by Maria F Griffith and reprinted courtesy of MULTIHULLS Magazine

Most people spend a lifetime looking for their one true love, and many never find it. Five years ago, I found mine, and eight months later we got married. Since then, our mutual goal has been to find the boat of our dreams. After years of research, we finally found her - she's a magnificent Manta 40 - and our True Love has made our dreams come true.

It all started in 1991 in the Washington, DC area where I met my husband. By the next year, we were honeymooning on a cruise on the Nile River, then settled into living in Alexandria, Egypt for the next four years. Other than being a fascinating experience in and of itself, it was during this time that a mutual interest developed in long-term cruising. Many discussions ensued regarding issues of joint and individual concerns.

My primary concerns were comfort, space and lay-out, while my husband focused on yacht construction, handling, and safety. After great deliberation on these primary issues and other minor ones, we decided to limit our search to catamarans and to research the market seriously.

The availability of written material on catamarans in Egypt was dismal at best. But being the good resource person he is, my husband was able to special mail-order various magazines which provided a solid base of reference. They also led us to other written and video materials, which we both studied avidly. This information ranged from suggested magazines (MULTIHULLS, Cruising World) to books (The Cruising Catamaran Advantage by Rod Gibbons) to various slick brochures provided gladly by companies wishing to promote their products. By year's end, we had amassed an extensive library of information, or 'cat'formation, if you will.

We felt secure enough in having done our homework that the first winter, when we were back in the States on home leave, we chartered our first cat from New Port Richey, Florida. The cat was a Gemini 3400. The primary reason we selected the Gemini was because of the rave reviews we had read, and for her appeal in construction, lay-out, and affordability. She handled well, tacked easily, and performed quite nicely overall. We both thought the Gemini was aesthetically pleasing, although quarters were a little cramped from my vantage point. In addition, there was an excessive amount of annoying and uncomfortable pounding when beating to windward in choppy seas. Don't get me wrong - the Gemini is a fantastic cat for its size, and dollar-for- dollar is worth every cent -just take a look at its historic high volume of sales (over 400 boats). She was not a disappointment at all. However, we both intuitively knew that we had not yet found our one true love.

The second hands-on experience came a year later when we chartered an Island Packet Cat. One must admit that the Packet Cat was a few notches above the smaller Gemini in luxury, comfort, handling, safety, and beauty. The lay-out was spacious and the amenities were first-class. Of course, the price tag was more than double as well. We sailed the Packet Cat through several driving rainstorms and she handled well, although it pounded just as much as the Gemini. Besides pounding, the other feature which was most objectionable was the exposed helms-person's chair. In both intense sun and pouring rain, this exposure to the elements was unacceptable to us. And so - once again our one true love did not materialize.

We considered other new cats and also looked at the used cat-market. Spending a few days in Ft. Lauderdale, we checked out the Kennex, PDQ, and Lagoon. They were either too small, too big, or too expensive. There was a Privilege 39 for sale in Ft. Lauderdale, and we spent part of an afternoon looking her over. At first glance, the Privilege was a formidable yacht: huge with an attractive cockpit, beautiful appointments throughout, and an overall sense of luxury. There was a generous-sized saloon, four berths, and two heads. However, on closer inspection, we noticed the small and dark galley, seemingly lost in one of the hulls; heads without separate showers; and, despite the large cockpit, the helmsman's chair was not only totally exposed, but the helm seat was tight and cramped. Visibility from the saloon was limited - we like bright and airy accommodations. We felt that attempting to cram four double-berth cabins into a boat less than 40 feet long may be okay for a week's charter, but doesn't work for a cruising boat.

We also spent some time looking at a used Solaris. The layout was acceptable, although the saloon area seemed to be somewhat disjointed. The galley in one hull was large and airy, and the berths were adequate. What turned us off on this particular Solaris was that the owners had left all their belongings on board, almost as though they had been forced to leave in a hurry. You almost expected to see something still cooking in the galley. It was eerie and discomforting, and we left the boat with a sense of uneasiness. The search for our dream boat continued.

During that same trip to Florida, our research eventually led us to the Manta. At that point, we had reviewed brochures and even seen a terrific video produced by Manta Enterprise, Inc. On a lark, we decided to schedule an appointment and went to visit the factory in Largo, Florida.

Being a former US Naval Officer whose area of expertise was shipbuilding, my husband was keenly interested in this aspect of all the boats we had studied. When he saw the Manta in various stages of construction, he was enthralled: "I had supervised many ships being built in my naval career, and I was thoroughly impressed with the overall construction of the Manta. The construction specifications are the best of any of the catamarans I had studied. The cambered shape of the decks, hulls, and bridgedeck are much stronger than the flat surfaces found on other yachts."

We visited the factory several times that cold week in January of 1994, and received extraordinarily knowledgeable briefings from Patrick Reischmann, Director of Sales for Manta Enterprises. The construction was for midable but it was the Manta's size and grace - like its namesake - which was truly overwhelming. Standing beneath one of the hulls, my 5'8" " frame appeared minuscule in comparison.

After viewing the Manta under construction in Largo, we went to St. Petersburg to see the finished product. We knew the construction and materials were first-class, but it was an altogether different perspective to see the Manta in its element. It was truly magnificent, a sleek and beautiful yacht with everything we had dreamed of. My husband and I looked at the Manta, then at each other, and it was love at first sight. When your true love appears with all the characteristics you've been searching for, you know in your heart that it's right. And with the Manta, the reaction for both of us was identical. We had found the boat of our dreams - we had found our True Love.

We were so certain that this was our dream boat that we began negotiations with Pat Reischmann that same day! What was it, you may ask, which led us to make this final decision on the Manta? Do you have a few minutes?

Overall, the Manta has spacious accommodations which are clearly designed for extended cruising. With a 2 1 -foot beam and 40 feet in length, my concerns for adequate space were generously met. The entire yacht is in an attractive blend of white acrylic and vinyl, accented with teak molding, teak and holly soles, and louvered teak doors. The combination is modern, stylish and luxurious.

There is standing headroom throughout the boat and 64" headroom in the hulls. As my husband is that height, this was a key feature in the Manta's favor.

Bright and airy, the saloon has great 360-degree visibility, eliminating that closed-in feeling one gets on many boats. The saloon has comfortable wrap-around seating around a large dining table, which can be lowered to serve as a cocktail table as well. Great for entertaining! There is incredible storage beneath the seats. The U-shaped galley has lots of counter space, a stainless steel sink with pressurized hot and cold water mixer, a 3burner propane stove with oven, a top-loading 10-cubic-foot icebox, plenty of cabinets, and a trash bin. We opted to include a microwave oven, and to upgrade the icebox to a refrigerator and freezer, making it into an outstanding galley from which I could prepare simple to gourmet meals.

Beside the galley is the navigation station, where there is room for numerous electronics. We selected an integrated variety which includes a GPS, an SSB, CB, VHF, cell-phone station, and a computer navigation terminal. The chart table holds full-size charts and has convenient storage. The television and wet locker are located to starboard, just inside the cabin door.

The port hull contains the spacious owner's stateroom, which I think is really like a luxurious suite divided into two separate sections, with a hallway between. The bedroom is graced with a queen-size bed facing fore and aft for easy entrance and comfortable sleeping. There is a huge cedar-lined hanging locker, drawers, cabinets and a settee. Passing the through the teak louvered door into the hallway, one passes a large, double-door pantry, just a few steps from the galley up above. On the opposite side of the bedroom is a luxurious and private head, with sink, double-door mirrored cabinet, marine toilet and plenty of storage and counter space. The pi6ce-der6sistance is the gigantic separate shower stall, which makes bathing a true delight!

The starboard hull contains two staterooms and another head. The aft cabin has another queen-size bed facing athwartships, a cedar-lined hanging locker, drawers, and a settee. The forward cabin has a double V-berth, cabinet, and hanging locker. We decided to install the combination washer/ dryer into this hanging locker, an option which was an additional luxury for me, The starboard hull staterooms share a large head with sink, mirror, cabinet, marine toilet and ANOTHER separate shower. We decided to add the option of electric-flush toilets in both heads to take advantage of the maceration of waste BEFORE it goes into the holding tanks.

The interior is well ventilated by numerous deck hatches and opening ports with screens for natural ventilation. We also selected the air-conditioning system, which we (when test-sailing the boat in Florida during a hot and steamy August) were most glad to have.

The deck area of the Mania is immense. Storage lockers seem to be everywhere. All walking areas are covered with an attractive and very effective nonskid. The huge cockpit has comfortable seating for eight and the elevated helmsman's chair affords an unobstructed view over the cabin top. There is a hard top covering the entire cockpit that provides protection from the elements to the helmsman and passengers. The hard top is not only strong enough to walk on, but also serves as a great place to mount solar panels. It contains cockpit lighting, Lexan windshield with an opening center window, an opening overhead hatch for sail observation, and a set of 6-to- I lifting tackles for the built-in dinghy davit. All of these features met the specifications on our priority list.

Two other features of the Manta, which I thought were pretty neat, are the molded seats in the corners of the bow rails, and the two large, strong trampolines. These are wonderful places to enjoy the ocean as it passes between the hulls. Here, I felt that dreams really can come true.

Another feature which sold us on the Manta was that it is designed for single-handed sailing. For safety, all sail-handling equipment is clear of the seating areas of the large cockpit. All lines are color-coded, lead through sheet stoppers to a self-tailing electric winch, and into a conveniently placed line bin. All underway functions can be accomplished by one person, although my husband and I will enjoy sailing together most of the time.

Other sail-handling features which we liked were a full-batten main with two single line reefs, a rigid boom vang, and a boom brake. One of the best sailing features as far as I am concerned is the self-tacking jib. It is simple and user-friendly, and here's how it works. To tack the Mania, you just turn the wheel. That's it! When the boom passes overhead and the sails fill on the other side, you've completed the tack. I am still amazed at how easy and smooth it is to tack this boat. No flailing around with winch handles, jib sheets, or climbing over guests is required.

Here's something we did which was somewhat different. Rather than at the traditional location at the navigation station, we chose to have the radar installed at the steering station. When you think about it, doesn't it make more sense to be able to glance at the radar screen while steering, as opposed to having to leave the wheel to go below to check out navigation hazards.

As far as speed goes, the Manta can sail at 9-10 knots in 15- to 18-knot breezes, and we were able to safely sail at even higher speeds while testing her in Tampa Bay. The highest speed recorded to date is 20.2 knots. With twin 29-hp diesels, she motors as well as she sails. Under power, we cruised comfortably at 7-8 knots. Another superior feature of the Mania is that under sail or power, there's virtually no pounding, due mainly to the generous bridgedeck clearance. For us, this was clearly a big plus, as we had experienced annoying and uncomfortable pounding with the other cats we tested.

We also found that with the widely spaced diesels, maneuvering couldn't be easier. The Manta can actually spin within its own waterline length. Recently, my husband easily backed our 21-foot-beam Manta into a tight 25foot slip -in a crosswind - as other sailors looked on in amazement.

Another aspect which was in Manta's favor was the shallow draft. At 3 feet 8 inches, we felt very comfortable with

being able to do all the gunkholing we wish to in our future sailing adventures.

Additional features which sold us on the Manta were the low-maintenance mechanical, electric, and plumbing systems. My husband, who plans to do most of the boat's maintenance, was especially pleased with the easy accessibility of the engine compartments. They are located under the aft bunks in each hull, and can be serviced through a special door or from the top. Recently, my husband was thrilled to know that it was time to change the oil and oil filters. With his 6'4" frame, he had no problems doing this first maintenance job - in fact, I think he loved every minute of it.

All electrical circuits, battery switch, bilge pump, and fuel and water gauges, are conveniently located in the main saloon. The AC/DC electrical panel shows the condition of the boat's entire electrical system at a glance, and is hinged for easy access. This panel is one of the best we have ever seen.

In summary, the Manta clearly comes with many features which were determining factors in making this yacht our final selection. We also selected options which we thought would enhance the comfort, safety and maneuverability levels of our new boat. The people at Mania Enterprises make outfitting quite unique with something they call the PAC system. PAC systems are groupings of optional equipment selected by Mania for "the best combination of quality and performance. " We certainly found this to be true, and selected several of the options offered. In a nutshell, here is what we picked:

* The Comfort PAC, which includes a 26, 000 BTU air-conditioning system with a digital thermostat (also for reverse-cycle heating); a 12-volt refrigerator/freezer and 1 10-volt microwave oven for my gourmet galley; a compact European-style washer/ dryer combination; a 12-volt desalinator with 150gallon per- day- capacity; and a hot-and-cold deck shower. With these items, I think the Comfort Pack should be renamed the "Luxury PAC." Also included are: 6 interior fans plus 2 solar ventilators; extra gel-cell batteries; 250 watts of solar panels; a 7-kilowatt diesel generator; an additional 30-amp shore power cord, and even more.

* The Navigation and Communication PACs have a complete line of statf-,of-the-art waterproof electronics, including an integrated instrument network, GPS, autopilot, Furuno LCD radar, an AM/ FM stereo with cassette, including internal and external waterproof speakers. With these instruments, we felt we could sail safely with the pleasure of listening to our favorite music at the same time.

* The Anchor PAC contains a 44pound Delta self-stowing anchor on a swivel connector (with 300'of 5/16 hitest chain), and an electric windlass with capstan, gypsy, chain stop and deck switch. There are also docklines, fenders, a boathook, and a spare Fortress anchor with a 300-foot rode.

* The Safe PACs have an impressive array of safety equipment, including: a man-overboard module, a Tech float water-activated throwable floating device, a six-man life raft and canister, life jackets, fire extinguishers, and flares. Due to our mutual emphasis on safety both in handling and safety equipment on board, we decided to include all of the essentials in this all important area.

That's quite a brief synopsis of the Manta's features - guess I got carried away - but now I'll tell you the rest of the story. In the winter of 1995, back home again in the States on home leave, we test-sailed the Manta in St. Petersburg. That was the clincher. Everything we had inspected, read about, touched, felt, and studied was put to the final test. The Manta passed with BEAUTIFUL flying colors! That very day, we sat down and signed our names to the initial contract, with delivery expected in the summer of 1996. After we left the Manta Enterprise's office, I was trembling with excitement and exhilaration, but the thought never crossed my mind 'My God, what have we done!' I looked at the true love holding my hand, and we both knew it was right - we were on our way to becoming proud owners of a fabulous cat called the Manta 40.

The timing of our permanent return to the States from Egypt coincided very nicely with our delivery date. We came back to the good old USA in April of 1996, and by June had already been to Largo to check out our boat already under construction. We made final color selections for the sail covers ('Persian teal'), settee cushions (teal and mauve), and spinnaker (teal and sunbright yellow).

At this point, we were also requested to provide the company, the US Coast Guard, and others with the boat's name. I am a hopeless romantic at heart and had been subtly encouraging my husband to accept my suggestion of True Love, as we had both always felt that strongly about each other. For his part, my mate did make an effort to buy a book called What to Name Your Boat - yes, such a book really does exist - and from that offered 'cat'-related names like Cataclysm, Aristocat, Two Love, and True Luff. Let's just say that the best name won, and that we are both delighted that we agreed on True Love. We've already received many favorable comments on it, and my heart still skips a beat each time I see its name gracing our stern.

By August, we were asked by the Manta staff to spend at least 10 days aboard our new yacht to proceed with what is referred to in the Navy as a 'shake down' cruise. We lived on board to check the facilities - ranging from preparing gourmet meals in the galley to checking the functionality of the washer/dryer. We equipped the galley and berths with gadgets and colors of our choosing, and enjoyed sitting out in our cockpit at sunset, listening to the sounds of Jimmy Buffett from our stereo. I kept thinking: "Is this beautiful yacht really OURS'

We sailed our TrueLove up and down Tampa Bay, and she handled like a dream. The electric winch and selftackingjib made sailing a pure delight. With the spinnaker up, True Love seemed to be flving in the clear blue sky.

Throughout our 'test week,' the Manta organization was extremely responsive to our every request - from making certain we were both comfortable with the boat's handling, to understanding all the navigational and safety devices, to being perfectly pleased with all the amenities this yacht has to offer. When we returned to the marina each evening, a maintenance crew was waiting to repair any deficiencies we discovered during 'sea trials'.

By the end of August, our sojourn came to an end, but the boat was literally in ship shape. We sadly headed back home to the DC area to await True Love's arrival. Mr. Millard Schindler, President and CEO of Manta Enterprises, Inc., had offered to sail her to our marina on the Chesapeake Bay, in turn, he would have the privilege of exhibiting True Love in the 1996 Annapolis Boat Show in mid-October.

The trip North in September 1996 turned out to be a long one (30 days) due to several fundamental facts: 1) the boat could not be sailed across the State of Florida via the Okeechobee Waterway as the 59-foot mast was too tall.Therefore, it left the Gulf of Mexico, went down to the Keys, then up around the Atlantic Coast, and eventually through the Intracoastal Water-way. Reasons # 2 for the delay: Hurricanes Edouard, Fran, Hortense and Isidore, and Tropical Storm Gustav. Even though my husband and I became glued to the Weather Channel during True Love's entire trip north, while chewing off our fingernails, we knew Millard was an excellent and cautious sailor, and that he and his crew would not take any unnecessary chances. Millard provided us with daily reports as to weather conditions, his location, his entrance into the Intracoastal Waterway, and his projected date of arrival in the Chesapeake. It was truly a thrilling moment to witness True Love pulling into its slip at Herrington Harbor Marina.

The issue of which marina would be good enough for our new yacht was also researched quite extensively. After months of reading and visiting various ones, we decided without question that our boat's new home should be at Herrington Harbor on the Chesapeake Bay. This beautiful marina is totally protected, has immediate access to the Bay, and had no problem whatsoever in accommodating a cat the size of the True Love. We were delighted to learn that in October, Herrington Harbor was named 1996 Marina of the Year for the entire United States by Marina Dock Age Magazine.

Within a few days following its delivery to Herrington Harbor, it was our responsibility to get True Love to the Annapolis Boat Show. We had been assigned the appointed time of 9:40 a.m., two days before the boat show opened. It was truly overwhelming to converge with all the other boats on a beautiful sunny day in Annapolis Harbor, the golden dome of the Naval Academy welcoming us. Since all the cats in the show were going to be displayed on adjoining floating docks, we were able to get a good feeling for all the various shapes, sizes, and manufacturers of catamarans - they really were all quite beautiful. The Annapolis Boat Show lasted three days, and my husband and I proudly displayed our owner's name tags, as we visited other cats and hundreds of vendor booths.

Five long and exciting years have passed since we began our quest for the boat of our dreams. We now look forward with great anticipation to a lifetime of wonderful years together on board.

After all, once you find your True Love, you can never let her go.