Preparing Bagabonda was a job that took longer, was more expensive, and included more administrative tasks than I had hoped for.
Preparing a sailboat sometimes takes a bit more than one expects. Especially when one item needed an upgrade, I decided to ensure that adjacent elements were serviced or replaced. Bagabonda spent ten months in the wharf to prepare for the bright future we hope she’ll have.
It all starts with the Survey
When we decided to buy Bagabonda, we hired a well-reputed surveyor to ensure we knew the ship’s state. The report that came back has over 20 pages of all the tests done onboard. Besides a list of things to upgrade or look into, it also provided me with the base for the maintenance schedule of Bagadona.
The insurance company steps in
While we might have been OK with some of the remarks of the surveyor, the insurance company insisted on having some extra things taken care of; The biggest issue is that the insurance companies aren’t familiar with all shipbuilders and might not understand that some things are a certain way by design.
For example. we had some wiggle on the [boegschroef], which was considered within the norms for an Amel. But the insurance company insisted on having this serviced.
A small note for those who plan to have a boat in the future: the choice of flag and where you reside will allow/limit the availability of insurance options. While we sail under the Panamanian flag (I’ll explain in a later post why), it limited our options for insurance vendors in Europe.
The French way
Having the list of changes in itself was one thing. We lost a crazy amount of time-fighting the French administration. Between January and April of this year, I wasn’t doing any work on the boat, but I was ensuring that we had all customs and plaisance papers figured out to be able to do the work. Rest assured, once we’re at the end of these works, you’ll find a post on my Kafka experience in France.
Preparing Bagabonda: the hull
One of the most important jobs we had on the list was making sure the hull was cleaned and fixed where needed and that we added new anti-fouling. Anti-fouling is some kind of coating we apply as the outer layer to the hull of Bagabonda. The paint slows the growth of organisms that attach to the hull. When the hull remains free of barnacles, it should glide better in the water – keeping resistance lower.
This kind of job has to be done ‘on the hard,’ so Bagabonda had to be lifted out of the water.
Rigging: keeping it all together
One of the major tasks we had decided to take on, with professional help, was changing the standing rigging. The standing rigging is the set of cables, connectors, and bolts that ensure the mast remains in place, no matter how much wind forces on the sails. Demasting is one of the scarier things that can happen to a boat.
Solo Sailor Martin experienced this when he sailed back onto the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe when he lost the mast of M Jambo in the middle of the night. We’d do everything to avoid this, as you can imagine.
While only one of the stays (those metal cables that connect the mast to the deck) was considered underperforming, we decided to get all the stays on our Amel Santorin replaced. A local rigger stepped in. The mast was removed from Bagabonda and put on the side. It’s a shock to see her without a mast.
When one lives in a house or an apartment in the western world, we plug in devices when and where we need them. On board a ship, things change regarding electronics: most circuits run on 12V, not 110/220, and a finite battery bank powers them.
So designing the electrical system is a matter of priority. First, we ensure that the navigation and communication systems onboard bagabonda remain powered. The remaining capacity allows us to have the light on and charge the camera, computers, and the like.
To balance the power, we searched for power-hungry devices that we replaced with low-power-consuming alternatives (LED lights, for example) and tried to find ways to increase power generation. We installed solar panels on the back of the boat’s arch.
Not only power consumption plays a role when choosing equipment. We upgraded many older systems (some dating back to the nineties) with modern tools—a new VHF radio system, a chart-plotter and navigation system, autopilot, and so on.
These navigation systems will not only work to increase the comfort of sailing but will also allow sailing safer.
Time: add patience
A lot has happened in the past year:
First contact with the broker
After searching many boat sites and visiting a few Amel Santorins, we found this one in the port of Cogolin (France)
Visit the boat
First visit to what today is the Bagabonda
Buying a boat was something I hadn’t done before, so finding a lawyer who could support us in the process was crucial. Bonus: they spoke Dutch, French, and English, three languages that would be used at moments up in the rest of the process.
We found a surveyor who understands the specs of these particular vessels.
Survey of the boat (1)
The surveyor inspected the insight of the boat, the electronics, the hoses and connectors, and the rest of the inside.
Survey of the boat (2)
The surveyor inspected the rigging and sailed the boat to validate the sails and engine. On the ship wharf, the boat was hauled out to inspect the hull.
We created the company that would hold and operate the sailing boat.
The surveyor presented its Christmas gift: a 24-page report showing the vessel’s flaws. I start making lists of urgent and non-urgent repairs to find suppliers and equipment.
With the decision imminent on the purchase, I decide to name the ship Bagabonda. More on why this name will follow in a later post.
Onboard the vessel, the former owner, the broker, and I sign the final sales contract. The boat is now mine.
We receive the (oh-so-important) flag registration letter from the Panama registry and our radio permits.
We start the negotiations with the insurance companies to insure the Bagabonda.
Most of February and March is spent on the phone with suppliers. The logistical crisis that started in Covid-times isn’t over. With Shanghai in lockdown, many parts are unavailable, and prices fluctuate daily.
After long conversations, hours on the phone and many (many!) emails, four companies will support the refit of Bagabonda.
Bagabonda sails from its dock in Cogolin to the ship wharf in Port Grimaud. All set to start the works, one would hope.
The customs administration in France rejects our file. We had presented them with the four works offers, but the administration requires these to be consolidated into one.
The ship wharf steps in and becomes the main contractor.
The paperwork with the customs office would take seven weeks. With hardly any information and no feedback.
The customs services accept our file, and the Bagabonda is now technically a customs-controlled vessel till all works are completed.
Unmasted for new rigging
Bagabonda’s mast is taken off, so the riggers can install the new standing rigging, and the mast can be sandblasted.
On the hard
With the rigging works completed, the boat can now be hauled out of the water.
Definitive Flag Registration
We received the updated paperwork from Panama with the definitive flag authorization letter. The office in Paris that took care of translating and adding an apostille to all the documents we sent to Panama in the past weeks is taking a well-deserved break.
Preparing Bagabonda for the administration seems to have reached a significant milestone.
Back in the water
In the past few weeks, the hull has been stripped and repainted. Today, Bagabonda is brought back in the water and docked at the wharf for the next phase of work.
Electronics delivered and installed
Raymarine, who provides many of our electronics on board, finally delivered the last missing parts. So we can install the navigation technology above and below the deck.
At the same time, we add USB outlets and a new switchboard for the 12V circuit.
Leaving the wharf
After 188 days, we can finally sail Bagabonda away from the wharf to a dock in Port Grimaud. Ready for some test rides and the finishing touches. We’re finally able to sail her!
We’re pretty happy that Bagabonda is almost ready to sail. In the following weeks, we’ll do some changes to add solar panels and new equipment. The master of all shopping lists includes toilet paper, extra fire extinguishers, kitchen equipment, and so many items I’m afraid we might need to organize a van to get it all to the boat.
Next, we’re planning to take Bagabonda to Sardinia as the last stop before we bring her for the winter to Tunisia, where we start the adventure early next year. After preparing Bagabonda, we’re now set to enjoy the results of the last year’s work.
Koen Blanquart is a strategy consultant, journalist, and author.
Wanderlust is one of his driving factors, and he shares his travels here on Boarding Today. Koen is also the skipper of SV Bagabonda, a sailing vessel making a slow circumvention of the globe..
Koen recently published a book on how to manage a remote team: The Suitcase Office.