La Dolce Vita Visits Pretty Gee

Posted on Saturday 16 June 2012

Today, I was working on s/v Sea Spirit’s VHF radio. Ken and Dottie had been having some issues with it since stepping the mast and I wanted to make sure the wiring going up the mast hadn’t been damaged while stepping the mast. I checked the radio’s power and antenna connection with a VSWR meter and it checked out okay. So, I told Ken to give it a try the next trip out and see how it did.

As I was finishing up, I noticed a Gemini 105Mc catamaran heading towards s/v Pretty Gee on her mooring. I was pretty sure that it was Walt and Carolyn’s La Dolce Vita, as that’s one of the only Geminis that ever heads this far north on the Acushnet river. So, I tried hailing s/v La Dolce Vita on Sea Spirit’s radio. I didn’t get an answer, but as I was trying to hail them, my cell phone rang.

It was John, another friend and Gemini owner, who was crewing on La Dolce Vita and he asked where I was, since I wasn’t on the Pretty Gee. They had been out motoring around the harbor in La Dolce Vita, trying to bleed the remaining air from the engine’s cooling system and decided to see if I was around.

I told John that Dave and I would be right out…and we packed our gear and rowed out to my boat. We put fenders out and Walt brought La Dolce Vita alongside the starboard ama and we threw John and Walt lines so they could raft up for a visit.

John and Walt came aboard the Pretty Gee. It was their first time aboard her with the solar panels setup and the amas out. I gave them the nickle tour and showed them some of the modifications I’ve done to her. We also started talking about how the Luhrs group had gone bankrupt and wondered how this was going to affect the production of the Gemini catamarans, which were now being produced under contract by Hunter Marine, one of the Luhrs companies.

Performance Cruising, the original manufacturer of the Gemini catamarans had farmed out production following their sale to Laura, the daughter of Tony Smith, the original owner and CEO of the company, who was also the designer of my Telstar 28 and the Gemini series of catamarans. Dealing with Laura is not the most pleasant experience generally speaking. She really doesn’t seem to understand the boat–either the Telstar or the Gemini–or really care about what is going on with the Gemini production.

Walt and John had told me about how the most recent Gemini they had seen at the last boat show had been modified in some fairly dumb and possibly dangerous ways. Apparently, Hunter or whomever is overseeing the production of the Geminis being built under contract by Hunter Marine, doesn’t understand that the rudder lockers on the Gemini catamarans, like that of the Telstar-which is based on the Gemini’s design-requires drains to allow water to enter and leave the compartment freely.

There are also other issues with the Hunter-built Geminis. They’re a lot heavier than the original PCI–built boats, mainly due to the changes that Hunter/PCI’s partnership has introduced to the interior. Some of the initial changes Hunter made were really stupid from a maintenance and ownership perspective. They had eliminated the ability to open the floorboards in the main hulls and inspect the bilge. While the bilge is shallow, most owners have installed bilge pumps and being able to inspect the bilge, clean the bilge, and pump out the bilge is generally a good thing.

The other main issue with the Hunter-built Gemini catamarans is weight–the new interior weighs about 900 lbs. more than the older design did and the Gemini, being a relatively small catamaran, really can’t afford the weight penalty that the new interior costs. The changes to the interior also reduced the usable stowage inside the boat as I understand it–which may be a good thing given how much weight the changes added.

John asked me if I thought there were any parts that he might want to order from Performance Cruising, just in case the company went the way of the Luhrs group. I said the part that made the most sense to order was the rudder. The kickup rudder design that is used on the Gemini and the Telstar is a bit unusual, because of the need to allow the rudder to kick up and how the rudder actually is mounted under the hull, rather than off the transom like most kickup rudders normally are. The fact that the rudders are mounted under the hull makes them work better than the transom mounted designs, which often can suffer from ventilation issues at higher speeds.

John also talked about possibly taking his boat, s/v Felix, back down to the Caribbean. I helped bring the boat back from the Bahamas two years ago and told him to keep me in mind for crew for the trip south. I’d love to bring the Pretty Gee south to the Caribbean at some point.

It was a good visit, and I hope to see more of Walt, John and their families this summer.

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