Finding a new boat to sail the Northwest Passage might not appeal to most people, but most people aren't Jimmy Cornell. Graham Snook went to test the boat Jimmy commissioned - the Garcia Exploration 45.
What’s she like to sail?
I pity any wave that gets in the way of the Garcia Exploration 45’s rounded aluminium hull. She’s big and heavy, and not the most exciting boat to sail, and no matter how good the Jefa steering is, nothing is going to change that. On a rather windy test sail, however, the helm was responsive and lighter than her looks might suggest. She was very comfortable through a confused sea and sailing her was a relaxed affair. Even with no mainsheet track the sails can be left without being tended constantly; she’ll just heel a little then keep going.
Like most centreboard yachts her windward performance suffers as a result of lack of weight low down in the water. But, because she is conceived and designed for serious voyaging, going to windward might mean a day on one tack, a day on the other. The deep skeg that houses and protects the propeller and shaft adds directional stability. The payback is her go-anywhere ability and her downwind performance. With the wind anywhere aft of the beam you can start lifting the centreboard. This improves her performance and makes the helm lighter.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
Manoeuvring her in the confines of a marina isn’t something I envy. With a displacement of 14 tonnes (before cruising clobber and provisions are added) and no direct prop wash over the rudders, a bow thruster is an option I wouldn’t be without – not that marinas will be encountered often. Anchoring is far more becoming of her ladyship. To this end the anchor chain is taken from the bow, through a sealed pipe to the windlass just forward of the coachroof and the deck stepped mast. From here the 100m of chain fall to the hull floor in front of the centreboard into a watertight locker in the owners heads; keeping the weight low and central. Ventilation and heating are excellent throughout every cabin; the galley has an opening hatch above the stove. Both the saloon and galley enjoy panoramic views, so evenings would be social and could be spent on this central level before descending the few steps to the sleeping compartments. The saloon windows are double-glazed but the hull-lights and hatches are not. My evening spot on board would be the seat aft of the saloon – the backrest folds back and a leg-rest flips up, converting it into a chaise longue.
Would she suit you and your crew?
She’s designed to go to inhospitable cruising grounds, motor for 1,000 miles and come out the other side. If that appeals to you, start saving. While she might raise eyebrows (and fenders) in a marina, it’s not her usual habitat. She was designed by to be handled at sea by one person on watch and look after anyone else on board at the same time. She’s built for comfort, protection and to be a home, whether you are bound to bricks and mortar or not.
Comparing the Exploration 45 to a marina-dwelling yacht is like comparing a camel to a fish. Both excel in their own environment but share little similarity. Like the northern African nomads who choose the camel, you’ll be of the same itchy-footed inclination. If you hanker after going where few people have been before, or want to explore watery wildernesses while they’re still considered isolated, there are few production boats, if any, that compare. Past YM editor Geoff Pack wrote a book called Ocean Cruising Countdown. If like me you gaze longingly at it on your bookshelf, this might be a boat for your list. She may not be stunning to look at, but in the middle of a vast, unspoilt Arctic landscape I think she’d look beautiful.
FACTS AND FIGURES
LOA 14.72m (48ft 4in)
Ballast 4500kg (9921 lb)
Sail area 91m2 (980 sq ft)
Diesel 700 litres (154 gal)
Water 500 litres (110 gal)
D/L ratio 208
SA/D ratio 15.9
Ballast ratio 32%
RCD Category A
Designer Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design
Builder Garcia Yachting
Tel + 33 2 31 69 03 92
The Garcia Exploration 45 is designed to got to inhospitable cruising grounds, motor for 1000 miles and come out the other side. If that appeals to you, start saving. She might not be stunning to look at, but I think in the middle of a vast unspoilt Arctic landscape, she'd look beautiful.