Call For a Tow

September 15, 2008
Last Letter From Home

September 1, 2008
Saying Goodbye

August 15, 2008
The Circle Closes At Arue

August 1, 2008
Last Days In Rangi

July 15, 2008
The Road To Rangiroa

July 1, 2008
A Social Whirl

June 15, 2008
The Land of Men

June 1, 2008
Sweet Days in Hiva Oa

May 15, 2008
Homing In

May 1, 2008
A Perfect Day At Sea

April 15, 2008
Beating Across The Pacific

April 1, 2008
The Worrier Transits The Canal

March 15, 2008
The Boys And The Hunt

March 1, 2008
Sweet Landfall In Panama

February 15, 2008
Gloom in Cartagena

February 1, 2008
Connections With That Long-Ago Girl

January 15, 2008
Where the Boys Are

January 1, 2008
Life On The Hard

December 15, 2007
Last Letter From Vermont

December 1, 2007
The Final Countdown

November 15, 2007
Welcome Aboard Shangri-La

November 1, 2007
More Bad Dreams Than Good

October 15, 2007
When Our Systems Overwhelm Us

October 1, 2007
Shaking Off The Remoras

September 15, 2007
The Deal Is Done

September 1, 2007
The Search For Shangri-La

August 15, 2007
The Birth Of A Dream

August 15, 2007
Tania And Sons

August 15, 2007
About Tania

August 15, 2007
About the Family

August 15, 2007
About Shangri-La

August 15, 2007
Voyage Itinerary

August 15, 2007

August 15, 2007
Tanias Books

August 15, 2007
Chartering With Tania

November 15, 2007
Welcome Aboard Shangri-La

By Tania Aebi

It feels surreal to have a boat again, a boat that will be sailed across thousands of miles of ocean, with me as captain, and my boys as crew.

Shangri-La’s stern scoop, and Monitor wind vane self-steering gear.
The thought still makes my head swim. Right now, she’s on the island of Curacao, just north of Venezuela, where we left her after our shakedown passage from St. Maarten. While Nicholas, Sam, and I pull our act together, getting ready here in Vermont, Shangri-La is waiting there -- our Big Trip is about to begin. I’m proud of this boat, and would like to take you aboard, and show her off a bit. You’re coming with us on the voyage, so it’s important that you know what she’s made of, how she’s laid out, how she works

Come aboard from astern, and step onto the scoop, which is a decent-sized platform dominated by the self-steering gear. Originally the steering gear was a temperamental setup made by a small outfit in England. I replaced it with the familiar-to-me, tried-and-true Monitor self-steering vane. Behind the self-steering assembly is the housing for the rudderpost and an outdoor shower in between a couple of “ledges” designed to help you step up and forward to either side of the tiller that extends into the cockpit. A 36-foot boat is probably the upper end of what a tiller can support, but it’s a feature I like a lot. Yes, a wheel is easier to handle, but that’s okay. For me, the straightforward simplicity of a tiller outweighs the complications of a wheel, pedestal, rack-and-pinion steering, and the cables and gears that always take up dark space somewhere out of easy reach belowdecks.

I first read about Shangri-La on the internet site Yachtworld. She was one among many boats I bookmarked. Described as a Lavranos-Devilliers 36 that had sailed to Antarctica and around Cape Horn, she stood out from the fray. The second owner

My new past-time -- shopping for spares and replacement parts.

had attached the Lavranos tag to legitimize his baby, and I recognized it because a great sailor/writer friend of mine, John Kretchmer, who has informed opinions I trust, had enthusiastically endorsed the Lavranos. Later, when I made contact with David Devilliers, I learned that the only connection Angelo Lavranos ever had to the design was that he’d once been David’s boss, and perhaps also somewhat of an inspiration because there are similarities. But no matter.

It isn’t easy to pin down Shangri-La’s exact age. In 1992, in South Africa, David, a young naval architect, dreamed of sailing around the world and so he designed, assembled, and shotblasted a hull with all kinds of protective epoxy paints. He intended to keep building and outfitting until he could go cruising — but then he got married and had children. The hull settled into a hole in his backyard until 1994, when he and his family emigrated to New Zealand, and she was sold to and finished up by a recently graduated and single doctor, Dirk. This guy named the boat Shangri-La when she was officially launched in 1999 in Cape Town.


Our wind generator, which I still have to figure out.
Dirk sailed her up the East Coast of Africa and Madagascar and down to Antarctica until he had to sell her in 2004 when time came for him to get married. Her next owner was Luke, a New York stockbroker with a lifelong dream to sail around Cape Horn. He did so before sailing her back up to the Caribbean to put her up for sale because he, too, was getting married. Until that point, conveniently enough for me, he’d kept a pretty detailed blog of his adventure, which has been a great historical reference tool and an honest account of her day-to-day performance.

On either side of the tiller, there are built-in, boxy stern pulpit seats for storage as well as being ideal perches from which to adjust the self-steering, to fish, to watch the course, to while away the hours at sea surveying the horizon. Clamped to the starboard railing is a stainless-steel barbecue that every South African eyes affectionately,and to starboard is the outboard mount. Above stretches the bridge-like contraption, to which cling the life-rings, fishing rod holders, solar panels, and the Aerogen wind generator that

My other new past-time--reading manuals.
I still need to have checked out. Why won’t the blades spin in anything under a gale?

The cockpit benches themselves are amply wide, stretching forward to the bulkhead. On each side, there’s a hatch opening to the boys’ bunks below for super ventilation and easy in-and-out access to the deck in anchorages. There’s minimal on-deck storage, which I thought might be a problem. However, I’ve come to think it’s like not having a garage; the more space you have, the more crap you keep. Fenders can hang from lifelines, and for docklines and whatnot, a large plastic storage box in the cockpit sole works fine. To me, it’s worth sacrificing cockpit lockers for a cabin and pilot berth for the boys, who could also stand to have some accumulation limitations.

Shangri-La is all steel. When we pounded through our first 25-knot wind and waves, the lack of leaks and silence below was amazing. The rigging is beefy, built to withstand wind and weather in the high latitudes. Jacklines stretch

The boat’s head, with my homemade curtain.
from just outside the cockpit to forward of the keel-stepped mast with an easy reefing system and lazy jacks for the main, the mast-stowed spinnaker pole, the furling gear, the removable inner forestay for a staysail, the electric windlass, the clean deck securely contained by solid-steel stanchions and railing that won’t budge, even when you try.

With guidance from David’s original plans, Dirk was responsible for Shangri-La’s finishwork, and he did a fine job. He outfitted her main cabin with the simple and extremely well-laid-out and practical details that attracted me the first time I descended the companionway steps. The chart table is to starboard, galley to port, there is tongue-and-groove cherry paneling, book shelves, and cabinetry with rattan panels surrounding the traditional saloon, with a settee wrapping around three sides of the “droppable” table. Luke’s blog described how he,and the two other guys with him, kept the table down for the interminable trans-Atlantic passage, turning the formal saloon arrangement into a hangout they called “Hippy Time.” That kind of detail, along with the fact that I’d been preceded by a string of bachelors, was what prompted me to have all the boat cushions deep cleaned.

All the floorboards lift up for instant access to the bilges — trunking, sea cocks (of which there are only four on the whole boat), plumbing, bilge pumps and integral water and fuel tanks. The floor is covered in unusual gray Pirelli

Shangri-La’s instrument panel.
industrial rubber flooring, the same stuff my father always installed in his building’s hallways and lobbies. It’s perfect for the marine environment. It’s durable, flexible, wipes clean easily, it’s impervious to puddling and water damage -- an excellent idea.

Forward of the main saloon, there’s a head and shower enclosed by a curtain I had to make — one of my first domestic touches — across from which is another huge closet area, big enough for all my clothes and all the boat linens and paper goods. There also are built-in wall lockers on either side of the V-berth. Beneath the cushions is an easily accessible and enormous bin-like space for all kinds of sails, spares, tools, repair kits, lines, and the mini Shop Vac to keep the carpeted cabin walls clean -- this carpeting being the only feature on the boat I’m not wild about. The anchor locker is forward of the berth; it’s big enough to hang more spare lines above the 250 feet of chain and another 250 feet of rode.

Throughout the boat, cream-colored vinyl panels attach to the ceiling with heavy-duty Velcro. They can be easily cleaned and removed to get at thick blocks of insulation and wiring. Just aft of the salon to port is the galley. Another fantastic feature is the double sink; one basin of which is bigger than my kitchen sink at home, big enough to clean a monster fish, loads

Trying to work out the kinks of our watermaker.
of vegetables, or to fill a large bucket. Kitty-cornered between the sinks and new two-burner propane stove and oven is the fridge/freezer with a nice arrangement of removable shelving for easy stowage. Above and below the stove and sinks are more cupboards for all the galley supplies.

Aft of the galley to port, between the counter and companionway, is a small entrance to a twin-sized pilot berth, my younger son’s cabin. Underneath Sam’s bunk is more stowage for spare anchor and chain and empty space, access to the engine via the inner wall, and along the outer wall, a rope is strung with hanging bags for all his belongings. It’s small, but in marketing vernacular, it’s also cozy. That’s what I keep telling him when he wonders why big brother got the cabin to starboard. To starboard of the galley is the over-sized chart table.

It faces aft, and is roomy enough for stowing many charts, as well as everything else necessary for navigation — everything but the sextant. Nicely arranged around the chart table are the ICOM single-sideband radio, and ICOM VHF, a Pathfinder radar, a CD player, the Heart Interface electrical-system-monitor display, the Furuno GPS, and the breaker panel. Behind this is neatly organized wiring trunked off to traceable destinations around the boat.

Just aft of the chart table is my elder son’s cabin, a modest affair, but a cabin nevertheless, with a door,

Nicholas's cabin.
a double unmade bed with more storage underneath, a closet. In return for having the official cabin, Nicholas’s bunk also has the easiest and best access to the Perkins 4108 engine that lies between the two sleeping areas. Beside his bed, a large plank opens to the engine room emitting a faint diesel smell that conveniently masks the smell of dirty clothes. It’s large enough for my whole body to contort into for reaching the diesel cabin heater, hot-water tank, exhaust, stuffing box, transmission, fuel filters, and oil dipstick. Behind the companionway steps is the next best engine access leading to the impeller, fresh water fill, alternator, oil fill and drain.

That’s the tour. When I last stood in Shangri-La’s main saloon, I felt completely present and in the moment, solidly at home. It was so comforting to realize that I really felt that way, that when I left the boat I’d miss her. And I do. I think about her all the time, imagining the day when I’ll be aboard her, living with her, taking care of her, having her take us to places we dream of going, together. All the while, I feel more and more trust in her, that she’ll protect me and my children, that she’ll be our home. That day is almost here.

A view of Willemstad in Curacao.