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Building our Boat

Selene 6043 is Born!

The day has finally come when we get to see our new Selene for the first time and we’re excited to be able to witness the release of the hull!  We have no idea how that works and are looking forward to learning.  The Jet Tern driver picked us up at 9am as promised and we battled through the traffic to get to the factory which took around an hour and a half!  Candy thought we would want to be in the city to be able to go out at nights and indeed, the hotel she had booked us into was really well placed for that – but to be honest we are here for the boat, and don’t have much energy left over to go out on the town!  Next visit, we’ll stay closer by so we can get more time working with the team.

Anyway, we arrived at the Selene factory to a great welcome from Candy and spent the morning working hard going through the first layout plans bit by bit to discuss and agree what we wanted.  This is just the first step – where do we want things located, and how is the kitchen laid out for example.  The hard part comes later when we have to design the electrical installations and the plumbing system, and work out where all the power sockets have to go!  With Selene, it really is at that level of detail and it’s amazing they can work so brilliantly with the owners to produce the perfect boat for each individual person.  The objective for the week is to have the 15 page basic specification completed so the experts in the factory have a plan to work to.

Selene Factory Tour

One of the first things on the agenda was to go and look at the hull – at this stage, she was still in the mould and the plan was to release that afternoon.  We got a guided tour of the factory and got to look at all the boats that are currently under construction at various stages.  They are building 12 at this point – including some in the new Guido de Groot design which is a stunning look, but not so practical for the long range cruiser, at least not in the smaller boats like the Selene 60 which is the smallest of the new Explorer range.  We had decided to go for the “Classic” Trawler after looking at both Selene designs – there’s a JACUZZI on the front deck of the Guido version !!!!!  Really nice thought – but Ed has had enough of jacuzzis after supporting the chalets all these years, and it would be a bit impractical for what we plan to do with our boat.

 

The factory was impressive – everything is made by hand with the most amazing carpenters and woodwork you’ve ever seen.  The Selene guys are so skilled and there’s no automated production line in sight with every boat crafted by hand and when you look at the images of the results of their labour it’s very impressive.  We got to see the stunning Selene 103 Guido design Ocean Explorer yacht that is the star of the bunch right now and in the stage of interior carpentry construction – as well as the 72ft being built for the guy in France whose 62 we wanted to buy.  He is just one stage in front of us and his hull is sitting next to ours.  And of course, our own hull which is the latest addition to the factory’s workload.

Everybody was fantastic and we got a really good feeling that they cared about the work they were doing – I just wish I knew a few words of Chinese so I could have thanked them or commented on what they were showing me.

Our Selene 6043 Hull is Released from the Mould

So Selene 6043 is all ready to be released and in the early afternoon Howard arrived at the factory from his meetings and he watched over the release.  He had just bought a drone to make video footage of their work to support their marketing efforts, but unfortunately didn’t know how to fly it.  Ed volunteered to give it a go and as its the Mavic Pro the same as ours, that shouldn’t have been a problem …. until, of course, he looked at the control screen and it was all in Chinese 🙂  Together with the design guy from the factory, they did manage to get some footage – and he also shot footage on the GoPro which we’ll need to edit and post when we get a chance.

Releasing the hull means hooking up a fork lift to one side of the mould and basically pulling it off – it involved some quite violent shaking of the boat up and down and it was a bit scary as by now we already feel attached!  The hull is suspended from the ceiling by chains on a runner track and the idea is that they pull one half out with the fork lift, then run the hull along the rails a little bit to free the other side.  It didn’t quite go according to plan as the remote control for the track decided to pack up after one half was released – but this was fixed overnight and the 2nd half was released the next day.

Shiny New Hull!

We can now stand proudly in front of the makings of our new Selene yacht – well half of it anyway!  The boat comes in two pieces – the hull is one half, and the top decks are a 2nd mould which is just being started now.  The next major manufacturing milestone is when the two halves are joined together, and that should be in a couple of months time.  Hopefully we’ll see the boat looking whole on our next trip.

 

Work … Work … Work !

The rest of the trip was spent in intense work with Candy – looking at the sample room for the type of wood we wanted, the leather for the seats, the wood trims, the chairs, the curtains, the granite for the worktops … it’s never ending, and we haven’t got to the technical stuff yet!  That bit is Ed’s forte and I’m sure over the coming summer we will be having endless discussions about electrical configuration and how to get the boat running efficiently and smoothly with the combination of engine power, two generators, inverters and battery systems.  He already has a pretty good idea of what we want and this will certainly keep him happily researching and planning all summer – I doubt if we’re going to get much sailing done 🙂

New Style Interior Design

We talked at length with Howard about what we plan to do with our boat and the things we like and don’t like – we would really like to choose a modern interior design, but we’re afraid that we will make mistakes and end up not liking it!  We had started to agree that we’d play safe and stick to the contemporary interior we had seen many times and not try and design along the lines of Howard’s more recent projects.  Howard, however, had other ideas!  We talked a bit and he decided he’s going to create a new Selene interior style based on what we want and he introduced us to his chief interior architect who demonstrated his software to us and showed us how he could mock up the interior electronically.

We’ve been promised that on the next visit we will have a questionnaire with Yes/No answers – do you prefer this one or that one type of thing.  They think that with 30 questions, they can design us the perfect interior.  We are more than delighted with this, especially as Howard is going to produce mock-ups in cheap wood first as examples.  We can have the confidence we’re going to love it when it’s finished – I hope!

We finished the basic specification document just in time for us to leave for the airport again on the Wednesday.  It’s been three days of work but a lot of fun and we’re both delighted about how it has gone.  Can’t wait for the next trip!

And another very long journey home

So it was back to the ferry port for the crossing to Hong Kong airport with the last ferry.  We had a VERY long wait in Hong Kong as the flight didn’t leave until 01h30 then another horrendously long 12 hour flight back to London.  Arriving at the crack of dawn without any sleep, we then had another VERY long wait in London.  Finally 36 hours later after no sleep we parted again in Gatwick airport.  Ed got on the plane back to Preveza to carry on preparing Liberation and I got on the plane back to Malta to do some work.  Down with a bump!

Ed is having trouble motivating himself to get Liberation ready with the same love and care he normally does as the heart has been won elsewhere now ….. counting the days to the next trip in October but I think we need to save up some extra pennies for Premium Economy seats next time – or I need to lose the 40kgs I’ve put on in the last three years in a bit of a hurry and Ed needs to shave down his shoulders 🙂

First Trip to China

Finally the time came for us to make the long awaited trip to China – but in true Zadelhoff style, nothing is ever simple.  Once again, we were travelling from different places with me living on the tiny island of Gozo in the middle of the Mediterranean and Ed currently in Greece getting our current boat ready to launch for this summer.  We also had to travel via Paris as we had to visit the Dutch embassy so combining everything together made for a mammoth trip.

I left Gozo with a ferry to Malta then a flight to Paris Orly.  Ed left the marina in Preveza with a 3 hour taxi journey to Igoumenitsa, a ferry to Corfu, an overnight stay in a hotel followed by a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle.  We felt like we’d done long haul by the time we’d reached Paris!  We landed on different sides of the city in different airports so Ed had to find his way across town through the horrendous traffic to pick me up.  At last we were together again and after the embassy appointment the following morning we boarded the overnight Cathay Pacific flight from Paris to Hong Kong.

What you don’t see from the land

It’s the first time for me visiting the Far East, although Ed had taken one trip to China in 2009 during our first attempt to buy a Selene.  I jump on and off planes all the time within Europe – but the long haul is something else and not a pleasant experience, crammed in our economy seats.  The in-flight entertainment and information system kept me occupied for an hour along with the fabulous sunset views which seemed to go on forever as we flew East.  After what seemed like an endless flight, we landed in Hong Kong at 3pm local time on Friday, located our hotel and took a quick walk around the local area before crashing out to sleep off the jet-lag.

Hong Kong

We planned to spend the weekend in Hong Kong and Howard had kindly arranged for us to visit his most recent Selene 60 on Saturday at the Royal Hong Kong Marina.  The marina was about an hour taxi-ride outside of the city.  We had a lovely afternoon looking over the boat with the kind hospitality of the ship’s captain.  During the afternoon, we relaxed at the marina bar terrace for hours, just watching the alternating rain and sunshine and soaking up the marina atmosphere again.  Neither of us ever happier than when we’re surrounded by boats!  Trying to get a taxi to take us back to the city was a bit of a challenge, however!  For a while we thought we’d be sleeping on a bench in the marina!  Eventually, thanks to some South Africans who were working locally, we managed to get a ride back albeit via a convoluted route.

At last we’re in China

On Sunday, we checked out of the hotel and made our way to the Hong Kong Macau ferry port where we were booked on the high-speed ferry to Zhuhai in China.  That was an interesting experience with thousands of people and complete chaos.  We couldn’t understand a word of the language or read the signs and had no clue where we needed to go!  I’m not good in crowded places and huddled in a corner with a panic attack while Ed went off to sort things out (hero as usual!).  Somehow we managed to work it out and in the end the trip to China was simple.  All was well with checking into the country and when we reached the hotel we met up with Brian for dinner and some talking through the plans for the next few days.

 

China was not what I expected – according to Ed things have changed significantly from when he visited 10 years ago.  It is now not so different from any Western city I’ve ever visited.  I’m not sure what I thought it would be but I was a bit afraid we were heading into a dangerous and third world country!  It wasn’t like that at all and everything was just the same as at home.  There is great 4G internet connection everywhere, WiFi in the hotel, traffic jams, loads of people, motorways – nothing to worry about at all!  Except that you can’t get Facebook or YouTube as they are blocked, everything was just as normal.  Even the fear of entering into a tightly controlled country was unfounded as although we had to go through a rigorous procedure with finger prints and checking of visas and passports, everybody was helpful and friendly and guided us through the procedure with a smile.

Jet Tern’s driver is picking us up at 9am on Monday morning to take us to the factory – we’re both excited to see the boat and the whole dream is becoming more real by the minute!

Laying the Hull

As soon as the deposit was paid, Jet Tern started the build process of our new Selene straight away.  They prepared the mould for the classic Selene 60 Trawler and laminating began.  One of our key requirements has always been – no white boat!  However, this is a pretty expensive “red line” and there’s always a discussion about how best to get a coloured hull.  Do you lay it in the hull as the gel coat layer or do you paint it afterwards?  For a large boat, painting is considered the best option – and everyone recommends also that you don’t paint for the first couple of years.  It’s better to allow the FRP to settle and cure fully to avoid blistering.  Over time a gel coat layer dulls and is more difficult to maintain and repair the odd knocks and scratches that inevitably happen so painting is the way to go.

To paint or not to paint?

Jet Tern are not keen on painting at the factory.  Although an Awlgrip painted hull is one of the standard options, the huge sheds they used to do this were damaged in a storm so they are struggling to do this in the proper environment.  For this reason, as well as the general recommendation of delaying painting, they prefer clients to arrange this after delivery.  This was a bit disappointing for me.  The boat just doesn’t look the same in white but I didn’t have much choice and she would end up being blue eventually!

However, during the initial specification discussions it turned out that Jet Tern had some stock of a light grey gel coat which they could provide at no extra cost.  It’s a very light grey, so may not look much different to white in the end but we were pleased to accept this as a better interim solution.  Our current sailboat is grey – and I love that – so grey or blue are equally good in my opinion!

Laying the hull of our Selene 6043

So – they sprayed grey gel coat on the mould, followed by layers of fibre-glass and lamination.  Next, they applied a barrier coat to ensure the end quality of the gel coat and to avoid the fibre glass layers showing through.  Gradually, the lamination team built up the hull, layer by layer – and then they vacuum compress to give a thin but very strong FRP structure.  Inside, the reinforcement structure was built on top and laminated.  The end result is the strong hull that is needed for an ocean going trawler.  A “gestation” period of a few weeks followed completion of the construction and our baby lay in the mould curing – ready for the planned release when we visit in July.

An introduction to WeChat

During May and June, we got acquainted with WeChat – which seems to be how every Chinese person runs his life 🙂  It’s the Eastern equivalent of WhatsApp – and the whole factory runs using it!  Howard set up groups for the production team and the design team and we are now in touch directly with the guys on the shop floor.  Everyone has their mobile glued to them, much like we see in the West – only I think they are even more obsessed with their phones than we are.

The guys who were actually building our new Selene sent us photos almost every day throughout the initial hull laying process so we could see it come to life in real time.  We were also exchanging ideas, pictures and web sites with the design team at the same time to get together the initial specification for the interior and equipment.  Of course, we both now have yet another social media app to follow – but it’s great to wake up each morning and see the boat developing while we slept!

Looking forward to the trip to China and seeing our new Selene for real!

Our Journey Begins

Our journey began in May 2018 when we suddenly realised that we finally had enough money in the bank to bring our dream to life.  I have spent most of those 10 years trying not to think about the boat – I couldn’t take another disappointment like 2008 so just kept the thought at the back of my mind of maybe “one day”.  For those who haven’t read “Our Story“, we have been down this route before but had to cancel our order when the global financial crisis nearly wiped us out.  On this occasion Ed has been more impatient – he has spent the last few years trying to persuade me that we could buy a used Selene 60 and give it a complete refit.  There has been one on the market for a long time now and he has kept watching it and working on me to accept that although it looked terrible in the pictures but we could change it all and still spend less than a new one.  His fear was that if we delayed until we could afford the new one again, we would just never get there.

As soon as the penny dropped that the day had finally come, the idea became an obsession again.  We were in different countries at the time but for three solid weeks we talked about nothing else – we didn’t sleep and spent night after night calculating and researching and going over the old plans to work out what we wanted.  I still wasn’t sold on the “cheapie” and spent weeks looking for Selenes for sale all over the world – contacting agents and dealers and analysing the specifications of every 60, 62 and 66 on the market.  Actually there aren’t that many!  We came to a total list of 12 – and almost none of them had the specification we wanted, so would all involve changes and money spent after purchase.

Analysing the Options

Everything went in a spreadsheet – as always with me – and we costed out all the options when our extras were included and converted the prices all back to euros so we could compare them together.  We ended up with a shortlist of 6 – spread all over the world from France to Cyprus to Hong Kong to Australia to Thailand.  There were almost no 60 models on the second-hand market and lots of the ones we found advertised turned out to be sold, including the one Ed had been watching for years.

The only suitable 60 was in Cyprus – but this had a galley up configuration with the kitchen in the pilot house, rather than down in the saloon, a layout we had always said we didn’t want.  The favourite option was a 62 in France – but the owner had it in charter and didn’t want to sell for another year as he is building a bigger one and wants to wait until it’s ready.  There was also a 66 in France – older but bigger and around the same price – as well as another few 66 models in various other places.  The perfect 60 was advertised in Australia – but we never got any response from the owner, so can only assume that it’s sold!  We decided to spend a small fortune on plane tickets and I then spent a further week planning a very complicated itinerary.

We decided first to go to Cyprus – and then on to France – covering the closest destinations first.  I booked our flights – which was even more complicated because I was in the UK at the time and Ed was in France so matching everything up was a bit tricky.  Off we went to Cyprus in May and were pleasantly surprised by the galley up layout – there was much more room in the pilot house than we thought there would be and it seemed a much more sensible option.  That decision probably counted out any other 60’s which could have been on the market!  While we were there, the dealer also showed us a number of other models he had in the marina, and we got a much needed refresher of the pros and the cons and lots of ideas.

Just for completeness, let’s check the new price – we said

Just before we flew to Cyprus, I was surfing on Facebook one night and came across the dealer – Brian Calvert – we had previously worked with in Selene Seattle.  Brian had left Seattle in 2009 with his own Selene 48 “Furthur” with the idea of circumnavigating – having recently divorced he wanted to realise his own dream.  He managed to make it across the Pacific to the Far East and got as far as the Philippines where he fell in love with the country and a lovely local lady, and decided to stay.

Brian is now working as the Selene dealer in the Far East and I asked him for any knowledge he had of a Selene which was for sale in Langkawe (Thailand).  He didn’t know this particular boat but suggested instead that he would speak to Selene’s owner, Howard Chen, to get us a quotation for a new boat as he felt we might be surprised by the result.  We were nervous of the response we would get – having cancelled an order before, we were not convinced we would be welcome again!  On the contrary – Howard was delighted we still wanted a Selene and after a bit of negotiation he and Brian gave us a deal which was just slightly more than buying and refitting one of the second hand options.

Too good to turn down, although slightly more than we ideally wanted to pay, we decided to go for it.  We cancelled the remainder of our travel plans and set about consolidating our funds to send the deposit – and the rest is history, as they say!

I could hardly believe that this was finally going to happen – I spent hours watching the YouTube video of a similar 60 which had been sold in Seattle last year with tears rolling down my cheeks!  This dream has been so long in the making, and now it is real.  We set about pulling all the old designs and technical plans from the archive and started working on the layouts – and we booked a trip to China to the factory in July to start the planning process with our project manager, Candy.  It turned out that this was also the time when the first stage of manufacture would be complete with the release of the hull from the mould so we will be able to see our boat being “born”!

Apart from dreading the long haul flight, neither of us can wait to get there ….

China here we come 🙂

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