Friday, February 8, 2008

Florida again

So there I was in Florida again, sitting in a hotel room for a day with nothing much to do. I was supposed to be reviewing a final (final) report to the powers-that-be about a replacement airplane. (A task that truly falls into the beating-a-dead-horse category.) But fortunately it hadn’t been sent to me yet. On a lark I decided to head back to the dock where I got to look at a couple of boats a few weeks ago. I didn’t bother to call a broker, just showed up and asked the nice folks behind the desks if I could poke around. They said sure, look all you want and try not to fall in.

Tied up along the dock was a Lagoon 380, a Fountaine Pajot and a brandy new Lagoon 420. While I was poking around a couple of guys showed up and started untying the Fountaine to pull it down the dock to make room for another boat that was due in. At first they turned down my offer to help but then one of them damn near ended up in the water tugging on a stern line. Suddenly an extra pair of hands to manhandle 38 feet of catamaran around seemed like a good idea. A few minutes after the boat was safely and securely tied off another brandy new Lagoon 420 motored up the canal to the dock. Five or six people jumped ashore after it was tied off including the gentleman who had been taken out on the just completed sea trail; seems he is thinking about writing them a check.

Most of the party moved off to the office but one young man stayed behind, Ben, who (it turns out) is the warranty coordinator for Lagoon in south Florida. Cool beans. He showed me around the new 420 and we got to chatting about the kinds of things that break on new that end up as warranty claims. Minor stuff mostly, but the two 420s sitting at the dock were apparently the first of their size fitted with dual 40 HP diesel engines with a separate generator located in the cockpit. Other 420s are hybrids. Like hybrid cars they have a single small generator that charges batteries; batteries that are then used to power electric drives for the propellers. Under sail the motors become generators with the spinning props providing the force to recharge the batteries. It all sounds pretty cool to me but apparently all this complex electrical equipment, complete with computer driven controls for charging and discharging batteries, is not particularly suited for a salt-water environment. The boat itself proved to be very popular in spite of the problems, thus the decision by Lagoon to offer the diesel option. Anyway, Two-Hulls buys these boats on spec, having them delivered to the US for display and sale. (If I had the money I would have written them a check!)

During our conversation Ben told me that they had a new Lagoon 440 coming in. In fact it was due to dock in just a couple of minutes. And by “coming in” he meant just that. The boat had departed France on December 10 with a crew of 4 and was working its way up the canal. Sure enough a big cat came motoring around the bend in the waterway just a few minutes later.

All of the rest of the crew that had been on the 420 was back on the dock by then. We had been standing around telling stories; me of airplanes and them of boats. Several of them know something of airplanes, though they were much more impressed with the idea that I fly a Citation V then I am. The arrival of the 440 interrupted our tall tales. The crew starting tossing lines, reversing engines, hanging fenders and generally making a pretty good show of bringing an ocean crossing voyage to an end. It was all good fun. One thing that struck me was that nearly everyone around spoke with a pretty noticeable Aussi accent; on French boats being delivered to the US. It turns out the delivery crews are all contracted though a British company, and they hire Aussi captains. Apparently Aussi’s are the New England Patriots of the sailing world. Who knew?

Even with the 440 at the dock I couldn’t get on it since it hadn’t cleared customs yet. I could see quite a bit though, and it is sure a nice looking boat. The delivery crew needed to go to customs as well, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with them for very long. I was a bit amazed at the very low-key attitude. They were literally getting off the boat for the first time in some 40+ days yet from their demeanor one would think they had just come in from an afternoon’s easy sail down the ICW. According to the guy that was at the helm when they docked the trip as “A bit alright.”

But come to think of it I can be the same way after a night approach down to minimums. Fun for me, not particularly difficult, and something I like to do. I am having trouble getting my head around the idea that sailing a brand new boat from France to the US in the middle of the winter is not particularly difficult. I guess its all what you are used to.