Saturday, December 28, 2013

Goodbye Colorado

Now that we have a boat, the next step is to get it ready to be our home.  While the boat is in pretty good condition, thers are items that need some attention as well as a couple refit upgrades that need to occur. But it is a bit difficult to do that from Colorado, so today I departed on a cross country road trip so I could work on the boat and/or oversee repairs and upgrades and learn.  I'm writing this from my hotel room in Boonville, MO. and it is very late so I will keep this fairly short.

I am driving from Colorado to Florida so I will have a car while I work on the boat. In addition to working on the boat, since I currently work from home I will be continuing with my current software engineering job while on the boat in Florida. One of the advantages to the software can do it from anywhere. Unfortunately, we still have things to deal with in Colorado, so my wife is staying behind to work on wrapping all of that up.

This means that today was a somewhat bittersweet day. I am making positive steps to realize our dream, but it is coming at the cost of being away from my family. This will be the first time my wife and I will be apart for more than a week since we got married over twenty years ago.  Even though I have visited a lot of places, I have also lived in Denver my whole life.  While I know I will be flying back to Denver to help out a few times, these things combined to make me feel a bit sad as I watched the Rocky mountains disappear in the rear view mirror.

Well, I had better get some sleep since I have another long drive ahead of me tomorrow.  Ought to be interesting since some of the states I will be driving through are ones I have not visited yet.  Wish I had a bit more time to explore...maybe next time when my wife and our dogs will be with me.

I will post some pictures of the trip when I have a bit more time and a real computer to post from.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

Honestly, up to this point it didn't even really feel like Christmas this year.  The past month or two we have been so preoccupied with the purchase of our new (to us) boat and now the planning to refit and move aboard, that if it weren't for the cold and snow outside, it feels just like most of the rest of the last 8 months.

But we have cleared the first big hurdle, we are proud owners of our floating home.  And what kind of sailing blog would this be if the boat didn't have it's own page, so I've created one with a few pictures and videos.  You can find it next to the research link at the top of any of the pages or by clicking here.

We are realizing our dream and one can't ask for a better Christmas present than that.  This holiday and the following year may you all find your passion and pursue it!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Mike and the rest of the crew at This Rat Sailed.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's in a Name

I haven't really mentioned this yet, but we have decided to rename our Leopard 38.  The previous owner had named it Breathe.

He was a doctor, so I'm not sure if there is a correlation there, if it was just a reminder that we all need to stop and take a breath from time to time, or what the story behind the name was.  Since we never actually met the prior owner (unfortunately timing and schedules just never seemed to work out so I only know his broker), we may never know.  All I can tell you is that it didn't really hold any special meaning for us, and we feel it needs to change to better reflect us.

I know a lot of people have blogs named after their boats...or is it boats named after their blogs.  While I like the name of my blog because it did speak to our intentions, I just don't think it makes for a good boat name. So what to name our boat.

Lots of people with catamarans give their boats "cat" names.  The other Leopard we looked at was Catzpaw.  I know of a Lagoon in St Pete named Meow.  Catatonic, Catatude, Catalyst, Aristicat, Magnificat, get the idea.  We really didn't want to go that route.

We also needed a name that would pass the "mayday" test.  In other words, it needs to be a name that you can see using if you ever need to make that mayday call.  While Breaking Wind might be funny, how does "Mayday Mayday Mayday, we are Breaking Wind two miles off the coast of...." work for you?

Since we are more dog people than cat people (we have two that will be joining us aboard), we thought a more dog based name might work.  Dog Sled (a catamaran kinda looks sled-like, right) or Dogonit, Dingo, Fido (or to be confusing, spell it Phideaux) or Woof. We bounced around a lot of names, but in the end, it was actually Pete's suggestion that won out.

Our boat will be named...

It seems to work on several levels.  It is simple to say and easy to spell. It conveys the more nomadic life we seek. It pays homage to our furry companions that have enriched our lives.  And when I first told my wife we could have "a cat named Rover" it made her laugh.  Good enough reasons for me.

Now I guess I need to come up with a design...or at least a good font...for the decal. Have I mentioned that I'm an engineer...not really an this might be interesting. And then there is the whole boat renaming ceremony.  And I guess I need to go look how the current name is affixed so I can figure out how to remove it. Hmm...this might become a bigger job than I thought.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A New Temporary Home

After getting stuff we think we need and doing some cleaning, it was time to move our Leopard 38 from the back yard dock that was its home to the marina that will be its new home for a couple months as we refit and supply, and I continue to learn. We get up early and drive up to St. Augustine to pick up the captain/ASA instructor and bring him back to Daytona for our trip.

We go through the boat and do some safety checks and start the engines...well...try to anyway. The starboard engine won't start. Actually, it shows absolutely no signs of life whatsoever. Funny...worked just fine during the survey and sea trial. The instrument panel shows no voltage at the battery...I mean ZERO, and the alarm isn't sounding either. Out comes the multi-tester (thankfully the prior owner left it behind, and with some exercising of the selector, it started working) and it shows the battery is good. Huh. I wiggle a connector that looks like it may be coming from the instrument panel and voila, we hear the buzzer at the helm. Guess I'll need to look at that connector when I have a little time. We fire up the engine and finish our checks and everything looks good.

While the engines are idling, we do a refresher talk on maneuvering a catamaran. As we are talking the port engine alarm goes off. Doh! We look over and it is overheating so we quickly shut it down and go inspect. Check the sea strainer again and look around and find nothing amiss. So we start the engine back up and the temp drops to 180°F (where it is supposed to be) and holds steady. Best guess is that something floated or swam by and plugged the cooling water intake and it was freed as soon as we shut down the engine...but we keep a watchful eye on it for a little bit. It has been an interesting day so far, and we haven't even left the dock yet.

We do finally leave the dock. We make our way "through the ditch" (the intercoastal waterway or ICW) for this trip, no real sailing to be done today as the winds are light and our destination is on the ICW. My wife gets a refresher on the basics of navigation and markers, and we otherwise have a pretty uneventful trip swapping time at the helm. The only thing of note is that the starbord engine temperature is running just a bit high. Guess I'll need to add checking the heat exchanger to "the list". By the time we get to our marina, the long days with little sleep have caught up with my wife and she nods off on the settee. I practice docking with the instructor. We make several "touch and goes", and I seem to be getting the hang of it. The instructor thinks the stiffness in the controls might be hampering my efforts and suggests we get the cables replaced. Guess I'll add that to "the list" as well. Yep, boat ownership is already looking exactly as others have described...the art of fixing your boat in exotic locations...we just seem to be lacking the exotic locations thus far.

We get our boat (yeah, I like saying that) into the slip (ok, two is over 21 foot wide) and tied off. This will become her new home for a little while. It is a pretty nice place to be holed up for some repairs. It is in a fairly protected location, the facilities are nice, and the price is even better. The only real drawback is that it is a pretty long distance from an inlet so I won't be getting much sailing in...but we are here more for maintenance and docking practice so that will be OK for now.

Of course I quickly learn why people joke that boat stands for Bring Out Another Thousand, our slip has 50A electrical service, but our boat only has a 30A cord. We try to locate an adapter, and the only one we could find was at the West Marine in Daytona. We get the adapter and get the boat plugged in (we really want to get solar added, but for now any electrical will be nice...and is included in our dock rate). Our first night aboard was good although I think my wife was less happy since we didn't yet have a blanket and she was cold. The next day we grab a throw at the local Big Lots and that did the trick for her. It did seem a bit more like camping or a hotel room though, as we didn't have any propane or a pot to cook in. But that is OK -- we were busy enough without having to worry about making dinner.

We got to spend a couple nights on our boat before heading back to Denver to get our affairs in order there. And we did get to have drinks with our broker and his wife before we left. I really need to stop calling him our broker as he has really become our friend Pete.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

First Days of Boat Ownership

Closing occurred late in the day, and with all the traveling, we were pretty wiped out so we just went to the hotel, checked in and crashed.  I guess technically, that was day one, but it didn't feel like it to us so I'll call day one the actual first full day of ownership.

The first thing we do after breakfast is go to the boat and take a bit more detailed inventory of what was left on board.  We weren't exactly sure what, if anything would be left behind by the current owner so we figured we would be doing a combination of cleaning and shopping the next couple days...just not sure of the ratios. There were a few things I figured the owner might leave but did not.  They said all the "boat related" stuff was included...but I guess that is a matter of interpretation.  Other than the dehumidifier, handheld VHF radio, and binoculars, it was all small stuff anyway so no worries.

We spend the rest of the day shopping for "boat things" and "home things" so we can spend time on our boat.  We hunt down some sheets (good thread count on sale at KMart...yea) and a mattress pad and pillows for one of the bunks. We find some dishes at a local thrift store next to the store we were heading to that looked nice, roughly matched the interior, and were $3 so we got them in case we got ambitious about dining aboard. We need to investigate a few gremlins (the power for the lights in the starboard forward berth and head now seems to have disappeared....another item for "the list") so we stop by Harbor Freight for a couple throw away tools (I have a bunch of better tools at home but how do you explain a bag of tools to the sir, I don't intend to take the airplane apart in-flight but thanks for asking), an air horn from a local sporting goods store and a flare kit from the local West Marine so we would be legal  (remind me not to shop at West Marine when it can be avoided...the prices seem worse than most aviation prices). Oh, and we can't forget a couple cleaners (my broker recommended vinegar and water for a decent light duty cleaner for mold and mildew). By that time it was getting late, so we had dinner and returned to the hotel.

The next day we do a bit more shopping (it is amazing the things you have at home and forget you need until they are not scissors...gee...would love to get into the annoyingly tough plastic packaging everything seems to come in these days) and spend most of the day cleaning up the boat. The vinegar and water really seemed to do the trick...after the initial vinegar smell dissipated. We also got some upholstery cleaner for the cushions in the berth. After cleaning them, they had to dry so again no sleeping on the boat tonight.  The interior is cleaning up well.  I know my broker prefers more wood but so far we are happy with the ease of cleaning the plastic surfaces.

We also continue to explore the contents of the outside lockers.  Extra lines and fenders, the classic orange life jackets, and other assorted items.  In the rear lazarette above the battery compartment we find most of the spare engine fluids (oil, coolant, transmission fluid, etc.) and the spare filters I had hoped were on board but hadn't located until now.  In the propane locker we found the propane and the bottles...kinda wished the propane was in the bottles but apparently something leaked (yet another item for "the list"...and I guess that rules out cooking for now). I also need to refresh my memory on identifying the inspection dates on these bottles as I think one certainly looks like it might be in need of inspection.  In what was once the liferaft locker (we knew it wasn't aboard) we found a couple more life jackets, a couple type IV throwables, some mosquito netting, two old pairs of swim fins that went straight into the trash can, and a gizmo I hadn't seen before...
This gizmo is used to fresh water flush outboards.
It's a bit of a treasure hunt.  Just a few small surprises like the one above. The important thing here is to remember what we have and where it is.  To that end I am shuffling some stuff around so "like" items are in the same location.

Oh, and at my brokers request, we had to stop by the local liquor store so we could have a celebratory drink on the back of our boat in his absence (we are to have drinks with him as soon as he gets back from the boat show). We get the ABC store brand rum and some Sprite and have those drinks. It was OK...but I cannot recommend the ABC house brand rum...unless you need some lighter fluid (or perhaps it was that in our rush we got the diet any case, the combination was not the best).  But we did sit down for a bit and just enjoy the fact we were sitting on OUR boat.

We finally retire to the hotel and try to get some sleep, but we have an early start in the morning as we have hired a captain/instructor to help us move the boat up the ICW to its new, temporary home.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

We Own A Boat!

We depart Denver as we have done numerous times before on this boat buying expedition, but this time it is decidedly different.

The view from my airplane seat.
Ok, so it wasn't snowing when we left before...but that's not it.  This time, by the time we return, we should be the owners of our future floating home.

Over the past week or two we have been mulling over our options for where to dock the boat short term, what repairs and upgrades we really want to do right away, where to get insurance, as well as all the things left to do at our current house and our recently inherited one.  It has been a bit crazy.  I can't be the first person to buy a boat with limited experience, but many of the insurance companies I contacted did seem to act that way (even though we did take all those classes).  I also thought it shouldn't be too hard to find a dock or slip since so many cruisers are heading south towards the islands right now, but finding a home for a 21+ foot beam boat isn't as easy as one for the average mono hull.

Our broker comes through yet again and has hooked us up with an insurance guy that works the east coast and found us what seems to be a decent policy at about 1% of the hull value. He has also hooked us up with a very nice and well protected marina in which to dock the boat while we do some refit (and at what seems to be a very good price for the area as well).  He also helped locate an instructor to help us get used to our new boat and help us get it moved to its temporary home. The only downside of this trip is that our broker has to work a boat show in St. Petersburg so we won't see him until after we close and move the boat.

We arrive and make our way to Daytona to take a look at the repairs that were part of our conditional acceptance of vessel (our broker had taken a peek at them the day before...but I wanted to do it myself...even if I didn't know a whole lot about the repairs. I do like to think I have some decent general mechanical aptitude). We meet the selling agent at the boat and verify the transmission is now shifting as it should and that the leaking transmission cooler is replaced.

Everything looks good so I send the closing company the authorization-to-close paperwork and they proceeded with the closing. We wired money into escrow and scanned in a signed authorization to close before we left, so within a couple hours of sending the authorization email, we owned a 1999 Leopard 38. No sitting down with the current owner and pouring over reams of paperwork to sign your life away as is done with a house. It is OURS! I think we needed some fireworks. Of course, by the time we closed it was dark and we had been traveling all day so the fresh baked cookies at the hotel will have to do.

Weather is a bit better in Daytona
I really need to write more about the process and all the people who helped us get to this point, but that will have to wait for another time as this will be a busy week.

How interesting.  I just noticed this is post 100.  Seems like a good milestone for a nice round number.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

You Would Have Thought We Would Have Been More Prepared

But you would be wrong.  We've been looking for a boat for so long that you would have thought that we would have worked out a lot of the details by now.  And there certainly are few that we could have figured out before now, but there are a number of things that needed to wait until we had a specific boat locked in.

As the closing day on our boat approaches, we are scrambling to get a lot of things lined up. We couldn't determine a good place to temporarily store the boat until we knew where we were going to take possession.  We wouldn't know how long the refit was likely to take until we knew which boat we were going to buy. In fact we couldn't even get an insurance quote until we could give the insurance company the make and model of the boat and where we were going to keep it.

We now know most of this information, so the scramble to get everything lined up begins.  Our broker, Pete Gulick, has been a huge help with all of this.  Again he has gone above and beyond to help us find dockage and insurance options that didn't break the bank, an instructor to help us move the boat from its current home, and a bunch of other odds and ends to make this transition go as smoothly as possible.

We will be taking posession in Daytona Florida and will do some initial refit somewhere in the St. Augustine area. We will then depart Florida before the greedy tax man decides to extract his 6 pounds of flesh from us (we are not Florida residents nor do we want to be...) and cruise up the east coast this summer.  That is all the "plan" that we have so far.

We are trying to avoid making too many plans as this is supposed to be a more carefree lifestyle and as someone recently told me "schedules kill sailors" (and we don't want that). So sorry for the lack of posts recently, but know that progress is being made and more will be coming soon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for a few Freedom Chips and the Wisdom to Use Them Well

It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and we have been busily preparing to take possession of our future home afloat. While I don't generally like those "I'm thankful" messages that seem to be so pervasive (and not always sincere) and pop up in our social media society always connected conscience this time of year, today I decided to write one. So my apologies for writing this, and I do hope you find it interesting or at least sincere.

Actually, I hadn't planned on writing this at all.  My intention was to try to catch up on some of the reading I've wanted to do but am terribly behind on. I was reading the Cost Conscious Cruiser (one of the books that was so generously gifted to me and that I plan to pay forward in the future) and in one of the stories, it made mention of the phrase "Freedom Chips".  If you have been researching cruising much, you have probably heard this term used for money a number of times now.

Freedom Chip
I think it is a great term.  In our society we seem to be well trained to try and collect money but not to really see what the true cost of that effort is.  Sometimes there is a specific goal for the money and it is needed (food, shelter), but most of the time it seems it is just collecting money for the sake of trying to "keep up with the Joneses", to prove success or justify our existence.  We trade it for the newer shiny car, the bigger house, the big flat screen TV, or other symbols of our success.  At least that is what I feel I've spent most of my adult life doing anyway.

Calling money freedom chips makes the actual transaction much more clear.  I've traded my freedom for these chips by sitting in a soft-walled container staring at a glowing box on my desk (OK, I was diligently writing computer software) for 40 to 60 hours each week of my adult life. I would then trade these chips that represented my lost freedom for the bigger house, the newer car, the 65" big screen TV, or even just putting them in storage (bank) for later use.  Once or twice a year I may even trade my freedom chips in for a little freedom, a vacation from the other 50 weeks a year where I was trading my freedom away.

Since we started this idea of leaving it all behind and going cruising, we have been converting some of these symbols of our success back into freedom chips.  We've spent some of our chips to learn to sail and will soon be spending a lot more of them to acquire our traveling floating shelter.  Over the next few months we should have far fewer symbols of success and far more freedom chips.  We intend to trade a larger percentage of our chips for freedom as we move forward.  Freedom to spend our time the way we want.

We will always have to trade some of our freedom for chips and some of those chips for life's necessities, but we hope to find a balance that better favors our freedom and not symbols of our past "success".  The realization of our role in the rat race and the desire to change that role is what I'm most thankful for this year. Hopefully as we move forward we will spend our freedom chips wisely.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Conditional AOV Accepted

I'm shocked I tell ya...shocked.  Was starting to wonder if this day would come. We may soon be the new owners of a Leopard 38.  The current owner accepted our conditions to fix a couple things (replace a leaking transmission cooler and fix a slipping/late engaging transmission) and so we are finally heading into new boat buying territory...we've passed the AOV hurdle and it is on to closing.

Of course as I look out the window and watch the snow fall, I can't help but think of the past years' Corona commercials with the Christmas light decorated palm tree and think...soon.

So, while we work on wrapping up a bunch of odds and ends in preparation for closing on the our boat, I'll leave you with some videos of what increasingly looks like will be our future home afloat...

Sorry if there are some distortions in the videos...YouTube's "fixer" tried it's best to compensate for my rather shaky cell phone video (yeah, it must be the phone...couldn't possibly be me).

The port hull accommodations starting in the forward berth.

From the port hull across the bridge deck to the starboard hull

The starboard hull accommodations starting in the separate shower and moving to the forward berth with private half bath.

The cockpit and swim platform on the back of the boat.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Acceptance Of Vessel

The Acceptance Of Vessel, or AOV, date is an important one in the boat buying contract thing.  This is the point by which the conditions listed in the original contract should be met and the buyer informs the seller that they will accept the vessel and complete the contract as-is, will conditionally accept the vessel based on findings from the personal inspection/survey/sea trial (basically a renegotiation option), or reject the vessel and cancel the contract (without loss of the deposit).  It is where we are now with the current boat we have under contract.

On the first boat we had under contract, we rejected the vessel.  We knew that boat would have been a bit of a project boat going in, but the large number of expensive items found (including structural issues) made it more of a project than I, as a first time buyer, was willing to tackle.

The second boat we had under contract, we submitted a conditional acceptance of vessel on at this stage.  During the survey, over $32K worth of issues were found that we did not anticipate (the total list of stuff to fix was between $60K and $70K) .  We asked for a credit at time of closing to cover 50% of the unanticipated items (many of them were broken systems that should have been disclosed ahead of time when we asked if there were any known issues with the boat). The seller wasn't willing to meet us half-way and the previously agreed upon price was higher than we were willing to pay for a boat that needed all that work, so the conditional acceptance of vessel became a rejection of vessel at that time.

With the current boat there were about $12K worth of items we did not anticipate (and a total of $42K). There are only a couple issues that I would consider critical (water leaking into the boat is considered critical...right?) and would like to have them fixed, so we are again submitting a conditional acceptance of vessel asking that the items be fixed.  It isn't a big or expensive list (maybe 15% of the unanticipated stuff) but I want the boat ready to be moved when we close so it is critical to us. We are submitting the Conditional AOV today.

Hopefully this seller will see that this is more than fair and we will finally have our boat.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Going To See A Leopard - Day 3

I wake up and look out the window of our hotel room at the surf breaking on the shore. Does it actually look a little better or is it just wishful thinking. My wife opens the door and is happy to report that the winds do seem considerably lighter. Maybe, with any luck, we can get the rest of the survey (the haul out) and sea trial done before we hop on a plane back to Denver later today.

Pete (my broker) makes his way from St. Augustine back to Daytona and Jonathan (my surveyor) heads back up from Ft. Lauderdale. I remember when I was surprised that the survey and sea trial happened on the same I seem to be wishing we actually could get them done in the same day...funny how perspective changes.

We meet at the boat at 11am to move the boat to the boatyard for the haul out. Fortunately, the boatyard is very close, only a 5 or so minute trip. When we get there it looks just like the lift we couldn't fit in with the Leopard in Marathon. I have a quick flashback to that fiasco, but the selling agent confirms that the owner has used this lift on several occasions. We slowly work the boat into position and indeed it does fit...barely. We carefully move the boat into the lift's slip using ropes, poles, and a few fenders. Once again I pay to make a catamaran fly through the air. Unlike the bottoms of the other boats I've surveyed, this one was pretty clean so we forgo the pressure wash.  Jonathan gets out his trusty hammer and does the usual rapping on the hull, listening for the dull thud that indicates possible delamination or water intrusion. Other than one time he hit one of the few barnacles that took up residence on the hull, everything below the water line sounds good. That is welcome news.

We move on to the sea trial portion, which is done in the Ponce inlet since the waves were still in the 7 to 8 foot range just off the beach in the Atlantic...but I really didn't have time for a long sail anyway. Jonathan checks out the engines and finds that they were not producing the expected rpm and the transmission on one seemed to be slipping a bit when engaged. Ugh. There may be simple explanations for these issues...or expensive ones...clearly more investigation is required. We also found that the transmission cooler was leaking water into the bilge when underway...a fact that was confirmed when the very loud bilge alarm went off a few times during the trial (hey, at least the bilge alarm worked).

We quickly run up the sails to inspect them. The genoa looks fine, except the UV protection strip could use replacement. The main looks a bit strange to me as we raise it...seems a bit baggy like it isn't attached to the mast right. Jonathan and my broker both confirm that the sails cars (guides that attach to the front of the mainsail to the mast), specifically the ones at the batten locations, are missing. Really?!?!? The cars that are there are hanked on between the battens and this apparently isn't a typical configuration and may not be suitable for the mainsail.

There are issues with every propulsion option available to this boat...well, unless I get out on the transom and kick. Fortunately these are items that are not too serious and can be resolved...for a price.  The rest of the survey is uneventful.

Overall, the boat is in what I'm learning is just a little below average condition (or by the survey definition I'd call it "fair" condition).  There are a few more serious, safety related items but most are just the usual laundry list of issues found on used boats.  Being an ex charter, the boat is a little bit rougher than average on the cosmetic front but is mostly mechanically sound.  So, as we board the plane back to Denver we have some thinking and some research to do on repair costs while we await the official report from the surveyor. Not a lot of time though, the acceptance of vessel date fast approaches.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Going To See A Leopard - Day 2

My usual luck with weather from my aviation days seems to be following me to this new adventure. We awoke (several times during the night, in fact) to strong, gusty winds and angry seas...and we're on the 7th floor of a Daytona Beach Holiday Inn Express. The weather report was calling for sustained winds up to 20 knots with gusts over 40 and seas in the 9 foot range with small craft advisories. The wind was blowing off the ocean hard enough that our rental car, that was clean the previous day when we picked it up and was sitting on the opposite side of the hotel from the ocean, was now coated with enough salt that you could barely see through the windows. And we were going to do a survey and sea trial in this? That was the plan anyway.

Big waves on Daytona Beach, from the 7th floor.
Despite all of this, I was feeling better about the boat today than I was yesterday. I guess a little more sleep deprivation was just the ticket. I call my broker to query about the chances of meeting today's goals (expecting they were slim) and he said we would do whatever we can but it was ultimately up to the captain how far we would go. Can't say that I felt all that comfortable with the idea of a sea trial in these conditions, but I know how things can change and our flight back home is tomorrow evening so we have a very limited time window.

We all meet at the boat and the owners agent says the owner is not really comfortable with the idea of moving the boat today but would make the call later, after the part of the survey that could be done at the dock is complete. Jonathan goes about his checks and even goes up the mast for that inspection. Must be fun at the top of the mast in these winds.

By the time he is done with the checks he could perform at the dock, Jonathan had a moderate sized list of issues. And the wind hadn't improved any either, so no haul-out or sea trial was going to happen today. We review John's list and figure out a plan to do the haul out and sea trial before we have to hop back on a plane tomorrow evening. The list of issues on this boat is less than the previous Leopard (thus far). Many of the items we were aware of like the cosmetic issues with the exterior and the strange issue with the Corian counter top.

There were also a few surprises. A couple of the bigger ones were a transmission issue with one engine and a windlass that doesn't work going in the "up" direction (and i doubt the anchor needs help going down). There were also a number of other odds and ends that we didn't know about but seem to be common issues (such as non-functional lights and valves) on used boats.

So, while the boat is not quite in the condition I had expected, it is not bad. Of course, that could all change with the sea trial and haul out, but hopefully that will go smoothly...aren't we about due for some good luck anyway? Guess we will find out tomorrow.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Going To See A Leopard 38

Sitting in seat 7A listening to some Jimmy Buffet and taking a trip that is starting to feel like a regular commute, we are flying back to Florida again to inspect and survey another boat. The whole process is starting to feel just a bit too familiar and the thought that we may get past a survey and actually own a boat feels like just a fleeting dream at times.

This trip is a bit different, though. This time we are under contract on a boat we have yet to see in person. All we know of the boat is what is shown in the listing, the videos that Pete our broker sent when he went and took a look at it for us, and our brokers personal report on it's condition. It is another Leopard 38 (a.k.a. Moorings 3800) and this one is an ex charter boat. So, unlike the last one, this one has higher time engines, more nicks and scrapes, and does not have a hard top bimini, water maker, or solar. On the other hand, it appears from the pictures we have seen that this one as been regularly maintained and the systems it has are reported to be in good working order. Oh it also comes with a RIB and motor (a.k.a. the family car).

We land in Orlando, pick up the rental car (no not from Fox, won't rent from them in Orlando again), and make our way to Daytona to meet up with our broker and take our first actual look at the boat. The sales contract has the usual three conditions (personal inspection, survey, and sea trial) and I guess you can count this as part of the personal inspection even though I will want to see it again just prior to closing.

Blue vinyl...easy to clean but seems sticky in warm climates.

We meet Pete at the boat that is sitting behind a private residence near Daytona. We take a very careful look at everything inside and outside the boat. Inside, the boat is a pretty typical Leopard with some less than appealing blue vinyl cushions, a damaged Corian counter top (I've never seen Corian curl before) and damaged refrigerator lid. Other than a few lights, everything we tried worked. Outside is where you could really tell it was an ex charter boat. Numerous dings, scratches and minor cracks. There were numerous gel coat repairs that didn't quite match (likely from arguments with docks that the boat lost) and a few spots where the gel coat was getting pretty thin. The bright sides of the exterior appear to be the condition of the sails (from what we can tell of them sitting in the stack pack) and the somewhat weathered but serviceable dinghy with motor.

An abundance of caulk and the "two tone" gel coat.

Overall, it seems to be a decent boat. Mechanically, it appears to be in better condition than the other Leopard (although we don't know about the engines or generator yet). The detractor is clearly the hull condition that doesn't look the best and the higher time engines. There is one pretty clear repair issue that the surveyor will need to check. At the end of the day, I feel a bit perplexed about the whole thing and I'm not sure why. I think our broker accurately represented the condition of the boat, yet I think...or at least hoped...that it was in a tiny bit better shape cosmetically speaking. I think it may just be my mood though, as I have a bit of a headache and have been functioning with a general lack of sleep.  Or maybe it is our past experiences and I just don't want to get my hopes up again.  I will wait and see how I feel tomorrow.

On an unrelated but amusing note, the fact that the plane had to be deiced leaving Denver and the captain asked us to pull the shades down to help keep the plane cool after we landed in Orlando tells me we are working in a good direction.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hey Buddy, How Much for That Boat?

In the process of shopping for our future home afloat, this is a very common question on my mind. Of course, the real question I grapple with is "What is that boat worth?" Being a novice boat buyer, I entered into this process not really knowing much about the market.  Having gone through two contracts as well as a couple other offers and a lot of market analysis, I figured it was time for a "what I've learned thus far" on the subject.

Now before you go thinking what I write below is gospel, remember that we only started looking at boats in earnest in April (that's about 6 months ago folks). Also remember that we are shopping for used live-aboard catamarans in the sub $200,000 (US) category. And some of this is rather obvious, but I've found that with all the info swirling around on one's mind, sometimes even the obvious statements are worth mention.

The first thing that I've learned is that every used boat is unique.  They may have looked the same when they rolled off the assembly line, but they were probably unique by the time they were sold and certainly are by the time they are re-sold one or more times. Comparing live-aboard boats is a lot like comparing furnished houses combined with cars.  Each one has unique furnishings and touches, included equipment, as well as different levels of wear...and then they have engines and batteries and other vehicle aspects too.  This makes attempting to determine a reasonable value for a boat a very difficult task. I think most brokers, be it house or boat, learn the standard capitalist answer to the above know...the "it's worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it" answer.  That's great in your college Capitalism 101 course, but doesn't really give you much of a place to start when looking at boats. 

A near "bristol" condition FP Tobago.

We tend to start like we do with houses, looking at comparable sales or "comps" as they are usually called in real estate.  Seems reasonable, but there are a couple problems with it.  First, there are far fewer boats of a given type than there are houses in a neighborhood, so a comp list of recent sales often must go back years instead of weeks or months as you would for a house.  Another issue is the wide variance in condition and equipment. Obviously a former charter boat with minimal 1990's electronic equipment (often not working), original sails and upholstery, etc. would be a far different value than a non-chartered boat of the same age where the owner has updated the equipment and interior as tastes and technologies have changed.  And yet another differentiator is location. If you are lucky enough to find a number of "comps" it is not likely they were sold in the same area in which you are looking. Boats in less tropical climates tend to age better than those subjected to the tropical sun, and this impacts the value.  Boats located in hard to get to remote locations or places people don't really want to spend as much time in tend to sell for less just as boats in hot boating markets or where the supply is limited relative to demand fetch a higher price.

Leopard in fair condition when we saw it.

So, you collect what data you can and try to come up with an average.  What the average boat, in average condition, with average equipment should cost...approximately. As a software engineer with a minor in mathematics, I prefer looking at hard numbers. In my many attempts to figure all of this out, here are some rough guidelines I've found seem to hold least for the catamarans in the price range I've been looking at sold in the United States (this excludes boats in "restorable/salvage" condition, see definition below).
  • Boats sell for about 12% less than they are listed on average.
  • Boats used in charter take about a 10% hit in price.
  • Location can make a 10% difference in price 
    • US non-tropical locations near the top
    • Remote (harder to get to) tropical locations near the bottom
  • The condition of a boat can make about a 30% difference in price (not including salvage).
  • 3 years seems to be a reasonable time frame when collecting "comps".
  • There is little difference in price between older and newer versions of a given model, prices are mostly based on condition.
  • Buying a boat with the equipment you want is cheaper than buying a cheaper boat and adding all the equipment yourself.

As condition has such a large impact on price, it also helps to have a common definition of the condition of a boat.  The following seems to be a pretty "standard" definition of several surveyors and surveyor organizations.
  • Excellent/Bristol Condition: A vessel that is maintained in mint condition or "Bristol fashion" – usually better that factory new, loaded with extras (very rare).
  • Above Average Condition: A vessel that has had above average care and maintenance and is equipped with extra electrical, electronic, and other gear.
  • Average Condition: A vessel that is ready for sale (or ready to sail) requiring no additional work and normally equipped for her size.
  • Fair Condition: A vessel that requires typical recurring maintenance to prepare for sale.
  • Poor Condition: A vessel that requires substantial yard work (in excess of normal maintenance items) and is devoid of extras.
  • Restorable/Salvage Condition: A vessel where enough of the hull and engine exists to restore the boat to usable condition.

So, with this information you can start to get an idea of what you might end up paying for a given catamaran when all is said and done.  Here's an example using a fictitious catamaran:
  • You are looking at a 1995 WidgetCat (I told you it was fictitious) in above average condition and started it's life as a charter boat (engines both have 5000 hours).  They are asking $190,000
  • Assuming you don't have comps available, you look at the available listings:
    • 1993 WidgetCat $220,000
    • 1994 WidgetCat $180,000
    • 1996 WidgetCat $200,000
  • The average asking price is $200,000 so the average sold price is probably around $176,000.
  • Since the specific boat is a former charter, expect 10% less than the average.
  • Since the specific boat is in above average condition, expect 7.5% more (30% range gives 7.5% per step with average being the starting point).
  • So, the final sales price for this 1995 WidgetCat should be about 2.5% below average (10-7.5) or about $171600.

Obviously this works a little better the more accurate data you have, for instance actual sold comps instead of average asking price.  But, hopefully it will give you some idea of where to start.

This isn't any sort of guarantee, and for every rule there is an exception. Also remember I'm of very limited experience in this take this for what it's worth (and for what you paid for this advice :-) ). And, as I stated earlier, every boat is unique.  All of this calculation of averages and estimates are just that, averages and estimates.  I guess the Capitalism 101 answer is ultimately correct...but I hope this helps folks figure out where to start the negotiations.

 So, what do you think?  For those that have purchased boats, does this sound like what you found?  For those just starting to look, does this help any? Anyone out there want to comment on differences with the monohull market or different price ranges? Am I just an engineer trying to apply some order and logic where there obviously isn't any?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed...

...try, try....try try again, right?  Well, we are yet again under contract on a boat.

So, where we left off we had a decision to make between two very different boats that we like equally for different reasons.  We didn't really have time to go look at these boats having just flown back from Florida after our last failed deal so our broker came to the rescue.  Pete went and looked at the boats for us, taking videos and pictures so we could get a good look at the boats without having to travel back down there on short notice.  Have I mentioned that our agent rocks?  Well, he does.

We review the videos and pictures, and then we review them again.  It was a difficult decision and in the end we were really struggling with it.  Well, while we were trying to decide, the Lagoon went under contract.  So, that pretty much made the decision for us...and we are fine with that.  We put in an offer on the Leopard and after a little negotiation, it was accepted.  Now we need to go actually see the boat in person.

While this Leopard is not quite as well equipped as the other Leopard, it does appear to be better maintained.  In the pictures and videos we were able to see some newer hoses and hardware that, in addition to our broker's comments, leads us to believe that the boat has been regularly maintained.  This was something clearly missing from the last boat.

This boat is not perfect and there are items in need of repair in addition to the refit items we are planning, but our hope is that this one is in better condition than the last one and will put us ahead of the repair curve we would have had with the last one.  So here we go "once more unto the breach"...

Update: Unfortunately I can no longer recommend the broker mentioned in the above post.  Numerous issues arose post-sale that require me, in good faith to my readers, to rescind the recommendation.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Hunt Continues

Ironically within days of the last deal falling through, in addition to a couple boats that were already on our short list, a couple new listings appeared.  One is a Lagoon 37 and another is a Moorings/Leopard 3800. This actually made for a bit of a we really seem to like both boats and can't decide which one to pursue.


The Lagoon 37 was at the top of our list for a while as we like the amount of space, the configuration of the bunks and the amount of storage.  After giving up on finding a decent Lagoon 37 and looking at the Leopard, we really liked the separate shower, galley up design and layout of the cockpit of it.  It seems for each pro or con we come  up with for one boat, we come up with one for the other boat.  As many people often say, all boats are a compromise...unfortunately it seems that, while each of these boats is very different, they each come up equal to one another in our eyes when all the dust settles.

Funny how life works sometimes, isn't it?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Strike Two

Well, it doesn't look like we will be reaching an agreement on the Leopard 38 "Catzpaw" that we had under contract.  There is just too much work that needs to be done to this neglected boat to justify the price that the owner wants.

When we put the offer in on the boat we took into account the things we knew about that needed work plus a little for unknowns for a boat that has been obviously sitting neglected for a year or more. Tape on two windows and a hatch were obvious indications that they were leaking and needed to be rebed. Hull damage from what appears to be a scuffle with a dock.
Taped window and hatch
Impact with a dock?
We were told the house battery bank was not doing well and would likely need replacement (an understatement, they wouldn't hold enough charge to run the chart plotter alone). Various light fixtures were broken, one of the AC units didn't work, and there were other odds and ends that needed work. The gel coat was in poor condition from baking in the sun for a long time without so much as a wax, and the fact there was a marine sanctuary growing on the boat bottom made the neglect rather obvious. But despite all of this we liked the boat and were willing to give the boat the love it had been missing to bring it back to reasonable condition, so we took these factors into account and made an offer that we believed was more than fair given the typical price range for these boats is $150K ~ $175K.

Well, along came the survey and we found that far more than we anticipated was wrong.  There were 51 items listed in the findings and recommendation section of the survey. The diesel generator would not work and had enough wrong with it that the surveyor highly recommended replacement ($8K), The water maker that was supposed to be pickled but was not and pumps were inoperative ($5K), the windlass would not carry a load when we tried using it ($4K), and the electric winch was inoperative ($3.5K).  That's over $20k just to replace the top 4 items found during the inspection.  Add in the non-functional refrigerator, seized through hulls, various electrical problems and everything else that needed work and it came out to over $32K in parts and labor to replace everything that was found that we weren't expecting to find (the total refit cost we estimated was between $60K and $70K including these new items).

We decided that we would split the difference on that $32K, an offer our broker said was more than generous. Our hope was that we could do much of the work ourselves and perhaps repair or find used and serviceable parts to help lower the cost. We are also getting a bit tired of going through all of this process just for the deal to collapse and that has a bit of value itself.  So our broker went back asking for a concession at time of closing to cover half of the cost of the stuff we did not know about that was found on the survey.

I don't know if sellers have way too much emotion tied up in their boats that they can't see the true market value, if they are wearing the rose-colored glasses I mentioned in the previous post and see the boat as it was when they bought it and don't see how time and their neglect have reduced it's value (I think the listing from when the current owner bought the Leopard can be found here) or what the reasons are that some owners have over-inflated sense of worth of their boats, but in this case, the seller was only wiling to concede $5K.  That is less than 1/10th of what we believe the boat needs, one sixth of what it might cost to fix the items we did not know about and 1/3 of what we asked in concessions.  Needless to say, that is not going to happen. So much for being generous.

I'm starting to wonder if people selling their catamarans have been out baking in the sun too long (much like some of their boats). I'm also starting to feel a bit bad for my broker.  I know he put a lot of work into trying to make this deal happen and neither of us can believe that this is happening again. Well Pete, what did you once say to me..."they are always making plastic boats and another one is right around the corner."

And on that note, a new boat has come on the market that we might be interested in. The owner of the Tobago we saw during our last shopping trip has also reduced his price and, unlike this one, was an obviously well cared for boat. So, the shopping continues...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Survey and Next Step

Finally got the survey report back on the Leopard 3800 we have under contract.  What was it that I said in a reply to a comment on the last post..."I don't think surveys ever come back with good news...just varying degrees of bad news".  Of course, this is really what you want in a know what the problems are.  After all you are probably viewing a boat purchase with those rose colored glasses that are coloring your view with all the anticipated fun you intend to have with it.

For those who aren't familiar with a survey report, I believe the reports are in a pretty common format as they are typically used to get insurance and financing on a vessel as well as telling you what condition it is currently in. There are typically sections for general information about the model of boat, one that describes the various compartments and systems, findings and recommendations, evaluation, and summary.  Oh, and we wouldn't be in America without the usual legal disclaimers. They can also have various appendices with additional information (I don't know if it is typical, but Jonathan usually includes a variety of pictures as well).

The particularly interesting sections are the "findings and recommendations" section, as it lists any deficiencies that the surveyor found in the boat and the "evaluation" where they come up with the estimated value and replacement cost of the vessel. The surveyor actually sent the "findings and recommendations" section a day early so we had a bit of time to research the issues and cost of repairs.

In a word, ouch.  We knew that there were some issues with the boat that we would have to address, and to a certain extent this is expected of any used boat (and probably, to a lesser extent, most new ones as well). We, of course, based our original offer on the items we knew about.  Well, the survey uncovered a pretty long list of other items that we had not anticipated. And the worst part, some of the items, such as the generator, are rather expensive to replace.  On the bright side, there don't seem to be any structural issues that make the boat unsafe, so it is all just a matter of the cost to restore the boat to working order.

This is where the whole boat buying process is a bit annoying.  When we first look at a boat we can look around but it is generally frowned upon to go around testing systems yourself (understanding some electrical setups alone need the owner to be present to explain it all).  So, some system issues just aren't found until the inspection.  But the offer takes place before the inspection, so you have to make assumptions about the systems.  Then, like in the situation we are in now, you have to go back and ask for concessions to the originally agreed upon price to cover these things that were assumed to be OK but are not.  And if we can't reach an agreement now, a lot of time and money has been wasted getting to this point.

And that is where we sit now.  Trying to determine what is fair to go back and ask the seller for.  It would have been nice if we had been told ahead of time that the generator, refrigerator, water maker, windlass, etc. were not working so the initial offer would have been more accurate.  We will now need to either reject the vessel or send a conditional acceptance of vessel with conditions that include a credit at closing. Boat buying can be a real emotional roller coaster.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leopard 38 Survey and Sea Trial - Second Attempt

We didn't get back to the hotel in Marathon from our pre-sea-trial repositioning sail until around midnight. Fortunately, the rescheduled haul out wasn't until the afternoon, so we did sleep in a little bit. We checked out of the hotel just before 11 am and made our way back to Key West.

We met our broker, Pete, and briefed him on the prior days trip. He had been worried when he hadn't heard from us last night (until my 10pm text that we had indeed made it). I think his biggest worry was (since he knows I'm not one to put up with a lot of B.S.) that something might come up between me and the selling agent and some of her, shall we say, creative explanations. No worries Pete, I'm pretty sure I can restrain myself from pushing someone overboard...and we all got along fine (except for a couple minor spats between the selling agent and the hired captain).

We moved the boat over to the marina lift and...YES, it fits. We walk the boat into the lifts slip and up she goes.

Haul-out at twice normal speed.  This video has been stabilized by YouTube
to see the original shaky one (with out the wavy artifacts) click here.

Then begins the process of evicting the sea creatures from the boat's bottom.

Boat bottom or coral reef, you decide.
A "little" scraping and a pressure wash.
Not perfect. but way better.

After the cleanup, Jonathan does his inspection and sounding (tapping the hull with a hammer) looking for delamination and water penetration issues. It really is amazing what you can see with the boat in the lift straps that you cannot see when it is in the water...even the parts of the hull that sit above the waterline.

We did find one large patch in the forward hull that was of some concern, and a number of chips down to the fiberglass that will need to be touched up as well as some other odds and ends, but it was definitely more positive than our last hull inspection that sank that deal.

After the hull inspection, we put the boat back in the water for the official sea trial. Now one might think we got quite a sea trial the day before, but in addition to the sea trial being a bit of a test drive, it is also a chance for the surveyor to inspect the engines, sails and rigging under load. The winds were about the same as they were the prior day and we had seas in the 3 to 4 foot range and this made for a good sea trial. I was definitely a welcome change to see that the boat was able to do closer to half of the wind speed on a close reach with the cleaner bottom and no engine assistance. In fact, I was having enough fun with it that I was a bit disappointed when Jonathan said he was done and we could head back at any time.

Once we get back to the dock, there were a couple last checks that Jonathan had to perform.  He took oil samples from the engines to do an oil analysis* and to go up the mast to inspect the rigging.

By the time we are done, it is around 6pm on a Friday night. We very briefly talk about a few of the bigger issues with the boat, but to get the full report will take a little time and Jonathan needs to head back home.  Our AOV (Acceptance of Vessel - basically the last day I have to reject the purchase based on the survey, sea trial, and personal inspection) is tomorrow and there is simply no way I will have the report in that time.  So, the last thing we do is get with my broker to submit paperwork to the seller for an extension of the AOV so I will have time to review the results of the survey and make informed decisions.

And with that we begin our drive back to Ft. Lauderdale to check in to a hotel near the airport so we can make our early flight back home.  Yet again we fail to get to sleep before midnight...guess getting to bed early just wasn't going to happen this trip (well past the "cruisers midnight" that I assume will become part of our lives).

The AOV extension was accepted, now we just wait...impatiently...for the report from the surveyor. I know it will be a pretty long list, but hopefully not insurmountable.

*I know there is a great amount of debate regarding the usefulness of oil least there is in piston aviation engines. If an engine is tearing itself apart the metal is often larger than what is caught in suspension in the oil.  I wonder if an oil filter inspection looking for metal would be a better option for surveyors to try (an inspection that is usually done in piston aviation engines).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Leopard 38 Survey and Sea Trial

So, here we are, our second attempt at a survey and sea trial on a boat that we think could be ours. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on what is starting to feel like a regular commute except it was at midnight due to flight delays. Drove to a hotel in Florida City (so we would miss the morning traffic through Miami) and spent a few hours trying to get some sleep. We then continued on to Marathon for the 9am appointment at the boat. Of course, in true Florida driving fashion, our plan to miss traffic problems failed as someone managed to close the Overseas Highway by wrecking their car somewhere between Florida City and Key Largo. In the time we have spent in Florida we have seen quite a number of single car accidents on straight, flat roads in good weather and knowing the stretch of Highway 1, assume a similar situation has occurred. I do hope the people are okay. business idea...maybe I should open a driving school...

We arrive at the boat a little late due to the extended commute time and find our surveyor was already there (he apparently made it through just before the accident that detoured us). He briefs me on the issues found thus far; some through hulls don't work, some electrical issues including the generator, and a laundry list of other items in addition to the stuff we already knew about. Apparently the owner's broker had one engine running when he arrived so he couldn't do the usual cold start checks on it, and the other engine wouldn't start so they had to call for a mechanic. The mechanic came, found the somewhat hidden breaker in the engine compartment and made a temporary fix to the alternator, and we were good to go haul out the boat.

Marathon Boat Yard Lift

We head over to the marina in Marathon where we were scheduled to do the haulout. When we get there, we look at the lift and wonder if the boat will fit. We had called to verify it would, the selling agent claimed Leopard 38s (maybe even this particular boat) have been hauled out here before and we did see a Manta on the hard in the yard, so we slowly ease the boat toward the haul out slip thinking it will be close but will hopefully fit. Well, guess doesn't fit. The selling agent "tries a little harder" and wedges the boat between the bumpers...hope she didn't just damage the hull.  Have we just wasted a trip down to see a haul out that isn't going to happen?

After some phone calls, the selling agent finds the closest marina that claims they can haul out this beamy cat...but it is in Key West (the next best option is in Key Largo). The seller's agent then tried to tell my broker that we would need to help cover the cost to reposition the boat...which Pete quickly dismissed. It is the current owner's responsibility to provide the captain for the vessel as well as the costs for the sea trial and movement to an appropriate haul-out location and the buyer's (my) responsibility to pay for the costs of the haulout and surveyor (as stated in the contract). After getting everything squared away, the agent and captain might just have time to sail the boat down for a haulout the next afternoon.

Since the only reason we were in Florida was for the survey and sea trial and we had nothing better to do, we asked if we could tag along for the sail down to Key West. Just trying to make a little lemonade from the lemons we've been handed. They agreed, so the captain grabbed some provisions (sandwiches and water) and did some checks and made the boat ready for a short coastal trip. The current owner also decided to come along. So, the 5 of us head off to Key West.

Have I mentioned that this boat had been sitting in the water but had not been sailed in quite a while?

If this is a dockline, wonder what the bottom looks like
My broker and surveyor as well as I wondered how successful this attempt to reposition a boat that had not been used in a while would be, but did agree that it would also be a great opportunity (and pretty rare chance in boat buying) to really get comfortable with the boat. When we started moving the boat, it left a trail of the aquatic life attached to its hull in its wake. Someone joked that we might need to get a permit for messing with a marine habitat in order to clean the bottom. It was one dirty bottom boat, a fact that was confirmed by the 8 hours it took to make the trip from Marathon to Key West with an average speed of just about 5 knots using both the engines and sails on a very broad reach.

Toward the end of the trip, when the captain was looking for a whisker pole that the owner once thought was on board, he discovered an asymetrical spinnaker sitting under some chain in the anchor locker. Other than a rust stain (no idea why it was stored there... but if you have a boat, remember that the appropriate place to store a sail is not under a rusty chain in an anchor locker...the chain does not need a multi-thousand dollar pillow) it was in good shape, so we decided to give it a whirl to expedite our progress. Between the bits of reef that we were slowly knocking off the hull and the light air sail (the captain and selling agent had a disagreement over the precise type, so we nicknamed it bigsail [pronounced bigs'l] because it sounded less pretentious that way), we did manage a little over 6 knots toward the end of the sail with winds estimated around 15 knots. We arrived in Key West just a bit before 10pm. I'm not exacly sure when we left, but estimate it was a 7 to 8 hour sail.

So around 10 pm, we start the drive back to Marathon to check into the hotel for the night. Looks like it will be after midnight before we have a room for the second day in a row on this trip. Tomorrow, the haulout and official sea trial will hopefully occur.

While the inability to complete the survey today is a disappointment, I do have to say that I really, REALLY appreciate that those working on my behalf have been so great in the face of these frustrations.  Both Pete my broker and Jonathan my surveyor have had to deal with this extra day for the survey.  The surveyor has an appointment so he has to drive back to Ft. Lauderdale and then return to Key West tomorrow afternoon.  My broker had to change his plans so he could spend the night in Key West.  And both have been there to cover my back when needed. Still can't say enough nice things about these guys.

Update: Unfortunately I can no longer recommend either the broker or the surveyor mentioned in the above post.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Leopard 38 Video

Ok, one last set of videos for now.  This is the Leopard 38 we have under contract.

This is the port hull starting in the forward berth (the beds are almost chest high), passing through the mid-ship head and on to the aft berth (which sits lower and seems just a bit larger than the forward one).

The bridge deck moving from port side where the galley is (the refrigerator is top loading under the counter on the starboard side of the U), moving across to the starboard salon side.

Finally, the starboard hull starting in the separate shower stall aft (which includes a sink but no head) then moving forward to the berth that contains a "half-bath" head .

Well, that's the quick video tour of the interior. Hopefully the survey and sea trial go better than the last one.  We know there are some relatively minor issues that need to be addressed (a couple ports/windows need to be re-bed), but hopefully there isn't anything structural or mechanical lurking behind the scenes. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Boat Shopping - The Videos

In my last post, I asked if anyone would be interested in seeing some of the videos I took of various boats during our shopping trips.  There were more than a couple people that replied to either the post or via email that they would like to see anything I had.

So, fair warning...these are not the greatest quality, just shaky cell phone videos with some rather abrupt cuts.  This is also my first experiment with YouTube. I tried using some of the YouTube tools to stabilize a couple of them, but that left other artifacts in the video so I only did that with a couple of them. Please keep in mind that these are completely unstaged.

Lagoon 37

This first set is of the Lagoon 37 that I put an offer in on back in the spring.  The galley layout is not the standard for this boat. The interior video starts with the head located at the rear of the starboard hull, moves through the galley to the Starboard berth, across the bridge deck salon and on to the port forward berth, finally backtracking to the rear port berth.

PDQ 36

This starts in the starboard forward berth, moves down the starboard hull to the head in the rear of that hull.  Then across the bridge deck to the galley in the port hull.  From there it moves forward into the port berth and then back to the port rear quarter berth/storage area.

Fountaine Pajot Tobago 35

I started breaking up the videos here to make them easier to review. So you'll have one for each hull and one for the bridge deck between them. The first one starts in the head in the rear of the port hull and goes to the master berth port forward.

Then a quick pass thru the salon and galley on the bridgedeck from port to starboard.

This one starts in the starboard forward berth.

So, there you have it.  A quick video tour of 3 of the boats we've seen during some of our shopping trips.  I've got one more boat to show you...but six videos in one post seems like a lot so we'll save the other for another post.

Let me know what you think.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lessons Learned - Shopping and Video

Continuing with the idea of occasionally posting "things we've learned thus far" here is a tip we figured out while looking at a bunch of boats.

After our first boat shopping trip, one of the things we quickly discovered was that we had a hard time remembering details about the boats we saw one after another.  So, after our first trip, we decided that we need some better means of remembering.  I thought perhaps it would be helpful to start taking videos.

I started using my cell phone to take video of the interior and exterior of the boats we thought we were more interested in.  T hese were far from professional grade cinematography, just shaky panning around rooms and wandering through the boats.  But it did what we wanted and found it helped jog memories about details.

I also found it did a bit more.  We've been able to go back to the videos to answer questions that we had later.  It's very handy when you are no longer near the boat in question.

So, if you go shopping for a boat, try taking a video that pans around to explore the space.  It doesn't have to be excessively slow or a long filming, but anything captured you may find handy when you have that lingering question in the back of your mind.

I also have a question to ask of you. Would you be interested in seeing the videos I've taken of some of the boats?  As I've said, they are just shaky cell phone videos, but if there is enough interest I'd be willing to annotate them and remove/replace the audio tracks so they could be posted.  Leave a comment and let me know if you would be interested in seeing them.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Here We Go Again

The offer has been accepted!  So, for the second time in my life I'm under contract on a sailing yacht.  Now, as I've learned, the fun begins.  Have to get everyone scheduled for the survey, haul-out and sea trial.

For the survey, I'll be using Jonathan Sands from Atlantic Marine Group again.  With our last experience using him, this was a no-brainer decision and I have confidence in his abilities. Since that first inspection, I've seen his name mentioned several times and it seems I do not stand alone in thinking he is a pretty good catamaran surveyor.

I still need to do a bit of research on the Leopard 38 as well.  I've typically done a lot of research prior to going to look at boats, but this time I was not as prepared as I was with the Lagoon or the Fountaine Pajot boats.

Amazing how the boat buying process seems to toggle between dead stop to full-speed ahead.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Another Shopping Trip (Part 3)

Part 1 can be found here, part 2 is here.

So as we ate an overpriced lunch at the marina in Miami (remind me not to hang out much in Miami...not that I was planning to...but it definitely isn't cruiser budget friendly), we decided to put in an offer on...the Leopard 38.

As I mentioned, it needs a bit of work. The Leopard can use some cosmetic and minor repairs but nothing like the Lagoon 37 we were under contract on back in the spring. Of course back then we didn't think there was too much work on that one but I trust my surveyor will find anything that may be amiss. So we came up with a number we feel is fair based on our initial impression of the condition and sent it in that afternoon. Now the wait for a response begins.

Earlier today, even though we submitted an offer on the Leopard (it hasn't been accepted yet and if I've learned anything from this experience, it is that anything can happen up until closing with a deal), we took a look at a Privelege 41 (which our broker says is very similar to a 39 that we might be interested in but didn't have time to drive all the way from the Keys to Pennsicola to see).

These boats are well appointed and have an absolutely huge cockpit. The thing I don't like is the location of the helm. It is positioned over the hull and almost all the way back against the transom. It is exposed and seems to me to be a bad place to be in all but the calmest of seas. The idea of standing or sitting on the very back of the boat on a night watch in rough seas scares me a bit.

One thing I apparently haven't completely learned is how to do a thorough initial inspection of a boat. And that is why we are currently on the Palmetto Expressway heading back to the Keys. It seems a day later we always come up with one or two things we wished we had looked at but for some reason did not. Guess I need to come up with a checklist if we need to do any more shopping.

Going back to the boat with a more critical eye helped though. It solidified that we think this is a nice, well laid out boat that would make a good live-aboard. It also reminded us of a couple issues with the boat and gave us a second/better chance for inspection. I opened up a couple of the access panels that I missed the last time (and thankfully found nothing bad of note), we talked a bit more with the selling agent about Leopards, and verified that the electronics are working.

Here are a couple additional pictures from the Leopard:

So, now we wait to hear back on our offer.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Shopping Trip (Part 2)

Picking up where I left off in the first post on this trip...

After spending some time on the Leopard, we then worked our way back up the Keys to Key Largo to see a Lagoon 37 that has been for sale for a little while.

We had actually put an offer in on this boat, sight unseen, a couple months ago. The owner countered and we decided that we should see it before going any further. We are glad we did as I think it saved us from an offer higher than it should have been. We really like the design of these boats, it is a shame there aren't more around in better condition and I'm increasingly feeling that we don't want too much of a project for our first big boat. I guess what we really want is a brand new Lagoon 37...with the shoal draft option...but I checked with my broker and he doesn't have a time machine so we appear to be out of luck.  So, at the end of day one we have one contender and one scratched off the list.

The next day, we continued our migration north where we looked at a Fountaine Pajot Tobago 35 in Miami.

This was a nice and obviously well cared for boat. Of the Tobagos that are currently available, this is probably the pick of the litter. This was the three berth, one head version. Inside this boat was about as close to immaculate as any we have seen...a far cry from the other Tobago that had a rotting orange left in the sink when we saw it (not that the other boat was bad...just not cleaned up). Since I've covered the model before I won't go through the whole description and will only note the differences between the first one and this one.  As the 3 berth layout, the second head was replaced by a less than queen width third berth that sits down in the aft hull. One nice feature this boat had was a roller furling screecher (light wind sail) on a bowsprit.

Since our broker did not accompany us to see the Tobago in Texas, this was his first time looking at a Tobago in person. One thing he noted that we didn't think of was that the sink appeared a bit small to wash a full sized plate in. Now why hadn't we noticed that. He did admit the boat had more room than he had expected.

While driving to Miami to see the Tobago, my wife and I discussed the difficulties we've been having finding a Lagoon 37 in reasonable shape. I know that there are some nice Lagoon 37s out there, but the ones that have been on the market recently seem to be overpriced or, in many cases, in rough shape for the price. After seeing the Tobago we came to the realization that there are nice boats out there in our price range that we believe we could easily live on and that trying to hold out for a Lagoon 37 that is in decent shape and properly priced is probably not worth the time lost waiting or our perceived minor advantages of that design over some of the others.

So, what do we do?  Find out in part 3.