going once we were back in Maya Cove. I know I was. On our way down dock A we came across Yann and let him know we were ready to get on the water. Fifteen minuets later I was starting the engines, Yann was onboard and the crew was closing hatches and double-checking sea-cocks. Not long long after that the stern was clearing the dock.
Yann motored us out of the marina and handed me the controls about halfway up the Maya Cove / Hodges Creek channel, where we parted ways. He hopped off into a waiting dinghy and I dropped the hammer effectively starting our charter. Our route today was to head to windward for the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. As I mentioned earlier, today was the first time my crew tasted the sweet salt air out on the Caribbean Sea. Our motoring day was under way.
Within a couple of hours we had Mountain Point in site. The rock outcropping marks one of two entrances to the North Sound / Gorda Sound area. This one though is only for shallow draft power vessels (at best). Hidden rocks and rock ledges make the entrance here off limits for all charter and sailing yachts. Leaving Mountain Point to starboard we continued on past Mosquito Island for the Eustasia Reef entrance into the North Sound. It's a well-marked, wide channel in protected water. Once past the reef the water turns magical turquoise with a clear view of the numerous coral heads 30 or so feet below. The scenery here is "movie quality Caribbean." It's a magical place. The water deepens quickly into a deep-water harbor with 60-feet of water under the keel. Continuing down the channel we passed Leverick bay on starboard, Prickly Pear Island and the Sand Bar beach bar to port, with The Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock dead ahead. We moored at the Bitter End Yacht Club for the night in still water and steady breezes.
Even though we left Maya cove after noon, we made it to the North Sound by 3:30. Actually I should correct that... We made it to the bar at Bitter End Yacht Club by 3:30! We ordered up a few of our favorite Caribbean specialties, jerk chicken wraps and cheeseburgers in paradise. We enjoyed a mid-afternoon meal while we watched Moselle dance on her mooring.
As the sun began to set, we made our way to the dinghy for a short ride back to our boat. By then our late lunch had taken its toll. My newly minted mates were stuffed and beat. Happily so! There would be no Happy Arrr at Saba rock tonight. Instead we watched the sun dip below the horizon from the foredeck of our Catana, lazing in the trampoline sharing stories of our trip together that day.
Day 2: North Sound Area Sailing Day
We slept late! Well, late for a sailor. I awoke at 9 a.m. thanks to those blackout shades in the cabin I mentioned before. I made coffee, waking the rest of my crew while I watched boats drop their moorings to begin their sailing day.
Because we were off to a lazy start already, we decided it was a trend worth continuing with a visit to the massive breakfast buffet at the Bitter End Yacht Club's Clubhouse restaurant. Fruit, pastries, omelets, banana bread, guava juice, more coffee, the works! This is the other part of charter sailing adventure, the part that happens when you're not actually sailing. We spent a good hour indulging turning breakfast into more of a brunch. We sure didn't need to stop off for lunch after that meal!
We arrived back to Moselle with full bellies ready to get our sails up! Within moments of our return I had the engines warming, the hatches closed, and the crew lathering on their sunscreen.
We dropped our mooring, Moselle spun a graceful 180, and I pointed the sharp bows of the Catana 47 Carbon for the channel back to the open water of the Caribbean Sea. About half way out of the sound I turned head to wind so the crew could (at long last) raise our square-topped mainsail. About half way up, it jammed. It just wouldn't go up any further. After fiddling with the halyard and reefing lines to no avail, I called for the crew to drop the main. Being impatient to go sailing, and knowing we still had one more trick up the ol' sailing bag, I pointed us out of the channel toward open water with the motors humming. The crew started to grow a bit glum thinking we wouldn't be sailing, but that didn't last long. As we cleared Eustasia Reef and the last of the channel markers, I started the turn downwind and called for the screecher. Eyebrows went up from the crew. That's when I remembered... this was their first time setting a big gennaker or any sail in the Caribbean trades. My joy for sailing was quickly trumped with the crew's pure excitement. I released the furling line, lead the starboard line to the secondary winch and handed the crew a winch handle. With that, the winch started turning and that big oversized sail rolled out until it made a sound that made me a very happy sailor... "Whomp!" The "Whomper" was set and pulling hard. I killed both engines and watched the speed climb into the low teens. The crew was grinning ear to ear as we made our way for the dogs. With only our big headsail set we passed fully canvased yachts along the way.
Rounding the dogs, we rolled up our gennaker and fired the engines back up for the upwind beat back to the North Sound. I guess we could have worked out the kink in the main and got it up, but we were fully satisfied with the super speedy run we had downwind. The crew was all a buzz with excitement and satisfaction having just completed their first set and douse. I was a pretty proud skipper too. Seeing them go from, "can we really do this?" to moving around the deck with purpose and no struggles spoke volumes about their abilities and that of the Catana 47 Carbon. She makes it easy, even for the newest of sailors.
We approached Eustasia Reef once again, marveling at the beauty of Gorda Sound as it opened up before us. It never gets old. Before I knew it, we were tied to our mooring with just enough time to see the sun go from bright white to golden orange on its way to the sea. And we still had time for a quick snorkel and swim!
That evening we put on our yachting best and made way by dinghy for Saba Rock for sundowners and some of the best fish tacos on earth (highly recommended, just ask for the lunch menu). It's hard to say which was better, that dinner at Saba or counting shooting stars from the trampoline after we got back. Glad I don't have to decide.
Day 3: North Sound to Norman Island Via the Indians
Those cabin black out shades didn't get me two days in a row, and I sure wasn't going to let them get my crew ether! Let's just say I made some noisy coffee and leave it at that. Today was our long run down to Norman Island, all the way to the other end of the island chain and I wanted to get an early start. Well, we didn't exactly get an early start, but we didn't get out to late either. We grabbed a few sticky buns and croissants ashore at the chandlery at the Bitter End Yacht Club and had the mooring ball dropped by 9:30 a.m.
We bid farewell to the North Sound motoring back out of the channel. This time we had the mainsail sorted and she went up smooth with a flip of the powered winch switch at the helm. Once in clear water beyond the channel, we once again unrolled that big screacher and began a 14-18 knot sleigh ride all the way to Norman Island.
The trip took right about three hours in total. I had intended to stop at the baths for an early lunch but I caught what looked like a massive building docked at Road Town on Tortola across the Sir Francis Drake channel. This could mean only one thing... A Cruise ship! Drat! Rather than rub elbows with the hoards that would soon arrive, I decided to bypass this stop in favor of lunch underway. Besides, I had never sailed at these speeds so easily and I really didn't want the experience to be interrupted. Not even for the Baths. I don't think the crew minded either. They took turns at the helm, standing watch, and napping on the sunbed (at double digit speeds!). Not exactly rough sailing!
Approaching the Indians our course shifted the wind abeam. It was time to roll up our big screacher. I took this as a sign that the Indians were where we were suppose to be at that moment. Turning head to wind we dropped the main, fired up the engines, and took an empty national park mooring nice and close to the rock pinnacles that make up "The Indians." The air was hot making the water all that much more perfect for a snorkel and swim. An hour later we were pulling out for a short motor run to the Bight at Norman Island.
We chose to moor a good distance to from Willy T's and the beach at Pirates Bight. Why? The weather was unseasonably hot in the 90's. My mooring bull's-eye was where the smooth water and wind met. I wanted a good breeze more than I wanted proximity to a party. Besides, no matter where you moor or anchor in the Bight, you're never more than a minute from anywhere you want to go by dinghy.
Once secured to a mooring owned by Pirates Bight, we gathered our beach goodies, lowered the dinghy, and headed for the beach. My crew made way for the swim area and the perfect, still water. I headed to the bar. Not for an adult beverage, for a big bottle of water, a basket of french fries and a special, hard to find treat. An ice cold, frozen Dove bar! Ahh... simple pleasures.
That evening I lit the grill for some hot dogs in paradise. I know it doesn't sound like a luxury meal, but when I'm out on a sailing charter it's less about what I eat than it is where and who I eat with. I was with a great crew in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. I frankly didn't even notice what I was eating. I was that content.
Day 4: Norman Island Sailing Day
The Catana 47 Carbon just made me want to sail. Sometimes it's about the destination, other times is about the adventure getting there. This time, I found myself with no desire to go anywhere in particular. I just wanted to go sailing. This was a new experience for me. I've always enjoyed sailing and I always enjoy making my way though the British Virgin Islands, but because Moselle was so much fun and so easy to sail, I just wanted to get her back out under sail. I didn't need to go someplace, I just wanted to go.
The Catana 47 Carbon from Dream Yacht Charter reminded me of the first sports car I ever bought as a young man. It was a used 1996 Porsche 944. No it wasn't the best out there but she was a Porsche and she was mine. The first week after I bought it all I could think of was going for a drive. It didn't matter if I had a destination, I only knew I wanted to hear the engine, feel the gearshift, and sit behind that wheel as I motored down the street. The Catana 47 Carbon turned me back into that engine revving kid. I was eager to just go play! And play we did. Sailing nowhere in particular at double-digit speeds all day. Leaving other yachts in our wake, passing all that crossed our bows with next to no effort. It doesn't get better than that! I even caught sight of one skipper turning on his engines to motor sail in an effort to catch us. A futile effort! We we're aboard Moselle the charter Super Catamaran!
Day's end came too quick. As the sun dropped low in the sky, we tied up for one last dinner on the mooring. Unfortunately it was our vegetarian crewmembers turn to work the galley. Tofu and Uncle Ben's rice for dinner. It didn't matter though; good people, beautiful locations, and an awesome day of sailing trump tofu any day. We stuffed ourselves on faux protein and shared stories from our day on the water. My greenhorns weren't green anymore. They had become mates, they knew how to set the sails, how to steer a course, and the feeling that comes with twin hulled speed. But most importantly, they could tell a sailing story along with the best of 'em. Sitting there in the Bight at the cockpit table, listening to them talk about trimming sails and riding the wind, tofu never tasted so good.
That night I put the hatchless aft cabin to the test. The trade winds were so sweet and cool, this was the ideal night. I slept like a baby sans A/C. I really didn't think that I'd get much of a breeze without an overhead hatch. I was happily proven wrong. In actuality, I had to double up on the sheets.
Day 5: Norman Island to Maya Cove
I woke the next morning well rested with the dawn as I was use to doing on a sailing charter thanks to my open port windows. This was our last day on charter and I didn't want to miss a minute. Our course today would take us back to the Dream Yacht Charter base in Maya Cove / Hodges Creek. What might normally seem like a bad luck low wind day was actually a blessing. We were in a hurry to get off the mooring but no hurry to actually get back to base, we greeted the light 5-8 knot winds with delight. After a quick breakfast we cast off setting the sails and killing the engines looking forward to a relaxing low speed ride across the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Well... That low speed ride didn't actually appear. No, the winds didn't pipe up, the Catana 47 Carbon just slipped though the water at speeds very near the wind speed. I was like, "Slow down! What's your Hurry!" But Moselle wasn't hurrying. She was effortlessly gliding across the Caribbean Sea like she was designed to. Rather than fight the reins, I let her run and do her thing. Once again we enjoyed another new sailing experience, sailing at 6-7 knots in 8 knots of wind. I took as many extra tacks as I could before we closed in on the Dream Yacht Charter base. But eventually the time came to make the call to Yann, letting him know we were 10 minuets from base. The crew got to work pulling and attaching stowed fenders and dock lines prepping for our arrival at the dock. A few minuets later we were making our way down the Maya Cove / Hodges Creek Channel where Yann met us by dinghy. It was time to put her back in her slip after a week of eye opening sailing, speed, and comfort.
Returning a yacht as sweet sailing as the Catana 47 Carbon is not an easy task. Don't get me wrong, it was a simple process, but it's always harder to come back to base when you've had such a treat. Moselle was a blast to sail and easy to live aboard, the weather was ideal, and the seas near perfect. Our return day was no exception, making it all that much harder to bring her back in.
Like we experienced with Dream Yacht Charter before, returning to base went smoothly. I called Yann on our supplied boat phone earlier in the day to let him know our estimated time of arrival. When our last few hours we're up, I called again ten minutes away from base. As I made the final turn into the Maya Cove / Hodges Creek channel, the crew spotted Yann cruising our way in a dinghy. He met us half way, tied the dinghy off to one of the deck cleats and hopped aboard. He guided Moselle in though the last leg of the channel and backed us into the dock. Waiting dockhands caught our lines and tied us off. That was it. No drama, no wondering if the folks at the base see us entering the channel, it was all well timed and well executed.
Engines off, we fired up the generator, turned on the A/C and filled Yann in on our adventure. I got the feeling that no matter how many times he's talked with folks post charter, he was genuinely interested in hearing how our trip went and how Moselle performed. I think he has a special place in his heart for the Catana 47 Carbon. She seems to be one of those charter yachts he really loves to sail too. At least that's the impression I got. He had two questions ready to go... "How was your trip? And how fast did you get her to go?" Those answers came easy. "Great! And 18 knots!" The first answer made him smile, the second got him grinning ear to ear.
We had an early ferry to catch the next morning so we weren't quite done with Moselle just yet. Rather than flying out the day we returned the boat, we came in the evening prior. We got in a full day of sailing instead of having to be back at the dock by 11 am as usual on return day. We took advantage of the time at the dock with a late lunch ashore and plenty of time to pack up for the ferry and our flight out of St Thomas the next morning. One of the things I've learned about charter sailing is that there is nothing worse than having to rush though packing followed by a rush to the airport after a week of slowing down.
We spent the evening reminiscing about the fun we had during our week reviewing Dream Yacht Charter's Catana 47 Carbon, Moselle. How truly unique she was and the new experiences my once green crew had. I took a little extra pride in seeing them walk down the dock with a new swagger. A laid-back confident stroll built on accomplishment, adventure, sun, and salt air. That swagger continued the next morning when we all awoke bright eyed, ready for our taxi to the ferry dock.
Our taxi was prearranged by Dream Yacht Charters to arrive at 6 a.m. He was there exactly on time with the doors open. In no time we were loading bags and driving the coast road to the Road Town ferry terminal to catch our 7 a.m. ferry to St. Thomas.
We arrived at the Charlotte Amalie airport by 10:30 a.m. that Saturday morning. We checked our bags and cleared customs by 11 a.m. (those arriving after noon had quite a different experience with long lines and waits). By 3 p.m. we were boarding our flights, still adjusting to the solid ground underfoot.
Fuel and Water
We pre-paid for fuel this time around. This saved us a trip to the fuel dock giving us more time with our lovely Moselle. After we departed, she was refueled and pre-paid dollars not used to top off the tanks were refunded. We ended up using just over a quarter of a tank during this review even though we did a full day of motoring and ran the generator every evening with the exception of the last night at Norman Island. Fuel efficiency motoring and on generator was exceptional. Dinghy fuel use was so minimal we were not charged for topping off its tank.
This was our second time reviewing Dream Yacht Charters, but our first experience with their catamarans. It was also our first time reviewing a Catana. What we found was a reflection of quality that we got a taste of with their monohulls. Dream Yacht Charter didn't just outfit their fleet with just any Catanas (which would have been pretty unique by itself), they were selective about it. The 45 to 50-footers were complemented with the ultra slick carbon infused variety that we sampled this time around. The experience the second time around was even better then the first. The boat was part of it, but it also had a lot to do with the sense of familiarity with the base, with the base manager, and their procedures. It was like visiting old friends that were really glad you came by.
The Catana 47 Carbon was a real surprise. I've sailed my share of big charter catamarans and this one really stood out in more ways than one. Moselle is a rare blend of onboard comforts and sportiness. Sailing at double-digit speeds with my feet up and all the amenities was a bit surreal. Happily so.
Dream Yacht Charters continues to expand their fleet, refine their process, and impress us. The addition of the Carbon Infused Catana 47 is a perfect example of what Dream Yacht Charter is all about: full service, customer oriented professionalism, sport-luxury, with a dash of Caribbean sea-salt.
Dream Yacht Charter and Maya Cove / Hodges Creek are growing. New yachts and new chartering opportunities are on the horizon. This is one charter company and location to keep your eye on.
By The Numbers
Note: Minor fees and deposits such as permits and insurance deposit, are not listed. The above totals are not to be used as exact costs as these costs change often. This budget summary is intended for planning purposes only and to give a good idea for the average costs involved. The costs listed above are as per what we were charged at the time of charter.
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