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January 14th – Three Years Since Our Ticket to Ride Arrived!

It is so hard to believe that Ticket to Ride was unloaded from the container ship on January 14, 2019. Three years have already passed aboard this floating home of ours, and these years have held some significant surprises!

TTR lowered into the water in Long Beach, CA.

Thankfully, the surprises have come externally and not from within the performance or quality of this HH55 catamaran. Can you say Worldwide Pandemic?  

We continue to be thrilled with the design and construction of TTR and are extremely happy we were able to customize her to fit our needs. We could not have achieved these changes without the design help of marine architects Morrelli and Melvin or the willingness of HH to implement the adjustments.  It has also been gratifying to see some of those changes carried forward on the HH cats that have launched since ours. 

After three years on the water, Ticket to Ride has 20,000+ nautical miles under her keels. Our travels have not taken us where we expected, but we have been blessed with incredible experiences regardless of the changes in plans.

When we decided to move to a performance cat, we knew we would have to “step up” our sailing game and we wanted to push ourselves to a higher level rather than remain with the usual production boat standards. Learning to sail TTR was not difficult, thought it did take me a bit of time to become comfortable with the increased power she generates.

Most people want to know how fast TTR sails, which is a difficult question to answer since the conditions clearly dictate the answer. We can say that Ticket to Ride has recorded speeds in the upper 20 knot range when we had professional help on board and we were putting the boat through her paces. On our own, we have recorded speeds of a little over 23k when surfing down waves, and we often sail in the mid-teens; so clearly this boat can go even without the pros on board.  

Owning this performance catamaran is similar to owning a performance car in the city; we don’t push TTR to her abilities, but it’s nice to be able to “step on it” when necessary.

Frank loves passages making, but I prefer sailing in the daylight, so one thing I really like about TTR is that passages which would have been overnights or anchor up in the dark on our first sailboat are often day sails for Ticket to Ride. 

TTR sailing in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

When making plans for a passage on TTR, we anticipate average speeds of 8.5k or about 200 nm days, but we often arrive more quickly than we anticipate. In fact, early days in Mexico, we had a couple of trips where we arrived during the night because we had sailed much faster than expected. We have had to learn to adjust our thinking and anticipate a faster than predicted arrival to insure we arrive in anchorages during daylight.

I asked Frank to name three things he really likes about TTR and they are:

  1. Performance/confidence: this is an obvious one. Simply put, Ticket to Ride is very solidly built and the components/gear are excellent. This leads to greater confidence in the boat which is a huge benefit.
  2. Upwind sailing performance: in reasonable wind, TTR is capable of sailing at about a 40 degree true wind angle which equates to about 27 degrees apparent. The dagger boards allow us to point well and we do not side slip. This means sailing upwind is both possible and usually pretty quick.
  3. Interior Lighting: this surprised me, but one thing Frank really likes is the lighting in our boat. HH was very generous with canned lighting and rope lighting inside the boat. Plus the lights can be dimmed/brightened depending on what look we want to achieve. Essential? No. But the lighting is a nice perk.
TTR anchored at Santa Cruz, CA.

If we have to think of things we miss about our Helia 44, Let It Be, Frank came up with two things:

  1. Indestructibility of mini-keels: although we would absolutely not trade our dagger boards for mini-keels, knowing we could easily allow Let It Be to come to rest on a sandy bottom to allow us to clean the hulls without damaging the mini-keels was a big convenience. And mimi-keels allowed us to anchor in very shallow water. That was a nice convenience, though not worth the sailing performance trade off.
  2. Ease of sail changes with one person: it is certainly possible to make sail changes with only one person on TTR, but it was easier to do so on Let It Be. While one person can make sail changes on Ticket to Ride, it is faster and easier to have two people involved on TTR, especially if the wind is piping up. Sailing TTR requires more attention than was required on our Fountaine Pajot.

This is an abbreviated list of things we like about Ticket to Ride. There is a longer comparison post here.

Los Gatos in the Sea of Cortez

So where has TTR traveled these last three years? We have sailed from California to Mexico three times with only one return trip from Mexico to California. Our second departure from Mexico, we sailed to the Hawaiian Islands because Covid-19 shut down our transit to French Polynesia. For 15 months we sailed in Hawaii and had the opportunity to explore the coast of nearly every island.  We spent only about 3 months in marinas while we were in Hawaii, the rest of the time we moved from island to island or anchorage to anchorage. Because of the coronavirus, Hawaii was in lockdown for most of our time there and as a result, we saw Hawaii with fewer people than it has had in decades. We were able to explore trails and tie to mooring balls in places we would not have seen in times open to tourism.

After waiting over a year to see if French Polynesian boarders would open, we acknowledged that we needed to make other plans. Thus we pointed our bows northeast and sailed to Alaska.

Ticket to Ride nosed into Sitka, Alaska on June 26th and we explored our way around the Inside Passage for more than two months before entering Canadian waters.

TTR looking tiny in Dundas Bay, AK

Fortunately Canada opened her boarders and we were able to make a few stops as we moved south toward Washington State. We only had a little over three weeks in Canada and we agree that returning to explore Canada and Alaska further would be a delightful addition to our itinerary someday.

While in Washington, we were a little pressed by weather to move south, away from the northerly weather systems, but we did manage to meet with a few cruising friends; Lynda Jo and Greg who we met on Union Island, St. Vincent/ Grenadines and Pam and Howard, whom we met in the Sea of Cortez. 

While in Washington, we had only a few days to visit the San Juan Islands, which is a shame because they are a fun cruising area. But again, that leaves us with more places we could enjoy visiting again.

From Washington State, we skipped straight down to San Francisco, then Long Beach and San Diego.

TTR in Max Cove, Prince of Wales Island

Our itinerary has been incredibly fortunate considering that the whole world has been dramatically altered since Covid-19 raised its ugly head. We were lucky to have an outdoor home that allowed us to explore when openings occurred but also kept us relatively untouched by the virus.

As for Ticket to Ride, covid or no covid, she has been great.  When we first discussed replacing  our Fountaine Pajot, Let It Be, we were looking for a larger, faster and more comfortable catamaran. We thought we would have to choose either speed or comfort, but this M&M designed HH catamaran has provided us with both. 

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Why Buy a “Ticket to Ride” When We Could Just “Let It Be?” or Why We Bought a Performance Cat.

Fairly often we are asked why we sold our 44′ Fountaine Pajot catamaran, Let It Be, and bought our Hudson Hakes 55′ catamaranTicket to Ride. The follow up questions are usually “how different are the boats?” and “was the change worth it?”

Well the answers are pretty involved, but we must begin by saying that Frank and I would probably not have ordered an HH55 unless we were certain the cruising lifestyle worked for us.  I have read that as few as 30 percent of couples who decide to live on a boat for an extended time actually complete their plan. That means about 70 percent of the partners who begin this journey do not enjoy it enough to continue as long as they planned. Before investing in Ticket to Ride, we had already learned that we enjoyed the cruising lifestyle and that it would be a long term choice for us.

Let It Be was a trustworthy boat and clearly capable of the circumnavigation recently completed on an FP 44′ by our friends Amy and David of s/v Out Chasing StarsSo obviously our decision was driven by other factors.

Rather, we were in search of three things: more space, more speed and more sailing. Plus there was a strong “why not?” factor.

Recently I read a well written blog about a couple who found cruising just wasn’t for them . The main complaints were that their boat was slow, they were the last to arrive at a destination and their motor use/sail use proportion was 73 motor/27 sail. That would be very frustrating.

The difference in how often we sail Ticket to Ride versus Let It Be is tremendous, especially because now we can sail well to windward. Clearly having dagger boards rather than mini keels is a huge advantage in sailing to windward. Combine the excellent design of our hull and dagger boards with the piercing bows and significant sail plan on TTR and we find that we sail much more than we motor. At wind angles that allow sailing, TTR usually sails faster than she can motor. Overall on TTR, I would estimate that we sail 70-80 percent of the time and here in Hawaii that percentage has risen to about 90.

TTR sailing off Long Beach, CA.

I remember a particularly frustrating day when we were sailing Let It Be from Barbuda back to Antiqua. The day was beautiful but the sail was upwind and we had to tack and tack and tack because the best we could point on LIB was about 73 degrees true and 52 degrees apparent.  At those angles we also suffered from side slipping so achieving our destination was time consuming and frustrating.

Later we bought some very nice North 3Di sails for Let It Be and we improved our apparent wind angle capability by about 5 degrees (68 true/47 apparent) but those angles still didn’t allow us to head to wind well and often we used our motor(s) to help.

The angles I’ve mentioned are probably pretty standard for production cats with mini-keels, so there is no shame in those numbers for Fountaine Pajot. We thoroughly enjoyed our Fountaine Pajot and are very glad LIB was our first sailboat.

TTR sailing at a TWA of 60, and AWA of 28, boat speed 6.9 in 7.5 knots of breeze.

Sailing Ticket to Ride is completely different because even in ocean waves we can sail at 47-50 degrees true wind angle with an apparent wind angle of about 29-30 degrees. Combine those tighter wind angles with the dagger boards which keep us from side slipping, and we actually sail where we are pointing.

Clearly pointing better allows us to sail much more directly to our destinations without using engines and that reduces frustration and improves our arrival time. 

When we were route planning on LIB, we would hope to average 6 to 6.5 knots but on passage our average number of nautical miles per 24 hours tended to be about 140 or 5.8 knots of boats speed. I’m certain others with a FP Helia have better speed averages, but we were conservative about sailing a socked assymetric spinnaker at night, so that lowered our average speeds.

On this sailing day in Hawaii, TTR has boat speed of 23.1 in 24.4 knots of wind.

On Ticket to Ride, we route plan anticipating an average boat speed of 8.5 to 9 knots but we usually have better speeds than that and end up arriving earlier than expected. On TTR a 200 nm day (8.3 average) is casual and routine sailing and we have had several comfortable 250 nm days (10.42 average).

The really nice thing about the faster speeds of TTR is that what are overnight sails for many boats often become long day sails for us. This means we don’t hesitate to “pop over” to anchorages that on LIB would have required an overnight or partial night passage. Faster sailing brings more opportunities and willingness to explore additional anchorages.

The other obvious advantage of sailing faster in TTR is that our passage time is shorter so our exposure to weather is shorter. Although we do our best to avoid bad weather, if we encounter systems, we have a better chance of outrunning or avoiding storms on Ticket to Ride than we did on Let It Be.

In the article I referenced above, my take away was that two of the main frustrations were first how slow the boat sailed:   “It’s pretty demoralizing to be passed by every boat on the sea, especially when it was rough out.”  The second frustration was that they only sailed 20-27 percent of the time and the rest was spent motoring or motor sailing.

I completely understand how frustrating that would be and I think I would also want to throw in the towel or move to a motor cat if we were always using the motor and our speeds were slow. 

The standard rigging on the HH55 is more sophisticated and precise than it was on our FP.  One example is that the HH55 rigging uses Karver Hooks for reefing the main sail. Karver Hooks are fixed to the boom and attached to the mainsail through a designated loop. The benefit of the hook is that the reef is always in the same place and the reef in the sail is clean and properly aligned every time.**

On Let It Be, we had the standard 2:1 main halyard held in place with clutches and, while we could reef from the helm, our reef point varied depending on how tightly it was pulled and how well the line ran. Our reefs on LIB were not always clean and well aligned, especially at night when we could not see well.

Another example of more sophisticated rigging is the use of halyard locks for sail lines. Once we raise a sail, we make sure it is engaged in the halyard lock, then release all the pressure from the line. The sail is held aloft by the locking mechanism rather than by tension on a line. Learning to use the locks took very little practice and the benefits are; our lines are not under load when the sail is up, we have a shorter halyard because it is a 1:1 ratio instead of 2:1 length ratio, and the diameter of the line is much smaller. Removing the load from the halyards also lengthens the life of the lines and clutches.**

TTR stretching her legs.

There are some performance sailboats that bring speed to the table but sacrifice interior space and amenities to make sure the boat remains light. We looked at a couple of performance cats that were longer overall than the HH55 but they had less interior space than our 44′ FP. The HH55 definitely has more room than our FP had.

The designer for this HH Catamaran, Morrelli and Melvin, has a long history of go fast boats including several Gunboats.  The Gunboats I have seen are fast and modern, but somewhat spartan inside.  Our HH is fast but also has all the luxuries we want for living aboard our boat. We think Morrelli and Melvin’s HH55 design is the perfect combination of speed and space still manageable for a couple.

When discussing the strengths of our HH, we must include the materials and manufacturing of the boat. This cat is made of carbon fiber which is strong and light.  The boat has very little flex and is extremely quiet under sail – no creaking in the rigging. We have greater confidence in the strength of this boat than we did in our fiberglass sailboat. Every part manufactured at HH is cut using a CNC machine so the fit of the parts is excellent and we have confidence that each part is made to the proper specifications.

“Why Not?” We bought the boat we really wanted.

Finally, let’s talk about the “why not” factor. Frank worked very hard to provide excellent care for his patients and have a successful business. We were conservative stewards of his income and, while we lived well, we rarely spent our money on flashy cars or a lot of extremely high end items. 

When considering a new sailboat, we definitely decided to let go of our circumspect mentality and buy the boat we wanted without regard to the statement it made. We sort of said, “why not” get what we want and not worry about how others perceive our choice. We decided the HH55 worked within our budget and we were going to go for it.

During a day trip down the Nā Pali Coast we anchored TTR while we explored land for a bit.

When looking for a new boat, we were at a point in our sailing where we could maintain our level of experience and buy a larger production boat; or we could step up the performance of the boat and our experience level by sailing a faster and slightly more sophisticated boat. We wanted to challenge ourselves and grow through the new boat.

I was more hesitant about the image of an expensive boat than Frank was, but we are extremely happy with our HH and wouldn’t change our decision.  Although I was concerned the boat might put people off, she has actually increased the number of people we meet. TTR is rather eye catching and folks tend to paddle up, motor up, or approach us dockside to ask about TTR. We love meeting new people this way and sharing TTR with friends.  With her ample space, Ticket to Ride is often the gathering place for sundowners or dinners and we like creating those memories and sharing our floating home. 

Pictures of just a few of our guests over the last 21 months.

One final “why not” note; we both feel the importance of “loving your boat.”  Big or small, mono or cat, white, pink or blue, when you approach your boat in the dinghy or welcome guests on your boat, we feel it is important to “love your boat.”  We liked LIB for introducing us to the cruising lifestyle and taking us to many beautiful places. However, having the opportunity to build our own boat that meets our personal cruising needs and even have it painted the color of our choice all added to our “boat love” category. 

We do our best to savor the sunsets.

Living on a sailboat is not all sunset cruises with umbrella drinks. Routine chores take much longer than on land and require more effort; like walking to the grocery and carrying your groceries on your walk home.  Power and water must be monitored and carefully used; no more 20 minute showers with unlimited hot water. Moving from point A to point B takes a long time and if you don’t learn to enjoy the process of sailing to get to point B, you will probably not enjoy cruising. If you are a “type A” person you will need to learn to let go of the reins; a schedule is your enemy.  Nature, not you, determines your timing.

This is what we like to see from mother nature during hurricane season!

Cruising is definitely more challenging than living on land and it takes some time to adjust to moving at a slower pace and expending great effort to do things that were so easy on land. 

For Frank and me, sailing has worked very well. We have learned to enjoy the slower pace and embrace the rhythms of nature that guide our decisions. We have adjusted to spending all of our time together and we have become a team, focusing on the same goals.

I hope this offers a little understanding of why we chose to move from our Helia 44 to the HH55. If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments and we will do our best to respond.

**These features may not be included in the 55′ Ocean Series or the HH50 Catamarans.

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