We spent many months finding the right boat for this trip. We chartered several, including an Atlantic 57 named Cerulean for a week in the Grenadines. As much as we tried to rationalize our way into another boat, we simply could not step away from the thrill of the forward cockpit and the accomodations of the Atlantic 57 designed by Chris White. Unlike many of the other catamarans, the Atlantic 57 was built to perform first as a sail boat. Incidentally, we highly recommend a charter aboard Cerulean.
She was built by Alwoplast in Valdivia, Chile and launched in 2009 as Nogal. She is constructed with vacuum bagged glass and carbon fiber using 100% epoxy resin and foam cores. She has carbon spars and a generous sail plan allowing us to reach exhilarating speeds above 20 knots. While fast, she is still solid and durable enough to meet the demands of blue water sailing. She was designed for shorthanded sailing which was high on our list of preferences as was the ability to drive from inside a pilot house when things get nasty or cold outside.
The name Nogal was derived from the specific Walnut wood used to veneer the lightweight interior construction, making her feel more traditional while maintaining the DNA of performance. Nogal was commissioned by Ron Verweij, a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He had many of his own ideas and clearly challenged the design and construction teams with creativity and oversight through the production process. Ron is a large man and much of his demands were apparently due to his size. He had the two wing berths converted from queen size to king size, door openings enlarged and overhead cabinets recessed giving the boat more space than Chris' typical A57. He also added features that gave it character like the custom wineglass cabinet that he had built to entertain his guests. Chris White did his job to keep the diversion from his proven design to a minimum. We loved the final product.
After trying to negotiate Ron down to an affordable price for a couple of months with no success we started to consider other options. Frank would head to the Miami boat show to seek further alternatives. The day before Frank's departure to Miami we ran into a strange sequence of coincidences that set our path in motion. Our family was having a discussion over dinner about Marilia's grandfather from Spain, a gentleman named Jesus Nogeira. Our youngest daughter Sophia happened to ask Marilia if there was a meaning to the name Nogeira. Marilia said she thought it was some kind of tree. After some quick research we found that Nogal, as it is called in South America, is the same Walnut that is known as Nogueira in Galacia, Spain where Marilia's family is from. The boat had Marilia's name on it the whole time. To add to the coincidence, we had received a call earlier that day that we had realized windfall profits from some business investments and had sufficient funds to buy the boat. We moved to close the deal with Ron.
We acquired Nogal in 2015, kept the name and spent a year up-fitting her for the trip. What we ended up with is a high performance platform with plenty of space to have friends and family join us as we make our way around the globe.
Before buying Nogal I never understood the forces at play aboard an offshore catamaran. The fact that the boat is unable to heel enough to dump the wind out of her sails means that everything is translated to stress and momentum. It is exhilirating to be in the environment with a full appreciation of how the boat is designed to harness that force. What I realized is that rigging meant more on this boat than the monohulls that I had sailed across oceans on in the past. The more I learned, the more I realized that rigging was one of the areas that fell in the first tier of priority. I needed a talented rigger.
I reached out to Charlie Ogletree, a former olympian and active professional sailer in the Bay Area, and asked him to recommend the best west coast rigger to help me tune the rig. He gave me two options: Hanson and Easom. We hired Scott Easom's team to lead the rigging work. He had years of big boat experience managing boats like Pyewacket for uncompromising owners like Roy Disney. We moved Nogal to his shop in Richmond where Scott and his team dug into a large scope of work. This included installing four new Harken Performa 3-Speed winches, designing and building a new mast base allowing for more strength and flexibility, replacing stainless fittings with dyneema straps, cleaning up the layout of the cockpit, eliminating unnecessary clutter. Most of this went far beyond what was necessary. We assessed access to gear, approaching angles, working loads and then traced chafe points on every inch of line that we adjusted. We replaced roller furlers and clutches and tweaked and tuned, broke, fixed, replaced and retuned the rig. At the end of the day we found that Chris White had done a remarkable job in the fundamental design. We just made something really good a little better while investing in new materials that would ease some of the maintenance load as we make our way around the world.
I had sailed around the world in 1997 aboard a beautiful and traditional Shannon 50 monohull. I wanted something distinctly different this time, a boat that was about performance - leaning forward rather than tucking into the aft cockpit of a heavy displacement cruiser. I was interested in matching the aesthetic with that performance in oder to provoke a mindset for those aboard. We added carbon steering wheels from Exit Engineering and had Jim Antrim design a carbon lifting boom for our aft deck that was built by a Denis Fraisse at GC Rigging. In the end, we developed the cosistency that I was looking for.
The final shakedown on the run to San Diego was messy, but allowed us to identify another list of issues that we worked through when we got there. It was one of the more stressful areas of the overall project and required us taking the rig down three separate times over the course of eight six months. But at the end of the rigging journey I did find peace of mind. We left San Diego feeling confident in the rig and all of our gear.
The other top priority was Electrical. We hired Liem Dao and Bruce Schwab to redesign the electrical system adding 1000 watts of solar to the existing 500 watts, two 400 watt wind generators and a 14,500 watt lithium battery bank. We replaced four alternators with two state of the art high output alternators and reduced the complex web belts running on the main engines.
We also added an extensive battery management and monitoring system. Liem and Bruce had a long history of working together. Prior to starting his own company specializing in lithium technologies, Bruce was a single handed racer completing an Around Alone Race as well as being the first American to successfully cross the Vendee Globe finish line. Liem was the electrician that designed and built the electrical systems for both of those races. It was a true pleasure working with both of them.