Monday, June 18, 2012

The Value of Learning What We Don't Want

Well the last time we wrote was a WHILE ago! With the start of summer means the start of Jill & Tim's travels all over New England soaking up the good weather while it's here. So blogging has been harder to get to but we'll get better about it because though we're busy doesn't mean there's not a lot to update about the boat search and the bus!

Today I figured I'd finally get around to reporting out on a couple of boats we looked at up in Portland, Maine back in April. We figured that we'd start to look at as many boats as we could just to get familiar with the process and to better solidify our "must-have" list and our "what we don't want list". These 2 boats were both in the territory of what we want - over 35', affordable, large living space below. They differ in that they're both rear cockpit, not a lot electronics and not really considered "blue water" boats meaning they are not built to withstand high seas and heavy winds associated with ocean crossings. An ocean crossing is not in our 3-5 year plan but we want to have the proper equipment (i.e. boat) if and when we decide to do so.

She's been on the hard for a year now, she needs some TLC 
First up was a 1976 36' Pearson 365. This boat was on the hard at Eastern Yacht Sales and the best part of this visit was meeting the broker, Pat. Pat was a delight, an older, kind, easy gentleman who was wonderfully patient with us, explaining the whole boat buying process from the paperwork to the delivery. We'd done A LOT of research on this process but it was nice to hear more about it from a pro and to ask questions without fear of judgement. The boat was nice, really nice especially for her age. It was kept up impeccably and it had a lot of great options that we liked. The living space below was roomy & definitely could be a live aboard - in fact, the owner lived on her for 6 months a year. 
Not a "Toby approved" companionway -- ladders no good. 

Spacious Salon Area
Nice Storage 

The Pearson was a really nice boat, good space below, lots of storage and extras (microwave, flat screen TV, food saver, stereo) and a virtually new Perkins diesel engine. But we both missed the feel and look of a teak and holly sole (i.e. floor) and there was just a lack of 'substance' to her construction that was noticeable. She seemed to be a bit more of a weekend coastal cruiser than a strongly built, live aboard cruiser that we ideally are looking for. The reviews online in the various chat room forums also have very mixed reviews of Pearson 365's. Also we were reminded of how the center cockpit layout that we ideally want allows for that aft main cabin. When looking at the V-berth we both wondered how we could make that work as our full-time bedroom. We're filing her as a NON CONTENDER for now...Pat as our buyers' broker on the other hand -- he's a contender! 

Second we went and saw a 1986 34' Catalina. This was a funny experience because the broker told us where she was located on the hard in South Portland, left a ladder at her stern and gave us the combo to the lock on her cabin. So we had the chance to explore her all alone without a broker. We immediately could tell this boat was not meant for blue water cruising at least how it is set up currently. Just her outward appearance, substantial standing rigging, small tight cockpit, fin keel, plexiglass portholes and velour salon upholstery tells you she's a family weekend cruiser not meant for the hard wear and tear of living aboard and sailing in heavier than anticipated conditions. However, if only looking at the layout you'd think she'd be wonderful. She's VERY roomy below deck, almost go as far as to say 'spacious'. It's by far the roomiest we've seen, which I guess is a calling card for the Catalinas. But roomy below doesn't really equate to safety and seaworthiness.

Aft Cabin - better than a V-berth, by not ideal 
Looks wise she was more along the lines of what we like in the interior - warm teak everywhere. She had an aft cabin, sort of, it was laid out around the cockpit so under the cockpit benches was the headroom with portholes looking out to the cockpit (or legs if someone's sitting there) and then your legs go into a cubby under the cockpit.

You can definitely get carried away reading the forums on cruisers world, sea net, etc. and we have. As they say with all advice - take it with a grain of salt. For boat buying newbies like us we are like sponges and all advice and opinion is soaked in. The Catalinas get a bit railed on in the forums as being factory mass produced with a lack of substance or utility in a lot of the design and layout leading to a lot of replacement costs and breakage. Again, this is worrisome to us being that we're going to be hard on any boat we buy - we're going to live on it full time with 2 adults and a large dog and maybe a little one someday and we're going to be sailing it A LOT. The first few years it's going to be in the water, in New Hampshire year round. So for us substance, craftsmenship and solid utility is very important. We're OK with buying something that's older and less "fresh" if it's got solid bones we're willing to work on it. We need something that will withstand the lifestyle we are entering into so that being said the Catalina 34 is a NON CONTENDER.

We have had numerous conversations about the 'looks' of a boat or the 'utility' of it for our lifestyle. We are acutely aware that there are a thousand more things with a boat that we need to be concerned with - engine, mechanics, electrical, sails, rigging, etc. But if we don't like the layout and don't think we can live on it then what's use in exploring the rest of it?

We have come to realization that we may have to 'cast our net wider' in our boat search. Boats around the New England area tend not to be live aboards - apparently living on a boat in NH is not super popular - news to us! So the boats are used a max of 4 - 5 months out of the year with the owners living aboard a week at a time and don't have the electronics or simple modern conveniences that living aboard full-time requires. Adding these things to refit a boat can get pricey. No matter what boat we buy we'll be adding some customization but if we can control how much, that'd be ideal. Plus the market for center cockpits is limited as is and especially so in New England. So we've been eyeing up boats in the South Florida area as well as the Carolinas. Using a buyers broker will also help us narrow down which boats might be worth buying a flight for. Potentially later this summer or fall we will take a weekend down south to do some more hunting. Buying a boat is a BIG decision for us so we can't expect that it'd go easily and quickly...but we are still very much determined.

"Between you and every goal that you wish to achieve, there is a series of obstacles, and the bigger the goal, the bigger the obstacles. Your decision to be, have and do something out the ordinary entails facing difficulties and challenges that are out of the ordinary as well. Sometimes your greatest asset is simply your ability to stay with it longer than anyone else." -- Brian Tracy 

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