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After our three-year circumnavigation, we continued to sail on Mara, the Mason 44 on which we had sailed around the world. We spent summers sailing the Canadian Maritimes and eventually brought her down the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes. All the while we were planning our next adventure. Atlantic Canada became a passion. Sailing to remote spots was always the most fun. When we almost hit a ice berg in dense fog and high winds in Labrador the decision was made to look for a new boat that would bend instead of break.

After looking at several perfectly good used boats we decided to have a boat built. We researched many designs and visited boat yards in Canada and New Zealand. Chuck Paine ( www.chuckpaine.com ) was commissioned to design a 55 foot high latitude pilot house sailboat. The design criteria stipulated that it had to be easy to sail by two aging salts. It had to be simple enough so Jim could fix it. It had to be low maintenance. It had to be reasonably fast. It had to be able to bounce off of a berg at 6 knots. And, it had to be affordable.

There was no doubt who was going to build it. One visit to Kelly Archer in Auckland and we were convinced that the budget was going to be the first compromise. Kelly is simply the best builder in the world for this project. He has been building boats for close to forty years. Kelly's and Jos' voyages on Mistral, the boat they built and have cruised extensively, gave them first hand knowledge as to what we needed. Kelly started by explaining that the boat was too small. "If you just add a few feet in the middle you will be able to have a separate engine room. It will just cost you a bit for the metal. It will be easier to build and you can have an engine room you can get around in."

Size was the second compromise. Jim was not the first boater to fall for this argument. He forgot that the extra size meant a bigger mast and boom with bigger sails. The winches, anchor and engine had to grow. Jeannie was a bit skeptical about docking the monster so Jim added a bow thruster. The budget grew.

The first pieces of aluminum were cut in June of 2002 at Circa Marine and Industrial in Whangarei, New Zealand ( www.circamarine.co.nz ). Over the next year all of the metal work was completed while we made trips to Auckland and worked with Kelly on the equipment and layout details. After careful deliberations and discussions with other boaters more bits and pieces of equipment were added.

A disconnect system was added to allow for the boat to be hand steered without the drag of the hydraulic system. A DC generator was added to avoid running the main engine for battery charging. A diesel drip open flame diesel heater was needed to burn off the moisture / condensation in the high latitudes. A forward looking sonar system was required to see the bottom in uncharted waters. ETC. Simplicity was marginalized.

In June 2003 the metal hulk moved to Kelly's boatyard near Auckland ( www.kellyarcher.co.nz ). Systems and joinery slowly began to fill up the interior while hatches, and fittings were added on deck. Finally, in May 2004, ONORA was launched.

( .pdf of Onora's specs )




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