Thursday, September 4, 2014

Boat Shopping

Howdy folks,

As promised I wanted to update you our boat shopping experience.  After a great trip to the BVI's for our liveaboard ASA 103/104 classes, Kara and I agreed that the best way for us to begin working towards our goal of sailing off into the sunset was to actually start doing some ocean sailing.  So with that goal in mind, we've spent a lot of time in the last several months shopping for and looking at boats. You know, kicking keels as they say.

Of course we spent a great deal of time on Yachtworld and Craigslist and of course reading the endless opinions in Internet forum like CruisersForum.  The online resources are great for researching price and stats on each boat and if you really want to get wrapped around the axle you can spend hours and hours comparing D/L, SA/D ratios, tankage, construction process/materials but have to go get on some boats.

So that's what we've been doing.  We found a broker and took a couple trips to Houston.  For the second trip I actually just hoped on the megabus in Austin and Kara picked me up in Houston since she was there for work.  Not bad, I actually spent the trip down reading about boat...what else. Anyway, crawling around and through boats in the middle of the summer in Houston really reinforced that we absolutely must have AC.  I doubt we'll need it too much once we actually leave to go cruising, but between now and then Texas is just too hot and humid.  Spending our weekend nights pouring sweat while we try to sleep in vain doesn't seem like a recipe for marital bliss.

Not a bad ride to Houston second floor front windshield view was great...and cheap!

When we started looking our thinking was this would purely be a learner boat and that we'd keep it small and cheap.  Then after a couple years we'd sell it and move up to our big boat.  So, we looked at Catalinas, Endeavours, and Ericksons among others.  There where things we liked about each of them but they all had something that just didn't work for us.  Either the headroom was too limited, or they had the traveler mounted in the middle of the cockpit (we know great for sailing performance...but just not for liveability).  The other fatal flaw they all had was a v-berth.  I'm not sure what it is about a v-berth, there are certainly many MANY people who swear by them but as mentioned previously, for with us both being tall and liking to spread out a bit they just don't work.

Then we decided we'd maybe look at just buying the big boat now. Since we're both followers of the s/v Delos blog, we had to have an Amel Super Maramu on the list and since we had looked at one (from the outside) in Tortola we decided we'd like to take a look at one in more detail. We also looked at an Island Packet 445 and a Tayana 55. For us, the Amel was a bit of a let down. For the price the interior just didn't feel right for us and there was a surprising lack of ventilation. For our intended cruising grounds a boat this size needs many more opening ports.  Yes the boat was equipped with literally anything we could ever need and probably quit a few we could do without (really a dishwasher...rather have the storage).  Anyway, for us the combo just didn't work. We definitely wouldn't rule out an Amel in the future you could just tell the boat was built like a tank but for now we really want a little more comfortable interior for that price.  The Tayana was the exact opposite of the Amel, with so much space it was daunting.  The boat itself was beautiful and in great condition but this boat was freaking huge.  The size of the mainsail and foretriangle where overwhelming and the thought of the dockage and maintenance fees seemed a scary proposition.  The Island Packet 445, while not the prettiest boat when viewed in profile, had an amazing interior.  It had pretty much everything we thought we wanted and we where both surprised by how much we liked the bulkhead mounted table that can be completely out of the way when not in use.  This one really caught our attention but was still just way more money than we felt comfortable spending at this early point in our sailing careers...maybe later.

Kara and the Super Maramu we ogled in Tortola

So from here we decided maybe we'd meet somewhere in the middle between the big and small boats and get something we could learn on, live comfortably on for weekends and vacations cruising the gulf and was capable of being our longer term cruising boat.  All along the way people kept saying instead of buying two boats, consider buying the bigger boat now.  Then you'll know it inside and out when you decide to go cruising and don't have to deal with the hassle of selling a boat before going.  It took us a while to come around to this way of thinking but we're firmly in this camp now.  So in Texas we looked at a few Morgans and while these where obviously quality boats, Kara kept pointing out that I was hunched over when walking through them.  At 6'1"+, I was just tall enough that if I stood straight my head rubbed the cabin top and any covers like hatch screen where a hazard for me.  So we decided to expand our price range and search area.  After thinking about the boats we'd already seen and doing some additional research we decided we really liked the Island Packets.  Since they're built in Florida a trip along the gulf coast would give us a chance to look at a bunch of them back to back to decide if they where the boat for us and if so which model was the best fit.

We left Austin on a Thursday afternoon and drove straight through to Mobile AL. We stayed the night in Mobile and looked at to IP 38s.  Unfortunately we where a bit pressed for time since we both had work calls to deal with and had to cut our time in Mobile a bit short, due to work.  We drove to Florida and spent the night in St Petersburg.  We even had time for a few drinks on the beach Friday night.  Saturday morning we where up bright and early to meet our new broker in Florida who took us through a couple more 38s, a 370 and a couple 40s.  We where hoping to see a 380 but for some stupid reason the listing agents for both boats where unreachable so we never got too.  Again we liked something about all the boats but at the end of the day for liveability and things we actually needed, the 40 seemed to be the best fit.  The sugar scoop stern on the 370 and 380 was really enticing but at the end of the day we (surprisingly) didn't like the island berth and felt the Pullman on the 38 and 40 was roomier and more comfortable.  We may feel differently in a few years after having to crawl over each other to get in and out of bed but for now I'm counting that as a bonus...but I digress.

Much needed drinks in St Pete's after two long days of driving.

One of the IP38s we looked at during the trip, we didn't buy her but we did listen to some Snoop in her honor.

IP40 Layout - Very similar to 38 but with a bit more room and waterline.

That afternoon/evening we drove up to St Augustine to see Kara's aunt and uncle.  They where kind enough to take us on a quick tour of historic downtown St. Augustine.  It's a great place that we'd like to get back to and spend a little more time...maybe a little Florida cruising is in our future?  We had dinner at a nice little marina and then Kara and I jumped back in the car and drove up to Jacksonville where we crashed for the night. Sunday morning we got up super early and hit the road.  After a very long day we finally arrived home in Austin about 9:00 that night (15+ hours of driving) and got ready for another work stuff!

Since returning we've been shopping for IP40s and as of last week we have an accepted offer on one. Unfortunately/fortunately she's currently in Oxford MD.  Which means next weekend we're flying to Maryland for Survey and Sea Trial.  If all goes well during that process we should be closing by the end of September....gulp.  Which would mean our next adventure will be the process of bringing her 1900 sea miles from Oxford to Texas (most likely Kemah).  But that's still a ways out, at this point we still have to ensure that she's in as good a shape as she appears to be from the tons of pictures and videos we've requested.  So stay tuned, the next installment will be focused on our trip to Maryland and how that whole process goes down.  Equal parts excitement and nerves at this point!

Virgin Islands and ASA 103/104

It's been way to long since I updated anything here. Honestly, I think it's just hard to believe anyone would care to read the details this early on in the process, but if nothing else it will give Kara and I some insight into where we where and a record of how it all went down, so here goes.

As mentioned previously, we did go spend a couple weeks in the Virgin Islands. Since we opted for the cheaper flight option, we ended up flying into St. Thomas USVI. It wasn't terrible, but we're both in agreement that if/when we ever fly back to the BVI's, we'd definitely pass on St. Thomas. Not a super friendly place and while we where in town one day there where 3 massive cruise ships in port. All in all not what we're looking for on a trip to the islands.

Once we took the ferry over to Tortola ($40 per person each way) and figured in "tips" and taxi's, it would have been cheaper to fly straight to Tortola and miss the mob scene in St. Thomas, which is the route we'd take if we where going down again for a charter. Once in Tortola the pace slowed a good deal, people got more friendly and we where able to unwind a bit. We did some great diving, despite some hesitation to dive the most popular spot in the BVI's (the wreck the Rhone) because we thought it would be too crowded. It ended up being a great site and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. We also enjoyed hanging at the various bars around Nanny Cay (pronounced Key) and chatting with the locals and some cruisers who where finishing up there season in the BVIs and prepping the boat for an off season on the hard while they returned to the real world to pay the bills (keeping a boat on Tortola ain't cheap). We spent a good deal of time wandering the dock and drooling over boats. Even convinced a broker to show us a CS 36 Merlin. It was a great boat for the price and would have been a good boat to learn on, but we both felt it was too early to commit at that point.

We also spent a good bit of time checking out the island. We actually rented a little car for about $30 and circumnavigated the island by car. With a stop in Trellis Bay (Beef Island) for a couple of fish sandwiches and an afternoon of windsurfing lessons. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of a breeze so we didn't make a ton of progress but I think we're both ready for a rematch. That night we stopped off at my personal favorite restaurant/bar on the island (so far) called the Bananakeet. The wings where great and the frozen bananakeet (drinks) where amazing, so where the dark and stormy's but this place is all about the views. Suffice it to say they drive up there was pretty darn exciting with some ridiculously steep roads and many switchbacks but it was well worth the trip. Many thanks to the cruising couple we met at the bar, Larry and Shery Halle of s/v Reprieve, who recommended we check the place out.

After several days of relaxing, it was time to get serious and head over to Rob Swain sailing for the 6 day liveaboard class that prompted the trip. We met our instructor Rory Greenan. Rory grew up sailing around the Irish coast and moved to the BVIs to get away from the terrible economy, I'm sure the 80 degree sunny weather, 80 degree crystal clear water, and constant 15-25 knot trade winds don't hurt either. Anyway, Kara and I refer to this portion of the trip as sailing bootcamp. We where on a 39ft Beneteau (Pretty Girl) for the entire trip and where lucky enough that we where the only two students. We found Rory to be extremely knowledgeable and a good teacher. I can still hear him now..."the boat shouldn't be turning....still turning...why is the boat turning?" We both really enjoyed the experience and managed to complete our bareboat charter certifications at the end of the trip, which was great. The experience taught us several things, for me the highlights are.
  1. We really need to get out of the lake and into the ocean to start building relevant experience. We both love our place on the lake and the Catalina has been great for learning the basics but the ocean on a MUCH bigger boat is a different animal. I mean that in a good way but there really is nothing like it...we need a boat!
  2. We don't do well in a V-berth. Since Kara and I are both tall, wedging ourselves into a v-berth where our feet and legs are right up against each other and we're constantly kicking each other throughout the night...was not a great combo.
  3. Lack of AC at night wasn't as big of an issue as I was afraid it would be. The breeze through the hatches/ports really helped. The Beneteau we where on could have used better venitlation in the forward cabin though, something to be aware of when boat shopping!
  4. Cooking on a boat wasn't really all that different than cooking at home, though cleanup was a bit more challenging.
  5. Stern/cockpit showering beats the crap out of trying to shower in a hot boat.
  6. Liveaboard  sailing lessons are not a vacation. Don't get me wrong, it was fun, we learned a lot and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. That being said, it was work and we spent more time studying and practicing tasks than kicking back and enjoying cocktails in the cockpit.
  7. What happens at the Willy-T stays at the Willy-T.
  8. Going back to the real world from sailing for a week, is tough.

So anyway, we're back in the real world now and have been looking for boats. I'll do my best to detail this in my next post.