When a slot opened up on the delivery trip of the new Seawind 1600 Northstar, I leapt at the opportunity. The journey would take the 1600 south from Vietnam, across the South China Sea to Singapore, a good 600 nautical mile journey. This would be a fantastic chance to give this impressive new design a good shakedown.
I had plenty of reasons to be excited about this trip. As Seawind Catamarans Sales Manager I need to be well versed on all aspects of design, performance, construction and features on the newest and most advanced catamarans. And as a shipwright, I’m always seeking to add to my knowledge bank. However, there is nothing quite like 5 days offshore to get a well rounded understanding of a yachts capabilities and nuances. Forecasts predicted a very light 8-10kts south, southeast. So other than testing the boats pointing ability, this shouldn’t have been a very “testing” sail. But luckily the forecast was only that – a forecast not a guarantee – and it could not have been more wrong!
After stocking up with supplies the night before, we pushed off at 5am Saturday morning making our way up the river and then towards Con Dao island 100 miles Southwest. This first days sail was a very lazy upwind into the predicted 8-9kts and maintaining an average 6.5kts SOG. We maintained this course all day, passing Con Dao at around 10pm that night.
Having now passed Con Dao to the East we headed up to start gaining ground on Singapore. Sailing in around 12kts of wind we were able to sail comfortably between 34-40 degrees and maintaining speeds of 7-9kts. This was a great days sail and we made some good progress in these conditions however the further south we came the more the wind was shifting to the nose. Visibility from the helm was perfect, sitting at the two seater helm chair overlooking the cabin top we had 360 degree visibility and protection from the sun from the large full cover hardtop. Being fair skinned I tend to burn quite easily, and it’s something I am very cautious of. On this trip however, I managed to last the whole 5 days without getting burnt, a feat I was quite impressed by.
Night sailing was quite straight forward, there were four of us aboard so we took shifts with two people on watch together for 4 hours a time. The nights were typically uneventful, occasionally you would pass a fishing boat and slow down or change course to avoid nets. The further south we went into the Gulf of Thailand, the fewer vessels we encountered. Around 11pm we would put in a reef, just as a precaution to avoid the need in the dead of night but also to provide an easy comfortable ride. The reef lines are all single line and led back to the cockpit so reefing was all managed without needing to head up on deck: a truly under-appreciated feature.
At 6am on day 4, I awoke to a hustling of crew and some heavy movement. I jump out of bed and made my way to the cockpit to find that we have been hit by a 35 gust and the seas have risen to a short, sharp 2m+ swell with 25-30kt winds and gusts to 35kts.This was exactly the conditions we needed to really test the boat and it’s systems. This day was full of activity: raising the sails, reef 1, reef 2, reef 3, inner forestay in, inner forestay out. We saw the lot! And it wouldn’t have been too bad – other than the wind was still right on the nose, meaning we were getting knocked further and further off course. These conditions followed us right through the night until around 2pm – while I was off watch, and I heard the motors start up as Mark (Production Manager) dropped the sails and got back on the rhumb line for Singapore.
Eventually the sea state calmed and I was able to give the motors a good run in. I have to say I was extremely impressed in the yachts performance under motor. Northstar had the upgrade to twin Yanmar 80hp turbo diesels and dual electronic controls. She was capable of a steady 3200+RPM however we rareley needed to exceed 2000. At around 1900rpm in 1m swell we were easily doing 8-10kts. I think I saw us get up to 11 at one stage and the engines never missed a beat. This level of performance is a testament to the boats to the boats displacement and narrow performance hulls.It was nice to know that when the wind let us down we could give it some gas and make our destination on time.
We made our way into Singapore’s shipping lane around 8pm on day 5, and wow what a sight. Thousands of ships parked or making their way in and out of the ports, many showing up on AIS, but others not. We kept a close watch as we entered and plotted our course through the lines of passing and oncoming vessels until we were safely through the channel. After an hour we were in the clear and within sight of the marina. Wow, what a trip. Before leaving, the 1600 had only been in the water for 4 days. She had extensive tests and sea trials during this time but then off we went on a mission to get to Singapore. Considering this is a brand new design it was extremely impressive to find we did this whole trip without any problems at all. Having a team of four shipwrights on-board, we were carefully analysing and watching out for any issue – not much would have escaped us. And it’s a credit to the team that we struggled to find anything. So I stepped onto the dock in Singapore feeling calm and extremely satisfied in the performance and safety of this brand new 52ft catamaran.