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Outremer 52 Shakedown

Date published
October 17, 2023

Our Outremer 52 Shakedown

The shakedown is arguably the most important part of the boat buying process. Because no boat not even a new boat - is perfect, finding bugs, issues and flaws is critical to getting off to a good start. The way it works is boat manufacturers build you a boat and hand it over to you and then everything else is typically covered under a warranty or after-sales agreement. That means, when you are buying a new boat, you must clarify and understand what work you will get done after your shakedown, where it will get done and by whom, and whether it’s included in your contract.

Shakedown cruise to Corsica 2023
Shakedown cruise to Corsica 2023

When we bought our first boat, they had a one page warranty summary vaguely outlining what was covered. I’ve bought more kitchen appliances with more detailed warranty documentation! That was a painful lesson we learned because in the end, I’m not convinced the boat had a warranty because any work that we did during the ‘coverage period’ was paid out of pocket by us! Not one thing was fully reimbursed and the claims process was a nightmare.

With our new boat, we are working directly with the manufacturer and we know exactly what is covered and when/where it will get done. In fact, we have it in our contract with Outremer that we have to bring the boat back to them after the shakedown so they can properly do the after-sales work! Imagine that…we are obligated to get work done on our boat for free!!!

The Shakedown Cruise

The shakedown cruise was the moment of truth. With everything in order, we set sail on our new performance catamaran, to give it a good shake, shake, shake. Here are some of the things we were looking for:

Systems: Are all the major boat systems in order and working properly? Was anything overheating (like in the case of our watermaker), underpowering, (in the case of our windlass), overflowing (blackwater tanks matching the sensors), or freezing when they should be refrigerating (as was the case with our fridge). Identifying every little bug or question is critical to get things fixed, but also help stimulate conversations with the builder so you can understand the systems better. Some of them need massages once in a while when they get moody.

Rigging: Is everything set up for the sail plan to work as intended? We identified a few things like an adjustment to our 3D sheeting, an alternative way for Holly to be able to furl the Code 65 single handed if needed, and our reefing hooks had a bad habit of doing the hula on our boom when they weren’t in use. It caused a fantastically annoying banging on the boom that outweighed the benefit of not having squeaky reefing lines in the boom which was the primary reason we got them. We also needed to make sure all the clutches, winches, and brackets were doing their job. We learned for instance that one of our clutches was always stubborn and one of our winches was fussy about having a winch handle shoved in it.

Noises: Are there any noises on the boat that would result in us going mental on a long passage? We found a small squeaker in the ceiling in the salon and when our sliding doors were all the way open at anchor or underway it caused a rhythmic banging as the slider danced to and fro that led me to want to stick a fork in my eye.

Quality: Are there leaks, loose wires, loose plumbing, missing screws, or missing attachments? In the end, most boats are still artisanal builds with most work being done by hand versus mass scale productions in fancy automated factories where robots do the work. People make mistakes that are usually super easy to fix, but finding these issues early can be huge. On our first boat we learned someone forgot to include Loctite in a tiny little screw in the gearbox that resulted in us almost loosing our steering going into Gibraltar! Not a good problem to have over a $1 worth of Loctite! On our new boat we were lucky to get a downpour during our shakedown so we could spot a leak. It was easy to fix, but good thing we found it before we took on the Atlantic crossing.

Cosmetics: Were there any esthetic issues with the boat? As a boat is being built there are a ton of workers doing many different things, with all kinds of tools, on every one of the surfaces on the boat. There are bound to be little smudges and nicks that need to be addressed.

Potential Improvements: Are there some simple custom improvements we could make that could make our lives easier? We found we wanted to get shelves in the sail lockers for better storage, and found things that could be done to improve the space utilization. When you live in a small space, there is a ton of room for creativity!

Finally….

The shakedown should be considered part of the handover process and be set as a priority in your first season of sailing. When you first get a boat, you are eager to start your ‘vacation’ but a proper shakedown will ensure you don’t have a first season full of frustration. Buying a boat isn’t like buying a car, it’s more like building a custom home…there’s going to be a punchlist.

Having a good relationship with your boat builder is key and it’s a relationship that lasts for years as you buy, build and service your boat.

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