Well, the headline for this new article may appear a bit too cocky at first glance but I do really mean it. It is certainly not meant in a swanky way and I won´t start a big praise now advocating my fast boat. No. The intention of this article is to take you with me aboard GEKKO and letting you participate in some thoughts I´ve had during my latest quick dash out on the boat with my kids. This happened on the occasion of the extended Whitsunday-weekend, a surplus day off, perfect weather forecast and so I took my kids with the prospect of having some great days aboard.
We arrived late Friday, did a bit of provision shopping and entered the bunks early. As a long stressful working week for myself had come to a conclusion, I snoozed a bit longer the next morning so that we got up not quite with first sunlight but as early as 0800. “Let´s get ready to casting off!”, I announced – no breakfast yet – and we put on our sailing gear. GEKKO was the first boat to set sail this morning and it felt great!
Catching the first wind of the day
We still had quite a nice breeze as a leftover from last night´s rain and after hoisting my laminate GEKKO sprung to life. What an amazing feeling, isn´t it? She heeled a bit and after I had trimmed Jib and main sail the First 27 SE dashed North at 7 to 8 knots. My first thought was: “How rewarding this is, every time again! How satisfactory to see the marina staying behind so fast and sailing out of the bay so quickly!”
My kids began to complain about empty stomachs and ripped me out of my romantic sailing dreams, so that I prepared their cereals and some fresh fruit while indulging in my first coffee for the day. GEKKO dashed along at a high pace and I still couldn´t spot any other yachts, 0900 and nobody out. So, how does this connect to my statement that life´s too short for a slow boat? Well, having a fast boat for me is of course the boat itself, but also one´s attitude towards sailing. Catching the first wind of the day and sailing into a virgin horizon is a big part of this idea.
My kids never really liked sailing before I got this boat. Prior to owning the Beneteau First 27 SE I had a Kings Cruiser 33 which was a great GRP-classic designed by Pelle Petterson but as I most of the time had her on dry land in refit, they rarely got to sail her. I took my kids with me onto yachts I sailed for our clients, but the bigger the boat the lesser the sensations of sailing. Especially for kids who seek the immediate, direct sensations. I can spot the difference in their joy for my passion comparing their reactions when I announce: “We go out with GEKKO this weekend”. It´s pure joy and pleasant anticipation. They didn´t had this in bigger boats.
The joy of never getting caught
I suppose this joy is directly connected to the sailing performance. GEKKO is a very lightweight boat and thus fast. She will always sail, no matter how weak Rasmus is blowing. Even in lowest TWS-conditions – 4, 5 knots – the boat will actually sail. So, boring motoring and enervating engine-hours simply aren´t a thing on GEKKO. Light, fast boats – always sailing. Definitely a point.
Also, the sensation of sailing itself is much different on a fast, light boat. I can tell it because I regularly get to sail the big cruisers. This is fun too, no question, but it´s a different kind o approach. On a big cruiser you enjoy the luxurious ambience, the lofty character, the space and volume. You also enjoy the gentle motion moving through the water and the easy, effortless sailing. On GEKKO, you are literally moved by the water. Each wave gives instant feedback, each little puff, each gust will instantly produce a reaction by the boat. Mostly this reaction is acceleration. Have you ever really heard the sound of a boat going into planning mode? Awesome!
On GEKKO, this is a regular thing. This boat is so much sailing fun that even my kids, who never really showed serious interest in sailing but enjoyed boats as a platform for their pirate-plays or dream worlds. They start to develop an interest for sailing, sails trim. My youngest, barely 6 years old, started to ask how my chart plotter operates, how to check direction, what an AIS-signal is and so forth. My older son, 8 years, started to ask me how he can help a hand handling ropes when casting off and landing. This is amazing: By their own free will! This never happened on bigger boats.
Arriving first: Freedom of choice
The fun of fast sailing is indescribable. So much joy to see the boat react instantly to sails trimming. Feedback from the yacht comes directly after wind changes or changes are applied to the sails. Last weekend I originally wanted to cross the Baltic Sea all the way North to seek for the first Danish marina, which is Gedser. Weather forecast promised a gradual decrease of wind speeds throughout the afternoon to a near complete dead calm. Travel time would have increased to +11 hours. No problem for me but way too long for my kids, so I spontaneously re-routed the boat to a marina I previously hadn´t visited: Weisse Wiek near Wismar, a 25-mile trip from my home port.
So, as we rounded the landmass of Germany and I turned GEKKOs bow down south, as forecasted, wind began to fade. Perfect conditions for the Gennaker. But as our point of sail was exactly dead running and it was a mere 3 mile distance I decided to skip Gennaker for this time and instead teached my kids how to handle the boat in butterfly-mode. Great fun though, seeing the little seamen working the Jib sheets to keep her up and running. We arrived at 1330, which was amazing: 4.5 hours quick dash in fading winds, that´s fast!
The joy and reward of getting up early and sailing fast of course is the absolute freedom of choice when it comes to berths. A small boat helps in the first place because the bigger the boat the lesser the choice of available guest berths, I suppose this applies to virtually all marinas everywhere. But, sailing in high season, which summer usually is, also means that berths for smaller yachts are sought after. As I steamed down the rows in the marina after arriving shortly after noon, I realized that I had the whole palette of berths available and could choose where to land my GEKKO.
Being fast therefore increases the chance to get a nice berth: Away from the loud charter crews, maybe near to the shore facilities or anything else that might be important to you. I spotted a nice one for us: First pontoon right at the shore! Upon tying up my boat I realized that I was in perfect company – next to GEKKO two First 24 SEs looked awesome, a nice little Seascape-fleet.
Leisure time ashore
So, after this quick dash to our neighboring marina I found ourselves in the happy state of having half a day still left to fill. This is important: Most of the other boats arrived around 4 to 7 p.m. and you all know that it takes at least half an hour after arriving to get the boat ready: Taking away the lines, tidying up the cockpit from sea- to land-mode, shore power, sails cover and such. So, often there´s little ime to walk around and discover the area. Not so with us: After getting GEKKO ready we changed clothing and went for a stroll.
What a great occasion! For the first time after a sailing trip there was enough time to lay down at the boach, collect sunrays and Vitamin D and have a little afternoon-nap. My kids enjoyed the freedom of running around, storm the playground and roam at the beach in the warm waters. It was a bliss!
As I was laying down in the warm sand, literally the first time really reclining in 2022, feeling the warmth of the sun on my nose, I closed my eyes. There was no sound, just the gentle whisper of the last wind dying down and my kids having fun in the sand. Their voices faded away as I slowly drifted into a deep – but rather short – sleep. A power nap. 30 minutes later one of the smalls shook my shoulder: “Let´s go and get some ice cream, Daddy.” Allright, midhsipmen, let´s go then!
Proof of concept
A full half day in the marina: Something I didn´t knew before as I always arrive late at night, whisking down a welcome beer and something edible. Now, this time, I really enjoyed the time saved from fast sailing – looking at the sun setting, I fired up the barbeque and we indulged ourselves in fresh hot pitabread and an honest Bratwurst. Sensational! While eating, more and more yachts arrived, only to stop, make a U-turn and seek elsewhere for a berth. We brushed our teeth and went into the bunks.
Next day, proof of concept: We were the first to get up, pretty early again. On Windfinder.com I saw that there would be some wind in the vicinity until 0900, dying down later. I got up before my kids, which is unusual, provided me a hot steaming coffee and checked email. Later, the boys awoke too and it took us just 20 minutes to ready GEKKO. Again, the first to leave the marina, I hoisted the sails and a bit later the Gennaker too. A steady breeze of just 5 knots at least provided for some speed.
After returning to a westerly course back home, wind was down to zero in the bay I just left: I saw it through my binoculars: No sails up there, all the other boats on the horizon under engine. Although we merely drifted in a controlled manner, the boat being light and nimble was propelled by the Gennaker at least. No engine needed. What a joy. I was so happy that we decided to have a full water melon for breakfast, which was a delicious feast. The sun already up and warming, the mouth-watering sweet and fresh melon, streams of red tasty joice pouring down the hands of the kids. What a marvelous sight!
Gennaker Action: Easy as ABC?
Suddenly, around 1100 the wind increased, first to 8 knots, later 9 and 10. It was pure joy to see the big blue sail up in the wind. My auto pilot held due course with ease and after I had trimmed the light wind sail accordingly I had not been required to pull or ease the sheet a single time for hours, literally.
Many people kind of have a fear of Gennakers or somehow think that this is very complicated. Yes, the setup may take a while to master – connecting tackline and clew, leading the Gennaker sheets the right way all around shrouds and forestay to the back and also have it hoisted right so that there is now hourglass-tumbling. But practicing this a few times in very light winds, maybe watching some tutorials quickly gives the confidence and capabilities to master this sail. I was so sure about mine that I incorporated my kids and had my boy pulling the halyard. Proud as hell!
We sailed on for three hours, perfect point of sail for a Gennaker. After the stomachs had been filled, I tasked them with some work to do. As they practice playing the recorder, I took them out and handed some sheets of musical tunes. As both decided to go for “My Bonny is over the Ocean”, it was so sweet and heart warming that I recorded a little movie and sent it in the whatsapp-family group. What a joy! Normally I wouldn’t anyone allow to whistle whilst at sea, but even if Poseidon would show up in anger, this cute concert surely would have melted his heart too.
The joy of planning
We soon arrived at the entrance to Luebeck Bay, my home turf, if you will. From now on just under 15 miles to go, due South-West. Wind increased further – contrary to the forecast – and by closely observing the windmills ashore in the distance I could judge that it will go on to do so: “Ready to take down the light wind sail!”, I announced and my kids knew what to do: Cleaning the cockpit from their toys, taking down the nice reclining bean bags and stay out of the way … taking down the Gennaker without a sock is a delicate matter. At least, one has to work very, very fast.
Bringing the Jib to the wind again made GEKKO jump for joy: Just 6 miles to go and wind was up to 17 knots. Full canvas up, a 60 degree wind angle and she sped up. The bay was full of sailboats, typical for a nice windy Sunday, so I switched off the auto pilot and steered myself, checking for upcoming traffic and the collision rules. Behind us the stern of my boat had a furious spray of white foam in the wake – GEKKO starts planning mode above 7.6 knots boat speed, which we had exceeded with ease. Pure joy for the kids, who loved to watch the wake wave separating from or stern in every little gust, the boat sprung forward. Still, no other boat could compete, no other cruiser capable of going that fast. Even in a wind like this, 15 to 17 knots true, we hammered down with 8.5 to 9.5 knots SOG. Amazing! What amazes me every time again is the stability and safety that the boat conveys: My kids, even in this hectic part of the trip, found it sufficient to take a nap.
The bottom line: Go out, go fast!
The last hour was pure sailing bliss and I enjoyed it quite much. There was another First 24 SE out, but she sailed away, a Dragonfly trimaran was the only boat faster than myself and a quick Hobie-Cat steered close by so that its crew could greet and wave. I reefed the Jib by rolling it in a bit, went upwind opened the main sheet and took down the main sail one mile in front of my home marina. Sailing on just under Jib, still over 5 knots, gave me the time to bring out the fenders and attach all lines. Right upon entering the buoyed waterway I took out the electric engine and rolled in the Jib completely.
Landing the boat was a no-brainer, now that my older son knows when and where to give me which line. We tied up GEKKO, packed the sails accordingly and preserved them under the covers. I cleaned the boat while the kids got rid of the trash, giving her a decent fresh water spray and securing the land lines a last time, we went to our car. What an amazing weekend – and what a great realization that a fast boat is not just much more fun, but time saved in sailing opens up a window to utilize that precious time at the destination. Well, it´s true: Life´s too short for a small boat. In this, my decision for this 27 footer again proved to be the best I could have made.
As well interesting to read:
Discovering the Pogo 36
A fast cruiser indeed: First 27 SE aka Seascape 27
Getting kids excited for sailing