Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Lady Diane -- Catalina 32

Destination: Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island; Newport Harbor
Date of Trip: 2007-11-13

  • Seaworthy: Yes
  • Would charter again: Definitey
  • First pick of the fleet: Yes
  • Overall value: Excellent

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Escape -- Catalina 32

Destination: Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island
Date of Trip: 2007-04-22

Escape is another solid boat, and its aesthetics are very good -- according to their web site it's just had a make-over, and they did a nice job on the eye-catching parts of the boat (teak finish/gel coat/stainless were all very nice, above and below decks. ) And Escape was every bit as sea-worthy as North Star, without any question, same hull and power plant maintenance regime was evident.

If you zoom out to the big-picture view, the problems I had with this boat were relatively minor. But even so, I left this boat with a lot of negativity. (I should also note, to be fair, that Adventura voluntarily compensated me for the failures by waiving their engine hours charge. )

The problems, which involved the autohelm and the stereo, were aggravated by the fact that I explicitly asked about the stereo, and I explicitly requested autohelm. All of my guests brought their favorite music, and none of them knew anything about sailing, so I considered both of these devices to be requirements.

The stereo initially seemed to work, but we shortly discovered that while the volume-down button did work, the volume-up button did not. The stereo's face plate was designed to be detachable, and detach it we did (theorizing a contact issue between the face and unit) but then we were unable to get the face to latch back in place. Upon closer examination, we noticed that the face plate had been super-glued into position. Fumes from the glue could easily be responsible for button failure. I was disappointed by what appeared to be a sub-standard repair, plus I had to listen to my guests snivel about the lack of tunes for two days -- neither brought me any joy.

The problem with the autohelm could've been caused by any or all of several contributing factors -- one of which, I must admit, might even have operator error (though this certainly was not the sole factor, if it was involved at all.)

The autohelm on this boat is integrated with its nav cluster, which must be on for it to function in any way. Once all nav electronics were powered on, the autohelm seemed to respond somewhat normally, but the blasted nav crap would start beeping, as if some waypoint or depth alarm was going off, every 5 minutes or so -- seriously annoying!

Part of why I go sailing is to get away from everyday noise. On my hand-held GPS, everything but shoal warnings and dragging anchor are silent. Alarms that mean nothing aren't really alarms, they are nuisances.

Now, it is entirely possible that there was/is some cryptic key sequence, born of the limits of technology of its day, that I needed to know, to make it work right. I read the boat notes, I skimmed several of the numerous device manuals... I somehow got it to stop its awful noise, but couldn't tell you for sure exactly how.

I didn't really care about integration, all I really wanted it to do was steer the course of my choosing. I again had my own GPS, with course and way points already programmed-in. Freedom to move around the boat was all I asked... but this freedom was not in the cards.

In trying to figure it all out I noticed the autohelm's internal compass read about 60 degrees off of the ship's compass (the latter of which nearly matched the fluxgate compass built into my GPS.) So it may be that the unit required some sort of setup or configuration that had yet to be performed correctly. Or perhaps the autohelm was simply AFU.

Exactly what the deal was is impossible for me to say, but to me, for some device to power-up in a condition that causes a meaningless alarm at short, regular intervals, renders that device useless. And when that useless device is integrated with other devices, so that all are required for any to function, one useless device will then render them all useless.

More, if there is some arcane thing the user must do to make it function, then I, as a yacht charterer, need some quick and easy-to-find instruction. If its not at least marginally intuitive, it needs to be documented.

And finally, while I'm all for nav electronics device integration, in my humble opinion, any such scheme that makes all devices exclusively dependent upon each other (meaning each is incapable of functioning individually, if any of the others fails or malfunctions) is seriously lame.

Long story short, this failure forced me to stand a couple of lengthy helm watches that were well beyond grueling -- and that, I'm pretty sure, is why I have sniveled at great length, over a couple minor glitches, of an otherwise beautiful and seaworthy boat... Timing is everything, isn't it? :-)


  • Seaworthy: Yes
  • Would charter again: Yes (if problems were corrected)
  • First pick of the fleet: No (but validity of reasons is uncertain)
  • Overall value: Very Good (if not for failures)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

North Star -- Ericson 32

Destination: Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

Overall North Star is a very solid boat, it handles well, running rig is in good condition, sails are easily adequate for cruising. Its fiberglass exterior has been well maintained and is free from damage. A peek at the bottom while we were dipping the leeward rail at one point tells me that divers swim this boats on a regular basis.

In short: hull, rig and power plant appear to be professionally maintained, as well as seaworthy.

The only thing visually negative about the exterior of this vessel is its teak trim, which has been badly neglected. The varnish or urethane has worn off most of the smaller pieces completely, and the wood is gray and cracked. All of the larger pieces are well on their way to looking the same. This is admittedly a minor point, it wouldn't stop me from chartering this boat again, but if the objective happens to be entertaining clients, North Star will tend to be a bit aesthetically challenged.

As for equipment, in addition to the standard fare, North Star has a couple of very cool gadgets on board, that really enhance the cruising experience:

One is an auto helm -- hardly a necessity for an overnight trip to the islands, but even so, a huge convenience! No more a slave to the binnacle, a skipper is free to fine-tune the sails, take a few photos, or do whatever else that might ordinarily interfere with tending the helm.

The other is a remote microphone for the VHF, with its jack wired back to the cockpit. Not a whole lot to be said of such a thing, but if you've ever lamented the unworkability of typical above-the-chart-table placement of the ship's two-way radio, this feature will be a big plus.

Down below deck the cabin is comfortable and efficient, cushion fabric is in good shape, and berth arrangement is workable. Galley is typical. A modern stereo and 6-CD changer keep the background music flowing. In general the interior is consistent with expectations.

But I had a couple of nit-picks, the main one being weak latches on the doors for the hanging locker in the fore peak. While underway these doors would not stay latched, they swing with the motion of the boat, and slap the bulkheads as you roll with the swells. The noise that this makes becomes irritating in a heartbeat! It's simple enough to fashion makeshift stopper that lasts an hour or two, but it's one more thing to tend... Suffice to say that new latches would be high on my wish list for this boat.

Also, the cabin sole is in need of a little TLC, a power sander and a gallon of urethane would a long way here; and a cracked bilge board at the base of the companion way makes for an odd sensation as you go below, particularly while underway.

The only serious complaint I had with this boat was an apparent wiring problem in the binnacle. The back-light in the compass is dark most of the time, flickering occasionally with vibration. This is cause for concern because the compass light shares a circuit with the running lights; a short to ground would take-down the whole circuit, and little could be done about it while underway. I also couldn't get the navigation instrument cluster to come on, though I didn't try very hard (more interested in my new hand-held GPS, than in trying to figure it out.) I did notice that some bare wire is exposed, due to lack of a grommet and/or strain relief where wires exit steel tubing. Some attention is needed here.

In closing, we had a great trip, and enjoyed the boat. Next time out, North Star won't be my first choice, because minor annoyances give me incentive to see what else the fleet has to offer. Otoh, if it fits my size needs when availability of other yachts is constrained, I'll take it again without hesitation.

  • Seaworthy: Yes
  • Would charter again: Yes
  • First pick of the fleet: No
  • Overall value: Very good
  • Problems: wiring to binnacle, locker door in fore peak