Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Buying a boat the "proper" way.

One can make a purchase such as this with much bravado, or by milling through a tedious bunch of red tape.  We choose red tape :)

How to buy a boat … properly, that is.

Well, we have been put through the inevitable bureaucratic wringer so far.  This has been quite a process, and there have been a couple of times where I’ve actually had the chance to sit back and think things like ‘ am I absolutely sure this is what I want?” and ‘oh man, why is this so difficult?”.

All told, when we are done and are out practicing figure ‘8’s and how to back into a slip, it will not seem as though it was such a big deal, but right now it seems that we’re in the middle of a Federal law case or something.
So, here’s how to buy a boat ‘properly’ J
First step, as described in the previous post, is to find a boat … then find THE boat.  We did that.
Now, there are a couple of ways to go from here; one is to have all the cash on hand, throw it on the table and take the entire risk yourself. Trust is a great thing, friendly relations are awesome and rolling the dice is thrilling. BUT, we’re not really willing to go down the ‘rolling the dice’ road at this particular price point (think ‘buying a home’) and we decided that we would proceed with all due diligence and enlist as much support as necessary in order to quell any uneasiness about a transaction of this importance. 

The boat is owned by an individual, held in an LLC and brokered by a different company.  Robin and I were comfortable with the way the vessel was represented, shown and advertised. It met or exceeded our expectations and is in great condition. Yes, we have an emotional attachment as well and yes, there will be some cleaning, sanding, painting and fixing up of the little things that come with a 15 year old boat, but all in all she’s in great shape and has been well cared for.  Everything seems to be in order and nothing raised red flags for us. We’re pretty much set to go.  

So, where to begin?  We don’t have a broker representing our side so we simply made an email offer and received an email counter-offer which we accepted. Then, we had to fill out a contract (gulp).  This is where the discussions and dreams and planning and hopes and future-thinking all turn into a whole new paradigm: a commitment.  Now, I work for the Government and am pretty familiar with contract language. Nothing I saw caused me any concerns so I filled it out and was ready to go. BUT … there’s a 24 hour rule in my book regarding anything major like this (heck, this big of a purchase needs a 72 hour rule!). While I was discussing it all at work, a coworker suggested that I have a lawyer take a look at the contract, just to put my mind at ease. I need to make sure that there aren’t any clauses or loopholes which might cause me to somehow lose my deposit if this all does fall through for any reason.  I shopped the internet for local attorneys versed in maritime law and brokerage transactions and called the office.  A couple of days (and many hundreds of dollars) later, I had a revised contract which did indeed offer me more protections and spell out quite a few of the details I would have overlooked.  It was a good call.

We insured (legally) such things as no liens against the title, and protections from any liens later on, and established who’s going to assume risk on the sea-trial sailing and on the delivery sailing and things right down to who keeps the big picture on the wall.  I’m happy with the knowledge I gained and that the attorney was very expert in the process.  I'll never know if it was necessary or worth it, but minimizing risk is never a bad thing. The seller was completely open to involving the attorney, and that in itself is a good sign.

 OK, we sign the contract and mail it to the brokerage.  The deposit check gets held in escrow until closing when it’ll be applied toward the down payment.  Any expenses that WE order against the boat (like if we ask for it to be moved, hauled out of the water for inspection, painted or the likes) can come out of the deposit. Next, we order a “Survey”.

We’ve hired a gentleman from Florida who is an expert in the brand name and model to come up and thoroughly inspect the boat both in the water and out of the water in a sling. He will go from end to end and top to bottom (even up in the rigging) to inspect every available aspect of the boat. His report will tell us if the boat is ready to sail, what might need to be fixed in order to make it seaworthy (if it’s not), what might need to be fixed to make it perfect if it’s not, satisfy the insurance company that it’s a seaworthy boat and satisfy the finance company that it is worth what they are going to insure it for.  That’s a tall order, and we’ll be happy to pay the fee and travel expenses to hire the best we can find.

Once the survey and sea trial are done comes the big moment … do we, or do we not accept the boat as-is for the price asked.  We can decide to ask the owner to fix anything that isn’t right, make a price adjustment if something needs to be fixed and we are willing to do it ourselves, accept the boat just as it is offered, or reject the boat and walk away. All on the basis if the surveyor’s written report.   I’ll go on record now that unless there is a significant problem discovered, we will likely accept the boat as-is and be happy to move toward closing.

After acceptance, we just have to make ready to go to closing. We’ll need to secure and bring the insurance coverage and the money; whether in cash or from the bank (in our case it will be a combination of both).  The actual closing can be conducted in person, or via scans, emails and overnighted documents.   Once the closing is done, we (actually the bank) will receive title and we’ll be the new owners!   
Next we will register the boat at its home port and document the boat with the Coast Guard.


From there, we will move the boat from Rhode Island to our local marina in Deale, MD (about a 36 hour sail) and begin the process of moving out of the RV and onto the boat … downsizing again!!  Just as before, things will be sold, donated or disposed of according to the mandates of the new space and the new lifestyle. 

Finally, we wait for the weather to warm up just a bit.  We’ll be practicing and learning as much as we can before we take to the open water. When the forecast says go … we’re gone!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

On Choosing the ~Wrong~ Boat

For someone contemplating the sailing dream; you know ... sell everything, buy a boat and sail around the world, there are always a million questions.  Some questions, like "What are you thinking?" and "Are you crazy?" are put to the dreamers along with "What about 'pirates'?", "Aren't you afraid of hurricanes?", and "Isn't that expensive?" come from well-meaning friends and acquaintances who invariably follow up with either "I could never do that." or "I've always wanted to do that.".

No matter how you cut it, there has to be a point where the questions either get answered satisfactorily, deemed unimportant or put into the "we'll find that out later" boxes.  For us, it seemed, when we would ask a question about this plan, it often opened up several more. We finally came to the conclusion that you could keep asking and researching questions until ... well .... forever. At some point you have to run with what you have or you don't run at all.

We satisfactorily answered most of the usual questions; "What are you thinking?" ... well, we are simply thinking that one day a few years back we landed hard on this dream and we could either keep dreaming it from "Someday Isle" or we could stick it on the calendar as a hard date and work toward it with as much fervor as we can. To have wanted this and not tried would make for a sad future.  "Are you guys crazy?" ...  undoubtedly. But we fully intend to hang around with great numbers of like-minded crazies and extract as much benefit from them as possible.  "What about pirates?" ... heh, we ARE pirates!  Aaargh!!  ... seriously, it's no more of a threat than any other normal activity; not nearly as dangerous as walking the streets of Chicago.  There are many avenues to avoid putting oneself in harm's way out there.  "Aren't you afraid of hurricanes?" ... yes ... scared, petrified, and spooked ... and determined to be far away from where they begin, travel and end.  The seasons are easy to see, the forecasts are better than ever and we're going to be as smart as we can about this.  "Isn't that expensive?" well, yes and no.  You can live high on the hog, or dirt cheap. Just depends on how you want to present yourself to the world. We will stay within our means and be somewhere between the two.

One of the biggest questions we wound up coping with was "What kind of boat is right to go sailing?".  If you innocently Google "The right boat for cruising" you will be occupied for months and months.  I sure was.  I looked at a hundred websites and hundreds of boats. I read up on construction, sail plans, rig types, motors, hull types and shapes and countless other 'facts' from people who made posts about their favorite and hated boats.  It seemed most of these posts, articles, videos and books came from folks who had been through 'experiences' and reported out on what it was like to be aboard a particular boat during a particular event. 
The articles from brokers extolled (mysteriously) the brands they happened to carry and the different user groups (as with cars and motorcycles) talked extensively about this brand or that brand's particular nuances and trouble spots.

I read blogs from folks that had thousands of miles under their boat and their advice was sage and was often the product of lessons learned the hard way.  I read books, magazines and newsletters. I reviewed all kinds of brands and models and slowly began narrowing it down.

I figured a few things into the equation: our boat would have to be strong and seaworthy. I wanted a faster, rather than a slower boat (all things being relative in the sub-10kt. world of sailboats). I want some room to knock around in on the inside (this will, after all, be our home).  I want it to require not-so-much maintenance (fixing things is normal, but I decided against miles of teak). I want it to be from a 'company' or brand that's been around and still is. ... and this list went on and on.

We started eliminating some models and brands. Then we started learning more and more about specific years and models.  It is indeed an amazing and daunting learning curve.  Truly identifying our collective wants and needs while sailing; without having ever done so, is simply intimidating.

So, we decided on a price range. We started to look around at what was available and one day we drove to Lancaster, VA to look at one that had recently come on the market.  It fit our bill pretty well; we liked it, it was conceptually right, nice and clean and dry and it was all about safety at sea.  We walked away thinking that a boat like this one is pretty close to what we were after.  A week later I drove back down to see it a second time and returned with more conviction that yes, I like this one.  ... then someone else bought it.

That feeling of loss pretty much sold the boat to us.  We didn't realize quite how much we'd invested emotionally, and logically, into the design concept and execution until it was sold 'out from under us' (not really true, as we'd made no move to actually buy it ... but still ... :)

At that point we began searching out models of the same brand, digging deeper into the history of the factory and getting in touch with an owners' group with a couple hundred sailors out there in these same boats.  The more we looked at them, the more they sold themselves.

The absolute bottom line for us is that the deeper we dug, the more the word 'safety' was integrated into the equation. Here was a boat built for ocean crossings, and with the safety consideration put in first place when building it.  I guess I didn't really figure out how much that mattered to me until I started reading about watertight compartments, 'righting moments', numbers of through-the-hull fittings. and so on which all pointed toward this factory making a boat that is frankly not so very much eye candy, but will leave you confident and rested after weathering conditions that would leave some other boats panting heavily with a dazed crew.

I titled this entry "Choosing the WRONG" boat.  I did that mostly as a quip, because if you Google "Choosing the right boat" you'll be gone for a while.  Actually, most boats are good, safe, and comfortable.  The one we want is that, plus it has a pedigree of a forty-plus year company that is still thriving in the industry and a near-cult following.  Compromises? yes, but not many ... and none when it comes to safety at

Here's to Mr. Amel.  We have chosen wisely, methinks... Aargh! 

Amel Super Maramu

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Keeping a Promise.

-- This is a back-dated post ---

May, 2008:

OK, so it takes nearly 30 years for some things that are promised to actually be honored but that's what happened this weekend. Robin and I had the opportunity over this Memorial Day weekend to do a unique 'power-weekend' trip and visit family for a short time.

Saturday saw us getting off work and heading to the airport where we left on a flight through Seattle to Spokane, WA. Since we didn't arrive till nearly midnight, we chose to spend the night in a familiar hotel in downtown Spokane (they have a free shuttle and we don't have to bother anyone for a ride at the late hour).

Sunday morning we we're picked up by my brother Paul and went to my aunt & uncle's house where we proceeded to have a wonderful time watching the Indy 500 and enjoying a barbecued steak meal with corn-on-the-cob and baked potatoes that simply 'couldn't be beat'!! 

After the meal, we whisked mom off and back to the airport we went. This event was a good surprise for mom; she knew we'd arranged for an overnight stay at a hotel for her, but didn't know that the hotel was in Seattle :)

We arrived in Seattle in the late evening, grabbed a cab to the hotel and rested and visited after an absolutely awesome dining experience consisting of soup and appetizers from the hotel's restaurant. (I wholeheartedly recommend the Mayflower Park Hotel and Andaluca's Restaurant!)

Monday morning we spent a leisurely couple of hours in the hotel room, got a breakfast snack from a nearby Starbuck's (imagine that!?!?!) and then headed across the hotel lobby, into the Westlake Mall and straight to the Monorail station for the short ride across town to the Space Needle.

We were joined at the Sky City Restaurant in the Space Needle by our daughter Cora and her friend Jami and we proceeded to have an outstanding meal while slowly rotating around taking in the scenery. It was, as usual (snicker), a clear and sunny day in Seattle ... Robin does that to this place :)

After a wonderful dinner full of fine flavors, great fellowship, and some extravagant Co2 based dessert, we said goodbye to the younger girls and headed back to the airport where we sent mom back to Spokane and we caught a flight to Denver 25 minutes later.

We left clear skies and sunshine in Seattle for 45 degrees of overcast, wind and drizzle back in Colorado ... huh??

The first time I'd experienced dining at the Needle was around 30 years ago, and I made a promise to mom that someday I'd take her there for the experience. Well, life does get in the way some times and it sure did for me. But -finally- I got to honor the promise and make good on the deal.

Sometimes you have to wait for the good stuff.

The act of Retirement

Well, after a combined total of almost 55 years goverment service, Robin and set our retirement dates. She was first on October 19th, 2013 and I will follow shortly thereafter in April, 2014.

I can't begin to tell you the thought and planning that went in to settling on these dates but suffice it to say that there was a remendous amount of "what if", "how will we?", "are we sure?"  and a hundred other similar questions.

It's exciting and scary, but actually a great relief to have put the dates in (mostly) stone from our planning point of view.  While we had hoped to manage to work, sail, buy a new boat, sell everything, move aboard and sail away .. that one thing ... work ... seemed to constantly interfere with getting anything else done.  With commutes and opposite days off, the work cycle was far more consuming that I'd expected. It not only limited the amount of available spare time but also the available energy to accomplish missions. 

This major, life pathway changing step will mean a lot to us in terms of finances, free time and project priorities.  It's new territory; we''ve never been retired before :)