By Barb Whited- J/111 BAD CAT
We recently took our new J/111, Bad Cat, on a 5 day cruise around the middle area of the Chesapeake Bay. Cruising on the J was a real delight: the boat went fast, it was very comfortable for two people, and it handled extremely well in strong wind conditions. We cruised into Smith Creek off the Potomac River, Crisfield on the Eastern Shore, Reedville on the western shore. We anchored out in Smith Creek and Mill Creek in Reedville. In Crisfield we stayed at the MD state operated marina. We had no problems navigating through the various channels with our Expedition software. For most of the passages we did not even turn on the Garmin Chart Plotter since the PC was so much easier to use.
Provisioning the Boat
I worried a lot about having enough room for food since the icebox area is small on the boat. But there was plenty of room. And there was even plenty of room when you consider that we have added refrigeration to the boat using the Isotherm cold plate. The refrigeration kept everything very cold and in good condition. I froze steaks, chicken, and hamburger patties ahead of time then placed them in the bottom of the fridge. Then added whatever other items we needed to keep cold (beer, wine, etc). We have divided the icebox into two sections with a Plexiglas shelf. Zahniser’s Marina did a wonderful job making a perforated shelf that allows the cold air to flow from the bottom to the top section of the icebox. We added drinks as needed each day. That way we continued to have plenty of room for food stuffs: sandwich makings, condiments, fruit, veggies. We also carried an ice chest on the boat which we filled before leaving Solomon’s, MD. This allowed us to have plenty of cold drinks and ice for cocktail hour. We strap the ice chest to the mast over the keel. Our refrigerator will keep ice for only about 1 day, so the ice chest was very handy. We just got additional ice at the one marina where we stopped and it lasted for the second half of the trip.
Dry food storage was not a big problem – much to my surprise. Between the storage under the settees, the slider storage in the galley, and the stowage areas under the quarter berths, we had plenty of room. I also found that since we weren’t taking the racing sail inventory, I could have easily packed three times as much STUFF by just using large plastic storage boxes with lids and putting them under the sails up forward. So, the boat could go for a much longer trip with no trouble. You’d just get fresh meat, seafood as you traveled and keep that in the icebox. All your other things can go in the various storage areas. Lidded boxes would be necessary to keep things dry when stowing them in the sail area.
Sleeping, Clothing, etc.
We pack our clothes in our sea bags and then stow those in the quarter berths during the day. I always pack each individual berth’s bedding in its own large plastic contractor bag: sheets, pillows, blankets, etc. That way, you can clean up the bunks in the morning, repack into the bags, and stow them back in the quarter berths as well. This keeps the main salon nice and straight and uncluttered. Plus the quarter berths are very dry.
Our sleeping areas have cushions that are made with two different layers of foam: a sturdy, solid layer on the bottom with a softer, cushier layer on the top. They were made by Ken’s Canvas in Rhode Island and were extremely comfortable for sleeping. I heartily recommend the two layer foam. We had that on our previous boat and it was very nice.
It’s fast, what else can you say! It was so fast that we outpaced our companion boat which was a traditional cruising boat. Left them behind in the dust. In fact on day two, we towed their Avon inflatable dinghy to try and slow down. That didn’t help much. We checked with our friends to be sure it was okay for the dinghy to go over 7kts.
We had excellent wind all days and were usually sailing over 7 knots in speed on any point of sail. Upwind I finally insisted that we flatten the boat out because climbing up and down into the cabin or from side to side when you are heeled 30 degrees is just uncomfortable. So, we reefed the main, used the #4, that flattened the boat and it went even faster. Our cruising main has Antal slides on it and is simple and easy to reef. Just lower the Halyard and pull in the reef line, all from the cockpit, and the main is reduced. We even reefed it with the main way out downwind and it worked like a champ. And you can shake it out just as easily. Two people had no problem handling the sails and trim from the cockpit.
Bad Cat is equipped with a Raymarine X10 self steering system that can follow the GPS or our computerized instrument system. The drive unit is from Octupus Marine and is very efficient. So, life was easy cruising Bad Cat with ‘Otto’ the autopilot during a lot of the work. Only one addition here, we will add a remote control before the next cruise.
Heavy air downwind
We came home in strong downwind conditions. It was gusting up to 20 most of the way home from Reedville. We simply used the #4, the reefed main, and surfed up to 11.5kts going downwind. We did not fly the kite because with just two of us, it would be extremely difficult to get down. Going up wasn’t the issue, coming down in those winds was the issue with only two people. Besides, why would we need a kite considering what the boat could do on the main/#4. Surfing was lots of fun. We could see the small waves coming and the sound on the transom is really cool. The boat roars. And by the way, the boat sings. There is a harmonic that sets up when the boat is going over 6kts. We know we are ‘doing good’ when she starts to sing. We will be adding a Karver furler to the Asym chute for future cruising. This should allow us to set and douse the chute double handed.
Head/Holding Tank/Head Area
Head/holding tank worked just fine. The holding tank could be considered small – but for two people it is more than adequate for several days. Besides, if you stop at a marina you can get it pumped along the way.
Storage in the sliders in the head was adequate for our personal items, towels, first aid kit, etc. We also use the large bin under the sprit to stow lots of things: safety gear, extra beverages, towels. And, if you haven’t noticed – the sprit and its retrieval line make a great towel rack.
The one thing I’d like to add to the head is a mirror on the bulkhead wall. It is really tacky having to bend half way over to use the mirror. Maybe someday I’ll find mirror material that I can put on the wall. And we decided you could build a removable seat to put on the edge of the sail locker to give you a place to sit down up front for dressing or whatever.
We do not have an oven in Bad Cat, and don’t want one anyway. We use a grill on the back of the boat and mounting the grill on the stern corner pulpit works out fine. The alcohol stove heats quickly and supplied us with all the hot water, etc., that we needed.
Sleeping Crew for a Long Race/ Other thoughts
My observation is that 3-4 crew can sleep at a time on the boat for a long race. Crew will share bunks with some of their gear, but I think it is doable. You will need to install the lee boards on the settee bunks. I would recommend stowing personal gear in the raised upper bunks with lee boards to free up sleeping space in the quarter berths. The red night lights in the interior will make is easy for crew to sleep. For a multi day race, like Halifax, Bermuda, etc: I think trash is an issue. There is no convenient hiding space for trash and on a long race, you generate a bit. It’s just something you will have to live with on the boat. Meals will be served on your lap since there is no table. But it can be managed. We are used to being able to serve hot meals on ocean races, but that isn’t going to happen in the same manner on this boat. You can still do it with ‘single pot’ meals that you assemble and heat on the cook top. A hot meal restores a lot of energy when the ocean is fierce and it’s blowing and cold.