Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Beginning

As you’ve probably heard if you’re reading this, we finallybought a boat.  I should say anotherboat, since we still own the first one, but this is THE boat – a 48-footcatamaran.  If you know us, you’ve heardus talk about this for some time.  Infact, we’re about 3.5 years into our 5 year plan, and the idea predates theplan.  You may think we’re 18 monthsearly, but we’re actually right on schedule because the plan is not just to owna boat, but to live aboard and cruise extensively.  And in our more candid moments, you may haveheard us mention circumnavigation.  Theboat is capable, whether we are remains to be seen.

So where should I start? 
The beginning?  Where isthat?  This is not one of those simpleideas that can suddenly issue forth from the subconscious fully formed.  This is a culmination of our lifeexperiences.  It is the practicalapplication or our ideals and philosophies of life.  It is the embodiment of our faith.  It is what we were made for.  It is a journey that had no beginning and likelyhas no end.  This is who we are.  At least we think it is. 
As you’ll see, we’re still trying to figure thewhole thing out.

Buying a boat is never a good financial decision.  They’re expensive to buy, expensive to own,and hard to sell.  But we’re trying tobuy something else, and hopefully it will prove much more valuable.  And what is money good for anyway if not tochase your dreams?

If you’ve never tried it, moving from the path of easyaffluence to that of hard work and simple living doesn’t come naturally.  Folks are usually striving in the otherdirection.  Both are probably equallydifficult.  Being “successful” andachieving “the American dream” are always upwards on the scale.  Sitting here, I can’t think of a singleperson who has been recognized as successful for going the otherdirection.  To most readers, the idea isprobably preposterous.  Okay, it might bepreposterous to all of them, but I trust some might at least have a sense forwhat I’m driving at.

So, what’s wrong with us? 
Beats me.  Seriously, I knowbetter than attempt to articulate that in one sitting.  Bear with me, and it’ll trickle out on itsown.  Suffice it to say that this dreamis an amalgamation of many different ideas and desires.  Some of which we may not even completelyunderstand.

So let’s begin with the boat.

I found the boat while searching through listings on theInternet, as I am wont to do, or was.  Iwas looking for catamarans in Florida between 44 and 50 feet.  The length being what I thought we couldhandle and could also handle us, Florida being where I live.  Obviously, there are more boats beyondFlorida, but I had the sense, nay, the expectation, that the boat would findme, not vice versa, and I was in Florida. 
There are many, and I pored through them methodically.  Some I’d seen listed for years and would skipthese out of habit.  Some I would skipover due to some combination of age, designer, or price.  Some piqued my interest enough for me to readthe listing, and then were discarded upon failure of some aspect of myanalysis.  Many were interesting, but alleventually failed.

When I first saw her listing, I was struck by the number ofthings about the design that were done correctly.  Engines in the middle of the hulls.  More fuel than water, both also in the middleof the hulls.  Watertight crash boxesforward.  Triple-spreader rig with innerforestay and running backstays. 
Sacrificial keels.  Very narrowhulls with acceptable bridgedeck clearance (one can never really have enough).  I can count on one hand the number ofproduction designs that have some of these aspects, and none that haveall.  This of course was a custom boat.

A custom boat is one where a client contracts a designer tobuild a boat to meet his specifications. 
The client is usually very experienced, has lots of money, and knowswell what he wants.  Through a series ofdiscussions, the designer learns what the client is looking for and the two workout a design that meets the client’s desires and his compromises (since a boatis nothing if not a study in compromise). 
The design is then taken to a builder, and eventually a single boat ismade.

A production boat on the other hand is built speculatively,attempting to capture a large segment of the marketplace.  There are marketing people involved, doingresearch to determine what features sell best. 
While a custom boat is designed to satisfy one highly experiencedperson, a production boat is designed to satisfy a thousand people.  Then they are mass produced, with thenecessary emphasis on controlling costs to maximize profit.  You may well imagine that the results can beless than ideal.

In addition to the design, she had the right gear.  Generator, watermaker, hot water heater,large battery bank with stacked inverters, full instrumentation with hydraulicautopilot, forward looking sonar, EPIRB, liferaft, etc.  This was serious stuff for a serious boat.

But saying the right things in the listing is notenough.  She was built in 1991 and timeis hard on boats.  Pictures are thequickest way to get a rough estimate for a boat’s overall condition.  Inexplicably, and very suspiciously, herlisting had very few pictures and they were of dubious quality.  While interesting, the listing did notidentify the boat as a serious prospect.

I’m pretty choosy.  Itake these decisions very seriously.  Upto this point I had actually called a broker and gone to look at exactly oneboat, and that was over a year prior.   The story of Katie Rose will have to be toldanother time, but the short version is that while we agonized over thedecision, someone else snuck in and bought her in the span of a weekend.

This new boat continued to rattle around in my thoughts foranother week or so.  I found myselflooking at the listing again, and this time I followed a link to the broker’swebsite.  The broker had his own listingfor the boat there, which was the same as the one I had seen, except that this onehad pictures.  Glorious pictures.  This boat was in good shape.

I went home that night and told T that I had found theboat.  Knowing full well the gravity ofthe statement, she asked if I was sure. 
I claimed 90% confidence, which was somewhat remarkable for never havingset foot on her.  It was time to call thebroker.

Thus began a long and frustrating process that hasultimately ended with us owning the boat. 
It was four months from offer to closing and we experienced manyemotions throughout: fear, anxiety, longing, etc.  But in retrospect I think I can say thatdoubt never played a significant role. 
Some may think that a contradiction, but one can have fear about what heis about to do and yet have full confidence that it is the right thing.  Is it risky?
Yes.  Is it foolish?  Perhaps. 
Will it change us forever?  I hopeso.