France is the country when it comes to boats, if you ask me: Blessed with a multitude of thousands of miles long coast line along two big Oceans, looking back onto a rich history of seafaring and a long palmarés of beautiful, fast, steadfast built boats and worldwide known brands, not to mention countless record-holders in sailboat racing. If you like to buy a new sailboat, go for a French brand, that´s always my suggestion. Be it a small, dedicated and special niche-product like the marvelous RM Yachts of La Rochelle or be it one of the most successful cruising boats, like the Oceanis by world market leader Beneteau: French boats will sail well, will sail fast and will sail safe. Same, of course, goes for the used boat market – you won´t find a bigger selection of yachts for sale than here.

Where if not here in France will you find a good sailboat?

You may have read about my decision to finally skip working on refitting the King´s Cruiser 33 and focus on another project. Thanks to the inspiration and motivation by my new partner, who turns out to be a dedicated and ardent sailor by herself, we decided to reach out our feelers to finding a new boat for us. Bigger. Faster. Made for a long voyage. Reading the previous post called “Chain of Decisions” I laid out our strategy of determining which boat might be interesting for us and which not. Now, weeks later, it was time to get up from our chairs and go out – take a look at some of the candidates. This trip coincided beautifully with my schedule so appointments had been set up and a flight boarded – let´s go and see the boats!

Sleek crazy fast needle: The Akela 50

We want it quick, we want it big enough and we want it built in aluminium. One boat that ultimately struck my mind was the Akela 50, a kind of “crazy” boat I visited two years ago and I suggested to take a look at. You may know, we are looking for a boat with character and a story. The Akela 50 is certainly the boat with most character! Built for an excentric owner a dozen years ago, this fine and sleek fast ship is equipped with just the best. You may read my full review here).

Tempting design: A true racer-cruiser, this fine Akela 50

She is not a small boat for sure: 50 feet is a lot of boat! But on the other hand, she is very slim and does not come with a high freeboard. The price for sailing very quick is interior volume: A downside that was noticed instantly when we entered her fine salon. In fact, the Akela 50 was out the moment we climbed down the companionway. This boat – as superbly equipped and perfectly maintained as she is – is just too small! Sailing on this boat may be an exciting schuss, but executing daily routine like cooking, preparing paperworks, traversing from bow to stern will be a torture for people like us (both bigger than 1.80 metres, standing height much lower here).

Well, that is impractical …

So, the sleek needle was out. Well, it´s hard because price-wise the Akela 50 was certainly the most attractive offer of them all. She as well offered a very safe cockpit, the best fitting with deck-equipment and the amenity of variable draft offered by a lifting keel, but she is on the other hand just too impractical as a cruiser (for tall people). In fact, I did have more standing height on my King´s Cruiser 33 than on this 50-footer. So, with a warm smile and the best wishes for her, we thanked the broker and said Good bye. This time, the fine Akela did not find her new owners.

Dream boat: The Cigale 14

Life wanders in mysterious ways and our sadness about having to leave behind the Akela didn´t lasted too long. As it turned out, just next to the Akela, only a dozen sheds away, a true dream yacht of mine was up for sale and I couldn´t wait until the next day for our appointment to finally board one of my all-time favourite boats again: The ingenious Jean-Marie Finot-designed Cigale 14. She. Is. A. Dream!

A highlight of the trip coming up …

As we walked up to her wide, flat, wonderfully rounded stern between the other boats my blood pressure rose and so did the mood of my partner. The Cigale 14 is a true classic by Alubat and has been built until the early 2000´s as Cigale 14 and her bigger sister Cigale 16, when Marc Lombard re-designed the boat. Now people can have her as Cigale 16, 18 and 22 (and as well an 18 as an Italian spin-off, the Gulliver 57). But back to the classic boat.

A dream yacht for sure: Alubat Cigale 14

She is a beautiful timeless masterpiece! Her lines are pretty, not too aggressive, not too imposing. But she is as well sleek, has a fine sharp entry at the bow and a wide flat stern. When the broker came up, we boarded her and down we went: That´s her specialty and the main reason why I love her design so much. The “magic saloon” of the Cigale utilizes approximately the latter half of the boat´s hull. A huge U-shaped salon-table, two sea berths, big windows, a proper nav station to starboard, a huge galley to port side. Leather cushion. Real massive wooden carpentry. A dream!

The magic saloon: Cigale at it´s best

A dream? Well, she is a used boat so many, many years of different crews, thousands of miles of sailing this yacht have left marks on her. I found the interior … well, not really run-down and not shabby … but many marks have been left here. A boat that heavily used will most certainly need a refit, new WC, electronics, new cosmetics. The overall impression was solid and good – it took not more than one blink of the eye of my partner to signal that the price tag on this boat was – for us – way out of discussion. “Let a kite fly” – that´s the motto of yacht brokers and we decided to see what we could negotiate here.

Perfectly made flat wide stern of the Cigale 14

Nevertheless, when we came down the ladder after our one hour-tour in the Cigale 14, we had been in love with that classy boat even more. She certainly has character and a story. She indeed could be the boat we are looking for: But as much as I appreciated her perfectly and beautifully refurbished exteriors, I feared the work ahead inside too refresh the wooden surfaces. Another point was her sailing Character: Conceived as a very fast cruiser by Finot (with water-ballast), the UDLB-construction (ultra-light-displacement-boat) will sail very, very fast and, discussing the matter, we thought that maybe ultrafast sailing like this isn´t the main point on our “what to do with a new boat”-list. So we went on to our third and last candidate. And boy, had we been surprised!

Love at first sight: Allures 44

I must confess that I did not have the Allures on my top-list up until beginning of this year. Yes, I have visited the yard in Cherbourg 2 years ago and I have been very much impressed by the work done here, but when it came to aluminium boats I skipped the centerboarder Allures as fast as I had skipped the hard chined yachts (like Ovni) before. For me, variable draft is a great thing but I though this might be achieved by a “real” drop keel as utilized by beloved Berckemeyer boats (which by the way are so rare and so expensive that these fine yachts will forever remain a dream). So, here we are, arriving to the huge winter storage and receiving the boat keys by the harbor captain.

There she is: A true blue water cruiser.

Something had changed though. After visiting the all-new Allures 40.9 during Dusseldorf boat show and reading more into centerboarder performance I kind of made peace with this concept. The Raceaupeau-designed Allures may not come as sleek and sexy as the Cigale, but she certainly does have a lot of points on her asset-side. Such as the well-rounded hull which on the one hand will provide a comfortable sea motion and balanced mix between performance and sea-kindness. Then the double rudders and the centerboard-configuration which will enable the boat to enter very shallow areas and fall dry as well. But her best is revealed when seeing her interiors …

Perfect arrangement for the long cruise: Allures 44

What a great concept! A big galley to port side with a huge variety of stowage, saloon with a big table and O-settee around on a different level, centerboard casing is elegantly disguised, super illuminated by large, large porthole windows and three big skylights. This boat´s salon is exemplary and has everything exactly where a sailor needs it: The bathroom right next to the companionway – and look at this great, great nav-station!

I absolutely love this nav station arrangement

The chart table with the big main switch panel is not just fitting for one person, the skipper, but offers a comfortable seat vis-à-vis for the sailing mate. In this, this workstation can be utilized by two persons or facing rear or forward. I fell in love with that design instantly and could envision myself without any doubt sailing this boat instantly. As much as I love the speedy Cigale with her magic saloon, I am now convinced that exactly this design, this configuration and this size of a boat is what I was looking for the whole whole time. Much happier I was, when my partner agreed.

We´ll be back!

So, have we found “our boat”? Well, I would say … kind of. Of course, buying a yacht is a very complicated and delicate process. Much more so if the boat in question is a used one. It´s one thing to agree on a concept of a boat, still the way ahead is a very long one. Brokers want you to sign a contract very fast. But behold: Falling in love is one thing. Love is another. Don´t be blinded by your own excitement and a perfect world seen through rose-colored glasses. In a way, the tough part is yet to tackle: Negotiations. Diving deeper into the boat, inspecting all of her corners, looking thoroughly at her equipment, pumps, valves, winches, self-steering, electronics, standing rigging, hull, rudder bearings, engine … it´s countless items which need to be inspected. And checked. And, yes, a price that needs to be negotiated. The kite, that has to be brought down.

France: Epicentre of boating

But that´s a different story, one for the coming weeks and months. For now, we look back on a joyful, rich and exciting weekend in France, the world´s epicenter of sailing. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes! Every new impression is priceless. Every new boat seen, every new story heard, every new offer checked. You will get an eye for the real stuff and – most important – for the things which are the real stuff for you. No need for shiny magazines and advertisements. In the end, the saying is as true as it was always true: The boat finds her owners. I think, we have been found.

You may read all articles related to our search for a new boat by clicking on this hashtag: #findinganewboat

Also interesting to read about aluminium yachts:

Alubat´s Cigale re-visited by Marc Lombard

Visiting the Allures/Garcia-yard in Cherbourg

Why aluminium?