Yachts We Have Reviewed
Yacht Chartered: Moon Shadow - Voyage 580
Yacht Type: Catamaran
Yacht Size: 58-footer
Layout: Five Cabin - Five Head - Seven Showers
Don't Be Fooled!
Currently the VOYAGE 580 provided through VOYAGE charters is the largest bareboat in the British Virgin Islands with 58-feet length overall and a 31-foot beam. Those kind of specs can do a number on the ol' psyche. "Largest" must mean most expensive and those size dimensions must mean "big experienced crew." These were a few of the presumptions we had before we did our research and sailed Moon Shadow, our review 580. Boy were we wrong.The VOYAGE 580 is an easy to handle yacht with lots of space that's surprisingly affordable. This charter yacht is not one to overlook. Especially if you have a group of 8-10, a "first time" crew, a need for all the creature comforts, or if you just want the luxury that comes with extra room, stability and a planted ride. Don't be fooled by the VOYAGE 580 like we were, it barely took two people to sail her.
It's not often that the words power and lounge are used together to describe a charter sailing yacht. Think of it this way, if soaking in a hot bath is lounging, then getting in a hot tub and turning on the jets is power-lounging. That's kind of what the experience aboard a VOYAGE 580 is like. Maybe a better description is power-sailing. The powered-up relaxation extends to everyone onboard. From first timers with her homey amenities and stable ride to the saltiest of captains and crews, with her fantastic sailing ability. Long fine hulls, wide stance, push-button sailing, twin generators, water-maker, and abundant flat-screen TVs all combine to give everyone what they want. Even if it's some peace and quiet in a well-chilled cabin while under-sail, while watching TV.
The VOYAGE Charters fleet of yachts is slightly different than what we find elsewhere. Namely the fact that they only charter VOYAGE yachts and the majority of those are over the 50-foot mark. The 500, new 520, and the 580 represent the central VOYAGE charters offerings. The emphasis on bareboats 50-foot plus makes their rates competitive with other brands while generally offering a yacht one size larger. Our review of the VOYAGE 580 is the second in a series on the mainstay yachts in the VOYAGE charter fleet. Susan Lepthien of VOYAGE Charters worked with us to arrange everything. Susan is like a charter expert combined with an island "fun" oracle. Beyond booking she can give advice on where to go and what to do while on charter, but just as importantly, she's full of tips on where to go for shore-side fun when you get there.
Did It Live Up To Expectations?
No. Flatly, no. But, what we expected was a large yacht with complicated systems and need for a full crew to sail her. We got the large yacht part right, but just about every other assumption completely wrong. Moon Shadow has extensive systems, but not complicated and sailing her was, for the most part, a one-person affair. Yep, one person. The second crewmate only needed to come on deck at mooring time. Even anchoring can be done remotely from the cockpit!
Here are a few of the things that made our review VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow a lot "easier" than we expected
Full Suite of electric winches, including furling winch
Dedicated boom derrick halyard
Anchor remote in the helm
Sailing systems in the helm - Large Chart Plotter, Engine gauges, VHF
16-foot Center Console Dinghy with a 70 HP outboard. Waterskiing anyone?
Cockpit wet bar
And the all-important, dedicated bar in the saloon!
When we thought of "the largest bareboat in the BVIs" we never imagined it would be one of the easiest catamarans we had ever sailed. We did believe we we're about to be pampered living aboard, but like all good luxury things, it surprised us in ways we didn't and couldn't expect. All of them good.
The VOYAGE 580 sails with authority. It's planted, quick, and very stable. Her 58-foot length and a 31-foot beam surely help, as does the 1990 square feet of sail attached to a towering 85-foot mast. They have no trouble pushing Moon Shadows sharply pointed bows, and her 23 and 1/4 tons though the waves.
Our review of Moon Shadow contained a mixed bag of sailing conditions. We had perfect sunny trade-wide days, a tropical depression and nearly every shade of weather in-between. We can report that the 580 is surprisingly quick and easy to handle no mater what the weather and sea-state was like.
In cruising mode, sailing at 65 degrees to the wind, we made a comfy 9 knots in 22 knots of apparent wind. We ticked easily into the double digits in the puffs between the islands. It turned out that this "big boat" was a quick, and not just quick for her size. She was just plain quick!
When the seas and wind kicked up, Moons Shadow stayed on an even keel with no bucking or hobby horsing. The large sails combine to add an additional three tons of down force. Reducing sail above 20 knots of wind kept Moon Shadow moving at her hull speed while reducing down force, keeping the ride smooth. When the wind and the waves built, that first reef kept the things just that much more civilized. As Rane the General Manager of VOYAGE Charters put it before we set out, "she loves a first reef." As usual, the experts at VOYAGE know their yachts. The 580 had no problem flying a full rig above 20 knots, but that first reef didn't slow her down, in some cases we went faster!
The lasting sailing impression our crew was left with was one of surprise. Surprise that a yacht of this size was just as simple to sail as one half her size. It became clear right off the bat that once on charter, the VOYAGE 580 fits her crew and environment without making the experience daunting or difficult. But, her size was defiantly felt when the seas kicked up showcased by her planted and uber comfy ride.
Ok, let's get specific. In past reviews we've noted how unique VOYAGE catamarans are. This certainly holds true for the Voyage 580. After all, this is the yacht that set's the standard for all VOYAGE Charters yachts. The dock appeal is impressive. While docked up, we regularly talked with, and answered questions about the boat from passers by. Moon Shadow knows how to get attention. So let's start with what sets her apart from the crowd, most obviously her size and space.
Size and Space
Being the biggest bareboat currently available in the British Virgin Islands, this is the obvious place to start. The overall dimensions of a VOYAGE 580 are impressive. These expanded dimensions lend themselves directly to the sailing and live aboard experiences. We've already talked about her speed and stability, but when all the sailing is done for the day, her other side shines.
Once on the mooring or at anchor Moon Shadow becomes a home away from home, not just a charter yacht. Every in-door area has its own space. There is no intrusion from one area into the next. The saloon does not share space with the galley, the galley does not intrude into the bar, and the bar keeps its distance from the nav station (probably a good thing!).
The room afforded by the larger dimensions creates that homey feel. One where you actually walk over to the "kitchen" from the "living-room" and take the "stairs" to get to the "bedrooms," just like at home everything is in its place and there's a place for everything.
The VOYAGE 580's helm sits in an elevated position on the starboard side of the cockpit with a tinted, sliding sunroof overhead affording a clear view of both sails and tell-tails. It's got everything the Captain needs right there at the fingertips. Including a large flat expanse just behind the wheel that can't be called anything else but a table. Now that's a new one on us. An actual place to lay a map down flat and rest a drink while at the wheel (A non-alcoholic drink of course). Now this just makes sense. Besides a "Captain's table" the helm is all business. Two solid, all stainless throttle levers and every gauge any Captain could need to keep their eyes on everything at a glance: RPM, compass, engine hours, speed, wind, depth gauges and auto pilot are all neatly arranged. In addition, warning lights are built in to the bottom of the RPM gauges, monitoring battery levels and engine temps. Items like these make "checking on things" as easy as sweeping the eyes across the helm gauges. We found it comforting that at a glance we could keep tabs on all essential systems. Not that we encountered any mechanical issues, which we didn't. Besides the gauges, the helm is also outfitted with a VHF Radio and a remote for dropping anchor without leaving the Captain's chair.
There were two other noteworthy "buttons" built into the helm. A battery link switch and the engine fire suppressant system. The batter link switch comes in handy if the engine batteries ever get caught too low to start the engines. Press the "link" button and the energy from the house batteries are routed to the engines for an easy start. We had no battery issues, but it's always nice to know we could "jump-start" ourselves if need be! Redundant systems are always welcome.
A helm activated (or automatic system with notification lights at the helm) fire suppressant system is becoming more and more common on larger catamarans. Should there ever be an engine fire, this system is activated with the engine-room doors shut, starving the fire of oxygen quickly extinguishing and minimizing damage. We didn't put these systems to test, but we have been aboard a yacht that did have an engine room fire (not a bareboat, and not from a BVI Charter Company). In both engines! And we can say with some authority, you don't want to open the engine room doors if there's a fire on the other side! We mention this safety system specifically because it does just what the name implies. These systems keep us safe while on the water. Knowing about the layers of safety made it very easy to relax, knowing we're in good hands.
OK, We know we can sometimes be a bit nutty when it comes to safety, but why not? Redundant systems and a self extinguishing boat may not be the most important items aboard, but the more safety "margin" the better when you're self-sufficient on the water.
Sight lines from the helm are clear and fairly well unobstructed. Even though we had a 31-foot beam to look across, we had no trouble seeing the bows of each hull or across to the port hull. We saw just how well thought out the sight lines were when we moored Moon Shadow for the first time. The usual mooring hand signals went right out the window. From the helm there is a clear view of the mooring ball, right up to the point it's sitting directly under the forward trampoline brace. In other words, as soon as the Captain loses sight of the ball, it's time to stop and let the bow crew do the tying up. It doesn't get much easier than that!
Like all VOYAGE yachts, the 580 uses the "Boom Derrick" system. This in boom crane of sorts slides out from the inside of the boom, extending over the water to raise the tender up and on deck. What makes the 580's a little nicer than some of her smaller siblings is her use of a dedicated lifting halyard. Without this extra lifting halyard, the mainsail halyard does double duty. The large robust electric winches make short work of the lifting, easily managing a 16 foot center console tender sporting a 70 HP outboard, setting it easily on the deck mounted "V" shaped hull cradles.
Operation of the boom derrick is a two line and two person affair (one can do it with a bit of back and forth between the back deck and winch). To lift the tender off deck, we followed these steps.
1. Attach the blue lifting halyard to the center lifting shackle on the tender's hoisting lines.
2. Take up slack on the blue lifting halyard
3. Untie the safety lines securing the tender to the deck.
4. At the port winch, attached the blue halyard, lifting the tender just above her cradle.
5. With the all jammers shut tight, remove the blue lifting halyard from the winch.
6 Attach the red line to the port winch and extend the boom out over the water.
7. With the boom fully extended and all jammers shut, remove the red boom extension line.
8. Re-attach the blue lifting halyard to the winch using a minimum of four turns on the winch drum.
9. Open the lifting halyard jammer (all weight will be on the winch) and slowly lower the tender into the water. The lowering process is smooth and easy for any crew member aboard.
10. Tie off the main painter line to secure the tender to the yacht, then release the shackle attached to the tender hoisting lines and return the lifting halyard to the yacht.
11. Remove the blue lifting halyard from the winch and replace with the red boom extension line.
12. With three turns on the drum, release the jammer and ease the boom back in until it rests inside the boom in its start position.
It may look like a lot of steps, but all in all the process takes about two minutes from beginning to end. Note: Always remember to tie the painter line to the yacht before releasing the lifting halyard. You don't want that tender to float away!
What we like most about this set up is that when we're underway there is no dinghy or in this case, tender, swinging on a davit or dragging through the water. It's lashed down on the back deck, nice and solid. And, it's better than a cable lock. There's no chance of a dinghy on deck going mysteriously missing in the middle of the night.
Dive Platform (Back Deck)
This extra feature is unique to all VOYAGE yachts. Spanning the entire width between the hulls, this teak slat decking is the resting place for the tender while underway, a launching spot for water-sport activities, a lounge area, and where the grilling gets done (what better place to BBQ than standing on a wood deck!). At nearly 25 feet long, there's plenty of room. The molded cockpit floor connects seamlessly with the teak decking, expanding the overall depth of the aft space and connecting it with the cockpit. Water-sports stowage abounds where the cockpit floor meets with the teak decking. There's floor hatches for gear and dedicated dive tank lockers. Hatches facing the aft deck are home to more deep storage wells full of snorkeling gear and a hidden cockpit refrigerator (disguised as a hatch). We found Moon Shadow to be very well set up for maximum fun, both in and on the water, either indoors or out.
Our favorite thing to rant about! Being that a good portion of our crew hails from Texas, the grill is a big deal. Without a good one, a Texan just might starve! Thank goodness the grill scaled up with the yacht.
Stowed under a central cockpit floor hatch is the grill, grill stand, and gas line. And what a grill it is! The biggest we've had the pleasure of cooking aboard with so far, with room to cook steaks for everyone aboard in one swoop.
Set up is as easy or easier than those round "flying saucer" grills. Insert the grill stand into two holes on the outside edge of the aft deck. Then slide the grill onto the grill stand and cinch it up with a wing-nut. Attach the gas line to the grill at one end, and the gas port on the inside edge of the port hull. All that's left is to light, cook, eat.
The best part is that there's no charcoal to clean up when it's time to put the grill away. Bonus!
Note: Always remember to move the dinghy or tender to a cleat amidships, away from the grill anytime the grill is hot.
If the saloon on a VOYAGE 580 was a room in a house it might be called a "great-room." A high arching coach roof lined with suede and inset dimming lights cap a modern interior. VOYAGE yachts don't center the feel of the interior space around wood cabinetry and lacquered table tops. In its place is a smooth clean curve theme that extends from table-tops to settee. A leather wrap around couch with a large oblong dining table sits facing a 32 inch flat screen TV with Bose DVD player. In each corner of the saloon there's a Bose 5.1 surround sound speaker complementing the deep bass of the subwoofer hidden behind the couch settee. The luxuries of home are ever present. The galley flanks the saloon on the port side with the nav station aft by the cockpit sliding glass door. The 580 saloon is an open and airy space that's tastefully decorated with artful baskets, sailing sculptures, and framed art. There were even coasters for the table!
Kitchen, err... Galley
It's easy to make that mistake aboard Moon Shadow. A VOYAGE 580 galley is like few others out there. It's separated from the saloon by a tall, curved "breakfast bar" and one small step down. Once inside we had nearly 360 degrees of counter and cooking space. Ok, maybe more like 300. The countertops are covered with a granite look and meet up with a triple sink, stainless steel appliances, and a high-end cook-top (no matches needed).
Besides ample provisions storage we also found a dishwasher, microwave, and a huge freezer and refrigerator. The dishwasher was the biggest surprise by far. This one was a first for the crew. When there's this much space and a water-maker aboard, things like a dishwasher becomes real onboard options.
Thank goodness for the water maker. Without it, there'd be no ice-maker. Or long showers or a dishwasher for that matter. That's a couple of the oddest sentences we've ever written about a charter yacht. Conveniences like the ice-maker just take things up another notch. But the best part is not having frost burned forearms from carrying bags of ice back to the yacht. We never wanted for a cold drink, even while we let the two free bags of ice provided by VOYAGE Charters melt in the cooler. We just never got around to needing it. The ice or the cooler that is!
More surprises! Moon Shadow has a full bar with drink dispensers, blender, glassware, and its own fridge, right across from the ice-maker (talk about good space planning). The VOYAGE 580 is set up to host a party right. A floating bar... Hmm.... Maybe Moon Shadow should be called "The Little Willy T"?
We love water-makers. We can't state it boldly enough. This is the one upgrade we'd recommend to every charter company. Yes, it's nice to be able to make water to top of the tanks, but that's not the main reason. It's because of how a simple thing like a water-maker changes the charter experience for the better. Long showers, easy clean up after meals (no squirting the water on and off to rinse or wash dishes), the water is drinkable, and the course though the islands doesn't get altered just to find a water dock for a refill. All these things combine to help those aboard relax. There is no concern over how much water is being used. Everyone onboard can put water consumption, conservation, and replenishing out of their minds. This might sound silly, but for those who have been on charter before, you know just how big of a deal this can be. Especially with a larger crew or teenagers aboard!
There are a total of five primary cabins plus a forward crew cabin. The port and starboard hulls each house a forward and aft cabin, with the starboard side getting an additional center cabin. The crew cabin is located in the center of the foredeck, accessed though two large hatches.
The forward and aft cabins are laid out slightly differently, but share identical amenities: a queen size bed, flat screen TV / DVD player, A/C controls, in-cabin head, and cavernous stowage space. Hanging lockers, cabinets with shelving and "lee cloth style" pockets keep everything organized and neat. A nice picture is painted by these specs alone, but we would not be doing anyone any favors by leaving out the modern flowing look of these cabins. Like the saloon, there is no dark wood. In its place are white curves and counter-tops covered in a granite look. The cabin space utilizes both the room of the hull combined with the wide inboard space of the bridge deck, that flows into the head and shower room.
When we first inspected the cabins, the long hallway leading to the forward cabin gave us a real impression of how long the VOYAGE 580 really is. Once at the end of the hallway we found ourselves in a large but cozy cabin. Looking left (inboard) sits an elevated queen size bunk, A/C controls, and stowage cabinets. Forward is a doorway leading to the head and shower, and to the right (outboard) is a in-cabin sink, a large oversized port window, and hanging lockers.
Overhead the main cabin lights are on dimmers and the bunk is outfitted with twin reading lights and fans (no arguments on which way the fan points!). For those non-A/C nights, there's a large whited-out hatch that scoops the breeze without the need for a "wind-scoop" or "Breeze-booster." In addition, all hatches are outfitted with screens and blackout shades.
Out on charter the cabins aboard Moon Shadow are ultra-comfy. We could relax in the luxury of A/C while watching a DVD with the lights dimmed, or just turn out the lights, pop that big overhead hatch open and stargaze with the Caribbean trades blowing through the sheets. Beyond all the technical goodies, it's the well thought out design and layout of the cabins that make for true luxury on the water.
The "Captain's Cabin"
The single central cabin was dubbed the "Captain's cabin" by the crew. The name just seemed to fit. Located at the bottom of the starboard companionway, this cabin sits on the inboard side of the hull and shares all the same amenities as the fore and aft cabins, with one exception. No in-cabin head. Rather, the head is located just outside the cabin, and does double duty as a day-head. The "Captain's cabin" does have one trick that the rest don't though. Being situated inboard and in the center of the hull (center of motion) means that this cabin had the least motion of any aboard. We found it to be an ideal spot for anyone new to spending time on the water and for young kids.
Like most all VOYAGE Charters yachts, the 580 has crew quarters that are luxurious by standard comparisons. The "crew" space is useable for more than just stowage. Its not a "decorated" space like the main cabins. It's functional and straight forward, but it also has uncommon crew luxuries like A/C, a queen size mattress, and twin fans.
Opening one of the two center foredeck hatches revealed a large space and a bulkhead to bulkhead mattress. Steps are molded into the side to make climbing in and out easier.
Crew quarters are usually great places to store gear, travel bags and the same holds true here, but it's also very useable and very comfy aboard Moon Shadow. It's turned out to be an nice spot for that extra "last minuet" couple or teenagers who just have to have their own "space."
Yep, a linen room. Located in the center of the port hull, this space is just about the same size as the "Captain's cabin." It has been built to house a stackable washer / dryer and has the counter-top space to take care of all the wash in one pile. In charter mode, there is no washer / dryer. In its place is a large hanging closet and copious stowage space. Under counter cabinets and lockers housed enough towels and linens to keep everyone aboard in fresh towels for the duration of our week long review (with towels and linens to spare).
We had intended to use this space to stow our travel and gear bags, but we didn't need to bother. There was so much stowage aboard, we used the linen room for its intended purpose. Folding clothes and re-stocking the towels and linens! Never would we have imagined that we'd be aboard a sailing yacht that had a dedicated "room" for neatening up our "evening clothes" and fresh folded towels. Now that's spoiled. And we loved it!
This is an area where we've been continually impressed with VOYAGE Charters and VOYAGE yachts. Every yacht 50-feet and up has electric heads. In other words, pretty much all the yachts in their fleet have this extra touch. This is one of those small things that make a big difference. Yes, we realize this is only one small feature on a very big boat but, there's a reason to mention it. After the "traditional" marine head experience, pumping no less than twenty times, the simple press of a button keeps what should be a simple task, a simple task. After extended review trips aboard more "traditional" charter yachts, some of our crew has joked about getting a callous from all the pumping. Hey, after a couple of weeks, it all adds up! The heads aboard Moon Shadow are different in one other respect. They are fresh water flushing. Meaning they tap into the freshwater stores to flush rather than using saltwater. We're no plumbing experts, but it seems to us that one less thru-hull port the better. With an onboard water-maker and large water stores, there was no concern for using up the fresh water. Frankly, we didn't notice any measurable drop in water levels from head "usage."
Video - Voyage 580 Cabin Tour
No dinghies here. The VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow comes equipped with a 16-foot center console RIB with a 70 HP outboard. This is a full fledged tender. Instead of sitting on the gunwale with an outboard twist-throttle tiller in hand, there's a bench seat with backrest, a proper helm wheel, and throttle. The large high horsepower outboard scoots the tender along at eye blurring speeds and tilts with the push of a button for beaching, thin water, and for when it's time to stow it on the aft deck.
Having a tender as capable as this one made it really easy to extend our exploration anytime we were at anchor or moored up. One day we were moored up at the Bight on Norman Island. In just over one minute we could zip over to Kelly's Cove or Pirates Bight. In just over two minutes we were at Treasure Point and the caves. In less than five minutes we were at the Indians. Generally speaking, a dinghy is not what we'd advise to take to the Indians. No matter where we went the ride was smooth, and fast! A full on tender / speedboat like Moon Shadow's extended the ease of exploration, expanded our "dinghy" range, and got us there quickly, without drama or getting soaking wet in the process. Unless of course you break out the water skis!
Big Boat - Tight Quarters
No, we're not talking about the interior space, we're talking about mooring fields and docks. A 58-foot waterline and a 31-foot beam has a way of making even well spaced out mooring balls seem way too close. The keyword here is seem. Truth be told, we never had to squeeze in or pull any tricky or evasive maneuvers anywhere we went. The size played on our psyches the first few times we pulled in alongside of other yachts in the mooring field making things feel much tighter than they actually were. Maybe that's a good thing. We went slower and took even more caution than we might normally. For us, that's saying a lot. We're safety nuts! In the end, the VOYAGE 580 was just as easy to pull into place than any other catamaran we've reviewed. But, there was one time when it seemed Moon Shadow's length did not match up well with a mooring field. That mooring field belonged to the Cooper Island Beach Club. It was here that we had to mind our swing room. A combination of waterline, swirly wind, counter currents, and mooring balls spacing brings yachts closer together here than anywhere else in the British Virgin Islands. Without a consistent current or wind to push the yachts in one particular direction, yachts moored here spend their time slowly drifting back and forth and around the mooring balls. It's a very slow dance that's hardly noticeable. Until the mooring ball behind us began tapping the outside of the port hull, amidships! That one we noticed! With these swirly still conditions in mind, we kept at least two mooring balls between us and other yachts. Minding swing room is always a good idea, but it's not one that is often thought of when on a mooring ball. Being the biggest charter yacht in the field, we took extra precautions here. And we're glad we did! If another yacht had been on the ball that bumped us, we would have come together. Even though we had no other yachts around us, we ended up moving to a different ball with no immediate neighboring balls. We need to point out here that this was the only destination where we ran into this issue. On subsequent reviews we tested this mooring field with yachts that had shorter waterlines. We can report the same issue occurred with a 52-footer and 44-footer. What seemed to be caused by Moon Shadow's long waterline turned out to be some poor mooring field planning. The mooring spacing would be fine in a location with a constant or consistent breeze, but just does not work here. We visit Cooper Island regularly, but we always mind the swing room.
The onboard stowage matches the size of the 580. All main fore and aft cabins have hanging lockers, cabinets, and lee cloth pocket organizers. The saloon has enough places to stash items away that we became worried we'd lose half of what we stowed! Shelving, nooks with small sliding doors behind the settee, under settee storage (good spot to keep the shore power cords dry), to name a few. And the galley has enough room to provision for month or better in the over and under counter cabinets. Then there's the linen room dedicated to stowage. On the port side, it's outfitted with a wrap around counter-top, cabinets, and tall lockers. Lot's of stowage room for anything including travel bags. With all the stowage space aboard Moon Shadow, there is no reason not to unpack everything and stay awhile.
Refills And Topping Off
Water Tanks and Refills
The VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow has a total water capacity of 436 gallons. That's more than double the tankage of most 44 and 50-foot cats. The total amount of fresh water stores really doesn't matter that much though. With a water-maker aboard it might as well be infinite. Her large water tanks meant we only had to run the water maker once during our week-long review. And even then it was day five and we had half a tank left. There was no need to top off the static tanks as they were used for all of two hours while we refilled the main tanks. These tanks were topped off by VOYAGE Charters after we returned to base.
Filling the tank goes like this. Using the AC power selector behind the nav station cabinet doors we flipped the AC (AC as in power, not air conditioning) selector switch so the water maker is running of the larger of the two generators (port). Then we'd switch off all the unnecessary systems including the air conditioning. It's important to free up the power load, the water-maker pulls plenty of amps on its own.
Next we turned the valve on the main tanks (valves under the floorboards near the forward cabins in each hull) to the off position and opened up the forward static tanks. This step prevents overflow and allows the water in the static tanks to be used while the main tanks are filling. It's important to note here that that heads are all fresh water flushing. If the main tanks are shut off without opening up the static water tanks, there will be no water to flush the heads with. Needless to say, it's an important step.
The last step is pressing the "on" button on the water-maker in the starboard engine room and verifying brine water is flowing out of the thru-hull under the "back deck." This system makes approximately 70 gallons per hour allowing the tank to go from near dry to full in about three hours.
When the filling is done and the water maker switched off, the process is reversed. The static water tanks valves are turned off, the main tanks turned back on, the AC power selector goes back to its original position, the air con goes back on.
In all, there are four tanks. Two static fresh water tanks in the bows, filled at the dock, and two central tanks that are filled from the water-maker. These central tanks make up the main water stores. Carrying as much water as the VOYAGE 580 does, we never got close to running out of fresh drinkable water. We chose to top off the main tanks when our water levels reached the halfway point. Might as well keep them full and the showers long!Fuel Refills
A fuel tank carrying 210 gallons got us doing some math even before we arrived. How much would it cost to fill it from empty? The short answer... a lot! At 5 plus dollars per gallon, a full refill would not be a cheap endeavor. Thankfully a week-long charter does not come anywhere close to emptying the tank, even when running two generators all night, every night, and sometimes while underway. When it came time to pay the piper, our fuel bill totaled just under four hundred bucks. A range between $250 and $500 is common for smaller catamarans (depending on how much the engines and generators are used). Moon Shadow's two 75 HP engines seem to sip fuel, even when pressed as did the generators. This is a real deal ocean passage maker.
The onboard systems are impressive. We'll be as comprehensive here as we can without going overboard (sorry, unintentional pun).
The VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow is loaded to the gills with electronic goodies. So we'll start with what lies behind the nav station cabinet and work our way out. Opening up the cabinet above the nav station reveals the AC selector board. This is a board with two dial style switches. We used these to choose which generator would power which AC power bank. Moon Shadow has her power systems split between two AC power zones. Each generator powers one of these zones. The selector dials let us choose which zone a given generator powered or let us take one off line by selecting one of three positions, AC 1 and 2, AC off, or AC 3 and 4. Anytime we changed a selector position, we mirrored the change on the other. For example, when we had one selector dial on AC 1 and 2, then the other was on AC 3 and 4.
The selector is a nice feature that adds flexibility to the power plan. When we ran a low power load, we only used one generator. So we'd fire up the larger of the two generators, turn the selector to the AC systems that needed the power, and we were good to go.
Now, with all that said, you don't have to use this system like we did. You can leave the switches right where they are except when it comes time to make water. The water-maker must run off the larger port generator, requiring a flip of the selector to direct the port genny to power the water-making system. Other than that, you can leave them alone (if you want to).
So... Now that you know how the electronic toys get their juice let's get to the fun stuff.
The navigation station aboard a charter yacht varies widely from boat to boat. Some have the basic a map table, breaker switches, a VHF radio, and an AM / FM CD player, while others have so many gizmos that they could be sailed without leaving the nav table. Needless to say, our review VOYAGE 580 fell into this latter category. There is everything we could need for a safe global circumnavigation along with well labeled rows of ships breakers and switches. Each divided up by their respective AC banks.
Flat Screen / DVD
A 32-inch flat screen TV is mounted at the top of the navigation station facing the wrap around settee and table. To date, this is the biggest flat screen we've had on review. Its size fits in the large saloon well. The operation of the TV is done though the Bose entertainment system / DVD player via remote control. There are no special tricks here. No DVD player tucked under a cabinet, no plugs to switch, it's just like home. Press the power button, place the DVD, push play, and try not to bother the neighbors too much with those mast speakers. Ok, so not exactly like home. We spent one evening watching "Captain Ron" at an elevated volume in glorious surround sound, not realizing we left the outdoor mast speakers on. Hope the folks around us liked that movie (maybe not any more!).
A full fledged radar with a large display screen sat facing us just above the rows of breakers and switches in the nav station. This was one of the more fun toys aboard. We could see other yachts, their direction, and speed while underway. We had a blast plotting our route through the "radar boats" before we could even see them on the horizon. It also has "roadmap" type view, showing you your path "down the road" along with the radar information for that path. And when the squalls came up, we even had our own little micro-scale weather radar. If you don't have experience with radar systems onboard, don't worry. The display is intuitive and it's very easy to navigate though the screens. Besides, radar isn't one of those things you actually need aboard a charter yacht in the British Virgin islands, but it's a lot of fun to play with!
There's a Single Side Band (SSB) radio mounted on the port side of the nav station. These long-range radios or rather radio stations are rarely found aboard charter yachts. They are far more common on private cruising yachts, floating their way around the world. Broadcasting over an SSB requires a radio operator's license, which we were in short supply of. But we didn't need one to listen in! We don't recommend playing with this toy on charter, but it's still cool there's one aboard. Even if it's only to listen.
The ol' bass-boat buddy! This is probably the one piece of equipment that most people are familiar with. Residing just above the SSB radio, the fish finder dutifully traces the bottom contours and shows the difference between the big, little, and schools of fish. If we bothered to put two and two together before we left the dock, we would have rented a couple of fishing poles and had fresh fish just about every night with this little gizmo. Instead we watched the fish go by telling them how lucky they were we didn't have poles! The bottom contours were also nice to see and a bit educational. Usually all any of us have on charter is the depth gauge. It does a good job, but a number and a picture are two different things. Namely when the bottom slopes up quickly!
Radio / CD player
Moon Shadow has the kind of stereo we prefer aboard a charter yacht. It's simple, with a front-loading CD player and auxiliary plug that worked with every music device we have. We tested an iPod, iPod touch, iPhone 3 and 4, iPad, and Android phone. The stereo is straight forward and does what it should do without all kinds of extra gimmicks. But most importantly, we didn't need to open an instruction manual to figure out how to change between the radio, CDs, and AUX sources (iPods and the like). All it took was to plug in our cord and press the source button and we were good to go.
Tip: Bring along your own auxiliary cord. We bring a 6-foot cord on charter. It's just the right length to reach all the way to the helm so we could control the music from right there.
It's not often that a yacht review gets a paragraph on its sound system. But if we didn't, we wouldn't be doing Moon Shadow justice. This particular VOYAGE 580 is outfitted with Bose entertainment system with 5.1 surround sound in the cabin that has been extended to the deck. Yes, on deck. The main Bose head unit is located on a small counter running the length behind the settee. It houses its own libraries, plays DVDs and tunes into the local radio stations. Bose signature satellite speakers are placed in the center next to the TV and in each corner of the saloon along with a large subwoofer hidden behind the settee. The high quality speakers didn't stop in the saloon. Out in the cockpit, the usual outdoor speakers have been replaced with Bose speakers. To create the outdoor surround sound, two large speakers have been hidden just under the mast spreaders, aiming down at the foredeck. The first time we grabbed the remote control marked "mast speakers" we did a bit of head scratching. Until we hit the "ON' button that is. Wow! Outdoor surround sound indeed!
These days a majority of charter catamarans are equipped with A/C in one form or another. VOYAGE Charters set Moon Shadow up with four separate A/C zones controlled from the fore and aft cabins in each hull. Like most things "VOYAGE" there's a few unique features beyond the usual cool air luxury. For one, it's not a "chiller" based system, meaning A/C can be run without sealing up every hatch and door. If a guest in the forward cabin wants cold air and another want's to feel the trade-winds through the hatch in the aft cabin, it's no problem. The other trick came into play when we were underway. Being reviewers we test everything a yacht can do (or at least claims it can do!), this time it was testing A/C underway. That's right, underway. First we tested while motoring. We've sailed enough miles to know that when the engines are running, the generator stays turned off. So it felt very unnatural when we fired up two generators while the twin engines purred away. That's four motors spinning at the same time! It was all in a day's work for Moon Shadow. We clicked on all four A/C zones and that was that. We had a well-chilled yacht minutes later as we motored to windward up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. We could see this feature coming in really handy on those hot still days motoring though dead calms.
A day later we experienced A/C'd sailing. With the sails hoisted and drawing well, we shut down the engines and fired up the twin gennys and hit the A/C breakers. To be frank, we weren't really testing to see how the A/C worked underway, we already found that out while motoring. This test was all about what it was like to sail with A/C. It just seems so counter to what we're use to. At first it was, but then it grew on us. Maybe more than we might like to admit.
The generators were only slightly noticeable above the gurgle of the water, the sound of bows breaking the waves, and the wind in our ears. We learned a couple of unexpected things. The first was that it's even an option to sail or motor with A/C. The second was that we could actually see the use beyond the luxury. Sure, it helps make yachting more comfy for more people (always a plus), but we also found out that having a place for a portion of the crew to "chill out," made it easier to stay out on the water longer on even the hottest and most humid days. It's especially helpful sailing though those muggy rain squalls. The crew can stay dry and safe from over-heating. Sure beats dunking the 'ol noggin in the cooler!
Every yacht we've reviewed from VOYAGE Charters has had features that stood out as unique. The VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow is no exception. She shares what makes her smaller sister-ships unique and adds in her own twists. But what we like most isn't the fact that she has unique features. It's that they have an actual use. They aren't aboard for the sake of flash or to pad the ol'amenities list. Things onboard like this have something we call "Used-Ability." Not to be confused with use-ability. Useable is one thing, but if it's something that actually gets used it's got "Used-Ability." Whatever the feature or item, something that actually does something to make the sailing or charter experience better always is preferred by us. Even if we don't need it all the time. Like we found with Moon Shadows A/C system underway. It has unique "Used-Ability!" Who'd have thought?
Power / Genset
Our Review VOYAGE 580 has a generator in each of the sound insulated engine rooms in the aft of each hull, just ahead of the transom steps. Hidden under a white tinted hatch is a large 12 Volt 7kW generator on the port side and a 12 volt 5kW generator to starboard. Two generators might sound like a lot (it did to us at first), but with all the systems aboard, it makes a lot of sense. Especially when there are three refrigerators and a large freezer that are always pulling an AC load (you don't want to turn those off). Battery recharging can be done off a single generator, but when the crew asks for A/C, it time to fire up both gennys. We tested single generator charging and charging using both powerplants. Both ways worked, but charging went much faster with both in play. This is probably where we should mention that Moon Shadow operates off 24 volts rather than the typical 12 volts. The two generators and the double battery banks combine to provide the 24 volts needed to keep this 580 humming (figuratively speaking of course). It makes sense then that double the voltage should take double the generators. To keep things simple and charging short, we recommend running both generators for this reason anytime generator power is needed.
We did question how much fuel we were burning through running two generators instead of just one. When we turned Moon Shadow in at the end of a week of "power lounging," we saw just how efficient the generators really were. As it turned out, these things sip gas. Our fuel bill was surprisingly similar to a week in a single generator catamaran! Those late nights wondering how much all the "A/C'd bliss" was costing us turned out to be a complete waste of time.
We had so much fun sailing this super-sized charter yacht we had to include it in our Fun section. Sailing a larger charter catamaran is a pretty neat experience unto itself, but it's also very educational. Not in that there's a lot to learn to operate the yacht, it's just the opposite in fact. We learned in many ways it's easier to sail the biggest charter bareboat in the BVIs. Weird, but true, especially in the conditions we encountered along the way. In tall seas that would have had a smaller cat hobby-horsing, the VOYAGE 580 was stable and planted. When the seas built sending spray over the decks of the neighboring yachts, we stayed dry. While others worked each gust, we just pressed forward (grinning all the way).
The 580 is best described as a "quick cruising reacher." The quickest runs were had between 35 and 65 degrees to the wind. When tacking though the irons we had minimal loss of momentum (without back-winding the headsail). Her near 2- tons carried us easily though the tacks. Jibing was an even easier affair (as it should be). Moon Shadow also made short work sailing to windward. In swelly stirred conditions that would have become tiring on an average sized monohull proved to be just another day on the water for Moon Shadow, giving us a comfy ride the whole way. By the end of the trip 100% of the crew preferred sailing the windward angles, the opposite of their "normal" preferences. Why? They loved the apparent wind the VOYAGE 580 creates, making her sail even faster! That's not to say downwind isn't a good ride... which it is.
Being a large cat without a large downwind sail our best runs downwind were had with the wind quartering the stern rather than pointing dead downwind. With this wind orientation, we had more pressure on the sails and a nice breeze on deck. When pointing dead downwind, her speed nearly matching the breeze at our backs. But like a hot air balloon drifting along with the wind, there's no breeze on deck. It's very still. Thus the reason our crew liked the upwind work so much. There's simply nothing better than humming along under full sail in a warm breeze under a clear Caribbean sky. Doing it in a yacht as well founded as the VOYAGE 580 made it just that much more enjoyable.
When the wind ticks up over 20 knots, even the biggest boats will still need a reef in the sails. We used a couple of different reefing combinations aboard Moon Shadow, either putting one roll in the headsail combined with a first reef in the main, or roll up the headsail all together while leaving the full main up. We tested both and found each did their job at reducing pressure. Sailing under main alone dropped boat speed down to the 4-6 knot range in 25 knots of wind, where reefing both head and main sails equaled the level of control, but maintained our original speed between 9-10 knots.
The VOYAGE 580's sail plan creates 3 tons of down force by design. This keeps ride stable and planted while "squirting" the yacht forward though the water. When sails are over powered on a monohull it can be easily noticed because of the exaggerated heeling angle. On a large cat like Moon Shadow there is obviously no heeling, instead, she's just pressed to the water harder. This is not going to upset her stability, but it will reduce the bridge deck clearance over the waves and increase the chance for a few "bumps in the road." It also puts more stress on the sailing systems in play. Without a heeling yacht to keep the Captain on his toes, it's important to know before hand when you need to reef. Beyond the stress on gear and extra down force pressure, the 580 sails as fast, if not faster with the appropriate amount of sail up. The looks we got from nearby yachts as we passed them under reefed sail was all the proof we needed!
VOYAGE 580 Moon Shadow - "Stepping Over" The Windward Waves
Ok, so chartering a VOYAGE 580 is like having a small island you can take with you. So it goes that just about any water fun we could think of could be accommodated. Moon Shadow has the deck space to carry enough water toys for a full crew. To put her size in perspective, we could have latched three tandem kayaks end to end to the lifelines and still had room for one more on either side. She is also the only charter yacht we've ever reviewed that came with a set of kayak carrier racks. These stainless steel cradles hold a kayak securely in place, up off the deck midway along the lifelines. When they aren't in use, they swing out of the way.
Expanding the water fun possibilities is the tender. With this fully capable powerboat aboard, wake boarding, waterskiing, and extended range snorkeling are but a few of the extra ways to play. When the tender is in the water, Moon Shadow's huge back deck becomes a proper dive platform with recessed dive tank stowage an arm's reach away. Between the stowage space, the dive platform set up, and the extras that come with a full fledged tender, this VOYAGE Charters yacht is set up for more fun on the water than we actually had time for. But, we had a great time trying to "squeeze" it all in! When the water-sports were done, large swim / dive ladders on each transom made it easy to get back aboard, even with a full set of dive gear on. Thankfully each transom also sports a fresh water rinse off shower. There was no waiting in line to "desalinize" ourselves.
Moon Shadow has been set up well for water playtime. It's not often that we review a catamaran that has the larger dive ladders, dive tank stowage, kayak racks, twin transom showers, and a mini-speedboat.
The VOYAGE 580 seems to be built to do a couple of things specifically well: sail and entertain. It's got more square footage than some apartments, a wide open saloon with the seating of a lounge (complete with bar) and an indoor / outdoor sound-system. Throw in a big flat screen TV, an outdoor cockpit with two wrap-around seat tables, fridge, wet bar, wide back deck, and a huge foredeck with two massive trampolines and that paints a pretty good picture of what a VOYAGE 580 has to offer. In relaxed mode Moon Shadow showed us the luxury of space aboard. Everyone found a favorite place to while away the time, late night (that's about 9 p.m. in the cruising world). For some it was on the trampoline stargazing and picking out constellations with an iPad app. Others preferred to chat the night away in the cockpit or the back deck. While others preferred the "homey" surroundings in the saloon with a movie on the flat screen, an ice-cold drink in hand in the A/C. In party mode the 580 has enough space for everyone in the mooring field to come for a visit. When the crowd grows the double sliding glass door separating the cockpit and saloon can be unlatched and slid all the way open, opening up a doubly wide doorway between the two spaces. Moon Shadow has been designed and outfitted with hosting in mind. This much we're convinced of.
Moon Shadow's entertainment features extend to the cabins as well. Each cabin has its own flat screen TV with DVD player. These came in especially handy with the younger portion of the crew. We learned a quiet morning with younger crew aboard can sometimes be included with a DVD powered TV. The fact that the TV is in the cabin made it even better (for everyone!). We also discovered that when "couples" are part of the crew, the cabin becomes more of a "room," like a hotel suite. The cabin space became more personal with all these amenities. A couple can kick back in a private space and want for not.
The lines on the VOYAGE 580 stay true to the VOYAGE theme. High fine entry bows and an angular aft sloping sheer line make her profile on the water uniquely VOYAGE. At 58-feet the effect is stunning with her tall bows standing tall above the water and her sugar scoop transoms skimming just above the waterline. Moon Shadow's long sleek hulls and wide bridge-deck are the keys to her speed and stability but they also showcase her modern design and some how manage to make a large sailing yacht quick, easy to handle, and impressive to look at all at the same time.
Moon Shadow's long waterline, wide low slung stance makes her stand out in the crowed. There is no other bareboat catamaran of equal dimensions. Add in her matching white tinted hatches and white-out saloon sun shades and that's the formula for a large, sleek, sporty, head-turning yacht.
Our review VOYAGE 580 is an impressive yacht. At her size, we imagined this big imposing boat that would put our full crew to work. Instead we got a lesson in what Big really means. A yacht can be brought down to size when it's properly thought out. Beyond all the features and electronics, it's the design that makes Moon Shadow so impressive both in form and function.
Sailing a VOYAGE 580 is no different than sailing a 500, or just about any other nicely outfitted catamaran out there. But that in and of itself says a lot about Moon Shadow. That a 58-foot catamaran with a 31-foot beam is as easy or easier to sail than an average size bareboat charter cat. She sails with a planted authority that we haven't experienced elsewhere. The mixed bag of weather during our review really put her to the test. The sleek design kept this 23-ton plus yacht moving easily though the water in a wide range of wind and sea states. She proved to be safe, sea-kindly, stable, and quick! Her size and space has been done justice with the helm, cockpit and indoor amenities. Features like cabin TVs, outdoor surround, and the bar were beyond anything we would have expected.
Reflecting on our experience aboard it's easy to recommend a VOYAGE 580 to our readers with some catamaran chartering experience. It's easy to sail, but it's not the size for learning "big cat" sailing. Moon Shadow serves groups, families, people looking for a very planted ride (new sailors aboard for example), folks who just want to spoil themselves, or those looking for a "big boat value." But most importantly the VOYAGE 580 is a quick sailing catamaran first, not sacrificing good sailing characteristics for space or extra amenities. Moon Shadow is a bareboat sailor's luxury dream that's actually within reach.
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev
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