My wife and I are now in our seventies, and have been sailors for most of our lives, having raced in dinghies, sport keel boats and now IRC cruisers. We have owned various motor boats for the past 20 years, of numerous designs, types and materials, and have cruised in the Mediterranean, then the English Channel, including the Channel Islands, Brittany, the southern ports of England , the Scilly Isles and regular visits to Holland. With approaching old age, we were trying to decide what to do in the future. Whether to retire altogether from sailing, or whether to consider downsizing, as our current boat is a 20m aluminium traditional offshore boat, and a bit of a challenge for us.
By a series of coincidences, my boat was sent to Holland to be repaired after damage caused by others. This was carried out by Steeler Yachts to the high standards of the original builder, and without any stress for myself. Whilst there, we had a look at their range of 10 to 15 m boats, as well as more traditional Dutch designs, but I fell for the design concept of the Panorama ff46. They informed us they intended to build a slightly larger version in aluminium, which I felt would suit us fine. Its single level approach, the gangways being above the living space, gave a far roomier interior than on boats with the normal side decks. The hull design is capable of cutting through the water at up to 35 knots if fitted with Volvo IPS 600s, and it would also meet the specification required for Category B.
My wife wasn’t a fan of the “straight stem”, as opposed to the normal bow, but I, as a sailor didn’t have a problem, as this sort of bow is used in most modern competitive sailing yachts to maximise water line and so maximise speed. The inside space of the Panorama ff53 is going have more room than in my current 70 feet motorboat, apart from in the owner’s cabin, but then we only sleep in there anyway!
By now we’d decided we were only as old as we felt, and there was still plenty of life in the old dogs yet! Hence we decided to progress the project and arranged a further meeting in mid- November. On arrival at the yard we were welcomed by Hans and Yorrith, introduced to other members of the team, and taken to their beautiful new “floating” office, adjacent to the factory, after going for a short evening cruise down the local canal on the finished ff46. This boat was of course constructed in steel and therefore weighs considerably more than our planned 53 will. Its incredible economy at 10kms/hour was a miserly 3.3 litres of fuel. This certainly impressed me as did its straight line stability at slow speed. Its manouverability under two engines, without having to use thrusters, was another plus in its favour.
As the discussions progressed we were introduced to the design consultant from Vripack, who was most helpful in drawing the suggested interior layouts so my wife could visualise the proposals. The pooling of ideas with very little constraints pre-order was so unlike any other boat manufacturer we had dealt with. In our fibreglass boats we only had a choice of upholstery, curtains and carpets due to the monocoque construction, so further to this meeting we agreed to place an order for the Panorama ff 53 in aluminium. This was the biggest in this range and we felt the extra waterline length, the reduction in weight and the larger accommodation would give us a boat ideal for our needs, and hopefully be of value to others in the future when we decide to retire from boating.
Following the signing of the contract we were issued a build schedule detailing the stages of the 38 week programme. This was split into 12 items, from agreeing the contract, through to delivery and completion. Stage 3 requires a site visit to choose the materials for the interior. Whilst it is being constructed we are expected to visit twice more, after which no further changes can be made. A final meeting at Stage 9 ensures that everything agreed has been carried out. All these things in writing will avoid any misunderstanding between us and the shipyard, and again was a new phenomenon to us. Steeler even lay out the interior on the floor prior to installation!
We have recently visited Dusseldorf Boat Show where Steeler won European Boat of the Year for a second time, which obviously gave us extra reassurance and confidence. Whilst there I had meetings with various engine manufacturers. It seems likely we will go with Yanmar LY440’s with joystick controls. We also met with Yacht Control to learn of their services on an integrated communication and navigation package, and our now awaiting their proposals and costings. Shortly work will commence on the cutting programme of the aluminium and the forming of the hull.
This is the start of a fresh adventure which hopefully will result in the stress free completion of our new boat for the 2017 season, and the start of lots of enjoyable experiences.
On the North Sea, her smooth ride at an 18 knots cruising speed was equally impressive.