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Augustina: Feminine Majestic - Article by Chris Kinzel © 2008

Cover story published by Multihulls Magazine (USA), Nov/Dec 2008, Volume 34 #6

Winter 2000-1, snugged up in the Wampanoag heartland of Aquinnah, Martha's Vineyard, tucked in the swale behind the sacred colored clay cliffs of the headland, and gazing far beyond, I sketched a pair of hulls. The meadow and dunes were adrift with snow, sea spray had iced over the cobble stone beach, but inside the wood stove was valiantly fending off the cold. Sitting-Bull and Black Elk's photos watched somberly if patiently over my shoulder from the mantle. ..In truth I'd been doing the same drawing on the beach in India as elephants and cows sauntered bye, in Berlin parks with nothing much else to be bothered with, on job site 2x4 off-cuts over sock-juice Dunkin coffee, at engineering night school,, the image had been gathering momentum for years. I was even bold enough to declare myself retired from boat building and sailing. but little did I know how much inertia was there.

Nevertheless in the late nineties I planted a spinning mobile cascade of four mirror surfaced tetrahedrons in my mothers back yard, told that it'd be the last wind powered design/build fantasy, and headed off in my rusty-trusty Subaru wagon home towards Mexico, for less material entheogenic experimentation.

Now I always thought Rapunzel was just a whimsical tale, but I was wrong. She's not always the whimsiest, and is also known as "Claire". Poking her head upside down through the ceiling hole where the circular stairs spiraled from above, "Hello, is anybody there", her mahogany locks looked long enough to swing on. We were eating supper, it was dark out and this place was remote. We weren't expecting company, never mind the fact that she entered the house from the 2nd floor, somehow? But this was a witches house see, and we weren't asking too many questions. "..just another fallen angel"?. She was a stunner, a draw dropping beauty with a gentle innocent light dancing in her eyes that could immediately fill any space with its grace, like you read about. Some weeks and an elope later, we found ourselves atop a Mayan pyramid, sitting on what had probably been an alter for sacrifice of some description, when she confessed that she'd always been dreaming of living on a cruising boat; and I, as if on cue, suddenly felt a ground swell rising, an on-coming break of barreling desire to share that dream with her. I had the tools and experience to make it come true. As did the Raj, who offered the Tajmahal to his wife, in one brave ridiculous moment, I said that I could make it happen, that I would, which left no choice but to paddle hard, stand-up, ride that wave, with conviction, and try not to fall off.

Months drifted into a year as I hung out in Parisian bakeries, pretending to be looking for a boat. Meanwhile, she was busy pretending to accept the possibility of giving up her flash job as a scientific journalist. Just about the time I began to look like a baguette, a friend bailed me out and lent me his self-renovated Barnacle class 30 footer, on which we had a darling of a Maine-coasting, and got the delivery job of a small tri from Maine to Florida; everything was marching until it started to roll. At Great Bridge Virginia, the portal to the proverbial "ditch", at the "Tres Amigos" restaurant, we celebrated the news of the coming third crew member. It was a boy; and everything they dont tell you about becoming a parent is true. It was a first year that felt like one long days journey. But in the few calm moments, after work and food shopping and wood chopping, diapers, cooking-cleaning-caring and the rest of the carry-on that goes with building society, I found small quiet to sketch two hulls.

The snow started to melt, and puzzle pieces continued to fit. My land in Maine, long since imagined Valhalla, a meadow overlooking Deer isle's archipelagos and close to a good harbor, sold to a maritime museum director. It was too cold and remote and mosquito ridden for mademoiselle, and anyway we were still talking sailing.

Captain Bob sized up my situation in a heart beat, "better build yourself another vessel to keep out'a trouble. Use my work shop". Walter told me "you got enough to build a 50fter". He was right, but did I listen? When I told my work/ship mate that "to my mind, 63ft looked like a better ocean going length for comfort and safety", Carlo said " want to build a 63 fter, f*ck'em build a 63 fter" and those simple words tipped us over the edge, and we swan dove into a 3 year/14000 hour mission. For those 13 extra feet, the final cost was about double what we had. Starting at the Vineyard Haven, "five corners" Shenandoah work shops, then for excellent reasons, dumb luck, and $3k, we shipped the show half way round the planet, to a disused apple packing shed. Final beach assembly and floating happened at the Motueka mud flats on a rising tide, (April 2004) top of the south island, New Zealand.

I drew it on a friend's computer in a morning. Thanks God for cad. I knew the shapes I wanted pretty well by now and he knew the numeric targets to shoot for off the top of his head. "make the rudders 2ft x 4ft. put the LCB at 55%. make the rig smaller. with this kind of boat you don't fly a hull. put the mast a foot ahead of the dagger boards. make the boards a meter long with 10:1 foil section. a racing boat will weigh 14,000lbs. your boat'll weigh at least 20,000lbs., all that info, and more, down-loaded in a skinny second. The full size sections got plotted on mylar, and the basic design work was done in less than a day. Hydro-dynamically, she balances and tracks, easily tacks, 17:1 slices, the 4ft deck clearance doesn't slap, and really isn't squirily or cranky in any way (Thank you Walter).

The concept came from having too much fun on Formula 40's. "why not build a bullet proof, livaboard/cruise/turbo-diesel truck version of one of these.." we used to muse. of course the waterline needed stretching to handle the extra weight of "living gear". But when I showed Claire the sketch of the large beach cat with a shaharazod tent raised over the big open trampoline, she asked "where's the cabin?". "we'll use the hulls for cabin space when sailing, and the tent while anchored" I suggested. "have a great trip" said she; the pilot house did rise. As the kiwi's say "she'll be right", and I don't mind tellin'ya she bloody well was: interior helming with 360 degree visibility for ocean work is what commercial fishermen have, and they've probably logged more out and backs than anybody. Sitting inside while the apparent wind hoons day and night feels pretty sane. All lines - halyard, sheets, travelers, 3 reefing clews, board lifts, and furler lead to one central mother of an 80:1 winch just ahead of the steering wheel. Engine throttles, windlass control, radios and plotter are all there. Cooking with ventilation and meals with a fine harbor view also seems right, which leaves the hulls and bridge decks for cacooning. I basically single hand with help from others when docking or grabbing a mooring, and for sharing watches, or even just the joy. Then for extra joy, when its nice out, we sit on the back beam and tiller steer. Heating-up the apparent and accelerating, as a good beach cat does, yet helming a structure the size of a tennis court offers no small amount of sensation.

She would of liked it quicker but I felt lucky to launch after 3, albeit double-time, years. Though the building game wasn't really done before our shakedowns shook both rudders off, fortunately not on the same day. Once in a Tasman westerly gale, and again during a line squall. It took me twice to understand/correct the flaw. I have had to remake or strengthen various bits, as you do, but the basic boat and rig works good.

They say sometimes it ain't easy sailing out of New Zealand. She's kinda off by herself down in the Southern ocean, and often gets walloped by passing wildness. Late fall 2005 found us waiting a month for a weather window to head North to the islands. The local showing of long time/distance life-sailors was colorful and the club house was particularly familial, so we didn't mind waiting. But then there was that passport-visa-finished tomorrow phone call to the weather guru whose wisoned words were, "the first hundred fifty or so miles you'll take it pretty hard from behind but then you'll be out of it." midday leaving the Bay Of Islands lee astern, triple reefed and without ocean swell, the 25+kts was fun to run from. but then the earth eclipsed the sun, the shelter of land was far behind, and it got dark. We cleared North cape into a big southern swell, and a freight train of wind came with it, I guess 30-40+ knots. In the moonless inky black we rose on 10 to 15 to what seemed at times like 20 foot seas and surfed. You couldn't see a thing. As if riding a virtual storm simulator, standing braced in an oscillating lurching box, dry and warm, but gripping and tweeking the wheel as the rudders loaded up, and the breaking crest chucked the slender hulls out onto the wave face, picking up speed, completely by feel, the gps casually registering 20 to 22 knots, for 10 - 15 seconds. Some felt like half a minute and longer surfing glides, fun if a bit nerve wracking. I was lucky to be sharing that night with Phil who also had the reflexes of helming to avoid a broach, while our five year old and his mom tried to sleep. It took plenty of focus to anticipate what the wave might be serving up, and about an hour-at-a- time of steering was enough. She did track and fly. By sun rise we were 250nm further North and into a whole new weather system, which was gentler for a couple days, and then refreshened thanks to an upper level disturbance that descended, trouncing a huge fleet of queens birthday rally makers (7 boats were abandoned). fortunately we were headed to New Caledonia instead of Fiji, which put us with it rather than against. We finished the last day's 300+ mile run by out pacing a container ship that was also down-winding it towards the Amadee reef pass. We've since done 6 back and forth's from Australia to the islands, and the thousand or so miles typically has taken 4-5 days. Passage making is a different game today thanks to onboard access to forecast information, better forecast modeling, and a boat that can keep up with or out run a system. I have since done my best to pick gentler systems so that I can also sleep while on passage, 10-12 kts boat speed is just fine thankyou, and-but the nice thing is that she doesn't need much wind to achieve that.

Chief willy was our Nakamal emissary bridging the language and cultural gap between the visiting doctors and Vanuatu villagers. The Project was to bring Medical Aid to Remote Communities. He would make formal introductions verging on ritual ceremony, and then explain in the common pidgeon english ("Bislama") that we were there to survey and "help small" with the regions health care infrastructure. We were sent to places that normally a boat wouldn't go: stoney beach ocean coastline or worse, long bold stretches of lee shore where we would heave-to, dropping doctors and medical supplies via dory rides through the surf or whatever, sometimes they swam. Actually we got pretty lucky weather wise. It could have been a mess. The effort turned into three seasons of service, carrying mobs of pale white Americans Aussies Kiwis and British, med-students and doctors, from the airport to various villages hundreds of miles down wind, to survey, instruct, offer small primary care, and then back, to continue their onward flights. One trip we had 13 volunteers plus Nivans and chickens and sacks of taro. The trades were augmented by a big high parked in the coral sea and it wasn't showing signs of letting up. We stood to get our butts kicked by beating the 170nm back into built up seas and pumping bluster from Santo to Vila. Alot of plane tickets were at stake, so we chose to have a go.. The Utah gal spent 18 immovable hours wrapped in a tarp on the net getting regularly doused, but giggling all the way. A Nivan/local nurse put herself in a trance. As she huddled outside against the rail, in the spray and wind, I wrapped a jacket around her, and even for this she wouldn't budge, or drink, or respond to my voice in any way. it was as if she just wasn't there. We beat all night and half the next day, against 6 to 10 foot waves and 20-25kts, rough but doable. As we slipped into the calm of the half way point lagoon at the south end of Malekula, Eskella the "cleva" stood up stretching and smiling, chatting away as if nothing had happened? ..a different way to lick seasickness.

The doctors gig meant a fair amount of standing bye, which is an ok thing to do on a cat in the tropics, local friendships grew and other welcoming doors opened that otherwise don't usually if I'm just passing with my own agenda. Its been a good way to find yet another home. This year we switched to music for medicine and toured around with W. African style percussion and fire dancers. this time the music was our diplomat. The locals all did laugh and croon and clap but only on Pentecost did we get a big gang dancing under a monster Banyan tree on the beach. the next day they retorted with an hour long, mighty fine "custom" dance in full regalia, red/green plant head dress', woven pandanas loin cloths, and Chinese rubber shoes. kindof a trancy energetic choreography for 12 with log drum changing 6/8 in 11 verse rythyms and roaming acapella melodies with a touch of Spanish/island style guitar and shakers all woven around a bad-ass bush bass, hoots and yeses of encouragement, like at a Southern Baptist sermon, pumping from the gallery all the while, pushing the players for more and more feeling. I reckon the banyan had happy feet.

Australia has a raspy hard edged reputation, but we found the "mean as bull ants in the rain" style was more smoke and mirrors than some of the stories suggested. They just don't like success or privilege. An aussie hello might go "hey f*cka". so a healthy dose of self effacing can go a long way towards fitting right in to the aussie "f*ck-off" way of life. we had so much fun telling others to "piss-off" and eating potato pies that we decided to become residents, get our boy into school with a stable day to day and all sorts of good stuff we were hopin' to offer him and its been a bloody 2 year mud sling of paper work plus a few grand of spondooly in fees, and the punch line from customs was "now that you're a resident, when you come back next time you can fork over 10% of your boats value". and I say "Bugger". and they say "good on you, but pay-up just the same". So I say "I ain't got it" and they say "then flog your yacht off on some other mob, but dont try it here until we've knicked our share first", and they ask "have you ever been convicted?" and I says "I didn't know it was still a prerequisite for coming here", and they say "never mind, just see how ya go".

SV-Augustina Article Multihull World (Aus) 2008