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Sunday, December 14, 2014

PART 15, or - Lizards On Ice sing: "I Got The Low-Down, Breakdown, Boatyard Blues"

Part 15:

"These are the times that try men's souls"  OK, so I know this wasn't first penned by a boat owner but it could have been.  Up until now I have been writing this sporadic blog somewhat chronologically, or at least the way I remembered it.  This time I am grouping all the items under the single subject irrespective of chronology ( I put all those big words in for my editor) and memory. 

I Got The Low-Down, Breakdown, Boatyard Blues; and on the flip-side Money!  To quote my musical muse, Jimmy Buffett: "Now don't get me wrong, this is not a sad song. Just events that I have happened to witness."  S/V Caribbean Dream is a 10 year old boat and things do break even on new boats.  Saltwater is a harsh environment and the stresses placed on mechanical and manual systems are tremendous, but really….UNCLE!  When it comes to maintenance and repairs there are several types.  First, scheduled, i.e. the oil on the two auxiliary engines gets changed every 150 hours and the generator every 200 hours.  That you see coming and can plan for it.  Then there is annual or semi-annual maintenance.  Bottom paint, changing impellers, belts, fuel filters, and washing and waxing, although washing is more of, or should be a weekly occurrence, for example.    Then there are unexpected repairs/expenses some of which can represent an emergency, some merely an inconvenience.  These are the ones that you don't always see coming and as such hit your pocket book hard; very hard.  Finally there are upgrades or refits that don't necessarily need to be done but it would make life easier.

We will leave scheduled maintenance for now and start with annual maintenance, and that takes us to the boatyard.  We hired a captain to help us move CD to the Nanny Cay lift since my last experience with backing into a slip was so disastrous.  While there, the plan was to deal with some annual, some unexpected, and some desired upgrades. First and foremost was bottom paint or antifouling paint applied below the waterline to retard marine growth such as algae and barnacles. There is great debate on the subject of what is the best paint and its eco friendliness or lack thereof.  One thing is for certain, it is expensive paint and you want to or have it done right.  We decided to take the advice of the boatyard manager and use a product banned in the upper 48 and add some tin booster to it for good measure.  Since we did not know what we were doing we decided to have it "professionally" applied.  The process is messy, and involved sanding off or roughing up the old paint (I am still finding black paint dust almost 4 months later.)  Of course there was this add-on and that add-on and why not add washing the salt residue off the underside and scraping the props while I am at it.  I will say it did look nice when finished, but here 4 months later not only is it (the paint) chipping off there are sections where it has worn away completely; so much for 18 months of service as promised, but it was "professionally" applied.  Several days before the haul out…  I should stop here and talk about the haul out.  This is a process where they but two large straps under your boat and then a big lift does just that, lifts your boat out of the water.  This lift is on four very large wheels and the driver then takes your home/boat out of the water and it is pressure washed to get the growth (slime, barnacles, etc) off the bottom before it is moved over to the yard where it is placed up on blocks.  Kind of like the car you were perpetually working on as a teenager or the Junker across the street that will never run again.  Whichever analogy works, it looks like the Big Bad Wind might just huff and puff it down.  It is also a good 15 feet off the ground so climbing up into it is a pucker inducing exercise; well at least for this old fat guy. 

At the point it is in the yard the afore mentioned "professionals" began to do their thing on the bottom.  Oh yes, several days before the haul out I noticed water in the port bilge, and it was salty tasting.  Remember your mom telling you not to put that in your mouth, well the fastest way to tell what kind of liquid it is and where it might be coming from is to taste it.  This is especially special when there is fuel in the water; more to come on that one.  As I said, this tastes salty and with a boat in the ocean the salty tasting stuff is supposed to be on the outside of the boat or on the rim of your margarita.  So I contracted one of the maintenance companies to check all of the thru hull fittings.    These are holes in you watertight boat below the waterline; you know, where the wet stuff is.  Well, they went through each one and determined I needed to replace two of the shutoff valves called seacock's that allow you to shut off the flow of water if the hose connected to it fails, thus eliminating the eventual filling of your home/boat with its surrounding environment.  OK worthy investment, and guess what, to replace the seacocks you also need to replace the actual thru hull fitting that goes through the hull of the boat.  I watched and learned and two grand later I had 2 new seacock's and thru hulls ( there are 14 on our boat total) but they were "professionally" done so of course they leaked because the "professionals" did not tighten the interior hose clamps and once in the water they leaked and had to be tightened.  I did get to observe the process and see the hull construction of CD when they ripped the old thru hulls out.  I have never been a fan of balsa core boats (guess I crashed too many of those cheep balsa airplanes as a kid), one of which CD is, but I must say the thickness of the hull and the outer layer of fiberglass was impressive.  For those not sure what I am talking about, in the old days when boats were made of wood there were the wooden ribs of the hull and then planks fitted tightly together and when the boat went into the water the planks swelled and the hull below the waterline was watertight(ish).  Above the waterline they were often painted with pitch to seal the planks.  In modern fiberglass boats there are many ways to construct the hull, one popular way being an inside layer of fiberglass then a core material like end-grain balsa or foam and then an outer layer of fiberglass all squeezed together (vacuum bagging) or sometimes hand laid up.  For those of you who are boat people, please don’t have a tizzy over this over simple explanation, rife with over simplifications, it's not a technical blog after all.  Well all-in-all, CD's hull looked to the uninformed new boat owner very solid and has given me no reason to question it since.  Even after I bumped the starboard keel over a reef that was mislabeled on the chart.  Think skinned knee.    

So to recap; bottom job underway, new seacock's and thru hulls in process.  For those keeping score that's boatyard up $8K, me down that same amount.   The one big thing I wanted to have happen while there,  were needed engine access ports created.  If you go back an entry or two I talk about the engine access on the Leopard 45/47 which is fine if you are very short, very limber, and very skinny.  Which of those apply to me?…..yup-0.  So before we even thought of considering a Leopard I researched the possibility of cutting away part of the  area under the aft berths to gain access from above instead of just through the furthest aft outside hatches that are located on the steps up from the water to the main deck; these are called the sugar scoops. The designed access is for you to go into the sugar scoop and crawl through another removable hatch into an enclosed and hot engine room.  Now I will say that access to engine rooms and space allotted them are usually not high on a designer of a charter boats' mind.  The point is comfort for the charterers who will not be working on the boats, that’s for the mechanics in the yard to do and they are paid to be miserable.  So I needed to make sure that opening the area over the engine and under the aft mattress would be structurally safe.  I talked to several people on several web sites and most importantly on the Leopard Owners Group. I found in the archives a brief email from the original designer of the boat: the word was that it was ok to do and would not damage the structure of the vessel if you did the following, and went on to list some parameters that I made note of. I emailed the person who surveyed the boat and he gave me the name of a person in the boatyard who would do an excellent job, so I contacted him.  He came and looked at the project and made some suggestions in how it could be done and even though the boat was up on blocks right outside of his shop that was pretty much the last time I saw him until November when we had to go into a marina to deal with a fuel tank problem.  Several days later I got an email from his wife wanting to know if we still needed the work done.  Let's see, August to November, you might be good enough to wait for a few weeks for but almost 4 months for, no.  I think I'll answer her email in March.  Luckily the person the previous owners had watching the boat knows a lot of the trades people in the BVI and was able to hook us up with a carpenter to do our hatches a few weeks after the boat was back in the water.  It was supposed to happen during the three weeks we were back in the States so of course it took five, you know, Island Time Mon.  They do however provide easy access to the engine rooms and are sturdily made so you can only open half of them if you are only checking oil, coolant, etc.  But, back to the boatyard saga, the last big thing on the haul out list was to fix the water maker.  For a number of reasons  I won't go into here, the watermaker, a magical device that using diesel, multiple filters,  and high-pressure turns sea/saltwater into drinkable fresh water.  You need the diesel to run the generator to power the watermaker and it makes water at a rate of about 50 gallons an hour.  The generator burns about 1/2 gallon an hour at about $5.00 a gallon so by island rates it is pretty cheap water, and very tasty too.  The watermaker was finally looked at just as we were put back in the water and about to head back to our marina slip and the problem was determined and parts were ordered and a week or so later we could make water…  just not in the marina where we were tied up since that local bay water was/is near toxic.

Thus ends our first haul out experience.  Oh yes, I should mention how the pricing works down here.  There is the boatyard itself.  Their rates are pretty straight forward; it's x-amount for a haul out, this amount for a bottom wash, and so on.  If you have the yard buy the supplies it is more than if you buy them yourself so you set up an account at the chandlery (boat stuff store) and get a slight discount and it's off to the races.  Then there are the trades persons in the yard.  For example, my docking boo-boo needed to be fixed and I found a similar one on the other side, that I didn't do, so I go to the painter whose prices are not so fixed and he provides me a quote "range"; well you know how that works out so just plan for the top of the range.  Next there is contracting the yard workers to do the work the yard would pay them for but charge you more for, adding their percentage.  This usually is facilitated by a third party, in this case the guy watching our boat who became our "go-to" guy for skilled labor.  He would introduce you to yard person "A" and they would have a quick conversation in the local dialect I have not nor will ever master.  Then your "go-to" guy leaves and tells you that you and person "A" will have to talk about a price; ok there's really no talking, you're given the price and agree or not to have the work done. Then once you agree person "A" has person "B" or "C" or more do the work.  On the positive side, you directly help the local economy and get work done maybe a little cheaper.  On the downside, you best be on them like a hawk because if they don't do the work to your liking you have little to no recourse; what are you going to do go complain to the yard?  Boatyards also have unwritten rules, like you use the boatyard approved labor not outside contractors.  Like any unwritten rule there are ways around that, that's what your "go-to" guy (ours was an outside contractor) is there for.

You might ask, "Lizards, do you stay on the boat during all this work?"  Hell NO says the wife!  It is hot, windless, and dirty so you get a hotel, usually located at or near the yard and run the air-conditioning at full and take long hot showers. Now at some yards you can stay on the boat, and if you have shore power so at least you have your refrigeration and fans, and especially if you are doing the work yourself you can and often do stay on the boat, but the boatyard at Nanny Cay was also a place boats go to ride out the hurricane season so abundant cooling breeze in there is not desirable.  Neither were restrooms, shower facilities, power, or water so hotel it was.  All good things must come to an end, so the saying goes. There are many reasons for this, one is your holiday is up and it's time to go back to work or maybe it's because the money is gone.  Well in our case the work was mostly done and more money would be gone if we didn't get the boat back in the water so the painful process of watching them strap up our boat and take her off the chocks and move her begun.  There is a lot of angst in this and you ask yourself certain questions like, did all the thru hulls and associated hoses really get reattached?  Yup that's a big one.  Well she went in and our "go-to guy" helped us start the systems up.  First the generator so the watermaker guy could determine what was wrong.  Now the generator is just another diesel engine and is cooled by sea water being pumped in past its version of a radiator and then expelled, so no water coming out of the boat means no water coming in which means you generator will overheat and if left long enough your wallet will be considerably lighter.  So you guessed it, started the genny and no water came out, the temp gage did shoot up so we quickly turned it off.  After some quick assessment we primed all the engine pumps and water came in and went out properly and it was off to the fuel dock, only problem is we lost our watermaker guy.   He eventually came over to the fuel dock and did a preliminary assessment and went away to meet us later at our slip in our, for now, home marina.  So off we went back to Village Cay, new bottom paint, two new thru hull fittings and seacocks but still no engine access and no watermaker.  When we got back to Village Cay a fellow Leopard owner came down and commiserated regarding the cost but explained it thusly:  'buying a boat is just the entrance ticket to the carnival after that you have to pay for each ride'.

As I said, not all of the work we needed done had been done but over the course of the next two months the engine accesses were finally completed  and new and more expensive rides at carnival were to be experienced.  One involved our starboard fuel tank developing a leak when it was full of 78 gallons of diesel and to make things worse (really they can always get worse) we were in St. John, a National Park, in the U.S.V.I so had we had dumped any of our fuel the fine would have been exorbitant.  We made it back to the B.V.I., not 15nm from where we were but where there is no EPA and found a marina near where the guy who has become our "go-to" engine/mechanical/electrical guy, is located.  Several days later we had a new bottom welded on the fuel tank and the ride on the tilt-o-wheel was over… until next time. 

Well we are now sitting in a perfectly lovely anchorage off Water Island U.S.V.I.  in a bay the locals call Honeymoon Bay.  If you like 'Lizards on Ice'  on Facebook or follow me on Facebook you have seen some of the spectacular sunsets witnessed from this bay.   We had planned to be in St. Croix by now or even St. Maarten but when anchored in 45' of water off Norman Island in the B.V.I., where I needed to put out at least 200' of the 300' of chain I have attached to the anchor, somewhere past foot 120 was a lot of rust, I mean 'turn the water rust red and rusty flakes of metal were flying off' rust, so we needed a new chain.  Now you can't or shouldn't  run out to Home Depot for this kind of chain and it is expensive, no tilt-o-whirl kind of expensive or like a rollercoaster but we had a guy recommended by the former owner and another sailing friend we have met here and I gave him a call.  Now this guy and his warehouse could fill a whole season of 'Hoarders' and he has turned out to be a most fascinating person, but the size of chain I needed 300' of he had just cut his last 300' piece the day before I called him; no problem, more should be here in 10 days.  Well you guessed it that was 20 days ago but no worry, maybe tomorrow.  In the mean time we picked up a new family car a.k.a. a dingy smaller than the old one that Jo can easily drive and have enjoyed some lovely sunsets and met some more fascinating people.  At the time I am writing this it is 11 days before Christmas and we have some decorations up and are getting into the spirit and getting into the spirits, come on it is the Caribbean and are excited by what 2015 will hold in store.  More tickets for rides at the carnival, but I might also beat the barker at the sideshow games and win a big stuffed parrot!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my land based and seagoing friends, and to leave with a thought from Jimmy Buffett:  Ho-Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum, Santa's runoff to the Caribbean!

How to get 17.7 tons out of the water.  A real "pucker" moment

Blocked up  and ready for action

Prep for paint, prop still to be cleaned

I just kept telling myself, professionals did it

The often mentioned thru hulls

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Part 14: Be Careful What You Ask For

Before we start, you might notice a change in the title to include Just A Couple Of Lizards On Ice
Lizards on Ice was to be the name of the Dean 440 we first thought of buying but wisely walked away from.  When we bought Caribbean Dream the name fix and besides, to remove from everywhere in the boat as superstition dictates would have been a pain in the ass so we stayed with Caribbean Dream.  However, we are still like Lizards on Ice totally out of our element trying desperately to gain our footing as we adjust to our new life on the water.  If you are on Facebook please go and like the Lizards On Ice page where I post frequent and unedited comments.  OK, lets get going:

When we left this adventure we had bought a boat, so all that really needs to be said is we sailed off into endless bliss where life is simply swinging on the hook, sipping tropical drinks, and enjoying cool breezes as we sail carefree from anchorage to anchorage.  At this point some of you are saying "ok, I buy it, I want it";  anyone who has owned and day sailed a boat are saying " maybe but…,"  and those who live on a boat are calling " Bull-s*^#!"  Living on a boat, especially as complicated a boat as this one, is hard.  I think the ideal boat owner is no more than 5' tall (except their arm can stretch to the deepest bilge,) weighs just enough to keep from getting blown off the deck, has an in-depth knowledge of anything mechanical, plumbing and electrical,  is a wiz with all technology, and is double or triple jointed.  Oh, I missed one, has an endless, I mean endless supply of cash.  If you know me, you know I am none of those things, but with enough cash you can sometimes hire someone who at least knows what they are doing or is double-jointed.  Now before we proceed, lest you think I am complaining (maybe I vex a little) I will quote a saying about fishing that applies equally to boats, and that is: a bad day of fishing beats a good day at work anytime!

There was a movie back in the 80's called 'The Education of Rita'; I never saw it but somehow remember the title; well this is 'the education of Fred & Jo.'  Moving on to the Caribbean Dream and attempting to not make it a Caribbean Nightmare is an ongoing process.  First there was surviving the paperwork maze that was involved and continues.  Then there was actually closing the sale and getting the keys. Next comes figuring out how to turn an ex-charter boat into a home and of course what is all this stuff and what does it do and its corollary; why isn't all this stuff doing what it should be doing?  Sorry, I forgot one; is there supposed to be water in there?   So one by one we are tackling these things, learning the answer to questions and learning what questions to ask.  OK so paper work.  As a former Chairman of a University Department I am overly familiar with the concept of paperwork and it is nonetheless frustrating in the tropics, or maybe wetter is all.  We hired a person to handle the paperwork involved with the close of the boat and the documentation of the vessel.  To set the stage, the paperwork guru is in Nebraska, the current owners were riding out a hurricane in Hawaii, our broker's office is in Philadelphia, we were sitting in a hotel in Road Town BVI mere steps from the boat that was sitting peacefully in her slip in the marina.  To complicate matters further, the boat was registered as an LLC in a foreign country owned by U.S. citizens.  Now none of this is unique to anyone involved with the process except us who were now significantly poorer in our bank account and as ok as it was, were tired of the hotel.  Daily we checked, and daily we got "maybe tomorrow" as an answer; this is a phrase we will become intimately familiar with.  So once we knew the funds had transferred we moved our stuff onto the boat (well outside in the cockpit) and waited for the keys.  Needless to say, we got the keys and opened the boat and that’s when it hit me, I am, no sorry, WE are responsible for this, all of this!  If it breaks, we are the ones who fix it or pay to have it fixed and while I felt comfortable fixing a house on land, in a house surrounded by water my comfort level was somewhat less, a lot less.  This is an important fact to consider if you are thinking about following the thorny path we have taken.  All the skills you may have developed working on your house or building scenery mean very little on a boat.  While that is a bit of an overstatement, at least you know how easy it is fix on land but on the water you have to factor in that if you do it wrong your home may sink.   One of the former owners, who both have been a great source of help and information,  told me I would be overwhelmed at first; she was underselling it!

Caribbean Dream was and is a well maintained boat but we found little things that needed attention as well as regular scheduled maintenance items that needed to be done or a part that is not in stock, maybe tomorrow mon!  Throw away all rhyme or reason on how to budget as everything is a negotiation and everything is in done in cash.  In the States credit might be king but down here it will cost you and extra 6%; 5% from the vendor and 1% from your credit card company for making a 'foreign transaction' (even though the US dollar is the local currency).  This results in a lot of trips to the ATM.  I started keeping a ledger of boat related expenses and it is sobering.  When we started looking at boats all the experts and those who thought they were experts said to set back 25% of the total sale price for upgrades and repairs, at some point I will get out the abacus and see how close we are to that.  Now a lot of the expenses we have incurred might very well have been just from pure lack of knowledge and in trusting "experts" and I am sure we will become more discerning in the future.   I will say, the majority of people who have worked on our boat have been open and willing to teach me what it is they are doing, it's just the pace at which things happen that is maddening.   I do think some of them charge more though if I watch or ask questions.   In the theatre there is a fast and ultimately  hard deadline, i.e. opening night.  On a boat there is no opening night unless you are a charter boat and you have  paying charter guests arriving  the next day.  Because of this there is a definite pecking order with the big charter boat fleets at the top, the crewed charters next, and the cruisers (that's us) are at the bottom of the list.  One of the things we knew we needed done was a bottom paint job.  This meant a trip to the boatyard and time out of the water for both CD and us.  We hadn't even gotten the boat out of the slip and we were looking at taking her out of the water.  We thought that we would motor her out of the slip, go on a pleasant little cruise for a couple of days.  Run the water maker, test out the systems, swing on a mooring, you know, have some fun.  While not quite the voyage of the s/s Minnow, it weren’t no Love Boat.  First, in our rush to get out we went too soon after a big storm had passed through and the Sir Francis Drake Channel was more like a washing machine than a river, with waves going every direction.  We quickly learned what wasn't secure.  It had been 4 years since we had chartered and rusty didn't even begin to describe our skills or lack thereof.  Picking up a mooring pendent began to take on the appearance of one of Dante's levels of hell but in the end, we managed to get moored and we were the only boat in the bay.  Privacy, quite, and a breeze!  The next day we wanted to actually sail so up to the foredeck I go only to find that there was a lot I missed in preparing the boat and getting the sails ready… but eventually it happened, the mainsail went up, the jib unfurled and the engines went off.  We sailed most of the day except for when we needed to motor around the West End.  We wanted to test the hook (anchor) at Sandy Cay but found the National Park Service had installed mooring balls so after a short but failed attempt to pick one up we motored over to a bay on Jost Van Dyke.  It was Sunday, off-off season and one of our favorite places, Sidney's Peace and Love (we need both by then) was closed but we made something for dinner and silently ate, read, looked at the stars, and went to sleep.  One of the goals we had on this trip was to use the water maker.  The instructions made little sense and the former owners had sketched out the process but it was confusing.  We tried the first night and nothing.  It was late and I was fed up so we waited until the next afternoon when we could call and talk to one of the owners who now live in Hawaii which is 6 hours behind us here in the BVI's.  He was helpful but in the end, no luck, except I managed to add a lot of water to the engine room and there was water and oil coming out of the high pressure pump head; not a good thing.  He gave me the number of the person who installed it and we thought it would be as simple as taking your car in for service, HA!  Turns out the water maker guru was on holiday (back in England for 3 wks recovering from heat stroke and exhaustion)  and they simply took the phones off the hook - so in the immortal words of Eric Cartman: screw you guys I'm going home. 

'Home' in this case being the marina from whence this little adventure began.  There was a lot of tension on/ in our floating home as both of us were unsure of my docking abilities, especially with the wind blowing 15 knots out of the SSE.  Panic gave way to sheer terror as I pushed the wheel one way and then the other and put one engine in reverse and the other in forward only to have the boat spin the other way all while the wind is having its way with me.  Plenty of instructions were coming from the dock from people ready to grab lines, much of it conflicting, and I wondered if I just went below would it all go away, I started clicking my heels together but the nightmare didn't end until the Captain of another boat asked if I wanted him to help back CD into her slip (yes, you have to spin 90* in place, then go in straight backwards); hell yes, no ego here, well at least not right now.  With a few quick and decisive maneuvers Dave swung her into the berth, he was like a boat whisperer.  We got the lines secured and everyone went back to their tasks, the show was over but the ribbing never ends.  In the process, I had left a dent with a small crack on the hull and some paint from the dock on CD's starboard hull; did I mention I was going to the boatyard soon, one more project. Lots of advice followed both from those who knew what they were talking about as well as the barstool sailors watching from happy hour at the marina.  Later Dave came over and explained where I went wrong (there was no 'where I went right') and gave me some helpful pointers.  To her credit Jo figured it was best to go do some shopping, have a swim, get a root canal, anything was better than being on the boat.  As for me, well, I just sat down and contemplated the question: what now?  At that point if someone had come up an offered near what we had paid for the boat it would be sold but I knew I had to breathe in, breathe out, and move on because we had a date at the boat yard coming up where I got to back her into an even narrower slip with concrete walls on either side.

Next time:  Do we stay or do we go and I got the lowdown no good boatyard blues.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Part 13; And the Winner Is?

The Envelope Please.........

Well at the end of the last part of this, hmm the adjective escapes me so let's use thrilling, adventure we had just looked at the first three of the list of boats we had here in the Virgin Islands to look at.  We had made it back to Red Hook and were floating in the pool debating the virtues of food, beer, and water, not in that particular order as I recall.  Our debate resulted in the desire for all three so over to the bar/grill we went.  Now I should say, we seldom go anywhere without cell phone or iPad, especially if there is the possibility of free wifi so both of these we had. Remember, we were taking a "chill day" no boats, well except that’s about all we talked about, well except for the aforementioned, beer, food, and water (that’s the proper order.)  Our discussions centered on what fit best, what boat was the best cared for, and what might be best for us.  I am sure I mentioned that this process is not at all like anything on land.  There are no test drives as with a car or motorhome, hell, you probably even get to test drive a horse.  If we had wanted to test drive any of these boats we would have had to charter it for the day or week, which costs money.  It makes a certain amount of sense; imagine asking for a "test sail" on several boats as a way of getting a few afternoons on the water for free.  It is not cheap or a simple thing to take a large sailboat out so you best know what you are looking at and for.  As I mentioned in earlier episodes, we had chartered several different cats on vacation, none of which we were now looking at, and felt we knew what would work for us.  It really came down to two boats; MARTHA R the Lagoon 420, very roomy with lots of headroom and in fair shape but slow and already contracted for charters when we would own her and CARIBBEAN DREAM, a Leopard 47 just ok on headroom, berth arrangements, and systems access, but very well cared for and very livable.  Both were big boats!  Even though the Lagoon was technically 5 feet shorter than the Leopard, because of her design she was very high off the water and had a lot of volume.  There was also the Leopard 43 Owners Version in Granada that was still a possibility as a third option but after seeing a 4-cabin version of the same boat in the BVIs it was slipping fast off the list.  Price-wise the boat in Granada and CARIBBEAN DREAM were close and MARTHA R was listed for about 30k less than the others were.  If you are buying something like a car that can be a big price difference but for a boat like we were looking at, not that great (he says only half-seriously), it's only money right?  We looked at the spread sheet we make for every boat we were considering, we talked about compromises and what we thought we could live with and I think when it came right down to it, there was a fair bit of emotion involved as well, (beer, right?) so we made a call to our broker, Alexis and made an offer on...  Ok if you follow me on Face Book you know the answer so please don't shout it out for the few who don't know it.  We made an offer on CARIBBEAN DREAM, the Leopard 47. 

Now, how to get this done. Alexis sent us some paper work that we had to get the condo office to print for us to sign and then emailed it back to us and we emailed it back to Alexis.  While all of this was happening Alexis had called their broker, letting them know there was an offer coming.  The couple who owned the boat were moving to Hawaii in just a few days and there was an urgency on both our part and perhaps theirs to get this done before then so a process that moves painfully slow moved remarkably fast.  Within 24 hours of making the official offer, they had countered and we had countered their counter, and they had accepted pending sea trials and survey.  Remember the boat in Grenada, remember me talking about how difficult it was to get there because of  carnival and med students returning, well the offer was made negotiated and accepted on Thursday 31 July, and that Saturday the Festival that is the Celebration of Emancipation of the People, a 3 day legal holiday in this country so everything is closed - got into full gear on Saturday 2 August and Monday 4 August, the town was shut down for the first and largest of the parades, you know like Mardi Gras just without the drunk frat boys and bare chested party girls.  To recap, Thursday deal accepted, Saturday thru the end of the next week nothing happens in Road Town or most of the BVI; but what about Friday 1 August?   Usually it takes about a week to arrange a survey but beginning Thursday, with some suggestions we were able to arrange a survey with someone who will be your advocate and point out all that might be wrong with the boat.  I went through several back in VA on JABULO finding the right one, and as it turned out the highest recommended surveyor in the island had left for France and South Africa where he also lives and works just that Thursday, however, his partner, who just happened to be the former quality control and production manager for Robertson & Caine who builds the Leopard brand catamarans was available that Friday and in less than 24 hours he had our credit card and we had a survey scheduled for 0830 Friday, 1 August in Road Town, Tortola, BVI; one small issue, we were not in Road Town, Tortola, BVI, we were in Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I, so back down the hill to the ferry.  Knowing how long surveys can take, we were pretty sure there would be no way to get back to Red Hook that night so we went looking for a hotel room, during the start of the 60th anniversary of the Emancipation Festival.  Alexis was in St. Maartin (yes, it's French, spelled with 2-As) and although just 100 nautical miles away they were nautical miles and that meant it wasn't as simple as driving from Lubbock to Amarillo. So, we had some challenges.  Alexis made a flight reservation and looked for a hotel, both Alexis and I started searching for a hotel with two available rooms, one for us, one for Alexis. I scored with the hotel at the marina where CARIBBEAN DREAM was docked, problem, just one room and one king bed, so we arranged for a rollaway and later a room with two double beds became available so we grabbed it and if it came down to it, we could share; not ideal but it would work.  It occurs to me, I am missing one small detail; Bertha was coming to town, no not your Aunt who gives you ridiculous Christmas gifts, no, as in Tropical Storm Bertha; no problem Mon, what's a little wind and rain?

Friday comes and there is a lot to do and to say we were on edge would be an understatement.  We made it to the 7AM ferry, bought a roundtrip ticket to return Saturday and were busily filling out the paper work needed to leave one country and be allowed entry into another.   It is all very serious and the good folks at immigration in the BVI take it very seriously so it must be correct.  There are two ports of entry via passenger ferry on Tortola.  One a short walk from where the boat was and one on the other end of the island and the ferry went to the second but not to worry, Alexis had gotten in and rented a car so he could pick us up and save us that cab ride.  So off we went, Red Hook to the West End to Road Town to the owner's broker's office to sign more paperwork to CARIBBEAN DREAM, the surveyor had already started; sometimes island time is accelerated.  As I said earlier, our surveyor had been the production manager for all the Leopards including this model and in fact wrote the owner's manual for this boat and his inspection stamp was still legible on the fuel tanks.  He knew the boat in St. Pete we had wanted and told us all the reasons we should be glad we didn't get that one and gave us valuable insight as to the construction of this boat.  He also clued us into the hull number, that is number x of y built of that model.  CARIBBEAN DREAM is hull #42 so all you Douglas Adams fans out there should be geeking out right now. The haul out went well, systems that were checked, checked out ok with a few minor maintenance issues, the wind was up in advance of Bertha coming to town so the sea trial although short went well, and even Alexis was amazed with the condition of the boat.  By the end of the day, we had some more information and were waiting on even more (the official survey) so we could finalize our decision. Tropical Storm Bertha was starting to gain strength so Alexis tried to get a flight to St. Maartin that night, which he did until it was cancelled and then he didn’t, and Jo and I went and had some of the best pasta we have had in a long time and then walked back to the hotel exhausted.  I woke up early the next morning as I often do and went down to the restaurant and bar, which is an open-air arrangement, as are many things down here.  Sometime during the night Bertha blew into town, the wind was howling, and the rain was coming down in sheets causing visibility to be nonexistent.  I sat at the bar with a cup of coffee overlooking the dock and CARIBBEAN DREAM watching her strain against her lines but hold tight.  The marina where she was docked is considered hurricane safe so most insurance companies will accept it as a hurricane hole so except for the worst storms it should be safe.  I later learned that these islands are often spared the worst storms because they are really the 'Blessed' Virgin Islands not 'British' Virgin Islands.  All that aside, I was sitting there, riding out my first tropical storm watching my future home get blown around.  Then it occurred to me, how would we get back to St. Thomas?  I went into the office and of course, there were no ferries running.  Later that day all the entry ports in the U.S.V.I were closed so another night in Tortola, except no room at the inn; so we wait; wait on the storm, wait on the ferry, and wait for a hotel room to maybe open up, wait!  A lyric from a Jimmy Buffett song kept going around in my head: no plane on Sunday maybe be one come Monday… Most of the day we spent watching the rain and the wind and the boat, then at some point it became clear that we had no place to stay that night but luckily the bar/restaurant manager made a few calls and got us booked into the Tropical Suites Hotel, trust me, not nearly as fancy as it sounds, although it was entertaining that the two night guys really wanted their picture taken with Santa Claus so I was happy to oblige.   The next morning Bertha had decided to visit Puerto Rico and the other islands and eventually died out in the North Atlantic.  In Tortola, life was getting back to normal so we grabbed a cab for the West End and the ferry to take us back to St. Thomas.  After any storm, wind, rain or snow, that closes down stuff the next couple of days are insane transportation-wise and the ferry docks were packed with people anxious to make it off island to catch a flight to wherever they spend the other 51 weeks of their year.  Add to that the "instant access" to goods and services we seem to expect in our lives and some people don't understand that it don’t always work like that.  On the up side, pissed-off travelers railing in the face of reality does make for entertaining viewing from those of us who have accepted reality.  On the down side, you cringe when they are from your home country.  To the people in immigration, responsible for processing us out of their homeland, being an ugly anyone does nothing to speed up the process.  Our ferry back to Red Hook took extra time too as we made an extra stop in Jost Van Dyke to pick up some stranded passengers and then changed ferries in St. John, but eventually everyone got to where they were going; well at least we did. 

The next step in the boat buying process involves acceptance, rejection, or conditional acceptance of the vessel/yacht (AOY).  You usually have a week after the survey is in your hand and if anything major was found could go back and negotiate with the seller for an allowance or for them to fix what is deficient.   We were not expecting much to be wrong and indeed there wasn't.  Some corrosion on this valve, some rusted hose clamps, and other stuff along that nature.  The other thing about the AOY is if financing is involved, then that, along with your insurance must be in place before the AOY is done.  OK, some phone and internet time and we are good to go, except; remember Bertha?  Well she was not done with us just yet.  The U.S.V.I and St. Thomas in particular seem to set the 'low' standard for infrastructure and for several days following Bertha there were rolling blackouts throughout the islands because only one of their three power generators was working and of course, those blackouts always seemed to hit right during peak business hours.   Jo was in charge of the bank and I the insurance.  We had already been approved for the boat in Grenada for both insurance and the additional funds we would need to make this a reality so no problem Mon, right!  Insurance, after a few corrections and changes as well as a lot of paperwork to sign without any way to receive/sign/send it was working out.  Since the time limit for our approval on the funding for the boat in Grenada had run out, we had to reapply, which we did the night we got back from the survey. That shouldn't have been much of an issue; we were approved before so now it's no big deal; right?  Well in one of the brief periods that we had power, we received an email informing us we had been denied, WTF.  OK so let us call them, except the rolling blackout that had left our portion of the island had now hit the one and only AT&T tower on the island so we waited until we got a signal and hoped we would have a window of opportunity between blackouts.  When we were finally able to get through, we were told we had been approved, what!  After some back and forth it turns out the official notification for the funds running out on the Grenada boat just happened to reach us on the heels of the application for the new boat.  Great, we somewhat mistakenly thought, all the ducks were in a row, except!  Seems our lender did not play the marine finance game the way our broker's home office thought it should be played.  The bank would only cut a cashier's cheque and we could pay extra to have it sent overnight delivery to the brokerage that held the escrow account, but the brokerage would only receive a wire transfer and did not want to deal with a cheque.    After a god deal of back and forth the brokerage agreed to take a cheque, but hold up the funds for 10 days while it cleared thus slowing the process down and so we went ahead and  transferred the bulk of the purchase price into the escrow account, waiting on the rest to clear banking channels.  Now its rum drinks on the afterdeck and smooth sailing, well except for the paper work, for which there was another fee and another person somewhere in Nebraska.  I am not going into the details but it was a longer than necessary process I thought but we are that close to the finish line let's play along.  A couple of things that might have slowed it all down were the fact the boat was owned by an LLC charter business in the BVIs and we were changing the flag an documentation to US flag and USCG documentation.  Add to that the sellers, who had to sign, notarize, mail back paperwork were now living in Hawaii and a hurricane was about to hit the island they now lived on.  So we did what we had become accustomed to, we waited.  Not very patiently, but what was our choice after all?

In the mean time, while all this was going on, the rental on our condo in Red Hook expired.  We could have extended it but instead decided to move over to Road Town, back into the hotel where we stayed for the survey, actually back into the same room.  This meant all the extra baggage needed to be ferried over to Tortola, transported to Road Town, and hauled up four flights of stairs in the hotel.  Even though we could see our new home sitting there, we could not step foot on her until all the paperwork was done and we closed.  So on 8 August (which happened to be my 59th birthday) we checked out of the USA and checked into the BVIs.  The women who had processed us the last time into Tortola remembered us and gave us 30 days on our visas with instructions of how to get them extended.  The people at the hotel remembered us and a round of "welcome back home again" were exchanged and we were just a few hundred feet from our new home, waiting… again. In reality the wait wasn't quite a week and on the 15 day of August, just about 3-1/2 months after selling our land based home, we moved aboard our floating home, and we are therefore known as Fred & Jo of the s/v CARIBBEAN DREAM, and we had no idea of what we had gotten ourselves into or in for; but that's for later installments.


Looking in to the helm

Our Front Porch

View from the port bow aft

Our back deck

One of two aft cabins

One of two forward cabins

One of four head/shower combos

In the sallon ice box and freezer

Our galley 

Sallon table and seating

The family car hanging in its garage

The haul out; a real pucker moment

One of two diesel engine rooms; no space for tall fat men

Factory layout
Tropical Storm Bertha from the Village Cay Bar

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Part 12: You Got To Kiss A Few Frogs

Well, I  seem to recall that at the end of the last blog entry we were in Deltaville, VA, had picked a boat, picked a name, had a sailing program sketched out, and were waiting on a survey of the vessel.  Those of you who follow me on face book know what happened next but for the rest of you it can be best summed up with the old saying: Man Plans, God Laughs. Not to be sacrilegious but in this case God laughed His/Her ass off.  The survey was a learning experience to say the least.  We started at 0830 at the boat and by the time we had finished at 1830 we were exhausted, overwhelmed, and facing some serious questions (not to mention near two grand poorer).  We learned about hull blisters, no not one or two but enough to entirely cover the two hulls.  We learned about wet cores and how, left to their own, bad things tend to get worse.  We learned that when an owner knows that his boat is about to be surveyed (he had two weeks' notice) and he fails to commission the water system or fill the water tanks prior to the survey there is probably a reason, such as, one of the tanks leaks and the water pumps don't work.  For my more technically advanced readers who have vessels with an auxiliary engine we confirmed our belief that the raw water intake should have an in-line strainer, and we should not depend on the impeller to do the job.      Other pearls of wisdom learned for our two grand, when you turn on the LPG gas to test the stove and oven and you smell gas, you don’t get to test the stove and oven.  Just because the inventory says something is there or it works, doesn't mean it is either there or it works. Well I could go on but for the sake of your enjoyment and my blood pressure I'll let the above lay the ground work.  I also remember talking about love and lust in the last blog entry, and the idea of being "in like", well at least I meant to.  Yes I know I could go back and read what I wrote but I am feeling bad enough about my decisions so why punish myself any more by reading my dribble.  Whatever the case may be, what I wrote, dreamed I wrote, or wish I wrote, like is not enough, love and lust are critical elements. At the end of the day we were facing a boat who needed a lot more work than we had ever dreamed possible. It was not just the money, in fact, the owner lowered the agreed price another $25,000 giving us the boat for considerably less than we had thought possible, why then am I not writing from the deck of that boat?   Well if I were, it would still be in a boat yard in Deltaville VA waiting for blisters in the fiberglass or gelcoat at the worst, barrier coat and bottom paint at the best to dry, and that is if the leaky water leak discovered could be repaired without removing a head and the port cabin floor.  We had planned on putting $50,000 into the boat above the purchase price but we could easily be looking at $100,000 or more not to mention 3-6 months out of the water in hot and buggy Deltaville; this was not how we envisioned the dream to begin.  We had some decisions to make, first, JABULO, yes or no and second if not that boat, what boat?  We needed to take into consideration our budget and what was available to us at the time.  We needed to judge our tolerance for pain and disappointment and did we want this enough to continue or to just say that we gave it a shot and it wasn’t meant to be, we were meant to be dirt-dwellers (no offence to my land based friends.) 

Well we quickly decided that 'this boat' was not 'THE BOAT', but we were not ready to give up on THE Dream and after a quick look at the postings we knew that if we continued to look in our budget range we could be facing more disappointment so we decided to augment our budget with a little help from our or a bank.  Now this should have been no issue, I mean, we had just paid off a house, have financed several cars, and paid off our credit cards each month but two congress men named Dodd and Frank wrote some legislation that for some reason the do-nothing congress did something and it was made law.  Now I really don't know what all it says, and I am sure it was mostly necessary since there is a law about jailing crooked bankers but the one little part, I am sure an amendment put in there by some senator from some landlocked fly-over state like Nebraska or Kansas (that’s for my friend Mary Houswirth Norman) that forbid U.S. banks from financing liveaboard sailors; you have to live on land, or at least rent something land-based; it apparently does not apply to motor homes otherwise known as landyachts!   So we rented a place on land, we have a lease and we have even stayed there since we signed said lease, so we applied for a little bit to help and although it took about every kind of sworn statement and document we could produce and some we couldn't we got approved…… except there was one more document the bank decided it needed and that was a power bill with our name on it for our new domicile.  We are  sharing the house and the primary resident has all the bills in his/her name so this would mean we needed to cancel service in his/her name set it up in ours, pay the bills - (a 30 day process at best!), and then make the bank happy, maybe.  OK so the bank didn't really need to lend us money for their bottom line, they are getting rich enough without our meager interest; (insert you favorite expletive here _____________________). 

Part of the loan process required us to actually apply for a loan for a specific boat and it needed to be a U.S. flagged vessel, in the U.S., not just U.S. waters but contiguous U.S. states preferred; this made our task more difficult so I picked a boat I had never seen in  Puerto Rico.  Yes I did pass geography and I know PR is an island and not one connected to the lower or is it from down here the upper 48 but it was my big FU moment to the bank.  It turns out there was a boat in the 48, in FL in fact, but I am getting ahead of myself.  We left VA headed back to FL, funny as it seems, I actually missed FL.  Before we left VA, I noticed a Leopard 46 for sale in St. Petersburg FL at a price that put her in our new target range, in fact, it was the lowest priced 46' I had seen so I contacted our broker who contacted the sellers broker and we had a date to see her set, we just had to get from Deltaville VA to St. Pete FL in 2-1/2 days.  All was going well until; in every horror story there is an 'until'.  We had been in crawling traffic on I-95 due to an accident, after an hour we were back up to speed except the Jetta would mysteriously lose power and then regain power without losing rpm's.    Hello Mr. Google!  Mr. Google directed me to Johnson & Johnson Import Repairs near Durham NC so in we limped and after one afternoon and part of the next morning we were back on the road.  We never came up with a definitive diagnosis but the best guess was a gummed-up throttle body.  If that was it or not it worked until later in the story.  Now we were behind on our quest for the next boat so we did a very long 600+ miles to get within striking distance of St. Pete's and the Leopard 46 by our arranged time.  Our broker had called the owners' broker and knew someone else wanted to buy the boat but there was no contract so we met with owner who showed us around his boat and told us his and his families story.  After a good 90 minutes or so we had crawled around everywhere and I fit everywhere and it appeared to be the perfect boat.  As we were about to board the owners' dingy to head back to the boat he, the owner, informed us that there was indeed a contract on the vessel.  I said "written signed paper?"  He said "yes."  Remember the broker said "NO." To add insult to injury the sky opened up shortly after that with one of the ever present squalls that dominate the FL coast in the summer.  We found a rest/bar with wifi (I am finding the search for wifi as important as the search for clean diesel, water, or cheep rum)  and contracted our broker who was not happy at the sellers broker but we decided to put in an offer on this 46 just in case the other one fell through; at least we would be in line.  During that time it became necessary for one of us to get back home to Lubbock ASAP after spending an afternoon helping our broker move a boat from the marina it was being worked on to its home marina; at least it was some relaxing time on the water, a treat we hadn't had in a long, long time.  The next morning I dropped Jo off at the Tampa Airport and I headed to Lauderdale via Alligator Alley to look at a boat our broker and my wife had no intention of me buying but it was the right price and I wanted to look at another boat, besides it gave me a chance to have breakfast at The Floridian in Lauderdale with our favorite waiter, the Chihuahua on speed.  I had also planned on flying to Puerto Rico to look at the boat we had used for financing purposes with the very real intentions of making an offer as a back-up to our back-up on the Leopard 46.  The PR boat was represented by the same broker group as the first 46, the one without a contract that had a contract, yup, those guys.  Well surprise, surprise, there was a contract on the PR boat too this time so I headed driving by myself the 1700 miles to Lubbock. 

The trip to Lubbock was a good break and it allowed us to get E settled in a new home with a new provider, a move that has proven to be a godsend.  It gave us the chance to help daughter #2 through some difficulties and allowed a visit to my dad in Colorado and Jo's family in Houston since we had a rental property there.  Of course just because we were geographically as far away from boats as we could get almost didn't mean we would stop looking.  While there the Leopard 46 in St. Pete went to the first contract so we had nothing lined up, but there was this boat in Grenada West Indies that was U.S. flagged so we made an offer.  This boat was listed by one of the other agents from the same firm as our broker so he had more of a history on the boat than we might have gotten had it not.  On paper the boat looked like a good opportunity and in reality might have been.  The "might have been" part had to do with delamination and water intrusion in the vessel that had been fixed.  OK for those you who don’t know the term delamination, it is important.  You see when most modern boats are built out of fiberglass (FRP) not wood.  There is an outer and inner layer FRP with a core of some other material.  Some of the newer more expensive boats use foams, some carbon fiber, but a good number use end-grain balsa that is often resin infused, which is light and surprisingly strong.  The outer and inner layer of FRP and the core material are then sucked together (vacuum bagging) to create the hull, deck, bulkheads, etc. forming a laminated surface but when that bond breaks down, usually form poor workmanship or water intrusion (like physically breaking through one of the outer layers) you get delamination.  However it happened, the boat in Grenada had suffered some kind of delamination which led to water from the outside getting into the inside.  OK, on the surface (or in this case below the surface) this sounds like a pretty big deal and it is, but, if repaired correctly it can be overcome.  It is the 'repaired correctly' part  that needs to be verified.  We made an offer with a deadline to respond.  The owners (who live in Boston, just saying) waited until after the deadline to counter, now the game was on.  When this all began the vessel was on the hard, i.e. out of the water, and EVERYONE knew from the contract provisions that we were willing  to pay extra to have a hull survey done once we came to an agreement on the price to verify that the intrusion was properly repaired and there was no more wet core material.  Now if I were that owner, I would have done that myself and made it available to anyone interested in my boat but as I may have mentioned, they were from Boston, just saying!  I had contacted a surveyor and his partner who had done the insurance survey on the damage.  Even though the results of the survey are the property of the person paying for the survey there is some public information and that gave us some more information.  Negotiations drug on but while we were in Houston I got a call from my broker that we were within $5,000 in price but for reasons no one could explain, the boat in question had been put back in the water, splashed as it is called, making it impossible to survey the hull without it being hauled back out of the water then set on the hard long enough for it to completely dry out again (4-7 days.)  Of course the owner said this was scheduled and since we had not reached an agreement he went ahead and authorized the boat being put back in the water and no he would not pay to have it re-hauled out or stored on land.  By this point Jo and I had become fairly paranoid when it comes to boat peoples' actions, especially owners and this was just a little too, too coincidental and our broker agreed but wanted us to not over react; yeah me overreact, HA!  Well after a good bit of back and forth we decided to submit our final offer that included the stipulation the owner haul out the boat back out and leave it on the hard no less than 7 days at which time it could have a hull survey and only if that was positive would I fly to Grenada for a pre-purchase survey and sea trials.  Our deadline for Boston Boy came and went again so we decided to move on.  Besides, there were no flights available in or out of Grenada for all of August, and no ferry to the island, not that there are that many during any other months but between Carnival and Med Students returning to school every seat was taken.   The up-side of this is we may have avoided a disastrous boat, another JABULO, the down-side of this is we may have missed out on a wonderful boat is a perfect location.  Given all the facts in play we decided to pass this one by though and continue our search.  I have to agree with my former neighbor, I never thought it would be this hard to buy a boat!

We had to formulate a plan, this meant a making a list with options, numbers; circles and arrows and diagrams on the back…..  The plan we decided on was to pack a couple of bags and fly to the Virgin Islands and not come back without boat papers!  I did some research, came up with a list of boats in the British Virgin Islands and looked at flight and hotels.  Our desire was to just stay in the BVIs but as with Grenada our trip coincided with their two week long version of Carnival that celebrates Emancipation and of course all hotels were booked.  There was also a tropical system that was in its beginning stages off the coast of Africa.  So, change of plans, fly to St. Thomas in the USVI, stay there until we can get a hotel in the BVIs and search via the ferry for boats.  We found a condo online to rent for 11 days and things were falling into place.  I remember as a kid flying on an airplane, it was magical.  You got dressed up, people were nice to you, and gave you food and even though you were flying in something relatively "new" technology you were excited and couldn't wait for the adventure.  Have any of you flown recently?  Well if you haven't let me tell you times have changed.  I hate to fly, not that I am scared of crashing or my luggage being lost (well maybe a little of the luggage thing) but because the "event" that has become flying has so devolved into being one step above cattle herding except you pay for the privilege of being abused.  Last time I checked, paying another person to abuse and humiliate you was against the law except in Amsterdam and Nevada.  It begins with the Chinese menu that is purchasing your ticket.  You know, one for column (a) you have baggage well that will be $$ and one from column (b) you want an aisle seat, well that will be $$$-per leg of your trip; well you get the idea.  I made basic reservations on an American based Airlines  that would be three legs to get us from Lubbock to St Thomas.  For my "basic" ticket I got my selection of this middle seat or that middle seat so I started my "upgrades."  Not being what one might call petite, an aisle seat is most desired and since what is good for the goose… I was not going to leave my bride stuck in the middle.  So that was anywhere from $58-$62 a leg for two non-middle seats so column (a) just cost between $174 - $186.  You are going to be gone how long?  You need to take clothes with you, well have we got a deal (add-on) for you here in column (b).  At least the airline we were flying didn't charge for overhead space, that would have further deflated my Spirit for flying. Well fingers were flying on the adding machine and totals were reached and our "basic" ticket, which was no real bargain, was now anything but basic.  Oh yes, we were only booking a flight one-way which you would thing would be half as much as a round-trip ticket, but you would be incorrect in that assumption.  At this point smoke was coming out of the calculator and my ears as I looked at the computer screen and then I saw it; Business Class that for these flights was also First Class.  There is something about the words 'First Class', I bet that's why they use it instead of 'pay-us-more-to-get-there-on-the-same-plane' class.  In this case however, the more was only a couple of hundred and came with conformable seats, leg room and free food and booze, you got three free checked bags, each up to 70lbs!  You know the saying, "how will you keep them down on the farm after they've see D.C.", yup the same is true of First Class vs. Stowage I mean Coach.  I knew there was a reason that I resented those people sitting in First and Business Class.  Yes it could be because the flight attendants bring you hot towels, snacks, meals and drinks, the adult kind and don’t ask for a credit score or your first born.  Yes it could be that the seats are comfortable even for someone my size, but what I really think it is, is that you know how bad those poor bastards in the back have it and they can't even come use your head.  Like many things in life, this will undoubtedly be a onetime thing and I will be forced to take the long walk of shame back to the back, but for one flight (well technically three legs so three flights) we were First Class!

OK back to boats.  Remember this is about boats and we were 0-2 when it came to boats.  We did still have the option of the boat in Granada as the owner had come down to out price point but I had turned a little sour on that deal and we set off with our new list.  The first boat we were going to look at, Caribbean Dream,  just happened to be anchored for a day just a quarter mile walk from the condo we were staying at in Red Hook U.S.V.I, a quarter mile down a narrow steep hill with no sidewalks, curbs, or shoulders, and drivers that didn't care if they hit you or not all in tropical oppressive heat.  The only thing worse was the thought of the walk back up the hill to go home with the drivers coming with gravity aiding their speed as they came at you.   We met one the owners at a local restaurant/bar at 10am.  Now we had done some research on this boat, like the others and the model hadn't been what we were thinking of.  She was bigger than we had wanted, more complex, and had engine rooms that took a contortionist or someone much smaller and more flexible than me to get into.  I saw a post from the owner a while back on the Leopard owners' group and had corresponded some.  He and his wife had read this very blog and knew some of the issues with the Dean in VA and she went about measuring things and he assured me that there were holding tanks as well as gave me a wealth of information.   We did one of our spreadsheets with all the information we could gather on the boat off the website had our tape measure and camera (although we never seem to take any pictures) and we were ready to see this as one of several boats we had planned to see.  The owners took us back to the anchorage in their dingy and the visit/inspection began.  The owners toured us through their boat and while not unheard of, it is usually the seller or our broker that is showing you the boat.  We knew that the boat had always been a crewed charter boat, always with a professional captain and crew and had never been a bareboat (no professional captain usually) charter.  In fact, we had reviewed their website and she was a high-end charter complete with chef who was also a massage therapist.  Both were scuba instructors and he was a dive master so the boat was loaded with dive gear; everything was First Class.  Being set up to be a once-in-a-lifetime vacation adventure for most folks it did lack some of the items we would want in a cruising boat; but most of that was easily, if not cheaply added later.  She was however, the cleanest, most well taken care of boat we had seen up to this point and we were duly impressed.  You might ask, why didn’t you stop your search there?  Fair question but for two big issues; maybe three.  First the aforementioned engine access.  Boats are complex, big boats are more complex and the engines, even though it is a sailboat, are helpful in providing safety in maneuvering in and out of a harbor, to or off a mooring (although a skilled sailor can do this under sail), charging the batteries since you supply your own power, clawing off a lee shore, and simply getting from point A-B , when there is no wind or it is from the wrong direction which it always seems to be.  There are two diesel engines in most catamarans, cooled by seawater passing through a heat exchangers and then exiting the boat as wet exhaust.   That means there are at least two holes in your boat to let water in, in an controlled manner.  Controlled is the key word, for be it uncontrolled, well let's say your day got a lot wetter and more expensive.  Being our oceans are not as clean as they used to be, there is also the possibility of other peoples garbage being pulled up into the heat exchanger that helps cool the engine (if it gets that far) and making your life harder and wallet lighter.  Now I'm not even mentioning fuel filters, systems and the havoc water in the diesel tanks can cause or the half a dozen or more other holes in your boat designed to let water in and out, in a controlled manner.  It's enough to say  access to all those things are critical but space is limited and what is given over to mechanical room is taken away from living space.  The other issue was the berths (beds) and would I fit (head to toe) and would we have to climb over each other to get in or out of the berth.  Ideal is an island or semi-island berth with lots of room to get in and out of either said at the foot as well as from part of the sides.  Also, some berths are 4'-5' off the floor and some aren't.  Here the fit was questionable, we would have to climb over each other, and if you fell out of bed it was a long way down.  The final thing was the head/shower.  A lot of newer boats have separate heads and shower arraignments while most of the older and almost all of the boats used in charter have the head and shower combined and they are just a little larger than in an airplane (even in First Class).  We had wanted a separate shower/head arraignment but in this model that was only found in the owners version.   So we took the ferry from Red Hook USVI to West End BVI where the broker of another boat picked us up and took us to see the first of the two boats we were scheduled to see that day.  Now this one had been a bareboat charter boat and was pretty basic in equipment, however, for a charter boat she was in very good shape although the heads had not been thoroughly or effectively dealt with and if you know boats you know that smell.  It had four semi-island berths low to the floor and separate showers, she also had headroom to spare.  Her name had to go, MARTHA R, owned by two brothers one of whom passed away recently and most likely named after their mother.  She was a Lagoon 420 with relatively new engines and low engine hours.  The engine rooms were outside the main living area in the steps up the back of the boat called sugar scoops.    You might ask, why didn’t you stop your search there?  Again, fair question and in all honesty I had intended it might be "our" boat, but it was heavy, boxy, and with the exception of a few points of sail very slow.  She would really be considered more of a motor cruiser, which is fine and she could take us around the world very comfortably.  As she was in a charter fleet, the company would have preferred if we had agreed to leave her in charter, at least long enough to fulfill her 2014-2015 obligations but that would mean no boat for us from mid November through the new year and into May.  Now we could say no and would have if we went with her.  She was comfortable, what some call a floating condo, but damn it I fit everywhere.  We walked from there to over to another charter company who had the same model for sale as the boat in Granada except it was a four cabin charter version instead of the owners version. In all honesty we were looking at her mainly to see if we should continue on the boat in Granada, but, if she would work, she was a lot cheaper and could be done without the assistance of a bank.  She too was a bareboat charter vessel being readied to be placed in a hurricane hole for the rest of the storm season.  In that process all the sails and anything that could catch wind are removed.  This particular hurricane hole is used by several charter companies and is what a good hurricane hole should be, windless, surrounded by mangroves so it is buggy, and completely cut off from the ocean swells.  She was ok, also had a number of charter commitments for which it was implied, that if we didn't agree to honor them we would be responsible to pay any upgrades needed to move charterers to other boats, yeah right!  If you asked, "why didn't you stop your search there" then you aren't paying attention. We spent a respectable amount of time on her, but mostly talked about the Leopard 47, the boat we saw in Red Hook.  We knew she had been moved back to the BVIs, to a marina which is rated for hurricanes accepted by insurance companies (very important) so we called the owners to see if it was ok to go look at her again since our memory was foggy on a couple issues.  So we grabbed a cab and went to Village Cay Marina to look for D dock; ok there is no D dock, that’s why you don’t let the deaf man take the directions, it was B Dock.  We had limited time since we needed to make it back to West End and catch the ferry back to Red Hook but we made the best of the time we did have and mostly visited with the owners and an owner of a predecessor of the Leopard 47, the Leopard 45 that is the same boat except for 2' added to the sugar scoops that gives it a smoother ride.  We asked a lot of questions and just had a relaxing afternoon.  Of course we felt a little bad knowing that the owners were trying to get the boat closed down for storm season and they were scheduled to fly out to Hawaii in a few days to start a life on land but no one seemed rushed except we had that last ferry out to catch so when the time came we were shown where to catch a cab and off to the West End and except for me failing to formally check out of the country before I got in line for our ferry the ride to St. John where we checked back into the U.S. of A. was uneventful but long day and we were exhausted.  There were at least three other boats in Tortola to look at and it is not a cheap ride.  First of all the round trip ferry is around $120, then you have to pay $20 per person to leave the BVI and a cab ride from West End to where the boats are is around $28 so it all adds up but for now we just grabbed a cab to go up the hill, $8 +tip, and a drink.  Now thankfully the condos at which we were staying had a bar/grill and a nice pool, it was also a short walk to the beach so we decided that the next day we would just chill by the pool, eat and drink at the bar and forget about boats; yeah right!

Next Time:

The conclusion to this thrilling, exasperating, frustrating, and expensive quest.  OK spoiler alert, if you follow me on the Face Book you know the conclusion but read it anyway, I need to justify my efforts with her who must be obeyed.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Sanity in Trading an Appreciating Asset for a Depreciating Asset; or Be Careful What You Ask For; or Boat Shopping With Dummies

In moving from dreaming the dream to actually living the dream, the process was a little sketchy.  I think we thought/hoped we would sell the house and like magic, the right boat would be waiting for us, and as we stepped on board a chorus of celestial beings would let us know "this is the one."  For those of you who have been through this process you are thinking, "yea, fat chance" but what did we know; let me tell you, we learned and are continuing to learn quickly.

Moving out of the house was more difficult than I had anticipated.  No, no, there was no nostalgic reminiscing or tears at leaving our home of 26 years full of good and not so good memories.  No, difficult in the sense that even though we had an estate sale, garage sale, gave a truckload to one charity and four carloads to other charities we still had a mountain of stuff/ crap.  We had dragged our heels on all of this not because we were lazy, well not too lazy, but because we have been to this opera before and in our case the ending was tragic with the deal of the house falling through, so we took a skeptical, wait-and-see attitude; big mistake.  The result of that plan put us working from 0630 Wednesday straight through to 0830 Thursday morning with closing at 0930 that same morning.  Around 0030, we had filled the 5x10-storage unit.  By 0445, both of the dumpsters were full as was every inch of each car save the driver's seat and we were stacking items in our neighbor's driveway and on their porch.  Somewhere between the time the storage was full and the dumpsters had a fly's-ass worth of room in them we discovered a closet we had forgotten, full of stuff we put in there to be sure to take.  Oh did I mention, I had a fever and stuff was coming out of both ends of me all day and into the night.  I was beginning to think God was telling me something.  Well somehow, we made it to the closing, signed the papers and later that afternoon we had more money in the bank than ever in or lives.  The plan (I know, man plans God laughs) was to stay at the neighbors (the ones with all our stuff in their driveway) that night and leave for my brothers in Aubrey TX the next day.  Well after the closing and I made a trip to the UPS Store to return our UVerse stuff and the credit union I went back to my neighbors and passed out until 1900hrs. That evening Jo came in at some time and lay down but I am not sure.  The next day we spent emptying most of the storage unit and reorganizing it, gaining enough space that all that would not fit could go in Jo's car and mine would hold what we were taking boat shopping.  So now its Saturday morning and we head to my brothers, get there in time to see my nephew graduate from University of North Texas and headed out Sunday for Florida via a crappy Best Western Hotel in Mississippi and an even worse Comfort Inn in Tallahassee; life on the road.   Three days later, we were in Lauderdale By The Sea at the Horizon Hotel with money in our bank account and a whole lot of good intentions.  We had a list of boats we thought we wanted to see and were eager to go. 

We crossed in to Florida along I-20 and stopped at the visitor's center.  I took opportunity to call our broker with whom we had been visiting for the past several years about different boats. All along, our plan was to identify catamarans that 1) we could afford (read as: not new) and 2) had enough headroom for my 6'6" lumbering frame to fit in without too many head scars.  I have determined that sailors, by in large, are not tall people since finding adequate headroom meant going bigger (i.e. longer and wider) and older in our hunt for our floating home.  We had taken every opportunity we could fit into the budget to either charter or at least step on board every catamaran in our price range we could during this process, and while frustrating to our broker, it did help us decide what not to look at. You may or may not be aware that our home port, Lubbock Texas, is not a place where you would find too many boats to examine; in fact there are exactly 0, and while you would think the Texas Coast would allow more boat-looking opportunities when it came to catamarans we ended up seeing 1 catamaran there and she was new (read unaffordable) so didn't really count.  NOW, had we wanted a monohull (I explained the difference back in one of my earlier blog entries) you would have still zero in Lubbock, but many on the Texas Coast.  I had actually broached the subject of looking at monohulls, and we stepped on a few at boat shows but it was a non-starter for Jo.  All the cats were either down in St. Martin's, Tortola in the BVIs, or in Southern Florida.  Since we could drive to Florida we headed there first with passports in hand, ready to fly off to St. Somewhere if need be and that brings me back to the visitor's center and a phone call to our broker.  The person we have always been working with is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, truly one of the most fascinating people I have ever met, he is also one of the busiest people I have ever met between owning one of the most notable catamaran brokerages in the world and developing a line of cruising catamarans.  Our phone call reached him right as he was about to leave for St. Martin's and other stops in the islands and then off to Philly and then off to… well you get the idea but he was determined to get us a boat to fit us.  Therefore, I emailed him the list of boats we had found online and he arranged for his senior broker in Ft. Lauderdale to show us some boats, problem being that this broker (who we very much enjoy working with and are still currently working with) was in town; he had the morning of one day available.  This turned out to be a whole day but still not a lot of time. Working with a Broker has it pluses and minuses, but since this was the first time for us to buy a boat that didn't fit on a trailer and would have to sustain us in a fluid environment it made total sense for us.
Now if you equate selling a boat to selling a house you would be correct in many aspects of the process with two distinctly different aspects.  First, in real estate you often hear the mantra: location, location, location, with boats the same is true but with a different twist on the adage.  When most people look at houses they look in neighborhoods they want to be in whether for schools, nightlife, prestige, etc.  Boats, on the other hand might be spread all over the place located at the dock in someone's backyard who might not even be the owner, out of the water sitting on the hard behind locked gates, on the hook (anchor) out in the middle of a bay or lake, there aren’t any "boat lots."  We went from downtown Ft. Lauderdale, to Boca Raton, to Key Largo, to Jacksonville, to White Stone VA to our "locations."  The other big difference is that while most houses for sale have lock boxes with keys in them getting into boats involves a different set of showing instructions with each one that might even involve being met at a dock and taken out to the boat in a dinghy. We also spent a lot of time on each boat crawling around and looking at everything knowing that getting a second look would be time consuming and maybe not even possible.  We would spend on average two hours on something 44 feet long.  You take so much time because you are buying a home that is designed to take you where you were not designed to go, the open ocean, and could, if not seaworthy, kill you in the extreme.  We arrived at the first boat, a Lagoon 440, priced suspiciously low for this model and after just a short while on board we discovered why.  Now water and sailing go hand-in-hand in sailing but the goal is to keep the water out of the boat or else bad things tend to happen from, let's say, sinking, to, as in this case, mold and dry-rot.   Even our broker was amazed at how bad of shape this boat was in, we still examined every inch but moved on.  We moved on from there to see a Grainger 47, a semi-custom boat that was amazingly big but had spartan sleeping accommodations and was 100k over our budget (he wouldn't be a broker if he didn't show us something we couldn't afford.)  Even though it was way out of our price range, we spent more than an hour on her filling out our spreadsheets.  Yes the spreadsheets.  We both follow an online newsletter and Face Book page entitled The Boat Galley, one of the articles chronicled the author of the sites' purchase of their new to them Gemini Catamaran.  They shared their as well as another sailors' check list for shopping so we used their 2 to create our own and filled one out on every boat.  Three pages on everything we thought we should look at, examine, measure, and record.  Helpful to Jo in keeping all the boats from mashing up together , and to make sure we actually took note of each thing we had thought was important, not just assumed we noticed it.  Web site listings often give apples-to-oranges descriptions and , surprisingly, leave out all the unappetizing stuff.  From the Grainger it was off to Boca to see a Leopard 42 that was on the hook in Boca Lake. We wanted to see her more for how we might fit on her than as a purchase since she had not been imported into the U.S. and hence was not for sale to U.S. citizens in U.S. waters.  OK so here's another difference from real-estate, boats might be flagged (registered) in other countries and each country has its own rules as to what procedures, import duty, and taxes are required to sell a boat to someone in another country.  You can re-flag a boat if all the proper duties are paid and regulations are met.  This Leopard was flagged in the BVIs, owned by a French citizen with a Bahamian wife, and sitting in Boca Raton FL in the US of A.  All of that aside, the boat was lovely, well cared for by someone who knew and appreciated boats.  While Jo and I were poking around, our broker and the Leopard's owner were conversing in rapid fire French and even though Jo and I had listened to part of a Pilsner method tape on basic French we had no clue as to what was being said.  His Leopard was anchored out in Boca Lake so it was a dingy ride out and back but it was nice to be on the water.  Except for the fact that the boat was overpriced and not for sale to a US Citizen, I might be writing this from the cockpit of our Leopard in Boca Lake.  After a quick lunch, it was off to what we had hoped would be the best for last, a Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46 rare owners version.  What's an "owner's version?"  Good question!  Many if not most production cats are built for the charter trade in exotic parts of the world.  Their average use is a week long charter 9-10 months out of the year, crewed with either a professional captain and crew, or bare boat where the charterer serves as captain.  They are mostly owned by private owners who, in exchange for a Charter Company such as The Moorings chartering out their vessel to cover the costs of ownership,  get to use it several weeks a year and at the end of the contract can either sell the boat or take over the full use and costs.  The difference in charter versions and owner's versions comes in the sleeping and head a.k.a. bathroom (head)/shower accommodations. With a charter version, the emphasis is on how many paying people you can get on board so they have at a minimum 4 cabins, 2 in each hull, each with a small head/shower combination.  An owner's version will have one hull (side) dedicated to the owner with a separate shower stall and head, spacious berth (bed) and often a couch or office area.  The other hull would be set up like the charter version to accommodate guests.  So an owners version is the more sought after in the used boat market and what we ideally wanted.  We had first seen a Bahia in Key Largo on one of our "will Fred fit" trips.  She was being repaired and updated by a French Ex-Pat who had the skills and a passion for working on boats.  His was a four-cabin version designed for the charter trade and represented some sacrifices on our part but she was long, sleek, and most of the systems from rigging to engines were new.  We spent part of two days looking at her but in the end when he was ready to sell her, our house had not sold, and she was quickly sold.  Back to present day.  So it as with some excitement and anticipation that we headed through the condo security gate where she laid to board this Bahia.  OK, I admit that last sentence sounded like it was from a cheap romance novel but in a way, there is that kind of anticipation.  However, like I suspect is true with internet dating, the picture did not match the reality. Not that the pictures of the Bahia were doctored, they weren't even pictures of THAT Bahia!  They were taken from one for sale down in St. Martin.  But it was closing time in the bar (country song metaphor) so we decided to take a look anyway.
As it turned out, she was a 4 cabin version converted to a 3 cabin version, sort-of.  She had an industrial sized transformer to convert the originally wired 220v to 120v and a battery bank big enough for a small ship in the Navy.  There was also evidence of structural damage and I couldn't stand up in the shower, and…we woke up the next morning and realized we needed to be choosier around closing time.  It was now after 1700hrs in non-metaphor land, our broker need to go deliver an offer to a client, and we were deflated and needed a drink. 
We went back to the hotel to regroup.  There was still the Leopard 45 in Key Largo we were scheduled to see on Friday, and we were waiting to hear back from our original brokers' assistant.  As I turned out there was a music festival in Key Largo that weekend so I went on line and grabbed the only overpriced room I could afford but only for Thursday night, I need to mention the room was pre-paid, un- refundable, but we were going to see the Leopard on Friday so ery'-tin-cool.  We finally heard back from the assistant to our original broker after many attempts both by me and the broker we were working with to text and call him only to find out the Leopard was under contract and not available to be viewed, but we had a pre-paid hotel room so off to Key Largo off  we went.  When we were last there, the French Ex-Pat turned us on to a bar / restaurant along one of the docks named Sharkeys.  So at least we could go to Sharkeys, drink too much beer and have very fresh fish and shrimp, which is what we did.   We also thought this would be a good time to regroup and spend time on the internet researching boats in the Caribbean.  Well the hotel had wifi, it just didn't work in our room, so that plan was shot too but there was Sharkeys.  On the road back to Ft. Lauderdale, we had no boat, no prospects for a boat, and no place to stay.  We called our broker and arranged to meet for breakfast Saturday morning to develop a plan of action.  We also booked a room in a nice hotel with excellent wifi and went to work.  Digging deeper I found a custom-built boat located in Ft. Lauderdale that I wanted more information about.  We also looked for boats in the Caribbean and Bahamas and were ready to do some flying, but there was that custom boat in Lauderdale…  After meeting for breakfast Saturday morning in a funky restaurant called The Floridian complete with a Cuban waiter who had the energy of a Chihuahua on speed we developed a plan.  We would try to see the custom boat on Sunday, Monday at the latest, then Jo and I would head for White Stone VA via Jacksonville FL to see boats in both locations.  Then we would come back to FL, find a long-term rental within 100 miles of Ft. Lauderdale and settle in for the hunt.  But first, the custom boat.  Sunday came and went, Monday came and before it went we heard from our broker that the boat would not be available for showings and even though a week later it is still listed as for sale, the owners do not want to sell after all; well crap!  At least we got time at the beach and pool and attended a lovely church service at an Episcopal church in Ft. Lauderdale.  We were reassessing everything, boats, plans, our sanity, and budget.

Maybe now is a good time to talk about budget.  While it is said, that BOAT really stands for:  "Break Out Another Thousand" or is defined as a "hole in the water in which you throw money" that’s selling it short.  If budget is a concern (as it is since I have still not hit the lotto) then that becomes a limiting factor.  We, mostly Jo, were determined to enter this chapter of our life debt-free so financing was not an option if even possible since we now had no collateral on land like a house and the boat you are buying is not considered collateral.  We had the equity out of our house with savings set aside for the expenses associated with finding, surveying, and refitting the boat. Now while $260,000 (our budget) sounds like a lot of money, in the world of blue-water catamarans it was fairly small change and there appeared to be a lot of us boat paupers out there shopping.  Now if we had wanted a monohull the budget would have allowed us to buy close to a new boat but as I have discussed in previous entries a catamaran was what we wanted/needed.   As Captain Ralph was fond of saying, with a boat there are three factors: speed, comfort, and price, the catch is you only get two of the three.  For us, that meant if the driving one was price then if we went for speed all we could afford was a boat not meant for ocean cruising, well at least comfortably, or comfort, and of course we are going for comfort, but we don't get speed.

Back to the hunt!  We took off for White Stone VA where we planned to see a boat no longer in production that has as many critics as fans but was highly recommend (the brand not necessarily this boat) by someone I respect and whom I will hire and his wife to help Jo and I acclimate to the lifestyle and learn all the systems on whichever vessel we end up with.  Before White Stone, a stop in Jacksonville was on the agenda to have a look at a 47-foot Nautitech, a performance catamaran at a decent price so what was wrong with her.  We have learned (again) that is the first question you should ask yourself: if the price is that good there is something they are not telling you in the ad.   To be fair, the Nautitech was not in as bad a shape as the first boat we saw, the Lagoon 440, but she represented a lot more work than we wanted to do and besides when the engine throttles are attached to the hull with duct tape that to me is not a good sign so back on the road we went and made it over the state line into Georgia.  Now for all their "wackiness" in Georgia, at least I-95, were some of the best roads we had traveled on to this point.  The next morning we flew through Georgia, went through South Carolina bypassing the infamous 'South of the Border', and ended up on the North Carolina / Virginia border.  A side note if you will.  It continues to amaze me that I can drive all day and still be in Texas but eight hours on the road in the east and I can make it through three states and on the border of another, and, the further north I go the faster I can fly through states if not for the constant traffic.

That evening in North Carolina, we finally got viewing instructions for the cat in White Stone, a Dean 440 Espace.  I needed to call the listing broker and he would meet us at the boat that was located on a dock located in the back yard of the owner who was off at his other home in Colorado.  I don't have one home and this guy has two and a boat; damn lotto!  The next morning I punched the address in White Stone into the GPS and we were off to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  Now our broker told us that he had clients last year who looked at this boat and she was too much work to get her into cruising condition for them and they eventually bought a Dean 3 years newer and 60-70k more expensive.   There is a real consideration to be had between buying all you can afford and maybe a little more but having to do less work on the vessel in order to live out your dream and buying what could be referred to as a "project-boat."  In workshops on buying multihulls, the presenters often encourage those in attendance to consider a newer and smaller boat in that fits in the budget and represents less work.  That thought has been present in the back of my head throughout this process so it is with some trepidation that I approach this "project" boat.  It should also be said that, to us, living the dream was more important than waiting for the dreamboat.  We met the selling broker whose office was in Deltaville VA about 30 minutes away and spent all the time he had looking around.  He was very straightforward with us about the history of the boat and some of the known issues as well as his experience on smaller Dean Cats off the Cape of Storms (Cape of Good Hope) from his native South Africa where the Dean was built.  First off, she did not look like other cats.  Her mast was raked aft (back) 7 degrees instead of straight up-and-down and while most cats have a large forward trampoline area, which is nice for lying out on or sleeping but really is to reduce weight, the Dean had a mostly solid foredeck with small tramps.  As I was asking the broker questions Jo gave me the "thumbs-up" which made me nervous.  While Jo tends to focus on the positive aspects of the boat, you know I found everything I thought was wrong but she was the best we had seen, well the best we had seen for sale to U.S. Citizens in U.S. Waters.
One night while on the drive up north I began looking at boats for sale by owner and found a Leopard 43 located in Northern Maryland / Southern MD.  I contacted the owner and the plan was to go from the Dean to the Leopard then head back south for personal business in Manteo NC and then a visit with Jo's stepsister in Mebane NC and a chance to once again unwind with some back porch sitting and wine drinking.   As we headed to Maryland, we kept talking about the Dean and the possible possibilities she represented.  So we pulled over, texted the listing broker and arranged to see her the next morning, did a U-turn and headed back to the White Stone area to find a place for the night.  Over a dinner that night of fine Chesapeake shellfish and Yuengling beer, we made a list of pros and cons.  The next morning we met the Dean's broker for the second time at the boat knowing his time was limited so we were as efficient as we could be.  We looked at things like rearranging the berths to make a semi-island berth for the owner.  We rooted around more in the cabinets looking for mold and more signs of abuse.  We took pictures of all the "problem" spots so we could send them off to our broker.    But the biggest issue I had with the boat was the lack of holding tanks.  I am now going to discuss the ever important but not dinner table subject of dealing with human waste.  There are few things more disgusting than a clogged toilet and because of that, sailors are very temperamental when it comes to what goes in the toilet.  My rule is, if it didn't go in you, it doesn't go in the head.  This means unless you are in the habit of ingesting any and all forms of paper or personal hygiene products you are asked to discard them in the wastebasket provided.    Agreed, that left unattended things might get a little ripe so we try not to let that happen.  The other subject not for the table is what happens to what does go into the head.  In most of the world solid and liquid waste is pumped directly overboard; this is why I don't run the water maker or swim if the anchorage is full of boats.  However, in this country and many U.S. Territories the dumping of waste either via the head or by direct deposit is illegal.  Waste must go in something called a holding tank that, hopefully, is designed to hold it safely and odor free until it is pumped out.   My RV-ing friends know all about that.  If one of the many state or national organizations  who are charged with enforcing the rules catches you not conforming to this rule within 3 miles of the U.S. coast line they will be happy to issue you a healthy fine.  The Dean was built in South Africa and as such did not come with holding tanks.  The current owner met the letter of the law by installing one 8-gallon holding tank that services only one of the 3 heads.  Unbelievably, that single dilemma on this boat kept me up most of the night trying to figure out a work around.  Really, 8-gallons, one high fiber meal and you need a pump out.  We really didn't want to spend our days in U.S. waters either holding it in, which at our age isn't an option, or plan our cruise from holding tank to holding tank.  I was ready to walk away but Jo and our broker was sure we could find a fix; remember, Break-Out-Another-Thousand!

Let's talk about falling in love.  Now some (idiots) out there believe in love at first sight.  I will give you lust at first sight but love, well that's something deeper more meaningful, it takes time to grow and fester, I mean flower.  This particular boat, for me, wasn't lust and wasn't love, but there was something that was intriguing, something that kept us going back and discussing possibilities; we were falling in-like.  We never did go see the Leopard and just when we thought this might be the one, a new temptress appeared in my Gmail inbox, a sleek Leopard 43, 6-years newer and with all the bells and whistles, however, like a temptress to a middle-aged man her costs were too high and even if we stretched every penny she was out of or league, well bank balance.  We took the weekend to think about it, said the final goodbye to a wife of a dear friend and headed for respite in the hills of North Carolina.  Monday was Memorial Day and even though our broker's main office was closed, we knew he would be working, so we called him and instructed him to make an offer on a 2002 Dean 440 Espace.  The owner was in his other home in Colorado Springs so a lot of electronic back and forth and tense as well as heated moments ensued over the next few days but as of this moment, we are sitting in Deltaville VA, waiting for a survey (like a home inspection but more detailed and on and off the water) and if all goes well, by early July we should be sitting in a boat yard adding holding tanks getting ready to splash the, then, newly christened s/v Lizards On Ice.  So stay tuned for the next chapter of this exciting tale of insanity.

A Few Pictures of Jabulo soon to be renamed Lizards on Ice; why you ask, well what is more out of their element that a couple of Lizards on Ice!

Dean 440 Espace 

Dean 440 Espace Port View

The Admiral The Spreadsheet and tape measure 

The Navigation Station so we don't get too lost

The Pointy Thing a.k.a. the Mast 

A Proper Gally

The Front End or as we call it the Bow

The Back End or the Stern