Our Boat

The Launching of Fata Morgana

Tuesday, May 27, the day of the launching of Fata Morgana.

The day doesn’t look good. During the 57 days we have spent in 3D Boatyard in Key West FL working on our boat, there were only two gloomy rainy days one of which Tuesday, May 27. The problem with the rain is that we still need to paint a couple of spots on the hulls where the boat has been perched on two wooden props, and this needs to be done when the hulls are dry and the boat is lifted in the air by  the boat crane, an hour before launching.

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

Cherri and Tyler keeping the hulls dry

All day we wait for the rain to stop or just give us a few minutes brake, but it doesn’t. It rains persistently, hopelessly: a monotonous female rain, filling the puddles with grey waters. It’s trying to hold us back, to worry and discourage us, and it succeeds for a while. We consider postponing the splash for a dryer day but decide to go ahead and paint in the rain trying to keep the spots on the hulls dry by holding towels above them. This is Tyler’s idea. Tyler, Cherri, and Tony have been helping us with the final works for the last two days, great guys, and together we do a good enough job painting in the rain.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Tyler showing us his second favorite knot.

Around 4 pm we are pretty much ready to splash. Tony and I stay on the boat, all the others watching from beneath as the crane gently lifts Fata Morgana like a sedated exotic animal and makes its way among the rest of the boats who watch paralyzed with nostalgia from their places in the boatyard.

The end of the day

The end of the day

Afloat, after so many dry days, Fata Morgana awakens, slightly starts rocking back and forth, feeling content and happy. She doesn’t sink to the bottom of the ocean after being loaded with so many heavy things and that is reassuring for me. The two hulls are submerged exactly to the waterline. Altogether she looks beautiful. She is everything we have imagined.



And then all sorts of miracles happen. The sun, glorious, makes its way beneath the thick clouds to the west and sets on fire both land and sky. With vengeance.

A rainbow appears in the ocean like a mountain of candies, and you could reach up and touch it.

Three frigate birds like slow kites descend from their usual heights and begin circling above us.



All this time, a grey carrier pigeon in a cage not much bigger then a shoe box has been sitting on the deck, watching us with one paranoid eye.

Cher Ami.

It becomes evident that we need a ceremony. We are now a tribe of water people aching for a ritual.

Ivo with champagne and hummer

Ivo with champagne and hummer

So, we sacrifice a bottle of champagne (which like the rainbow, the frigate birds, and the caged pigeon, materializes out of thin air) spilling its foamy white blood with a violent explosion over the bow of the boat. Glass shatters, Fata Morgana is christened.

Christening Fata Morgana

Christening Fata Morgana

We decide to take her for a short sail. We motor in the night without stars, with no horizon, only red and green lights blinking in the blackness. We release the pigeon. A ball of feathers disappears in the dark.

In the times of Pharaohs, sailors used pigeons as a sole communication with the land world sending news to their families that they were on the point of returning home. We send a message to ourselves.

It’s time to return to shore and wait for the morning. Tomorrow, we are going to the anchorage near Key West, where Tyler’s boats Rocksteady and En Cavale are too. Tyler and Cherry stay for the night. We are all exhausted.

Categories: Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Key West Florida, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Final Touch-Ups. Painting the Name

Last day in the boatyard. Our sufferings will soon be over. The adventures shall begin.

(By ‘sufferings‘ I mean living in a place full of dirt and toxic dust where people are constantly sanding and painting their boats; with one toilet and one shower for all, men and women; no beach near by, nothing much to do; constantly working on the boat, mosquitoes and noseeums every evening; no AC, etc.)

Tomorrow is the big splash, Fata Morgana will finally go back to her natural habitat: the sea. Today, we finished painting the bottom and some final touch-ups.

Maya Painting

Maya Painting

Still, a boat will always look unfinished until you put the name on. Also, that is the most artistic and heroic of all jobs done on the boat (in this case, by me, of course). I am totally being sarcastic here. First, you spend months choosing a font and a design for the boat’s name. Next, you measure and decide how big will the letters be, what color, and where to place them. Usually, you place them on both sides of the hull(s), port and starboard, and on the back of the boat, where the name of the home port has to appear as well. Next, you go to a vinyl shop and you order your signs: big stickers which you stick to the boat.

This is one way of doing it. The guy in the vinyl shop told us it would cost us somewhere between a few hundred and over a thousand dollars, depending on the size and color of the letters. More than a thousand dollars for a name?!!!

Plan B

We went and bought special boat paint, couple of brushes and a clear-coat spray (all for under $80.00, black paint for the name, red and blue for the stripes on the sides) and I painted the name and the stripes myself. Took me a few hours for the two sides.

Here is the whole process of how you can (and should) do that yourself with pictures and all.

1. Design your letters or just choose a font and print them as big as they have to be on paper. I designed mine combining two fonts. I started with the letter A, because there are four A-s in Fata Morgana. Next, I based the letters O and G on the A and used the A again to create the T and the R. The capital F and M were hardest to come up with. I drew them with a pen on paper and I cut them out one by one.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

Step 1: Design, Draw, Cut.

2. Next, I measured the place where the name will appear on the hull and  Ivo sanded it lightly to prep it. Then, I drew with a pencil contours around the paper letters on the hulls.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

Step 2: Measure, Draw contours.

3.Then, with a tiny brush, I colored the letters. I used tape around all straight edges, but mostly I just held my breath and, with as steady hand as possible, just painted directly on the boat.

Step 3: Tape, Paint

Step 3: Tape

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4: Paint

Step 4.5: Ponder

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Step 5: Step back and admire your work

Note: Have you noticed the red and blue stripes on the boat? Same technique. I used tape to make them as straight as possible and I painted them on.

Also, if you wonder about the name Fata Morgana, please read on here.

Categories: cruising, family, Fata Morgana, Florida, Key West, Our Boat, Our Journey, sailing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Engine Room Chipmunk

Two weeks on the hard in 3D Boatyard, Key West. We are trying to repair and fit our catamaran Fata Morgana for cruising and off-grid livaboard.

Ivo has been working like crazy from dawn till dusk, me and the kids helping from time to time.

First, he spent a week grinding the hulls, then he took care of the engines.

One morning, he moved in the engine rooms and lived there for many hot days like a chipmunk, emerging on rare occasions to gather food and beer, or to jump from one engine room to the other. Out of compassion, many people in the boatyard suggested we should install a small hammock in one of the compartments of one of the engine rooms, so that he could sleep there and wouldn’t have to come out at night.

For the fibreglass works and repairs we hired Ed, a fibreglass specialist. He turned out to be Ivo’s soul mate  working in a similar fashion, never resting, never stopping, grinding all day, covered in thick white dust. When Ivo and Ed work together, they never talk, but telepathically exchange thoughts: two yogis working in perfect Krishna harmony.

Here are the results of their joint efforts so far:

April 1 to April 17

Repairs&projects already done:

1.  Engines Westerbeke 44 a (there are two engines on a catamaran)

  • cleaned the engine rooms and engines from nasty oils
  • changed all hoses and clamps
  • fixed the alternator
  • changed oil filters and oil

(All the work on the engines has been done by Ivo. After the work was finished, some people in the boatyard who saw the sparkling results, suffered mildly from an engine-room envy.)

2. Stanchions

  • unscrewed all stanchions
  • replaced all stanchion’s aluminium bases with stainless steel bases.

(All the work on the stanchins as been done by Ivo, Maya and Mira helped a bit)

3. Hulls (there are two hulls on a catamaran….)

  • sanded 
  • repaired a few spots with fibreglass
  • repaired starboard bow badly repaired previously

(Ivo, Viktor, and Mira did the sanding, most of it Ivo, Ed did the fibreglass repairs)

4. Keels (guess how many keels there are on a catamaran?)

  • sanded
  • ground
  • still waiting to dry
  • will repair them with six layers of fibreglass

(All work on the keels has been done by Ed)

5. Bimini

  • removed the bimini and frame
  • building a hard-top bimini (in progress)

(Ed is in charge of the hard-top bimini, working together with Ivo. I will publish a separate post entitled The Making of The Hard Top Bimini with pictures of all stages as soon as it is finished.)

Next, we will be painting the hulls, installing a water-maker, and will order foam and make mattresses for two of the three cabins ( there was only one mattress in the boat). We will also be doing many other things, but we can do them in the water, so I think for the boatyard, that’s pretty much it.

Hull after sanding

Hull after sanding

Starboard bow repair in progress.

Starboard bow repair in progress.

Ground keels drying

Ground keels drying

Stainless steel stanchions

Stainless steel stanchions

Sparkling engine and engine room.

Sparkling engine and engine room.

Categories: Key West Florida, Our Boat, Our Journey, Works on the Boat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why a Catamaran?

There is no such thing as a “perfect boat”, everyone will tell you. No matter the performance, layout, space, there are always a couple of things that bug you and you wish they were done differently. But there is no such thing as a “bad boat” either. Monohull or a catamaran, Beneteau or Island Packet, they can all sail and take you places if you know what you are doing. It’s a question of preference and budget. Compromises are made every time.

As we were shopping for a boat in the past five months, we learned that the boat has to suit your individual needs. What are you planning to do? Where are you planning to go? How many people will be on board? You may want a boat to have some fun day sailing around the shore twice a year with a girlfriend, or you may live aboard permanently docked at a marina most of the time, or you may go racing, or go around the world, alone or with your family. In order to get a prescription, you got to be diagnosed first. A family of four, two kids: a boy and a girl, one 15 the other 9, planning to live aboard and cruise extensively, eventually crossing oceans, anchoring most of the time as opposed to docking at marinas; these were our symptoms. We were thus diagnosed with a catamaran and even second and third opinions confirmed it. A catamaran it is.

Fata Morgana is a catamaran, or a multihull sailboat made in South Africa in 2001 by Robertson&Caine Leopard. She is 38 feet in length and 21.3 feet wide.

The draft is 3.7 feet. The draft basically indicates at what depth she will touch the bottom. Catamarans are notorious with their shallow draft. A monohull with the same amount of space inside will have at least two times bigger draft of 7-8 feet. This is a big advantage for the catamaran, as often there are shallow waters around reefs and islands which can be accessed only by boats with such shallow drafts. A monohull cannot go everywhere a cat can.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

The space. Our boat of 38 feet has two cabins in one hull and one cabin and a big shower in the other, three cabins total. The beds (berths) are enormous. Guests can be easily accommodated. A monohull with the same space inside will be about 50 feet long or more, instead of 38, and thus haul out, dockage, and marina fees will be higher as they are usually calculated by the foot (a catamaran 38 feet, even though it has two hulls, is not charged double in most places.) And of course, in the bridge between the two hulls there is a large salon and a big galley (here ‘big’ is a relative and subjective term), but most exciting is the cockpit, or ‘the porch’, as I call it, covered with a blue bimini. There is a big (‘big’) triangular table surrounded by benches with space for 8 people. This, I predict, shall be my favorite spot on the boat.

Robertson&Caine Leopard 38 layout

Robertson&Caine Leopard 38 layout

Stability, safety. Two hulls mean not only lots of room, but also stability and virtually no heeling, we’ve been told. Where a monohull needs its heavy keel for balance, the cat has its two legs spread. Try standing on a skate on one foot and have someone (maybe the wind?) push you from a side. Oh my god, you might fall! At least, you will lose balance and shake a bit. But what are the chances of losing balance or falling if you are standing on both your feet spread wide apart? Not huge. Of course, if the wind is strong enough and you are stupid enough to have your sails out in such a wind, you will defiantly flip the boat. But it won’t sink! Even if it ‘turtles’ upside-down, God forbids, the catamaran will stay afloat. Its hulls are divided in watertight compartments making the catamaran unsinkable. Not so are the mono hulls, unfortunately…They sink in minutes after impact, sometimes even seconds.

Heeling. I already mentioned that the cat does not heel like the mono. As the wind blows nicely, the sails fill tightly, and the boat silently gallops over the waves, but not quite in a straight up position if it has only one hull. As the wind pushes from one side, the boat inclines to the other. Imagine having to cook, eat, walk, sleep, or anything else with the boat leaning to one side. You will be annoyed and maybe even injured pretty soon. Not so with the cat. The cat has two feet, remember? And its mast stays vertical most of the time. You can now cook, eat, walk, sleep, and even drink leaving your beer bottle on the table and finding it pretty much on the same spot while on a beam reach. Some will place this advantage on the top of their list.

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer(you see what I mean?)

Breezing Up by Winslow Homer
(you see what I mean?)

The sole disadvantage of the cat is its higher price. (Usually, when something costs more it is better, isn’t it?) Well, in our case, we found a good catamaran for cruising, made in 2001, at a surprisingly low price. Almost half of the market price and less than all mono hulls we have been considering. Maybe there is something wrong with the boat? we asked ourselves. It’s too good to be true… But it is true. The survey showed: there is nothing wrong with the boat except a few small things we are working on already. Like any boat, used or new, there are things to do before setting off into the sunset.

You can find many articles about the catamaran’s advantages vs. monohull. Here is one, not too long:


Categories: Our Boat | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Arrival of Fata Morgana

Here she comes, graceful and languorous like a figure skating matron, gliding slowly on her enormous white-and-blue skates, as if floating above the water, barely touching it. We are standing on the pier expecting her, all four of us, looking flabbergasted as if a spaceship has just landed and we are the only witnesses to a luminous miracle. The afternoon sun setting behind us transforms everything into gold. The water in the little harbor is no longer water but flaming lava, the big fishing boats perched on the opposite shore are no longer rusty but gilded and shiny, yet we don’t see them. We only see Fata Morgana and the halo that surrounds her. She is indeed a beautiful vision, but unlike a mirage, she is real and so close now, we can finally touch her.

We help tying the lines to the dock. Instead of suspicious green Martians, out of the boat hops our broker Vanessa smiling and hands us the keys. She is all yours now, congratulations!

When adopting an exotic creature, you have to approach it with caution. You have to face it, let it smell you, tame it bit by bit. Only then, only after you know the creature and it knows you, it is truly yours. But at first, you have no clue what to do with it, so you just stay at a safe distance and look at it. And it looks at you. And this is important, the getting used to one another, the getting to know one another, and it is a long process. And even after years surprises are to be expected. Same with boats.

‘Taming’ is an act too often neglected. It means to establish ties. To us, the boat is still nothing more than a boat who is just like a hundred thousand other boats. To the boat, we are nothing more than a family like a hundred thousand other families. But if we tame the boat, then we shall need each other. To us, she will be unique in all the world. To her, we shall be unique in all the world . . .

After Fata Morgana arrives at the 3D Boatyard in Key West on April 1, she is lifted out of the water, like a sedated exotic creature, by a funny looking remote-control crane, transported, and gently placed atop four wooden crates with sandbags in a corner of the yard between two other boats. We slowly start exploring her as we have no clue what to do first. We need to domesticate her. To tame her.

Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana


with inspirations from: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Categories: My Lyrical Writings, Our Boat, Our Journey | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Fata Morgana

Author’s note

The following legend was born because of a boat.

We named our boat Fata Morgana, but almost no one, appears to know what a ‘Fata Morgana’ is… It has nothing to do with neither fat women nor Arab women called Fatima, but rather with fairies, water spirits, and optical phenomena. Fata Morgana was also the name of another boat which a friend of ours built in the seventies somewhere on the shores of the Black Sea. Years later, this same friend took us sailing for the first time and with tender love and nostalgia in his voice, he would recount fantastic adventures aboard his Fata Morgana. His dream was to cruise the water-world. It became our dream. We are here now, at the edge of this new way of life, thanks to his contagious, incurable vision, his Fata Morgana. Our boat’s name and in fact our adventure are homage to him.

The legend of Fata Morgana

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880) (altered)

Morgan Le Fay by John R. Spencer Stanhope (1880)
(altered: Morgana-me)

In medieval times, at the remote other side of the Earth at the antipodes, dwelled nine magical sisters. Nine blessed womb-burdens of the Isles of Apples, daughters of the king of Avallach. At dawn and at dusk they appeared floating inside the waves and lured the unwary to their death. The most beautiful and powerful of the nine was the seductive megalomaniacal sorceress, La Fata Morgana, La maîtresse des fées de la mer salée.

One April morning, between six and seven o’clock, the air calm and ambrosial, the sea peculiarly eerie, a dark schooner, like a bad omen, appeared on the north-western horizon. A crazy alcoholic pirate, Barba Roja, was the captain of the sinister vessel. He had lost one leg and one eye in horrific circumstances, but had two bellybuttons, the second of which, an inch above the first and a bit to the left, he had acquired during a mutiny when he was only sixteen and got stabbed in the stomach. Barba Roja had innumerable children in each port of each land his gloomy ship has visited and many poor women, struck by devastating love for him, have drowned themselves after his gloomy ship has left.

The legend has it, that all but one of the nine magical sisters, daughters of the king of Avallach, had also fallen in love with the pirate, and slowly, one by one, consumed by passion and unbearable sadness, faded away like puffs of mist or like shadows above the surface of the sea. Dissipating from the head down, only their transparent feet slightly visible, they walked slowly to the edge of the land where grey humid rocks meet the fury of the sea, never to be seen again. Only gentle footsteps upon the sands have been noticed afterwards by fishermen every now and then. Of course, Fata Morgana was the one who did not fall for the guy and therefore did not disappear. Plus, the villainess got so furious with Barba Roja because of this situation with her sisters, that only proper revenge could probably calm the small tornado that had gathered around her body disturbing everything in a ten mile radius.

No one, even I who have invented this legend, remembers exactly what happened to Barba Roja when he finally met Fata Morgana, but it is known that for the first time in his lonely life he felt the desire to recite poetry facing the setting sun, small yellow flowers blossoming on his wooden leg. On the following morning, his sinister schooner and all its crew, captain included, vanished, replaced by an unusual vision of an otherworldly object, resembling an inverted phantom-ship ever-changing in its appearance, hovering in the sky. This optical phenomenon: a ghostly mirage or a glorious illusion of a great upside-down schooner with black sails would often appear after that day (and still does sometimes) in calm weather before the eyes of melancholic sailors who would have staked their lives upon its reality. “Fata Morgana”, they would whisper, their hearts full of tender sorrow, nostalgia, and inexplicable love.

Some interesting-looking links to writings on Fata Morgana (most of them I still have not had the time to read, by I will)

1. wikipedia


2. Vanishing Tricks of a Goddess by Imorgen Rhia Herrad


3. Le Folklore breton et les romans arthuriens


4. Vita Merlin, Gaufridi de Monemuta/ The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1973


Categories: My Lyrical Writings, Our Boat | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.