A purpose-built world cruiser that is just as comfortable in the warmth of the tropics as it is communing with icebergs by Andrew Cross
Anyone who walked the docks in Annapolis at the 2014 boat show will likely remember seeing the Garcia Exploration 45. Along with the Allure 45, it’s gray, aluminum hull and salty look stuck out in a sea of white plastic.
The boat was Jimmy Cornell’s newest globetrotting cruiser Aventura IV that he had purpose-built by Garcia Yachting of France and is now one of their newest offerings with three distinct layouts. The boat was designed and built for Jimmy and crew to circumnavigate and for high latitude sailing adventures during his Blue Planet Odyssey Rally, which is going on now from destinations throughout the world.
But the boat wasn’t even supposed to be in Annapolis. Due to pack ice closing the Norwest Passage early for those going after the attempt, Cornell and his crew made the decision to turn back, which was a lucky one for us, as we got a chance to take the boat out for a spin on a blustery day in October after the show.
The sun was shining and the wind blowing in upwards of 20 knots when we got underway from the marina for our test sail on the Chesapeake Bay.
With the full battened main set we opted to go with the larger of the two headsails, as we figured the 45 could handle it. It could. Trimming for close hauled, we worked our way out into the bay and I sat to leeward to steer at the starboard helm.
Twin rudders always give boats a great response when steering, especially close hauled, and this experience was no different. The helm was effortless as we healed over, put the boat’s shoulder down and started chewing up miles to windward. We sailed at about 35 to 40 degrees apparent and easily made 6.5 knots in an increasingly choppy sea.
With lines led aft to the primary winches near the helms, tacking was simple. While I turned the boat through the wind, one crewmember worked the sheets and that was it. The 45 was conceived to be able to sail with a full crew or shorthanded and it would be just as easy to do both.
When we cracked off to a reach, the Racoupeau designed hull really came into her own. Working our way northwest on a comfortable beam reach, we were making a cool 7.5 knots and saw the knot meter topple the 8 knot mark on several occasions.
After relinquishing my duties at the helm, I made a lap on deck and down below to see how she felt underfoot. Moving forward and aft was comfortable and handholds were well placed. Not many manufacturers go with proper granny bars at the mast anymore, but this one had them. And with the gooseneck slightly lower on the mast than you’d expect from a boat of this size, the winches and clutches located on the spar were well within reach.
The comfortable flow of the boat and ease of use while underway continued down below. When I closed the four locking points on the watertight gangway door, the boat was remarkably quiet and from the seat at the forward nav and steering station, the view was incredible.
When I boarded the boat at the show I met one of the crewmembers that had helped deliver her from Newfoundland to Newport, R.I. then on to Annapolis. He remarked that in the range of conditions they experienced, the boat was as comfortable underway as any he’d sailed. From my short time aboard, that definitely seemed to be the case.
Little touches throughout the boat make her functional and safe as a truly go anywhere cruiser. For instance, six integral padeyes are built into the cockpit for crewmembers to clip into.
Though built of aluminum, the only GPR composite part on the boat is the cabin top roof that extends from its overhang of the workboat inspired reverse windows forward of the mast, aft to the cockpit where it creates a protected seating area for crew to sit under when the going gets tough. The only downside to this is that it might be a little hard to see over from the helm if you are vertically challenged.
A stout double anchor roller graces the bow and anchor chain can run through an under-deck tube back to the windlass near the mast. This setup puts all the weight of the chain towards the middle of the boat, which allows her to handle better at sea. Forward is a large bow locker for sails, lines, fenders and more.
The outboard storage bracket at the pushpit on the stern can be moved to the transom so the engine can serve as a backup to the auxiliary diesel. Plus, this transom bracket can also take a hydrogenerator. An integrated stern arch houses a wind generator, solar panels and antennas. And the transom has a locker that contains a spool of line to use as a stern tie, two propane lockers, an anchor roller and a storage space for your life raft.
Overall the Garcia Exploration 45 is a well-conceived cruiser that should be high on any sailor’s list that is looking to explore the planet in its entirety. A couple, family or those looking to start their own expedition charter or sail training service will take a lot of comfort in knowing that attention to detail and an immense amount of forethought have gone into the design and build of their boat—especially if you get to the point in your journey where ice may be closing in on you.
Garcia Exploration 45
Designer: Racoupeau Yacht Design
Hull Length: 45.86 ft
Waterline: 40.48 ft
Beam: 14.53 ft
Draft: 9.19/3.44 ft
Air draft: 63.65 ft
Displacement: 31,085 lbs
Ballast: 9,480 lbs
Engine: Volvo Penta D2-55 55hp diesel
Diesel Tank: 87 gallons
Water tank: 132 gallons
Holding tank: 29 gallons