To commission an Opus
Ask anyone who their favourite band is, or what their favourite movie is and you can never get a right or wrong answer as everyone has their own personal preference. This also applies in a big way to boats. There are a lot of good boats on the market, and the choices can be difficult. This article is about what led us to commission Lightwave Yachts to build us a Lightwave 38 catamaran, the perfect choice for ourselves and our situation.
Choosing a boat should always start by precisely defining what you most want the boat for, and will indeed frequently use it for. If your requirement is to host an ‘It’s a Knockout’ style rowing competition in an Olympic swimming pool, a little rowboat with obligatory holes drilled in the bottom will suffice. Our purpose is somewhat different. Having lived aboard in the same marina now for four and a half years, it always amazes me how infrequently some boats ever leave the marina, or even get used for any purpose at all. We wanted to be certain to buy a boat that is easy to manage and perfectly suited to our needs.
So what do we want a cruising catamaran for? Naomi and I started our sailing days together sailing and racing a Nacra beach catamaran in South East Queensland in 1999. While we loved the speed and exhilaration of flying a hull while sailing and racing Nacras, we also really enjoyed being able to take friends and family out for a casual sail to share the experience. It was around this time that we first became interested in cruising catamarans after coming across the first review of the Lightwave 10.5 in Multihull World magazine in 1999. We also became a little interested in the rather foreign idea of living aboard (well at least to our families). We were very excited to see and inspect a Lightwave catamaran for the first time at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in 2000. Of all the boats we looked at, we personally found the styling of this boat very striking, and in a sense the curved styling and symmetric hulls were like an oversized Nacra that looked fast as well. Given that we were only just married and I was still completing university, we put a liveaboard catamaran into the long-term wishlist basket at the time. This did not dissuade us from setting in motion a plan to see us eventually find ourselves on a cruising catamaran for a home. To test the waters regarding living aboard, we bought a 36’ Jeanneau monohull as our first liveaboard boat in 2008. We have since lived on this in Townsville. We have also had the opportunity to cruise with family and friends to the Palm Isles, Hinchinbrook Island and the Whitsundays, not to mention frequently visiting Magnetic Island in our back yard. The primary purpose for our present boat, and its successor is for it to be a long-term liveaboard home, with frequent use on weekends, and for short or longer coastal cruises. Eventually, we would also like to embark on the occasional cruise to Vanuatu, New Caledonia or New Zealand.
For our transition to a cruising multihull, we chose to have a Lightwave 38 built by Roger and Louise Overell, of Lightwave Yachts on the Gold Coast. There are many reasons as to why we arrived at that decision, but the following stand out the most.
Safety: Safety is a number one priority for both ourselves and the family and friends we take sailing. We believe there are some inherent attributes of cruising catamarans that lead to improved safety, but these details are beyond the scope of this article. Some features specific to the LW38 that we were impressed with are the strong monocoque foamsandwich construction with watertight compartments built into the bow, keel and stern sections. This aspect alone gives us the confidence that if a collision with debris and subsequent holing were to occur while sailing at night, you wouldn’t necessarily be looking to abandon to a liferaft. We have also opted for an emergency re-entry hatch in the unlikely event of capsize. Although dependent on the style of sailing you wish to undertake, we believe these are an important safety feature for offshore or long coastal passages. Not to have one is akin to not having a fire extinguisher. No one ever means to capsize, just like no one ever means for their boat to catch fire.
Protection from the elements: While we all love to get outdoors and get a bitof sunshine, living in the tropics means a lot of the time that you spend sailing you are trying to avoid the sun. We really liked the Lightwave 2010 Forte revisions that extended the coachroof to provide more sun protection for the cockpit area. This will also prove very comfortable while sailing through tropical downpours.
Durable Interior furnishings: Living aboard a yacht full-time places significantly more demands on the interior of a boat than weekend trips or occasional coastal cruises. The high quality, durable and low-maintenance furnishings that are present in the Lightwave catamarans will be superb in this regard. The moulded furniture finished off with our selected Rosewood cupboards and trims, and two-pack paint throughout will be very easy to keep clean and maintain.
Live-aboard amenities: We have specifically sought to install a Raritan Marine Elegance toilet together with a large 165 litre holding tank. Although it only gets used when we go sailing, we have been completely satisfied with the Raritan Marine Elegance toilet that we installed on our present boat four years ago. In fact, it only once got blocked with calcification after we had run it on salt water for about a month while cruising in the Whitsundays. With a larger holding tank, our hope is to reduce the need for middle of the night walks to the amenities block while living in a marina. It will also mean that we can stay for longer periods while cruising or anchoring in protected nil discharge areas.
Australian made: I believe there is good value in getting a high quality Australian made catamaran. Not only can you have the finer details of the boat customised to your liking, but you have the local support of a company that takes immense pride in their workmanship and is supporting Australian jobs. Buying a boat is vastly different to purchasing a production line car with units produced in the tens of thousands. We think it is important to have the ongoing support of a local manufacturer who is not just selling you a boat, but providing you with an experience.
Built-in 88-key Digital Piano: Yes, one of our key requirements. This brings us to the topic of semi-customised production boatbuilding and personal preferences.
Personal Preferences: With boat design there is always compromise, but with the semi-custom boat building philosophy employed by Lightwave Yachts we found this can be minimised. Like most manufacturers, Lightwave offer a number of internal layouts to choose from, but in addition to this they can add personal customisations to suit your needs. In this way, you get a well regarded and well proven production catamaran that is customised to your liking. We have always wanted/needed to be able to fit a relatively large 88-key Digital Piano on our boat (which looks rather odd taking up the entire portside of the saloon in our Jeanneau when not sailing). Not only are Roger and Louise able to accommodate our wish and add it to our options list, we aren’t the first to have this having seen a similar installation aboard the LW45 Skedaddle in Townsville. Without this customisation, our only other option would have been to consider a custom made catamaran, or to modify a production catamaran with extensive and costly remodelling to fit in a piano. Similarly, we really liked the appearance of the entertainment unit and saloon on the Robinson Cruises’ Lightwave 38 Axis Munde and will opt for this also. The flexible and modular nature of the build method makes this possible.
We get the feeling that Roger and Lightwave Yachts are artisans and enjoy crafting a solution that is just right for the owner. Before our boat is due to start construction we will need to incorporate a few more customisations yet, most notably the inclusion of a nursery in one of the cabins.
Some defining moments along the path we have followed: As it took 12 years from the time we first saw a Lightwave to the time we signed up for our own, we have had many experiences along the way that have ultimately affirmed our decision. We have also had ample time to consider and evaluate every alternative cruising catamaran on the market that might have been suitable for our purposes.
Although not as thorough as embarking on a coastal passage, perhaps one of the best available tools for evaluating a boat was to charter one. Yes, there are limitations as to what conditions you can experience, but our five night charter aboard a CumberlandCharter Yachts Lightwave 38 in the Whitsundays in 2009 demonstrated to us the capabilities of the boat and gave us a fantastic platform to undertake some amazing sc uba diving right off the back of the cat in Butterfly Bay and Manta Ray Bay, Hook Island. With just the two of us onboard to sail the boat, we found the Lightwave very easy to sail, moor and anchor. The most remarkable thing to us was how easy it was to manoeuvre a catamaran under motor for picking up moorings in confined settings (with coral close by) or navigating around marinas. We must finally point out that our decision has also been influenced by how helpful Louise and Roger have been in assisting our enquiries and answering our many questions over recent years.
Patience is the only word for it. It is not a decision we have made lightly, but a carefully considered and planned one that will see us with our tailor made Lightwave catamaran to be enjoyed for many years to come.