With Camdeboo’s main and yankee set, I steered south out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Oak Bay as the staysail was hoisted and trimmed. A two person job, it was done with the effortless precision of sailors who had obviously completed the task before in a variety of conditions, which is always a treat to watch. On this sunny afternoon in August, it was simply a blast to be out putting the boat through her paces with experienced owners aboard.
Soon after leaving Victoria in our wake, we had all forty five thousand pounds of the Lavranos-designed rugged steel-hull gathering speed in a freshening southwesterly. The cats paws of the previous hour had given way to 10 to 12 knots of breeze that kicked up a slight chop off Trial Island and pressed the boat into a slight yet comfortable heal. At a cool 6.5 knots, we easily brushed away the new waves and the wake from a passing freighter, and I could tell that whether it was close hauled or off the wind, the boat would comfortably tick away the sea miles.
While sailing hard on the wind on starboard tack, the helm was light and responsive and we found ourselves closing in a boat on port tack. Rather than force him to move, we opted to tack ourselves and owners Campbell and Jennifer trimmed the sheets as I turned through the breeze. Now on port tack and to leeward of the other sailboat, we picked up speed quickly and before long, had legged out past him. For such a heavy boat, Camdeboo’s sprightly and speedy display was impressive.
Though the sailing was splendid, I also got a chance to delve into the story of the couple’s blue water journey aboard the boat with their family, how it worked for them and what they admired most about a vessel that they obviously loved very much.
Sailing the dream
One of my favorite parts of doing these reviews is hearing the stories behind the boats. That’s what makes them unique. If I was reviewing the latest hulking hunk of shiny fiberglass with an interior reminiscent of a new age condo in South Lake Union, there would be no special narrative. But with boats like Camdeboo, there is an intriguing story behind her — and it is worth sharing.
Wanting a boat that could support the cruising adventures of two families (four teenagers, three adults), Campbell and Jennifer found and purchased Camdeboo in 2005 and set out in 2006 for points south. (See their blog here.) From British Columbia, they made landfall in the Marquesas and then spent the next few months weaving their way to Whangarei, New Zealand via French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Niue and the Kingdom of Tonga. In their first six months of cruising, Camdeboo and crew did an impressive 7,000-plus miles.
With two enclosed cabins aft and one large cabin forward that has bunks and a Pullman berth; a spacious yet sea going galley; a large salon and cockpit; and an immense amount of tankage and storage, Camdeboo was the perfect blue water cruising boat for the two families and a variety of crew to explore the Pacific Ocean aboard.
In 2007, they departed New Zealand en route back for the Cook Islands and then turned northwest towards American Samoa and Samoa, Tonga and Fiji. The summer of 2008 saw Camdeboo moving farther west to Vanuatu and on to Brisbane, Australia where she was put up for sale. Due to the economic climate at the time, selling her was not to be and they made the decision to return to the Pacific and cruise Camdeboo back to the Pacific Northwest.
Following their inbound track from the previous year, in 2009 they set out on the tough road east and made stops in New Caledonia and Vanuatu before arriving in Fiji. They explored the Fijian Islands in 2010 and by 2011 it was time to start pointing the bow towards home.
In April 2011, Camdeboo was prepped for the upwind journey to Hawaii and made landfall in Kona on June 17. After a crew change in Honolulu, she was off again and arrived home in Victoria on Sunday, July 24, 2011. Now, with some 25,000 ocean miles in her wake, Camdeboo is ready to head out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and take that left turn again.
After hearing Camdeboo’s cruising story, I looked around the boat with a sense that everything aboard had been refined for passagemaking after so many miles had passed under the keel and so many countries had been visited. Her cutter rig is simple yet efficient and I’m sure she was just as at home running before the trade winds as she was sailing upwind for home.
Campbell and crew obviously took great time and care in maintaining, fitting out and keeping up with the boat’s systems, which was readily apparent in how he’d upgraded and simplified all the electrical systems — among other things.
Camdeboo’s rounded hull and lack of visible rust can trick the eye into thinking she’s fiberglass. But the steel hull has been painted inside and out and all of the joinery down below was designed and built in such a way that no wood rests against the inside of the hull.
With bunks for eight (yes, eight!) in three cabins, lee cloths keep everyone sleeping safe and sound at sea and the forward bunks are far enough aft that the motion of ocean wouldn’t present a problem. The starboard aft cabin has nearly seven feet of head room — as does much of the boat — and the port aft cabin employs a unique split bunk style with a filler, making it ideal for a couple, or two crew who prefer a bit more space.
Of course, any good cruising boat has lots of storage and tankage, and Camdeboo is no exception. With 240 gallons of fuel and 291 gallons of water, you won’t need to fill up often and an easy-to-access fuel polishing system will ensure clean fuel is keeping you running. Campbell and Jennifer showed me vast storage areas under and around bunks, and in the hull, and with two families aboard, I’m guessing they used every square inch of it.
While a cockpit is often the social epicenter of a cruising boat, it also needs to be be functionally laid out for safe line handling and ease of operation. Camdeboo’s cockpit is a healthy mix of space — not too much as to make it dangerous at sea but enough to comfortably fit a lot of people — and all lines can be handled with ease. Sitting behind the helm as we sailed, I could tell the cockpit would be a great place to entertain in a far flung anchorage and be comfortable on watch at night.
Hearing about the voyages of Camdeboo and then sailing and walking through the boat with her owners gave me the distinct impression that she is a superb vessel at sea and living aboard. And being that she’s built of steel by a reputable South African builder, you could truly take her anywhere in the world. Add a reliable source of heat and she’d be just as ready to go through the Northwest Passage as she would non-stop to French Polynesia again.
With as much room as she’s got, I don’t envision Camdeboo as a couples cruising boat, but rather as a passage- and dream-maker for those with a large family or for someone who plans on having a lot of crew aboard. After all was said on done on Camdeboo’s voyages through the South Pacific, 27 people sailed on her as crew; 9 of whom were under 21-years-old. I also really like the idea of having two families own and sail her, and she’d make an excellent training/expedition boat in the style of Mahina Expeditions.
Whoever her next stewards are, though, Camdeboo is ready and waiting to fulfill some serious cruising dreams.
To find out more about the Lavranos 50 Camdeboo, visit swiftsureyachts.com.