11 March 2008 | Zihuatanejo, Mexico
OK, enough of the warm-n-fuzzy, "up close and personal" stories of our trip. Lets get into the nitty-gritty of the boat itself, its systems, and some of the thought processes involved in getting Meridian set for a trans-oceanic trip.
Meridian is a 48' cutter-rigged sloop (1 mast, with 2 sails forward of the mast), built by Tayana Yachts in Taiwan. She is considered a mid-displacement boat, but carries a fairly significant weight of 45,000 lbs. This weight gives us a comfortable, solid ride. Where lighter, and thus faster, boats would be pounding on top of the seas, we cut through most waves and swells. This gives a more-relaxed motion, albeit at a reduced pace vs. lighter vessels.
We are a "center cockpit" design...fairly obvious in its description. As compared to aft-cockpit boats, CC designs allow for a somewhat drier ride topside, and a more spacious aft-cabin below. This aft cabin is our master stateroom, and affords Nancy and me a nice retreat at the end of the day. Meridian has 2 additional staterooms...the "V" berth, in the very front, or bow, of the boat, where the girls sleep, and a small, "Pullman"-type cabin that we presently use as storage and call the garage.
We have 2 heads with showers, but we have converted one of the shower stalls to a pantry so we can store more provisions. I really don't know where we could keep all the foods we have on board otherwise. An in-line galley is fairly complete with fridge and freezer, propane-fueled stove and oven, and microwave. Hot and cold pressurized water runs throughout the boat.
In the main salon (living area) is the nav station. This is where our navigation and communications gear is installed. We can listen and talk on VHF and HAM/SSB radios, monitor the radar and electronic chart-plotter, check our location with one of 4 GPS devices, monitor the electrical goings-on of the battery banks and the various DC-powered appliances, and check the operational status of the diesel generator. In addition, we have the laptop and printer located at the nav station. It's a busy place, but if you need info in a hurry, this is the spot.
The salon itself is nothing more than 2 settees (couches), one on either side, and a salon table where meals, school, and general living takes place.
If you think squeezing all this into a footprint 48 feet long and 14 feet wide sounds like a trick, you're right. Spaces are much smaller than you are accustomed to in a house, and the efficient utilization of area necessitates sacrifices. Everything is a bit smaller, more compact and cramped, than on land.
As for systems, think of it this way: we are basically our own little city. We make our own power and water, we need to constantly monitor and adjust our energy and products-consumption, and we have to be cognizant of waste-production. Systems include an auxiliary diesel engine (our main propulsion engine), a diesel generator (another motor that produces AC current for battery-charging and other AC systems), a reverse-osmosis water maker that basically squeezes the salt out of sea water so we can drink it, an air-conditioning unit that can also be used as a furnace, a condense and cold-plate for refrigeration, AC and engine-fueled water heater, pressurized propane for cooking fuel, an AC-powered washer/dryer, a TV, stereo, and a multitude of lights and other electrical goodies. In addition to all this are the pumps that keep water either in, or out, of the boat. At last count I had 9 different pumps, all with various tasks...fresh water pump, bilge pumps, deck wash-down pumps, shower pumps, macerator pump, hydraulic pump...and all the hosing and tubing necessary to connect them to their respective burdens.
Other systems include an electronic/ hydraulic auto-pilot, a self-steering wind vane, radar, electronic navigational gear, and safety-related items. As for the latter, fire-control and abandon-ship systems are the most critical. Plenty of fire-extinguishers and a stout liferaft are constant companions, though hopefully neither will be called upon.
Our inflatable dinghy and outboard engine is essentially our car, and we use them multiple times per day when at anchor. And speaking of anchors, we carry 3, and are looking for a 4th. Our primary hook is an 88 lb Delta with 300' of chain. A Fortress fx-37 is on the stern, and a larger Fortress, an fx-55, is below-decks in case of truly heavy weather. So far we have enjoyed over 150 nights at anchor, in multiple locations, without incident. Fingers crossed...
Water tanks, diesel tanks, holding tanks, safety gear, man-overboard gear, various sails and sail-control systems, and all the personal kitsch that makes a boat a home round out the load we carry. It is a constant battle to feed and nurture all these devices and systems, and I can now truly appreciate the adage "Cruising is merely working on your boat in exotic places". How true.