What started off as a week-long trip to test-sail a Privilege 500 catamaran in the BVI quickly transformed into a 3-month journey that would change the course of events for this sailing couple.
They originally made the trip to Nanny Cay in mid-March after making an offer on a Privilege 500. As recent global events were closing in on the Caribbean, it quickly became apparent that the BVI was moving toward a lockdown to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.
John and Noelia had two days to make a decision; fly out of the BVI and postpone the delivery of their yacht, or remain. They chose the latter moved aboard on April 4th after closing on the sale – well into the height of the lockdown order. For the next seven weeks they were effectively in lockdown and couldn’t sail, leave their anchorage or go ashore.
Sea Trial by Fire
It wasn’t until mid-May that they were allowed limited access to shore, and on the 21st, with a suitcase full of swimwear, they left the dock. This was the first time they sailed s/v Sayonara on their own, and it would be a nine-day offshore passage from Tortola to their home port in Palm Beach, FL.
It takes a certain amount of confidence and skill to venture on any passage. For John and Noelia, that confidence came partly from owning a Privilege catamaran.
“We have a lot of confidence in this boat,” said John. “I’ve sailed since I was 11 years old but didn’t have blue water experience. We joined the Salty Dawg Rally, which was more of a collection of volunteers providing sailing information.”
Originally they had planned to hire a delivery captain to bring the boat back to Florida, but instead they opted to do the passage on their own, valuing their privacy on-board above all else. The Salty Dawg Rally gave them that additional support to leave the dock.
Without the formal dinners or parties typically associated with rallies, they left on the “Homeward Bound” flotilla for the United States.
“We’re thankful we joined the Rally to receive information like weather routing from Chris Parker – which was great. For us, this was essential,” added Noelia. “I was saying right from the beginning that we can do this – I wasn’t afraid. Honestly, I don’t have much sailing experience. I always said ‘I have five years sailing experience watching John sail.’ But I never had any doubt that we can do this as a couple.”
“I think I was more worried about the trip [than Noelia] and had some trepidation and anxiety,” said John. “In reality it was a lot easier than I had thought it up in my head.”
They also got some instruction on the boat’s systems from Privilege Catamaran America’s yacht guru, Jules. He gave them invaluable information and advice and was on-hand for any additional questions.
“Jules was awesome,” said John. “We had a great experience working with him. He was there around the clock to answer all our questions.
Noelia’s first experience on the test sail was marred by seasickness. She says she typically gets seasick, and even well-intentioned advice given to her by other cruisers didn’t prevent her from getting sick during the first day of the passage.
“Having a safe boat for when Noelia gets seasick is important,” said John. “I had to be prepared to single-hand the boat if necessary.” Luckily, she was fine for the remainder of the passage.
the walk-in closet
According to John, there were two main reasons for buying the Privilege catamaran – one was safety, the other was what he referred to as “the walk-in closet”, a place for Noelia to keep her collection of Louboutin shoes.
“In all seriousness, there are two things that sold us our boat. One was how seaworthy and capable on ocean passages it is, and two, the comfort of the boat, the usability and fit and finish on everything.” said John, adding that this is a big step for Noelia, who is very particular, and it was essential that she felt at ease to stay on board for any amount of time.
Noelia particularly enjoys the large master suite that takes up the whole space in the forward part of the hull. Calling it a ‘cabin’ would be an understatement, she explained. The master is more akin to a retreat, with a separate shower, vanity, and dressing area with a wardrobe spacious enough for anyone’s shoe collection.
Back to the beginning
Their story really started four years ago when they stepped aboard a Privilege for the first time. They continued their search by going to the Miami boat show multiple times, as well as shows in France, Annapolis and Newport. They met Richard and Rob at the boat show when they returned to Miami nearly two years ago. John later sailed with them aboard a 5 Series from Barcelona to La Grande Motte on a delivery. In the end, they circled back and bought the boat that they were the most excited about.
“We spoke to other people who ordered production boats,” explained John. “There, you order from a distributer, and it’s made by a manufacturing company, and any customization is done by a third party. If anything isn’t to your liking then there is a lot of finger pointing. We just dealt with Richard, there is no finger pointing and he just got things done.”
A week before leaving the BVI they called Richard to ask if they could have radar installed before their long passage, explained John. While they were originally planning to get it installed in Florida, they thought it best to have it for their passage. Three days later, it was done.
change your life
The time aboard s/v Sayonara and the level of confidence gained during the passage has meant that their plans for how they use their boat have also changed. Originally they had wanted to use their boat in West Palm for weekend getaways.
“We quickly threw Plan ‘A’ away when we did the passage and now here we are about to sail to Chesapeake Bay,” says John.
“We’re so proud to be the owners of Sayonara,” says Noelia, adding that while they had to make a quick decision to make the purchase, this was by no means an impulsive one, deliberating over every detail, and giving everything careful consideration.
Their long-term plans are to sail up the Eastern Seaboard in the summers – maybe even sail to the Mediterranean sometime in the future. For now, they will keep s/v Sayonara in their home port in Palm Beach.
So, back to the first question, what do you pack for a 9-day offshore passage? Bathing suits, yes – and maybe a few dozen boat shoes.