Thats how we equip Rivercafe
The Rivercafe will be our fourth ship and the third new build. As in real life every purchase makes you smarter and not in vain you gonna learn the hard way. Every sailing mile has made the following more enjoyable, and the year on the Atlantic offered more illuminating insights than the 15 years before.
Why we decided against Hanse Yachts in particular, against Monohulls in general and for Leopard Catamarans, I described in another article. linked here. Then I had some feedback and exchanges with fellow sailors and questions about our equipment. Here we go.
For the choice of the ship and equipment two essential questions are relevant: how to sail and where to sail. That determines the equipment, the potential and the price. Getting everything perfect is almost impossible, it is always a question of compromise. One attribute is at the expense of another, eg speed vs. comfort. Leopard catamarans are blue water ships that need to get out into the world and would be overdressed for limited territories or weekend sailing. As I am freezing under 20 degrees, we will sail in the warm regions of the World. Our profile is simple: comfortable traveling in the warm Oceans.
As a liveaboard you juggle on the verge of comfort and performance. Comfort means space and weight and both costs speed. More speed and comfort you get for more money. We all know that the list prices of the yacht builders comply with reality as much as McDo and a healthy diet.
We charge 50% extra costs on top the announced price. We have chosen to take everything possible from Leopard, even if we know that we could get stuff much cheaper from third party contractors. But then I have no guarantee and no certainty that everything fits together. Once I’m 2,000 nm away from the installer, he does not help me anymore – it speaks your own experience. My simple equipment rule: a lot of equipment = a lot of maintenance = many sources of error = many spare parts = high costs. For system failure and you have to carry a lot of spare parts (weight reduces speed). If you need a particular pare part in Fiji, it can take a long time for an impressing price.
Leopard offers an unbelievably tempting amount of storage space, but 1 to more weight costs about 1 kn speed. And again compromise is needed. We weighed up every piece of equipment, whether we really (necessarily) want it and what the consequences are.
That’s the most important question. Pleasant anchoring is only possible with self-sufficient systems. Only enough energy and fresh water makes anchoring really fun. The energy requirement of a vessel depends on the equipment and crew size. It is important to know the energy consumption of all consumers on board in a realistic scenario. We expect 200 amps per day.
On the high seas, the washing machine and dishwasher will probably not be busy. But the power consumption for radar, autopilot, navigation, watermaker and a few more consumers should be ensured. The battery bank of the house batteries must be dimensioned appropriately. On our 50ft Hanse we had 600 amp battery power in AGM batteries, that was ok. On the Rivercafe it will be 800 amps, but in lithium. That’s a double upgrade. The batteries are charged via the motor, generator and solar panel. It is ideal if the batteries are completely charged by the solar panels during the day – this should be approximately possible on Rivercafe because of the large areas. If lacking of power, sometimes the generator can recharge for one hour. With 800 Ah, the battery has enough power to get through the long Caribbean winter nights. I do not like wind and towing generators, so no option so far.
As mentioned, we have decided to purchase lithium batteries. Gel / AGM batteries have the disadvantage that they slowly charge up to 100% and should not be discharged below 50% charge level. In fact, on our Hansa we only had 300 amps available.
Lithium is much more flexible and can be discharged up to 20%. That brings us an actual 600 amp to consumers, twice as much as before. But there are more pros: Lithium recharges much faster and the batteries weigh less than a quarter of the comparable AGM. With us, that makes 500 KG of weight savings, which we can exchange either 0.5 kts more speed or a few more delicious South African wines in storage. Above all, lithium batteries can endure at least 10 times more charging cycles. Gel / AGM batteries have a much shorter lifespan (charging cycles) and thus pay off lithium batteries despite significantly higher initial costs. A battery replacement in the Caribbean is roughly twice as expensive as in Europe – says my credit card statement. The farther away, the more expensive. When we put our energy supply into operation, we will definitely check and calibrate the energy monitors. Hanse Yachts installed us a mismatched monitor that cost us a set of house batteries. For our on-board power network, the 12 V from Leopard were without alternative. I would have preferred 24 V because the devices draw only half of the ampere. The rest goes with 220 V and inverter – so Ka can also play the piano. We chose 220V because our workstations and other equipment have 220V.
Sufficient fresh water on board increases the quality of life immensely. A shower after a night watch is a treat and freshly laundered clothes anyway. We have 780 liters of water in the tanks and a watermaker on board that produces 90 liters / hour of fresh water. I prefer the water of the watermaker over Marina water, it tastes delicious. Nevertheless, in addition to disinfection, we will install a UV filter in the kitchen so that bacteria can not hope for it. Our watermaker will run on the 220 V mains. There are also a 12 V watermaker offered by Leopard, but the additional amount of 6,000 € will never pay out.
For swimming we have a great solution. Ka has developed a special saltwater shampoo for the head and body that is incredibly refreshing and completely biodegradable. No chemical surfactants or other additives in the sea and in reefs is a good feeling. Soak once, jump into the water and then wash the salt out of the outdoor shower with a few liters of fresh water – and you will feel like new again.
For long passages, we have an additional 2 l of drinking water per person per day in bottles for emergencies. Just in case. Experience has shown that we cook it reluctantly, because your own water tastes better.
The long passages over the Atlantic and the Pacific are mostly downwind courses. We need a sail setup, which can be dealed single-handed. With a one man / woman night watch, nobody should be tapping on the deck at night alone. So we need a safe set-up for the nights, which works well even with unpleasant squalls.
Our mainsail is a square top (76 m2), superdeluxe to reef from the helm stand alone. As foresails we use an overlapping Genoa (47 m2) and a Code D (107 m2) – both on furler. For the courses flat against the wind, we pack a symmetrical spi of approx. 150 m2 with sock, so that we can go 180 degrees. Our great Leopard consultant Christoph finds the Spi completely useless, with the Genoa / Code D setup. But we allow ourselves the stubbornness. After years with self tacking jib I look forward to a real genoa again. The comfort I like to give up with ease for better sailing and a Genoa pulls much better than any short self tacking jib. You just feel more like a sailor. And most importantly, the headsails must have UV protection if the cloth is to experience a few seasons.
Comfort & fun
We will have an aircon, a dishwasher and a washer / dryer on board. All weight, but good for a long lasting relationship. The Aircon also warms, which we will certainly appreciate in Cape Town. All rooms are equipped with fans and the ingenious ventilation system from Leopard will do the rest.
We have opted for the owner version, with three double cabins and the appropriate baths. We use the two bow areas only as opulent storage spaces. In the pantry we have a gas stove, oven, a few electrical appliances such as coffeemaker and Thermomix, fridge and freezer and outside an additional gas BBQ.
Sound for emotion or party provides a music system, ambience our underwater lights, which are not built in the hull. Folding bicycles save us blisters on the feet and standup paddles bring us blisters on the hands. A proper Dhingi is easy to handle for the automatic davits, a special relief for the owners. For the trampolines and for contemplation we put on fatboys, which can be easily stowed in the bow storages – not that we would not have enough relaxation zones.
Other Rivercafe equipment:
Folding propellers are very useful in a cat. 1 kn speed should make the difference. We take 70 m anchor chain with chain counter. Neat navigation with backup and additional displays and data transfer to the tablet, so everything is to check at a glance. The onboard systems are now also controlled via an on-board tray. Digital radar, active AIS (deactivatable !!!), protected steering position (so that you do not cool down at night). For a better look and the foot comfort we let ourselves be installed on the floors Flexiteak. That’s just nicer.
Not everything about safety equipment is provided from Leopard like the personal Epirb, which transmits a MOB position to the plotter. We use Iridium Go for satellite communication for Sea Mails and GripFiles for weather planning. My darling is our barograph which was a great consultant at the last journey. For this we take the remote control of the autopilot. Leopard does not yet offer a second autopilot, but we have requested it. Other shipyards do offer this option. We will also install an alarm system.
Probably the biggest advantage of the long delivery time is that we had enough time to set our equipment. When you sign the contract and get the equipment lists, you feel like a kid in a toy store. There is a little bit of a cross for every extra and yet there is a lot missing. In Cape Town there is a pleasingly good infrastructure for service and yacht chandler and thus all our additional wishes are fulfilled. When we get off to the Caribbean with the Rivercafe, everything should be as we wish. The rest has yet to come. / HB