Here we go again! A new adventure awaits…
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbour. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain. (well there is some debate online as to who the original author is, but we’ll go with Mr Twain for the sake of simplicity)
Okay, the big news is, we’ve ordered a new yacht; but before I share the details about that, some musings from my keyboard…
The world has changed, we all know that, and while I sit here, stuck in New Zealand, I’m green with envy as I watch all those lucky bastard sailors across the other side of the world I follow on Instagram (you know who you are) posting their latest stories. Dropping their anchors in that secluded bay in the Greek Islands just a stone’s throw from a beautiful little rustic village; surrounded by that turquoise blue Mediterranean sea before they amble ashore to engage with the locals at the taverna on the edge of the water for some grilled octopus and European hospitality. Oh the frustration you invoke in me. And for those of you sailing around the islands of Italy stopping at that picturesque little village ristorante by the ocean to gorge yourselves on my favourite food on the planet, sipping that local wine served in a carafe as the sun goes down – I am simply not amused.
Meanwhile here in New Zealand, for the last two years, we have been stuck – locked up like Colditz with the keys to our freedom hidden in the back pocket of some politician as we pursued a path of Covid elimination. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we could get out to explore the world, well sort of… But there wasn’t a hope in hell of getting back in. Our strict, and mandatory, managed isolation facilities for returning Kiwi’s were booked out for months – you couldn’t get a slot for love or money. So once you were out, that was pretty much it. There was no getting home (mind you, I’m not entirely convinced that’s a bad thing). Was this the best strategy? Only time will tell, but I think we all know that we must learn to live with this plague on our freedom like the rest of the world seemed to do, getting on with life as best they could. We were branded “the hermit kingdom” by some commentators around the world. I for one, needed to get out of the cave.
When we returned to New Zealand late in 2019 after sailing our Swan 54 “Coco” from Finland to New Zealand, some 18,000 nautical miles on an adventure that took us south from Finland and the Baltic through the English Channel and down the coast of Europe, then the Madeira Islands, Canary Islands, the Caribbean, then through the Panama Canal before Heading to Galapagos. And finally, the vast South Pacific as we sailed towards New Zealand through the Marquises Islands, Tuamotus, Society Islands, Cook Islands then Tonga; before our final sail home. We really had no idea what was in store for us.
Oh my, how our dreams and aspirations of sailing the South Pacific for the next two years in a quest for remote and palm fringed beaches, warm tropical water and coconuts – all evaporated like a raindrop on a hot tin roof in the Death Valley – as our country was locked up from the rest of the world. In fairness, we’ve had some wonderful sailing around the coastlines of New Zealand while trapped in our wee South Pacific bubble; but it’s just not enough – we’ve had a taste for sailing the oceans to far off places and we want more, much more.
So that begs the question – what would you do it you were in our position? Yep, you got it in one. Buy a new yacht in Europe and go sailing there! And we agree with you. So that’s just what we are going to do.
Let’s briefly talk about this new yacht because we are super excited about it. I think once you’ve owned a Swan, you are always going to own a Swan. So, we’ve recently placed an order with Nautor in Finland for a brand new Swan 58 – it’s hull number 15 in their new line of high performance bluewater sailing yachts – for delivery in the first half of 2023. More details on this new beast of a yacht later in my prose; but first let’s talk about the plan…
Watch out Med, here we come…
Okay, on to the adventure – what’s the mission I hear you ask? Part of the reason that we’ve pushed delivery for the new Swan 58 out to 2023 is so we can see what happens in this plague-ridden world. And now we have turmoil in Eastern Europe; I mean really Putin, with all due respect, what the fuck are you thinking? No it’s not okay for you to nick someone else’s country. Grow up.
Hopefully by 2023 some semblance of normal life has returned, we can travel freely in and out of our home country, and the world has calmed the farm. But it also means the last child is done with high school giving us a bit more travel freedom as “empty nesters”. God I can’t wait for that day! And children, don’t get me wrong, we love you like chocolates, but if any of you are thinking about living at home in 2023, think again.
The rough plan at this stage, is to travel to Finland once the ice melts in 2023 (with global warming in full swing, that might be earlier than we think!), pick up the new Swan 58 and sail our way south to the Mediterranean so we can enjoy all those aforementioned Greek and Italian Islands that you greedy bastards are already loving! We also have our eyes on the coast of Spain, and of course Croatia.
That will mean banging our way down the Baltic again – let’s hope the weather is a bit better this time – and spending some time exploring the archipelagos of Sweden. Then we’ll be dodging ships as we pass through the English Channel with a stop in the south of Old Blighty for a pint and some mushy peas before we head across the Bay of Biscay. Unfortunately, what used to be a nice sail down the coast of Spain and Portugal, dropping in to drink great wine and chomp on the odd delicious morsel, has now turned into an Orca ridden nightmare with a squadron of these submarine beasts attacking yachts at random; with over 50 “events” in the last months – yes, they are actually chewing on yachts! So we’ll need to monitor that situation; it may be a long offshore haul from the UK to the south of Spain just to avoid teeth marks in the rudders (with a potential side-trip to the Azores on the way down – it looks pretty nice there).
Assuming we make that run without being chomped, we’ll then make our way through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean Sea (technically at this point, it’s the Alboran Sea, but let’s not get picky here). From here, the world is our gastronomic and cultural oyster. Once we’ve sailed up the south coast of Spain, we’ll hit the Balearic Islands where we can party like English rock-stars in Ibiza and Majorca, quietly pleased that Spain has picked up the hosting rights for the 37th America’s Cup! I mean God bless you Ireland, but no, I really didn’t want to sail around Cork, and I’ve never developed a love for Guinness – you really were out of your league on this one, even with your cute little leprechauns. And as for you Auckland, quite frankly, don’t be greedy; you’ve had your turn and you can’t afford it anyway (clearly our government isn’t that big on sailing…). So, we were rooting for Spain, big time. Selfish as hell I know and terribly unpatriotic but come on, be honest, if you were us, you’d be doing the same. I want to be there for it – hello Barcelona. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe – Spain (and don’t start me on Saudi Arabia – it’s just a big sandpit, there are too many rules, you’ve got a shitty human rights record and no one really wants to go there).
With the Balearic’s behind us, there’s a lap around Sardinia and Corsica just begging to be sailed, then maybe north to the French Rivera. But quite frankly the French Rivera looks a bit flash for us, and besides, the French are grumpy (they, by their own admission, don’t like other people) and their food sucks. So we might just head straight across to the mainland of my adopted birth country, Italy (I’m already starting to learn Italian in anticipation of this day). After a leisurely spin down the Tuscan coast drinking in the eye wateringly beautiful coastline and devouring culinary delights, then of course Sicily will deserve some attention before we head up the east coast of “The Boot” for some southern Italian fare. “You may have the universe,” Giuseppe Verdi wrote, “if I may have Italy.” Surely moments like these were just what he meant. Giuseppe Verdi, for the uneducated masses, was an Italian composer best known for his operas. You should know this stuff.
Cruising around the rugged Italian coastline, I’m going to feel like we’ve somehow stumbled onto the set of a Brigitte Bardot movie as we sail past the pastel-coloured villages, hanging out with the locals drinking Negronis and Aperol Spritz on a warm afternoon, gazing upon azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. With picturesque seaside towns, sleepy islands, beautiful bays, and villages clinging to the cliffs surrounded by lemon and olive trees along this sprawling coastline, I’m going to be in heaven. So when I’m dropping the pick in these tempting anchorages and post that shot on “The Gram” you’re going to be pissed, really pissed. Actually, to be fair, I won’t have even time to post anything – I’ll be busy.
With any spin around the Med on a yacht, it would be a criminal offence not to head east across the Adriatic to spend some time in Croatia, which looks spectacular. With a breathtaking coastline, crystal-clear waters and over a thousand islands, a sailing trip in Croatia is just the ticket.
Sailing Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, from what I can make out through my mate Google, appears to be a Mediterranean paradise of turquoise seas, quiet, colorful islands and picturesque port towns steeped in history with delicious fresh food and great hiking in the nation’s numerous national parks. Unspoiled coves and dramatic waterfalls, ancient forts and lush green forests all lie in wait along the country’s celebrated coastline. Why wouldn’t you go there? Well then, I think we just might. Oh, and they have wine apparently. That’s a bonus.
The final part of our Mediterranean Odyssey will be the Greek Islands – and I don’t even know where to start. Greece has arguably around 6,000 islands or islets, with about 200 of these inhabited. I’ve already had the charts out researching the best places to go and the list is getting a bit endless. Needless to say, we could be some time…. I could easily get fat, happy, and old in this area. The islands look amazing, verging on romantic, basking in the beautiful Mediterranean climate. So hopping between the thousands of enchanting Greek islands in the Ionian and Aegean Seas is a bucket list trip.
This is the scenic oasis I’ve conjured up in my summer Greek fantasies with its multitude of Byzantine monasteries amid traditional fishing villages and dining at a tucked-away taverna along the coast, with bleached rock landscapes and a cobalt sea dazzling under the Mediterranean sun. I think of Greece, and it brings to mind white churches with boldly colored domes, biblical houses, ruggedly arid islands, classical ruins and ancient history. My mind wanders back to the tavernas serving ouzo, Greek salad and moussaka, or sailing a sea of such profound and immaculate blue that no single word can accurately describe it.
Chill on the lightning Zeus, calm your ocean Poseidon, put down your spear Ares – we’re coming to town. Aphrodite, with beauty, love, desire, and pleasure – you can visit, you’re welcome. Apollo, bring on some art – we are okay with you. Dionysus, bring your wine, and a lot of it. We are ready.
While I make light of this journey from my keyboard, its actually about 4,000 nautical miles (7,500km) from Finland to Greece by sea so we are talking about a reasonably long sail here! And once we’ve avoided all the ships in the English Channel, the rudder snapping Orca’s off the coast of Portugal, we then have to deal with the Mediterranean weather. Yes, I’ve done some research, but I’m buggered if I can work it out. It all seems to be at best, a bit unpredictable; one moment beautiful sailing conditions or a calm anchorage, to 40 – 50 knots of wind coming out of nowhere. They even give their winds names – Ponente, Mistral, Tramontana, Bora, Meltemi, Sirocco and Levante – what are these things, children? From what I can ascertain, they just blow randomly, sometimes bloody strong, depending on where you are at what time of the year. I think I’ll get a weather router…
The Swan 58 – boring stuff for yacht aficionados
(you can just look at the pretty pictures and skip to the end if you’re not one of those people…)
Back to the new Swan 58 – and you may well ask, you own a perfectly good yacht (I mean really, I have to agree with you), so why would you want to buy another one? Our Swan 54 has been epic, and over the last 3 years we’ve owned Coco we couldn’t be happier. But the new Swan 58 is a beautiful yacht; it’s got about 30% more volume than the 54, long range fuel tanks – over 1000 liters which will give us a motoring range of around 1000nm, way more room inside (so lots more storage), more fresh water capacity and a battery bank big enough to run 5 Tesla’s for a week. Its wider and flatter in the hull with twin rudders so she should be pretty slippery downwind which is handy when you are sailing from Europe to New Zealand given the wind is behind you most of the way! And guess what – it’s in Europe which is where we want to be…
Of course, we’ll be going a bit crazy on the rig, again… We’ve chosen a Hall Spars carbon mast and boom and we did go through an agonizing process of trying to decide if we wanted to go for an in-boom furler setup. But in the end, we went with slab reefing into a v-boom – we love the art of sailing and that’s just one less thing to go wrong. The 58 carries quite a bit more sail than the 54 (like 30% more) but we are pretty comfortable with reefing so I think we’ve made the right choice for us. Electric furling for the genoa, and a semi-permanent inner jib (staysail), and North Sails are playing around with a furling gennaker (their new Helix one), so I think we might get one of those for downwind sailing. Oh, and for those in the know, a captive mainsheet winch that takes a single line to the winch down in the lazarette for push-button mainsheet trimming. Flash bro. To top things off, we’ve added EC3 carbon rigging to get some weight out aloft.
With the 58, we might be trading some upwind heavy weather sailing performance. Our current 54 Coco is legend into a big sea with 25 – 30 knots on the nose; but for the sailing we are going to do over the next few years, the 58 will be amazing. The draft is a bit deeper on the 58 compared to our 54 – we’ll be scraping the bottom at 2.7m. We did look pretty seriously at putting a telescopic keel in, but not only are they eye-wateringly expensive, that’s just another thing to go wrong in the middle of nowhere. Overall, she’s a little heavier weighing in at a bit over 25,000kg unloaded so I won’t be standing under her anytime when she’s being lifted!
And without having to say too much, the usual array of B&G gear for navigation, autopilot, radar, AIS, comms and forward-facing sonar; so we’ll be swinging more electronics than most small aircraft.
Bow and stern thrusters will give us the manoeuvrability of Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car at the British Grand Prix trying to run Max Verstappen off the track (not that it did Lewis any good in the final race!).
Inside she’s beautifully presented – as you’d expect from a bunch of Finnish dudes who have been building beautiful yachts since 1966. The combination of Scandinavian workmanship, and design from their Italian owners is a great outcome – clean, contemporary, and modern. This is where Nautor shine in the final presentation of their Swan yachts. With the additional volume, we get a large spacious living area in the main saloon (really, it’s just a bigger dance floor) and loads more storage to misplace more stuff than we ever did before. We are moving away from a gas stove in the kitchen – with those big-enough-to-power-a-small-city Lithium-Ion 800Ah batteries and the upgraded generator; we are installing an Ocean Chef induction stove top and electric oven.
We have aircon right through the yacht to keep us warm, cool, or dehumidified on demand depending on where in the world we are. Cabin layout includes a very comfy love-shack up front for us, and two double cabins aft for anyone silly enough to think they might come and stay (no really, we don’t actually like having you on our boat!). A washing machine was non-negotiable in the options discussion with wife. And it goes without saying, a watermaker has now become an essential appliance to run said washing machine, fill the 950 litre water tanks, feed the showers and flush the loos.
Finally, and potentially the most exciting, the 58 had a tender garage so no more hauling our dingy up on the deck! I guess my final thought on this yacht is me wondering why it’s called a “Swan 58”… The hull length is pretty much 59 feet, and the length overall is nearly 63 feet. Does that mean we get a discount of a few feet? I’ll ask. But I won’t hold my breath.
The final words
I guess the last question to answer is what are we going to do once we’ve explored the Med and scratched that itch? Just across the Atlantic lies the Caribbean; we’d love to spend some more time there before we start the long slog back to New Zealand. But there’s no rush, is there? Anyhow, we’ll keep you up to date with progress on the new “Coco” as she gets built and the ongoing mission planning.
However, it’s going to be pretty tough; parting company with our beloved Swan 54 Coco, but it’s like everything in life, sometimes you just have to move on (unless it’s your wife). If you want to buy her, you better be prepared to love her more than your wife / husband / whatever other you sail with. There’s on old Chinese proverb that states: “One foot cannot stand on two boats”. I guess that solves the problem – the 54 needs a new loving and very caring home because we all know that owning one yacht is enough of a handful. Two is out of the question.
And while I wait, drinking my way through lockdown PTSD, trapped inside my New Zealand Passport, I’ll be dreaming of that blue water in the Med, the warm sun on my face, those beautiful little rustic restaurants, the cultural eye candy, that engaging and gesticulating southern European culture. As Jack Sparrow says… “if rum can’t fix it, you’re not using enough rum”. I’m with him, I want to go sailing around the Med – I used enough rum, problem solved.
If you’d like to keep up to date with progress on the new adventure, follow us on Instagram at #sailingyachtcoco
And for the sake of clarity, for any of you wondering, some old sailing terms explained…
Dutch Courage: This phrase dates from the Anglo-Dutch wars in the 1600’s and was likely British propaganda claiming that the Dutch troops were so cowardly that they wouldn’t fight unless fortified with copious amounts of schnapps! The term has come to mean false courage induced by drink.
Loose Cannon: A cannon that came loose on a pitching, rolling, yawing deck could cause severe injury or damage. The term has come to mean an unpredictable or uncontrolled person who is likely to cause unintentional damage.
I’ll take the 5th. Over and out.