Boat International - August 2008 - Perfect Launch
Written by Kelly Sanford
Though Kiss has 21 years of experience as a captain and 30 total years experience as crew, he describes the Pacific Northwest as the ultimate shakedown destination. "You need to be really confident in your boat and you crew. Everything is going to be tested because you will be traveling to very isolated areas and in conditions you would never experience anywhere in the Caribbean." During her shakedown cruise, Constellation not only too k the owners on a breathtaking adventure, but the boat itself was tested to its limits. "In the Pacific Northwest, you use everything. Sometimes we would get up and run fast and many times were idling among icebergs. We ran in a lot of zero-visibility conditions, which meant all the electronics - which included AIS radar signals that could look around corners, and depth-control registering sonar - had to work perfectly."
With the utmost confidence in the vessel's capabilities, Kiss recalls one of his favorite moments of the season-long adventure when he decided to give the bow (and a few intrepid guests) a freshwater rinse under a waterfall of glacial snowmelt. At Red Bluff Bay, Kiss maneuvered Constellation into the spray of a magnificent waterfall, which ascended 300 feet before disappearing into the rainforest that extended a thousand feet higher. "[It was roaring] to the point where you needed to raise your voice to be heard, [it] gives you goose bumps jus thinking about the power behind it and the natural beauty of it all."
Kiss admits they never saw Alaska's legendary rough seas, "In Queen Charlotte Sound we saw 4 to 6 foot seas with occasional 8-footers." However, they experienced conditions unlike any Kiss and his crew had seen before. "Not only does the Pacific Northwest require you to use all the electronics but you test the limits of all the machinery as well. More than once, we anchored in over 100 feet of water, often in areas where dragging anchor would quickly have you in 1,500 feet of water and a 15-knot current surrounded by vertical granite cliffs."
Even the climate control is tested. Imagine a 75-degree day in Alaska. The wheelhouse and galley require air-conditioning to stay comfortable, while staterooms sitting at the 48-degree waterline simultaneously require heat - a feat the Westport handled effortlessly.
With more rain than sunshine, variable cruising conditions, the overwhelming splendor of the Pacific Northwest and the adrenalin rush of the adventure, Kiss describe the experience as having put both the boat and its crew through their paces. "Because the environment demands it, the crew is testes as much as the boat."
Though clearly pleased and impressed with his captain's achievements, Constellation's owner is inclined to give Westport a share of his acclaim. "Westport did it right; the boat is rally perfect for that area. Sure, there were some minor issues that arose during the trip, but Westport would send someone to the boat to handle warranty items that came up. The whole experience is one I would do again. You can't describe how beautiful the region is, you just have to experience it for yourself."
As many new-construction yachts return from even the briefest shakedown trip with a long list of what went wrong, it is refreshing to hear about those voyages where it all goes right. Perhaps Captain Charlie Kiss is exceptional with respect to his level of reciprocal dedication with both Constellations owners and her builders. On the other hand, he may have discovered the secret formula for a perfect season. Though she is only a year old, there is no doubt that Constellation has an already enviable history and also has a bright future ahead. Her captain and owners are rightfully proud of their accomplishment and share their adventure and commentary in hopes of encouraging others to rediscover the absolute joy of yachting. After all, sometimes you have to be willing to cautiously venture into the unknown in order to rediscover what you've known all along. med with stainless steel grab bars offers comfortable viewing for several guests and adds a softer feel to the very business-like space.