Catamaran Cruising Class ASA 114

On November 5, 2011 we met our instructor, Dan Siefers, at Tradewinds for the ASA 114 Catamaran Cruising class. Dan owns the catamaran that we used in the class. The other three students were David Freeborg, Kathy Larson, and Corrie Lindsey. The boat, a Seawind 1160, is named “Caprice” and it was made in Sydney Australia in 2007. It is 38 feet long, 21 feet wide and it has a draft of 3.5 feet. Caprice has a 52-foot mast and two 30 horsepower Yanmar diesels with sail drive propulsion units (folding props). One of the four winches is electrically powered. 

After introductions we went out to the boat for a tour of the systems and to become familiar with the layout. It has one master and two smaller cabins, most with queen size beds. There are two heads, one in each hull, with a glass shower surround in the master head. Caprice has the galley-down configuration (starboard hull), allowing for a very spacious saloon. The navigation station is in the port hull and it includes an EPIRB, VHF, and single sideband radio, but no sat phone. It is a very spacious and beautiful boat. After the tour Dan made coffee for us and we sat around the dining table and discussed multi-hull features and terminology.

 As a side note, Dan purchased the boat new and he and his wife took delivery in Australia (this saved them $20,000). They equipped the boat, asking friends back in the United States to mail them certain items. Dan and his wife then set course for New Zealand, to Tahiti, and then up to Alaska. At that point they sailed south along the Canadian coast, and on to California. This took them 10 months. A series of family members and friends joined them along the way to share the adventure and serve as crew. They normally had four people aboard. My classmates have also done extensive cruising, with Kathy and Corrie describing trips to the Caribbean, the Grenadines, Belize, and the Aegean.

 Returning to my description of the course, we next learned how to leave the dock with a spring line. Each of us practiced rotating the catamaran within the fairway, maneuvering the boat with the two engines, and departing/approaching the dock. This large boat has a surprising amount of maneuverability with the two engines. After lunch in Richmond Marina it was time for some mooring ball practice and then we went sailing. Once out in the Bay we sailed near the Southampton Shoals buoy and then began practicing man overboard drills. This forced us to work together as a team as we struggled to become expert with sail trim. We came to find that sail trim happens a little more slowly than expected due to the large and heavy rig. The boat is also slow to respond to the helm at some points of sail. The helmsman has restricted visibility to the front and above, which takes some getting used to. I found myself leaning well out to port or running over to the starboard steering position to get a clear view at times. As predicted, the boat tacks slowly, in fact it needed at least 4 knots of speed or it would not tack at all. Caprice is equipped with a self-tacking jib, which prevents use of the backwind technique. We also noted that it was important to ease the main promptly when falling off to a beam reach. The electric winch was critical to trimming the main, but it was not always possible to trim the sheet as fast as we wanted during the man overboard drills. While sailing we had winds up to 15 knots and observed boat speeds of up to 8.5 knots. There is very little heel and the ride is remarkably smooth. The crew must remain alert for changes to wind conditions because none of the traditional monohull boat indicators of weather helm or heel are evident. The Caprice is a very comfortable boat and I can now better appreciate why catamarans are so popular for cruising. Dan dropped us off at D Dock at the conclusion of Day 1.

 Saturday had been overcast with occasional brief showers, but Sunday dawned clear without a cloud in the sky. We met at the boat for our final day of instruction. Dan once again made coffee for us and he then passed out the tests. After finishing the exam portion of the course it was back on to the water. To get a feel for maneuvering with one engine we practiced approaching a mooring ball. It was difficult to maneuver (hold a steady course) under these conditions but not impossible. We also practiced anchoring. Dan’s boat is equipped with an electric windless and the control unit is in the cockpit, greatly easing the anchoring process. Dan taught us how to set the anchor bridle to distribute the loads to both hulls. Next we set course for Brickyard Cove Marina for lunch (at All’s Fare). Along the way we sailed over to the Battleship Iowa tied up at Terminal No. 3 in the Richmond Harbor Channel. The old battleship is to be repaired before becoming a museum ship (in LA I believe). Lunch at Brickyard was another opportunity to practice maneuvering a large boat in narrow fairway. Dan asked David to squeeze in behind a smaller monohull along the dock. David spun 180 degrees and backed into the narrow opening and gently came alongside the dock. Dan lives within Brickyard Cove Marina and he can dock his boat next to his home.

After lunch we set course for the Bay to practice reefing and to get some sailing in. Earlier in the day David had noticed that the mast mounted radar dome appeared to be askew. After lunch it became more apparent that something was wrong and Dan indicated that the spinnaker halyard might have become entangled with the mounting bracket earlier in the week during a race. Dan instructed me to take us over to Angel Island and to anchor so that he could go up the mast to check the damage and secure the radar dome. We went to the shallow cove east of Point Campbell to anchor. From past experience this is not a good place to anchor due to strong currents and frequent boat wakes and this day was no exception. Once the current direction was determined we used the boats maneuverability to set the anchor successfully. Next it was time for Dan to don his climber’s harness (he prefers this to a bosun’s chair), and grab some tools and rope. We attached him to the main halyard and hauled him up using the electric winch. It took him about 15 minutes to secure the radar dome. We then lowered him, recovered our anchor, and proceeded out into Raccoon Strait. There was not much wind but Dan showed us how to set and sail with a spinnaker. After attempting to sail with light wind for about 30 minutes we recovered the spinnaker and motored towards Richmond. To our surprise the wind returned (with clouds and rain sprinkles) so we raised the sails and returned to the marina. We approached the D Dock pump-out area, planning to tie-up along the south side. However this area was occupied. There was room further east along the walkway connecting all the D Dock fingers, but it did not seem accessible to so large a boat as ours. Dan suggested that Kathy use the engines to rotate the boat 90 degrees to starboard and allow the wind to gently push us into this narrow space. Kathy deftly guided the boat to a gentle encounter with the dock, thus ending a very instructive two-day familiarization with Caprice. Dan is a wonderful instructor and he was very generous in sharing his experience with us. I highly recommend this course.

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