We drove down to New Bern to look at a 36-foot Mariner. She looked good with nice traditional lines. We boarded her and headed below to take in what she had to offer and to get out of the cold wind. The layout was nice and you could tell the owners keep her clean. I pulled up a deck plate and saw more water than I would like to see in a bilge. The broker was quick to point out that all boats have water in the bilge. Tereasa and I just looked at each other and continued to look around. When Tereasa first found the boat on line she emailed the broker and asked how many hours were on the motor and the response was, "the boat originally did not come with an hour meter so it's irrelevant." I called him a couple days later to set up a time to see the boat and asked what the motor hours were and got the same response. I bring this up because as we were looking around the boat Tereasa must have asked him five times how many hours were on the meter and all he would say is "I don't know I will check the file." Tereasa eventually asked where the meter was located so she could see the reading. He finally went down and found the meter, which only took him two minutes, and gave us the reading. This is not the first broker we have met that has treated us as if we were wasting their time. I don't have an answer to why this is but feel like telling them, if you don't like showing boats find another job. We finished looking over the topside and made our way back to the parking lot, I shook the man’s hand and thanked him for his time. Tereasa and I just sat in the car for several minutes trying to discuss our thoughts about the boat but the topic of how unhelpful the broker was seamed to stay in the forefront. He did not offer up any additional information and his response to every question was "I will have to check the file." We passed on this boat not due to what it had to offer but more on who was doing the offering.
We found ourselves back searching for another contestant and debating what to see next. The forever liveaboard boat or a smaller coastal cruiser to play around on and build more experience. This is a topic of much debate and this time we were both leaning towards the smaller boat for now. Before one of us could change our minds Tereasa found a 30 foot Catalina in Edenton. I got in touch with the broker and set and appointment for the following weekend. We drove up to Edenton on Friday the 11th, met the broker and looked over the boat. The hull looked good from the water up and the topside was in good condition with a few minor spots that needed some attention. Down below was fairly clean and somewhat organized. I lifted a deck plate and the bilge was clean and dry, the motor was clean as well. We looked her over inside and out a few more times and thanked the broker for his time. Who by the way was extremely nice and very helpful. As I drove off we both knew that this was the right boat for us at this time. It was time to grab some lunch and we found a place in the quaint little town of Edenton. Then we walk around taking in the sights before heading back home. I called the broker on Sunday the 13th and made the offer, he got back to us on Monday and we agreed on the price.
Tereasa researched surveyors in our general location and narrowed the list to three. A call was made to the guy first on the list. Only to find out his schedule would not work for our time frame. Up next, number two on the list. Rob’s schedule would work for us plus he had experience with Catalinas. I spent the next few days working out the details for the survey with Frank, the broker.
The day had arrived. Time for the survey. Everyone met at the boat in the morning. She was now at the marina hanging in the lift slings. The owners had moved her over the day before and the yard decided to lift her out that evening. Rob started looking the hull over as the yard guys worked on setting up the power washer. As the power washing started Rob went aboard to check the decks, I followed behind. The deck looked good. Only a few small areas noted. We then entered thecabin. Nothing much noted here either. Time to look over the engine. The belt was worn and need to be replaced before the sea trail could begin. There was a spare belt behind the port setee. Frank rounded up some tools and he and I replaced the belt. With Rob satisfied and the power washing finally complete, it was back to the hull inspection. The hull looked good. Shaft and prop was in good shape. Time to set her back in the water and put her to the test.
AL, the owner, maneuvered her out of the marina and into the channel. He then looked at me and told me to take the helm. Not being familiar with the channel, I relied on Al’s knowledge to get us out of the creek and into the Sound. Now before I go any further about this adventure let me list the crew. Captain and owner was AL, an older gentleman; First mate and owner was Ester, AL’s wife; Surveyor was Rob; Potential buyers of course Tereasa and I. Now back to the adventure, uh sea trail. I am still at the helm as we enter the Sound. Winds are now kicking at 18 to 20 knots. The shallow Sound has chop with heights around 4 feet and about 20 feet apart. I am holding her in the wind and taking the chop head on. Al and Ester are sitting on the starboard cockpit holding on. Tereasa is doing the same on the portside. Rob is running around on deck putting the sails out. I fall off the wind to starboard, the sails fill with wind and we shut down the engine. Now I’m hitting the chop at about a 45-degree angle and we have some good pitch and role action. I’m thinking this is some fun sailing but you would not have believed it by the looks on the faces of the three hunkered down in the cockpit. I am braced in at the helm and Rob is bouncing around on deck trying to check everything out. Suddenly the genoa is flopping in the wind. Rob shouts “starboard sheet came loose, tack to port.” Tereasa takes the port sheet as I start the tack to port. This became an exciting, edge of your seat, few minutes. Rob was able to reattach the starboard sheet, almost falling overboard in the process. With the sheet secured we continued on. A few minutes later Rob came back to the cockpit and told me he was finished and we could head back. Heading back with the winds on the stern was a more comfortable ride. Rob said “that was a little too much sail out for these conditions.” Al said “yes, I just assumed you guys knew what you were doing.” We all laughed.
A few days later, with the survey in hand, we finished negotiations and became the proud owners of a Catalina 30.
The perfect boat. Is there such a thing? I don't think such a thing exist. The biggest question. "What size boat is best for us?" We don't have an answer. When our search started the range was 38 to 45 foot. As we look at more and more boats and calculate in the initial cost of purchasing the boat and the cost of upkeep that range changed to 34 to 41 foot boats. The debate on size is over smaller easier to handle and maintain or bigger with room for more storage and the addition of life improving luxuries. Ultimately, this decision will likely be decided based on condition and price of the boat that meets the most criteria on our pros and cons list. So, for now the search for the elusive, perfect boat continues.
Cabo Rico 38, Mason 43, and Nordic 40 is how we spent our weekend. Yes, it was another fun boat hunting trip that took us north into Virginia. Friday after work we loaded the car and headed for Richmond to spend the weekend with my mom. It is nice to stay with her and get some quality family time when looking at boats in Virginia and Maryland. Friday night was a relaxing evening, sitting around talking with family.
Saturday morning started with a good ol' Cracker Barrel breakfast with mom and Brett. Tereasa and I then headed south to Gloucester to check out the Mason 43 on the hard. I walked around her looking the hull over realizing she was a big girl. She seemed to only need some fresh paint on the bottom. We then ascended the wobbly ladder to tour the topside and cabin. The deck was teak and needed some major rework or removed altogether, which would have been my choice. The walk through down below caused us to fall in love with the abundance of room she offered. She did need some TLC to get her livable again. It did not stop us from picturing a life sailing her to far away places. Back to reality and contemplated all the work required to get her back in shape. It was decided she was not the one. Of course one of the major factors in this was the delamination of the upper cabin bulkheads where the port lights rest. The cracking and delamination continued all the way around presenting a much bigger project than we were willing to tackle. I snapped a picture of my view from the helm imagining, once again, what it would have been like to sail this old girl. The search continues.
Heading north winding our way through the back-country roads of Virginia searching for the marina that held our next contestant. The broker had said that the Cabo Rico 38 needed major work and that the owner had not taken care of her so we were not expecting this one to make our short list. This visit was mainly to see and fill the difference between the Cabo Rico 38 and the 34 we had seen earlier in the year. Walking down the dock you could tell from the first glimpse that she was a sad and neglected girl. The topside was not in bad shape but the wood did need some love. Dropping down into the cabin and into the water sloshing around on the nice teak flooring. I could almost hear her begging and pleading for us to rescue her and give her back the life she was meant to have. Sailing around the world visiting exotic ports and white sandy beaches. As we stepped back on the dock I gave her one last look and with sadness said "sorry old girl, wish I could help." Knowing that this Cabo Rico 38 never had a chance of making our list. She did serve her purpose in helping us eliminate the Cabo Ricos from our list. It's not that they are unworthy boats, it's just not what we wanted in a boat.
Before leaving the marina we walked the docks to look at the other boats. There was every type imaginable both power and sail in all sorts of conditions. We came across one couple who were cleaning out their trawler as it had taken on water and sunk while tied to the dock. I gave the man a hand getting the heating and AC unit from the boat to the dock. The boat had sunk because they did not live close enough to check on her regularly and apparently the marina did not check either. Such a sad sight to see. On another dock there was a gentleman doing some minor cosmetic work on his trawler and it was obvious he took a great deal of pride in her as she shined from bow to stern. He was and old sailor who had made the transition from sail to power, so he could still enjoy being out on the water. Back in the car and heading to moms we spotted a seafood restaurant in a little country town. With stomachs growling it was agreed to give it a try. Raw oysters and peal and eat shrimp on the menu, yeah this will do just fine. Excellent decision, and the best seafood we have had in quite some time.
Sunday morning at mom's getting our things together for the trip back home with a little sadness that the broker with the Nordic 40 had not contacted us. We had been calling since Friday and had not gotten any response so I decided to send him an email requesting him to contact me when he had time to show the boat. He responded almost immediately and I called the number from the email and he answered right away. It turned out that we had entered the number wrong. He was willing to show us the boat that afternoon so we said our goodbyes to family and jumped in the car and headed to Portsmouth. She was clean and ready to sail which is something seldom seen in our price range. We walked the decks trying to soak it all in then headed below to find she only needed a good cleaning. The layout was decent and easy to see she would be a good boat. Walking away, we both knew that she just was not the one. So the search continues.
The goal is to buy a boat, move aboard and sail the world. To make all this happen we have to downsize and eliminate our debt. What's the best way to do this? Who knows? We sure don't! But here is how we proceeded. I changed jobs in December and we moved from Texas to North Carolina. Now this put us closer to the water, in fact right on the Pamlico River in the town of Little Washington not far from the Pamlico Sound and the Outer Banks. This location far outweighs the land locked town in central Texas and will allow us to spend more time on the water. Hopefully sailing. As we continue to work towards the cruising life.
Now when I say downsize, I mean we downsized! We left our 2100 sqft house In Texas behind and moved into a simple and cramped 430 sqft apartment in North Carolina. We also have a 10x20 storage unit that still contains most of our belongings. It has a mixture of things we can't get rid of just quite yet and things that we have already decided to sell. To say this move has been easy would be a stretch. We have our moments of frustration, like spending afternoons in the crowded laundromatt as our washer & dryer sit inside our storage unit. Then there is the cheap landlord who want fix the simplest of things, but that comes with cheap rent I guess. It's not all bad, most days are great and each day we find ourselves embracing the tiny living lifestyle and the downsizing gets a little easier.
The move to the water has been great. We are enjoying some of its benefits. We have been out on our new kayaks a couple of times when the weather warmed up enough to allow. We take regular walks on the boardwalk, often stopping for a couple of beers and some good seafood. We have made several trips to nearby port towns looking at prospective boats. We met Mark the owner of McCotters Marina, as we were looking at boats he had for sale. Mark has been a great help with information about boats and generously giving his time to point us in the direction of worthy boats to go check out. We continue the simple but yet complex task of looking for a boat. Spending endless hours searching the web, mostly yacht world, looking for that perfect boat.
About six weeks after our sailing lessons we planned a trip back to Kemah for our free mentor and solo sail. On Monday, the 7th we met up with our mentor, Captain Vernon, for some valuable docking skills training. Tereasa and I took our turns at the helm backing out of the dock, going to the end of the docks, turning around and pulling back into the dock. Over and over till Captain Vernon felt we had it down. Once this was complete we motored out to the bay and raised the sails on the Hunter 28.5. We were enjoying a relaxing sail in about 10 knots of wind as Captain Vernon showed us the boundaries of were to sail and what to avoid. It was Labor Day and the bay was full of boats. I was at the helm as Tereasa milled about the boat attending to crew duties as needed and taking pictures. Captain Vernon entertained us with sailing tales as he relaxed in the cockpit. I raced nearby boats and won, although they never knew they were in a race. It was a great day on the water but it did come to an end leaving us looking forward to the next day's sail.
The next day the school let us take out a boat by ourselves and we were excited to do so, and a little nervous. As we walked down the dock to our boat we were amazed at the condition we found her. We boarded the red headed stepchild of a sailboat. She was in rough shape, ripped up Bimini, banged up paint and railing, pretty much just trashed. As we were heading out of the marina I was giving here close to full throttle but she was just slowly chugging along and then all the sudden she jumped to life and took off as I scrambled to reduce throttle and slow her down. As we latter came to realize, she had a slight problem fully engaging in gear. We finally made it out to the bay and raised the sails. She may have looked rough but she sailed like a champ. We only raised the main as the wind was up over 12 knots and this kept us moving along all day around 5 knots. We were having a great time, listening to music through the one good speaker, taking pictures and videos, and enjoying the quietness of sailing. We were pretty much the only boat out on the water that day as the big weekend holiday was over. The winds picked up in the afternoon giving us some chop but all that did was make it a little more fun. It was a nice relaxing day of sailing.
When it came time to head in things got a little interesting, I had positioned us just outside the channel and turned into the wind to drop the sails and fire up the motor. As we were dropping the sails and idling into the wind I noticed we were getting closer and closer to a channel marker. The wind and current was pushing us right towards the marker. I hurried to give her more throttle but we kept getting closer and closer to the marker. Oh yeah, that's right this damn thing has a problem fully engage in gear. As I was struggling to get her in gear and keep her pointed into the wind, Tereasa fault the sails and wind as she tried to get them stowed. Now we both start to panic and our voices rise as we fight to keep from smashing into the channel marker. Which, at this point, is now not much more than a boat length away. Our first-time solo sailing, rented boat in poor condition, drifting towards certain damage that neither of us wanted to explain. Bang! She jumps in gear just before contact and I speed off into the wind several hundred yards till we can get the sails stowed. We then start the slow and long motor back to the marina hoping our nerves will settle. A few short minutes into the trip back, we realize we are out of danger and we start to laugh about the incident and enjoy the ride back. That was until we got back to the dock. We forgot to put the fenders out and I may have misjudged our speed a little as we scraped the side of the boat on the dock. Now we are frantically trying to get her tied up, barking commands back and forth to each other until she is secure in her dock. The laughing had definitely stopped, at least until we were back in the car and heading to the hotel. It was then very clear, why we were given "the red headed stepchild" of a sailboat for our first solo sail.
It was Valentine’s Day 2015. Tereasa and I were enjoying a nice dinner out at one of our favorite steakhouses when the conversation came around to the topic of traveling, as it so often does with us. I’m not sure how it began this time but I am quite sure Tereasa was throwing out vacation destinations of proposed trips we should take, meanwhile I’m running the numbers in my head with each suggestion (flight, hotel, dinning out, etc.) when I blurted out, “Why don’t we buy a sailboat and live on it as we travel the world?” This was not received as warmly as I had pictured in my head judging from the look on her face, I might as well had suggested moving to Mars. I continued trying to explain to her the rest of the night, this dream of mine that had become lost in the depths of my mind but suddenly resurfaced, The benefits of traveling the world and seeing exotic places all from the comfort of our floating home. No airports, no luggage, and no hotels. We fell asleep that night with her still not convinced, and thinking I was crazy. Over the next couple of days Tereasa spent every free minute she had researching anything related to living on a boat and realized there is a whole community of cruising sailors all over the world doing exactly what we were talking about. Then she stumbled upon vlogs and SVDelos was one of the first to catch her eye and peak her interest. That is when she was hooked and she turned my crazy idea into her obsession. Our nights were now consumed with watching sailing vlogs and Yacht World searches for that perfect boat.
We found out that Houston was having its boat show and planed a trip down so Tereasa could get a better feel for the room below decks based on the length and style of a boat, which would help her in the Yacht World searches. Although this was an in the water boat show there were not a lot of boats to tour. A broker with Little Yacht Sales told us that they were having an open house at their marina and we could tour all the boats they had at our leisure. It was nearby so we headed over and checked out most of the boats that they had available. This turned out to be more informative due to the wide verity, age, and price range of the boats. We left there with Tereasa feeling more informed on the size and type of boat that she would like to live on. It was a good trip and left us more excited about our crazy adventure.
While we continued to look at boats on Yacht World we still needed sailing lessons. Tereasa started searching for places to take lessons and found a couple of places north of us on Lake Travis, just a short 30-minute drive. We drove up one Saturday to take a look at the place and check out the lake. Much to our surprise the lake was in a severe drought and the area around the sailing school looked more like a big mud puddle. We agreed that the lake was not our idea of a place we wanted to learn to sail and headed back south. Tereasa continued the search and found a sailing school in Kemah, where the boat show was held. We agreed that this suited us much better. It was more like what we envisioned our sailing adventure to be, a place with lots of boats and a strong boating community.
We had our wedding date set and being the romantics we are we planned our sailing lessons as part of our honeymoon. The boat selected for our lessons was a Catalina 22 and on our first day out the wind kicked up and she heeled over. This caught me a little of guard. While I was dealing with my uneasiness I noticed Tereasa hunkered down on the cockpit floor with a oh shit look on her face and her eyes telling me to get her off the boat. I was able to regain my composure rather quickly and realized Tereasa was going to just be along for the ride. The instructor had us push the boat hard while I was on the tiller so I could feel how the boat would turn into the wind as it became over powered. We eventually eased the sails and let the boat ride a little more comfortable which allowed Tereasa to rise off the cockpit floor and start getting into the sailing a little. That evening after the lessons we cleaned up and found a bar to celebrate and to ease Tereasa’s nerves. She was starting to think that she was not going to be able to do this. We talked for a while and I convinced her that day two would be a better day and all she need to do was grab the tiller and feel how the boat handled. Luckily on day two we had light winds. Tereasa manned the tiller all day and came away with a renewed feeling and love for sailing.