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Refitting Danica for Offshore Sailing

Glen and Mary Wilson

Danica I
Fountaine Pajot Belize 43, Catamaran
March 26th, 2018

After completing the purchase and registration of Danica I, in March of 2017, we began her refit.

Her first owners sailed her along the coast of Cyprus, Turkey, Greece and Italy for ten years during the summer seasons. She was set up as a comfortable coastal cruiser for traveling between ports and the occasional anchorage, but she was not ready for the open sea.

Five years ago she was purchased by an Australian, who had her delivered from Cyprus to Albatross Marina Boat Yard in Marmaris, Turkey. There she underwent a refit, supervised by the local charter company.  The charter company manager communicated with the owner by email and phone over a four year period, while the boat had a (reported) 100,000 euro refit. A lot of work was done, but not all of it was what an offshore ready boat requires. The engines were hauled out and serviced; standing rigging was replaced; mattresses were replaced; settee covering and cockpit coverings were replaced; a washing machine was installed; an additional freezer was installed; a bowsprit was added, and a new Genoa and main sail were built, but never installed. The owner never saw the boat after the initial purchase and changed his mind about ownership before it was ever relaunched.

As soon as the purchase contract was signed, I started researching, planning and making lists of possible changes. After the boat was registered in mid-March, I flew to Marmaris for a five week stay and worked through the growing lists. I stayed in a hotel that was offering very reasonable off-season rates, with a Mediterranean breakfast. I rented a scooter at a very good price and learned to ride while in Marmaris.

The manager of the charter company who did the initial refit, reviewed the scope of the work and I tried to learn everything I could about the boat. I visited several marine stores, met with a number of contractors and talked to other owners. Everyone was helpful and ready to share as much as they knew. I rewrote my lists several times and I chose a handful of skilled trades to work with.

I started by removing the new, domestic freezer. It had thin insulation and was much too large. It could only be run when plugged in at the dock or while the generator was running, which would not work for offshore. The boat already had a generous fridge and separate freezer. I used the space to install a printer/copier/scanner and a mini office.

I also removed the two air conditioning systems and the generator. The air conditioning was only usable while plugged in at the dock or while the generator was running, which again, would not work for offshore. Danica lost about 1000 pounds of excess weight, important for a catamaran. She is designed for a maximum additional weight of 7500 pounds after leaving the factory, including water and fuel. Over-loading her would diminish performance and put a great deal of additional strain on the rig, which is an important safety consideration.

The next project undertaken was a complete overhaul of the electrical systems including:

  • upgraded all of the major systems by adding fuses or breakers as an added level of safety
  • the installation of 10 Trojan, 230 amp, 6V wet-cell batteries. These have more cycles per dollar than either gel cell or glass mat. The only downsides: they need to have water topped up every four months and they are a slightly heavier.

  • adding four, 250 w, 30V solar panels with a dedicated controller, which manages the power going into the batteries.  The panels are mounted on an arch, which was added between the hulls and aft of the cockpit where they are exposed to minimal shading.

  • fitting both engines with new 120amp alternators and external Balmar regulators for charging underway and for topping up electrical power if needed
  • adding a 3000w inverter to provide the power to operate the washing machine
  • fitting a tri light on the mast head

  • replacement of all of the cabin lights and running lights with LED fixtures and bulbs

Based on our early cruising experience, I feel that the power generated from our solar system should be able to produce enough to run all of electrical systems, which will include our water maker every day, and our washing machine twice per week. Although there may need to be an occasional top up from our engine alternators in inclement weather.

A lightning rod was installed on the masthead and two dissipation plates were installed at the base of each of the shrouds to provide a ground. There is no guarantee that this will stop lightning strike damage, but there is a large body of evidence that says that this installation will reduce the extent of damage.

The electronics were old and outdated, requiring a complete overhaul. For our electronics, I chose Raymarine and installed a complete inside and an outside helm station with chart plotters, wind instruments, and depth and speed indicators:

  • The new auto helm is a heavy duty hydraulic system with two control heads.
  • The AIS system is a Vesper Marine standalone unit that also sends information to the chart plotters.
  • The existing VHF was augmented with another separate station in the cockpit.
  • A SSB radio was installed, including a KISS ground and a special antenna that is installed alongside the shroud, as there is no backstay. It includes a modem for downloading weather information.
  • Last Watch II was added to manage watch keeping. This system can be set to sound a buzzer at, say 12 minute intervals, and be reset with the press of a button. If not reset, an alarm is sounded to alert the rest of the crew or wake the slumbering watch.
  • A Furuno Navtex Weather Receiver was added. This allows up-to-date weather texts to be streamed in English on the screen throughout Europe, which makes this item invaluable in the Mediterranean.

The cook top and oven were replaced with a new Force 10 unit. (This was well received by the admiral and chef.) The gas was entirely re-plumbed with a monitor and solenoid. A carbon monoxide monitor was also added.

The forward queen berth on the port side was removed and the space was remodeled to serve as a shop. This included a work bench with vice, shelves, cupboards and storage.

The original trampoline was replaced, and an area of trampoline was added to the bow sprit to allow safer access to the furling gear for the Code zero and asymmetrical spinnaker.

A new bimini was added to allow full coverage of the cockpit. A removable enclosure was included for inclement weather and an alternate enclosure with netting for the various environments we expect to encounter.

Grab rails were installed around the cabin top and the bimini. Solid life lines were installed along both sides and a set of granny bars were installed on each side of the mast. Jack lines were installed down both sides of the cabin top and on the coach house roof.

The genoa furling system was replaced when pieces started falling from the sky. The mainsheet traveler was removed and was rebuilt. The masthead was modified to add a spinnaker block crane and two- 2 to 1 sheets were installed. Lateral braces were added to the bow sprit. All of the old sheets and halyards were replaced.

A new ridged inflatable dingy was rigged to the davits with a 5-1 tackle. A 15 HP and a 2.5 HP outboards were rigged to cranes and mounted on the stern rail.

A Jordon Series Drogue is stored in the cockpit. Cleats and rollers were specially installed for taking the loads and providing a fair lead over the stern, should the drogue be needed.

Danica came with a new and a lightly used set of white sails. We added:

  • a code zero on a furling with a light weight UV strip so that it can be left up and easily deployed with minimal fuss, as needed
  • an asymmetrical spinnaker with top-down furling system for downwind sailing in light air
  • a storm jib that can be rigged with a sleeve over the furled Genoa, for heavy weather conditions

We replaced the anchor with a Rocna 33 and 450 feet of 5/16 G4 chain. We kept the original Delta as a secondary and a Fortress as a stern anchor.

In addition to the items I’ve noted, there are dozens of other smaller projects that were undertaken, but it would be too tedious to list them all.

We spent four months in the fall, sailing Danica in Turkish and Greek waters as a shake down to test our systems and to learn the finer points of sailing a catamaran. We are very pleased with her performance, both as a sailing vessel and as a comfortable live aboard. We now feel we have completed her refit, and are ready to sail Danica on any ocean during a round-the-world cruise. We plan to get underway in April of 2018.

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  1. Ken Christie says:

    Glen, thank you for the teaching, now and in the past. I love the way you get the right things done.

  2. Adriana says:

    Great article thanks Glen and Mary. Can you ball park the cost of boat, purchase transaction costs and refit?

    All the best with your round your world adventure!

    1. Glen and Mary Wilson says:

      Refitting Danica
      Cost are roughly
      360,000 Purchase
      120,000 Refit
      I hope that is helpful

      1. Brandon says:

        Did you guys set sail, do you have somewhere we can follow?

  3. Tony and Karin (Mayaluga) says:

    You have certainly hit all the essential items which will pay off for extended cruising. Now that we are land-based again we will get our sailing “fix” by living vicariously through your adventures. If you ever need crew …….. :-). LOL

  4. Jane Poulston s/v Ta-b says:

    Great job. We did a similar number to our FP Bahia when we bought her over ten years ago. We spent five years in the Med, so if you want any information check out our blog http://www.sailblogs/member/poulston. We would highly recommend doing the EMYR rally before you leave Turkey. Also our trip up to Venice was another highlight. Fair winds