4000 Mile French Polynesia Cruise
West Marine founder and chairman Randy Repass and family launched their Wylie 65 cat ketch, Convergence, last spring. After going on display at the 2004 Oakland, California Sail Expo show in April, he cast off with his family for the South Seas in early June. Randy's plan for the next few years is to cruise for several months, then return home to work for several months.
The unique boat, profiled in last year's Master Catalog (a copy of the article is available here), is a fast, comfortable, pilot house/saloon up, easy to sail and maintain passagemaker. It is the result of a "convergence" of ideas learned from Randy's years of cruising aboard power and sailboats, sailboat racing, and creative concepts from the boat's designer Tom Wylie and others.
Randy filed this report on his trip. In it, he recaps how the boat is holding up and what gear he liked and didn't like.
"Overall the boat was great and our trip was delightful, the realization of a dream. However, we had enough product and installation issues that I was required to spend far too much time as a repair man!"
For the first 7 weeks of our 3 1/2 month adventure, the crew consisted of Linda Moore Foley and Jim Foley (Jim has built five sailboats, including the one that he and Linda circumnavigated on 10 years ago), their twin 4-year-olds Dana and Trevor, my wife Sally-Christine Rodgers, our 9-year-old son Kent-Harris and myself.
The first stop after California was the Marquesas, then the Tuamotus. Moving on, we spent about two months in the Society Islands: Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti.
THE BOAT IS FAST, EASY TO SAIL AND COMFORTABLE:
We averaged 200 miles a day going to the Marquesas, with a best day's run of 240 miles. The boat is definitely capable of more speed and longer daily runs, but we were happy with our 200 miles per day average. The boat effortlessly and comfortably sailed along at 10 to 11 knots for several extended periods. We also found Convergence to be very responsive in light winds.
For comfort, we'd put in a single reef at about 15 knots of true wind, and a double reef at about 25 knots. ("Comfort" here is relative: The seas were pretty confused much of the way and several members of the crew suffered from motion sickness.) We did not push the boat as one might in a race. We were more conservative at night.
The rig (both masts are freestanding, unstayed carbon spars with wishbone booms) looks very different than typical sloop rigged sailboats. Due to the rig's uniqueness, the major daily newspaper in Tahiti, LePeche, ran a very complimentary front page story under the headline "Unidentified Floating Object" upon our arrival in Papeete. The rig did perform very well with no problems other than some easily remedied chafe and balky sail cover issues.
There are so many positives to the pilothouse/saloon up cabin arrangement! We enjoyed great visibility from the inside nav and steering station, with the latter proving to be a popular place to stand comfortable night watches. The saloon is where most of time aboard is spent and there is a great view. The Galley up keeps the crew together.
Convergence's spacious engine room makes maintenance and repairs user friendly. The dinghy/kayak/beach deck aft served as a "convergence zone" for activities when at anchor. With our 400 gallon fuel capacity we did not need to refuel along the way even though we motored much of the way after the Marquesas due to light winds. In fact, we still had over 150 gallons aboard upon arrival at Tahiti.
INSIGHTS ON SEASICKNESS:
As far as what worked and what didn't, in hindsight I would like to have been better informed about motion sicknessand armed with some proven remedies. Fortunately, I was not affected, but some of our crew was seasick along the way. According to John Neal, this is a pretty common issue and very unpleasant for those afflicted! It causes some people to abandon passagemaking forever after.
The Bonine used by one crew, and the ear patches used by another, did not work. Three seasickness remedies that we have learned about and have multiple excellent reports on are: Explorer ReliefBands, the wristwatch-looking zappers sold at West Marine. A charterboat skipper friend says that they work with 80% of his passengers even after one is already experiencing seasickness symptoms, a result supported by how few returns we get on this product. Then there is Stugeron, an over-the-counter (in the UK, not the US) antihistamine. This is recommended by several authorities including very experienced cruisers Pam Wall, John Neal and Dr. Kent Benedict. Pam says that it brings her back from seasickness! John and Kent also recommended the prescription suppository Compazine, which contains antianxiety as well as anti-seasickness medicines. Kent refers to Compazine as a "rescue drug," since it works even if one can't keep food down.
PRODUCT AND SYSTEM FAILURES:
We did have an unacceptable number of product/system failures, none were life- or cruise-threatening, or due to design issues. The problems were primarily in the categories of
plumbing, electrical and electronics and were due either to product failure, inadequate or user-unfriendly instruction manuals orin the majority of the casesinadequate or improper installation.
In discussing these issues with other cruisers, the most common comment was "It's a new boat, that's what to expect." True as that may be, it doesn't make the experience of dealing with these challenges any more fun! I don't mind fixing a few problems along the way, but I don't want the majority of my spare time to be taken up by fixing what should be working.