Tuesday, April 30, 2013

And This is Why You Do a Boat Survey

In my last post I wrote that we were under contract on a Lagoon 37.  Due to the unique nature of boat buying, here's a brief outline of the process for those that haven't experienced it.  You find a boat you like, agree upon a tentative price, and put the boat under contract.  Then the next step is to perform a survey (inspection) and sea trial (test drive).  Once that is complete, included in the contract is an Acceptance Of Vessel (AOV) date.  They buyer has the option to accept the boat, reject the boat, or possibly renegotiate based on the results of the survey.  Once the boat is "accepted" by the buyer, there is a closing and you own the boat.  That's how its supposed to go anyway (according to my understanding).

We just had the survey and sea trial on the Lagoon 37.  Until I set up the appointment, I figured these were two separate things, but apparently they are often done on the same day, particularly when you need to move the boat to the inspection location.  So, after interviewing a few surveyors on the phone, I selected one and we set up the appointment for the survey and sea trial.

We met at the boat and the surveyor started with his "cold" checks of the boat to test systems while hooked up to shore power before the engines are started. Then the engines were started, additional checks were performed and we motored our way to the boat yard for the haul out as the inspector continued to check things out en-route.

Once we got to the boat yard, we had the boat hauled-out (pulled out of the water) so we could power wash and inspect the exterior hull and below the waterline.  This is where the fun started.  Thus far the surveyor had a decent sized laundry list of items, but most of them were known or reasonably small in nature.  By hauling and pressure washing the bottom, he was able to find several items of potential concern with the hull and propulsion system.

Hull Impact?
Hull Patch?
How did footprints get here?

After the hull inspection, the boat was placed back in the water for our return trip.  On this trip we took the boat to a reasonably-sized bay to run up the sails to inspect them and see how she sails.  While motoring from the yard to the bay the captain was having difficulty keeping the boat in position as we waited for bridges to open.  Now I'm really not experienced enough to say if the issue was mostly mechanical or pilotage, but the combination of the two was adding to my concern about the condition of the boat and the safety of the remainder of this trip.

The selling agent did convince me to proceed with the sea trial so we continued to the bay and raised the sails.  We had about 10 knots of wind, and the Lagoon 37 did sail pretty well.  We didn't spend very much time under sail as we wanted to make the next opening of a scheduled bridge but it did tack nicely.  We dropped the sails, made the scheduled bridge opening and ended the day with a less than graceful reentry into the boat slip.

Based on the experience and result of the survey, we decided the boat would be much  more work than we were willing to do for our first boat so we decided to "reject the vessel" (inform the seller in writing prior to the AOV date).  It's a bit of a disappointment, but far better to have found out the issues now than after the purchase.

We also found what I think is a good and honest surveyor in Johnathan Sands of Atlantic Marine Group.  While he is based in Ft. Lauderdale, I believe he will work anywhere within Florida...and probably farther.  Give him a call if you need a thorough boat survey.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Did We Really Just Put an Offer in on a Boat?

Catching back up to the present...

On our flight back from Florida we had a lot of thinking to do.  When we were actually looking at the Lagoon, we were in "evaluating the model" mode more than "evaluating this particular boat" mode. After rushing off to see what we thought was our top contender (the PDQ 36) and the PDQ 32, we now wish we had spent a bit more time on this particular Lagoon.

As I had mentioned, it is a bit more of a project than we anticipated for our first boat.  I don't think any of the projects are particularly difficult, but it isn't the "ready to cruise" variety either.  Having been a prior charter boat, the engines have about 5000 hours on them and with unknown maintenance practices may be an issue.  While the main sail is newer, the head sail and spinnaker are currently unknown to us as they were not on the boat at the time (but does have a new roller furling system).  There are a number of small dings in the gel coat and some work in the interior (completing the installation of a new headliner, replacing the cabin sole in the galley, and fixing or replacing some of the galley cabinetry) to take care of.  Several hatches need new friction hinges, the bed cushions require replacement and the salon cushions are worn vinyl and could use new upholstery.

So, after much thought and consideration of the issues and our desires and my abilities, we decided to put in an offer that would give us enough  cushion on the price to bring her to good condition.  We received a counter offer from the owner that was acceptable to us, so we are now under contract.

If you would like to see the listing for the boat, you can find it on YachtWorld here (at least as long as it remains in their database).

Soon we will be heading back to Florida for the survey and sea trial (and trust me, I will be looking over the boat very carefully...as will the inspector I hope). Definitely feeling both nervous and excited at this point. If everything checks out, we may soon have our next home.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Weekend of Boat Shopping - Day 3

In the past two days of the trip we saw a couple boats that would meet our requirements and a number of others to judge our various "wants" in a boat.  But on day three, we had three boats lined up that all are on our list: A Lagoon 37, a PDQ 36, and a PDQ 32.  I was  particularly looking forward to seeing another PDQ 36 now that we have more of a clue than we did the first time.

Lagoon 37

The first stop was a 1994 Lagoon 37.  The thing that we were the most impressed with was the use of space on the boat.  The cockpit was well laid out and  spacious with ample seating.  The access from the cockpit to the fore deck was nice and wide with good handholds.  Inside the salon area was light and airy with good headroom.  The steps leading into each hull are fairly wide and not too steep.  It is a galley down design with three queen size berths and two heads.
This particular boat had some issues though.  It has obviously been in charter and needed some TLC in general.  Some chips and scratches on the gel coat, some minor water damage to the woodwork, almost 5000 hours on the engines, and the upholstery and cushions could use replacement and/or recovering.

The big catch though is that the boat at one time had some hull damage.  It has been repaired, and from what I can tell repaired well (I couldn't see external signs of the repair).  But, in order to make the repair they had to remove everything in the galley on that side of the hull.  When they replaced the galley, they did some nice things like install Corian countertops and a new refrigerator/freezer.  But the cabinetry itself is kinda sad (cheaply made, incorrectly stained) and I think they downgraded the stove from a 3 burner to a 2 burner.

So, while we were not sure if we are interested in this particular boat, we were impressed with the Lagoon 37 design.

PDQ 36

After the Lagoon, we had a little drive up the coast to see a PDQ 36.  Since I've previously written about this model, I'll just note my new observations.  We remembered the cockpit was rather small, this time it did appear larger to us (or maybe there  are minor differences from year to year). The seating "bench" around the cockpit didn't seem very comfortable or inviting.  Maybe it's not even really a bench, but more of a stair. The access to the forward deck is good, but the stantions and safety lines are ineffective at midship as you need to walk on the cabin roof to go forward and it sits roughly at the level of the top of the stantions.
Inside they use light woods and the salon is inviting.  Having just come from the Lagoon, the PDQ's narrower beam could definitely be felt.  The salon did feel less roomy and the stairs leading down into the hulls are very narrow.  The two forward berths were comparable, but the hulls in general felt a bit narrower on the PDQ.

PDQ 32

The smaller cousin to the PDQ 36 is the PDQ 32.  It is a two berth design with galley down and a single head.  To keep the relatively "standard" lines of a catamaran with a high bridge deck in a smaller boat, the first noticeable thing they did was reduce the headroom in the salon.  I'm not sure what the exact clearance is, but I'd estimate it is at most 5 foot.  To combat this, they put a full slider in the cabin top that sits above the entry, at the back of the salon where you find the isle between the hulls.  In the smaller PDQ, you will also not find an oven, only a stove top.
The particular boat we saw was in somewhat rough shape but was definitely sufficient to rule the model out as insufficient space for what we need.

When this day started, I would have thought that the PDQ 36 would be the boat we would likely end up with.  By the end of the day, as I mentioned in a previous post, we seem to have changed our minds. Everyone claims that all boats area compromise, and we think we like the set of compromises in the Lagoon better than the others. As we pushed to see three boats in a day and make our flight back home, we only had so much time to allocate to each.  I do wish we had spent more time on the Lagoon.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Weekend of Boat Shopping - Day 2

Day two began with us making a quick trip from St. Augustine to Jacksonville as a nice couple who recently bought a 39 ft Prout graciously allowed us to come check out their boat (saving us a drive to New Port Richie or New Bern, North Carolina).  The Prout is an English design and pretty much every one that is in the United States sailed here from Britain, so they are sturdy blue-water boats.

Walking around the outside of the boat you can tell it is a quality boat.  Unlike the Gemini from yesterday, you hardly see any cracking in the gelcoat and the deck doesn't give under your feet (and this boat is around 15 years older than the Gemini from the day before).  Similar to the Gemini, the Prout has a solid forward bridge deck.  You won't find any trampoline here which does add weight (they are known to be a bit heavier for a catamaran).

Inside the boat there is a lot of space with an absolutely huge salon.  It is a galley down design with 3 large berths.  The boat has a lot of nice wood accents (even a small built-in bar...or maybe that is for afternoon tea), but being a mid 1980's boat, the interior does feel a bit dated (something that could be easily addressed in a refit if one wanted to).  My wife and I liked the boat. The one thing I didn't particularly like is the rather small entrance from the cockpit into the boat.  It is a roughly 4.5~5 ft high hatch and the idea of having to duck thru it every time I want to go in or out doesn't appeal to me.  I actually did take some pictures (I know...I'm surprised I remembered too) but I won't post them as this was a privately owned boat and the couple was in the middle of refit work and repairs and the pictures wouldn't do justice to how nice the interior actually is.

(Brown and Nancy, Thank you again for your hospitality.  We will hopefully see you soon with some time to sit down and swap boat refit stories over dinner or sundowners.)

After Jacksonville, we make the short hop to Ft. Lauderdale (yeah, a mere 330 miles away in our overgrown roller skate).
The Fox "Economy" Rental (anyone have a shoe horn)
In Ft. Lauderdale, we took a look at a couple more large catamarans mostly for the sake of looking at features (we'd love to own some of these boats...but short of winning the lottery it just isn't in the cards). We got to see a Voyage 43, a Fountaine Pajot, and a couple others. Here are a couple images of boats about 5x our price range (sorry, don't remember the models...but if you are interested in one I'm sure our broker would love to show them to you).  A nice looking galley up and you can see a washing machine in the distance.  And I think my wife liked the "master berth" below.
Nice Modern Galley Up Design
Master Berth that spans the bridge deck
Back to reality, we also looked at another Gemini.  I was able to confirm that the gel coat cracking and deck flexing was not limited to just the first one we saw although this one was a bit better.  We also determined that the Gemini, while may be sufficient for a couple or a small family for vacations, we think it would be too small for us and our dogs as a permanent home.  It was described to us as an efficiency apartment and I'd have to agree that seems a good description compared to other catamarans in the 32 to 38 foot range.  While I have no idea of the maneuverability of the Gemini under power, I do think I prefer the redundant safety of two engines over the single engine configuration.
Another thing I learned from this boat is that the hoses used for waste plumbing can actually begin smelling like the stuff they are carrying.  I don't know if it is just cheap hose or if all hose will eventually do this, but I think a replacement schedule may be in order on  any boat to prevent leaking as well as smells.  phew.

With the long travel time, this was the end of boat viewing on day two.  Fortunately, this was a 3 day trip for us and day 3 will actually include 3 boats that are all on our list (part of the justification for heading to Ft. Lauderdale) before we catch our flight back home.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Weekend of Boat Shopping - Day 1

As mentioned in my previous post, we went boat shopping last weekend.  It was a three day whirlwind trip to Florida.  While we had been looking at a lot of boats on paper (well, the internet), the goal of this trip was to actually look at them "in real life".  So far, the only boat we had looked at in person was a PDQ 36.

The big problem with used boat shopping is that it isn't anything like used car shopping.  You can't just head to the local "boat lot" and see a bunch of different models.  In order to see 6 or 7 boats that were for sale and would meet our criteria, we would be driving from Key West to Georgia to North Carolina.  That is a bit much for a weekend trip, so our agent lined up boats that would be similar or representative of boats on the list without having to drive as far.

We didn't get into Florida  until noon and with some issues with the rental car company* that we decided to give a try, we didn't make it to meet our agent in St Augustine until around 3:30pm.  We sat with our broker and another agent and talked a bit about what we wanted and got an interesting lesson about the major catamaran designs.  According to our lesson, there are three major schools of catamaran design: British, French, and South African and each have characteristics specific for the regions where they were born.  Hopefully my memory isn't too faulty and these details are correct....

British catamarans tend to be less beamy (narrower) than the other designs and a bit heavier.  They seem to often have solid bridge fore-decks, often with a larger protrusion in the middle of the bridge to split up the wave slap issues.  Prout and Gemini are a couple of British based designs.

French catamarans tend to have more beam than the British and relatively high bridge decks which adds to windage and sailing on the hulls.  The hulls tend to have more rounded or U shaped bottoms.  Lagoon and Fountaine Pajot are a couple example French designs.

The South African cats tend to be beamier still but reduce windage by lowering the bridge deck a bit (which leads to bridge deck slap...everything in boating is a trade off). The hulls tend to be more narrow than the wide U shaped French boats.  Robertson & Caine (Moorings Leopard), Gunboat, and Voyage are example South African cats.

After our basic lesson on catamaran design, we went out and looked at some of the boats that were in St. Augustine.  Most of the boats here are not specific boats we wanted to see but we looked at them to get a better idea of the types of features we like and do not like.  Here is where my poor memory fails me.  I'd love to tell you what boats they were but the combination of the whirlwind trip and that these boats were not specifically ones on "our list" I don't really remember.  Also, of course, I forgot to take pictures the first day so no help from the camera either.  I think we saw a Lagoon 40-something foot, a 50 foot Prout that would be way too big for us, a larger Fountaine Pajot and a couple others.

We seem to prefer the galley down designs as they tend to have more galley space (particularly counter space).  I find that I prefer berths where the bed is on the bridge deck instead of down in the hull as it gives you more standing room and just feels more bedroom like.

We ended the days boat viewing with a Gemini 105mc.  I remember being impressed with the amount of space given the small size of the boat (they are 32 foot in length and narrow).  They have a nice queen size berth on the forward bridge deck and when standing in the galley you definitely still feel part of the group in the salon as it is only a couple small steps down from the bridge to the galley sole.

The negatives were that the same open feeling in the galley is the result of a very low bridge deck.  When I walked around the deck outside, I noticed a LOT of cracks in the gel coat.  I also noticed that the deck tended to flex quite a bit underfoot and would pop in places.  My wife was in the salon during my deck walk and said she could see the roof flexing as I walked and said the pops were even louder.  Either this boat has some structural problems or Gemini's are lacking some quality in their construction.

After sitting on the Gemini a bit and discussing the plan for tomorrow, off to the hotel to get some sleep in preparation for our next whirlwind day.

*We rented from Fox Rent a Car.  With reservations it took us over an hour to get our car and when we did, they gave us their "Economy" car instead of their "Compact" (Was supposed to be a Ford Focus or similar and we got a Chevy Spark...have never been downsized by a car company).  We would have had to wait in line another hour to get the issue resolved.  So, if you need to rent a car, I advise you stay away from Fox.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Boat Shopping

This past weekend we went to Florida for a whirlwind boat shopping trip.  I don't have a whole lot of time right now to go through all the details now, so that will be in another post.  We did get to see about a dozen boats and our thoughts on our preference have changed.  Before the trip the PDQ 36 was at the top of our list, but now it seems that the Lagoon 37 may be taking that spot.

We also have a bit of a decision to make.  There happens to be a Lagoon 37 for sale that would work well for us.  The problem is that it is a bit of a "project boat".  There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the hull (and only a survey would tell us that for sure) but there is a lot of cosmetic, interior, and smaller items that need attention (and I'm not just talking about new cushions or refinishing woodwork).  I think it may have been a charter boat at one time as well so re-powering might be an issue.  This of course, comes with a more attractive price point.

Now I'm a fairly handy person and have some knowledge about the types of repairs needed, but am I up for this task.  On the one hand, we would definitely learn a LOT about the boat both working on and working with professionals while we brought the boat into proper condition for us.  On the other hand, do I really want to make my first large boat to be a project to the extent this one will be (definitely beyond the basic refit/update of electronics, sails, etc.)

So, since I have a few followers now, what do you think?  I would have the time to do the work, but should we make our first live-aboard boat a small project?  Decisions...decisions...