Choosing my next sailboat..

A friend asked me what was the decision process involved in choosing my latest boat, a Beneteau First 30 JK which is not your typical/traditional sailboat to say the least. I tried to explain there was method to my madness, or maybe just madness 🙂  I will attempt to articulate the madness as best as I can in this post.  It started a long long long time ago with Nixon…

Racing Nixon in her first regatta in 2004

My first boat was a ’83 J/24 called “Nixon was cool..” (named by previous owners but couldn’t change the name because it was a winning boat). I bought it in 2003 to race one-design because I wasn’t too enamored with handicap racing. The IRC rated RORC offshore races I had participated in in England were a crapshoot. Some old wooden boat finishing last over the line would win on handicap! You never really knew how well you were doing until well after the race. Anyway I digress..

Getting ready to round the downwind mark

I dry raced Nixon in the one design class for 3 years in San Francisco bay which was a great experience but it was hard to cruise her. Every time I wanted to take her out I had to move the trailer to the crane, drop in the water, etc and back again. Too much work and I was getting older 🙂 

I also found out that I really enjoyed light air winter sailing because it required a lot more skill to make the boat sail fast and it was more tranquilo 🙂 In addition I wanted to start sailing outside the bay to explore the Farallones and other destinations on the pacific coast. 

So in 2006 when I started searching for my next boat, my requirements were pretty simple:

  1. A performance boat that I could sail in light airs and potentially race
  2. Offshore capable 

That led to me buy a ‘92 Beneteau First 38s5 which I named “Sudden Stops Necessary”. It was a good sized performance cruising boat that was rigged for bay sailing and it was reasonably priced!

Sudden Stops Necessary – Beneteau First 38s5

I did a lot of cruising inside and outside the bay also started sailing single-handed after I installed a wheelpilot and a monitor windvane which was great fun. It was my form of meditation, the serenity when the boat is sailing in the groove and all you hear is the water rippling past. Glorious  🙂 However I realized the hard way that docking a 38ft boat singlehanded was challenging if the wind piped up. The boat carried a lot of momentum and was hard to handle just by myself.

Then in 2008 I decided I wanted to go cruising and cross the pacific to Australia. For this I needed an ocean ready boat, which Stops was not. But it was the depths of the financial crisis and no one was buying boats. It took 2 years to sell Nixon after halving the asking price!

So I decided to refit Stops for ocean cruising which took up every weekend for over 2 years. I blogged about some of the numerous projects here

Stops with the Symmetrical kite

On both Nixon and Stops I sailed a symmetrical spinnaker with pole, which was great when you had a bunch a crew you needed to keep busy but difficult to carry when shorthanded. So I ended up getting a North G2 75oz asymmetric spinnaker with a sock which I rigged on the anchor roller. 

Here we are flying the asymmetric on Stops just about to cross the equator on my 23 day pacific crossing. Asymmetric was definitely the way to go for shorthanded sailing! 

Anyway, after making it to Australia on Stops we were stuck waiting for a good weather window in the gold coast on our way to Sydney and I started dreaming of my next boat as a way to bribe myself to go back to work in San Francisco 🙂

My list of requirements had expanded somewhat 🙂

  1. A performance boat that I could sail in light airs and potentially race
  2. Offshore capable 
  3. Around 30ft for easier single-handed handing
  4. Bowsprit for better asymmetric spinnaker performance
Secret Agent Man – J/92

That quickly narrowed it down to a J/92 which I named “Secret Agent Man”. Secret Agent Man was a great bay boat, did some racing on it and a lot of single-handing after I installed a tillerpilot. It was easier to sail single handed with the tiller on the J/92 (rather than the big wheel on Stops) because I could go forward and do other things like tacking while still holding onto the tiller extension. 

I also bought a sock for the asymmetric which I used when cruising.  The sock was great but you still needed someone to go up on the bouncing foredeck which was tricky if you are single/short handed and the wind had piped up.

Then I moved to Amsterdam in 2015 and started thinking about my next boat.. It was the same time the latest Vendee Globe was going on and I was really impressed by the use of top down furlers for their spinnakers. They could just be furled and unfurled like a genoa. This led me to investigate top down furlers which were now available at reasonable cost for cruisers. However they have to be installed on fixed and rigid bowsprits because the anti-torsion cable needs significant tension when furling the sail. I also wanted a boat size similar to the J/92 with a tiller for easy of single handing.. And so the list grew..

  1. A performance boat that I could sail in light airs and potentially race
  2. Offshore capable 
  3. Around 30ft for easier single handed handing
  4. Fixed bowsprit to rig a top down furler for the asymmetric 
  5. Tiller for easier single handing 

I looked at quite a few racers/performance cruisers and then I came across the new model Beneteau First 30 JK and I fell in love with the lines. I bought the only used boat in the Netherlands and named her “Magic Carpet”.

Magic Carpet – Beneteau First 30JK

The first production boat designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian (Volvo Ocean Race designer) and Michel Desjoyeaux (two time Vendee Globe winner) she looks a bit like a mini IMOCA Open 60, with a fat arse, twin rudders, hard chines, square topped main, aft mainsheet traveller, plumb bow, fixed bowsprit, T bulb keel and tiller steering but inside she has a proper and “heavy” cruising interior with heating to boot. She is pretty petite at 32ft but feels as big as 38ft Stops. 

Sailing the asymmetric hot on Magic Carpet

So far I have sailed with a sock on the asymmetric but looking forward to installing this Harken Reflex top down furler in the next few weeks!

Harken Reflex Spinnaker Top Furler

Going back to madness, I already have my eye on my next boat.. an Outremer 45 performance cruising catamaran for the tropical circumnavigation I hope to complete some day.. assuming I win the lottery obviously 🙂

Kenneth Grahame was right..

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

J/92 Secret Agent Man is for sale!


I have put Secret Agent Man up for sale with Norm at Sailcal, the J/boats dealer for northern california. I bought the boat from Norm 5 years ago so he knows the boat well 🙂 I really enjoyed SAM over the years but having moved to Amsterdam, it didn’t make sense to keep her.

Here is the Brokerage listing at SailCal asking for $44,900

I bought SAM because I like fast boats and boy is she fast (and rated really well at PHRF 105).  She is the perfect boat for San Francisco Bay where you can sail all year round if you can move in light airs. She does that really well, doing 5 knots on a close reach with only 6 knots of breeze! I raced her a little in the midwinters but mostly sailed her in the bay either single-handed or with crew.

She/he is in very good condition with lots of recent updates. I installed new Raymarine i70 instruments, transducers and an X-5 autopilot in 2012. She has a lightly used set of North racing sails and big cruising inventory, so perfect if want you to race or do some performance cruising in the bay.

Last sail on Secret Agent Man :-(

I can’t believe I have owned SAM for 5 years, time flies when you are having fun! I would be sailing her (him?) for the last time, dropping her off at the broker’s dock in Alameda to be listed for sale.

Sausalito sunrise on SAM. Early start to sort out all the gear on the boat and clean the dreaded dock box..

Peter joined me for the epic final voyage..

Thank the gods it wasn’t raining. Glorious day for sailing in late January. Sunny, 9-13 knots of breeze!

Won’t be seeing this particular view of Alcatraz again..

SAM at the brokers dock in Alameda safe and sound. Brought back memories of when I left Sudden Stops Necessary with the broker in Sydney.

A toast to SAM. Had some amazing times on her, she/he will be sorely missed 🙂

Nail-biting finish for the Vendee.. Go Alex!!

It’s incredible that after 20,000 miles of racing, the top two boats are only 100 miles or so apart. With less than a week and 2000 miles to go, I think Alex has a real chance to win. First Armel has sailed into a hole and the winds look lighter further ahead, so Alex has a chance to gain some miles.

The real opportunity for Alex seems to the big wind that they will enter in the next couple of days. Alex’s boat which is more of a radical design by VPLP sails faster in heavy air and with his starboard foil intact he should be faster that Armel on the last stretch. So if he can get closer, he could win. This would be historic because the french have always won the Vendee, the reason being that all the technology and the know how is shared between the french sailors and not easily accessible to outsiders. So for Alex to win, it would truly be against the odds and a coup against the french mafia. Viva roast beef!! 🙂

Secret Agent Man graces San Francisco bay

Finally got around to putting the name on my new J/92 sailboat, Secret Agent Man. It had to be three worded to keep with tradition and I didn't want to go with Never Again III (which was more apt). My previous boats were all three worded "Sudden Stops Necessary" and "Nixon was cool.." (which I didn't name, I am a liberal!)

Secret Agent Man sporting it's new name.. She/he is a J/92 with a bowsprit for an asymetrical kite.

SAM in yard
Secret Agent Man at Svendsons getting the bottom painted and a new flex-o-fold folding propellor installed.

Track of S/V Sudden Stops Necessary from San Francisco to Sydney

Finally put together the 12,000 nautical mile track of Stops from San Francisco all the way to Sydney using the yotreps position reports I posted once a day when we were on a passage and every time we made landfall.

Click on this link to bring up the interactive track of S/V Sudden Stops Necessary in Google maps

Clicking on the position reports (red dots) on the track brings up the yotreps data. It’s funny to read some of the commentary I put in with the reports…

Only half way around the world…