Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 Review
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Last Updated on May 14, 2021 by Amy
Starry Horizons, a Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, was launched in October of 2014. Since then, we’ve tackled over 40,000 nautical miles and completed our world circumnavigation. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of thoughts on the performance of our boat and the things we liked and didn’t like.
20,000nm Helia Review
Upon our arrival into Fiji, we crossed the longitude 178° 51′ E. This meant we had officially sailed halfway around the world (!) on our Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 from the factory in France. Since my original review, Fountaine Pajot has released the Helia Evolution, which did address a few of my original gripes, namely the dinghy davits, so I’m going to try and focus on things in this review that will hopefully be applicable to all Helias.
To answer the basic question I know everyone is thinking; yes, we are still very happy with our Helia 44. Since we left France in November 2014, we’ve:
- sailed almost 20,000nm
- crossed two oceans
- visited 20 countries
- published over 325 blog posts
- almost 50 YouTube videos
It feels like the time has flown by, but actually writing all that out, we’ve done a lot in a bit over two years!
Through it all, our respect and admiration for the Helia has continued to grow. We did a lot of research before choosing to buy a Helia and all of our experiences since then have just served to confirm that we made the right choice. That’s not to say that the Helia is the perfect boat. All boats are a compromise in one way or another, but for our requirements, it’d be hard to do much better.
In my first review, I mentioned that we enjoyed sailing the Helia 44 and that definitely hasn’t changed. Overall, she’s a very comfortable boat at sea, capable of taking everything we’ve thrown at her and more.
I keep pretty detailed spreadsheets from all our passages and I figured some of this data may be of interest:
- Overall Avg SOG: 6.7 knots
- Overall Avg NM/Day: 160.8nm
- Fastest Passage SOG: 7.45 knots (Grenada to Panama) over 1,249nm
- Slowest Passage SOG: 5.7 knots (Marquesas to Tuamotus) over 547nm
- Note: we purposefully sailed slowly on this passage to arrive in the Tuamotus in daylight and with proper tide conditions
- Fastest 24hr Run: 8.71 knots and 209nm (Grenada to Panama)
- Slowest 24hr Run: 4.92 and 118nm (Marquesas to Tuamotus)
The Helia isn’t the fastest boat in the world, but she definitely isn’t the slowest either. Since we’re doing a trade winds circumnavigation, we’ve spent a majority of our time going downwind. We have, however, experienced all kinds of conditions.
Sailing Dead Downwind
Many purists will say you shouldn’t sail dead downwind because it’s slow, but man is this an easy point of sail. We’ve had lots of success with a wing on wing set up, starting with main and genoa and recently with genoa and screecher when AWS is 15knots or less. The Helia 44 is so wide we don’t need poles and we’ve seen wind gusts to even 160deg AWA and the sails stayed full. With the genoa and screecher, we’ve even been able to sail all the way down to 8-10 knots TWS. Main + genoa requires more wind to keep the main full.
This is where it gets fun. Come off the wind a bit and the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44 can really come alive. Main+genoa on a reach usually gives us about 7-8 knots. Using our screecher gets about 8-9 knots. We’ve seen bursts of 10+ knots boat speed when conditions are just right. For comfort reasons, we don’t usually push this hard out in the open ocean, but our 209nm day was a perfect combination of smallish waves, right wind angle and just enough wind to allow us to keep full sails. And we did it using just our main and genoa! We are confident in saying that our Fountaine Pajot is faster than most cruising boats.
I don’t care what kind of boat you’re on, upwind sailing is just no fun. Bashing into waves is uncomfortable, plain and simple. Our longest/worst stretch of upwind sailing was the start of our Fiji to New Zealand passage. We had 25-30+ knots AWS where we sailed at AWA’s of about 47-42 degrees. With several reefs in the sails, we still managed to do about 6.5knots but we lost quite a bit of leeway. If you want to sail to windward on a regular basis, get a cat with daggerboards.
This comes with a major disclaimer that I’m no world-class racer, but there are a few annoyances about sail trim on a Helia. The genoa track cars are too far inboard to be of great use while sailing deep wind angles. We’ve solved this problem by rigging up a block at the shrouds to be used with an additional line tied to the clew of the sail as an outboard jib lead. This has worked well.
The mainsheet traveler spreads almost entirely across the coachroof. While sailing downwind, you want the main let far out. However, the shrouds and spreaders are in the way. The mainsail, when let all the way out, can chafe against the rigging. We reinforced the mainsail at the contact point for the spreaders, but after hearing of chaffing stories from other Fountaine Pajot owners, we are very careful not to let out the mainsail too far.
To be fair, you would likely encounter these issues on pretty much all other cats, not just Fountaine Pajots, but it is still something you have to account for.
In my first review, I mentioned how disappointed I was in how much Starry Horizons slammed while we sailed across the Atlantic. Since then we replaced our 300′ of 1/2 chain with 300′ of 3/8″ HT G4 chain and reworked the dinghy bridle so that we can actually keep the outboard on the dinghy during passages. This saved us about 500lb of weight up at the bow of the boat and has essentially solved the problem.
We still experience “wave slap” on the inside of the hulls, but any cat will experience this. Very rarely do we now experience the whole boat shuddering slamming effect.
We get a lot of compliments from guests about how new she looks. We both do quite a bit of work to keep her looking good. This also speaks to the quality of her construction. Sure there are a couple of gelcoat cracks that have shown up, and we can hear a few more creaks while out at sea, but after 20,000nm that’s not unexpected.
Even in some of the worst seas we’ve experienced, I’ve never been concerned that the structural integrity of the boat was at risk.
Sail Plan on a Helia 44
The Helia really is an easy boat to sail. We’ve modified things so that all lines are led back to the helm (we purchased single line 1st reef from the Fountaine Pajot factory and modified the 2nd reef to be single line reefing as well) which means we can enclose the helm and be incredibly protected.
It was important to both of us that we be able to essentially single hand the boat in case something happened to the other person and with the Fountaine Pajot Helia 44, we can do that. The electric winch makes raising the mainsail a breeze but it can be frustrating having to go back and forth to the helm pod to adjust the autopilot when raising or reefing by yourself. Having two people does make this easier.
I touched on this in my first review, but it bears repeating. We love the space we have in the Helia. We’re usually the ones hosting get-togethers in an anchorage because the Helia has more space than almost all the other boats there. The lounge deck is a great spot for sundowners, we can work out up on the bow, the galley has enough counter space to actually prepare food and the jealousy on people’s faces when they see the size of the owners’ hull is readily apparent. Fountaine Pajot has done a great job of organizing the boat and the living space.
We give up some speed to cats with thinner hulls and daggerboards. But since we’ve spent 85% (107 days on passages out of 2 years) of our time at anchor/on a mooring/dockside, I’d rather have more space.
Maintenance and Repairs
We’ve been incredibly fortunate with how Starry Horizons has held up so far. Overall we’ve had far fewer troubles with her than other boats (and other Fountaine Pajots) we’ve met. Here are some of the big-ticket items we’ve had to work on:
- Cracked Mini Keel
- We discovered a crack in our port mini keel while hauled out in the BVIs. We’re fairly sure we haven’t hit bottom on that side yet. Our best guess is when we “beached” the boat in La Rochelle on the asphalt ramp so Uchimata could do some work on the props for us. Can’t really fault the Helia for this one.
- Leaking Hydraulic System
- Our hydraulic steering system had a leak coming from the “drain fitting” on the hydraulic pump. It wasn’t a big leak and was easily fixed by adding some Teflon tape.
- Genset Impeller Destruction
- Since buying the boat, I’ve since come to discover that Onan generators have a reputation for eating impellers. We’ve gotten a Raw Water Flow alarm several times and the solution has always required replacing the impeller. Again, a simple fix, but rather annoying, and we haven’t found a longer-term solution.
- Oil and Filter Changes
- Classify this one under preventative maintenance. So far our generator and engines have run almost flawlessly (with the exception of the genset impeller) so all I’ve had to do are scheduled oil and filter changes.
- Owner’s Side Shower Sump Box
- The drain for the shower in the owner’s head is constantly getting backed up. This is due to the accumulation of soap scum/hair/etc that gets down that drain. The sump box itself is easy to open up and clean. However, the long hose run from the drain to the sump box isn’t. We try to use a snake to clean the hose, but it doesn’t work all that well.
- Leaky Hatches/Engine Compartment Courtesy Lights
- I have now rebedded all the courtesy lights in the engine compartments. I have also rebedded all but two of our deck level hatches. It appears that Fountaine Pajot used silicone to bed all of these things, which was a terrible idea. The courtesy lights leaked salt water into the engine compartments, which has caused some premature rusting. Using Sikaflex or 3M 4000UV has fixed the hatches and BoatLife Life Seal fixed the courtesy lights.
One More Gripe
The owners’ hull sliding door… The nut and bolt system for keeping the door in the track sucks! The nuts are constantly coming undone. When they unwind up the bolt, they grind into the track and prevent the door from moving. Try to tighten the nuts all the way down and the level of the door raises too high and scrapes against the ceiling panels! Those same ceiling panels are glued in so you can’t easily remove them. It’s difficult to adjust anything or get easier access to the track. Frustrating all the way around, and you’d think Fountaine Pajot would have a better solution.
This review tried to focus strictly on the Helia itself. We’ve also done quite a lot of modifications to Starry Horizons.
I’d like to again reiterate that we’re extremely pleased with our Helia. We are happy to be part of the Fountaine Pajot family. She’s a great compromise of safety/performance/liveability at an acceptable cost.
6,000nm Helia 44 Review
Well, technically we hit 6,002 nm on Starry Horizons as we pulled into Regatta Pointe Marina but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well, so for the purpose of this post, we will round down slightly. There are others out there with more experience on their Helias, but after picking up our boat in France and sailing all the way to Florida, I finally feel qualified enough to share my thoughts. So buckle up kids, this is the post for those of you who are interested in some of the more intimate details about our boat.
What I Love
Sailing: Overall, I enjoyed sailing the Helia. The few times we got on a good beam reach in calm seas, she took off. We haven’t done too much upwind sailing yet, but downwind was easy, comfortable and relatively quick!
Construction: This boat is well built and you can tell. We had some pretty decent winds during our passages and at no time did I ever fear that the boat couldn’t handle things. We were very cautious with our sail plan which helped, but this boat is solid. It’s not an Antares so don’t expect perfect finishing everywhere, but she’s got it where it counts.
The Helm: This space is going to get even better with the hardtop we’re having custom made, but the positioning of the helm is great. The person on watch can still be social with others if they’re in the cockpit or even in the galley. When it’s just the two of us for long passages, ease of social interaction makes a difference. Visibility is also good, with the sole exception being the port aft portion of the boat.
The Space: I’ve heard the term “condomaran” used in a derogatory term, but personally I think those people are just jealous. We love how much liveable space we have on the boat. Our master stateroom is huge, the galley (almost) has enough space for all the items Amy wants and if the salon and cockpit start to feel restrictive (can’t see how this would happen), we can just hop up to the lounge deck and enjoy even more open spaces.
Interior Navigation Station: Others have varying opinions, but we really liked having a place inside the boat we could set up a dedicated laptop to download weather reports, send/receive emails, and use our charting programs. We also kept our logbook here and had easy access to information to update it. It would be nice if it had a backrest, but we just used one of the cushions from the salon to make a temporary backrest.
Wire Runs: Other boats do it better I’m sure, but I’ve been relatively pleased with the easy access to wire runs inside the boat. Outside the boat for our solar panels was a bit of a different story, but overall we’ve been able to figure out how to get our wires run.
Engine Power: We chose to upgrade to the 55hp Volvos and we’re glad we did. They give us lots of power and with the Flexofold props that we had Uchimata install, we’ve felt pretty comfortable maneuvering the boat around the dock, even in decent winds. As an added plus, there is a decent amount of space in the engine compartments so getting down there to work on things hasn’t required me to do my best Russian gymnast impression.
Raymarine Electronics: Four of the five boats in Amy’s fleet had Raymarine electronics, so we had a pretty good familiarity with them, but the system we installed on Starry Horizons works very well. Our plotter has it’s own wifi network and we can connect our phones/tablets and see/control the system. This led to much greater peace of mind when you could wake up, check your phone and see how things were going. And our autopilot worked flawlessly during the crossing.
Vesper AIS: Another custom thing we had Uchimata install, but our Vesper AIS is a godsend during our passages. In fact, we liked it so much that I now say it should be on someone’s “must install” list if they want to go cruising.
Equipment Quality: In general, the quality of the important equipment from the factory is good. We have a Victron inverter/charger, Volvo engines, Onan Generator, and CruisAir Air Conditioners all from the factory. If we were building the boat ourselves, it’d be tough to do much better.
Her Looks: Superficial? Probably, but I don’t care. I still think the Helia 44 is one of the best-looking cats out there.
Things I Don’t Love
Dinghy Davits: FP raised the davits from the first Helias to ours, but in my opinion, they’re still not high enough. We took our outboard off and stored it in the generator locker so we could try and pull the dinghy as high as we could but waves still touched the bottom of the dinghy! We are reworking the bridle for our dinghy so that we’ll be able to pull it even higher and hopefully keep the outboard on as well, but a better davit design would make all that work unnecessary.
Bridgedeck Clearance: One of the biggest surprises for us was how much slamming and wave slapping we experienced. Slapping against the hulls is a bit easier to understand, but the amount of slamming was unpleasant and unexpected. Starry Horizons is well equipped (meaning heavy!) but this was disappointing.
Trampoline: Another personal preference, but both Amy and I think the factory trampoline is quite uncomfortable to lay on, and I dislike how “springy” it is. I never felt like I had good footing when I went forward while underway. We replaced it after six months.
Everything is in French: While this is understandable for a French boat, it can be very frustrating trying to map out electrical wiring when everything is labeled in French!
No Starboard Aft Winch: We went with the “Bowsprit and Gennaker Gear Option” which includes an aft winch on the port side to use for the sheet for a headsail. However, it doesn’t include a corresponding winch on the starboard side. There are two problems with this:
- Instead of a dedicated winch, there is a block along the toe rail to take the line back up to a winch at the helm. This makes moving around the helm difficult and blocks off the deck. Not ideal! Since we also used the aft winch for our boom preventer and a sheet we rigged up to an outboard jib lead, it got a lot of use.
- We’re going to be reworking the winches to add one to the starboard side. However, FP didn’t design for this possibility and the headliner in the owners cabin is flush up to the deck, meaning we’ll need to do some creative re-design. On the port side, they dropped the headliner down to accommodate the bolts for the winch.
Reefing: I really dislike having to go to the mast for anything while underway. We went with the “automatic” first reef, which is really just a single line reef, but the other two reefs have lines that go up the leech of the sail but require you to go pull a webbing strap through a grommet and into a snap shackle on the mast in order to secure the tack. It’s not so fun to pull this strap through when the boat is slamming into large waves! We have moved to a single line reef for our 2nd reef and will be removed our 3rd reef, as if the winds are that high, we’re just going to be taking down our mainsail.
Chain size: The Helia comes from the factory with 1/2″ chain. I didn’t quite realize just how big this is and how much it weights and went ahead and ordered 300′ of it in preparation for some of the anchoring in deep water we’ll be doing. The bow of the boat immediately sunk down! We’re going to swapping out our windlass gypsy and chain to Acco G4 5/16″ chain. This will save us almost 600 pounds of weight! Speaking of which… anyone need 300′ of 1/2″ galvanized anchor chain? Please??
Cleats: During a wild day in Las Palmas when Starry Horizons was jerking forward and back thanks to the wind and swell, we managed to bend a cleat. We’ve had several people tell us they’d never seen that before. In addition, our stern cleats were starting to come loose by the time we arrived in the States. We had large backing plates made to help reinforce things and hopefully prevent those type of issues in the future.
Automatic Bilge Pumps: I tested out our bilge pumps by blocking off one compartment and filling it with water. I was quite dismayed at how much water (several inches) was required before the pumps kicked on. And since the bilges are all connected, it would take a lot of water in the bilge before they activated automatically. The pumps are activated by air pressure sensitive Rule Eco Switches, but as I looked up the installation diagrams, they are not installed correctly. The lines leading from the “cup” to the switch are not straight as they have to run throughout the compartment. These sensors may be a good idea, but it’s a bad execution.
From the “What the F&*K Were They Thinking” Files
Mainsail: I know I’m not the best sailor in the world, but I’m not truly incompetent either. However, I could not figure out how to get the mainsail down easily in anything over 10/15 knots of wind. It would “billow” out, catch the wind and refuse to come down, requiring me to go to the mast and manually pull it down. Doing this was the most scared I felt on the boat and thanks to our boat guru Pat, we rigged a downhaul to help us cross the Atlantic which worked well.
After getting back to the land of internet, I discovered that other Helia 44 owners have had this same problem and in talking with them, I/we have determined what I consider to be two root causes:
- There are no intermediate cars on the mainsail from the factory. I have never sailed another boat like this and it means that the distance from the cars on the sail (where the battens are) ranges from about 11-14 feet! When the sail drops, having this much distance from the cars leads to the billowing effect and prevents the sail from coming down.
- Friction. The factory-supplied main halyard is a 14mm line and is rigged with a 2:1 purchase. The stopper used for the halyard is rated at a max 14mm and halyard rubs against the sides of the entrance into the mast. As the weight of the sail aloft decreases as the sail falls, the remaining weight of the sail isn’t enough to overcome the friction in the system.
In my mind, this is the absolute #1 negative of the Helia and in spite of seeing assurances sent by FP to other owners that the factory setup works and that it was tested out by riggers, my practical experience has led me to strongly disagree. I believe that most Helias are going into charter and thus are being used in relatively calmer conditions where it may not be a big deal to go forward and help the mainsail down, but for serious cruising it is unacceptable.
To remedy, we’re adding 4 additional intermediate cars, which of course necessitated the modification of our stack pack, as well as upgrading our main halyard to an 11mm T900 line. Just running the line through the stopper, you can feel how much less friction there is! We’re also contemplating getting rid of the 2:1 halyard if the new setup still doesn’t work the way we want it.
(Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now, but as you can tell, this is an area that I strongly believe FP needs to address)
Navigation Lights: FP may have changed this, but they did not offer a tri-color light at the top of the mast as a factory option. In big seas, there is no way that another ship is going to easily see the deck level navigation lights! On a boat this size, I believe a tri color should be standard.
In addition, the stern light is located inside the cockpit! When using the nav lights at night (when else would you really use them??) it lit up the whole cockpit. And in case you haven’t done a lot of night sailing before, this is not a good thing as it really messes with your night vision. We ended up adding a tricolor light and moved the stern light to the end of the davits.
Running Rigging: This was a debatable one to put in this category, but the fact that all winches and stoppers are rated for a max 14mm line and the factory genoa sheets are 16mm lines pushes it over the edge. I had wondered why it was difficult to get the genoa sheets into the winches and finally figured out why when doing research on the Harken winches we have. In general the rigging on the boat is pretty low quality and we’re working on replacing it. The fact that the owner’s manual lists the main halyard at 55m/180ish’ when in reality it is about 63m/207ish’ (discovered after running the new halyard through the mast!) also helps push running rigging into this category.
Overall, we’re satisfied with our choice of a boat. There are a lot of things that FP does well and most of the things we didn’t love about the boat are fixable. We’re going above and beyond by doing some pretty extensive outfitting to make the boat even more awesome and I’m pretty comfortable saying that by the time we’re finished, she’ll be the most customized Helia 44 in the world. At the end of the day, we still believe that she will be able to take us safely around the world and in a decent level of comfort, which is what matters most.
Lounge Deck Review
If you’ve been following us, odds are you’ve heard of or seen pictures of our lounge deck. Cruising friends “Oooo” and “Ahh” over it. It sure comes up in Fountaine Pajot’s marketing pictures. Who doesn’t love the idea of the lounge deck?
As we toured boats at the Annapolis Boat show way back in 2013 we looked at the lounge deck, thought it was gorgeous, but wondered “how often would we actually use it?”
While we are cruising, the answer is EVERY DAY. Looking at other catamarans, there’s no reason why they couldn’t have a lounge deck, as long as they have access. For the most part, it’s wasted space on their coach roof.
Our guests love sitting up there. They don’t have the 24/7/365 sun exposure we worry about, so the lounge deck becomes very popular.
There’s the beautiful time of day in cruising called “sundowners”. Hopefully, your projects for the day are done, you’ve got a cocktail in hand. If it’s typically hot out where we are, the weather starts to cool off as the sun sets. Stepping on top of the lounge deck gives us a pretty wonderful view of the horizon.
We do have two words of caution.
One: The aft portion (the proper seat) hardly ever faces the sunset. Prevailing winds go from east to west, and therefore, sunset is typically directly behind us. If I really want to face the sunset, I sit on the top of our helm station or without a backrest on the lounge part (Go-Anywhere Chair optional)
Two: Fountaine Pajot has been gradually increasing the height of the backrest towards the stern of the boat. It used to be just a few inches (see top photo). Then ours is mid-back. It looks like the Helia Evolution has been raised a few inches again. But, I am super impressed with our friends on Let It Be’s solution. They replaced their cushions and had a cushion with built-in support installed to the height they wanted.
I’m pretty pleased with the lounge deck, and it’s been a feature we’ve been surprised to love so much.
I found your review the most informative ever, I especially loved the section about the max, avg, slowest….crossings.
I’m starting may search for a used Helia 44, how would you suggest I go about it. Should I use the typical sites such as yacht world or boats.com or you have any other suggestions. I’m planing to leave the boat in Greece.
Hi! There are some facebook groups that might be helpful, like Catamaran Sailing Group or Fountaine Pajot owners. Otherwise, definitely keep an eye on YachtWorld.
Try Screw lock for your owners sliding door nuts, which I have used for many purposes where a nylock is too big
Thanks for the tip!
Hi, David and Amy Loved following your Journey and we now have a 2017 Helia, After sailing for 12 months and reading your frustrations I added an additional electric winch to the helm and relocated the original winch to the Starboard rear opposite the port one. It’s so much better with the screecher now as you can pay out one line while pulling in the other all from within the cockpit. We also borrowed your design on our new Clears so thanks for that. I have also added a small winch at the mast for putting up Screecher Halyard plus any line that is at the mast which has saved keep running them back to the helm. One question I do have is how did you put in a second single line reef as I have already nearly been bounced off the boat reefing in big seas off the Australian East Coast.
Once again thank you for the inspiration your videos provided anyone wanting to take the plunge.
Glad you’ve been able to learn from our experiences! 🙂 We did the second single line reef exactly the same as the first single line reef. I re-routed the second reef line to come under the sheave at the gooseneck up towards a low friction ring that had been lashed to the cringle at the 2nd reef point, then back down to the blocks at the base of the mast, then back to the helm. It wasn’t super hard to do BUT…
We did eventually take out the single line reefs for both our first and second reefs and went back to using a strop through the cringles at the luff. The problem came with trying to get a decent amount of tension along the foot of the sail which meant the low friction ring at the luff was getting tightened all the way down into the gooseneck. That actually damaged the metal at the gooseneck which was then chaffing through our reef lines. Perhaps we were just tightening things too tight, but when I loosened things up, I thought the sail shape when reefed looked terrible.
At the same time we went back to the strop reefing method, we also changed our reefing procedures. Starting out, we had always used the engines to get straight into the wind and drop the main. This of course required furling the genoa completely and the motion of the boat would be extremely bouncy as we pounded directly into the waves. Not fun. Instead, on the advice of some friends who are much better sailors than we are, we started sheeting in the genoa extremely tight, used the autopilot to put the boat about 42-43 degrees off the wind, let out the traveler and the mainsheet until the main was luffing, and then dropped the sail. The motion of the boat was much more akin to a hove to motion which was a lot more stable going up to the mast to pull the strop through. Not having to use the engines was also a plus.
As it’s not super hard to switch to the single line reef, definitely give it a try but keep a very close eye on how things sit when everything is tensioned. If you’re not using the sheeting tight to the wind reefing method, I’d suggest giving that a try as well either way as I felt it was a lot easier on the boat then bashing straight into the waves. Hope that helps!
Thanks David, will look into that new method to drop the main as I have experienced trying to reef into the waves and was nearly bounced off the boat at Double Island Point Qld in 2 to 3M seas. I Also didn’t like the shape of the sail reefed as it looked like it had a twist in it and one of the experienced sailors helped me adjust all the lines on the boom and now they look ok. Safe travels and look forward to hearing about any future adventures you plan.
Hi David, It would be great to see a youtube video of these modifications.
Just so you know I have also advised our broakers Atlantic Cruising Yachts and they in turn have advised FP or the MARCH AC seawater pump issue. I’m not looking for a remedy from either I want FP to stop using the MARCH pump that is not fit for taht use in my opinion. Regards.
Not related to asym issues but still having trouble with the master sliding door. Being an engineer its the most rediculous set up ever. Talking of that I just want all the readers of this great blog to be aware of an issue I have recently resolved on our own Helia 44 2018,#228, Otium. The MARCH AC seawater circulation pumps can never run dry. We have Otium in the Kemah Boardwalk Marina Kemah TX ( I know you will know it well) all the time pending our own early retirement and travels. I have had at least 5 AC pump failures three leading to significant water ingress saved by our dual bilge pumps until we manually shut the thru hulls! The issue in my mind is the MARCH pump selection. Just becuase the water intake is below the water line does not mean it cannot get the thru hull blocked or filter blocked. I have now switched to KOOLAIR pumps PM1000-230 ODP. They are an exact replacement but can run dry. I dont know how long for but at least is the correct pump selection. The MARCH pump FP use as standard is not correct and may expose the boat to sinking if the bilge pumps dont cut in. I like insurance so I’m changing all three of ours out. Looking foward to more in Asia and beyond all the best and the Helia is still the best looking 44′ ish cat around. Fair winds and trailing seas to all.
Great work on your you tube and honest reports and reviews
Good to see you are not going the way of some You tube site’s telling us how great XX companies things are as they got them free
I am looking at a Helia now and a quick question, if you were buying today knowing what you know after owning one for several years would you buy the Helia again or go somewhere else FYI I am also looking at a Lagoon 42 but the Helia seems slightly cheaper by comparison
Can you provide an update on the main sail operations in regard to the main halyard change to 7/16″ T900 and the intermediate cars. Did this solve the issue and did you ever take out the 2:1 halyard running?
I have added the intermediate cars and changed the main halyard but kept the 2:1 rigging. The main comes down more easily but does not drop on its own. We have to work it at the mast with a free running halyard to get the main down?
An update on your experiences would be appreciated.
Douglas & Kim Kirk (SV Otium)
Hi! We are able to get the mainsail all the way down without coaxing it, no problems now. I think the intermediate cars really made the big difference.
David/Amy – thank you, thank you, thank you. You have stopped me turning my head inside out about the insane owners suit door. We are also from near Houston at Katy TX. We bought Otium, our Helia 44 Evo, in March of 2017 taken ownership late July 2018 in FL. Everything you have touched on I already agree with (hence why we bought it in the first place), not a speed boat but not a snail either, and looking forward to retiring onto her.
Now back to the reason for the comment. I have no idea what FP were thinking about. I have looked, starred, mirrored, poked and mulled over the whole scratching sliding door for weeks now. Mental! I just stopped as I could not fathom a path foward. Your comments show me there is not path, just somehow fettle into the bolts and tighten the nuts up until next time they start scrapping.
Have you thought of ‘thread lock’. I will look and if I go down that route and it is successfull in stopping the nuts moving I will advise.
On the davits, yes the EVO are alot better and higher, however I dont believe we got our strops for the dinghy short enough, so on the Gulf crossing to TX did have some engine splashing issues. Cargo straps kind of sorted that out.
Our only major issue in year one has been a serious leak in the March AC seawater pump. The plastic housing behind the pump shaft melted and leaked. Lucky we were onboard. Note to others new pump $350 ish, new housing $13…
It is a frought extraction from a small hole but well worth the odd swear/curse word for $300.
Again thank you for your update and keep on cruising.
Fair winds and following seas.
Douglas Kirk (SV Otium)
Thanks for your review. We are chartering a 2018 Helia 44 in July in the Florida Keys. We plan on heading out to the Marquesas to get some true dark skies so I feel like I need to be prepared for an unassisted week. Your details on the minor deficiencies, which we all know exist on every boat, are very helpful. I would love to know how you find your water usage?
Thank you and keep posting!!!!!!
I’m probably very late to the party on this one, but have you tried replacing the nut causing the door issues with a Nylon self locking nut, even with a little Loctite blue threadlock.
The problem is you can’t access the end of the bolt without removing the entire door. It’s a very poorly designed setup, but I did try to get some loctite on the bolt using a screw driver the last time I had to fix it so I’m hoping that will help!
As for your generator impeller problem. Checkout sailing IMPI, he did away with his water pump on the generator and added a electric pump. He said that it solved his problem.
We have the exact same pump Impi has and we tried removing the impeller, but it did not work for us. It night be a longer run then Impi has?
We are sailing our Helia evolution in Greece this year. It was new last year and we sailed it from La Rochelle. A lot tamer than your passages I think.
Anyway I empathise with all the points you make and we have similar views and exactly the same problems.
One I can make a suggestion on…the sliding door. Ours did exactly the same and it was impossible to get to the rear nut. Eventually we very carefully removed the fascia panel so that we could get to the mechanism and the bolt and nut. Had a good look at how it all worked and re-attached the bolt and nut, a very fiddly job to get right ! It’s clear that this will happen again so we refitted the fascia using heavy Velcro and 3m double sided tape. So far it’s been a month since the repair and everything has stayed in place
All the best julian and Robyn.
Hi Julian and Robyn! Crossing the Bay of Biscay is never tame! And thanks for your suggestion on the sliding door. I have contemplated doing exactly what you did and reworking the fascia, but I have this concern that if I mess with it, I will probably ruin something. And it’s not so easy to fix those sort of things here in the South Pacific! It may be a project I tackle in Australia. Thanks again!
Fascinating post, David. I enjoyed the follow up comments as well! Of course, :-). Most of the sailing technicalities went over my head, but it definitely sounds like all of your research has paid off!
Thanks for the thorough, and honest, review of your Helia. We saw Frank McCarthy and the rest of the Atlantic Cruising staff at the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show this weekend (April 28 – 30). My wife and I had the chance to spend quite a bit of time on a Helia Evolution while there. After chartering an Orana in the BVIs this past January, it was impressive to see the “evolution” of FP’s 44′ catamaran in just a few short years. The new Helia is quite impressive. We have begun our homework with Frank to get ourselves on one of these boats; hopefully sooner rather than later.
Glad to hear that you got the gelcoat cracks checked out while in Whangerei. I’d politely suggest that you do a gelcoat repair on them to prevent the ingress of water into the laminate. If you are not sure how to do a gelcoat repair I’ll write you a paper on the steps etc.
I read your blog with considerable interest. I note that you said, “Sure there are a couple of gelcoat cracks that have shown up, and we can hear a few more creaks while out at sea.”. I am wondering where these gelcoat cracks have appeared? Gelcoat is very weak and will quickly crack if the inderlying structure either moves or is subject to loads that have exceded the designed limits. If these cracks are in structually loaded areas then I’d suggest they should be investigated thoroughly.
If I can be of assistance then please by all means ask – I’d be happy to assist, (uot of interest) – a starting point would be photograpns with explainations of their location.
Hi Christopher, thanks for the concern. The gelcoat cracks are all superficial and aren’t in any structural areas. I had them checked out while we were on the hard in Whangarei. So other than just being a cosmetic issue, I’m not too worried about them!
Glad to hear that you got the gelcoat cracks checked out while in Whangerei. I’d politely suggest that you do a gelcoat repair on them to prevent the ingress of water into the laminate. If you are not sure how to do a gelcoat repair I’ll write you a paper on the steps etc.
Also, I forgot to ask, but did you manage to have the drains cleared while you were in “N/Z?” If not, I would ask Fountaine Pajot for a drainage plan to know where the bends are. One answer might be to use a “Karcher Pressure cleaner.” One of the hose attachments that they have is a “drainage cleaner!” Might be worth looking into?
The particular shower drain we have problems with is actually just a straight section of hose from the shower drain to the shower sump. So no bends. I’ve thought about a pressure cleaning before, but that would require removal of the drain itself in order to get a good seal and I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far yet.
You mentioned the new model Evolutions had addressed some gripes. Is the Helia you guys are going to crew on one of the new models? If so would love to see some more info on changes and how it compares in “real life” to Starry. Based on your genset impeller issues would you go with a different genset? Keep the updates coming, you guys are a sailing course online!
Julia is a new Helia Evolution so yes, we’re going to get to compare! I’m rather excited about it and will definitely keep a comparison blog post in mind for once we’re done.
Other than the impellers, our Onan has worked flawlessly so that’s a tough question. We have friends who really like their Northern Lights generators so that could be one option. But Onan is offered through the factory and is one of those things that it’s nice to have installed while the boat is being built so that you don’t have to do a whole lot of making more holes in the boat later!
Hi… just a question… whenever you needed to turn to fountaine pajot, or your dealer, to honor your hella’ s warranty and ship spare parts to you free of charge, or reimburse parts you had to prepay, did that go with no glitches ?
It’s Fountaine Pajot’s policy to work through warranty claims through the dealer. We’ve been very fortunate in that up to our arrival in Tonga we’ve never had many issues and the ones we did FP worked quickly to help us address.
Greetings Admiral Amy and her sidekick Captian David.
Thank you for such an overview of your love affair with Starry Horizons. We haven’t had a lot of exposure to the Helia, though we have to the Ipanema.
We have sailed a fair distance on our Privilege 615. We had a similar issue with one of our shower floor drains. We resolved it by hunting through a plumbing & swimming pool supply store for a “basket catch filter” that for us just happened to be near enough to the right diameter/depth to insert into the drain. To this, we insert a section of cut to length “old stockings” to act as a fine filter to collect all of the hair. Worth considering.
Wishing you all a safe passage aboard Julia. Cheers.
Thanks for the suggestion. We tried a drain filter in the past that just never worked very well. It may be well past time to try a different type of filter to solve this problem!
Yes, I would investigate the drain issue further. We have grown accustomed to the Admirals red hair, and it would be disappointing if her hat flew off because you made her undergo a number one marine cut! “L.O.L”
Many thanks for this excellent summary. We’ve shared some of your incidents (trapped in the Owner’s cabin door stuck shut- crawled out the hatch) but also appreciate the overall resilience of our Helia, Big Papa Lulu. As always, blue water sailing is a humbling experience and appreciate your sharing of Starry Horizon’s experience. I know you had shredded your asymmetric at some point. Any thoughts on the furling asymmetric vs. a chute and how do you view your downwind sail now? Best, Allen & Linda
We just got our asymmetric fixed while in NZ and haven’t had a chance to redeploy it. I’m not quite ready to give up on top down furling, so I’m going to reserve judgment until we either successfully use our spinnaker or destroy it for good. This is definitely a blog topic idea I’ve got for the future!