About us


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Both born and raised in Montreal, Canada Danielle and myself Roger met in the mid-nineties on this Wednesday night of April that will change our lives forever. When we are not sailing Danielle is a computer scientist and I am an electrical engineer.
We moved to Ottawa at the end of ’98 when the high-tech boom was raging. At that point we had no concept of boats and sailing. It was something that existed only in songs. Unlike most sailing couples the dreamer here is Danielle.
During the spring of ’99 Danielle had a contract work for Canada Post, which has a building just beside Hog’s back in Ottawa. Hog’s back is the place in Ottawa where the Rideau River splits into two parts; one branch is the river itself while the other is the start of the Rideau Canal. This is a nice leisure place where people just sit and enjoy the scenery. Ottawa has a well developed sailing community especially on the Ottawa River where you can see sometimes 100 sailboats on a nice sunny Saturday afternoon. But in Hog’s back there are not many sailboats but mostly small power crafts and Kayaks.
Danielle sat there and had one of her famous “simple ideas”. Hey, let’s have a boat! Like most of Danielle’s idea the concept is simple but making it happen is usually a different story. Any sailor or boater knows that having a boat is many things but simple. Anyhow she brought the idea home but I was not really into power boating. After a brief negotiation it was agreed to try sailing instead.
It started with a small Dolphin 23, which was later upgraded to an Ontario 32.This was around 2003 that the idea of a sailing trip started. Danielle had a simple idea. Hey, let’s go sailing for a year in the Caribbean! Again reality caught up quickly. I wasn’t too fond in spending that much money and time to get a boat and sail down for year in a set of Islands that can be easily visited by plane. And what do we do with the house? What about the furniture? Do we try to get a sabbatical at work or do we resign?
In fact, such a trip when you are not retired has enormous fixed costs. So my rational was that if we have to go through all that trouble let’s do it proper. Let’s sail all the way around the world. Remember at that time Herbert and Diane Stuemer were just back from their trip around the world on board of Northern Magic and the idea of doing a similar trip seems not only feasible but was quite appealing. First, the Ontario-32 is a wonderful boat but it is not blue water and definitively too small for a trip around the world.
In December 2005 Chocobo came into the picture. This Manta 40 is a 40-foot cruising catamaran with everything you need to have a descent life for the 4 years the trip will last. The two and half years that followed were to get Chocobo ready as well as them. The boat made in ’97 was in very good shape but required to be revamped.
Also, this kind of “I stop to work for 4-5 years” is quite pricy and some time was needed to build up the sailing kitty. But after spending endless days on the boat repairing, changing and fixing parts that are insanely expensive as well as selling all their belongings for peanuts at moving sales, everything was ready for the big departure. The rest is history in the making.

There is quite a history behind the choice of the Catamaran. Previously, we first owned a Dolphin-23 1975 called Marisa. This 23 footer was a nice centerboard monohull sloop that we sailed on the Ottawa River. It was a good starter boat and we really enjoyed it and even spent weekends on it as it had a small cabin with a very comfortable V-berth.
However, it had some inconveniences such as the fact that one square piece of the mattress was removable to uncover the chemical toilet we had on board. Nothing better than sleeping our head on head (the toilet), especially when someone wants to use it in the middle of the night! That’s probably where the name “head” comes from! Also, the cabin top was high enough that I could stand up with my head barely touching the ceiling; as long as I was standing on my knees. Quickly we realized that Marisa and us was not a relationship meant to last.
Our upgrade boat was an Ontario-32 1977 that we called Stamina, (for its long term endurance!) again a nice sloop but with much more amenities than Marisa. On Stamina we had a propane stove, an ice box, a table, a diesel heater, a head with a door and even a navigation table. The interior was finished in teak; it was just a superbly well designed boat. On Stamina we could now stay much longer on the water and after one season on the Ottawa River we took her subito presto to Lake Ontario where she belonged.
The Kingston area on Lake Ontario offers much more water than the Ottawa River and we were now able to spend 10-days long trips hopping from one island or bay to the other. This is at that time that the idea of sailing around the world came up.

The question was what boat do we need for a trip like that? Unfortunately, Stamina was not up to the job. The boat was definitively sturdy enough to sustain the sea but the engine, a genuine 1-cylinder 10Hp Yanmar diesel, a machine that would never die or fail was surely a brave engine but the ocean was too much to ask. Also with no fridge and no shower it was for us too much to ask! And for all the systems on board the boat was just no equipped for salt water.
However, there was another major aspect to consider in the choice of a boat; heeling.
From the beginning with Marisa Danielle experienced a high level of discomfort when the boat was heeling. At first we thought that this was because the boat was small but later on Stamina the discomfort was still very present. I am using the word “discomfort” instead of “fear” because this is not of fear that I am talking about here. Danielle can be many things but definitively not afraid of the water and she proved it more than once. The most obvious case was the day of our first sail on Lake Ontario on board of Stamina. We were heading toward Main Duck Island about 18 miles out of Collin’s Bay. About ¾ of the way to the Island the wind seriously picked up and we had to furl the Jib. Unfortunately, the furling line caught in the horn cleat at the bow and got stuck. Danielle using the winch to pull the old line snapped it. This was in early May and the waves were splashing over the bow. The water temperature was about 9 degrees Celsius ( ~ 50F ) and someone had to go there to untangle the line and to reattach it. I told Danielle to take the wheel while I go at the bow, but the boat was heavily heeling. Danielle looked at me like I was the director of Survivors and was asking her to eat a plate full of wiggly worms. No way! And off she goes crawling her way to the bow like a warrior crawling to attack the enemy with her bare hands.
At the bow she had to lie on her belly with both legs apart to avoid being swung overboard by the rocking of the boat while beating through the waves. Things got more complicated than expected and to make a long story short Danielle spent between 10 to 20 minutes at the bow being splashed by water slightly above the freezing point until she finally fixed the line and manage to furl the jib. All this because she suffer some “discomfort” taking the wheel when the boat heels! Trust me Danielle is NOT afraid of the water.

Danielle is very smart and she understands very well that a sailboat is designed and built to heel and that this position is completely normal. We don’t have a clue of why some people can’t stand heeling but the closest I can describe this feeling would be vertigo. Why can we walk on a curb on the ground but not on a beam the same width 50 meters above the ground? No rational reasons here other than the fact that the brain and the balance system just don’t take it, same for heeling. Some people have no problems whatsoever and some just can’t stand it.
So with this heeling parameter in the equation the natural choice was a catamaran. Weighting 12 tons and being 40 feet long and 21 feet wide, this is stability on a silver plate. In fact, it is almost too stable. At night we don’t feel as much the bad weather as in a monohull and this can lead to some unpleasant situation especially if the anchor starts dragging.

We bought Chocobo in December 2005 and after two years of preparing and enjoying the boat we are now ready for the adventure of our life.
For the adventure, make sure to visit us once in a while on our web site at: