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Boat International USA - August 2008 - Perfect Launch

Written by Kelly Sanford

Boat International USA - Westport 164

An ardent yachtsman and his wife, passionate in their love of yachting, commissioned Westport to build their dream yacht. Immediately upon taking delivery in the spring of 2007, they ventured into an unfamiliar region to put the vessel through its paces. Buttressed by a meticulously vigilant captain, the shakedown cruise lasted an entire season - a spectacular experience that will long be remembered by the vessel's owner's and crew as the trip of a lifetime. We caught up with Captain Charlie Kiss of M/Y Constellation to discuss his strategies for executing the perfect launch.

According to Captain Kiss, initiating a perfect inaugural voyage involves a formula that starts with savvy owners, a reputable and dependable builder, and experienced project management. Under the leadership of a dedicated captain, the remainder of the equation includes a prepared crew, a lot of homework, legwork and a touch of good luck.

Constellation's owners had previously owned no fewer than fifteen boats before commissioning the 130 ft Westport. Their experience taught them the importance of having a captain representing their interest during the build, and Captain Kiss became involved at the point the contract was signed. Thus, not only did the owners have the benefit of a vested professional overseeing the project, they gained the added advantage of a captain who was intimately familiar with the vessel at the point of delivery.

Kiss made his first trip to Westport six weeks after the keel was laid and made monthly return strips during the build process. Two months prior to the scheduled acceptance sea trial, both the captain and his crew relocated to Washington State for the duration of the build period, and visited the shipyard daily. As a semi-production builder, Westport customarily does not allow the captain on sea trials prior to acceptance; however, by being present, Kiss was able to persuade the builder to allow him on multiple sea trials. "It was a privilege that came with a host of stipulations," says Kiss. "There could be no additional crew, and I was only along for the ride... in other words, no matter what, I was supposed to keep my mouth shut and not interfere with the schedule by critiquing every detail. "These were terms that Kiss admits took an extraordinary amount of self control to honor, but proved to be sound and realistic for keeping the delivery on schedule. "I knew we were already pushing the threshold with the number of personal preferences and upgrade changes we made, and I had been involved and seen enough at this point to trust them."

Taking advantage of a two-month opportunity to acclimate the crew to the Pacific Northwest and to one another, Captain Kiss used a strategic program of training drills, in hopes of weeding out those crew who would not measure up to his standards or the unique challenges of the Pacific Northwest itinerary. "I knew the owners wanted to use the boat right away, and it takes time for a crew to gel. My objective was to be finished with crew training and to resolve any crew setbacks before we took delivery."

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