When you’re sailing offshore–Are you interested in price or cost?

Fountaine-PajotLearning Center

A client recently finished a passage on a Saona 47. Mostly it was a great experience–especially since he was coming from extensive offshore, monohull sailing experiences. Like all passages, his was not problem free, but the issues, were primarily not the fault of the boat, but inadequate commissioning and commissioning planning, and a lack of proper training and familiarization in advance.

What’s the difference?

These, issues handled properly, regarding commissioning, are exactly why ACY Yachts is often praised for its perfection of the process. A manufacturer cannot make the boat perfect for every owner and every scenario — but your dealer can if he cares and has the experience.

We offer prudent consultation and bring more resources to the table than available anywhere else. We are the number one dealer in the world. We bring our extensive expertise, experience and resources to  to your project–standard!

Manufactures build for a worldwide market. We plan your boat just for you!

You can cut corners on commissioning and get a lower price, but, in the end, as this owner found out, it cost him far more in the long run!

A customers description of the good, bad and ugly, and some answers…

Commissioning done right–simply…

Custom commissioning is one of the most important processes to incorporate in order to get your boat set up right for you. It’s a bit like the old carpenters saying, measure twice cut once. Here’s a simplified version of the process–lots more involved and many talented, staff and experts are involved, but here’s the process:

  • Phase 1: Choosing the right options and commissioning location based on your specific needs. We provide appropriate change orders, and links to on-line technical information. (More meetings may be scheduled as needed, but especially, just before the last date for changes, we’ll review all of the choices so far to make sure we got it right, or incorporate any last minute ideas you might have.
  • Phase 2: Meeting the boat on arrival and choosing where to locate equipment (fans, outlets, dimmer switches, TV, etc.), and have a first introduction to your boat the way it’s coming from the factory, while tweaking anything you might want to add locally.
  • Phase 3: Check out and sea-trials. We spend a day with you going over the operation of all of the equipment, best practices, answer your questions and review the file box of equipment manuals. The next day, we go over everything again during a sea-trial. Additional instruction or training, including ASA courses is available on your boat or sister-ships depending on the season/location.

What was great according to my customer.

(On this Saona 47, but similar on other models)

I returned about two months ago from a transatlantic delivery of a Fountaine Pajot 47, 5-cabin version.  There were four of us; skipper was the best friend of the owner.

The boat was really nicely equipped; standard 47 features plus dive compressor, 8 kW gen, 180 lph watermaker, washer, double cool boxes inside the galley and separate freezer and microwave just inside the slider as you head outside from salon, electric flush toilets, cockpit drinks cooler, and the expensive option–hydraulic dive platform off the rear (and was that ever nice!).  Each of us had our own double cabin with separate head.  There is storage everywhere; the in the floor spaces in the salon are great and hold an enormous amount–I was impressed with how the ship swallowed all those stores!  We provisioned for 25 days and needed just about all of it, as our passage from Canaries to Antigua required 23 days.  The reason for the rather lengthy passage was the absence of a downwind sail.  The owner had already shelled out heaven knows how much, but he figured chartering in the Caribbean would be fine with the jib and main, and I think he’s right, judging from the majority of the sailing I experienced there. (More on this topic later)

Issues from the passage

(Note this boat was not commissioned by ACY Yachts, however it is typical of many we hear.)

We go over the boat in detail before and after commissioning and offer regular informational webinars and factory tours.

Our boats don’t cost more because we charge more. In many cases the price may be less, as we substitute better choices of equipment for the standardized one-size fits all equipment offered by most dealers and manufacturers. The price for a boat set up properly may be slightly higher, but the cost is far less–it always costs less to do it right,  than to do it over! Haven’t you found that to be true?

See my discussion below as to how proper commissioning and set-up addresses these issues. (Customer comments and answers.)

Now to the design problems, as I will characterize them.  The absence of a backstay results in rear-swept spreaders that limit the runout on the main a huge amount.  If you run the main out, either with sheet or the traveler, enough to sail with the wind more than 2 to 3 points abaft the beam, the main butts up onto the spreader ends.  I noticed the chafing on the first day out; the skipper didn’t give it much heed, but a day later I directed his attention to two nice holes in the main.  When we reefed, we simply allowed the spreaders to work their magic on two new areas.  The spreader tips could easily be designed to allow some impingement on the main without chafing.  I can’t believe FP is not aware of this problem.  Not everyone starts out with a downwind sail, but downwind/broad reaches are normal and frequent points of sail.  We ended up duct-taping towels on the four spreader arm ends.  (Editor: this isn’t a MF problem, it’s a training and understanding problem–more below.)

A. This was a function of inadequate setup, but even more, lack of training for the skipper. More below.

A more dangerous failure occurred about halfway across and in the middle of the night.  The bolt holding the boom to the mast lost its nut and we were not far from having a boom-mast separation.  How can that happen so quickly?  Of course, the boom rides up and down, especially on points of sail to stern, and I admit we had no vang setup or other mechanisms to reduce the boom movement.  We used a preventer most of the time since we couldn’t run the boom out enough to assure that we wouldn’t have an unintended jibe if the wind changed suddenly. Again, lack of proper preparation. This is a known service issue that should be addressed by the dealer before heading off for offshore passages.

We had a slow, but persistent leak into the port engine compartment, possibly a result of Fountaine Pajot’s watermaker installation.  This sent the engine bilge off with its abominable alarm on a regular basis.  We also had a leak in the starboard pontoon aft, and I think it was related to a valve leading to the A/C unit in my cabin.  There was water on the deck in the cabin, and closing the valve stopped it.  The seawater pump to the sink also ran continually, so we had to shut the saltwater sink tap off. This is a commissioning issue that should have been a part of the commissioning check-list. ACY typically spends a full day checking the boat before the customer arrives. Then we spend a day familiarizing the customer with the equipment and another day testing everything during a sea-trial with the customer. Then, if you still need more support, we put an ASA teaching captain to further familiarize you with your boat for as long as you need.

Fountaine Pajot really should have as standard handrails leading down from the salon to both pontoons.  Honestly, how much would that be, and it’s simply basic safety equipment.  Holding on to the veneer or the cushions of the settee will leave nice dirt marks after a short while.  There should also be some means of holding on while traversing across the foredeck by the salon cabin.  The coach roof really doesn’t hack that. The ACY commissioning program includes discussions, with many custom solutions available. We have handrails of all types on our extensive option list which includes manufacturer and local options–but even more importantly–we discuss this in advance at our commissioning meeting.

There should be blocks on tracks on the port and starboard rails, too.  The jib is far too constrained in downwind conditions by the standard configuration.  We jury-rigged one on each side. ACY offers a host of solutions depending on sail configuration discussed (with sailmaker included in the discussion) 

More details follow…

My Discussion of issues brought up…

  1. Planning the boat in the first place, and planning for offshore passages take time. Who did this owner buy his boat from?We offer an entirely different level of planning than any other dealer I know of—that’s why we’re number 1 in the world.
  2. We do a lot of customizing and offer custom equipment for much of the equipment that we know is problematical—this includes the water-maker, for instance. We use a much nicer, automated version that pickles itself, among other features.
  3. We offer upgraded electrical systems—especially a major 110 V. upgrade, and other upgrades that are easy during commissioning, and problematical later.
  4. We offer a host of customized features, like handrails leading down to the cabins, but also on the cabin tops. We go over all of this in our commissioning meeting—other dealers simply don’t
  5. We do a multi-hour commissioning meeting to get the equipment right (As I said, often substituting better performing local equipment because we know about many of the issues having commissioned so many boats.)
  6. We do a multi-day check out of the owner, and shakedown of the boat to make sure all is good. This includes checking things like the gooseneck fitting, which can be pinned,
  7. We offer a host of combinations for offshore, downwind and light-air sailing—including enhanced chafe protection with sacrificial sail patches.

Be sure to read our post on downwind sailing and choosing the right sails.


It simply sounds like whoever sold this boat to this customer had more interest in making the sale, than adequately customizing the boat for the owner’s needs and style—or, the owner simply chose to not take advantage of expertise that is available. Doing it right, beats doing it over every time!

For a step by step walk-through of the process, check out this blog. So I ordered a new boat–now what?

The one common thread through the whole process was the great team at Atlantic Cruising Yachts.  There was always a welcomed calming effect emanating out of ACY, regardless of who I was speaking to.  It was clear that the team was very experienced and had done this hundreds of times, even though for me, it was my first. Much the same as the actual boat moving down the production line, as I progressed to each phase of the process, I was transitioned to the most appropriate ACY team member who possessed the skill set and experience to get me successfully through their respective stage and on to the next.” BS New Jersey

Eric  Smith, Senior Sales Consultant, Partner
More from Eric

DisclaimerThe information, viewsopinions, and conclusions expressed in any article, blog, video, or other form of media posted or linked herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Atlantic Cruising Yachts, LLC.  Nothing contained herein has been approved or otherwise endorsed by Atlantic Cruising Yachts, LLC and such company shall have no liability for any content.

ESE, LLC is totally responsible for the content of this article. We are not tax advisers. You should obtain tax advice from a professional tax adviser for any matters relating to setting up a business, or tax implications.