Fountaine Pajots are production built catamarans and like any production line the deviations are limited because of their impact on the whole process for your boat, and the others coming through. Still there are many aspects you can tailor to suit your needs, timing and budget both factory and ex factory. Having already owned a FP Lipari 41 Evo (Too Up) which we had in charter in Sydney we had some experience with the standard kit and options. Keith has extensive experience in the marine industry and a great network to draw on for advice. We also had fantastic support and advice from our dealer (MultiHull Solutions) and numerous forums, websites, blogs and other FP owners have been consulted to help us to make our decisions. Although the Helia is soon to cease production, replacement models will build on the overall FP theme and many of our options will equally apply to other models and makes of catamaran. We were fortunate to be there in La Rochelle to see our baby go in the water, click here to share the moment.
Click here for some practical information on picking up in La Rochelle. Also some photos from around this lovely town.
Firstly a word about the Maestro layout. While we will have family and friends joining us, this is primarily a boat for the two of us and essentially our home for the majority of the year. The Maestro layout gives us plenty of space and storage, including our own separate shower and heads and space for the all important washing machine! We had the Maestro layout with our Lipari (Too Up) and were really happy with it.
Here is a list of options we chose to have fitted at the Fountaine Pajot factory. FP offer 3 versions with different combinations of inclusions (GL, OV and CV) we went for CV the Comfort Version (maximum inclusions) which covered items such as the audio pack with 4 speakers, which we upgraded to BOSE; 220V main system with charger 60A; 2000W Inverter/charger / 220V 50hz; video TV/HIFI & TV/radio antenna & additional electric freshwater pump to name a few.
Engines - We upgraded to VOLVO 50HP D2 engines (40HP is standard) and 3-blade folding props. The additional HP does not give us much more speed but it does give that extra grunt in sloppy conditions plus the ability to maintain an acceptable motoring speed when cruising on one engine - this in itself extends the motoring range. We had Propspeed antifouling for the props as we were very pleased with their performance on our Lipari, albeit in Australian conditions. Note that Uchimata apply the Propspeed and there is a narrow window for them to do this while the boat is on the hard stand after delivery and FP are doing the anti-fouling. We noticed that although the the boat was resting on blocks on its keels, no-one came to antifoul under the keel as it was lifted, so not sure if that has been done.
Cockpit clears we found really essential from experience with our Lipari. They can easily be rolled up and/or removed when not in use. They certainly extended the season in Sydney and we stayed on the boat and dined outside right through winter. We went with the FP ones as it was just easy. Make sure the one near the sliding cockpit door does not rub on the plexiglass. We also noted that the rear clears exclude the rear seat that we have on the Helia evo that was not on the original Helia so suspect that the design was not changed between models. It has not been enough of an issue to have these modified as most of the time in the Med we haven't had them on.
For the helm station we opted for the soft bimini and all around bimini tent. This is more extensive than we had previously but we will be doing more all weather sailing so feel this will be worthwhile. It has already proven its worth when sailing in heavy rain and even stronger winds when you have to be on watch, particularly at night. It makes a real difference to be warm and protected, and is a great breakfast hothouse on a cold morning.
Transom protectors we felt were a must - we are new to Med mooring after all! Having said that the are not that substantial and unless we move the RIB they won't come near the dock. Some cushioning around the back corners of the transom would be more useful, particularly for "touch and gos" picking up guests and at fuel docks. We had thick rubber covers on the edges of the sugar scoops on our Lipari and these saved a lot of dings in the gelcoat. We bought some "chocolate bar" fenders to wrap around the corners now, much more useful.
In terms of auto-pilot we went for their GARMIN Pack 1 : Autopilot, VHF, AIS, GPS 7410, 2*multi GMI20 with Radar + support + wiring and WiFi amplifier (BadBoy). We only went for the one chart plotter at the helm station as we use the iPad at the nav station for plotting and and planning. The iPad Pro has our duplicate Garmin charts through the Active Captain App. See under Resources/Apps for more information.
Kitchen appliances we have the standard FP supplied 2 drawer fridge. This model has to angled slots for wine bottles that are not great for bottles that have been re-corked. We have rather indulgently added the cockpit fridge (Aussies are too lazy to walk the extra 2.5 steps to get a beer!) Seriously though, this is great for keeping wine, ice cubes (freezes them better than opening the main freezer - we haven't felt the need for an ice-maker) and the milk - frequently used items - this smaller fridge loses less cold air when opened.
Oven - we went with the standard gas hob and oven, no microwave. That was really based on how we cook at home. We don't do a lot of baking or grilling and really don't like what microwaves do to food. On our Lipari in Australia the gas oven was very slow to heat up and never really got to a decent temperature. On the Helia in Europe the oven heats up much more quickly and gets to a good temperature. The difference? We think it may well be that the regulator and oven are better suited to butagas, which is standard in Europe, whereas we had Propane in Australia. This theory remains to be tested.
We decided to include the washing machine 5KG 230V from the factory, although we know others have just bought their own (much cheaper) from camping stores etc. FP are reluctant to fit the plumbing without supplying the machine, however some have had success convincing them to do so. Our washing machine turned out the be the "canary in a coal mine" for the issue with our Genset (which was not set to run at 50Hz, see later)
We have gone with all 3 electric salt water heads. We considered fresh-water heads because of our experience with nasty smells on race boats' heads, however we can confirm that there are no issues with smells when heads are being used regularly. I imagine freshwater heads would chew through alot of freshwater, particularly with guests on board. Maintenance of saltwater heads is important though and avoiding the build up of "scale" in the pipes (caused by a chemical reaction between wee and salt water) is critical if you dont like taking apart blocked toilets. A monthly flush through with Hydrochloric or Muriatic acid will do the trick, and will take you back to high school chemistry class. In addition we flush with freshwater if we are in a dirty marina (just using a bucket), and leave fresh water in the pipes and tanks if heads are out of use for a while. Holding tanks are pretty small, even though there is space for larger tanks. If you are doing alot of sailing in closed waterways you may need to consider larger tanks.
Gennaker (and all of the associated gear) - of course we need one if we are going to get around at a reasonable pace off the wind looking like legends! Did I mention we used to race yachts?? Seriously though this is a very good sail. The sailmaker clearly knows these boats well and the sail fits the boat, gets the right sheeting angles for the block and winch positions and we have gotten some excellent speeds out of it. It is worth remembering this if you are thinking about getting your favourite sailmaker to make one for you instead. If the sail does not fit as well, you have just added a complication for yourselves. We had a weather strip added in Sicily so that we could feel ok about leaving it up during the day, when the fickle Mediterranean winds see us furling and unfurling... Follow this link for more info on our gennaker and sail plan.
The chain counter at the helm station we found an absolute must to give a clear indication of scope. We anchor as much as possible and certainly don't want to be dragging.
Some things make more sense to fit yourself, for reasons of economy, timing, preference or familiarity (our own and our local agent). Here is a list of the options, much of which was sourced and fitted by our highly regarded local agency Uchimata, we have decided to add to ITIKI after she leaves the Fountaine Pajot factory and why.
RIB - APEX A11 Hypalon with Tohatsu 15HP 4 stroke outboard, whilst we have not had either Apex or Tohatsu before they came highly recommended from others. So far we are pretty happy with both. The outboard is not too difficult to start, even cold you don't have to pull much of an "outboard motor starting face"...
Anchors - We chose the Ultra 35kg as our main anchor as we were extremely happy with the Ultra on our Lipari (Too Up). We upgraded to 100m of 10mm high tensile chain which saved us just over 100kg of weight in the bow. That required the gypsy to be changed over to 10mm as well. We chose a Fortress F37 as our back up anchor for both holding power and weight saving, significantly easier to handle into a RIB if you are having to kedge off.
Watermaker - we chose the Australian brand Rainman - the 240v 120 litre/hour - and had it shipped over with all our gear from Australia. The choice was based on a lot of research and reviews with this one coming out consistently on top. Uchimata put in the skin fitting and ball valve and Keith has done the rest. It runs on 230V and is now wired through to the power point that the washing machine uses so we can run it directly on genset. Alternatively we can take an extension lead to the inverter circuit. We tend to run the engines if we use it on the 230V, it really sucks down on the batteries.
Genset - We chose Northern Lights M673LW3 5KW 220v again based on research and reviews. The reviews on this brand were excellent and it is favoured by a large number of commercial fishing vessels and more recently yachties as well. What we later found out was that this model can be run at either 1800RPM (60Hz) or 1500RPM (50Hz). For us it was set to the former and would therefore not run our 50Hz washing machine. We have subsequently had it tuned down to 1500RPM (50Hz) and the washing machine runs fine. This will also be ok for 60Hz appliances (however the reverse situation is problematic - ie 60Hz Genset can ruin 50Hz appliances). Battery charger is also 45-55Hz so that fits as well.
Solar Panels - as useful as these things are lets face it, they don't look good plastered all over a beautiful white yacht so the less of them you can get away with the better. We wanted at least 1000W and solid panels so that they could be fitted away from the deck to allow some airflow for cooling. Eventually we chose the SunPower X22-360 (22% efficiency) x 3 which at 360W each will give us 1080W and fit reasonably neatly behind the traveller in a basic stainless steel frame (with a little overhang). Panels were wired in parallel to the Victron 150/70 Charge Controller (with bluetooth). We also included a Victron BMV 712S battery monitor (also with bluetooth). Both can be monitored via the VictronConnect App. Big thanks to Peter Libretto a soon to be FP Lucia owner who happens to be one of Australia's leading Solar Panel experts. Also to Lindal Pitcher (WWSM member) for comparing notes over FB Messenger! Unfortunately we were not able to get our frame made for the solar panels in time for our departure from LR, so the frame was made and panels were fitted in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily in November '18. The frame is very simple, stainless and nicely done - see drawing. In fact the panels ended up being a tale of 3 countries (and 2 continents!) Check the blog for a blow by blow description. I don't recommend following our path, but in the end we are very happy with what we have.
AirCon - yes please! Single Cruiser reverse cycle A/C fitted in the saloon with a closable duct to redirect airflow to the owners cabin. Apologies to our guests for being cheapskates and not fitting to all cabins. We do have fans in all cabins and hot water bottles available for those cold winter nights...
Garmin forward facing sonar for navigation, quite good particularly where charts are not that accurate such as many islands in the Pacific. Also handy when rounding unfamiliar capes. Hoping we might spot a fish or two...
Iridium Go satellite phone - probably not so critical in the Med but wanting eventually to cross the Atlantic, ordered a while ago however this may not be the ideal choice reading more recent forums. Let us know your thoughts. We decided not to activate the plan until we need it for the Atlantic crossing. There is pretty good 4G coverage around the coast to get weather information. Most likely this will be out of date technology by the time we cross the Atlantic....
BadBoy WIFI extender. This picks up WiFi signals from surrounding area and allows you to connect to them centrally on board. You then connect your devices to the Badboy (as a central hub). That's convenient because it means you don't have to connect 6 different devices to a new WiFi every time you change locations. In reality though the marina WIFI is rarely better than the 4G connection on your Phone SIM so we have mainly just used these as a hotspot for laptops and iPads etc. Badboy does allow you to connect your wireless printer and print from your devices even when you are not online which is handy. I would say, go with a wireless modem instead, at least you can carry that around with you off the boat.
Parasailor 156m2 in "Red Vision", this along with the Gennaker will give us great flexibility with the wind angles we can sail with and we will look awesome as well! Will be a must to cross the Atlantic with. Just ask Gordon and Louise Coates who swear by theirs, and credit it with their winning performance in the Atlantic Odyssey. Uchimata are an authorised agent for these. We had Uchimata put in an extra winch on the starboard side just above our berth (see below).
Starboard aft winch is not standard
Extra winch - starboard side. For the gennaker and Parasailor this is really useful. Otherwise you would have to use the coach house winches, which means lines crossing beside the helm station. We had this Harken winch "lying around" so we sent it over, and Uchimata fitted it. That involved removing the entire ceiling in the master cabin accompanied by some interesting French vocabulary... We have also found a method to fold back the clears and hold them out of the way of the winches and winch handles whilst using the rear winches. Just using the straps already available. I feel we should set up something a bit more sophisticated, however this works for now.
Things we organised ourselves
Outside, mesh screens for the windscreen: We had these on our Lipari and they worked really well. We had them especially made for ITIKI in LR by Christophe at Voilerie Klein in La Rochelle. They are fitted at the top with a track attached to the eyebrow and press studs at the bottom. They are black so do a great job absorbing and cutting out the heat from the sun without spoiling the beautiful view from the large Helia windows. They also give a little privacy in marinas. From a distance you can't notice them, as the windows are black looking anyway. As they are set back from the window (unlike the FP ones that sit flush) they don't cause any damage by rubbing on the plexiglass. Some pictures below. We don't have curtains inside.
BBQ - a very important topic on any Australian registered yacht. Have to admit this one came down to economics. We purchased our own Webber Baby Q from the local Conforama in La Rochelle. Seriously we could buy 3-4 Webbers for the price we were being quoted supply and install a marine BBQ. Need to have a bracket built to hold it better. Another job to do in winter. Have since also picked up a longer hose and solid grill plate.
Passarelle - Clearly we need one for the Med and everyone says you just toss it out when you leave. We ordered one in teak grating but ended up with one with an aluminium frame. We have had some fun and games setting it up, and will write some more when we know what we are doing.
We like the look of the hydraulic swim platform on the FP Saona, however they don't make them for the Helia and even if they did we probably could not afford it. Keith has designed the "poor mans" version that involves deploying the passarelle from the RIB Davits. I can feel a contribution to "Funniest home videos" coming up...Surely we can just use the SUPs??!
We added quite a few "nice to haves" over the winter '18/'19 so check out our blog to find out more!
"I can't change the direction of the wind, but can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”