The Kumbaya way
If they had listened to boat show sailors or yacht club Cape Horners, they would never have left.
For 10 years, Juliette and Hubert prepared their great sailing trip. They went around the world with their four children aboard their Nautitech 46 Open. An exemplary approach.
"The boat must be sturdy, fast, comfortable, easy to handle, cleverly laid out and have a good reputation"
10 years to create
« Really? You’re sailing away? Round the world? Just five days after taking delivery of your Nautitech 46? And you will cross the Bay of Biscay in Autumn? With four children on board? But this is madness! »
If they had listened to boat show sailors or yacht club Cape Horners, they would never have left. But Juliette and Hubert were neither unconscious nor incompetent. They left La Rochelle in October 2020 and set sail fort the great ocean. They had been building their big loop piece by piece for more than 10 years. She is a nurse on call, he is a wealth manager on sabbatical.
They tell their story, from Kumbaya’s saloon. Their Nautitech 46 Open has become a kind of reference among the candidates for the big journey in catamaran community. Because their trip -or their way- is emblematic. Even if this couple in their forties doesn’t see themselves at all as an example of the world tour within everyone’s reach.
However, the path traced by this young family has everything to inspire.
She already has a wake of dreams. Cascais near Lisbon, Graciosa in the Canary, Sal and Mindelo in Cape Verde Islands, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in French Guyana, Martinique, Panama, Galapagos islands, the Marquesas, the Gambier, the Tuamotus, Tahiti and Moorea… While they tell a two year journey, already 21 500 nautical miles long, Kumbaya swings gently at anchor in the Yasawas islands. It is a string of islets sewn in the north of Fidji. They are waiting to the right weather window to sail down to New Zealand.
In two years, they have reached the antipodes.
They had planned a three-year journey; they now think their « little cruise » could last one year more.
It all started with this idea that exploded in their heads like a fireworks flower.
They had just discovered sailing aboard a cruising sailboat. They just completed a Glénans training session.
« What if we circumnavigated the world? » How many have had this dream without ever extracting it from the box of crazy ideas?
It’s not their kind to these two. She is the daughter of a naval officer but hadn’t sail much before she met Hubert. A few weeks of sailing school in the summer, short coastal cruises in Greece or Corsica onboard chartered sailboats, captained by professional skippers. In short, nothing to take for Ellen MacArthur or Dee Caffari.
As a child, Hubert spent his holidays in Northern Brittany. « We had to be taken care of. Our parents took us up to sailing. The Optimist, at eight or nine years old, the double crewed dinghies then. But I had never sailed a habitable sailboat before I met Juliette. »
The first Glénans learning session opens new horizons, literally and figuratively. After their initial wonder, the idea of sailing around the world is slowly beginning to mature. Juliette returns to Les Glénans and crosses the levels one by one up to the sailing instructor degree. Hubert multiplies sailing opportunities.
They get married. They go to Cameroon for a year of economic aid. This experience marks them deeply. When they’re back, they want a different life project. That was ten years ago.
They already decide on a departure date. As a beacon, perhaps an obligation. They have their first child, a girl. They want four of them, maybe five. They set the right time: when the elder is twelve or thirteen years old and the youngest no less than three years old. They rightly think that the grown-ups will take care of the younger ones, and that all will invent a life between them. « We were right, do they say with their inimitable way of continuing in the fly the sentence that the other has just finished. When we suffer a hard blow, we know that the older take care of the young ones. This mutual aid within the family cocoon works perfectly. It frees the minds of parents and empowers children. »
When they dare to talk about their project, their family and loved ones immediately understood that they were not dealing with wishful thinking. Hubert could have change companies two or three times. He hung on, because he knew that his firm offered the opportunity to accumulate two or even three sabbatical years. And the guarantee of getting back his job when he would be back. Juliette was involved in the hard job of state nurse where one of the compensations is to be able to request lay-off.
Essential task, to choose the right boat. The best possible yacht to sail far away with your family. “We selected the catamaran for reasons of reason, admits Hubert. First reason: we would be six on board and we knew from experience that a minimum of space is essential to preserve family harmony. Everyone should be able to find their own place. Second reason: our research had allowed us to know that during a long sailing journey, you spend 80% of the time at anchor. Maybe more. And in the rolling moorings, life is much more comfortable on a stable and flat platform than playing metronome arms like the monohulls we meet and whose crews we do not envy for a moment.”
“Third reason, adds Juliette, security. The Nautitech concept, with this outer and very well protected saloon is very reassuring. It makes practically impossible for a child or an adult to fall overboard. And in heavy weather and rough seas, to be able to take shelter in the inside saloon while keeping a 360° view on the horizon is an invaluable advantage. Fourth reason: with all the gear we had to carry, for instance with the need to homeschool, we needed a large volume of storage that only the catamaran could provide.”
It’s Hubert who was responsible for finding the right model for their project. He has scoured forums, websites, specialized magazines, boat shows. With a selection grid as rational as it is unassailable. The boat must be sturdy, fast, comfortable, easy to handle, cleverly laid out and have a good reputation. All for a reasonable price that immediately eliminated very high-end units.
As, for the very large series model, in addition to their design intended for rental or charter, Hubert did not see himself there. He wanted to avoid the status of just another customer, a number in a list. “I wanted to deal with a company on a human scale. I wanted a real personal relationship. And we found it at Nautitech. They were the only ones to talk about structures and construction before mentioning the color of the woodwork or softness of the sofas.” So they rejoiced to have met a builder rather than a salesman.
suitable for a very large
They scrutinized the 40, before realizing that this model would probably be too tight for them. They planned to take crews on board for ocean passages, mainly to reduce night watches tiredness. They wanted to be able to welcome their families on board at stopovers and for shorter crossings.
And their basic family unit already had six crews, between the adults and the children.
A year before leaving, they rented a 46 Fly in Croatia.
They wanted to validate the size of the boat and check that her volumes were suitable for them. For good measure, they welcomed Juliette’s sister, her husband and their three children.
They were delighted to realize that this catamaran easily accommodated eleven adults and children on board.
They finally chose the Open version, which they felt was more suited to their program.
On the other hand, they could not tick the box “behavior in a breeze”, the Adriatic Sea offering mostly dead calms in summer.
Ordered at the Cannes Boat Show in September, Kumbaya was to be delivered to them at the beginning of the following summer. But Covid took care of delaying the launch until the Grand Pavois Boat Show, at the end of September, the year after. Then the shipyard exposed the boat and kept it for several days, for customer tests. This is how the family slept on board for the first time just five days before leaving to sail around the world.
Hubert: “It was my first offshore sailing. We were aiming for the Canary Islands, but an Autumn low forced us to change our plans. The Spanish authorities required us to sail fifty miles off the coast to avoid orca attacks. So, we aimed for Lisbon, and everything went perfectly.”
During the first 48 hours, the children were as if anesthetized, nauseous, almost apathetic. They all slept together in the same cabin. Then they found back all their energy, thank you! We must stress that their parents had totally involved them in the project. When they sailed in the summer, girls and boy knew that it was a question of preparing the great sail away. When Hubert was absent for training, the children understood that he, too, must went to school. To learn everything useful on board.
The Nautitech dealer, in La Rochelle and Le Marin, Martinique, made Kumbaya ready to sail offshore. “They gave us very useful advice for the customization of the boat and its adaptations to our project. Solar panels, water maker, one extra berth, large capacity washing machine, hookah for cleaning the hull afloat, they took care of everything.”
This did not prevent surprises. During the first leg, Kumbaya almost suffered from a total energy blackout. Despite her 1200 amperes solar panels, with too low yield in the greyness of November. And out of ignorance of his crew, who poorly monitored his consumption. Add to this a small configuration error that a too hasty departure had not made it possible to identify, and there you are! But Juliette and Hubert did not panic: they just kept enough energy to be able to start the engines and take their berth in Cascais harbor.
Let’s specify that they communicate very well on deck, thanks to their Bluetooth headsets. Then, they managed to keep their consumption under tight monitoring until they reached Martinique, where the Nautitech dealer corrected the setup error. And advised them to carry on board a small portable generator, in order to completely secure the rest of the journey. Because the Pacific Ocean is huge, and two precautions are better than one.
And here they are, evoking the greatest memories of this half of the world circumnavigation. Calm supernatural that enveloped Kumbaya, as soon as she was moored in the mouth of the Maroni River, French Guyana, after the commotion of the rough crossing from Cape Verde islands.
The children’s wonder in front of howler monkeys in the Guyanese river. The Galapagos sea lions and the Marquesas flying hens. The Pacific crossing between Galapagos and the Marquesas: 3 600 nautical miles in nineteen days, with long moments under Parasailor spinnaker only, 34 front sails changes but zero reefing in the mainsail. The 40 knots squall between Tahiti and Moorea who forced them to take the third reef for the first time of the journey. The ocean crossings which they take on with the serenity of old sea dogs… as in the Marquesas, for instance. Rather than setting sail for the island they were targeting, which was only 40 miles from their moorings, they decided in a flash to reach the Gambier, one thousand miles from there…
A second half of the world tour
In front of their bows now open the horizons of a second half of the world tour. A new chess game with the weather begins.
To reach New Zealand, they’re waiting for the right moment. The hurricane season starts in November in this part of the Southern hemisphere. Then, weather permitting, they will resume their long journey: they will head for Australia. They will approach the Indian Ocean through its antechamber, the Coral Sea. Access there is via the Torres Strait.
This almost mythical channels winds between Australia and New Guinea. There, their options can make us dizzy: after Darwin, in the north of kangaroo’s country, will you allow yourself a slight detour through Indonesia and Bali or follow the shortest route toward Cocos islands? Aiming to the Chagos, the Seychelles and, why not, Madagascar or Ile Maurice and La Reunion? Cape of Good Hope or Suez Canal? They only must make their choice. Don’t be surprised if they plan to dedicate a year more than initially planned to their turn of the sea planet.
Even if Juliette and Hubert don’t really like to be cited as examples, their Nautitech 46 Open voyage demonstrates every day that sailing around the world with your family is not a fad. Maybe the Kumbaya way is less simple that it appears from outside. It simply makes you want to do the same.
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