Robin and I arrived in La Grande Motte last week and were given the keys to Puffin! She is all finished and we couldn’t be happier with her! The Outremer team has built us a magnificent boat. The level of finish and craftsmanship that has gone into Puffin is truly impressive, and Robin and I owe a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved!
Delivery of a new Outremer catamaran includes an action packed week of briefings, instruction, maneuvers, testing and practice. It’s fun and tiring, and at the end you feel like you really know how to operate and manage your new boat and you’re ready to set sail! Here’s what happened during our Puffin delivery week…
Day 1 – Meet the boat
The week of delivery is fully scheduled and managed by the Outremer delivery team. We arrived on Monday and met with Benjamin and Matthieu at the Outremer offices, and they took us over to see Puffin and gave us a tour of the boat. Monday was also Robin’s birthday, so she received a pretty epic birthday present that’s for sure!
Day 2 – Final signatures & first sail
On Tuesday morning we met Benjamin at the boat and went over all the delivery paperwork. We reviewed every item on the specification list and made sure everything was installed correctly on the boat. Then we signed the delivery acceptance documents and Benjamin left us to spend some time on Puffin so we could begin to get to know her.
During the afternoon we went on our first sail. We were accompanied by Patrick, who is an experienced ocean sailor, a great teacher and a super nice guy. We had winds of 10-13 knots so we put up the full main and 3Di Genoa. Puffin was easily doing 9-11 knots close hauled upwind in these conditions. I expected her to sail well, and I was not disappointed. I realized that I have never been on such a light catamaran before, it feels quite different. The motion is very easy, you can feel how well she glides over the choppy water. The light weight combined with our awesome North 3Di sails means that every puff of wind translates into forward motion, so the boat feels like it’s not under any stress at all. Robin loved how simple and easy she is to sail. We tacked and gybed a few times and it was no effort. We both felt that all our work to keep the boat light was really worth it!
One surprise for me was how high she points upwind. We could sail fast at 30-35 degrees apparent, and she doesn’t lose speed until we pinch up towards 25 degrees. This is better than any other multihull we have sailed.
On Tuesday Xavier Desmarest, CEO of Outremer came for a visit and we chatted about catamarans – my favorite subject!
During our sail on Tuesday we had problems with the autopilot losing its rudder angle data and disengaging. We had to turn off the autopilot and hand steer, which I didn’t mind because it gave me some time to get the feel of our cable steering system (smooth and direct) and also to try helming with the tillers, which is a pretty unique sensation on a 48 foot boat. Hand steering is fun, but we certainly had to get the autopilot fixed! Patrick called in on the way back to the dock and arranged for Pochon to come and look at the pilot problem.
Day 3 – Electrical systems and downwind sailing
Thomas from Pochon came to the boat on Wednesday morning and found the autopilot was getting interference from the NMEA 2000 barometric pressure sensor. He disconnected the sensor and the autopilot has worked perfectly since. This is aggravating, because I had the same problem when I tried to add a barometric pressure sensor on Wildling. The autopilot went into alarm when I connected it, and I never found a solution. I assumed the B&G autopilot didn’t work with barometers from other manufacturers, so for Puffin I ordered a B&G brand barometer, and guess what? B&G autopilots don’t work with B&G barometers either! The Pochon guys say they see this often when adding a barometer to B&G networks. So no electronic barometer on Puffin until B&G can come up with a fix!
Also on Wednesday morning, we met with Stephane Denner who manages post warranty services for Outremer yachts. We worked with Stephane on Wildling, so we know him really well. He’s a great guy, super knowledgeable, and responds quickly whenever we need help or to answer questions. Outremer yachts include a 2 year warranty so having great people like Stephane to help is an enormous value. Stephane went through all the electrical systems on the boat with me. It was a very thorough tour and involved a lot of tips and tricks for troubleshooting if anything goes wrong.
Wednesday afternoon was more sailing. Winds were a bit lighter so we sailed upwind away from shore for a few miles under main and Genoa, and then returned downwind with our Code-D gennaker. We gybed the gennaker to get a feel for how the sail handles. Once again everything was easy, fast and low stress. Robin and I are pretty much in love with Puffin at this point!
Day 4 – Electronics briefing and reefing tests
Thursday morning was the electronics briefing with Alain from Pochon. This included all of the sailing instruments, autopilot, navigation, radar, communications, video and data systems on the boat. Alain did the installation on Puffin himself, so he knew every detail of how things were installed and configured. He was very detailed and covered the location and setup of every feature on the boat, and like Stephane the day before, he gave me a lot of advice on how to troubleshoot different kinds of problems when underway. Information I was going to use sooner than I thought!
On Thursday afternoon we went sailing again with Patrick, and we also had Thomas from Pochon along. Our plan was to test the B&G electronics while sailing, and then try out the staysail and mainsail reefing. We also wanted to test the Watt & Sea hydro-generator.
We hoisted the staysail and tried out the mainsail 1st reef using the Facnor hook system. The hook works well, it just has to be fully opened before taking the reef, otherwise it doesn’t latch properly. Once Patrick showed me how to operate the hook, we reefed and un-reefed a few times to test it out. It’s very easy, and all done single-handed from the helm station.
The staysail is self-tacking, so we tested it out using the B&G autopilot auto-tacking feature. It’s pretty cool to just press a button on the pilot controller and have the boat tack on its own over to the exact same wind angle on the opposite tack without touching the helm or adjusting the sails!
We fitted the hydro-generator to its bracket on the stern and set it in the water to test its operation, all good!
Thomas spent some time showing me some of the features of the B&G system I wasn’t familiar with. I learned how to quickly set VMG laylines to waypoints, which I haven’t done before. We also tested the radar and checked it’s calibration by setting it to overlay the radar image onto the coastline shown on the chart.
At one point during the afternoon, Thomas inserted a defect in the instrument system without telling me. I was sitting at the helm seat when the B&G plotter went into alarm. I called Thomas over to show him we had lost our GPS position! He said “You just lost your GPS position, what are you going to do?” OK, so I guess this is a test to see if I was paying attention!
First I made sure our autopilot was still helming us. We still had course info from the electronic compass, so no worries for the autopilot. Next I went through my mental, instrument troubleshooting routine. 1st check communications between the GPS and chartplotter, then check the sensor. During the morning briefing, Alain had shown me how to check communications between different components on the system, so I went to the B&G plotter at the nav station and found my way to the GPS data source settings, and voila no GPS source selected! I selected the GPS source and our B&G system alarm disappeared and we had position data again! Nice one Thomas!
Day 5 – Plumbing systems briefing and anchoring
Friday was our final day of delivery week. Stephane came to the boat in the morning and we went through all of the plumbing systems. Fresh water pumps, hot water heater, water maker, filters, toilets, holding tanks, diesel plumbing and sea water pumps. Lots more great information and instructions on how to service everything and avoid common problems. Outremer are using a new variable speed pump that has a microprocessor controlled sensor to shut the pump down and alert if it loses prime or gets blocked. I’ve never used this type of pump, so I learned a lot from this briefing with Stephane.
Friday afternoon was more sailing and the focus of the day was testing our anchor and windlass and measure out our combined chain and nylon rode. We set a course for the anchorage and since we had wind on the nose, I motored the 3 miles over to our anchor location. I hadn’t really used the engines aside from leaving and returning to our dock so it was a good chance to give them a run and make sure they were working well.
When we reached the anchorage I picked an open area away from other boats so I had room to run out our entire 50 meters of chain. We dropped the anchor and laid out all the chain and attached the bridle. The boat stopped immediately, which is the usual with an Ultra anchor, they set fast with no drag, so you have to be careful to not go backwards too quickly as there is a strong jerk on the windlass when they set. All the chain was present and accounted for, so we stopped for a bit to have a swim.
As usual in the Med, while we were anchored, another boat decided to anchor right in front of us, over the top of our chain. There was clear space all around, but for some reason they needed to be right on top of us! Most of the sailors in France are pretty friendly though, so they will usually move if they are blocking your chain. I used our video camera to help with raising the anchor as I could easily see the angle of the chain to the bow so I could position us correctly as we pulled in the chain. The wind shifted a bit so we were able to sneak by the monohull in front of us and get the anchor in without a collision. The sail back was downwind so we unfurled the genoa and gybed back to the port. A nice way to end our delivery week activities!
With delivery week all finished we spent the next few days moving our things aboard the boat and making a list of items to be repaired at our first warranty service at the end of August. It was a pretty short list, and Stephane has promised he will get everything taken care of before we take the boat over to Genoa to load onto the cargo ship in September.
Coming up soon, I will post a video tour of Puffin, and will do another post with more detail about the construction process and share some tips from what we learned along the way.