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europe-two_footitis-largeTwo-footitis – the need to move up to a boat 2-feet longer than the one you have – is an ailment that hits most sailors at one time or another as their passion for the sport grows, new challenges are sought, the crew expands or, let's be really honest here, the desire for bigger and better toys hits hard.

Initially Paul and I were immune to this affliction. We lovingly cared for and sailed our self-built Classic 37 sailboat, Two-Step, for 19 years (after 3 years of building her) and put 60,000 nm under her keel cruising to over 50 countries before we finally admitted that we had outgrown her. We loved her but we were tired of "camping" in this simple although pretty boat. We realized that we were being limited by her six-foot draft as we enjoy creek-crawling and exploring shallow places. Something with a shallow-draft appealed. However, because we do a lot of passage-making too, we needed a seaworthy offshore boat and many shallow-draft designs aren't up to this. And since we live on board most of the year, we wanted a more spacious and modern sailing home.

In 2007, after a lot of research, we took the plunge and made a huge leap by purchasing a brand-new semi-custom Southerly 42RST (for Raised Salon Twin-wheel), a variable draft sailboat built in England by Northshore Yachts with all the mod-cons – hot and cold pressurized water (seriously, this was a big new feature for us), on-deck and below-deck showers, watermaker, generator, all the latest electronics, a washing machine – you name it, we put it on this boat, which, by the way, was going to last us forever.

We loved our new boat named "Distant Shores" after the sailing program we film and host. We took her to her limits cruising offshore (enjoying her nine-foot draft) – from England to Spain and Portugal, offshore to Madeira and the Canary Islands, a downwind sleigh ride across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean. We varied the draft like a dinghy to revisit the islands, including swinging up the keel to her 2' 10" draft to gunkhole in shallow places in the out islands of the Bahamas and along the east coast of the USA and finally home. We could never have done this with "Two-Step". We went back down to the tropics for another winter of tradewind sailing in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. (See past issues of CY to read about these adventures.) Over the last few years, we have sailed 16,000 nm on our Southerly 42.

So guess what. Two-footitis has struck again. Only this time we've gone metric. We've got a serious case of two-METRE-itis and have purchased a new Southerly 49. In fact, we moved on board this glorious vessel yesterday and I am sitting aboard "Distant Shores II" in Chichester Harbour on the south coast of England writing to you from my new floating office. (It's amazing how you can justify things when you suffer this afflication.)

Let me tell you how it all started.

The first symptom occurred when, in 2008, Northshore Yachts announced they had commissioned yacht designer Rob Humphreys to design a new Southerly 49 as the result of a custom order they had received from an Australian with plans for a circumnavigation. Rob Humphreys also designed the hull and interior of the Southerly 42 which has exceeded our expectations for speed and comfort. (Note: Stephen Jones designed a new cockpit and aft cabin for Rob Humphreys' design of the original Southerly 42RS to create the Southerly 42RST, an alternative version, and the version we have been sailing on but the hull is the same.)

"Hmmm. This looks interesting," said Paul casually when the announcement arrived by e-mail. I should have been more alert. We were on our way south and about to do a weeklong bash to windward from the Bahamas to the Caribbean for another winter of tropical cruising at the time.

After reaching Antigua, we sailed the warm breezes from English Harbour to Tortola in the BVI and through the winter Paul kept in touch with the progress of the first 49 in build. Then, in the spring, just before the first Southerly 49 was ready to launch, Paul received a request from friends to accompany them to the Northshore factory since they were considering purchasing a Southerly and wanted his advice. Well, he couldn't let friends down could he? Hmmm. Suspicious.

So I flew home to Canada to visit family and Paul flew to England to help our friends and "to catch up with the shipyard to see how the company was doing in the midst of the world news of economic slowdown." Why did I not hear the danger bells then?

Apparently things are going quite well. When our 42 was launched in November 2007, Northshore Yachts had started construction on a new factory building and in March 2009 when Paul made this decisive visit to England the building was finished and full of new boats in build. The UK pound has been down against the Euro and the US dollar, so maybe that's partly responsible for the productivity, making the Southerly more affordable. This certainly opened the possibility for us to move up.

At any rate, Paul reported a busy shop with not only the first 49 close to completion but a new 57-footer well under way. The plug for the 57 was completed and hull number one was to be moulded shortly. Like all Southerlies, the 57 has a swing-keel and will draw just over 3 feet with the keel up. I guess I should be grateful that the 57 didn't catch his fancy!

So, as a result of that visit, the decision was made. In truth, I can't blame Paul alone for making the decision to move up to a 49 after just a few years of sailing our the 42. (Come on. We did 16,000 nm miles with the boat. The racing enthusiasts at our club change boats faster than us with fewer miles. Am I justifying? After almost 25 years of marriage have I not learned that Paul is amazingly persuasive?) Anyway the new 49 had also captured my imagination and I am very happy about moving up to our new 49-footer. Why?

She is a very fast and spacious boat. In many ways like a bigger faster version of our 42 which has been a truly great cruising boat. She has all the Southerly features that we love – a raised salon for excellent visibility below and, of course, the variable draft keel. A lovely laid-out aft cockpit for ease of sailing but for entertaining too with the addition of two large stern-rail benches on the 49 (nicknamed Gin and Tonic seats). And the 49 is designed with our favourite double headsail rig as a standard feature (it was an option on the 42). The decks are wider and the teak will be nice to give good footing when you go forward at sea.

Looking at the dimensions shows a different emphasis in design. The LOA increased from 42.2 to 48.5 feet (an increase of 15%); the waterline increased by 15% too. The beam, however, increased by only 4% from 13.2 to 13.7 feet whereas the keel/ballast increased from 8,091 to 11,530 lbs. – a 42% increase.

So, basically, the new boat is a sleeker version of the 42: more than six feet longer and with a much deeper keel but only six inches wider. Yet it has much wider side decks than the 42 which I appreciate when going forward. Although bigger than the 42, much of the additional length of the 49 is in the bow section where we now have a very large (as in easy-to-stow bicycles size) watertight locker.

This should mean a much more powerful and faster hull. As Paul says, "She is a very sleek boat and should be very fast. Not that the 42 wasn't quite fast – the 49 will be faster!"

One of the most interesting engineering features of this Southerly that greatly appeals to Paul's techie nature is that she uses the leading edge "distributed power systems". This means instead of a big main breaker panel, there will be nodes throughout the boat that control the electrical system closer to the items being controlled.

Distributed power has two main advantages. Firstly, it allows much more control and monitoring of the use of electrical power, and secondly it reduces wiring and the massive bundles that used to make their way aft to the panel. But more on this in future articles.

For me the selling points were the larger galley and the main stateroom forward rather than aft as in the 42. The galley on the Southerly 49 has much more counter space than on our 3-cabin version of the 42 (which tends to compromise the galley as compared to the two-cabin 42). The galley on the 49 also has better visibility for vertically-challenged cooking enthusiasts such as myself. Since we live aboard most of the year, there is lots of space for the appliances I missed, such as a good top-loading freezer and microwave in addition to the front-opening fridge/freezer I had on the 42. There are also way more drawers and cupboards for good easy-to-access storage.

The main stateroom forward on the 49 has better headroom than the beautiful aft cabin on the 42. Since we both work on board, the little desk in the stateroom means we have an additional private workspace; we can close the door, too, if the other wants to listen to music or have friends aboard in the main cabin. If I add a mirror, I could make it a vanity. OK a chic thing, but it pays to have little details that make every member of the crew happy.

In July, we both flew to England to test sail hull number one of the 49. We only had light winds but wow did she go. We managed 6 knots in just 7-8 knots of breeze!!! We scooted right past ALL the other boats out that day. We also got a look at our new 49 in build in the factory. Just early stages yet but a thrill nonetheless to walk around in the hull.

This January we were back to England where our new Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, was on display at the London Boat Show. What a thrill it was to walk into the ExCel Centre and see her sitting there under the show lights. And if that wasn't exciting enough, Princess Anne came aboard during her royal visit to the boat show. Royalty on board.

On March 9th – one week ago today – we took delivery of the boat and after commissioning have moved on board to begin our next adventures – a voyage from England to countries of the Baltic Sea.