Getting away on first passages are the hardest. There is always more to do than time allows. But at some point you have to say “Enough, we are out of here.” In our case a reasonable weather window was the incentive to get on with it.
Of course “reasonable” is a relative term, especially when leaving New Zealand during the equinoctal gale season after an especially unpleasant winter. Our first sunrise at sea, after almost four years of effort, reminded us of just how much we missed cruising, and what we had given up to design and build FPB 78-1 Cochise.
Booms out for reduced windage in the beam-on apparent wind, Cochise was on best behavior.
If you are going to make long passages, comfort and security at sea become paramount. Bigger yachts are often less comfortable and harder on their occupants than smaller craft. This results from the larger spaces and increased distance of living areas from pitch and roll centers. We had put significant effort in terms of hull shape, polar moments, and ergonomics on the FPB 78 design to offset potential negatives, but we knew that the open areas of the great room and Matrix deck would be more dangerous at sea than we desired.
Sea trials had been positive, but only several days on passage will let you know if a given design works or not.
The removable staple rails and overhead “manlines” turned out to be key. They helped us navigate the large relatively open spaces of the great room and…
…Matrix deck with ease.
If you look carefully near the upper left corner of the right watercolor above, you will see an eyebolt to which one of two manlines was affixed during the passage. These also exist in guest cabins, forepeak/annex area, and the workshop aft. The forepeak and workshop manlines will remain permanently. The others will come and go as required. It takes one person less than two minutes to install a set of lines in the great room or Matrix deck.
The galley is larger than in the past, with a layout that allows two people to work together if desired, while still holding you in place at sea. Part of what makes the larger galley work well when underway is the change from timber fiddle rails to stainless grab rails. The ability to close your hand around the rail makes it much easier to hold on when required.
From our very personal perspective, FPB 78-1 Cochise is exceptionally comfortable, significantly more so than Wind Horse. Even after 1100 nautical miles, half of which were in boisterous reaching conditions, we arrived feeling rested.
The two of us have almost always made our passages as a couple. But maturity, and different family commitments, pointed towards the advantages of a permanent crew member as an option. Having additional space for this, and a layout that allowed everyone privacy, was one of the driving forces behind the FPB 78 design. When the time came to begin looking, one of the first people we thought about was Steve Parsons. Steve has more FPB miles under his belt than anybody but ourselves, as a skipper and teacher. He has earned his stripes under sail, spent significant time in the Southern Ocean, and knows both experientially and at the gut level what the sea can unexpectedly dish up. When you have this resumé, your approach to all things maritime is altered for the better. When Steve became available we offered him a place aboard.
Our last significant sea time was almost four years ago, so we did not fully trust our positive evaluation of Cochise’s motion. On the other hand, Steve Parsons has spent a majority of the last five years aboard FPB 64s, so his frame of reference is current. His take is that the FPB 78 is significantly more comfortable than the FPB 64 in all conditions, particularly with the beam reaching which was so much a part of this initial voyage.
This albatross is a good indicator of motion.
Trying to focus a telephoto lens on a low-flying albatross, as it works three meter swells, is not going to be successful unless your shooting platform is stable.
Gooney birds are a little easier, but catching them full frame is almost impossible from the deck of a small yacht.
Sea state is always difficult to capture in a photo. Waves on the beam (like these two to four meter swells with wind waves on top) are going to upset your equilibrium, regardless of vessel size. Cochise’s ability to maintain her poise in conditions like these does come with a cost. We have traded away a bit of fuel burn efficiency above 10.25 knots, in exchange for increased comfort. While the FPB 78 is capable of almost the same speed as the FPB 97, she is happiest at a more stately 10.5 knots, which is what she averaged to Fiji prior to slowing down for optimal arrival, just after low tide, at the pass to Lautoka.
This being our maiden voyage, we spent much of the passage experimenting with different trim configurations (moving fuel and water, boat speeds, accessory load packages, etc.). The extensive N2K data system, which monitors almost all vital signs aboard, calculating variable data averages at different time periods, will allow us to fine-tune our performance in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of even a few years ago.
During this initial “experimental” passage, fuel burn varied. We averaged between 6.7 US gallons an hour at just under 11 knots, running square downwind with no major auxiliary engine loads, and up to nine gallons an hour while using air conditioning, making water, and cruising at 10.5 knots in 25-30 knots of wind with 2.5-4 meter beam seas.
Cochise did what she was expected to do. She cruises quietly and comfortably. Her heating and air conditioning are the best we’ve ever lived with. She is keeping two guest cabins and a large owner suite air conditioned all night long on her batteries, with a large part of the power consumed being provided by her solar array.
She gives us space for guests, crew, to mingle or separate as wants and needs dictate.
Designing and building yachts is a demanding endeavor, and we don’t make this any easier by pressing for an ideal outcome in all major areas, something we know is difficult to achieve. The process with the FPB 78 has been the most challenging we can remember. During the build cycle, we often questioned our decision to part with Wind Horse and spend so much time on land.
Will the cost of four years of missed cruising sunsets be worthwhile?
We will eventually know the answer after the pain of birthing has passed. Right now, the ability to capture star field photographs from the deck of a small yacht at sea has us looking forward to more cruising on Cochise.
And we are happy to be in Fiji. If you see us at anchor, stop by and say hello.