“Our boat wasn’t utilized as a liveaboard so we’ve added several items to make it ready for cruising. We love the large L-shaped galley and the skylights in the salon – the ability to make the boat really bright was appealing to us. The cockpit is our favorite place in the boat!”
Ajax, Beneteau 473
Interview with the Captains — Alex & Jackie
On Long Range Cruising
Who introduced you to boating/sailing?
Alex has been boating his whole life; I grew up sailing on a Hobie 16 with my dad. Alex was always intrigued by sailing but didn’t get an opportunity to try it until 2005 when a friend got a small sailboat and offered to take him out. From there, he was hooked!
How did the idea arise to start living aboard and embark on this sailing adventure?
Since 2005, sailing has been a big passion of Alex’s. He’s self taught, having watched lots of videos & read lots of things online. We’d go to the lake every weekend and I enjoyed being on the water, but wasn’t usually drawn to sailing (I’d much rather read a book & drink a cocktail in the cockpit)! We started racing our Catalina 22 in Kansas City and that helped me learn more about the fundamentals and enjoy sailing a bit more. We did a bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands in 2012 and not only was that an amazing vacation, it allowed me to see what it would be like to live on a boat. After that trip I thought, “I could do this!” We began to talk more seriously about this lifestyle, agreeing that if we didn’t do it, it’d be something we’d regret. So we set a goal to save as much as possible and take the leap by the time Alex turned 40 (Jan 2022); we’re grateful we were able to meet our goal in June 2020.
Where have you sailed to, and what was your longest point-to-point trip so far?
We purchased the boat in Virginia and explored several cities in the Chesapeake Bay over the summer. We officially started our southbound passage in October, taking the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) from Norfolk, VA to Beaufort, NC. From there, we did a combination of ICW and outside ocean passages, 8-16 hour trips depending on the destination. Our longest trip started early in the morning on the ICW before heading out to the ocean at Brunswick, GA and sailing to Ft. Pierce, FL, which took about 48 hours.
Any notable memories/stories from your journey on the water so far?
The notable memories have been the lessons we’ve learned – every time something happens, we learn from it. We’ve been out in big seas, much bigger than expected, and we learned more about weather planning. Some experiences have been scary (like 55 knot gusts pulling our anchor free or our folding prop losing a blade while we were pulling out of a slip), but we worked together to get through them and, while not all great memories, we learned what we’d do differently next time. Our favorite memories so far have been dolphins swimming at our bow and sailing into the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Bahamas!
Most under-rated piece of equipment for long-range cruising?
Creature comforts! Things like cockpit cushions, an ice machine, and our bread machine. We could live without these amenities, but being happy and comfortable go a long way in the cruising life!
Do you have any other notable resources you use (apps, devices, etc)?
Probably nothing others don’t use: we’re avid users of PredictWind and we found AquaMap to be extremely helpful in the shallow areas of the ICW.
About the Boat
Why did you choose to buy a Beneteau?
Value for the dollar – Beneteau makes great sailboats at a great price!
What other kinds of boats did you consider before buying this model (and how did they compare)?
We had several boats on our short list including the Beneteau 393, Beneteau Oceanis 40, Beneteau 423, Jeanneau 42 DS, and Jeanneau 43 DS. Many of them had similar features which is what drew us to them in the first place, things like the galley layout and the salon & sleeping areas. The Beneteau 473 was always our “dream boat that is sometimes available within our budget” so we knew it could be hard to find one.
How did you come to find/locate her before purchasing?
Alex has constantly looked at boats online, it’s like a hobby of his! We found some 473s but they weren’t the right layout or the right price or in the right location. One day he called me over and said “Jackie, I found one that just dropped into our budget and it’s in great condition!”
What boats have you previously owned?
We’re from the Midwest so we’ve done a lot of lake sailing over the years on several boats. Alex started on a Sunfish and from there we purchased a Newport 17, then a Chrysler 22, then a MacGregor 26, then a Catalina 22, and finally a Hunter 28.
What are the features you like most about your boat?
We love the large L-shaped galley and the skylights in the salon – the ability to make the boat really bright was appealing to us. The cockpit is our favorite place in the boat! We can spread out on each side and the dual wheel set-up makes the cockpit wider and more spacious; not to mention the duel helm is really nice while sailing! We also love having the little storage room instead of a 3rd cabin. We’re also really pleased with the sailing performance – it’s a comfortable boat that still has some speed!
What features/improvements have you added or do you plan to add?
Our boat wasn’t utilized as a liveaboard so we’ve added several items to make it ready for cruising. This includes adding a dinghy, dinghy davits, solar panels, and a watermaker. We also sewed cockpit cushions and are in the process of redoing all the canvas on the boat. We’re excited to freshen her up!
What is the biggest challenge you have in servicing your boat?
The biggest challenge is the never-ending list of things that need fixing! When one thing is fixed, another couple things pop up. Maintenance is an ongoing process. We keep a list of to-dos and check in with each other often to adjust the priority of the project list!
Do you have any advice for those looking to buy a Beneteau like yours?
It was more important to us to have a boat in good condition than a boat with all of the cruising essentials. It’s a trade-off, so someone else may make a different choice, but we were drawn to a boat in great condition that needed some upgrades. That means we spent the last few months getting our boat ready for cruising but we got to equip it the way we wanted.
What’s the story behind the boat’s name?
We thought about what we wanted to name the boat for a long time! We knew we wanted it to be short, easy to say over the radio, and easy to remember. Since we’d heard cruisers often remember the boat name instead of the sailors’ names, we decided to name the boat Ajax, a combination of Alex and Jackie.
Check it Out
Click the gallery below for more photos and information about AJAX!