The following article has been written by Stephan Boden and kindly been loosely translated into English language for us to include on our website. This article is copyright and is not for reproduction. It is published on the Barton Marine website with kind permission from the author, Stephan Boden and the magazine that published the original German language article, YACHT Magazin (www.yacht.de). To see the original article in German language, click here
‘About life on a small foot
Why do I love sailing? When I first tested the Varianta 18 on a small lake in the Ruhrgebiet, my answer to that question was quickly clear: with very little wind, I was sitting happy and satisfied on a test boat at the tiller and noticed how I quickly got that slow feeling, how everything came down. An hour before that I was racing in the ICE high speed train with 200 kph through the country.
Now I was satisfied. Between 2 and 3 knots - wonderful! Cruising sailors are constantly in speed ranges between fast walking and slow cycling. Even if you talk about a fast day on a boat, you'll be slower than on an old cycle with a dog-trailer.
In everyday life, you have lots of dates, timings, obligations. Breakfast at the lift, the gas pedal to the floor pan and the schnitzel done in 3 minutes - in the toaster. And another week is gone. Life To Go, Life 2.0. That's why this slow gliding on the water feels so good.
Previously I had a 28 ft yacht, an Etap 28i. With more convenience, more equipment, with a bathroom and a pantry. But do I need it all? Constantly there were things to do - the sail drive cuff must be renewed, the gas bottle is empty, the TBS pads are broken out and winter storage, including service must be paid for and organised.
My little Congerjolle on the Alster Lake in Hamburg on the other hand was easy to maintain. In spring it got into the water, in autumn out again. And in between, I was sailing it. That's all. Simple.
When testing the small Dehler I had a kind like borderline syndrome - I found myself from time to time on the Etap, then again on the Conger. Every little breeze is in and immediately drive implemented, each mini wave directly influenced the ship, and the tiller feels like a fine mechanic tool. Wonderful. The space below was enough for me - who needs to stand inside a boat? My dog can, but I normally prefer sitting or lying down.
I previously had checked out used boats a few times. But something left me getting a little hesitation and doubt. Sometimes it was not the uncertainty, but to buy huge construction area, something I felt myself in a granny living room. Therefore, I looked around for something new. And I wanted to counteract this "always 2 feet more". I was fixed of what today is called "downsizing". Because a smaller boat saves money, mooring and work. The smaller a boat, the less is it to what we need to care. And to reduce the standard does not mean to reduce life quality. Since I am back from my long trip, I even think the opposite way.
And so I started my computer the next day after testing and bought a brand new Varianta 18 for around 10,000 euro factory price online - "add to cart". And I decided to do a 4 months travel around the Baltic Sea.
A few weeks later, naked and dramatically enhanced, the virginal Varianta arrived at the terrain of the shipyard in Schleswig. There is should be equipped for the long journey. Schleswig and the Schlei seemed to be the ideal berth. Within easy reach from Hamburg and a perfect area for my little boat. The name of the boat was fixed very quickly for me. My boat is my friend, and good friends do not let you down. So I called it like in the deepest Hamburg language we welcome our friends: Digger. (compare with "Dude").
My plan was to make a real cruising boat out of the naked plastic thing. There is no reason against living safe and comfortable on a 5,75 boat. It was important to me however, that everything should be kept simple and solid.
I spent half my life with firmware updates. My bike has recently a charger! I did not want to have firmware on my boat and just no system maintenance on my trip. Sailing should clean up my system.
For the expansion of Varianta there were initially several approaches. I wanted to do as much as I can on my own, get to know the boat and any knowing vulnerabilities. Then something happened that my entire concept was totally changed: I met a woman in September 2011. Kathleen decided to quit her job in an advertising agency and to come with me on the 4 months trip. She was never on a sailboat before. Later I was sitting at the shipyard in my little Varianta and I felt like I came home from IKEA, realising that I bought a wardrobe which is too small. I had to create habitat for 2 people, 1 dog and 3-4 months on an inside space that pretty much is comparable with the interior of a VW Golf. But (German saying) space is in the smallest cottage, and thus came into the subsequently, some designs, sketches and cardboard models stand for an interior design.
In the end it turned into a development with Okoume plywood and solid mahogany beading. Shelves, a bulkhead in the bow as additional storage space and a huge pantry box, that can be used as a navigation board, step and a table. Cosy and soft boat upholstery pillows, a few LED lights - and a cosy camp was finished.
The shelves and the bulkhead reduced, although the living space, but there was now enough space and opportunities to balance the weight of the only 750 kg Varianta.
For the test of the equipment, several factors have played a role. Under including the need to build me a safety feeling. So a railing for me was indispensable. I have always sailed bigger yachts with railings. And a familiar environment generates security. Just like planning the navigation electronics. A multifunctional instrument with depth, speed, wind, AIS and GPS was installed on the starboard side next to the companionway, larboard was a compass for seeing the course. So I knew the earlier of my Etap - so I wanted to continue on the new boat. Later, I even stored all the stuff on the sides where it also formerly was on the "Belletap". Tillerpilot on the port side, charts in the middle, life jackets on the starboard side, also chargers on starboard, etc. Even the shore power connection, the big AGM battery, the main switch and all the sockets for 12 and 220 volts were installed where they "were even earlier". Only the iPad in the waterproof case, used as a plotter, was unfamiliar. It took its place among the sprayhood.
A sprayhood was required for several reasons. Overcoming waves will not directly get in my face, the other reason was a rain protection. Later on the sea, the solid cap was a good place to hold and sit on it I had to go to the mast. Incidentally the hood mediated also the feeling of being on a much larger size boat. And it's a great place to dry wet shoes, for example - we often had wet shoes. And not only shoes.
The Varianta 18 is equipped with a huge main sail, so my sailmaker installed a 2nd reef and for convenience reasons a maindrop system as well. And I also wanted to be travelling faster than an old Dutch cycle, so I decided for a 31 sqm ISTEC Parasail with hose and bag onto the ship deck. Suitable to a gennaker and spinnaker in one sail and is supporting the good downwind performance of the Varianta 18.
Finally, a 5 hp outboard motor, plus a 20 litre tank next to the Waeco Kühlbox in the locker found its place. I had actually liked an electric motor, but lack satisfactory advance rulings on various fairs I was too insecure. Some anti-slip paint on the deck, a few cleats here, a few blocks and lines there, a boomstrut, underwater paint, a dog bed and other odds and ends. Done. A real family mini-cruiser.
Shortly after launching on 20th March 2012 - a hopelessly rainy day - I found out that the wind turbine does not data supplied. Reason: update the firmware.
In theory, summer beings in May, then after that comes the good weather until September for the autumn. As a result, it should be quite possible to go on a longer trip with an 18 ft boat in mostly nice and sunny weather. In reality "summer 2012" was cold, windy, rainy. Somehow we never got a real summer. We had mostly way too much wind. The June shows off on the Kattegat partially with 5 degrees and 35 knots of wind. That should be actually against a successful boat tour. My plan, to sail 1800 nautical miles, we just missed by half. But anyway - it was the most beautiful sailing summer of my life. Because the main goal, to calm down, to slow down we achieved brilliantly. We laughed, enjoyed, cursed, waited, trimmed, cooked and slept. Just you do it on boats. The whole life with its facets and a great time was scaled down on a small ship. A microcosm but maximum quality of life. And without stress. Weekdays were estimated and to shower was a luxury. A 3-course menu on a camping gaz made us happy intellectually for 3 days. Because it works with the simplest means. Standing height? Ah, what for? During rain we laid down and we sat below deck and enjoyed our time at the ocean. Because of this bad summer, my football club, FC St. Pauli became 16 times Champions League winner - at least on my iPad. We had tons of magazines and books memorised. When we ran out of reading material, we went into bookshops and found some great German books, too. My favourite book this summer, "100 years of firefighters in Iserlohn".
Our life on the boat was the same funny and easy way. The bucket became the women's loo, a water bottle the men's room. We were far away from everything and yet so incredibly close to everything. In such a small boat inside feels like to be out there to live. And everything around you is wide and large - even Marstel in Denmark felt like a different continent. And the northernmost point, we've seen was Skagen. I never felt so far away before.
At 4-5 Beaufort in Kattegat, 30 nautical miles become a private ARC. And the summer weather and with Parasail, nobody need the than the Carribean.
A larger boat I missed only very rarely. Between Grena and Ebeltoft in July, against all predictions we get into a front of 6 Beaufort right in our face. And that brought 2.50m waves from three different directions. That's even with boats beyond of 30 ft not fun, but the fun category was from the small plastic boat on this day much further away. In a situation in which the displa on the iPad will change constantly in the overhead mode, hoard it on fight and speak just a matter of healing to get out of the thing. I had never been so uncomfortable on a boat. That day is my 5th Lumbar jumped out of line and in the left elbow bothering me since a bone irritation, which disappears very slowly. However, we learn from this situation:
Just subtract 1 Beaufort and everything is fine. If there are 30 knots of wind, stay in the marina a couple of days. You have nothing to do and you are at sea. It could be worse.
The benefits of the mini Dehler are unbeatable. The small and simple boat looked like an amplifier of imprints. Everything is so close, so unfiltered. And it requires little maintenance after. Clearing the decks in a few minutes. Parking and retrieving with one hand.
A can of antifouling is good for 2-3 seasons.
And there are no open sites. A boat without ballast. And it sails so nice. No risks, but aftereffects.
Our trip has serious repercussions. Kathleen was planned all along on board. Actually the conditions were set, plausible to her to explain: "never go sailing again!" But she loves sailing. And still more than ever. For her, work in advertising is history. Instead, has an internship at my sail maker completed, then a dog salon training and is now working at the Blood Transfusion Service. I am downsizing and I am running with a red pen through my life. Everything that has displays and appended to the cable, proofed by relevance. Most of it has to go. Even my eBike. I closed down my richly equipped film studio and now work at home. Less ballast, less firmware updates, everything a little smaller. I am creating more space for me. And I walk more slowing, am permanently decelerated.
Next year and so we will again extend period of time on the Baltic sailing. This time without plan. Who needs plans?'
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