Or Captain Impetuous and the Voice of Reason
Shopping with my husband is fun, especially at Christmas. Both of our children have commented on Russ’ shopping habits, or his particular shopping habits. He’s a fun shopper. If something catches his eye or his taste buds, then into the cart it goes! He is similarly focused when he is shopping from a list. No dilly-dallying, just grab the list, check it twice, think over the list a couple times in the store to make sure you have everything needed, and out you go!
I however, have a different method. I just get the things on my list, think about the items I already have at home, think about my budget, etc. An impulse purchase may be a soda and candy bar in the checkout aisle. I’m pretty vanilla with shopping, where Russ is more of a Baskin-Robbins Sundae.
Boat shopping with Russ turned out to be quite the experience. He impetuously threw a Bayfield 40 in the cart at one point, but I quickly and quietly talked him out of it.
This recent boat shopping trip was also our sixth wedding anniversary, so it fulfilled two purposes. Looking back six short years, I never would have imagined myself in Florida, looking over a boat to purchase which would become our new home. The older I get, the more I discover that I'm very flexible and easy going... until I'm not.
We left really early Saturday morning and arrived in Florida by noon. We grabbed the rental car, and set google maps to our first destination, Fort Myers, where we looked at a Morgan Out Islander.
Since the Morgan was the first boat we saw, I tried not to jump to conclusions or get too starry-eyed. We’ve worked hard to save money to make our budget for this venture and our boat budget is pretty conservative. We are also looking at older boats, made from 1970’s to 1980’s. These decades of boats have a great track record of good quality construction. To give you some perspective, our purchase and outfitting budget is $70,000. So we want to buy a boat and do any repairs, upgrades, additions, etc. for under that amount. (We ultimately went over by a little.) If we were to go out and purchase a similarly outfitted boat, brand new, that cost would be around $500,000.
Wow. So my approach to boat purchasing was similar to purchasing a car or a house. It didn’t have to be fancy or pretty, but the mechanics needed to work, and work well.
My assignment for the boat buying trip was to take pictures—of everything. Rust on the rails? Picture. Rocna brand anchor? Picture. Ship’s bell? Picture. We wanted to be able to look back and remember what was on each boat. Russ had the clipboard with his personalized excel spreadsheet listing the features and specifications of that boat. We were a well prepared team. Or so we thought.
This was the only boat we looked at Saturday. We had two other boats we were hoping to see that day, but one was unavailable and the other sold. So we headed to the Crawford’s, old friends of Russ’, where we were going to spend the night.
That evening we celebrated our anniversary, enjoyed getting to know our hosts, and going out to eat. I love seafood (good thing right?) and what better place to order it than right on the water. Eating fresh seafood and looking at the sun setting over the water reminds me what the benefits to our endeavor will be. And I enjoyed it to the hilt.
The next morning was relaxing as we geared up to travel almost 300 miles, from Fort Myers to Miami to Jensen Beach, all within a half day.
The first boat was a Gulfstar 41. Going in, this boat had a lot going for it. It was larger (we had expanded our boat size after Russ’ experience on his sailing certification trip), sold by the owner, and in a great location.
The physical examination was great as well; I liked the layout of the boat, with two cabins (bedrooms) and large salon area. The boat was well maintained, clean and had several custom built additions, such as an aft storage locker, custom swim platform and grab rails on the Bimini (which is a frame usually covered by canvas, around the cockpit area). I stuck my nose in every nook and cranny, opening doors and hatches, peering under sinks, and into the engine area, lifting all the cushions in the salon to discover either treasure or trash.
As Russ and I conferred our findings in the car leading to the next boat on our list, we agreed this could be “the one”. But it was still early.
Our next boat was the aforementioned Bayfield 40, which Russ was immediately excited about. (This is the boat he had described in a previous blog post: the Search) The boat had a great reputation and was a great price. We could get it and be able to completely re-outfit it, which had good benefits. The boat was named Ra after the Egyptian sun god. We spent quite a bit of time poking around, taking pictures, while Russ was talking the ear off the broker, asking all sorts of questions. It was a unique looking boat, very “salty” as Russ would say, and the inside matched the outside in character. I could see the possibilities but as it turned out, was looking at it in a very different light than my husband.
Our confab started before we got to the car:
“This is a great boat!” Russ said. “I think this could be our boat!”
My response: “Hon, I hate this boat.”
Oops! We did laugh about this after a moment or two as I explained my reaction. It was a great boat with a lot of potential. But I didn’t see us living on this boat. The berths were not big enough for two people to sleep together and the whole area was open with no chance for privacy. The storage and outside layout just didn’t suit our needs.
Russ did eventually agree with me, admitting he really fell in love with her looks and didn’t really consider anything else. Glad that didn’t happen when he met me!
Our last stop of the day was just before dark, looking at a Pearson 365. It was the smallest boat on our list, 36 feet, but we didn’t want to rule out a good boat and one that would be less expensive to maintain as well as purchase.
This little boat was absolutely beautiful! It was the cleanest boat I’ve ever been on. Well maintained with lots of little amenities— screens over the open hatches, hatch covers, winch covers, and organization everywhere! It was a good price point, the Pearson’s have a great reputation, and it was a “ready to sail” kind of boat. We could have purchased it and headed out into the open sea without needing anything but provisions.
But the size. It only had one cabin and one head (bathroom), and I couldn’t see us, the pets, and all of our possessions on that boat. Where would Russ’ guitar go? Or my keyboard? Or frankly, how much food could we store on this boat?
We didn’t immediately rule this one out, as it was an absolutely beautiful boat with everything we needed. But our boat and our boat search wasn’t exactly focused on simply what we needed. We could look at space, maintenance, storage, specs, and diagrams all day, but it all boiled down to “Can we see ourselves on this boat?” And we couldn’t. But this boat did stay on our minds for a long while as a possible contender for “The One”.
Monday was a four boat day. But we had only 180 miles to travel to our resting place. The first boat was another Pearson 365, in part to compare the same type of boat, condition and price. This boat was in worse condition, but was more expensive than the Pearson 365 from the night before. So, on to the next one. Also a Pearson, but a 424, larger in size.
This boat we looked at without an audience. Our broker had to take a phone call. Comparing this boat to all the other ones on this trip, it didn’t take us long to rule it out as a contender. I really liked the layout of the boat, but the repairs and outfitting portion would be too much for a couple of newbie sailors to tackle.
Our last two boats were Morgan’s, a 41 classic and a 416. The Morgan brand is a popular boat with a consistent reputation. We have looked at a lot of boats online, with layout, maintenance and specs, but it really doesn’t compare with actually seeing the boat in person.
The 41 Classic was another for sale by owner and in great condition. One great thing about most boat owners, especially ones who are brokering their own boats, is their passion for the vessel. They want you to capture their passion, not only to sell you a boat, but they want their boat to be loved and well cared for by the next person. This gentleman was the same way.
We ruled out this boat because it had too many amenities! There was an additional freezer and a water maker on board. We thought it took up too much space that could be used for other things and used to much precious battery power. I was probably more excited about this one than Russ. Our owner had a sad story to go with the boat and I think that affected our ultimate decision about this boat.
The next Morgan, the 416, was shown to us by the same broker that showed us the Pearson 424. It’s amazing to see the different people in this profession of boat broker and boat owner. Most boat brokers also are boat owners. The ones we worked with were laid back, no pressure, smooth talkers dressed in over sized khaki shorts and a tank top or polo. A couple had holes in various parts of their wardrobe. All were tan and seemed to not sweat a drop in the out of ordinary heat wave Florida was experiencing at the time. I will tell you one thing: boat shopping in Florida was HOT! Major swamp a**. Other than the excessive sweating, the heat didn’t really bother me. (Another thing to be thankful for!)
This boat (**SPOILER ALERT** the one we ultimately chose to purchase) was as clean and beautiful as the little Pearson 365 we were enamored with earlier. As I was taking my pictures, after practicing for three days, I was noticing the clear deck, the well maintained lines, the rust free fixtures, the fold up table in the salon, two state rooms, two heads, and storage, storage, storage!
Russ was very excited to see the “new” motor, as every other boat we looked at had some question about the number of hours and overall condition of the motor. Some things we were willing to work with, but the condition of the engine was very important to Russ!
Frankly, by that time, I think I was a little burnt out on looking at boats. It was certainly one of the best maintained and cleanest boats we’ve seen, and one that didn’t need a lot of work to outfit, but it was over our budget by a bit, so I was hesitant to get excited about it. It didn’t really call out to me as “The One.”
We got done looking at boats early, so after checking into our Airbnb, we headed to Daytona Beach! I’ve been to three east coast Florida beaches now—I went to New Smyrna beach in college, Coco beach with my daughter and parents for a cousin's wedding, and now Daytona Beach with Russ. We enjoyed the ocean for a while and then cleaned up to go out to eat.
Our trip wasn’t really affected by the corona virus. We were in contact with less than 10 people the whole trip. Most of our time was spent in the car together, staying in a room together, or looking at boats. This evening we ventured out to another seaside restaurant. I tried alligator tail and mahi-mahi, both of which I’d never had before. What is it about vacation that makes you want to try new things? I think that is what I am most looking forward to experiencing in this new season of life. Is there anything so completely different to being a Midwestern farm girl as a full time sailor!
On our last day of looking at boats we saw a Whitby 42. Beautiful boat lines, great layout, plenty of space, but again, repairs that would take either money or skills that we didn’t have.
It is amazing all the unique differences in boats. Boats seem to wear their character more than cars. They seem to have their own personalities, quirks, and attitude. I’m sure Born Again will develop one the longer we are on her.
Sitting in our room the last night before our return flight home, Russ and I laid everything out—the pictures, the spreadsheets, and the impressions we had of each boat. Three made our “contender” list and we discussed the pros and cons of each. Some were more attractive to Russ and others more attractive to me, but we eventually came to a consensus. We would spend a little more money for a solidly maintained and outfitted boat rather than one that needed a little more work. Her reputation, condition, location, and her like-new motor were the deciding factors.
The decision made, we then proceeded to make an offer on our boat. A counteroffer, survey, and sea trial followed until we were the proud owners of a beautiful Morgan 416.
She will be by herself for six weeks until we are able to join her. Thankfully Russ made some great connections when he flew down for the survey and sea trial, and they agreed to keep an eye on her.
Now the new Born Again owners will be anxiously awaiting the end of hurricane Isaias, which is headed directly at the marina where she rests. Whatever happens, I know that God is in control of the situation and I pray that I continue to trust in that fact—now and in the future as we sail away to start our new adventure.