Thoughts on Commissioning a New Antares 44 Catamaran

GLENN:  Buying gear for the boat is a bottomless pit / endless checklist.  There seems to always be yet another “critical” tool, spare part, gadget, safety device, or decorative pillow that you must have.  In planning for commissioning Mira, we compiled a massive list based on input from the boat builder, other owners, books, and blogs.  It was ridiculously long and impractical.  Paring it down became essential and we prioritized:

  • Items required for navigation, safety, and by regulation (the US Coast Guard, etc.)
  • Items required for the 40 day offshore delivery from Argentina to the Caribbean
  • Items suitable for our first year sailing itinerary
  • Essential items for living aboard comfortably
  • Tools for maintenance and repair work that we actually know how to do
  • Stuff we can’t find or don’t want to buy in Argentina
  • Our budget

Since Mira has no plans to leave the planet in the foreseeable future, we will buy whatever else when we need it, relying on local chandleries, Amazon, and FedEx.

If there are any new boat owners out there, that would like a copy of our spreadsheets – email us, and we’d be happy to share.

We began acquiring the items months before Mira was to launch which allowed us to take advantage of boat show specials and online sales.  As the boxes started to pile up at our condo, we turned our attention to how and when to get everything on board Mira.  We had two trips planned to Argentina so we checked the top priority items as baggage on each trip. TIP:  put a letter in each checked bag/tote with the Spanish translation of the following.  It seemed to help with Argentine customs at the airport.  “To whom it May concern, The items that I bring with me as baggage are all for personal use on a vessel of my property and will not remain in Argentine territory nor will they be sold.  Sincerely…”

1st Load of Boat Items to Argentina

 

2nd Trip of Boat Items to Argentina!

 

The rest we either bought in Argentina at the local Walmart, HomeDepot, or marine chandleries.

Pam still managing a smile amid all the construction, totes and clutter!

Finally, our low priority or heavy/bulky items were shipped by Tropical Shipping (freighter) to Grenada to meet Mira at the end of her delivery trip.  We’ll do another post on how to ship stuff with Tropical Shipping.

3rd Trip – ready to be shrink wrapped and palletized and sent to Grenada via Tropical Shipping!

Why We Chose the “Magic Carpet Ride”

PAM:  After Mira was in the water and ready to go – what would be the best way to get her from Argentina to the Caribbean? Since she would be heading north during the end of Caribbean hurricane season (officially ends November 1), we needed to arrive at an island south of the hurricane zone. Grenada, at the southern tip of the chain, fit the bill. Grenada is also a beautiful island and a cruising haven with lots of marinas and boatyards.

Antares yachts have been delivered by both professional captains and/or their new owners to the Caribbean for years. We just needed to decide what was the best way for us.  The sail to Grenada takes about 40 days total. Many of these days are spent miles offshore – out of sight of land – and without anchoring every night. This meant that we needed 3-4 people on board that could take shifts at the helm and sail her at night and in rough offshore seas. To further complicate matters, the sail north from Argentina up the coast of Brazil is traditionally filled with challenges. Strong winds on the nose of the boat, strong adverse currents, unpredictable weather conditions, and local unmarked fishing boats with nets to snag propellors. All things that neither Glenn nor I really wanted to experience on Mira’s maiden voyage!

 

But, as the boat would continue north and round the top corner of Brazil, the winds should shift and become more predictable and more friendly to sailboats.  Pikin, a seasoned Antares delivery captain, described the sail as “a magic carpet ride”! The wind is usually from behind the boat and blows very consistently – making the last 10-12 days of the trip very enjoyable.

We envisioned something more like this!

As soon as we heard that, the decision was easy! We hired Pikin and his crew to take Mira all the way up the coast of Brazil – through the challenging parts. Then, Glenn and I would  join them in Fortaleza (very northeast corner of Brazil) for the last 10-12 days of sailing offshore for “the magic carpet ride”! What better way to learn Mira than from a professional skipper while enjoying such a delightful sail!

Track the 4,200 mile, 40-day sailing route of Mira from her factory in Argentina to Grenada.

 

 

Sailing Mira!

PAM: After the excitement of the splash, there was still much work remaining. The mast had to be “stepped” and all of the rigging installed. There was some last minute window work and electronics calibrating.  We had already tested and re-tested all of the systems while Mira was still in the factory – mechanical, plumbing, electrical. But, now it was time to take her out on the Rio de la Plata and down the coast to Buenos Aires. We would test every sail, every winch, every line in as many wind conditions as we could find over the several days of sailing. As we watched Mira sail effortlessly through the water, Glenn and I became increasingly thankful for the amazing 40 Grados Sur team that put together our beautiful Antares.  Memo Castro, Sancho Castro and Mariano Sellanes led 50+ talented craftsmen through every phase of the build.  It was amazing to watch them bring all their expertise together to produce this gorgeous catamaran.

Mast being stepped on Mira. Shockingly the whole process took less than an hour.

Mariano, Sancho and Glenn SO happy after the splash!

Main and genoa unfurled for the first time
Custom designed asymmetrical spinnaker
Happy new owners
First time at Mira’s helm
The pit masters!
Each time an Antares boat is completed, there is a traditional Argentine Asado celebration with spectacularly grilled meats. Glenn and I were proud to thank each one of the 50 craftsmen personally and enjoy the delicious lunch with them!

Mira Splashes!

PAM:  After nearly two years of dreaming, planning, saving, designing, building – Finally!!! Mira breaks out of her bonds and creeps down the narrow streets of San Fernando to splash into the Rio de la Plata at the Yacht Club Argentino. We were ALL so excited – the factory workers, the foreman, the shipyard owner and his son, Pam and Glenn – it was a wonderful day!

The giant trailer to haul Mira
Loading Mira for her short trip to the water
Crawling through the streets of San Fernando
Sancho supervising the slide of Mira into the Rio de la Plata very carefully.
I’ve got a ride straight into the water!

She floats!!

Paperwork Shuffle by Glenn

GLENN:  Beginning about six months prior to Mira’s scheduled completion, we embarked on a rather bureaucratic process of obtaining all the required documents we would need to legally own and operate Mira. Thankfully, we got reliable advice from our builder, our attorney, and other Antares owners and the process went fairly smoothly. If you have the interest (and patience) I’ve listed the steps we took sequentially as each step requires some prior steps. In retrospect, it would have been nice to find an agent to take care of the whole process. Chalk it up to boat ownership education.  Hopefully, this proves useful to future boat owners.

  1. Decide on a name for the boat

“Mira” done. See Why Mira? for more of that story.

  1. Decide on legal ownership structure for the boat

Although we don’t plan to run a charter business, we were advised to put Mira in a Delaware limited liability corporation rather than owning Mira personally. I’d recommend consulting your own attorney and tax advisor for this. We used Allyachtregistries.com and the process was simple to incorporate our LLC with the State of Delaware who is happy to collect an annual fee (~$225) to maintain the LLC. The deliverable from Delaware is the Certificate of Formation of our LLC.

  1. Determine hailing port (port of registration)

In the US, for recreational vessels, this is the city and state that appears on the transom of the ship. It turns out that it doesn’t actually need to be a coastal port. For registration, the US Coast Guard doesn’t care where the boat will be located; only that the combination of the ship’s name and the hailing port is unique. We are from Atlanta, Georgia so that’s our hailing port. 

  1. Obtain a Builder’s Certificate from the boat’s builder

This is another standard USCG form (CG-1261) available on the USCG website. It’s completed by the boat’s builder and provides the owner, among other boat specs, the ship’s unique Hull Identification Number (12-digit alpha numeric) which is also physically molded into the interior of the boat’s hull by the builder.

  1. Register the boat

For US recreational vessels, you can either register your boat with your local state authorities or with the US Coast Guard. If you plan to sail the boat internationally, it’s best to “document” the boat with the US Coast Guard as it simplifies clearing in and out of customs. It also can make transferring ownership easier when the time comes to sell the boat. This is the path we took. Again, we used Allyachtregistries.com to submit our application (USCG form CG-1258) along with the original paper copy of our Builder’s Certificate to the US Coast Guard National Vessel Documentation Center. After a few months, we received our Certificate of Documentation (COD) from the USCG which establishes the boat’s Official Number (7 digit numeric). You need to annually renew the COD with the USCG for about $26.

  1. FCC registration

If you have a VHF and/or an SSB radio aboard, you need to get a license from the FCC to transmit on the airways. We applied online at the FCC website. Once you register initially with the FCC you get an online account and a 10-digit FCC Registration Number (FCN). You then login and submit form FCC-605 and pay the FCC $220. Then, after a couple of weeks, we received via US mail our Radio Station Authorization certificate which established our FCC Call Sign (7-digit alphanumeric) and our 9-digit (numeric) Maritime Mobile Service Identities (MMSI) which is used by our VHF radios and AIS system to uniquely identify our boat. FCC registration is valid for 10 years.

  1. EPIRB registration

As is the standard practice with boats that sail offshore, we carry an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) aboard Mira. It is used to alert search and rescue services and our designated family contacts in the event of an emergency. It does this by transmitting a coded message on the 406 MHz distress frequency via satellite and earth stations to the nearest rescue co-ordination center. Registration requires the beacon ID number provided by the EPIRB manufacturer and is done at NOAA’s website. Registration is free and is valid for 2 years.

  1. Power of Attorney for Export and Delivery

We hired a licensed delivery captain to sail Mira from Argentina to the Caribbean. Since we were not planning to be aboard Mira during the delivery, we needed to provide him with a document granting legal authorization to act on our behalf to deal with port officials and clear Mira in and out of the countries along the way. We needed to sign the POA in the presence of a US notary to confirm we actually signed the POA. In the US, notaries are licensed by each state and each state respects the validity of other states’ notaries. However, for a US state’s notarization to be valid in most of the rest of the world, we needed to take one additional step. The Hague Convention of 1961 established a standard international process adopted by 114 countries by which a document issued in one country can be certified for legal purposes in other countries; the apostille. So, our next step was a visit to the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority office to get an apostille certificate for our POA; thus certifying for the international community that our notarization was legitimate.

  1. Marine Insurance

We wanted a policy to cover damage to the boat (hull coverage) for a pre-agreed boat value and damage the boat might cause to other property like boats, docks, and people (liability/primary indemnity coverage).  We also wanted coverage for other major expenses for medical payments, emergency towing, salvage and rescue, and fuel spillage.  We worked with a recommended marine insurance broker to help us navigate the process and provide quotes from multiple carriers.  Policies are typically for a 1 year period and are underwritten based upon the coverage requested, our sailing experience, the experience of our delivery captain, and the geographic area we plan to sail during the year.   After reviewing initial quotes and selecting a carrier, we asked our broker to submit our application along with the required copies of our final boat sales contract (to document the value of the boat), our sailing resume, and the resume of our delivery captain.  After a bit of back and forth, we received our policy timed to begin with the launch of Mira.

Buenos Aires

PAM:  With barely a day and a half to spend in Buenos Aires before getting back to San Fernando and Mira, we needed some help. Joy, a lively and knowledgable guide, was recommended by the talented concierges at the Fierro Hotel in Palermo.  She spent the day with us – showing off her many talents. She was at the same time – an historian, an art curator, a traffic cop, and an entertaining companion! Fun was had by all! Walking around Buenos Aires, we felt a bit of deja vu. It was like we were in Europe somewhere – although we couldn’t quite put our finger on just where.The feel of the cityscape is a strange transplanted mix of France, Italy, Germany and Spain with a South American flair all its own.

I have to say it – “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina!” The presence of Eva Peron is everywhere. Even at the site of her crypt – where the line of visitors still weaves down the corridor.

 

Pam and Joy enjoying one of the many important squares in the city.

 

Architecture varies from the graffiti’d walls of the slums
to the French influenced mansions downtown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whimsical monument in the middle of the major promenade of the city.

 

Food truck – Argentine style! One of the best parts of the day – bondiollas – crunchy hot bread, juicy sliced pork, melted cheese and a myriad of condiments! Heaven!
Iconic Tango Show – couldn’t miss this!
Delicious 7 course tasting menu at Dario Gualtieri Bistro with Mendoza wine pairings – ended up buying cases of this wine!
The food  was art!

Cafayate – The “Other” Argentine Wine Region

PAM:  Glenn and I always wanted to visit the famous Mendoza wine region in Argentina. Sadly, in September – their vineyards are still dormant from the southern hemisphere winter, and most of them closed. But, good news! the next largest wine region is in the sunny North – just a puddle-jumper from Iguazu Falls.  We flew into Salta, rented a car, and headed off on the 4 hour mountainous drive south to the adorable town of Cafayate.

But first, I insisted that we try Salta’s famous empanadas – at none other than – El Patio de Empanadas! Little did I know – that this was the first of many, many, many, many empanadas during our 3 weeks in Argentina!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we drove out of Salta and headed south, the scenery change was startling. We left behind the rainforests of Iguazu and landed in quite the opposite. Northwest Argentina is about dry desert, technicolor mountains and gorges, dramatic rock formations, and excellent high altitude wine.  Visually, we were reminded of the American southwest. It is a land of stark stunning beauty.

 

 

Garganta del Diablo (devils throat)

As we headed past the striking gorges, we finally reached the town of Cafayate – what Lonely Planet refers to as “one of northwest Argentina’s most seductive destinations”. Founded in 1840 at the site of a mission, it is the second largest center of wine production after Mendoza and has the highest vineyards in the world.  Green twining grapevines contrast with dry brown mountains while large flocks of parrots squawk overhead.   There are 19 bodegas (nearby Colomé Bodega is the highest at 8200 feet) that thrive in the Calchaquíes Valleys thanks to a favorable microclimate.   Delicious Torrontes is its emblematic dry white wine – the grape varietal is most widely grown here.

We stayed in a beautiful resort just outside of town – Grace Cafayate.  It was a charming combination of hotel, luxurious homes, and resort amenities.  Lazy days were spent wandering around Cafayate, visiting small family owned wineries, and sampling some delicious local food.

Lunch and wine pairings at Piatelli.

 

Bodega El Esteco

 

Springtime in Cafayate – grapes just budding.

 

 

 

One of the homes on the grounds of Grace Cafayate

 

Reminded us of Napa – just a bit drier.