“SV Tusitala” Leopard 43 Review and Owner Interview

Kevin owns a 2007 Leopard 43 named S/V Tusitala which he purchased through the for sale by owner listings on www.CatamaranSite.com. He talks to us about the Leopard 43 and also more general topics about sailing with five kids, why the ocean is like a desert, and his thoughts on how to prepare for a world cruise. You can follow him on his YouTube channel or website or blog all under the handle “Seven on the Sea.” Thank you so much to him for participating in our series of interviews with catamaran owners.

Executive Summary

  • Sailing with his wife and five kids ages 6 to 18 on a Leopard 43
  • Sailing out of San Diego and preparing to head offshore
  • Tusitala is the nickname of author Robert Louis Stevenson and means “teller of tales.”
  • Chose Leopard 43 because of space and affordability. He considered monohulls but accommodations were smaller and did not like heeling. Used to sailing catamarans his whole life.
  • Four head charter version and he would like to convert one head to be an additional pantry area with freezer for long term cruising.
  • Ideal cruising grounds would be Bahamas. Very few Leopards on Pacific coast of USA.
  • Would like a bigger boat for more space but costs rise exponentially with boat length.

Who is your crew?

My crew is just my family: my wife Katie and my five kids. My oldest is 18. My youngest is six. Our oldest is our most avid sailor and he’s probably the most competent.

I grew up in Amarillo Texas and learned to sail at boy scout camp and and so our family has been sailing small catamarans for a long time. We own a beach catamaran as well and so my all my teenage kids know how to sail and have spent quite a bit of time sailing on small bodies of water.

We just bought Tusitala in January.

Does each kid have a job onboard?

As far as jobs go, owning a boat is 90 percent like cleaning the boat and and like fixing it and a little bit of sailing. They’re always helpful.

Where is Tusitala right now?

Our boat right now is moored in San Diego and we live in Utah and we’re preparing over the next couple years to take some time off and go cruising. We don’t have a whole lot of experience, and so we’re sort of building our our resume up.

I’ve done a little bit of offshore sailing and and over the past year we’ve taken a handful of trips off the coast of California up to Catalina and and the Channel Islands.

I noticed on your blog you talked about the “desert of the ocean.” Can you tell us about that?

Most of our trips right now because I’m still working we’re out there trying to get experience. We’re always looking for wildlife right now. That’s one of our the things that we do the most. We do some fishing and looking for wildlife and at a certain point when you get out there you see like once you get off the continental shelf and there’s not some sort of banks and areas where there’s a lot of fish, there’s just nothing and it’s i think it’s beautiful and it’s fantastic. It’s quite a beautiful sort of peaceful lonely experience.

You’re just there with you and your family and that’s kind of one of the things that that i like about it. Taking some time to get the kids away from all their electronics and their distractions that they have and to teach the family to sort of rely on each other and build some skills of self-reliance and i think that sailing on the ocean is a really good way to do that.

Can you tell us a little bit about the name to Tusitala? It’s so unusual.

The boat was originally named Living Free. Tusitala is from what i understand it’s the the nickname given to Robert Louis Stevenson, the author. It means teller of tales and so i think for us it’s just like a platform for us to begin to craft our own sort of story.

What’s the best thing about your Leopard 43?

When we were looking for a boat we were trying to find a boat that was big enough because we have a family of seven and so there aren’t a lot of boats that really give everybody enough space to sort of have their own space.

In fact when we began to look at sailboats we were looking at monohulls. We started to look at Beneteaus and Jeanneaus. Those are some of the things that we took test sales out on and even though you could kind of squeeze in seven people there wasn’t seven people with their own space. Even Tusitala is a little smaller than I’d like to be, but it’s as big as i can actually afford to be honest .

So the primary thing that we like is that it’s is the space and the size of a catamaran. I guess it technically it sleeps like 10 and if you were to count the settee you could sleep maybe 12 but we don’t really count those and so sleeping quarters are really important for us.

We also like that it’s a catamaran after after my wife and i took out a couple of monohulls. I think our Jeanneau was a 42 footer and the Beneteau was 45 foot. We’re quite used to sailing catamarans. Healing was not something we were really accustomed to. I mean we’re used to flying holes on beach cats but that’s a different animal from just sort of healing and getting rolled around constantly.

So I love catamarans because they feel more comfortable. I’ve heard people say like they don’t feel natural when you’re sailing like a monohull, but I’ve only really sailed catamarans so they feel perfectly natural to me and i prefer the way they feel and that I and i think they’re also comfortable because they don’t heal so yeah that’s another thing we like.

What about the heads? How many do you have and are there enough for your family?

There’s actually more than we need i mean our our house has two bathrooms and our catamaran has four heads. We don’t have a huge house either our kids are accustomed to living in tight quarters sharing bedrooms and sharing bathrooms, so there’s more than i would like.

I would actually like to take out at least one of the heads and just convert it to a pantry area and that’s what our plan is for when we go cruising. We’re going to convert one area to just a complete sort of like utility closet slash pantry area where we’ll put an additional freezer a bunch of shelving for just a bunch more utilitarian storage space.

What else would you change if anything?

A couple of things. She was owned by a couple who didn’t have any kids but they had set it up for cruising pretty decently. They’ve installed a water maker and some solar panels. They installed a washer dryer combo area in in a really convenient spot and the guy was like a master woodworker so it looks very good the way he did everything.

But what i would change obviously I think that everybody says this is we we’re just going to need a whole lot more electricity. I plan to put on another probably thousand watts of solar and we’re going to be upgrading batteries. Right now she’s got a 600 amp hours of AGMs and i plan to put on about 900 amp hours of lithium. Batteries and solar will be one of the big upgrades that we do.

Then the dinghy right now it is as we because again family of seven the dinghy is a little small and very under powered, so in fact we’re in the process of buying a 13-foot dinghy with a larger motor that can push us all around.

Those are some of the updates.

I enjoyed reading your adventure going out to Santa Cruz Island during the Channel Islands and your dinghy and you had that sort of swamping event with the kids!

That was super super funny. We all got on this tiny dinghy and it was probably a four-man dinghy like it was really small and it was a beautiful day off of the coast of Santa Cruz and and we we thought well we’ll just row in like no sweat and even though you can see the surf like you can’t see it’s hard to see how big the surf is and it really wasn’t that big to be honest but the dinghy was not going to make it through the surf with seven people on it.

We all flipped over and it was quite the adventure getting in and getting out of that surf because then the surf went up and and and but we made it it was fun yeah it’s a good it’s a good adventure and it’s a safe way to practice a lot of safety at sea. That’s kind of what this this next couple years for us is going to be all about is practicing those things we kind of want to get ourselves into situations in a much more controlled environment rather than like in a place where we can’twhere we don’t have time to think about it so we’re taking this next this year for us has been a lot of sort of small trips.

We were at the boat two weekends ago and we have anchored the boat a handful of times and so even though in places where we would typically if you’re a local sailor in San Diego you would just pick up a mooring or you would pick up a slip.

We’ll take the time to anchor and anchor in places that are less opt less ideal than other places because it’s so safe for us to do and we have like backup plans right now. We’re still trying to build our skill set whether it comes to sailing or first aid or or whatever it is we’re trying to build that like a broader skill set up.

We’re pretty competent family. I’ve got two eagle scouts. That’s boys so they’re pretty self-reliant. I’m fairly mechanical but we need to shake down things and break them and fix them and have mistakes now while wow it’s a little bit easier to fail.

How is she at anchor?

We haven’t had any problems at all. We haven’t anchored in a lot of wind yet so our it to me it’s very comfortable. The last anchorage with it we were at was a little rolly for me but it was like because it it’s a catamaran we let it just kind of blow into the wind. I felt like i set an anchor alarm and I slept comfortably. The anchor’s really easy to manage it’s got a nice windlass that pulls it up no sweat it’s got a nice heavy anchor.

I think that between it and the the monohulls. I think anchoring on a catamaran is again far superior because it a little bit of ocean roll and this was actually quite a bit because we were we were actually anchored last weekend outside of San Diego Bay just just behind the jetty and so the swell was still you could still feel the swell and a catamaran just don’t sit and roll around.

What type of sailing or cruising ground is the Leopard 43 perfect for?

Well that’s a great question and i don’t think that i’m really qualified to answer it but we are definitely going to be taking the boat down to the Panama area. We’re likely going to cross the South Pacific, so we know people have done that on a Leopard 43. If you haven’t followed the Wynns on Youtube. Those guys have done it several other people have done it as well so we’ll see how we’ll see how she goes.

I think that the the ideal situation is to do some some cruising in the Bahamas. I think that’s where you see a ton of Leopard catamarans. We don’t see any Leopard catamarans on the West Coast. There’s a few down in Mexico but like I’ve never seen another one between i know that there are but i haven’t seen anyone.

Have you had any problems with bridge deck slamming at all?

When you’re taking swell and the beam it you it will that wave will kind of tuck under the bottom of the boat and hit the other side and it will you’ll hit it here knock. With the sort of the biggest sort of weather we’ve had it in was probably i would say 30 knots and the seas were pretty bad and it wasn’t but it’s not too and you’d hear and we were beating right into the wind we were heading out to the little to Coronado Islands off the coast of San Diego and but so I’ve heard that that can get bad and i think that everybody who owns a catamaran has to deal with that.

I don’t have enough experience on other boats to say whether ours is worse or better than another boat. This is the only one I’ve ever owned except for my Hobie 21 and that that is a completely different animal.

What kind of modifications have you done and and why?

At this point well mostly it’s been repairs. I’ve rebuilt the transmissions. It’s got clutch cone transmissions and the little clutch cones in them will begin to fail. I guess if they lose friction and so that was the last big job that i did was pulling the transmissions out servicing the engines replacing some of the heat exchanger components on the on the diesels and pulling those clutch cones apart and replacing clutch cones and then outside of that.

We haven’t made any modifications to the boat. The previous owner set it up quite nicely, so I don’t anticipate other than the things that i mentioned that we’re going to do. I hope that we don’t have to do a whole lot of other major modifications

If you were maybe to swap her for another boat what would that be or maybe you wouldn’t?

A bigger boat yeah with seven people on board.

At a certain point storing the boat like putting it in a slip the bigger you get and then repairing it starts to get very expensive right and so well i’m really i’m happy with the size that she is right now because it’s not too bad to pay for a slip fee which i don’t want to but anything bigger than this and like.

If you get let’s say you had a 60-foot catamaran which would be like fantastic well a 60-foot slip is a lot more than a 43-foot slip so because they typically start to charge you if there’s 100 foot of of dock space they’ll attempt to charge you for the hundred foot of the mooring so storing it’s expensive and then everything becomes like linearly more expensive with the size of boat so for me it’s as expensive as i can really afford.

The reason that i would do any a bigger boat is just because it’s seven people even at 43-foot catamaran with four cabins is still not as big as as they as my kids would like but with their kids so they can just suffer.

How can we follow you on your journey?

We’re posting updates to our blog. We have a website www.SevenOnTheSea.com. There’s some youtube videos. Most of the youtube videos are kind of just about our dinking around here in in Southern California and sort of preparing for the time where we set off to go cruising and so i would expect yeah we’ll be posting updates. We post probably a video every month right now and we’ll post more as we become spend more time on the boat.

What’s the dream destination for you? What are you gearing up for?

The dream destination for me would be to cross the Atlantic and be on the other side of to start in Florida but unfortunately we live in Utah and owning a boat in Florida was not an option for us so only one in California makes sense for us while we’re still working so in the next like i said once once we are able to pull the trigger and and and a big part of the reason that we’re delaying everything is well my office has a lot of work for me to do right now but also covid is not this is not an optimal time to to set off.

Our current plan is to head down to towards panama and sort of explore Mexico and and countries in Central America and then after maybe a year there set off across the south pacific and so that’s the who knows though like we don’t really have a real plan because we don’t like this you’d be crazy to make a real plan at this point i think.

Why this boat at this particular time?

We want to not i feel like and i could be wrong other people just like sell everything and then they just go live on the boat and i’ve seen people do that and that’s totally fine but for me i feel like it takes time.

I want it takes a while to even though i have been sailing since i was maybe 14. It still feels to me like there’s a lot of time that and a lot of experiences i need to have before i’m ready to to make big ocean crossings and so i’m sort of taking these this next couple years to really prepare myself the family and the boat and to get everything right and so we’re doing that by just taking very small small trips bigger trips as we go and then and get things in order so that’s why we that’s why we pulled the trigger now and so it gives us plenty of time to get everything the way that we want it including ourselves.

Wow that sounds great. Well thank you so much for being on today at CatamaranSite.com and we just wish you, Katie, Kevin, Ben Truman Lincoln Ethan …

Yeah that’s right you got them all. Nailed it.

Wish you all fair winds and following seas.

Fantastic well thanks for talking to me.

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