“We firmly believe something is really going on in the Bermuda Triangle. We were about twelve hours out of Bermuda headed to the British Virgin Islands, and our electronics started to cut out – including our autopilot!“
Starry Horizons, Fountaine Pajot 44’
Interview with the Captains – Amy Alton
Who introduced you to boating/sailing?
I’ve been around boats my entire life. My grandfather had a maritime business, my dad had a maritime business (which I eventually bought and ran), my uncle currently has a sailboat and my stepdad had one too! My dad and my uncle were both cruisers, and while I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it when I was young, I did start sailing on my own at summer camp with little sailing dinghies. But, when my dad took my husband for his first sail, that’s when we both really got passionate about it.
Where have you sailed to, and what was your longest trip so far?
We finished our world circumnavigation in March of 2020. We’ve been living on the boat for seven years (with a small break for Covid). (link: https://outchasingstars.com/world-sailing-circumnavigation-summary/)
When we moved onboard in the Bay of Biscay, we pretty much did a self-delivery, bringing the boat across the Atlantic pretty bare-bones, so we could outfit the boat in Florida. That was our longest passage: 26 days at sea from Las Palmas, Canary Islands, to Miami, Florida. After the big projects were done, we sailed up to Nova Scotia and Maine for the summer. Then we were down to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. After two seasons in the Pacific, we sailed up through Southeast Asia and then across the Indian Ocean to South Africa. We closed the loop by sailing up the Atlantic to Antigua, right as Covid was shutting everything down.
We’ve been cruising the Chesapeake this summer and fall, and are now getting ready to sail south to the Bahamas.
Any notable memories/stories from your sailing adventures?
We firmly believe something is really going on in the Bermuda Triangle. We were about twelve hours out of Bermuda headed to the British Virgin Islands, and our electronics started to cut out – including our autopilot! We worked to troubleshoot the issue but were coming up blank, and looking at either hand steering while beating back upwind in rough conditions to Bermuda in a day or so, or hand steering an easier trip down to the BVIs but over four or five days.
We hailed a nearby sailing superyacht and asked if they had any advice. They asked us to call back later – their crew was busy bailing as they took on water!
We figured out our issue eventually (with the help of a call on the sat phone) and the superyacht got back up and running too. But it was just bizarre to have all that happen at once.
Most under-rated piece of equipment for long-range cruising?
This is terrible, but a good electric fly swatter. We have been to various places where the bugs can be a true terror and the bug zapper is really helpful in getting rid of the ones stuck inside after you’ve closed up. And…it’s kinda fun!
Do you have any other notable resources you use (apps, devices, etc)?
Our Sena headsets are awesome. We use them anytime we need to communicate verbally in difficult situations: docking, anchoring, up the mast. (link: https://outchasingstars.com/new-marriage-savers/)
About the Boat
Why did you choose to buy this model/make?
We went to the Annapolis Sailboat Show with a short list of boats and features we were looking at. We had always wanted a catamaran – we’d been sailing the previous few years in a Maine Cat 30 around Houston – and we wanted one of the bigger names in cruising catamarans production. We went on a Helia 44 at the show and that was it! We loved the space and she ticked all our boxes. (link: https://outchasingstars.com/fountaine-pajot-helia-44-review/)
What boats have you previously owned?
When my dad passed away, I bought out his maritime business – dinner cruises in the Houston area. I had a fleet of three party boats, a water taxi, and the Maine Cat 30, which we did day charters with.
This Maine Cat 30 was the boat my dad cruised on, so I had a lot of experience with it. I joined my dad in Florida and the Bahamas on it – my first overnight sail, crossing the gulf Stream! When I owned it, we did mostly day sails around Galveston Bay and a few overnighters.
What are the features you like most about your boat?
The living space is outstanding. We have an owner’s version, so our cabin is big and comfortable. The main salon is my ‘office’ where I do most of my writing. Between the main salon and the cockpit is a sliding glass door and window, so when those are open the whole space is perfect for entertaining. I have heaps of storage in the galley, which is great because I love to cook. And our helm is a sport-top, which means while sitting up there I can easily be involved in life in the cockpit or main salon. The helm seat is huge, and can fit four people if you sit close.
What features/improvements have you added or do you plan to add?
We have upgraded to Lithium Ion batteries. In South Africa we added a hydro generator to give us more power while underway. We’d like to have more solar panels and a dive compressor.
What is the biggest challenge you have in servicing your boat?
Finding the parts we need in exotic locations is always a big challenge. We’ve been lucky that our boat has performed so well on the maintenance side, and that we’ve often had friends and family come to visit, who can bring us parts we need.
Do you have any advice for those looking to buy a boat like yours?
Starry Horizons is a great boat. Even after seven years, she looks fabulous. We recently went back to the Annapolis Sailboat Show and toured the newest models from most of the big catamaran manufacturers, and, unless we were prepared to drop over a million dollars, there wasn’t a boat I liked better than ours.
It was harder than we anticipated to buy new. The factory and dealer relationship isn’t very flexible and there’s so much to learn when you are starting with a blank canvas. Ideally, a single-owner used boat would be what we would buy if we ever decided to move on from Starry Horizons. (link: https://outchasingstars.com/eleven-things-we-learned-buying-a-new-boat/)
What’s the story behind the boat’s name?
The company my dad started was called Star Fleet, and most of the boats had a Star-something name: Star Gazer, Star Spirit, Star Cat. We wanted to keep the theme going, and the Starry Horizons name embodied what we are doing out here: enjoying the stars and looking toward the horizon.
Click the gallery below for more photos and information about Starry Horizons!