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Irish Couple Set Off on Dream Retirement Cruise on New Lagoon Catamaran

17th July 2018
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Mary and George Coombes aboard their new Lagoon 450S Realta Bheag Mary and George Coombes aboard their new Lagoon 450S Realta Bheag Photo: W M Nixon

When does life really start? asks W M Nixon. Maybe it’s when the kids have grown up and left home, and you’ve the resources to buy the dream second home for the perfect holidays of your retirement.

Of course, 95% of people in this situation would be thinking in terms of that dream second home as a cottage or ultra-modern house somewhere on a magic coastline, or in a very special bit of countryside. But when George and Mary Coombes of Castleknock in Dublin found that everything in the jigsaw would be coming together for a very special way of life to begin as his 60th birthday approached in May of this year, their choice for the essential second home was rather different.

They sought a boat which would be capable of crossing oceans, at least in the more meteorologically gentle parts of the world. But this dreamship would then have to provide all the amenities of a comfortable house once they’d reached one of their desired cruising areas. In the end, all roads led to a roomy multi-hull, and in their choice they were guided by Ross O’Leary of MGM Boats in Dun Laoghaire.

ross mary george2A business relationship which developed into friendship – Ross O’Leary of MGM Boats with Mary and George Coombes aboard Realta Bheag shortly after the owners had sailed their new boat back to Ireland from Les Sables-d’Olonne in the Bay of Biscay. Photo: W M Nixon
They’d ample time to make their final selection, as George took retirement from a full career – initially serving with the Army, then 30 years in An Garda Siochana - at the age of 50, leaving the two of them with a decade to elapse before all aspects, including expected resources and their four children’s maturity, were properly in place to enable them to get up and go.

George had taken to sailing with enthusiasm once he’d discovered it through the Army’s link-up with the Glenans base which used to be on Bere Island in West Cork, continuing with the Gardai Sailing Club’s First 27.7 in Dublin Bay and the Army’s group-owned Amel 48 in Croatia, where he acquired a passion for cruising in attractive locations. Mary – originally from Sligo, but long since thinking of herself as a true Dub – began to be interested as well, and with his retirement approaching they started to think seriously about how to go about it. By 2014, they’d taken their Yachtmaster Coastal Certificates with Ronan O Soichru of Irish Offshore Sailing in Dun Laoghaire, and were researching their many options as avid followers of the best cruising forums.

realta bheag howth3The Lagoon 450 S Realta Bheag (above and below) develops the multi-hull concept in such a total way that sailors accustomed to mono-hulls have to learn a new completely new mindset in order to understand her role. Photos: W M Nixon

realta bheag howth4

Although they’d had mainly mono-hull experience in their cruising, by 2015 the clearly-defined nature of their future requirements pointed increasingly to a multi-hull, and they were in regular exchanges with Ross O’Leary of MGM Boats. O’Leary for his part was intrigued by the story of how this engaging couple had come through their unusual routes to the heart of the sailing dream.

Thus something which initially had been a business enquiry fielded by someone at the core of the sailing establishment (in addition to selling boats, Ross somehow finds the time to be the Captain of the Dublin Bay Laser fleet) quickly became a professional connection blossoming into friendship, and for more than two years they shared the quest of finding the ideal boat for a complex set of requirements.

The multi-hull solution provided the answer in terms of space and a stable platform which would feel user-friendly for the many friends and relations whom they expected to join them at various stages of their planned odyssey. But it had to be a special multi-hull which puts at least as much emphasis on comfort when the boat is at rest as it does on performance.

lagoon 450s sailing5With sheets freed, the hyper-comfortable Lagoon 450S (seen here in a different version) can give a good account of herself under sail

No-one would claim that the distinctive Lagoon range are the fastest catamarans on the ocean. But they can slip along at a brisk pace with sheets freed, and they do so in a remarkably smooth style. With their small keels, they can make to windward under sail if required, yet with a powerful engine in each hull, there’s a very viable alternative means of getting there.

But once in port, whether in harbour or in a secluded paradise anchorage, the Lagoons are in a class of their own. The sense of space skillfully and very attractively utilised is all-pervading. This really is a floating holiday home which can be easily moved to the next location by whatever method of propulsion suits the mood of the day.

So everything pointed to a Lagoon. But with a constantly-evolving range and a special reputation for design development, the big question came down to the optimum Lagoon size and type to suit George and Mary’s admittedly quite substantial budget, while matching their expectations of size-manageability as set against the requirements for space - lots of space, and lots of comfort, both below and on deck

But the demand for Lagoons is such that a standard order can take up to 18 months to fulfill. Yet in the end, having decided that the Lagoon 450 S best met their needs, George and Mary got a new one in almost record time in September 2017. They bought her at the Cannes Boat Show, as one does……

Lagoon 450 layout6George and Mary’s preference was for an owner’s master-cabin taking up all of the starboard hull, and two en suite guest rooms in the port hull, with the exceptionally roomy saloon and galley in between
Ross O’Leary was working at the Show, but also keeping his eye on the Lagoon 450 S on display, as it matched the Coombes’ requirements through being the three-cabin owners’ layout, while the interior joinerywork was in the darker finish which Mary had said she would prefer. Although the type was selling well, other potential owners and charter operators wanted different options. So as the show progressed, Ross called George and Mary and told them to get themselves down to Cannes pronto, as he felt an attractive bargain could be struck there and then on what seemed to be a boat very close indeed to their dreamship.

Thus it was that we found ourselves in the MGM Boat Show at Howth YC Marina in May 2018, shooting the breeze about those who dare to realize the dream aboard the new Lagoon 450 S Realta Bheag, that same boat from Cannes, but now with many factory-added extras to enable George and Mary to sail the seas as self-reliantly as possible, yet provide a proper and comfortable welcome for family and friends when they came as guests.

That the boat was ideal for this became evident in Howth as visitors came and went with ease of movement – boat buffs were there, and friends and family, with the latter category ensuring that Ross O’Leary was at one stage left literally holding the baby, which he did with style as befits a man who has seen it all.

ross holding baby7With all the onboard comings and goings of visitors, Ross O’Leary found himself left holding the baby……Photo: W M Nixon
As for the boat herself, people accustomed to mono-hulls have to adjust their mind-set completely in order to assess the merits of a spacious accommodation which essentially stays virtually level, thereby allowing a freedom of movement through extensive spaces both below and in the several multi-purpose areas on deck.

It takes a while to grasp that this luxurious layout, which speaks eloquently of choices – particularly in sunshine situations – is combined in a workmanlike seagoing vessel with twin 57hp Yanmar diesels, virtual self-sufficiency with generators, solar panels and other sources of power creation, an easily-handled yet effective rig, and comfortable accommodation for six with the starboard hull entirely given over to the owner’s master-cabin with all amenities, while the port hull has two en suite doubles.

main saloon8Time for women’s talk….the spaciousness of the saloon is central to the concept. Photo: W M Nixon

owners cabin9The owners suite takes up the entire accommodation area in the starboard hull – the master-cabin comes with changing area and all en suite facilities. Photo: W M Nixon

guest cabin10The guest cabin on the forward side of the port hull may not be quite as luxurious as the owner’s accommodation, but remember that it’s always level…. Photo: W M Nixon

Self-reliance and the potential for ease of independence in anchoring were among George and Mary’s primary requirements, and it was typified by the setup for handling the ground tackle – anchors, chains and so forth – with a high-powered windlass neatly available to cope with laying and retrieving the 40kg Rocna anchor.

Most part-time cruisers think in terms of pontoon berths or using visitors moorings for overnight or prolonged stops, but the serious cruising community - which George and Mary have now joined – thinks primarily in terms of being able to anchor independently. When I contacted George on Monday evening of this week to find out how things were going now that everything was finally under way with Realta Bheag having made her departure from Dun Laoghaire last week, it was to find that they were heading into the south side of Dungarvan Bay and the handy passage anchorage close west of Helvick Harbour, confident in the knowledge that they’d find a secure independent overnight berth, and a restful night - which they duly enjoyed.

foredeck with chain11It may look like a vast outdoor play-space, but note how the forward deck’s effective and essential anchor chain and windlass setup is combined in the design, with the weight of the stowed chain kept well aft. The two stemhead seats are known as “the privacy corners”. Photo: W M Nixon

They’re headed initially in gentle stages towards West Cork before taking their departure for Portugal and eventually the Atlantic Rally For Cruisers from the Canaries in November, heading towards the Caribbean and taking in the Cape Verde islands option on the way. But since our first meeting in May, they’ve been busy with ensuring that their affairs at home will be in order while they have a prolonged absence, and there have been family events to cope with. As well, there has been a steady list of continuing mods to be made to the boat, for at all times possible since May, they’ve been putting in sea trials.

solar panels12Solar panels have been installed on a special platform clear above the afterdeck to augment Realt Bheag’s philosophy of self-reliance. Photo: W M Nixon
They were already familiar with Realta Bheag’s sea-going performance by the time she arrived in Ireland in late April, as they’d brought her up themselves from the builder’s commissioning port of Les Sables-d’Olonne. As part of the take-over package, a professional skipper set out with the new owners, but by Falmouth he said that George and his brother and Mary were clearly competent to complete the voyage to Ireland on their own, and thanks to successfully dealing with headwinds on the open Atlantic part of the passage, they arrived in Dun Laoghaire with added confidence in their new boat and their ability to handle her, and even more confident that they had made the right choice for their complex set of requirements.

So now, the voyage is under way. West Cork and its cruising associations means a lot to them, so before leaving Ireland, George and Mary and their crews – they’re currently crewed by his brother Declan and family friend Frances Doyle – hope to visit that Irish cruising paradise. But as they settle into the shipboard life, they’re doing it in easy stages down the Irish coast, and keeping a promise to call with Ross O’Leary who’s currently with MGM in Crosshaven for Volvo Cork Week, where the company is sponsoring the results system.

Quite where and when Realta Bheag’s final departure southward from Ireland takes place will depend on how the winds develop in the next week or three. But since early July, George and Mary Coombes have essentially been living on board Realta Bheag. She is now the centre of their life. The dream is on.

dinghy in davits13While Realt Bheag aspires to be a world unto herself, when the crew do want to go ashore, they expect a proper tender with an outboard of adequate power, launched by proper davits. Photo: W M Nixon

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MGM Boats is one of Ireland's leading boat brokers now operating internationally as well as throughout Ireland. MGM Boats was founded in 1997 by brothers Martin and Gerry Salmon who were previously worked as a carpenter, joiner and glass fibre laminator in the 1980s. Martin progressed to boat retailing in the late 1980's and Gerry was a service manager in the 1990s. From these many years of experience, MGM Boats was founded in 1997. It started out as a service, maintenance and repairs company based in Malahide, Co. Dublin.

The company grew in 1998 when the Aquador dealership was acquired. Starting as they meant to go on, in 2001 MGM became distributors for Jeanneau Motorboats and Yachts and also opened its second office in Belfast. MGM had begun to create what would be an international and acclaimed brokerage company.

In 2003, MGM Boats moved to Dun Laoghaire Harbour, Co. Dublin. The large office space and yard expanded the service department and paved the way for MGM to acquire the dealership for Sunseeker in Ireland in 2003.

From then, MGM built up it's brokerage listings and in 2009 it opened its office in Hamble, UK. This has led to many years of MGM being present at all major UK boat shows, and each year growing their presence and listings.

he success of MGM's brokerage listings spread internationally, leading in 2012 to 2 new offices being opened in the Mediterranean - in Villamoura, Portugal and Mallorca, Spain. The now international brand and team throughout these years received many awards for their enterprising spirit, customer service and international presence, including winning Sunseeker Distributor of the Year in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

This also led to a new Irish office being opened in Kinsale, Co. Cork increasing their presence within Ireland as well as abroad.

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