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382 Days… That’s how long it took from the signing of our contract in Annapolis until today, when we saw Starry Horizons, our Helia 44, for the first time while taking a Fountaine Pajot factory tour. “Patience” has been our word of the moment and we’re getting lots of practice at it.
After driving out through the suburbs of La Rochelle, we arrived at the factory in Aigrefeuille, France and met with our guide, Didier. He was extremely friendly, and while he was about 4th in line to give tours, everyone else was out of the factory for the day, so we were fortunate that he stepped up to help out. First stop, Starry Horizons.
Right now, she’s sitting on the hard, waiting for the truck to come tomorrow and take her to the water. But walking up to her and seeing her for the first time was an amazing feeling. This is the boat that will be our home for several years and will take us around the world. It already feels like she’s part of our family and we can’t wait to get to know her better.
We took some time to look around and were pleasantly surprised that there does seem to be enough storage space for all the stuff we have in France. I’m sure we’ll have all kinds of fun unpacking everything and finding a place for it, but that is a problem for a later time (like next week).
Didier then took us around to all the different buildings showing all stages of the production of the boat. We saw where they organize all the materials they need to begin construction of the hull, including lots of rolls of fiberglass and the resin needed to harden the fiberglass.
We also got to see the actual molds they use to create the hull and different parts of the boat such as the bimini. From there, Didier showed us the injection process where they create a vacuum seal and inject the resin in order to give the hulls good rigidity. This was a really cool process to see and Didier told us that the whole process takes about an hour. In fact, the construction of the Helia includes the largest injection mold in the world!
From there the boat moves on to the next phase. This is the installation of bulkheads and the running of electrical wiring and plumbing. It is much easier to do this while the boat is “open”. I took advantage by taking lots of pictures so I could get some idea of where the wires are located in the boat. I hope this helps me when I inevitably will need to work on the boat.
After this, the boat begins looking like a boat. They put the two halves of the boat together and install furniture/engines/generator, all the options ordered with the boat. Each boat has a detailed flowchart of where it is in the construction process and what options need to be installed. That way, all the technicians can keep track of where the boat is in the process. It’s all incredibly detailed and impressive!
Perhaps our favorite part of the tour was the “swimming pool”. This is where the finished boat is sent in order to test all the systems on board. The boats are sprayed with water for 12 hours to check all the hatches/windows for leaks. It is at this point they are able to install the rub rails on the side. The doors in the previous buildings of the factory are too narrow to allow the extra inch on the side of the hulls!
It was an absolutely fascinating day taking a tour of the Fountaine Pajot factory. We greatly appreciated Didier’s knowledge of the whole process and answering all of our questions. We saw boats from the very beginning stages of construction for hull #89 all the way to the almost completed hull #84. It would have been nice to have come over while the boat was under construction. I guess that’s what hindsight is for. Tomorrow, the factory will deliver our boat to the harbor to be launched. It will be an even more exciting day!
Thanks to Multihull Solutions for the below video.