25 Apr

5 Years!

Its time for a 5 year update

We’ve owned Never for Ever for almost exactly 5 years now. And its been a pretty damn pleasant experience so far. Will our luck hold? Time for an update…

A Little Background

If you’ve haven’t gone through the whole blog, here is a little bit of how we came to own our trusty 2003 Hunter 386.

When we started this process 2014 we wanted a boat to own for one year while L had her sabbatical. The intent was to sail the PNW, overwinter in Victoria while living aboard and then sell her after we had to come back to real life in July 2016. Which is what we did. Except for the selling part. In the end we just couldn’t part with the lifestyle and we decided to keep her and put her in charter with Nanaimo Yacht Charters to provide guardianship and help defray ownership costs.

The year-long sabbatical meant we wanted a turnkey boat that we could board and sail away without any extra major investment, or worse, time delays. A lot of searching  ensued and as luck would have it we landed on what has been the perfect boat, at first for the living aboard, and then for putting her into charter.

The initial survey

What’s it cost?

Other than the initial purchase price, we’ve done well. There was a bunch of cash we spent right off the bat before we even set off, but the largest costs of ownership since then have been fixing leaks. And that high number mostly stems from paying people to do it as we are 1000+ kilometres away from her 80% of the time.

Initial expenses:

  • new Rocna anchor
  • new galvanic isolator
  • new graphic decals
  • new batteries
  • new hot water heater

Major things we spent money on since then:

  • 120′ new anchor chain
  • Webasto heater repairs
  • BMS (battery monitoring system)
  • new stove thermocouples
  • 2 head rebuild kits
  • chasing down leaks and repairs
  • 2 macerator pumps
  • new head hoses
  • new fender
  • replacing the motor mounts
  • a new hatch
  • new (used) e80 chartplotter
  • a new shower faucet
  • and a new windlass

Shiny new chain!

Ongoing ownership costs include:

  • zincs
  • cleaning materials
  • bottom paint
  • polish & cleaning
  • winterization
  • outboard maintenance
  • oil changes
  • fire extinguisher recertifications
  • propane tank recertifications

I’m not going to  dig up all the figures but none of these items (except for the %^&$# motor mounts and associated costs) were more than several of hundreds of dollars—and it has been divided over 5 years.

Oh and the windlass. The windlass was just replaced and I don’t have the final bills yet although the estimates had that pretty price—close to a couple of boat bucks (~$2000).  What sucks about that is it worked perfectly fine but since Simpson Lawrence has gone out of business, we couldn’t source any seals (we tried for almost 2 years) and it was leaking a ton of water into the forward compartment. So we bit the bullet and replaced it.

All in all, a pretty short list considering the tropes of boat ownership are BOAT: bust out another thousand (dollars) or Cruising: the experience of fixing your boat in exotic places. We definitely lucked out in our choice of vessels—especially considering our naiveté in boat buying matters.

Up on the hard while the motor mounts are repaired


We’ve spent a lot…a lot… less than I had anticipated over the last 5 years.

The charter option has worked out for us. Being a 2003, the boat already had its maiden dings and dents far in the past and no charterer has inflicted any damage that wouldn’t be accounted for under the heading of normal wear and tear. NYCSS has done an outstanding job in the guardianship department with annual (or more frequent) haul outs, polishing and even a bit of varnishing here and there and making sure everything worked in tip top shape.

With this arrangement we’ve done darn good — even made ~$100 last year — and, excepting the year I backed over the tender’s painter and broke the motor mounts, our annual cost of ownership has been around one to two thousand dollars. That includes moorage, repairs, maintenance, guardianship and insurance. And we’ve been able to sail anywhere from 27–67 days a year. It may not be for everyone and certainly you can’t have the same kind of pride-of-ownership, but having Never for Ever in charter was the right decision for us. I doubt we would have sailed even a quarter as much if we’d sold her and had to charter ourselves.

As much as we love her, Laughing Baby’s days are numbered.

So as it stands, after 5 years, Never for Ever  is pretty good condition still—excellent even. According to periodic checks of Yachtworld, she would likely sell for near what we paid for her. There is a bunch more wear on the sails and we are currently in the market for a new tender so there are still a few things to keep our eyes on. The enclosure canvas is still good but the side panels might need new clears soon, although as they are taken up and down so often they would just get scratched again. Other than that she is still a fairly turn-key vessel with no other major expenses in the foreseeable future—which is a good thing because with Covid-19 and decreased charter revenue, our ownership costs this year are likely to skyrocket, and, what is much worse in my eyes, with potential zero usage by us.

So It’s been a grand 5 years. And I look forward to a whole bunch more and maybe, hopefully, we can get back out and live aboard again for another year — or maybe even longer.

(Disclaimer: as previously noted somewhere in this blog, I am a notorious rounder of figures. The above was just meant to say that overall the cost of owning this particular boat has been pretty affordable. Your milage is definitely going to vary.)

04 Apr

If you can’t boat, dream…

As is almost everyone in the world right now, we are stuck and are having difficulty even imaging getting out on the boat in the foreseeable future. So to amuse myself I have been looking online for that future “forever” boat.

Who am I kidding; I am always looking online at boats. But what I have done is work on a project that fixes an annoyance of mine.

Some time in the recent past YachtWorld, which is the de facto standard for listing boats, decided to redo their website. And one of the outcomes of that is that you can no longer search for boats in multiple places at the same time. And seeing how I desire to buy a boat in the PNW (which used to be a selectable search category) and the PNW ostensibly includes British Columbia, Washington state and Oregon, I now had to perform three separate searches  with no way to “save” a previous search and be able to compare. A definite downgrade if you ask me.

I had recently started to learn how to scrape websites using python because I wanted to be able to post a “books read” page on my personal site. Web scraping is a method of visiting a site and stripping the data from it. It occurred to me that I could apply the same  procedure to YachtWorld and retrieve and aggregate all three searches to one output. So off I went.


My initial method was to  build a python script that output the data to a php web page. After a lot of trial and error it worked. But this meant every time I wanted to do a new search I would have to run the terminal command again and enter in the price range (which were the only variables I included). This produced a database file which the  php page could then display. This was pretty onerous, particularly because I kept forgetting the proper commands :-). I also held out some hope that eventually I could share this with other people. There had to be a better way.

So I investigated further and discovered Flask, which is—simplistically put—a way to turn a python script into a web app. After a lot of fiddling (which I will detail soon over at macblaze.ca) I came up with this:

The new version added the options for Canadian vs. U.S. currency and length and the ability to sort the results. It is all one compact, self-contained unit and works 100% from a web browser.  The search returns most of the details of the boats and links back to the official YachtWorld result so you can dive deeper into any particular boat. If you ask me it turned out pretty good.

A qualified success.


I am stuck now though. It currently runs on my testing server and when I went looking to deploy it, discovered that my official web host doesn’t provide python support. I would either have to switch providers or get an additional (paid) account at another web host. I did find pythonanywhere.com, which offered free, albeit limited, python/flask hosting and was excited for the full hour it took to set up and get it running. You can find it here (http://btk.pythonanywhere.com/) but unfortunately the free accounts won’t let you scrape websites that don’t have official api’s (application programming interface)—which YachtWorld does, but it isn’t free so I don’t have access to it. So while the app is running it won’t actually  deliver any results.

So now I am faced with the choice to either open up my testing server to the world (which I am not likely to do), change providers (and I just paid for the next couple of years) or sit on my little project and declare it for personal use only. I haven’t given up yet, but the prospects look dim*.


So here I sit,  a vast distance from the boat and any prospect of cruising and a weeks worth of work sitting on a computer with no way to share. And I am now getting tired of running the search over and over again. Sigh.

Anyway, if any of you experience the same frustration with YachtWorld, I sympathize and want you to know that there is a way around it with a bit of time and even less knowledge—which is something we should all have in abundance right now.


*(May 2020) I managed to start a vm (virtual machine) to run the program. And I’ve added Sailboatlistings.com into the search as an option. The link (for now—it will likely get taken down at some point) is here: search.neverforever.ca. At this point I am still adding features but i assume I will eventually get bored or, if I am extremely luck, actually go cruising…

If you’re interested, this  github repository has the whole flask app now.

18 Jul

Writing a Testimonial

Lawrence asked me if I would provide a testimonial for Specialty Yacht Sales. He’s kind of big on them, and I guess, in his business, creating trust is paramount. And I do have to admit, the existing testimonials were fun to read through, especially now that I have met a bunch of those people.

I am a bit at a loss of what to write, though. I want it to be honest and natural, but ultimately it’s pointless to write anything unless it makes good sell copy for Lawrence’s intended use. And while I have a very positive review overall, it is so unlike me not to be a bit critical. So maybe I will write two … or three…


Specialty Yacht Sales
Twitter: twitter.com/specialtyyachts
Facebook: facebook.com/SpecialtyYachts


Our experience buying a boat with Lawrence and Specialty Yacht Sales has been professional, friendly and ultimately satisfying. They managed a difficult long-distance transaction with relative beginners in a faultless manner and, despite having to represent the interests of the seller, negotiated an arrangement that was fair and beneficial to all the parties. Its conclusion left nothing but satisfaction in its wake.

Then, after the paperwork was signed, Lawrence and his team continued to help bring our dream to fruition, preparing our new Hunter 386 for a year afloat and ensuring we had a safe, comfortable and reliable yacht for us to explore the PNW. He saved us money, time and effort and delivered us a turn-key boat. It’s hard to ask for more than that.

The whole process seemed nothing but intimidating and impossible before we started but in the end, when we accepted the the official transfer of out new boat, it couldn’t have been easier. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the effort and knowledge of the folks at Specialty Yacht Sales.

Now to rephrase all of that with a little bit less “upsell” and a lot more Bruce.


Buying a boat long distance isn’t easy. Buying a boat for the first time is also not your average See Spot Run. But that’s what the cards dealt us and that’s what we had to contend with. Those of you who know me probably realize I don’t much go for salesman. I’ve spent a lot of time working with professional suppliers and almost always gravitate to the production managers or guys on the floor who are actually getting shit done. That’s their job: getting things done. A sales guy’s job is to sell things. It’s right there in the title. Oh, I know that a good salesman cares about customers and is an advocate for the clueless among us. I worked with some great salesman over the years. but the cynical side of me always reminds me that “satisfaction=repeat business.” Which, matched up along side “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” pretty much sums up all you need to know about my general (admittedly poor) attitude towards salesman.

So how does that apply to buying a boat from Specialty Yacht Sales? Well, not being there — and being the very definition of a newb — meant that I had to trust someone to advocate for me and make suggestions that suited my budget, personality and ultimate goals. That meant Lawrence had a tough job in a tough situation. And he was responsible to the seller before he was responsible to me. I will admit to a fair amount of frustration and more than a little irritation; the long distance thing killed me. There was no easy way to learn, to ask millions of small questions and to revisit issues until I was satisfied. But in the end he sailed through it all (pun intended) with flying colours.

Were there things I would have wanted done differently? Yup. But ultimately it all comes down to the relationship between Lawrence and me: ideally I wanted something I was never going to have short of being on the coast myself, and so if I was going to have to settle, it’s a good thing I had to settle for Lawrence. The experience was always going to be teeth-grittingly nerve-wracking. The best he was going to be able to do was make  it less root canal and more of a regular filling. In the end, it was a pretty tiny filling.

Could it have been done better? I don’t think so. Given the constraints, the only thing I can possibly image that would have improved the process was giving me contact with Sarah White (the service manager) a hell of a lot earlier. Now there’s someone interested in getting stuff done. My interaction with her near the end of the whole process was short, to the point and aimed at dealing with issues, not making me feel good about them. I am much more comfortable with a delivery that includes a definite answer than with someone making sure I am happy. Not to say that I feel Lawrence was being anything less honest; he just had to deal with the distance and “making a sale” thing. Some people prefer apples. Some people get along better with oranges.

So, would I buy another boat from Specialty Yacht Sales? Absolutely. Especially if it involved needing someone trustworthy to advocate on my behalf and guide me in the process of making reasonable yet complex decisions. And the long-distance thing? Handled better than I could reasonably expect (I just tend to be a bit unreasonable sometimes). And Lawrence? Well, I want to buy him dinner when we finally get out there. I owe him a lot of thanks

So, there you go. Two completely honest reviews with just a few tweaks. Huh. Isn’t language a hoot. But I think the third one is the charm as number one was just a bit stilted and number two just a bit self-absorbed.


Buying a boat long distance isn’t easy. Buying a boat for the first time is also a tad nerve-wracking. When we found our boat, which was being brokered by Specialty Yacht Sales, we didn’t know what to expect. But what we got was Lawrence Fronczek, someone we could  trust to advocate for us and make suggestions that suited our budget, personality and ultimate goals. Lawrence had a tough job in a tough situation, but in the end he sailed through it all (pun intended) with flying colours.

Ultimately it comes down to the relationship: ideally I wanted to be on the coast myself, but if I was going to have to settle, it’s a good thing I had to settle for Lawrence. In him I found someone I could and did trust. The experience just couldn’t have been better. Except that when I met Sarah White, the Service Manager, it actually did get better. 

After the paperwork was signed, the Specialty Yachts team continued to work with us to bring our dream to fruition, preparing our new Hunter 386 for a year afloat and ensuring we had a safe, comfortable and reliable yacht for us to explore the PNW. They saved us money, time and effort and delivered us a turn-key boat. It’s hard to ask for more than that.

The whole process seemed nothing but intimidating and impossible before we started but in the end, when we accepted the the official transfer of our new boat, it couldn’t have been easier. And that wouldn’t have been possible without the effort and knowledge of all the folks at Specialty Yacht Sales.



06 Jul

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

The Big Day

At the end of June, we flew from Edmonton to Vancouver to finally accept possession of our boat. It had been a long time coming and at this point nothing was going exactly the way I had planned. Certainly the process had none of the slow and languid pleasure I had anticipated. Your new car, your new house, these are things that you savour in some magical sense of time where the new reality slowly seeps in and surrounds you. No, the process of introducing our boat to our lives was, as everything has been to this point, fast and confusing, and it left us very little time to really experience the moment.

We arrived in YVR and grabbed the train to Olympic Village station. Lawrence the broker had agreed to pick us up there; after a brief wait he pulled into the parking lot and moments later we were at Granville Island. The boat had pulled out around 8 that morning to make the trek to Point Roberts, but we needed to pick up some paperwork before we headed out by land. At the office there was unfortunately some confusion with the paperwork; it seemed the delivery skipper had taken both his and our packages. So Leslie and I dumped out bags and wandered Granville, grabbed a slice of pizza and generally felt that unsettled feeling you feel when things are hovering slightly out of your control.  Hurry up and wait. Eventually we picked up a nice bottle of BC red to hopefully christen the boat and meandered back to the Specialty Yacht Sales offices.

So. The paperwork was (re)done and ready. Lawrence had filled out our clearance form (from the U.S.), presented us with a package that contained an invoice for moorage ($1968.75), an invoice for the final payment on the boat (already paid), a copy of the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, a Bill of Sale, a copy of our Pleasure Craft License and an invoice for $7838.75. The last one was a bit of a shock and we were expected to pay it immediately. My math skills haven’t always been the best but I hadn’t expected we would owe more than two or three thousand at most. What I had failed to include was both the moorage for Mosquito Creek and the moorage at Granville Island (another $1567.50), Skipper delivery charges, the cost of new flares and extinguishers and about another $1000 in miscellaneous repairs and cost overruns. To be honest, there wasn’t much in the bill that I could quibble with (although I did get a set of replacement zincs knocked off since they had already been replaced once in April). Really, people should never let me do math when money is involved. So $9000 more-or-less lighter, we left the office and waited for our cab. Lawrence had intended to deliver us to the border himself, but the Hunter Rendezvous was scant days away and everyone was swamped with finishing up details.


So Lawrence was paying for us to take a cab to Tsawwassen, where we would hop in a different cab to cross the border. It was a surprisingly quick ride out midday through Vancouver traffic. After some confusion we were dropped off at the Save-On Foods so we could call a Delta Surrey cab to cross the border in. These cabbies carry their passports/Nexus cards and cross the border regularly. A short drive about 2 km down the road and we were waiting at the border for 5 or 6 minutes for the cars ahead to pass through. At the border itself we handed over our passports to the driver to present to the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection). The fellow in the booth questioned me as to our intent and, when I told him we were there to pick up our boat as an offshore delivery, he decided that it would be best if we checked in inside to ensure all our paperwork for picking up the boat was in order before we were allowed entry. So we pulled over and the three of us trooped in. Meter running. Hurry up and wait.

Of course the fellows inside had no idea why the booth guy had decided to send us in. They looked over our paperwork anyway, complimented me (Lawrence) on how well the clearance form was filled out and asked us when we were leaving. My answer was “Well… maybe today, maybe tomorrow… It depends.” So our agent decided to be helpful and clear us out right then and there to save us (them, really) a trip to the marina when we actually departed. There is a $19 usd fee to clear out and we had brought along a bit of US cash just in case, so we paid up and were issued a clearance number based on leaving the next morning. It was actually a pretty smooth and easy process. I get the feeling they do it a lot.

Back in the cab we drove on for another 5 minutes or so and were dropped off at the marina. The first thing I spotted was the restaurant (pub) and a huge deck and decided it was about the right time to have a cold beer. But of course this was the one day a week the place was closed. So we set the bags in the shade and relaxed. It was a little after 2 pm by this point but the boat wasn’t due until 2:30 at the earliest. Hurry up and wait.

We’d been warned that we were not to board the boat until it had been cleared in and the exchange had been formalized, so we sat up on the wharf and enjoyed the day.


Then, somewhere a few minutes before 3 pm, I spied a Hunter rounding the breakwater into Point Roberts, and Leslie and I walked to the rail and watched our new boat slowly motor up to the customs dock. We weren’t sure how strict they were about these things, so I elected to watch from up on the wharf while the delivery skipper docked the boat solo . It was a goofy decision, and I immediately regretted not being down their to help him as the wind caught the nose a bit and he had a little wrassle to get her all secure. In any event, he got her tied up and we met him (Larry) at the top of the dock and introduced ourselves. He then headed over to the phone to call Customs and report in. Then we settled at one of the picnic tables to chat and wait for the customs agent.

Larry’s wife was coming to pick him up and he offered to give us a lift to the grocery store and back. That meant we would have plenty of time to get settled and still cast off without having to stay the night. And right about then I got a bit worried that my clearance was dated tomorrow but if we left today we would arrive in Canada today — before we had technically left. I had no idea how strict people were about these things but I have always had a healthy respect for the power of the border guys. While I was pondering my small dilemma, the fellow from the CBP showed up, and he and Larry headed off to do the clearing in. We just sat there in the sun; hurry up and wait.

It took about 20 minutes, but the Customs fellow was pretty chatty so I think that made it a slightly longer process than strictly necessary. Paperwork completed, we started down to the boat with our gear. As the CBP fellow was about to drive off, Larry handed me my clearance out and I realized that he had payed an additional $19 on top of the fee we had already paid and gotten a completely new clearance. So we caught up to the officer, explained the situation and got our money back. But now I luckily had another clearance form and number, this one with today’s date. Excellent.

Back down to the boat, we threw our gear onboard and signed the Statement of Facts on Out-of-Province Delivery, and that was that. After all the paperwork was sorted I had multiple copies of a lot of it, but just made sure all of it it was signed and filled out properly to avoid any confusion later.

Then we walked back up to meet Larry’s wife and drove off to the market. A couple of meals worth of food, some beer, water and snacks and we were dropped back at the soon-to-be ex-Rainbow Hunter. Then we said our goodbyes and boarded our boat officially for the first time.


I was aching to go; we had about 22nm to cover to get to Bedwell Harbour and back into Canada, and I would prefer to be able to check in tonight. So I chivied Leslie into dumping everything and we fired up the diesel. A few minutes later I cast us off and Leslie motored us out into the Georgia Strait and started heading south. Of course it was straight into the wind so there was no hope of sailing, but it was a sunny day and we were just pleased to be off finally.

About 2.5 hours later we rounded the bottom of Saturna Island, passing by Tumbo Island, and bashed through the rough water that swirls and churns there. I had forgotten about that. It was on the chart, which I had ignored in favour of the chart plotter as I hadn’t had a chart for the first leg from Point Roberts. Along the way we had been passed by several container ships and the HMCS Calgary, but they had all gone the long way around the buoys through the shipping channel. But the excitement of my shortcut was short lived and there was never any real danger. We adjusted course SW and motored down the Boundary Pass towards South Pender Island. And of course the wind shifted as well so we were still nose into it.


One of the more pleasant moments of the day was finding a card and gift from Dave and Margaret of R Shack Island. Dave had dropped it off when the boat was still in Granville Island and we found it almost immediately after we boarded. Dave had made us up a kellet as a boat warming gift and left a lovely note. R Shack was currently in the San Juan Islands, so I tweeted a thank you. Turns out they were (relatively) close by in Roche Harbour. If our schedule hadn’t been so constrained, I would have kept going and joined them. But alas I didn’t want to add any more confusion to our clearance dates.


Five and a bit hours after casting off, we pulled up in the failing light to the Customs dock beside Poets Cove on South Pender and performed out first official docking maneuver in our new boat. It went pretty good considering and the empty dock sure helped my confidence.

I knew that Customs office had closed by now so I supposed we would have to stay tied up to the dock until morning. But as Leslie was securing the boat, I wandered up to the office to see what was posted. There was a bank of phones and instructions to call if the office was closed. So I wandered back to the boat to pick up the paperwork and then tromped back up to call. Less than 10 minutes later we were cleared in by phone and all that paperwork and multiple clearances were totally ignored. All I had needed was our birth dates, the licence number of the boat and a promise we weren’t importing any produce. We were home, legal, and free to wander as we wanted in our boat. Sometimes the universe is pretty foolish.

At this point I called the office of Poets Cove and they told me to pick an empty berth and call them back with the number. Leslie and I settled on a nice empty slip and we tied up again right around 10:30 pm. A quick call back to the office and we were settled for the night. Time for a beer and finally a moment to relax and try and absorb it all.

And that is how we finally got our boat.

The empty customs dock and our boat in the background (third from the left).

View it: http://tinyurl.com/poyoa3a


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.


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.



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…

Besides, their office is in a cool blue building.


20 Apr

How much? So far…


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.


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


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
  • repair 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.


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.



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.

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.


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.




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.


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.

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.



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.


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.



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.


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


  • 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


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:


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?


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.


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


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


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.


But it 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


While this was not the sail-boat 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.


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.


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.


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.

IMG_4512 P1100209

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.


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.


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…