By tradition, a ship is born when its keel is laid and, in the case, of Aventura IV this took place earlier this week at the Garcia boatyard in Condé-sur-Noireau, a small village in Central Normandy.
This unusual location for a boatyard, some 30 miles from the sea, is due to a decision taken by the two Garcia brothers some 40 years ago to accept an order to build a steel sailing boat at their metal workshop. Up to that moment the sons of immigrant parents from Spain had been building frames, gates and other steel structures in this predominantly rural area of NW France. By the early 1990s they had switched over to aluminium and soon Garcia boats became synonymous with high quality long distance sailing yachts. In 2010 the boatyard became incorporated into the Grand Large Yachting group, which also produces Outremer catamarans and Allures yachts, two highly suitable stablemates for the Garcia marque.
That symbolic moment, when my new boat came into being, marked the anniversary almost to the day 40 years ago when the first Aventura saw the light of day in a similar shed, in the middle of rural Kent, in SE England. But any similarity ends there, as in the case of my first boat our limited funds allowed me to buy only a bare hull, which I proceeded to fit out myself, whereas now Aventura’s namesake was to be built by Garcia and finished off at the Allures boatyard in Cherbourg.
Much has happened in these last four decade, not only in my own life but in boatbuilding and sailing generally. In the early 1970s, the choice of sailing boats suitable for a world voyage was limited to a few models, although soon afterwards the advent of glassfibre construction was to change that forever. The choice of equipment was just as limited, as those were still the days of astronavigation. Commonsense plus a dose of good luck would have to take care of the rest. In my case it certainly did, especially the lucky side.
On my arrival at the Garcia boatyard, a welder was busy adding pieces of metal to the upturned hull and I was amazed at the precision with which the hull plates, frames, stringers, down to the smallest component part of the centreboard casing and ballast box had been cut by a computer generated program.
One of the key elements of my new boat is the deck saloon, and in order to make it easier to conceptualise its integration into the overall design, a true scale plywood mock-up of both saloon and cockpit had been built in advance of my visit. Although I had seen the computer generated 3D renditions of all these elements, moving from the virtual into the real world by walking through the companionway, sitting down at the table, or moving around the cockpit, made all the difference. We could thus decide on the exact location of the primary winches, the positioning of the various instruments and repeaters, the width of the roof extension, etc.
The rest of the day was spent discussing every single piece of equipment that was going to be installed. Rather naively, I had thought that with a delivery date in April 2014, there wasn’t much urgency in dealing with these matters at such an early stage but I could not have been more wrong. On a modern boat, especially in the case of a prototype of this kind, all essential aspects need to be decided right at the start. The builder needs to know where every through-hull fitting would go, the exact position (and size) of every winch, the run of every line coming back to the cockpit, not to speak of major decisions concerning emergency steering provisions, energy generation, waste water disposal (or storage), heating, ventilation and a host of other things that I hadn’t even had the time to think about.
Some of those difficulties were caused by my intention that my new boat should have as low a carbon footprint as possible and be truly ecofriendly. A major disappointment was the inability to use a hybrid engine for the simple reason that while the manufacturers of the hybrid car that I am driving have been using this system successfully for some 15 years, hybrid engines for long distance yachts are still in the early stages of development. Faced by my willingness to take a risk and still go for one of the marine hybrid engines available, the builder told me in no uncertain terms that he would not agree to install such an untried system for the kind of voyaging that I had in mind.
We therefore decided to make up for that by maximising the use of renewable sources of energy. As in the case of all my previous boats, the Aventura IV will not have a diesel generator, and will rely instead on a freely available supply of energy from wind, solar and hydro-generating units. Pollution of the environment will be kept as low as possible by using the electroscan system to treat both black and grey waters, trash compacting and recycling.
Fortunately at every step I could draw on the knowhow and expertise of a highly experienced team made up of Stephan Constance, CEO of Grand Large Yachting, Allures production manager Remy Hequet, Garcia managing director Benoit Lebizay and project manager Antonio Costa.