We came across her for sale by her original owners in Holland in 2012. We flew out to see her and knew that she was the boat for us.....then lost her when a German buyer outbid us. By some extraordinary chance, we then found her again a year later when he decided that... well that's another story, but we had another chance, and took it. We booked our flights for the sea trial in November 2013 and arrived at Hindeloopen on the Ijsselmeer in the middle of the first of the big storms of that Winter. It was gusting 50knots and a sail was out of the question. Even looking her over in her cradle was difficult enough. So we had to take a lot of things about the boat on trust and went home feeling unsatisfied but excited and spent the rest of that Winter in Devon making plans and debating what we would call her.
Sula, as we eventually decided, with the help of slips of paper in a hat, to call her is a Van de Stadt 44. The hull was built to order from aluminium by Johannes Folmer in Friesland for Rob and Willy Klavers. The Klavers then proceeded to fit her out. From our stilted conversations with the Klavers when we first looked at the boat, we gathered that Rob Klavers had done most of the woodwork himself. If this is true, and we have no reason to doubt it, then he is a very skilled craftsman as the standard is really very good.
She has a cutter rig, with a Proctor mast and furling main and headsails. We wouldn't probably have chosen a furling main, but our experience with it so far has been excellent. It's easy to use, sets well and means no more clambering around on deck in rough weather. After our last boat Fair Grace, which had no furling anywhere, this is something of a relief as I feel I've done more than my fair share of holding myself onto a foredeck which on occasion seemed determined to shake me off.
Sula has generous tankage, with 1000 litres of water and 1000 litres of diesel. Her 62HP Solé Diesels Mitsubishi engine resides in an engine room beneath the cockpit floor and runs smoothly and relatively quietly.
The centre cockpit feels safe and enclosed and is sheltered by a generous sprayhood that you can really tuck under when needed, another contrast from Gracie which had practically no shelter whatsoever except for a tiny hood over the main companionway hatch.
I suppose that coming from a boat that was rugged and very seaworthy, but pretty basic in terms of systems and comfort, many of the refinements still seem outrageously decadent to us. It has to be said that Sula is now 20 years old and modern boats take all this equipment and more for granted.
Without giving an exhaustive list of things she has that seem delightfully civilised to us..... the shower head on deck for that after-swim rinse off, with hot! Water. The full cockpit cover so we can not feel so cooped up on rainy days. The diesel heater that kept us snug through the Winter in Holland. The 1500w inverter so I can use power tools without needing to fire up the 3.5Kw diesel genset. Space.... to fill up with all the toys, both Beatrice's and ours, including the inflatable kayak and the scuba gear.
Is there a downside? Well only that having so many systems means more things to keep working