27 Apr

The art of waiting

Boat ownership has, so far, been an exercise in patience. Actually from what ‘little’ I know of it, boating should always be such an exercise. There is apparently a cruiser’s saying that goes “The most dangerous thing in cruising is a schedule.” This refers to the fact that heading out on a day with iffy conditions or leaving dock with a boat that is ill-prepared just because you have to “be somewhere” is likely the worst decision you will ever make on a boat.  So I guess the last couple of weeks have been good practice.

The issue is basically the time of year. I have a fairly hefty bit of work to do on the boat—most of it to be paid for by the PO (previous owner) and a bunch of it necessitating hauling the boat. Now since the PO is paying for the lift and storage (upwards of $700) it makes sense to schedule the work I am paying for at the same time in order to save a few  dollars. And therein lies the rub. It’s springtime on the west coast and every dog and his brother wants his work done and his boat in the water.  Now, if not sooner.

And since we have our Vancouver Island circumnavigation booked for mid-May, it makes sense to wait to have the work done since we can’t use the boat anyway. It all makes sense. The only downside is we might be paying two moorage fees since moving the boat away from Granville not only costs money, but may delay the work if they have to move it back, and we have already reserved a spot in Mosquito Creek to keep the boat until we are ready to go.

But all that means I have to wait.

In case you are wondering what kind of things need to be done to boat that I just bought, here is a list of what was decided should be done and approximate costs. As far as I can tell they are in no way unusual or extraordinary:

  • lift & store 5 days—$700
  • repitch prop—$450
  • rebed (replace) strut bolts—$200
  • repair chainplate crack—$475
  • keel hull joint crack—$475
  • hull damage—$1300 (up to $9000 if there is core damage)
  • replace/repair galvanic isolator—$650
  • Webasto heater repair—$1100
  • rigging repair (misc)—$1500
  • engine repairs (misc)—$2000
  • *engine service & upgrades (misc)—$2000
  • winch service—$500
  • hot water tank repair/replace—$1300
  • *repaint hull—$700
  • *polish hull—$800
  • items marked with an asterisk are not paid for by the PO

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The galvanic isolator is the panel on the bottom. Actually that’s just its (non-functioning) panel but I have no idea what the isolator itself looks like.

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The hull damage on the port side that needs to be repaired (hopefully not to the tune of $9000)

I also want to investigate the cost of tying in the water heater to the Webasto and upgrading the alternator to 100 amps. The first will give us hot water without having to fire up the main engine while away from dock since the Webasto hydronic heating system is basically a mini boiler. The second just reduces the amount of time it will take to recharge the batteries using the engine; important if we intend to stay in one place for more than a day and cheaper than installing solar panels or buying a generator.

Hopefully I will have a schedule in the next day or two for all this work. Right about now, all I really know is Lawrence wants us to go to Specialty Yacht’s Hunter Rendezvous on Thetis Island in late June so the boat has to be ready for then. We aren’t scheduled to take off on our grand adventure until July so I guess that’s ok. Even if it means waiting…

23 Apr

Yacht Brokers

There’s a lot of smack online about yacht brokers. I suppose it’s like any sales profession: there are good ones and bad ones. Personally I have rarely been afraid to walk away from a bad vibe; my borderline misanthropy and innate distrust of other people’s imperatives generally makes staying in a bad relationship worse than the fear or embarrassment associated with walking away. On the other side of the coin there are a lot of good people out there and a lot of them are in the field of facilitating other people’s dreams. Leslie and I have had some good luck along the way, and the trend seems to have continued with our venture into the world of yacht brokers.

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Leslie and I met a lot of brokers the last two trips out to the Vancouver Boat Show. My favourite was a fellow who worked for Fraser Yacht Sales. Actually I recall him saying he didn’t work for Fraser but like helping out at the shows which is probably why he stuck out as my favourite; he had no horse in the race. I don’t think he remembered us from year to year, but we remembered him. The only thing I don’t remember was his name. My second favourite was a fellow we met only this year. He (Julian Clark) had relatively recently started working for Specialty Yacht Sales after he had left his boat (a Beneteau) in the Grenadines to come back and be with family. Talking with him was informative, fun and encouraging. He left us with a sincere offer to talk sailing regardless of whether or not we actually wanted to buy a boat. Also this year, when we visited the floating show with Dave, he introduced us to Len Baronit, one of the partners in Yacht Sales West. They sold Dave his Tartan and are also the Catalina dealers; it was a chance to talk about boat styles and the difference between North American sensibilities and European designs and even the economics of brokering boats. Very enjoyable, although it turns out Len doesn’t do much in the brokering field anymore. It also turns out I favour North American designs.

While one or two did give off that high-pressure sales vibe, there are some nice brokers out there and they genuinely seem to want to open up the world of boating to anyone curious enough to ask. Which brings us to the fellow we eventually found ourselves dealing with.

Oddly enough if I was to have picked a broker from just the advertisements and print materials that abound in boating magazines, I would’ve made some completely different choices. It is odd because of my profession. It’s just that slick and professional often leaves a different impression when people are trying to separate you with large sums. I’ve generally tried to stick with the (relatively) smaller mom & pop business, even when we built our first house. I look for a company with a good solid brand identity, but without too much ostentation and hint of personality or individuality. But if you’ve read the lead up to here you will remember I didn’t exactly pick the broker we worked with to buy our boat. So my impressions or criticism of their marketing materials really never factored into it.

So who was it? Since the ink is dry and the deal is done I am now less reluctant to name names—I’m not sure why I was reluctant in the first place but I was…maybe it was a jinxing kinda thing…. In fact I suppose I really should be singing some praises right about now. Throughout this weird and complex process, Lawrence Fronczek, owner of Specialty Yachts has been everything I could have wanted as a business partner. While his primary responsibility was to the seller, there was never a moment I felt he wasn’t on the lookout for both parties and trying his best to make sure everything was fair and equitable. I suppose it helps that ‘driving a hard bargain’ isn’t my thing and that the owner and I had already gotten on good terms before Lawrence was added to the mix, but I doubt it changed much about the way he did his business.

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If you judge them by their brand and their presence in the market place, Specialty Yachts is one of the bigger players and with that comes, I suppose, a bigger commitment to the health of the industry. Well it showed through. But the service was also personal and pleasant. And I suppose its possible I will be swearing a blue streak this time a year from now about some detail or another but I know Lawrence will still be in his office on Granville Island and I am pretty sure I can out-run him so we’ve got that covered…but really I don’t forsee it happening. His advice has been solid, the explanations pretty thorough and the ‘high pressure sales tactics’ have been limited to the occasional “Well if it were my boat I certainly would…”. And my judgement on his judgement of me is pretty positive. I like someone who reads his clients well, it makes for a much more comfortable experience.

So ya, all in all, I am pretty happy with the experience. And I would definitely recommend the use of a broker if buying a boat and recommend Lawrence in particular. Now I just want the work to be done so I can actually go sailing…

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Besides, their office is in a cool blue building.

 

21 Apr

What’s in a name…

When one buys a boat there are only two choices. You either keep the name of the boat or you change it.

The legality

In Canada if you choose not to Register your boat then the name is actually meaningless; your boat is simply known by its license number which must be displayed on the bow. But registering costs hundreds of dollars, entails many months of effort and involves things like tonnage surveys. Licensing on the other hand is free. But the name is irrelevant.

Registering means that you actually have a title (and the paperwork to prove it) to the boat in her name (which is a good thing when travelling abroad) as well as the right to fly a Canadian flag and that you have to list home port on the boat itself. As far as I can tell many licensed boats do all this as well but they are not kosher. I don’t know if they are actually illegal though.

But for now we will just be licensing our new boat. And we are pretty sure we will rename her anyway. We named the dinghy Laughing Baby before we even knew we were actually going to get the boat. This was a name we (Leslie) had been toying with for quite a while but eventually decided it wasn’t “big” enough for a full grown sailboat. So I did up a graphic for this website and, as soon as possible, we will make up some vinyl and christen the tender with her new name and artwork.

But that leaves the current Rainbow Hunter. We have been toying with a few names and have — intellectually — settled on Never for Ever. But I am ever the visual person and I can’t seem to find a good visual brand for that  name so I am hesitating. But I guess we’ll see…

The Name

Never for Ever is the name of Kate Bush’s 3rd album, released in 1980. I was first exposed to it in ’81 while attending MacEwan. It was one of several albums we had on our mobile stereo that went from class to class with us (Hey, we were Theatre Production students—it was part of our training :-) ). Three of those albums subsequently became all time favourites of mine. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Frank Zappa’s Joe’s Garage and Kate Bush’s Never for Ever; talk about an eclectic mix.

Many years later when I met Leslie we had an instant connection with two pieces of music: the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar (although I preferred the London cast and she was [sigh] a movie soundtrack fan) and Kate Bush’s Never for Ever. While Leslie and I are not the most religious people in the world I think we both agree that naming a boat Jesus Christ Superstar might be a tad impious and so, whilst thinking it all over a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that Never for Ever might be a good—and common— choice for us. According to Bush, the title alluded to conflicting emotions, good and bad, which pass, as she stated: “we must tell our hearts that it is ‘never for ever,’ and be happy that it’s like that.” Given the (currently) finite duration of our planned trip and the fact that Leslie and I have just come off of  many years of high-stress, losing battles, it really seemed an appropriate name. Besides you have to live life in now. So I pitched it and it was tentatively accepted.

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Probably not the best logo for a boat :-)

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Better

Naming Boats

Apparently there is a protocol and ceremony to naming (and renaming) boats. Poseidon (Neptune) and Aeolus must be appeased so as not to offend or lose their protection or, worst of all, bring bad luck to the boat. First the boat must be stripped of all traces of its old name and a Denaming ceremony performed. According to legend, each and every vessel is recorded by name in the Ledger of the Deep and is known personally to Poseidon (or Neptune), the god of the sea. It is logical therefore, if we wish to change the name of our boat, the first thing we must do is to purge its name from the Ledger of the Deep and from Poseidon’s memory.

Then —in many variations (Google it, it’s great stuff)— there is a coin or tag with the old name inscribed on it that must be cast into the deep and of course the libation(s) offered to the gods.

After that is all done another ceremony — the Christening — must be performed before bring anything with the new name aboard. This can be done immediately or after a few days to make sure the old spirits and ghosts have had time to move on.

New Art

fbe9d52444605873f5be0c91d394d498I am still working on the art for the boat. I like the idea of a nautical hourglass but I am not having much luck simplifying one enough that it will work in vinyl. I am also toying with using a swan (as illustrated on the album cover)—swans are cool. Eventually I will get it though and it will show up here.

I think we will stick with the Laughing Baby concept as a framing device for this site though. Laughing babies really are the best.

20 Apr

How much? So far…

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Well from the day I contacted the previous owner to the day we actually owned the boat there were – obviously – a bunch of costs, some expected, some a bit unexpected, but nothing too onerous.

Broker (10% cost to the seller) $0
Flights to Vancouver $544.16
Mechanical Inspection $683.05
Oil Samples (engine and transmission) $115.90
Boat Lift & Hold $309.75
Survey $1126.65
Rigging Inspection $0 (broker supplied)
Insurance $917
Wire transfer fee $80
New boat lettering (license number) $80

I anticipate that beginning immediately, I now owe moorage at Granville Island and we still have to facilitate the actual transfer of the boat which involves us flying out again, a hired skipper and moving her to her new moorage. (All costs shown are approximate.)

Remainder of mechanical issues $1500
Granville Island moorage $500
Flights to Vancouver $1000
Hired Skipper $400
First month’s moorage $456
New boat graphics $200

I will update these as the numbers change.

18 Apr

Done like Dinner

As of 7:19 pm Wednesday we are now the proud owners of a 2003 Hunter 386.

The various surveys had turned up an astounding $8700 of repairs and issues with an additional $3900 being estimated by the engine guys at Stem to Stern. As I mentioned previously the engine guys had a lot of routine maintenance items built into the estimate that no one could reasonable expect the previous owner to be responsible for. So we, (the broker) proposed that the price be adjusted for the total of the survey issues and $2500 of the mechanical ones. And the we waited. And waited. And waited.

Okay, it was only 2 and a half days, and there were a lot of numbers, but it sure seemed like a long time. Be that as it may, eventually we got word back that the seller would like to reduce the mechanical by a further $500 and further reduce a few of the specific estimates by a few hundred here and there. All in all, he was asking for a reduction of a little over a $1000. That seemed fair.

So I said ok.

And then I (we) owned a boat.

Paperwork

I doesn’t seem real to buy a boat a 1000 miles away over the phone. There is nothing really tangible about it: no hand shake, no new boat smell… so life didn’t change much and we (I) were pretty subdued. Friday rolls around and I finally got the official survey documents with valuations so I contacted our insurance company ( I had picked and contacted an insurance company  about 2 weeks previously) to let him know the real numbers and update the quote. I didn’t really know when to bind in the insurance so I left it hanging (so I thought) for the weekend.

Well around 4pm our time I start getting documents and emails. First was a notice that the signed bill of sale was … well… signed and on its way. And “Oh, by the way, is the insurance in place yet?” Seems the marinas require insurance in place and the PO (previous owner) needed to cancel his. So wrote back to the insurance broker asking if they could bind the policy immediately. He said yes. Then the Bill of sale arrived along with the Pleasure Craft License transfer.

Now it felt like we owned a boat.

That was soon followed by an Insurance application, a Certificate of Insurance and of course an invoice for the aforementioned insurance. I forwarded the certificate to the  yacht broker and we were done. Like dinner.

Now we had ton of other arrangements to make and some bills to add up…

13 Apr

Pre-purchase Conclusions

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So the estimates are still rolling in but there looks to be some serious cash involved. At this point the most likely outcome given that we still want the boat, is that the price will be reduced accordingly and we will repair what needs to be repaired.

    The major issues (in my mind) as it stands are:

  • re-pitch propellor (including hauling the boat and storage on the hard)
  • repair Webasto heater
  • repair hot water system
  • repair the hull damage
  • ensure the galvanic isolator is working
  • check/repair the strut bolts
  • replace the exhaust elbow
  • repair engine mounts
  • repair engine alarm
  • reapir forestay swivel

The broker’s list of major issues is much longer and probably more accurate, but I am defining major in this case as things I need resolved before committing to the sale and releasing the funds. I would also like to see the current owner kick in on sail repairs, some of the engine maintenance issues and fixing the issues with the hull blisters, but I/we have not yet determined/decided whether we/I would kill the sale over these smaller items.

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What we (by which I mostly mean the broker) are trying to do now is get final estimates from all the various trades and technicians and work out a plan. If we are pulling the boat to fix the hull and prop, then I might as well get her bottom painted at the same time and fixing the other smaller issues now will save having to do another haulout. But now is the busiest season as everyone is prepping their boats for summer. So maybe we take the cash and stash it away until fall and do the work then, but that comes at an additional cost that has to come out of someone’s pocket. Once the estimate numbers are in (which could/should be in an hour or two), the current owner will commit to his number and then. if Leslie and I like that number, we’ll agree and he will magically be transformed into the previous owner and we will own a boat.

It’s all an intricate dance of order and precedence and yet another reason that I am glad, in the end, to have been able to work with the broker throughout this process. Call me naïve if you want to (even though you shouldn’t) but I truly believe he doing the best deal he can for both parties. And I like that.

So there you have it. We will know in a couple of hours if there are going to be any more posts in this blog.

12 Apr

Surveys 3: The marine survey

The Haulout

Once you’ve brought your boat to the dock by a boat lift you hop out and the lift operators take over. They manoeuvre the boat into a set of slings, adjust those slings so they miss anything important and then slowly lift the boat straight up. The thing to be careful of is that most boats have recommended sling points, but apparently they are not always the best indicators. The Hunter 386’s throughhull for the paddle wheel speed sensor is fairly close to where the sling marks are; the lift operators at Granville Island know this so make sure the slings are a bit aft of the marks to avoid damaging the paddle. Or you can take the paddle out entirely before the lift.

This was scheduled as a ‘lift and hold’ so the lift  set the boat down on its keel but left the slings supporting the boat. The surveyors had access to the whole hull but it was going back into the water as soon as they checked it so no need to set up stands.

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She came out of the water with a nice collection of mussels on the keel, barnacles on the prop and, as I mentioned in a previous post, a few barnacles wedged in the speed sensor. Once she was out of the water, the brokerage’s people cleaned off the prop and and changed the anodes on the propellor shaft. Now my highschool chemistry is still a bit shaky but the theory is that when two different metals touch — bronze and steel in this case — while in salt water, a current is set up that will eat away at the weaker metal. In order to avoid your boat bits dissolving, you attach sacrificial anodes usually made of zinc that will slowly dissolve instead.

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You can see the two new anodes on the prop shaft

In the mean time my surveyor, Tim McGivney and his partner Trevor Salmon from Aegis Marine Surveyors Ltd., showed up and we all shook hands. Then they went to work. What they are looking for is obvious hull damage as well as any hidden damage that might be hiding. In the case of Rainbow Hunter, they only found a few small blisters. Much like a skin blister this is where moisture has penetrated the top layer of fibreglass or gel coast and caused a bubble to form and leave a hole underneath. They aren’t a huge issue although they need to be repaired and if you have a lot that can be a big expense.

There was also a crack in the fibreglass under the moulding on the transom and another crack at the top leading edge of the keel. Again, these turned out to be mostly cosmetic and not a structural or safety issue.

Once the visual inspection is done, they get out their hammers and start tapping the hull front to back, top to bottom. What they are doing is listening to hear if the tone changes, which would indicate damage or water intrusion within the hull itself. Modern boats often have solid fibreglass below the waterline but will use a cored fibreglass system above to keep weight down and prevent the boat from being top heavy. In most cases this is two thin layers of fibreglass with a balsa core sandwiched between them. This provides structural strength but keep the weight down. But like a piece of drywall, if the core gets wet or damaged, the strength disappears and you have potential point of failure. And if the damage is not repaired, intruding water can spread through the core causing rot and the damaged area grows bigger and bigger.

The surveyors found one spot about 2 feet by 3 inches right along the bootline (the stripe that marks the waterline) that had crazing in the gelcoat and the sound definitely changed when tapping.  This would be where a hard docking occurred without a fender or perhaps a bad night at dock in bad conditions where the fender slipped out. Regardless it was a problem and will need to be addressed. Talking it over with Tim I was assured that there was no imminent danger and we could easily cruise the season and get it fixed in the fall which might be easier and more cost effective. But this was definitely something to talk to the current owner about.

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Other than that the boat passed with flying colours and she was soon on her way back into the water. Back aboard the broker slowly manoeuvred her out and the backed her neatly into the narrow slip.

At this point, I needed to head to West Marine and it had been recommended to me not to pester the surveyors too much in order to not distract them, so I decided to head off to do some shopping and grab a bite. I will acknowledge that there is some common wisdom that says  you should stay and follow along through the survey as it is a prime learning opportunity, and I can see the sense in that. But for me I felt that my level of knowledge was so low that it would likely be a hindrance. I know that in my own field I don’t mind talking to others while I am working if they have a base understanding of what I am doing, but it is much more distracting if you have to stop every five minutes to go over the basics. So I left them to it.

The Survey

It was a nice afternoon so after I bought a slice of pizza I wandered the docks and enjoyed the sunshine. Eventually I ended up back at the boat and sat in the cockpit  trying to amuse myself. At this point I was hit with my traditional “what the hell am I doing?” rollercoaster jitters. Eventually I called L and we had a pleasant chat and I managed to get over most of it. Otherwise I took pictures (which is really hard to do in a crowded marina) and wandered aimlessly. I was still wondering what the hell I was doing though. Especially as the bill’s started piling up. I hadn’t realized (although I should have) that I had to pay for the lift. This came to $309. At the end of all this I will tabulate the totals and post them, but it is easily going to be over a couple of thousand dollars just to find out if I want to go through with this or not.

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While Tim and Trevor were doing the boat, the broker had also arranged for their service manager to doing a complete rigging inspection. Apparently this is usually high on the surveyors’ recommendation list (turns out it was number 7 of 9) and he wanted to get it out of the way. So that was good.

Eventually everyone was all finished up and Tim was handwriting out his conclusions. As soon as he was done he went and made copies for everyone and we three sat in the salon and went over everything. First up was the recommendations. Number one was the  exhaust elbow we already new about. Two was a coolant leak. But that turned out to be the previously mentioned heater issue. Three was the hull stuff we had already discussed. Four was a possible issue with the strut bolts. It was possible they were weeping so had to be monitored, but with the coolant leak in the bilge it was impossible to tell yet. If they were weeping they would have to be pulled and re-bedded. An issue the broker had noticed in the keel that might have indicated a previous grounding was noted as most likely a factory alteration and that no evidence of grounding was present. The rest of the recommendations were all things like expired flares and notes to better secure the house batteries etc. All in all a pretty clean report.

There were also tons of other little things that will give me something to do late in the year if this all goes through. Better ventilation for the inverter, some crazing on some of the hatch lenses, stuff like that. It seems there are always things to spend money on when you have a boat.

The Rigging Report

 

 

That was it for the day and I caught a cab back to the airport and was soon on my way home. Two days later I received the preliminary rigging report. Again, nothing major but a few things that really should be serviced or looked after.

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There was some issues with the upper swivel on the forestay, a crack near one of the chainplates, the steaming light bracket was broken, and the main sail was stretched and the webbing on the clew was worn. Add in a few worn bushing and sheaves, some chafed lines and an excessive amount of tape on some of the fittings allowing for water to collect and induce rust and corrosion. And the winches were all in need of servicing.

But it all adds up. So that meant there were things still to negotiate.

 

11 Apr

Surveys 2: At sea

The Sea Trial

I flew into Vancouver on the morning of the 9th. Dave of R Shack Island fame picked me up at the airport and delivered me to Granville Island. We introduced ourselves to the broker and he walked us down to the boat. She was huge. I always feel that way the first time I see a boat I might be sailing. They get smaller as soon as your heart rate calms down. And the Granville Island marina is no help with its tight slips and narrow fingers. We chatted for a bit and Dave soon headed off to his next appointment while the broker headed back to the office to “make some calls.” I suspect he just wanted to leave me alone with the boat for a few minutes.

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My first glimpse

I started poking around. The owner had left me lots of goodies from custom bedding to a hand held GPS. Dishes, cutlery, pots and placemats were all there as well as utensils and even a dishrack. From a galley point of view she was a turn-key boat.

Up on deck I discovered that the ‘full enclosure’ was unfortunately not so full. The top portion, instead of being clear lexan or acrylic was instead mesh bug screens. On the one had this was great, but on the other it wouldn’t do us much could during the cold months. So there was something we would have to remedy. Not a flaw in the boat though. Other than that there were lots of little perks like canvas winch covers, seat cushions, Alpine stereo speakers in the cockpit and a motor lift for the outboard.

A little bit later the broker showed up and he fired up the engine. Now I am usually a nervous wreck for the first couple of hours on a boat until I acclimate. The damn things look so huge all stuffed into the  marinas and if you’ve ever been to Granville Island’s docks you know they are worse than most. On top of that I wasn’t sure who was the captain of this thing, although I was pretty sure I didn’t want it to be me. So when I popped up out of the companionway to see the broker on the dock with the bow and stern dock lines in his hand walking the boat out of the slip, I was a both relieved and intimidated. He calmly finished swinging her stern out of the tight slip and hopped aboard.  Then we were pointed up the channel to False Creek and he turned the wheel over to me. I motored under the Burrard Bridge and out into English Bay while he made a few calls. Again I suspect he was just giving me a few moments to myself.

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It was a beautiful day and I had my doubts that there would be any sailing but the broker gestured to the flags and smiled. Once out into the bay the difference in experience and confidence between him and I became painfully apparent. Each and every time I had been out in English Bay I had been armed with charts and binoculars and GPS and been nervous as hell. He on the other hand finally got around to turning the instruments on and was busily chatting away about features and benefits  of Hunters in general and this boat in particular whilst barely “paying attention” to his surroundings. While I was still trying to figure out where the wind was coming from, he had already pulled out the sails, all the while explaining the benefits of the Selden furling system and soon had us cruising on autopilot on a nice beam reach. At least I think it was a beam reach, because I was still looking at the windex, listening to the broker’s analysis of in mast furling systems and looking out for all the huge cargo ships moored in the Bay. Anyway, before I knew it we were doing 5.5 knots in 11 or 12 knots of wind.

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On a side note, we were sailing right by a cargo ship that had apparently been leaking oil. It wasn’t until much later I found out how big a deal that was.

spreading-slick

 

So we sailed back and forth on a couple of different headings while we crawled over the fore deck examining the sails and rigging. There were some worn lines, primarily the traveler sheets and some stitching that needed to be looked at sometime this season. Nothing that was immediately a problem. We took off a few of the enclosure panels and opened up the cockpit space. The sightlines were perfect for me and I wouldn’t have to peak over the dodger or duck to see through it.

The B&R rig was pretty cool and the stays were not continuous from deck to mast meaning you could suffer a partial failure without losing the whole mast. The B&R rig seems to be a bit of a contentious point amongst the old salts, but for beginners like us I think it’s going to be perfect. What it does is provide three attachment points for the mast, each 120° apart, instead of the the traditional 4 points each 90° apart. This eliminates the back stay, removing clutter from the cockpit. The down side is that the spreaders  will prevent you from letting the main out all  he way when running down wind and, given the lack of a back stay, you can’t tune the rig in the same way. So we might lose a few races.

We also fired up the electronics and checked out the radar and I got a quick Radar 101. Everything on the binnacle worked except the the test switch for the engine alarm, although we had both heard the alarm earlier so we knew it worked. Oh and the speed gauge read 0 knots but even I knew that was likely the sender was gummed up (turns out it was barnacles in the paddle). The autopilot seemed to be fully functional, taking us through a tack, the remote mic worked splendidly and the chart plotter had all sorts of bells and whistles.

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The broker snapped a picture of me at the helm, although it was a bit staged because no had actually been steering — or paying much attention to — the boat up to this point. I don’t think we even turned the auto pilot off for the pic. Now I don’t mean to imply we were being careless. I certainly tried to maintain awareness of our surroundings but the broker obviously knew these waters and had no need to consult charts or depths and so didn’t need to do much but avoid hitting the boats in the bay — which was pretty easy since there was no one else out sailing and the big ones weren’t moving.

But we had a noon haulout scheduled so it was very quickly time to head back. We (I actually helped a bit this time) fired up the engine and pulled in the sails and then I motored her back toward the marina. As we approached the slip, the broker took back the wheel and confidently spun her around to back into the dock by the boat lift. The sea trial was over and the bottom inspection was up next.

 

11 Apr

Surveys 1: The mechanics of it all

In retrospect I am increasingly happy that this deal is going through a broker. It’s 10% well spent in this case. I suppose if one was much more knowledgeable and had the time to do intensive research that a broker would be redundant, but as a buyer it’s not costing me and in the short and long run it will definitely save me a lot of stress and even some money.

First off the broker noted obvious deficiencies and and immediately discussed them with the seller. There was a leak of coolant somewhere, the Webasto heating wasn’t working (probably related), a corroded exhaust elbow and the prop needed to be re-pitched. These were all discussed and dealt with without my even knowing about them.

Then the broker recommended both a surveyor and Yanmar deal to do the mechanical inspection. I checked out the surveyor online (Tim McGivney from Aegis Marine Surveyors) and not only did he get rave reviews from a number of sites and forums, but he was also on an insurance company’s website’s list of approved suppliers. Even though this is the choice of the seller’s broker, he did make the recommendation before I made an offer and the reviews seemed to support his recommendation, so I had no qualms.

The Mechanical Inspection

So earlier this week Ben from Stem to Stern Marine service sent a mechanic down and they went over the boat. Two days later they sent the report to me along with oil analysis for both the engine oil and the transmission oil. These later reports were extra, but I thought at the amount I was spending a few extra hundred wouldn’t hurt. I haven’t got the official bill yet but the estimate was 3–4 hours at $125/hr with the oil sample analysis at $58 each.

The report was pretty detailed. These guys seem to work hard to give you a worst case scenario so that no potential flaws remain. I suppose there is a lot of self interest as well since if I decide to fix everything they will make more money, but its nice to know someone is really  grinding the details. For example one of the flaws/recommendations was to replace all the filters with official Yanmar OEM parts instead of the knock-offs currently being used. What this indicates (besides a real anal attention to detail) is that the servicing of the boat has not been done by an authorized Yanmar mechanic and was likely done by the owner. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it is an indication that the servicing was not professionally done.

They also made recommendations like replacing the fuel filter with clear sediment bowls. I hadn’t realized there was any other kind so that was good. Apparently most charter boats have the clear bowls installed because it makes checking them easier but they are an ‘extra.’

But other than the exhaust elbow, a flaky engine alarm and a few leaks that need to be checked out, the overall condition looks good. Still the estimate to do all the work is $3900 and the Service Manager said to budget 50% more for potential overruns so we will see what the current owner thinks.

The List

  • Checked ­ Hours
  • Checked ­ Oil and Oil Filters
  • Checked ­ Primary Fuel Filters
  • Checked ­ Secondary Fuel Filters
  • Checked ­ Alternator Belt
  • Checked ­ Raw Water Pump Belt
  • Checked ­ Coolant Hoses
  • Checked ­ Raw Water Hoses
  • Checked ­ Hose Clamps
  • Checked ­ Engine Mounts Checked ­Paint
  • Checked ­ Oil Leaks
  • Checked ­ Fuel Leaks
  • Checked ­ Air Filter
  • Checked ­ Exhaust Elbow Checked ­Steering
  • Checked ­ Coolant
  • Checked ­ Corrosion Noted Checked ­Water Leaks
  • Checked ­ Electrical
  • Checked ­ Starter Motor
  • Checked ­ Alternator
  • Checked ­ Control Cables Checked ­Engine Zincs
  • Checked ­ Gauges
  • Checked ­ Alarms
  • Checked ­ Controls
  • Checked ­ Oil and Oil Filter Checked ­Coupler
  • Checked ­ Oil Leaks
  • Checked ­ Shaft Seal
  • Checked ­ Paint
  • Checked ­ Bilge Condition Checked Bilge Pump
  • Checked ­ Bilge Blower
  • Checked ­ Batteries
  • Checked ­ Through Hull and Valve
11 Apr

Lists, Lists and more Lists

Milestones

  • Sea trial
  • Mechanical Inspection
  • Survey
  • Closing
  • Delivery

To Do List

  • Insurance
  • Licensing
  • Find temporary moorage
  • C-Tow?
  • VHF Ships licence
  • US User Fee Decal

Inventory List

To Buy List

  • Rocna anchor (20kg): because I really want one
  • Charts
  • Wifi booster
  • Cruising guides
  • Hammock

Things to Check

  • Electrical Control panel
  • Engine anti-siphoning system
  • Flares (expiry date)
  • Fire extinguisher (expiry date)
  • Stereo aux in jack (for the ipod)
  • Gas tanks (outboard)
  • Hoses and water filters
  • Log books
  • Heating system/hot water

Fantasy Wish List

  • Spinnaker or Code 0
  • Generator
  • Solar
  • Propane Heater
  • Lavac Head
  • Spot or Inreach
  • 15 HP Outboard
  • 12v outlet to binnacle
  • Netting for life lines
08 Apr

How to Buy a Boat or…

A Fool and His Money are Infinitely Amusing

Part III

Meanwhile

Since I seemed to having a bit of luck on the private side, I stopped bothering my broker and continued to scan as many private listings as I could while I was still talking with the Nauticat’s owner.

And on a whim one day I looked at the Alberta listings of Kijiji and CraigsList since I knew a lot of Albertans owned boats in BC. And not unexpectedly a search of Calgary’s Kijiji boats-for-sale listing came up with an entry for a 2003 Hunter 386 listed for a low, low price. I mean a low price. Low. There was one picture, a brief description, it floated the possibility of a partnership and that was it. I was immediately sceptical. I am a firm believer in the too-good-to-be-true maxim. So I sent an email off to the lister with a request for more info:

Hi,

Do you have more specs for Rainbow Hunter?

Genoa, dinghy, engine hours, heater, full enclosure etc?

We have a year off and are looking to liveaboard for most of it, then maybe sell. What kind of deal were you thinking about with partial ownership?

Thanks

This is what I got back:

Hi Bruce, Rainbow Hunter is completely equipped for all-weather sailing including full enclosure.

2300hrs on Yanmar 40HP. Heating throughout boat. We sailed Rainbow all the way to the top of Glacier Bay, Alaska in 2011. She is equipped with a complete suite of navigation gear with Raymarine Seatalk interface. If you are interested call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. We can discuss to see if your needs can work in with our plans.

Regards

So this is where the phone aversion comes back in. There was no way I was going to phone him with so little incentive since what I had really been looking for a full spec sheet like one would see on any typical boat listing. A quick google showed that Rainbow Hunter had been in charter with Desolation Sound for the past few years and they had tried selling it at a much higher price with no luck. So between the lack of communication, the failed sale and the suspiciously low price, I decided it was a bit too sketchy for a novice buyer like me and put the boat out of my mind and continued my search.

Rainbow Revisited

It was starting to look like I would have to get an older boat. A boat built in the 2000s with sufficient length/volume to be comfortable during the long winter and the all important comfortable berth were all about $20,000 to $30,000 beyond the top end of my range—which eliminated the charter possibility. And with an older boat I would have to have enough cash reserves to do whatever upgrading would be necessary to make our adventure comfortable and pleasant. My list of upgrades for some of the boats I was looking at exceeded $10,000 and a fully equipped, I’ve got everything I want, boat looked like it was going to be $60,000 or more on top of the purchase price. Boat things are expensive.

So I sent a few more notes and enquiries on to my broker and got the now expected monosyllabic responses and none were too encouraging. The biggest issue I had was I wanted faith/knowledge that whatever boat I got would be mechanically sound enough for us to get a few months of holidays in before we needed fix anything. And that is a hard thing to judge from the internet.

Then one day when I did a search on Yachtworld looking for new boats listed in the last 3 days, I came across a listing for Rainbow Hunter at one of the Granville Island brokerages. At the much higher price. It hadn’t been there the day before. It had lots of pictures, a full spec sheet and hit almost everyone one of my must haves and wants. And as a 2003 it still had the possibility of going into charter. I felt the inkling of oh-oh.

So I checked Kijiji and the listing was gone. Desperately I sent another email off to the lister and he responded that he had just listed it with the broker. And then he wrote “Call me (xxx-xxx-xxxx) if you are really interested and I can see if I can cancel the listing.” So I called. I’m stubborn but not an idiot. OK, not that much of an idiot.

What a nice man. In his early 70s they were selling because they needed some ready cash and he was eager to see her go to a good home. The boat was in Comox and we could fly out on the weekend and see her if we wanted. Otherwise he had to deliver her to Vancouver for the broker. We talked for almost an hour and he promised to immediately call the broker and see if he could cancel the listing. The price we talked about was up a bit from his original Kijiji ask, but nowhere near as high as the broker had listed it for. I was officially excited. I sent a note off to Leslie at work and told her what I was getting us into and she seemed fine with it.

Missed it by That Much

A few hours later I got the expected call back and alas, sadly no, the broker wasn’t going to cancel the listing and had advised strongly that the owner stick with the new listed price. And who could blame him. But we had another nice long conversation and I was more and more convinced that this was the boat that everyone suggests you look for: one that was well maintained, well loved and kept current. Up until now they had seemed to be a bit of a mythical beast. Even the Nauticat had looked like it would need at minimum upgraded electronics and a few new doohickies and doodads. It was suggested I call his broker direct and go from there.

But I had a bit of a quandary. One of the questions that I had asked my broker, and received no answer to, was the nature of the contract or obligations between him and I. In real estate you sign an agreement for a term and that covers that and there was the time I’d gotten between two car salesman when buying a car—a scary experience I didn’t want to repeat. But since I wasn’t all that enamoured of my current non-email-savvy broker and didn’t really want to complicate things if I didn’t have to, I decided to send an email to the seller’s broker and ask him about obligations etc.

He got back to me with a reasonably detailed email and followed it up with a more detailed voicemail absolving me of any obligations to anyone. Good enough for me. We’d bought our first house using the seller’s broker and I had no problem with doing something  like that again. You either trust the industry or you don’t. I’d rather have faith than be paranoid.

Laughter is the Best Medicine

So I talked to the broker. On the phone. Hell, I was on a roll with the owner so why not? I retold the story of Kijiji and the ‘much lower price’ and was met with a professionally slick mixture of humorous disdain, in-joke camaraderie and sympathetic salesmanship. Surprisingly it didn’t rub me the wrong way at all. Maybe I am growing as a human being. Or maybe he was sincere enough to get away with it. After all it was my own bloody fault. Then he told me that he had “3 or 4 clients” looking for this type of boat and that they were coming in on the weekend to their “Customer Appreciation” weekend. I checked and there was indeed such a weekend listed on their website and I had no reason to doubt him when he said there was a shortage of these boats around. I knew very well there was a shortage since I hadn’t had any luck finding one. So I said give me a day to consult with Leslie and we’d get back to him tomorrow. He agreed.

Right around then I started doing the math between the original Kijiji price and the new broker-listed price. It was bad. Real bad. I had screwed up royally. Like 25% royally. Because I hate phones. Sigh. Still, now we had a broker to help with the survey and sea trials and to do all the paperwork; that ought to be worth something? And I could still make a lower offer right? A fool and his money… well, I always did like motley.

I talked it over with L and she said do what you need to. The listed price wasn’t unreasonable, within our budget and the boat looked like it would need almost nothing to get her ready. Despite the fact I wanted to call the owner and discuss it with him, I decided against putting him in that awkward a position and determined to call the broker the next morning. And so the next morning the owner called me. I love the way the world works sometimes. We talked for another hour and while I am pretty sure he didn’t intend to, he absolutely sold me on the boat: hook, line and anchor. Every question I asked came back with the answer I wanted. If all of what he said was true it was as close to a turn-key boat as I would be able to find. This really was the boat for us.

After I hung up I found a message from the broker on my cell and called him back. This phone thing was getting easier … as it usually does. We talked about the mechanics of making an offer and then I made one. Not laughably low, but low enough for my own sense of fairness. He filled out the paperwork and emailed the offer for my signature. I filled it out, wrote out a $5000 deposit cheque, scanned it and the signed document and sent them back. I had officially made a formal offer on the boat. We were committed, with the the only conditions being subject to sea trial, survey and mechanical inspection. That night we dropped the cheque in the mail and then we waited.

The next morning the broker called with the expected counter. It was close, but not too close. High, but not too high. We were officially quibbling now, so I said c’est la vie and accepted. And that was that. I had a boat. Subject to survey, sea trial and mechanical inspection of course. Which is scheduled for the 9th of April. I’ll fly out in the morning and be back before bed time.

Note that I seem to have acquired said boat sight unseen. Which is appropriate I guess because the previous owner bought her sight unseen as well and had her trucked all the way from Chesapeake Bay. Hell of lot bigger leap of faith than I made. But I will see her soon enough.

And that’s the long version on how I (we) came to be the proud owners of a 2003 Hunter 386.

Desolation Sound -  Otter Island anchorage - Rainbow Hunter 2

Postscript

I got off the phone earlier yesterday with the broker. (I might give him a name after the deal has closed.) I had been doing some spreadsheets and was starting to get appalled at the number of things we need to buy to equip the a boat, so had asked for a brief inventory.

Seems the owner has set out to spoil us. The galley is fully equipped with cutlery, dishes, pots and pans. There is a handheld vhf, boat accessories like boat hooks, tons of spare parts and belts, custom bedding for the aft cabin, bug screens, winch covers and much much more. At this point it looks like I will have to pick up a few more charts and replace any outdated flares and extinguishers and that will be the sum total of outfitting needed.

 

06 Apr

How to Buy a Boat or…

A Choice, A Choice, My Kingdom for Less Choice

Part II

Timelines

In fall of 2013, I left my job and spent the next year doing mostly contract and freelance work or, more often than not, not doing any work at all. At roughly the same time Leslie’s appointment as Chair of her department finally ended. And at the end of 2014 she applied for a Sabbatical. It was then I started dreaming. Of boats. And as those of you who have bought boats know, that means spending hours on sites like Yachtworld.com I hear it’s an addiction.

Late November 2014, I came across a posting for a half share of a sailboat in the BVIs on the Cruisers Forum I had started to habituate. A fellow in Winnipeg owned a half share in a Morgan 381 CC and his current partner was selling his share. We exchanged a few notes and it started to look like we could buy a half share for a very reasonable price and use the boat for most of the year of Leslie’s sabbatical. But we were the third in line and the guy who got there first bought the share. The whole story is here.

At the beginning of January, Tim Melville posted his intention to do a May circumnavigation of Vancouver Island and was taking on passengers. Leslie and I hemmed and hawed, and, for much the same reasons we jumped at the Broughtons trip, decided to book two spaces on his 42′ Baltic. That way I could work on my Coastal Skipper and maybe start in on my Yachtmaster.

Late January, 2015 went back to the Vancouver Boat Show. Fun, but still no boat in our future. Although Leslie determined she liked Hunters. And I determined I liked the Catalina 445.

Gemini Dreams

One thing that did happen at the boat show was we stopped and chatted with Ian and Shari of Nanaimo Yacht Charters, two of my favourite boating people. I had noticed in fall of 2014 that they now represented Gemini Catamarans as dealers. The Gemini cats have one of those love/hate relationships with people that some boat models have (Hunters seem to also suffer the same fate). I had no particular interest in a Cat but it would be a great platform for the sabbatical and provide lots of space when Leslie need to actually do some work. It occurred to me that maybe we could buy a boat for the year, then put her in charter after the sabbatical was done and still have a boat to sail whenever we wanted.

Ian made it worse by tempting me with offers of flying us to Miami to cruise on the new 2015 Gemini free of charge. We could buy the boat, cruise the caribbean for a while and then have it shipped back to the PNW by truck. All for the low-low price of a signed offer to purchase. This was the one and only time I seriously considered financing a boat. But no, it really didn’t make that much sense, so I told him to stop teasing the animals.

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But id did get me serious about what I wanted out of a boat and what would work for Leslie and I. So I stared making a list.

Lightbulbs

My intention for Leslie’s sabbatical was to take her as far away from work as possible. (She had/has her own intentions but I have so far successfully managed to not let them interfere with my dreaming.) I investigated buying a canal boat in France, a sailboat in the Mediterranean, renting a villa in Spain, renting a cabin in the woods, taking a round-the-world cruise with Cunard and even buying a whole boat of our own in the Caribbean. Everything came with pros and cons. The biggest con for many of my schemes was that if we spent the money on a cruise or a villa, then that was money we would never see again. The benefit of buying a boat (I kept telling myself) was that if we did, we could recoup some of the expense when we sold it again.

During one conversation with Leslie where I was trying to sell her on the Caribbean idea, she mentioned that she’d be more comfortable in BC and I rebutted that winter on a small boat in BC might not be as pleasant as all that. Then she mentioned Victoria. Victoria has some of the nicest winters on the coast (i.e. actually has some sunshine). Leslie and I love Victoria. Victoria has libraries and museums and universities and parks. And I recalled that there were lots of liveaboard marina’s in Victoria. What a great idea.

A bit of investigating showed that both the GVHA (Greater Victoria HArbour Association) and Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel and Marina offered 6–8 month winter packages for liveaboards during the winter season at really reasonable rates. A definite opportunity seemed to exist.

Opportunities Knocking

The next trigger was the appearance of Angelina II on Yachtworld. I recognized the name and looked her up. She was a 2004 Hunter 41 that had spent some time in Nanaimo Yacht Charters fleet. This set off that train of thought that this was a boat we could buy a boat for the year, then put her in charter. I sent a note off to Ian at NYC asking what he thought of her. He agreed she was a fine vessel but not to pay more than $130,000. While this was still out of our price range, it was possible with some creative financing and $27,000 less than asking. If we could imagine boats would go for $30,000 less than asking then our whole boat market had just opened up.

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I asked around for some advice about brokers and decided to engage a buyer’s broker to  enquire. Brokers work a bit like real estate agents in that the seller pays for them and if there are two brokers (buyer’s and seller’s) then the fee is split. The buyer pays nothing. I contacted a recommended broker and set some wheels in motion. But alas, there was an offer on Angelina II already and she was no longer available. But now I had a broker.

Telephones

To follow this next bit, you have to have an idea of my relationship with phones. It’s bad. I hate them mostly, avoid them as much as humanly possible and will ask anyone else to make  any necessary calls if at all possible. This is important for two reasons, the second of which will come closer to the end of this long and meandering tale. But for now, its important to realize that my broker was old school and I am addicted to the non-phone-like properties of email.

We never did talk. I would fire off emails full of detail and questions and he would reply with one word sentences and the very occasional paragraph. Now don’t get me wrong, all indications were that he was doing everything I wanted but conversing via email was just not his thing. I’ve run into people like that before and he had all the signs. I suppose I should point out, at this point, that we live in Edmonton, a few thousand miles from any boat we may or may not purchase. So we were relying on someone else’s eyes and ears to check out boats. He sent us a few prospects, but none really appealed.

I hadn’t given up my Yachtworld addiction and would fire off notes to my broker about boats I had seen and even went chasing after a 2007 Gemini catamaran that had been on the market for months. Listed at only $129,000 and new enough to go into charter after our year.  But alas, another too little, too late prospect as after months of showing up in my online searches it now had an offer on it.

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Pilothouse Dreams

At this point I should mention a few things on our boat wish list. A roomy main berth. I had too much experience trying to hop out of bed suddenly in the cramped aft berth of the 33′ Shearwater that I knew I wanted a berth I could easily hop in and out of. Ideally this would be a centerline queen (with access on either side) like the Angelina II had but those were mostly in 42′ foot and larger boats and those were starting to look like impossible buys for us. I wanted some work space for Leslie. She has her own set of work habits and I wanted to accommodate them as much as feasible. Two heads or at least a separate shower. Having to wipe and dry the shower after every use just to use the mirror would wear pretty quick. Counter space in the galley. Again the Shearwater had taught me the frustration inherent in having to move all your prep to use the sink or open the fridge. It would get old fast. Lastly I wanted a good size holding tank. We’d been on at least one boat where it seemed we had to empty the tank every day and that wasn’t much use if we were  planning on spending a lot of time in one place.

Other wants included a full enclosure for the winter, good electronics, bug screens,  a good heater, a bigger dinghy and decent outboard, at least 100′ of chain and an autopilot. But these were all things we could add later.

After I announced I was actively looking for a boat, Dave W mentioned the existence of a 36′ Nauticat a few slips down from him in Blaine. It was an 1985 and the asking price was 85,000 usd. Dave mentioned the owner was willing to dicker if it was a private sale since it would save him the broker’s fee. Now I had actually seen this boat before. Their tender was a Portland Pudgy and I had come across  pictures of it on the site they had been building in preparation of selling.

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The Nauticats are Finnish boats that are pilothouses. This means that they had two helms, one in the aft like a regular sloop and another inside a raised pilothouse. This model was a cutter rigged ketch. Cutter meant it had the possibility of two foresails and ketch meant it had a second mast (the mizzen mast) behind the main mast. The pilothouse divided the main aft stateroom from  the galley and v berth in the bow. It also featured a table, small dinette and lots and lots of light.

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While this was not the sailboat boat I wanted, it definitely interested me as a liveaboard.  I contacted the owner and we exchanged a few emails. It sounded like a well loved and well kept boat. But that was when the obstacles started to appear. The first obviously was $85,000 usd was now around $106,000 cdn. Then it looked like GST would be due if I imported it and finally, since the boat was not made in the US then a 9% duty would also be applied be bringing the grand total up to around $120,000. While $120,000 was within the realm of possibility, it was unlikely anyone would want her in charter since she was so old and a bit of a white elephant in the charter business. That meant we would likely have to sell her and then we would take a big hit when selling. But she seemed like a great fit for our needs.

So I made an offer. It was really low. The response was quick, definite and very polite. “Good luck in your boat search.” And another one bites the dust.

To be continued…

04 Apr

How to Buy a Boat or…

The Long, Sordid Tale of a Boy and a Boat

Part I

This tale rightfully begins in the spring of 2007, when on a whim I emailed Blue Pacific Yacht Charters and they said “Why yes, we will rent you a boat after a minimal amount of training.” I was flabbergasted and was immediately set on doing it. Zak, Leslie and I all requested our Competent Crew books from ISPA and Zak and I added the Day Skipper unit as well. We booked a boat (a Beneteau 393) for 8 days (4 with a skipper and 4 solo) and started studying. You can read about the adventure on my other blog.

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The net result however, was while we enjoyed the trip, we received no certifications and had a bittersweet taste left in our (my) mouths. The idea of sailing was shelved. The idea of boating was not.

Boats overseas

Our next few holidays were in Europe on canal boats in France’s extensive canal system. It was a wonderful lifestyle and we thoroughly enjoyed each and every trip. Burgundy 2008, Bordeaux 2009 and Alsace Lorraine 2012. The only drawbacks was the cost of travel and hotels before and after each trip.

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Somewhere during our last trip it occurred to me that the lifestyle we were enjoying (leisurely short hops from town to town in our floating hotel room) was not substantially different (minus the copious amounts of French wine) from cruising on BC’s coast. And the flights were much much cheaper. I vowed to look into it when we got back.

Power or Sail

So in 2013, for my 50th birthday, Leslie and I booked a week-long cruise and learn with Nanaimo Yacht Charters. I chose them because their rates were overall a bit lower, their services higher and they had a Power Cruise and Learn package that combined Competent Crew and Day Skipper. I also added the Coastal Navigation course to the mix. In the weeks leading up to the trip I (we) went through all three workbooks and took my PCOC online from the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (whom I highly recommend).

We spent a week aboard a Bayliner 3288 with instructor Tim Melville in the last week of April, learning the ins and outs of power boating and the Gulf Islands in spring. As I had thought, it had a lot in common with cruising the French canals but, obviously, it was a completely different experience with a whole new set of joys and worries. I enjoyed it thoroughly and it brought any idea of an easy choice between sailing vs powerboating into question.

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In July we went back, this time with C. I had again booked Tim to take us on a week-long cruise and learn, this time sailing aboard a Dufour 38. And when that was done we would switch boats onto a Bayliner 3888, for a nice leisurely week to ourselves exploring the Gulf Islands. It was a hectic first week with so many new systems to learn but we each walked away with a ton of new knowledge. And the after cruise was just a lot of fun, complete with great food, winery visits and shopping in great little towns.

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And when we got back to Nanaimo and I filled the 3888 up, the $550+ fuel bill finally convinced me I wanted to be a sailor.

Boat Show Fun

In January 2014, Leslie and I went to the Vancouver Boat Show. I had no intention of buying a boat but I definitely wanted crawl through some more and thought it would be a nice break. We had also been looking at property on Gabriola Island so it was a chance to go over there and tour some of the properties we had our eye on.

All in all the trip confirmed that we were not potential boat owners. We just didn’t have enough time to spend boating and, financially, we were better off chartering. But we saw a lot of great boats and talked to a bunch of brokers. All in all we learned a lot.

The biggest thing we  encountered though, was the information that Cooper Boating was holding a flotilla to the Broughtons. This archipelago off the north part of Vancouver Island was separated from our normal cruising grounds by rapids and narrow passages and was not likely to be on my list of places to explore for many, many years. So the opportunity to have our hands held while we got to explore some spectacular cruising grounds was irresistible. As soon as we got home we booked the trip.

Flotilla Fun

We chose to charter a smaller boat and the only one available was in Vancouver; the flotilla was starting from Powell River. Cooper offered me a free day on each end to move the boat up and back myself, but after soliciting advice on a few boating forums, I realized that not only would it be a stressful trip, but I was also doing Cooper a favour and saving them the cost of a delivery skipper. So I declined.

A little later L and I talked it over and decided that we would take the boat up, but we would leave a week earlier and give ourselves a chance to settle in and review everything we had learned the previous year. It was an awesomely good choice and we got some great sailing in without having to worry about schedules.

And so mid-June, we set off for three weeks of sailing fun on the Shearwater, a Bavaria 33. It was everything we had hoped for, full of beautiful scenery, some great sailing and dolphins. And we met some great people, most especially Dave and Margaret off of R Shack Island.

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Can’t Get Enough

I had wanted C to come on the flotilla, but she just couldn’t swing it. So when we got back, I immediately started planning another trip. R Shack had invited us to buddy boat with them later in the summer and so we worked through the logistics, booked a 40′ Beneteau from  Nanaimo Yacht Charters and were soon off for 2 more weeks of cruising.

This time we headed up to Desolation Sound and hit all the hotspots under the guidance of the more experienced R Shack crew.

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So after over 5 weeks on the water we had finally got comfortable with anchoring and sailing and remained only mildly terrified every time we had to bring the boat to the the dock. And I, for one, was totally addicted.

But it still didn’t make sense to buy a boat.

To be continued…