Looking out at the huge, steel gray waves of the North Atlantic Ocean, I sat behind the helm of the Garcia Exploration 45 Arctic Monkey in awe. In the 30 plus knots of wind we were seeing, the boat’s autopilot, helped by twin rudders, kept us dead on course as we surfed at 10 to 13 knots. The ride was an exhilarating experience that has played out in my mind and in conversation ever since.
But in the moment I thought back to two years prior when I sailed hull number one of this boat on a drastically different Chesapeake Bay. What I remembered of that sail was thinking, “Man, I’d love to see what this boat can do out on the ocean.” I was getting my wish.
And when all was said and done with our delivery of Arctic Monkey from Portland, Maine to Annapolis, Maryland, I was eager to look back at my initial review and update it with thoughts on the boat after such an incredible passage. So, as promised in my summation of the voyage, here are my renewed impressions of the Garcia Exploration 45 and a look at the future of the boat.
Putting my initial thoughts to the test
Performance and handling: In my first review I extolled the easy handling, ergonomic cockpit and quick speeds we experienced. Offshore in blustery conditions and massive swells, all of this was true. Being that we were doublehanded for our 530-mile Atlantic sprint, Arctic Monkey was simple for us to reef from the cockpit and line handling from either coaming was smooth. Fortunately, we didn’t need to sail her on the wind, but off the wind she was a smooth-handling rocketship. Over those 530 miles, we averaged over 7 knots, which is quite fast considering we transited two canals with no sails set and sailed at 4 to 5 knots for the first 8 hours until the wind kicked up. Our top speed was a 15.5 knot surf. Fun!
Inside Nav Station: When I wrote the following about the Garcia Exploration 45’s forward nav station with 270-degree view, I didn’t really know if it would be true or not, but I had a hunch it would.
Standing watch from here with a cup of coffee in hand while on a passage or when transiting the Salish Sea in a winter gale would be a treat.
This turned out to be an understatement of a lifetime, as the forward nav station was simply awesome. Standing watch inside on a dark, windy and rainy night with a cup of coffee definitely happened — over and over and over. In the rough weather this spot was not only comfortable and efficient for navigation, it was helpful to be able to converse with the off watch crew if I needed an extra set of eyes or if we needed to head out on deck to reef. A+.
Watertight Doors: All of the Garcia Exploration series boats have robust watertight companionway doors that lock at four points. Though heavy, I didn’t find the doors to be cumbersome and when they were closed and we were inside in a gale, they were priceless. When the wind started hitting 40-knots, the noise outside was that of all hell literally breaking loose. Inside, though, we might as well of had classical music playing as soon as the doors were closed and dogged. The insulated cabin was incredibly quiet given the conditions, which allowed us to actually relax while off watch.
Inside Steps: One of my initial concerns when test sailing hull number one was the various series of steps that one must navigate while moving forward and aft, and from port to starboard while down below. My quick impression then was that the steps would make it tough to move about safely in a seaway, but this didn’t end up being true. Within hours of stepping aboard Arctic Monkey, they became second nature and at night, when illuminated by a subdued blue light, they were easily recognizable.
The Next Generation
The first Exploration 45 was a collaboration between renowned French boat designers Berret-Racoupeau, Garcia Yachting and famed cruiser Jimmy Cornell. Jimmy’s vision was to create his “ideal cruising boat” that would be suitable for cruising and living-aboard in tropical waters or plying ice choked high latitude passages. Hull number one, Aventura IV, was his, and hull number 11, which is currently being built, is the first Garcia Exploration 45-V2 (Version 2).
Taking what they’ve learned from the first 10 Garcia Exploration 45s and from the development of the newer Garcia Exploration 52, Garcia Yachting has made a number of changes and upgrades to improve this world cruiser.
Hard Dodger Windows: One of the features on the Exploration series boats is a built in hard dodger. They initially executed this dodger well in that it protects the cockpit and companionway, and has some overhang that provides shelter. But one drawback was that it was difficult for the vertically challenged to see over from the helms. Of course, with the twin helms you can see outboard pretty well, but Garcia is rectifying the sightline problem in the second version by installing windows that allow the crew to see straight out and to the sides. Here are two renderings of what the new dodger will look like.
Counter Space: I’ll be honest, during our passage I didn’t spend all that much time in the galley due to the weather. But Jill is an ace in this space while offshore and one of her observations was that the galley lacked counter room. Well lookey here! The V2 has an updated galley that includes more space forward. In general, the inline galley worked out just fine and the dual frontloading fridges were awesome.
Engine access: I didn’t do all that much work on the engine because we barely used it, but while doing the basic checks I found space lacking. Garcia has addressed this by improving engine access with larger hatches and removable wood pieces.
Wider salon: By no means did the salon feel cramped; rightfully so with just two aboard. But in the V2 the salon has been widened by modifying lockers behind the starboard settee’s backrest. I applaud the move, especially for a crew of more than two.
Sail locker access: When we reached Annapolis and needed to pull out lines, I found the forward hatch for the sail/gear locker that is accessed from the deck to be a bit cramped. Also, even though we didn’t use it, it was difficult to pull the spinnaker out. Garcia solved this problem in a simple way: install a larger hatch.
After putting the Garcia Exploration 45 through a true boat test not just a one or two hour spin around the bay, I’ve come to find that many of my initial thoughts were warranted if not proved right in an enthusiastic manner. The boat is absolutely bulletproof and when questioned by someone later about the raucous delivery, “You didn’t have the boys aboard with you — did you!?” My answer was quick and emphatic.
“No, but they easily could have been.” That says it all.