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Running a new boat and managing expectations

By Matt Sheahan

Running a new boat and managing expectations

Oyster 565/08 Infinity was the newest and one of the smallest in the rally fleet. Launched in Ipswich in October 2021, her first big trip was down to the Canaries to join the start of the rally in Antigua in January 2022.

For Fabian Fisahn and his wife Daniela, their Oyster World Rally started at a brisk pace as they got to grips with a brand new boat. Along with the owner, all three embarked on the adventure knowing that settling into the rally would present its own demands. But for Fabian there were several key factors to be discussed and agreed.

OVERVIEW

  • Fabian Fisahn - Skipper
  • Oyster 565/08 Infinity
  • Two professional crew
  • Total crew typically three - two crew and owner

“Right from the start, I was clear with the owner that a trip like this on a new boat was only possible because of what I knew about the maintenance support from Oyster. I would not have considered doing a circumnavigation with most other brands because I don’t feel that they offer the level of support and back-up that Oyster does.

“As our trip played out, we have had problems, but there has never been a point at which we have thought that we had to leave the rally or stop. There’s always been a solution thanks to the presence of the Oyster technical team and also the other owners and crew on the Rally who all help each other. Across the fleet there’s so much experience and knowledge and a lot of interaction. We have shared spares as well, which keeps you moving around the world.

“The other key thing we discussed before setting out focussed on expectations. The owner is a keen diver and wanted to do as much of this as he could, along with seeing and exploring different countries. It was important to discuss this early on so that we could set the expectations on both sides because while he is an experienced sailor, I think he would accept that before we got going he underestimated the amount of time that you have to invest in running the boat.

“For me it was really good to have these discussions early on because it meant I knew what my focus was going to be. Even then, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of paperwork that is necessary as you move from one country to another. I don’t mind that, I’m used to it and enjoy making sure everything is sorted before we arrive, but I know the workload caught some crews out.”

Aside from maintenance, space and the practicalities of running the boat day to day have been among the key issues for Fabian and the crew.

“On a boat of this size for a trip around the world it is inevitable that you will be short on space, especially if you have a lot of crew. Even on the 825 that we circumnavigated previously, we had nine people on board, so we were still challenged for space.

“When it comes to provisioning, making sure you have the right quantities without over buying is the starting point. It might sound obvious, but it’s not always easy to get the right quantities. My rule of thumb is to buy what you need and then add 20% on top.

“In addition to the quantities that you need to stow, the way that you operate the boat can also affect stowage capacity. For instance, if you run air conditioning the condensation will run into the bilges. So, if you run the AC in the forward cabin, the bilges from front to back will be wet which means that you have to think about what you can store here. UHT milk or water in plastic bottles will be fine, but this is not somewhere where you can stow food or equipment that have to remain dry.

“In future, I would put more fixed boxes in the stowage areas. Currently, we have flexible boxes and while these are good for diving kit, fishing gear and things like that, I would prefer to have fixed boxes for food.”

There’s always been a solution thanks to the presence of the Oyster technical team and also the other owners and crew on the Rally who all help each other. Across the fleet there’s so much experience and knowledge and a lot of interaction.
Fabian Fisahn - Skipper
Crew on board Oyster 565 Infinity Antigua

Planning is a popular topic among crews, here Fabian echoes the thoughts of several skippers.

“One of the big advantages of the rally format is that you don’t have to worry about the next destination, that’s been set. What this means is that you can think a couple of steps further ahead which makes long term planning that much easier.

“Owners and guests are often living in the moment, which is fine and understandable, but for me as a skipper looking ahead further down the track needs time. Organising the paperwork is much easier if you can plan it two months ahead, as is organising what you might like to do in, say, French Polynesia, with tours and hotels. Thinking this far in advance also gives us time as a crew to discuss what we want to do and allows the owner time to invite friends and family and get the best out of the trip.

“The work that Oyster does is a huge help in organising the agents, preparing documents and relieves some of the workload. As a skipper or owner, you still have to make sure that your crew have filled out the relevant paperwork for customs and immigration, but to have that extra help makes life easier.

“Being prepared also helps make sure that you’re not delayed and can maintain the schedule. I’ve spoken to others who are outside the rally who haven’t been able to be as well prepared and it’s common to hear of delays that then force them to change or modify their plans, which in turn takes more time.”

Communications is a big topic for all in the rally and potentially it can rack up some big bills. Here Fabian advocates simplicity.

“When we’re at sea, we have our computer connected to the boat’s satellite phone so that we can get email. We use the Iridium Certus 700 service with a Sailor 4300, which we set up so that we have just one boat email address for weather and communication at sea, anything else is on my email or the owner’s email. We also have WhatsApp via the sat phone.

“Across the fleet we have a round call every day at 9am and 6pm. Then we have two WhatsApp groups; One for the owners and one for the crews. There are also emails to and from the organisation team or directly to each other.

“Then, of course, there are the parties at the stopovers which is where the real gossip is. I joke, but the parties are such an important part of providing social support across the fleet where you can share experiences and knowledge. It’s one of the reasons I would do the rally again, it makes it easier and fun.”

“Overall, I believe that establishing expectations is an important foundation for a trip of this length. Understanding the new level of maintenance that will be required is another that can take even experienced sailors by surprise.

“As an owner of previous boats, you may think servicing the engine is not a problem as you have done it before, but with a bigger boat and a bigger engine, you could end up spending a day just servicing the generator. The result is that you then lose a day of your stopover. But if you have professional crew and you’ve agreed the roles beforehand, no one feels put out when you head off on your road trip and the crew get on with servicing the boat.

“I think it’s also worth discussing and agreeing how you will manage inviting friends to join a leg of the rally. Will they be participating in sailing the boat and standing watches, can they sail at night, or will they be passengers? Either way is fine, so long as you as a crew know what to expect in advance.”

Oyster 565 Infinity at anchor Fiji Islands
Oyster 565 Sailing Luxury Yacht Antigua Caribbean

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