You may have read my last article on the hodgepodge we´ve all had once or twice with fitting reefing lines to a boat, messing up first and second reef. The handover of this particular boat is worth mentioning not just for this amusing little story, but for many other reasons. To begin with: This was my first ever yacht to be handed over in Switzerland, and this is where it all begins. Driving down from our company´s home in the middle of Germany to Switzerland takes about seven hours.
I usually start at night to avoid the crazy German traffic and enjoy the (almost) speed limit-less Autobahn. Stark contrast outside my home country: Speed limits, especially in Switzerland with 120 kilometers per hour. Don´t get me wrong: I am a supporter of speed limits and love driving in such conditions, especially in France. No traffic jams, perfectly relaxing, far less aggression and road rage. Same in Switzerland. So, after a long day behind the wheel I finally arrive in the French part of Switzerland. It´s a gorgeous day. Sun is shining. Vast fields of sunflowers in full bloom. Behind it all a mountain range. Down below the blue sparkle of a large inshore lake: I have arrived!
Not an ordinary commissioning at all
My colleagues are already there and the heavy duty truck carrying the boat as well. We all meet at a marina and the technical guys immediately start their work. The boat is brought to the travel lift, just minutes later she touched the water for the first time. Our client and owner arrives to enjoy this emotional moment. We put on the mast, trim the standing rigging whilst I rage inside, cleaning and polishing the furniture.
The sun is up high, temperatures rise and it gets hot as hell. During mid day, a short break with some fresh ice cold beverages and a snack (of course, local Speck, ham and of course Swiss cheese is served with some fresh Baguette) I take my time and for the first time of the day – due to the tight schedule – I walk along the marina´s breakwater. And I am simply stunned.
What a beautiful, breathtaking scenery! I have seen many places and been to many inshore sailing areas as well – and there are so beautiful lakes around indeed – but this is just jaw dropping! The Jura mountains in the back ground form a great backdrop against its fresh green and pure yellow sunflower field the clear blue water of the lake make for an incredibly colorful scene. The lake spans from left to right and I cannot see both ends which are obstructed by large mountains as well. Amazing!
Weird, lovely outstanding Switzerland
Amazed we are as well by the precision, speed and professionalism of our Swiss partners working with us. Most of the commissioning work that is connected to preparing a boat for handover can be done by our own technicians, of which in fact most has already been done at home in our own workshop, but we still need help arriving at the places where the boats touch the water.
For example, setting up a mast from “delivery status” to “ready to be stepped” requires two people working for two hours straight. Forestay fitting, setting up the Jib-furling, halyards and lines to mast and boom, putting on the spreaders and cables for the standing rigging … it´s much work and we were happy the marina allocated two of their staff to help our two guys.
They worked literally like a Swiss clockwork and starting at 0900 a.m. we already had the boat in the water and mast stepped at 1100, which is fast. As engine and all auxiliary machinery had already been prepared back in Germany, including filling up the Diesel tank, I steamed around the new boat to her berth, put her to shore power and did a last pre-check. Then, after just one day, I was able to release one of my guys and the Swiss boatbuilders, the rest would be done by my colleague and myself. I must say, as beautiful and breathtaking the scenery was, as uncomplicated, sympathetic and professional the work with the Swiss guys, including the “King”, which is the harbor master operating it´s beloved travel lift, was. Just a joy working with professionals, but also, with guys you like.
The next day we had the sails up, set up the sprayhood, bimini (very important these days!) and cleaned the boat to perfection. Commissioning the autopilot and all other electronic equipment, put on our proud flags and made her ready for the big day: Handover!
Now, handing over a boat to their new owners is the climax of a long, long voyage. Usually it takes about half to one year of counselling and negotiations before a contract is signed. That´s a long time before it is even clear that those people would become my clients, our customers and ultimately, owners of a boat. This particular yacht was ordered right before the Covid-craze began and was one of the – lickily! – very few which had been postponed by the yard significantly. From signature to casting off for the first time, our family had to wait 24 months!
You can imagine the emotion, moving all of us, when we first took out the sails and watching her gliding gently over the water! It was very moving. Happy faces all around: The owner couple with bright smiles, one of his sons and his girlfriend happy to being able to enjoy their new yacht. At last! My own strain eased with every minute the boat sailed, with every turn on the steering wheel, with every smile and selfie taken by the family.
I was finally able to let go as well, lean back, enjoy the sun. And the breathtaking view over the lake. It was fantastic and such a perfect moment: A bit less wind (5 knots TWS, 2.5 knots SOG nevertheless) but absolutely awesome. In the North I witnessed the awe inspiring mountain range of the Bern Alps, like a coulisse in a movie, serious high mountains covered in eternal white of the glaciers. And then, barely palpable at first but getting stronger by the minute, somewhere at port side, coming from a small row boat, a Scottish bagpipe proudly intoned an all familiar sound: “Auld Lang Syne” rolled over the water. Amazing. And deeply moving.
What a gem!
We spend some hours on the lake together, explaining the boat, trying out all the functions and technical equipment. We chatted, we sailed, we gybed and tacked and enjoyed a wonderful day aboard. Although having a “normal” workday here doing my job, I tried to suck in as much from this beautiful place as I could. This is the largest Swiss lake not shared with any other country (which is valid for Lake of Constance for example or Lac de Geneve. 38 kilometers long and 8 klicks wide, up to 150 meters in depth. Behind the Jura Mountains in the East, beloved France is just a few minutes drive away. People are speaking French here, it completely feels French, tastes French. I decide to love it here!
As we part, leaving the happy family alone with their boat, we hug each other, wishing them always fair winds and a multitude of happy miles aboard their new yacht. I thank them for giving me the chance to come here, a place I would never have visited as I never would have had this amazing lake on my radar. Before I leave, the owner takes me by his side and looks into my eyes: “Please, Lars, tell nobody about this gem.”, he smiles and waves Goodbye. I promised not to disclose anything, jumped into my car to leave this blossoming Swiss valley, leaving behind a wonderful sailing area with clear blue water, green mountains and those overwhelmingly beautiful sunflower fields. I will tell nothing!
More hidden gems:
Germany´s most beautiful marina
Madeira of the Baltic Sea: Bornholm
M.A.T. Yachts of Izmir: Just wow!