When you’ve written seven successful editions of a book entitled “World Cruising Routes,” there’s a good chance you’re capable of designing the ultimate boat to meet the rigors of these very routes. That is what blue water impresario Jimmy Cornell set out to do when choosing a sailing vessel for his Blue Planet Odyssey rally — which started last year and was set to take him not only around the world, but also through the Northwest Passage.
Collaborating with renowned French boat designers Berret-Racoupeau and builders Garcia Yachting, Jimmy’s vision of his “ideal cruising boat” launched what would become the Garcia Exploration 45. Hull number one, Aventura IV, was his, and it was created to provide a vessel suitable for cruising and living-aboard in tropical waters or plying ice choked high latitude passages.
After the Blue Planet Odyssey kicked off last summer in London, Jimmy and crew tried their luck at transiting the Northwest Passage from east to west, but ice and timing got the best of them and they were forced to turn back. While this was surely a disappointment to Jimmy, I was fortunate enough to sail Aventura IV on a sunny, blustery day last fall on the Chesapeake Bay off Annapolis, Maryland while the boat was making its way down the east coast towards the Panama Canal en route to taking another stab at the Northwest Passage.
Once through the Canal, Aventura IV was put on a ship in Costa Rica and sent to Victoria. It then graced Lake Union for a month while preparing for her west to east attempt at the Northwest Passage this summer. Jimmy and a new crew departed Seattle in late June headed for Dutch Harbor, Alaska and points farther north and east. You can read about their previous voyages and can follow their progress throughout the summer here.
When I stepped aboard Aventura IV, I was excited to get a look at this do-everything-cruiser that was being billed as a boat to take any crew over the horizon in safety and comfort.
Built of aluminum, her look is workmanlike and distinctive when compared to many marina queen production sailboats coming out of factories in the States and Europe these days. The Expedition 45 has dual rudders, an integral aluminum centerboard and through-hulls made of welded aluminum with their valves set above sea level. The forward and aft bulkheads are watertight, and watertight hatches in the aft cabins allow access to the stern compartments. Due to her penchant for cooler climes, she’s well insulated above the waterline, and has an insulated floor — dream features of many condensation soaked live-aboards (including me).
What I couldn’t get over as I walked about Aventura IV was the attention to detail built into every system and feature of the boat. Stainless steel padeyes for your tether are seamlessly integrated into the corners of the cockpit. Twin stern tie reels and a life raft have their own lockers on the transom and are accessible from the generously sized swim platform. Above the transom rises an arch that can house a wind generator, solar panels, radar and antennas.
Sheets, halyards and sail controls are led smartly aft to well-placed clutches and winches to allow for easy trimming. But, there are also winches on either side of the mast so if you need to go, or choose to go, forward for sail handling, you can. And the boat’s GRP cabintop (the only fiberglass on the boat) is shaped in a way to provide a built-in dodger and place to escape the elements, reminiscent of many modern ocean racing monohulls.
A robust bowsprit and anchor roller is built into the hull and the electric windless is positioned aft near the mast to keep the weight of the anchor chain centrally located in the hull. Also centrally located are the high volume water and fuel tanks, which can be ballasted to port and starboard.
Stepping down into the boat through an impressively stout, watertight companionway door, the interior is bathed in light with a dark floor that contrasts nicely with the upholstery. An inline galley is to port and a large settee with forward navigation station is to starboard. The centerboard trunk separates these two spaces and acts as a fine place to brace yourself while working in the galley or when walking fore and aft. Three layouts are available that, depending on how many crew you plan to have aboard with you, can seemingly have as little or as many bunks as you’d like.
The most distinguishing feature of the Garcia Exploration 45, though, is her forward sloping coachroof and panoramic windows that give the boat a unique look and her crew a 270-degree view from the inside navigation station. Standing watch from here with a cup of coffee in hand while on a passage or when transiting the Salish Sea in a winter gale would be a treat.
Aventura IV looked every bit of her brawny 31,085-pounds at the dock and I was anxious to see how she’d perform
in a good breeze.
When we cleared Back Creek in Annapolis and made our way out into the Chesapeake, the wind was at a steady 15 to 20 knots and we hoisted the full-battened mainsail with help from an electric winch. Opting to give the boat a good test, we started with the genoa instead of the staysail, hardened up for close hauled and chugged our way like a freight train out into the brown, shallow water of the bay.
On a lot of boats within this size range a reef in the main would probably be appropriate in these wind conditions, but the Exploration 45’s helm was still light as I steered from the comfortable leeward helm. I’ve sailed quite a few boats with twin rudders in the past couple years so have come to expect a boat that steers exceptionally well, and this was certainly the case here. Plus, her long, deep skeg helps with directional stability upwind and down.
The chop kicked up as we continued farther out into the bay and at 35 to 40 degrees apparent wind, we were punching through waves at an amiable 6.5 knots. Satisfied with our upwind jaunt, we eased sheets for a beam then broad reach and the boatspeed climbed quickly to 8 knots.
Overall, the ride was smooth as we worked our way over, across and down the chop, leading me to envision this as a comfortable boat in any sea state. Earlier reports from the crew who had delivered Aventura IV from Newfoundland to Newport, R.I. and then Annapolis where that she was quite seakindly.
A Proven Design
Having proven herself now offshore, in the tropics and in the high latitudes, the Garcia Expedition 45 has certainly earned the accolades she has received since being launched just a few years ago.
At a manageable 45-feet, she’d be an excellent live-aboard cruiser for a couple or family who wants to see the world by boat. And though she’d probably do quite well in the tropics, to me, the GE 45 would really make an excellent cruising boat for those who aren’t fair weather sailors in higher latitudes.
The one overarching detail that truly sets this boat apart from so many other cookie cutter cruisers — among other things — is that it was purposely designed and built by a highly experienced cruiser, and that means it can meet the needs of those choosing to sail any world cruising route in Jimmy’s famous tome.
What I quickly discovered in the Chesapeake Bay, though, was a boat that I continually kept telling myself, “Man, this would be a great year-round boat in the Pacific Northwest.” And that’s saying a lot.