Hot off the heels of our eventful trip around Phuket in January 2017 (006) we began looking for a catamaran in earnest. But for those that haven’t read previous blogs, we are paying for this dream by selling our home and downsizing. So we put our house in Leicestershire on the market and priced it to sell without feeling like we were giving it away.
Lady luck was on our side and we managed to find a buyer and they even wanted most of our furniture!! This was fantastic news and in the May of 2017 we bought a much smaller house near Meriden, right in the centre of the country. Our only problem now was that this new house didn’t have a dining room that we loved in the old house for entertaining and more importantly didn’t have a garage. The garage was important to us to keep the car in whilst away on the boat. So we decided we needed a garage to put the car in whilst away and some loft space to store the stuff we couldn't part with from the last house. Here luck was also on our side as the house we liked came with planning permission.
We picked the keys up on the 18th May and by the 22nd of May had started building the extension. UK law allowed us to keep the soon to be ending permission as long as we made a substantial start. In laying the foundations for the extension we did, and promptly stopped work again whilst we looked for a builder. By the October we had amended the plans to suit our needs better and began building. All over the winter of 2017 we worked every day to hurry the job on.. I was desperate to get it completed so I could buy a boat!!
During this time however the dream never died… online I spent hours looking through video’s chatting on forums to people who all knew a great deal more about boats and sailing than I did. But the extension was also bleeding us of savings and in doing so, robbing us of opportunities. We loved the Privilege Series 5 that was fast fading out of our financial reach. We began to get desperate and even contacted Cathyachts and, knowing the owners wife was Thai, even offered our beach house in Thailand at a massively reduced value as part payment against Privileged One. To no avail. We finished 2017 up to our eyeballs in work on the house and catless.
We entered 2018 looking for alternatives to the beautiful Privilege Series 5 that we had set our heart on and in the March of that year stumbled through a forum upon a man who was building his own. Rob was an avid commenter on a cruising forum and seemed to know a lot about cats and equipment on them. For two weeks at the end of March I gleaned as much information from him as I could. During which, he told me about the 50ft catamaran he was building in Thailand and also introduced me to the owner of a fabulous looking catamaran by a very small Australian maker called Freeflow.
Keshi was owned by Greg and Leanne, an Australian couple. I had been put in contact with Greg through Rob and asked him about his boat. This was the 4th of April.
“Hi Heath and Pook, Greg here and friend of Rob. You are most welcome to visit and take a sail or two to get a feel for the size and liveability of these terrific boats however we are coming into winter soon so earlier rather than later might be the go.” He was away with his family in 2 weeks time.
Now due to the time difference I didn’t see the email until the 5th and my response on 6th April was:
“Pook & I would love to join you and your family on the trip to Rottnest, we are very much a happy-go-lucky couple and really hope you haven't changed you mind as we have just today booked flights to make it to you.” I know what you're thinking... and Yes in hindsight I was a bit hasty. Such was my desire to get a boat and such was the interest in Freeflow created by Rob that I didn’t consider Pook may need more notice to take time off work. Nor in fact did it enter my head that poor Greg might not have meant his offer literally. Hey ho, I was as keen as punch and we were on our way!
We flew to Perth later that month and had a couple of days looking round. Australia is an amazing country and Perth is beautiful and very clean. We visited the areas around Perth and had some lovely meals out. Such was the Australian hospitality shown to us that Greg even sent his wife Leanne and son to collect us from our Perth hotel and take us to Fremantle. Leanne later admitted to us that she though Greg was a little mad to welcome people he had never seen, met, or even had any more than a few emails from to stay on his boat with his young family. I do not know what possessed him to offer this experience to us, but will be eternally grateful for the wonderful experience.
When we met Greg he was waiting for Keshi to be lifted back into the water and this gave us an unique chance to look underneath. Keshi is a sporty 46ft catamaran with many innovative features not found on production catamarans. One of these was the central helm, this was a feature I had never seen before on a catamaran and had the benefit of meaning the person controlling the boat was still included in daily living and was thoroughly protected. Through Rob and from my reading, I had learned to love shaft drives and this had them and a unique rain catchment system that would later be copied by many manufacturers. We anxiously watched as the crane carefully lowered the 8.4 tonnes Keshi into the water and we got settled aboard.
On our bed were some towels and a little welcome gift and note. I don’t know who you meet in your life, but rarely have we met in ours such lovely people who are so friendly and accommodating. After casting off we set off for Rottnest Island, the sea was very calm and the sporty hulls sliced effortlessly through the water with minimal effort from the engines. We motored effortlessly out to Rottnest Island and soon found a place to anchor. Greg’s son was keen to catch some crayfish or lobster so Pook helped Greg and his son lay some pots using the dinghy.
We spent that night on-board and ate, drank and got to know our new friends as if they were long lost. They told us some wonderful stories about Australian life and Leanne gave us the benefit of her medical training with some great insights into how we should be looking after our health. The following day we Greg collected the pots and lo and behold we had caught some! After checking to see if they met minimum standards we saved them for dinner. Greg and his family then took us ashore and we looked around Rottnest, home of the Quokka. A Quokka is a small native marsupial found in only a few locations around the world but here they lived in this A-class nature reserve with around 300 people. That’s not to say we were alone, with ferries from Fremantle, Rottnest is a very popular tourist destination point with around 500,000 visitors a year.
That afternoon Pook helped with the BBQ and made a meal with Leanne that everyone loved. By the following morning our trip had all but ended and we were genuinely sad to part with our new found friends. We caught a flight later that day not home but to Thailand to see the boat that Rob was having built. Our time in Thailand was very short and before we knew it we were flying once again back to England and to a half built house and a country still in recession.
Keshi was not for sale but gave me great insight into the importance of looking at boats that not only gave you a nice place to live, but also performed well. We spent June and July looking at Privilege less and less as it was fast spiralling out of our budget. This pushed us into looking at the older version of the Xquisite X5 that we had seen at shows. The X5 predecessor was a Dean 5000 and visually almost identical to the X5. Sadly there was very little data to tell us how well it performed and at 18 tonnes (10 tonnes heavier than the 46ft Keshi) I needed to know more. As I am sure you could tell by our impromptu trip to Thailand we were very motivated buyers but when we were told to charter a Dean 5000 to find out what it sailed like I must admit to being a little put off… and so our search went on and in August it led us to a Knysna 500. What’s more, there was one for sale!!
A 2013 50ft Knysna was for sale for US$695k meaning it was within our price range. I had previously organised a European cycling tour which meant climbing three mountains in three countries in three days (there were three of us!). No hindsight is a wonderful thing and now I wish i had looked at this boat closer and been more Impulse-ive. It sold as I was away.
I hadn’t actually found out much about these, but they looked nice and, at a not too podgy 12 tonnes, it might be a good enough performer. So whilst I licked my wounds and got on with the loft conversion I started to ask more questions about this South African offering. Now during this time I got to hear about another one for sale, maybe I would get a "Second Chance"! September and October were spent working on the house 6 days a week and asking for more photos and sailing performance such as being able to hove-to.
In fairness, the timing was the worst it could possibly be. The house at this point was literally being torn down around me as the builders were knocking through from the old house and into the extension and attic above. Such was the mess that for weeks in November and December we didn’t have a kitchen nor bathroom facilities and Pook moved out to stay with my parents.
We finished 2018 financially poorer than when we had started but happy that the year had made us new friends. We did not know, but the new year would also find us missing our Second Chance and once again licking our wounds of disappointment.