Frank Kowalski / Powerboat & RIB
Delivery Voyage of 'SAFEHAVEN' the second XSV20 to Jack Setton.
Frank Kowalski, MD of Safehaven Marine, provides a first-hand account of a mighty 2500 nautical mile journey from Cork, Ireland, to Porto Cervo on Sardinian’s idyllic coast. A delivery voyage extraordinaire, made by one his own Safehaven XSV20’s and a vessel named after the yard in which she was built. A striking 23 metre all-weather vessel which has the power to court both wealthy superyacht owners and professional mariners alike…
Anticipating that her maiden voyage across the infamous Bay of Biscay would likely provide some highly challenging sea conditions, the 23 metre vessel, ‘Safehaven’, now the second XSV20 built by Safehaven Marine, was tested in the company’s usual inimitable style during a storm which saw 6 metre waves and 40 knot winds battering Cork’s rugged, Atlantic coast. This of course allowed the newly built vessel to be thoroughly tested and her systems ‘sea trialled’ in truly a very convincing fashion; giving both owner and builder much reassurance as to her capabilities.
Upon this lively commissioning process having been successfully completed, ‘Safehaven’, steamed out of East Ferry Marina in Cork Harbour on a fair Sunday morn to the chime of church bells ringing, to begin her long 2,500 nautical mile delivery voyage to Porta Cervo on the Sardinian coast. Upon the voyage’s successful completion, she would be united with her new owner and master, Jack Setton, to take up her role as a private, high-performance, motor yacht.
Below, Video of rough weather trials in preparation for her 2500nm voyage
Leaving her safe haven.
With a good forecast set for the first leg of the voyage, ‘Safehaven’ and her crew headed off into the blue, cutting a perfect swathe of white water out across the Irish Sea. Aboard, there was much anticipation of the voyage ahead and what it might bring, but before long, both man and machine began to settle into the rhythm of the seas and the long Atlantic swells that rolled up to meet them. Their course down to the first night’s stopover in Brest on the French coast was largely uneventful, save for the odd school of Dolphins which fleetingly adopted the boat and the 2 metre following seas which also accompanied a good deal of the trip. The latter helped nudge the boat nicely along her course down the Cornish coast, past Poldark country and on around the infamous, Lands’ End.
Keeping a Brest of it.
It was late evening by the time the English Channel had been crossed and the lights of Brest could be seen glimmering on the French coast. The chief priority for on any voyage of this type involving powerboats though is the constant question of fuel, and as the only available fuel pump during the night allowed a maximum of €150 per fill, so the multiple business of refuelling on credit card took a good few hours to complete. ‘Safehaven’, put away some 3,000 litres of fuel on this first fill up, but a critical refuelling exercise it most certainly was, for there would be no room for miscalculation when crossing the Bay of Biscay. Indeed, every weather and sea eventuality had to be considered and factored in. Finally, at 3am in the morning, upon her tanks being re-charged, ‘Safehaven’ cast off and put to sea once more with a weary but steadfast crew at her helm.
Whilst the boat pushed on ever southwards, because of other pressing work commitments back at the Safehaven yard, I had to initially remain at company HQ and therefore could only remotely follow her progress. I can vouch for the fact though, that without some form of satellite comms, trying to keep track of a such a valuable vessel as, ’Safehaven’, on her maiden voyage, can be quite a stressful business! You see, my following ‘Safehaven’s route down to Sardinia was wholly dependent on AIS tracking her course. Furthermore, in our case, she was effectively bound on an ocean crossing that would mean she would drop off AIS coverage just 40nm from land, not appearing until perhaps many hours later when she began to make her next landfall. Therefore, being as I was, the land based ‘crewmember’ for a considerable part of this voyage, I can admit to finding it quiet a relief whenever I saw our new pride and joy pop up again on the AIS!
Friends of sea.
The Gijon harbour pilots, to whom Safehaven had supplied one of their Interceptor 42 pilot boats to in 2017, were very kind indeed and came out especially to escort ‘Safehaven into her berth within Gijon harbour, enabling us to undertake this next refuelling ‘pit-stop’ as swiftly as possible. The crew greatly appreciated this genuine display of hospitality and the camaraderie of their Spanish fellow seafarers. As many of you will know, there are few things that have the power to stimulate fellowship to quiet the same degree as the sea. Even foreign souls can be united by their mutual appreciation of the mighty ocean being a common friend as well as having the potential to be a fear inspiring foe at times.
With hurried goodbyes, the crew cast off once again, this time into the beckoning faint light of the new day, whereupon they navigated around the northern coast of Spain and on down the coast of Portugal to Lexioes. This in fact was another port Safehaven Marine had supplied a pilot boat into just a few months prior. Once again, hospitality came in no short supply and after being helped with the task of recharging her tanks, ‘Safehaven’ and her crew enjoyed a detour up the Douro River from Porto to take in some of the local sights, including the spectacular bridges that transverse the watercourse here. They also got their first opportunity to fly the drone and to begin capturing the spectacular scenery witnessed on this remarkable voyage.
Heading off again down the coast of Portugal that evening and then on into the descending black of night, spirits were high, for it was clear that this new XSV20 was more than fulfilling initial expectations. Refuelling at first light in Vilamoura, before then continuing onwards to pass the great rock of Gibraltar in heavy fog later that evening, ‘Safehaven’ came to finally berth for the night in Porto Banus, southern Spain, for a well-earned rest. This gave the crew time to get their heads down for more than just a few ‘cat-napping’ moment’s sleep and allowed the vessel’s powerful Caterpillar engines the opportunity to lie undisturbed for an hour or so too.
Threat of the Mistral.
After an early morning fuel replenish, it was time to set off once more, albeit into a rather bumpy crossing at times along the Mediterranean coast. Ironically, this passage proved tougher going than any of those prior, being rougher at times than either the initial Atlantic passages or the Biscay run, which not unrealistically were originally expected to represent the most challenging legs of all. It just goes to show how hard it is to predict either the weather or its dutiful mistress, the sea. Though in fairness it has to be said, overall, both had been very lenient up until this point. But things were forecast to get a whole lot tougher…
A 40-knot strong ‘Mistral’ wind was forecast to develop over the course of the next few days, which, if progress didn't continue on schedule, would see three to four metre seas piling up and a very rough passage to be made on the final leg across open water. The boat could take it, being built for such arduous conditions, but the prospect of such held little appeal with the crew. Plus, not arriving on time for Jack Setton the owner was not an option, so it became a case of simply pushing on at all best cruising pace and if the boat was to be met by the dreaded Mistral, it would simply be a case of riding it out underway.
A refuel stop in Cartagena, was then followed by a well-earned break and rest for the crew as they waited for me to fly in and join the party in my official capacity as, Safehaven Marine MD and designer of XSV20. Once I was reunited with my team, we eased out of the harbour of Cartagena and struck out on the white capped waters of the Mediterranean bound for Ibiza.
Below, Video covering her voyage from Cork to Sardinia.
Fiery sunsets and star filled skies.
Arriving once again at the unsociable hour of 3am in the morning was becoming something of a habit by now. But I have to say that Ibiza is not the easiest port to enter at night due to the heavy light scatter from the waterfront bars and hotels. This means of course that trying to pick out the necessary leading lights or even navigation buoys is a very difficult task indeed within the light busied dark. But after safely navigating into the port’s marina area and making contact with the harbour authorities, it transpired that the only available berth was directly between two $100 million superyachts! Though ‘Safehaven’ may have been a little dwarfed by their presence, at the same time, she was by no means overawed!
Early the following morning, after paying the frighteningly expensive berthing bill and subsequent fuel charges, we headed off for Palma, on what was to prove to be a simply magical passage. Mirror calm seas, an epic fiery sunset and a star filled night; these are the images indelibly marked on my mind of this crossing. Such privileges truly represent the joy of boating no matter what boat you’re aboard along with the special wonder which hails from being among the elements and their compelling beauty.
No rooms at the Inn.
Upon reaching Palma, we discovered for the first time on this trip, there were in fact no visiting berths available. This meant we were forced to wait at anchor in the exposed bay for several hours. Frustrations aside, having completed our necessary business there, we left with some eagerness to set off on the very last leg of our journey, the 350nm passage via Corsica to ‘Safehaven’s’ final destination in Sardinia. Over this period Jack was constantly in communication, as indeed he had been throughout a good deal of the trip. But now it was different, because his new baby was within a tantalising skimming stone’s distance of his clutches!
A Sardinian welcome.
Now being able to accurately assess the time of our arrival, Jack decided to take to his Princess 60, as well as his 50ft RIB, in order to meet ‘Safehaven’ in the narrow passage between the islands of Stintino on the north eastern tip of Sardinia. Here he anchored up for the night to await our arrival the following morning.
It was a truly special moment for the crew and I to see Jack and his two-boat flotilla appearing in the distance as he came out to meet us on our closing the Sardinia coast. Then, upon being hailed by him, to have Jack tie up alongside for breakfast amidst the wonderful turquoise blue waters. It was enormously satisfying for me to see Jack again in his home waters since he was last aboard in Ireland weeks earlier. And so, now from behind the wheel and in command of ‘Safehaven’, Jack dextrously weaved a path through the region’s beautiful anchorages and on past the amazing rock formations which stud this ancient coast. This was where the boat’s waterjets really came into their own; allowing ‘Safehaven’ to safely traverse her way through the crystal shallows; well known to Jack and his armoury of local knowledge.
All too soon it seemed, the port of Porto Cervo was made; the place that would become ’Safehaven’s’ new home port, and where upon making safe entry, we finally tied her up for her first evening at journey’s end.