|Someday, someday, one of these beauties will be ours!|
After months - no, wait, YEARS of Internet research, discussions with other sailors and wanna-be sailors, marina-pontoon-walking and long-term planning, we decided that a Garcia Exploration 45 was the boat that we needed for our next Grand Adventure. It was all based on hearsay, as neither of us had been close enough to one of these mythical vessels to evaluate it first-hand. We longed to stand at the helm, to open lockers, to run our hands along the decks and gunwales and generally crawl all over one of these pretties so we could see if we were satisfied with the quality and design, or decide if putting a deposit down on one of these had been a BIG MISTAKE.
COVID had made international travel a difficult proposition. Up until a month ago, it was cost- and hassle-prohibitive ... never mind the personal dangers involved. Now, as both of us are quadruple-vaccinated, we decided to chance a trip to Cherbourg to visit the boatyard where the welded hulls were fitted out.
The drive to the Calgary airport had us both excited for the familiarity of air travel, but unsure of what obstacles would be presented in our journey during the new pandemic-altered world. We were lucky to have a direct flight to Paris from Calgary. After an uneventful flight on a half-full 787 Dreamliner, disembarking and making our way through Duannes (Customs) was smooth. We decided a rental car would give us more flexibility for this first trip to Cherbourg, so into our Skoda we climbed and drove the 4 hours to our rented apartment in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin.
|Not a long drive ... by North American standards|
|We made it!|
Cherbourg came into being as a small Norman fishing village as early as the 1st century and has always been a strategic port, but it grew by leaps and bounds in the early 1810's when Napoleon Bonaparte decided to make it into a major naval base. A great ship-building industry grew in the area and generations of ship builders learned and perfected their trade. Two of these shipbuilders, Jean-Louis and Jean-Pierre Garcia, started a company in 1974 to build metal boats designed to withstand any type of sea conditions and be sturdy enough to encounter strong gales, dangerous obstacles such as ice, whales and other floating and submerged obstacles, and would able to carry enough supplies and fuel to cross oceans and there would be (as their company tagline states) "Nowhere you can't go."
|The boat is hard to spot amongst the ice, but it's there - safe and sound.|
We had arrived in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin on Tuesday evening and we had an appointment at the Garcia boatyard on Wednesday morning. We couldn't wait to see a Garcia yacht, so we walked the short distance to the marina. During our prolonged wander of the marina, we came across the exact model of yacht we have ordered ... and were happy to find that we knew the owners - our friends Rick and Carolyn!
|Rick and Carolyn (the couple in red) are visited by us and Marissa and Adriano |
(from Voyager, another Exploration 45)
Finally, the Garcia/Allures boatyard!
The next day when Kate and I arrived at Garcia's main office, there were several large monohulls and a catamaran outside, further confirming we were at the right place. We met Cothilde-Marie, the Garcia engineer who will advise us on customizing our boat. We have found out that it will be Hull #48 (not #47 as we were initially told). The timelines had not changed but the numbering order (we were told) did not mean that much. We would still be able to take possession in May, 2024.
|Sean finally touches a Garcia yacht.|
Cothilde-Marie took us on a tour of the factory, where we saw many hulls - Allures, Garcias and the magnificent Explocat - in the process of being fitted out.
|Hull of an Allures 45. The deck is made of fiberglass and fitted|
on top once the interior is built.
|One of the things that makes the Exploration different from the other boats|
is that the whole structure (hull, decks, coach house ... everything) is welded
aluminium, making it very solid.
|One of the woodworking areas at the boatyard|
|Sean having a careful look at a detail of the port helm station|
|An Explocat 52 in progress. What a monster!|
|We think Garcia has a great logo.|
|Kate and Cothilde-Marie watch a mast being stepped onto an Explocat 52 out on the yard.|
|An Exploration 45 is in the early stages of completion|
|On our way to the paint shop|
|Kate and Cothilde-Marie looking at materials|
|Just one part of the factory ... and it is huge. Eight hulls are being worked on in this area.|
Being able to climb on, look inside, handle materials and ask a barrage of questions was extremely comforting. We must know this boat intimately - where every cable starts and finishes; where every thru-hull, switch, pump and motor are; what is attached to what (when something needs to be repaired or replaced); how things open, close and what lies behind each panel ... these could literally be the difference between life and death. Although Kate and I would love to be hands-on involved in the building process, we don't have the expertise or skill to create one of these vessels. Watching and learning about our specific build is something that we CAN do from a distance, via pictures that Cothilde-Marie offered to send to us on a weekly schedule (once the build starts).
|The forward cabin in the process of being built.|
|Standing in the galley, looking forward to the navigation station.|
|A finished boat, in the galley looking forward.|
To our great relief, the Garcia Exploration 45 exceeded our expectations. It feels roomier, more solid and far prettier than we imagined. The sole is robust and completely squeak-free, you can do chin-ups off the fiddles without a millimetre of movement and there is ample headroom wherever you need it. The fully-integrated arch is actually welded to the hull, as are the hard pints for tethers and many of the grab bars.
The biggest issue with the boat....
...is the wait!