Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Final Step_Surveying Outrageous

The last step in our decision whether to buy Outrageous was to have her examined by a marine surveyor. In the event, this turned out to be Gale Browning of Hartoft Marine Survey. Gale has a fantastic history: she's sailed to nearly all points of the globe, raced a 22 foot boat across the Atlantic singlehanded, sailed her 65 foot schooner up the East Coast with her three children as crew, surviving a brush with a hurricane,  and took part in a cross country motorcycle tour undaunted by a broken foot when she "laid her bike down" on it.

We board the boat where she rests in her slip in Grover's backyard, and Gale starts by going over every inch of her deck with a mallet and moisture meter, looking for areas where the water might have permeated the hull.

Gale insists on removing some cabinetry so she could get a better look at the engine

Our broker, Richard Kahn, stands ready to guide the bow as we leave Grover's slip to head for the boatyard for the rest of the survey.

 Grover takes the helm as we head down the Severn River toward Annapolis.

Outrageous waits at the yard before backing into the hoist for to have her bottom inspected.

Grover and Jim look at the prop and prop shaft.

A few days after the survey was completed Gale sent us her report, a 40 some page document detailing everything that she had inspected. She gave the boat a good report, pronouncing it fully capable of coastal and bluewater (open ocean) sailing. She did, however, also give us a rather long list of things that we should give some attention to--ranging from a cracked faucet to sticky seacock valves, to the need for a ground fault interrupter in the AC wiring.  Almost everything on the list was minor and could be easily corrected.  A few things, like the need to replace the liferaft, would involve considerable expense. After a little renegotiation with Grover, we sent in the required paperwork (and the final payment). Outrageous became our boat and our future home!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The First Mate Speaks: Take 1

Several years back I came up with the idea of buying a lobster boat and converting it into a craft we could live aboard with our two cats, Georgie and Sophie. I envisioned us cruising the intracoastal waterway along the East Coast, and perhaps taking it to the Bahamas.

We've spent a lot of time on the East Coast, especially in Maine, taking photos, and a lot of that time was spent in harbors. I was always looking at boats and talking about going to sea again. So we began looking at lobster boats and trawlers. Lobster boats seemed too small to go cruising in. We looked at Grand Banks trawlers, but I didn't like the design, especially the high bridge from which you pilot the craft. I also had a hard time listening to the diesel and smelling the diesel fumes. Not my kind of life on the water. I did like the Nordic Tug; they seemed closer to sailboats, but still there was the diesel. Anyway, they were way out of our price range.

But every time we looked at boats, my eye would go to a Hinckley or some other beautiful sailboat. So why were we looking at power boats? We talked about motorsailers but I really don't like the design of that kind of boat—halfway between a true sailboat and a power boat.

About 5 years ago, Jim said that he thought he might be getting too old to go cruising on a sailboat. But ever since we spent the year on Escapade I've yearned to go to out to sea again. In my heart and soul, I am the Water Gypsy. So now, Jim has decided he's not so old, and I get to go “down to the sea again” with The Old Man of the Sea.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Outrageous at Grover's Dock

November 22

We went directly from the airport to visit Grover, owner of the Tayana 42, Outrageous, who kept the boat in a slip behind his house on a branch of the Chesapeake. Grover told us that if we bought the yacht we could keep her free in his slip while we got her ready for sailing in the spring and got used to her. That was a big attraction! What's more, he would spend as much time with us as we needed to learn everything we needed to know about the boat. This was a strong incentive, since Grover is a licensed captain who had worked for many years skippering large yachts and delivering boats all over the Atlantic Coast. He was the original owner of Outrageous, and though he is eighty years old and has two artificial knees, he was definitely capable of continuing the sailing life as long as he wished, but he and his young wife were running a business that ate up all of his time, so he had reluctantly decided to give up his sea home.

The boat was in beautiful condition, newly painted deep blue (a Hinckley color that appealed to Angie), and with a warm teak interior and many upgrades that a seagoing man (or woman) would think of to make a boat more comfortable and more seaworthy.

We spent the next two days looking at the other boats on our list, and several more to boot. They all looked good in the Yachtworld listings, but none matched up to Outrageous. They had worn teak decks that were going to need replacing soon at huge expense, or obvious structural flaws, or showed signs of neglect by their previous owners. Or they just didn't feel right inside.

There was one boat, a Valiant 40, listed with one of the brokers we talked to, that sounded like she might match up, but she was located in Florida. She had been completely rebuilt and re-outfitted by her owner, who apparently got more pleasure out of refurbishing yachts than he did sailing, since this is the third Valiant that he had done this to. She had a new engine, all new rigging, and was basically a new boat except for the hull. We went back two more times to see Outrageous. We debated whether to delay our decision until after a trip to Florida in February to see the Valiant. In the end, though, we decided that Grover as a resource outweighed some of the apparent advantages of the Valiant. Before we left Annapolis to catch our plane we called and made an offer, and after a little bargaining, it was accepted.

The next step in buying the boat was having her surveyed (like a contractor's inspection when you buy a house). We'll tell you about that later.

Grover at the helm

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The nightmares don't have to do with the scariness of buying a boat and deciding to take up the cruising life again after 27 years (or not all of them anyway).

These have to do with trying to deal with Google and its subsidiaries. (Google owns Blogspot, Blogger, Gmail, and GoDaddy web domain registration).

As you probably know, we've been having trouble getting notices about our blog entries to you. That  explains the emails with the convoluted directions. Well, it turns out that somehow our blog URL (www.fotogypsiesatsea.blogspot.com) got eamarked as SPAM, either by Google or by Comcast. So any email with the URL in it goes in the SPAM folder. We even had to  (still have to) fish your replies to us out of SPAM.  I called Comcast, and after about 17 hours on hold (you know what that is like), I was told that someone would look into it and that I would hear back in 72 hours.

In the meantime, I knew there was another way around the problem.  If we used our own domain name (in the URL above, fotogypsiesatsea is a subdomain and blogspot is the domain), we should be able to get around the spam problem.  That would be simply www.fotogypsiesatsea.com.  I sent us an email containing that url, and, Yep, it worked.  Blogspot invites you to use your private domain as host for the blog.  If it's an existing domain, like our fotogypsies.com,  it's a very complicated process. But they tell you how to create a new domain and supposedly your blog will automatically switch to it. This involves finding out if the domain name is available, and registering it with GoDaddy for ten bucks a year.  No problem. The domain name fotogypsiesatsea.com worked and we registered it. It's ours!

BUT, when I tried to go to it I got an error message--no page for that URL! Well, there's no way you can get tech support for a problem you have with any of Google's companies. They won't let you talk to a person.  They send you to a web page that cites common problems and you can search for the solution to yours, if you are lucky enough to find it. The solution to our problem was to go go to GoogleApps to register our domain name with Google (I thought I had already done that.) So I went to GoogleApps and was immediately asked to sign in with my user name and password. WTF was that?! I kept guessing, and trying different passwords that we commonly use, and nothing worked. So I found the link that said if you are having trouble signing in go here. So I clicked, and got a message that told me what my user name was (bloggeradmin--I never would have guessed) and said they would email me a link to change my password.

Well, after a while, I fished the email out of my SPAM folder and clicked on the link.  I got a page with one of those (I think they're called) CATCHA phrases--you know, the fuzzy, funny looking words that a computer, and most humans, can't read, that you type into a box to continue.  I typed in the CATCHA phrase, and was told they would send me another email with a link.  They did, I clicked, and got another CATCHA. This repeated a few times (you know what Einstein said about insanity--doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result). I felt like I was a rat in a maze, or a character in a Kafka novel.  I was ready to blow my stack!

Finally I did get a different email, and was able to check into the management page for fotogypsiesatsea.  I was told "You don't have any blogs yet."  Then I read that if I couldn't find my blog it might be because I had multiple accounts under different user names or connected to different email addresses. I knew there was a place on the management page for our original blog where you can add or change a domain name. I just needed to get there!   I knew how to do that.  I went to the blog and up in the upper righthand corner there is a sign-in button.  I clicked on it and it took me--not to the control page for our blog but to the page I had just been on--the one that said I didn't have a blog!  I went around that track a few times. Then I figured out that I might be using the wrong email address (the primary email for the blog is a gmail address, of course). The trouble was my computer was remembering the sign-in process and automatically sending my sign-in info. Usually all I had to do was click on sign-in and I would be in the right place--but now it was the wrong place. Somewhow, I solved that problem (I'm not sure how) and got to my control page.

Ah, there is was.  Add new domain name. So I typed in our new domain name, fotogypsiesatsea.com, and here's one I was told.  You can't use that--someone else owns that domain. (Of course, I was the someone else!) Haven't solved that problem yet.

So that's why you've been getting the convoluted directions for getting to our blog. If any of you are web savvy enough to help us solve this problem, come to our rescue!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Search Resumes

Our van La Gitana (the Gypsy) at
City of Rocks, New Mexico

The Search Resumes

November 21, 2012
We hadn't given up our dream of going back the cruising life. In fact, we began planning in earnest how we would raise the rest of the money we needed for buying a boat, manage renting out our house, and provide for our nearly 17 year old cat, Sophie. The last was going to be agonizingly difficult for us. We'd raised Sophie, along with her sister Georgie (for Georgina) from kittenhood and since Georgie had died a few years ago, Sophie had become much more attached to us, and we to her. But could we let our attachment to a pet prevent us from fulfilling a dream? We weren't sure how we were going to deal with that.

We forged ahead with our plans, selling La Gitana, our camper van that had taken us on joyful trips all around, Mexico, the Canadian maritimes, and the southern and western U.S. We held a yard sale to get rid of extra stuff and prepare our house for rental. And then we set about trying to find the right boat for us.

The internet makes shopping for a used boat easier than it used to be. There is a great website, Yachtworld, where brokers from all over the world list boats. You can set the parameters of your search however you like--type of boat, age, size, price range, even the area where you want to look. My first search came up with more than 30 pages of listings—a bewildering number of choices! Soon I learned to eliminate all of the lightweight plastic boats churned out for the charter trade—the Beneteaus, Jeneaus, Endeavors, and the like. Since each listing contained numerous pictures, with Angie's help I began narrowing down the search to boats which appealed to our aesthetic taste. We were both drawn to a classic look (remember the Hinckley?) and so not interested in the overly beamy boats with interiors outfitted like RV's which seemed to be designed more for sitting at the dock than for serious sailing. 

We soon found that there were a few boats, by a very few designers, that kept catching our eye—notably the Bristols and Valiants and a few others influenced by them. I made a list of all of the available boats along the east coast and in Florida, and we began comparing specs. This one has a centerboard (a long extension that can be lowered from the keel to give the boat better performance to windward). Did we really want that? This one only has a 30 gallon fuel tank—not enough for long range cruising. Then I began reading reviews, seeing what the experts had to say about the construction quality, seaworthiness, and live aboard comfort of each one. One important criterion was headroom. Since I am 6'2” tall, in some of the boats we liked in the 37 to 42 foot range that we were looking for, I would be bumping my head every time I turned around below decks.

We finally had a list of about a dozen boats that we thought might suit us. Most of them were located in New England, around Annapolis, Maryland, or in Florida. Since our search was taking place in late October and early November, most of the boats in New England had already been or were about to be hauled and winterized. We decided to begin looking at boats in Annapolis, thinking that we could take a winter vacation in Florida to look for boats there, maybe hitting Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia on the way.

I emailed the broker Richard Kahn in Annapolis and asked him about the headroom On Outrageous, a 42 foot Tayana listed in Yachtworld that had caught our attention. Some of the designers—and all of the yacht brokers we later talked to—were short people and didn't envision six foot plus sailors clunking their heads as they tried to navigate below decks. “I'll have the owner measure it,” he replied, and a little later the answer came back that it was 6'4”. Outrageous was on a list of seven or eight boats in the Annapolis area that we were interested in, so we called some brokers, set up appointments and booked our flight.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cold Feet

Angie at the wheel of Small World

September 22, 2012
On Thursday we received the survey from Ed Rowe, and on Friday we found a message on our voice mail to call him. (With our being in Southwest Harbor, Maine, with sporadic connection to the web, communications were slow.) The survey, except for one thing, was very positive, praising the condition of Small World and placing its market value at $5000 more than our offer. (Replacement value of the boat was $650,000!) I called Ed on Friday. The one thing he couldn't understand, he said, was why Todd had painted the bottom with an ablative paint, one that is supposed to wear away with the motion of the boat, instead of a standard anti-fouling paint. Ablative paints, he said, were never used on sailboats and trawlers because they did not work as intended on hulls moving at slow speeds. He did not recommend trying to remove the paint, since this would involve sanding down the bottom and possibly ruining the barrier coat that Todd had put on.

We called Todd and caught him on a bus going to see a doctor about cataract surgery. We let him know that we were upset about the problems we might have with this. Since it was not a good time to talk, he said he would gather information for us and promised to get back to us later. 

At this time we were trying to work out the details of financing a 38 year old boat—not an easy thing to do, we were finding out. As the day went on, Angie and I discussed our misgivings and wondered if we should withdraw from the deal. Finally, in the evening, I told Angie that I was feeling very uncomfortable with the whole business. She said she was, too. As we talked it over, it became clear that the source of our discomfort was not so much the bottom paint (which Todd turned out to be right about) as it was questioning our ability to handle a boat of this size, with this much sail and so many complicated systems.

 Handling our Tartan 30, Escapade, had been like sailing a dinghy compared to Small World, a boat weighing in at 15 tons. Even though I once held a license for operating a 100 ton sailing vessel, the license was based on my knowledge of the law and my experience sailing smaller craft on the Great Lakes. Angie was also uncomfortable with the speed at which all of this was taking place, and I could see her point. We had hastily signed an agreement to buy the boat after a very (for us) inadequate sailing experience, taking her a few miles up the intracoastal waterway and sailing her back under very light winds. What's more, we didn't have our financing together and would have to take out a loan to complete the deal. That made us very nervous.

Finally we came up with a proposal that we hoped Todd and Gayle would accept. We would sail with them from Vero Beach up to St. Simon Sound in Georgia, where we were supposed to take possession of the boat, under their intensive tutelage. If at the end of that time we were not entirely comfortable with buying the boat, we would pay them well for their time, consider it a sailing seminar for us, and be on our way.

Understandably, Todd and Gayle were not happy with this suggestion. They felt, rightly, that we needed to make up our minds whether to go through with the contract or not. They were anxious to get back to the islands, (Georgia was in the opposite direction they would be going if we backed out of the deal ) and besides, what we were suggesting was far outside the usual procedure for buying a boat, not to say illegal. With some regret, especially since Todd and Gayle are such great people, but also with relief, we withdrew our offer. We just felt that Small World, as good a boat as she is, was not for us. Todd and Gayle graciously returned our deposit and wished us the best. 

But that didn't extinguish our dream.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Small World


Small World

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
I'm not sure how Angie came up with the page from BVI Yachts advertising Small World, a Westsail 42 sailing yacht. Not just any Westsail 42, but hull number 1, the prototype boat designed by Bill Crealock to be the ultimate world cruising sailboat. A year ago we had been looking at trawlers, dreaming of spending a summer or a year cruising the inland waterway of the East Coast. But we couldn't find anything that we really liked—they were too big, or too small, or too high on fuel consumption, or in the case of the one that grabbed us, the Nordic Trawler, way too expensive. We told each other that if we ever found the right boat, we would full in love and know that it was the boat for us. Then we sort of gave up the idea and made other tentative plans for the future—living in Italy for a month or two, taking a trip around the world, spending time in different places in Europe and the U.S. as the spirit moved us. Then one day not too long ago Angie called me from the computer. “Jim, you've got to see this!”

Small World was a beauty. Though she was built in 1974, she's been lovingly cared for by deep-pocketed owners. And her her present owners, Todd and Gayle, had spent 6 months refitting her out intending to take her on a world cruise. Then they decided that going into business together and building up some cash reserves for retirement was more urgent than world cruising. The boat had a new paint job over a barrier coated bottom, all new standing rigging, and every electronic device imaginable needed for long range cruising. She had a water desalinator, wind generator, and solar panels—making her, or the people sailing aboard her, self-sufficient. Everything aboard her was first class. Todd and Gayle, who are based in the Virgin Islands, had brought her to Florida to complete her refitting, and lowered the price from their original offering. We decided we had to see her.

We flew down to Vero Beach, Florida, and immediately hit it off with Todd and Gayle. They are the kind of couple you would picture as having spent their lives (individually) sailing--tanned and fit. They are a little younger than we are, but have children and grandchildren, many of them active sailors. They wined us and dined us while pointing out all of the somewhat bewildering systems on the boat. I told Todd that if we were to buy the boat we would need several days of tutorials learning how everything worked.  The next day we took the boat out for limited sea trials on the waterway. The wind was light and although we had little opportunity to sail, we were impressed with how she ghosted along in very little breeze. Under power she was easy to handle, clean and quiet.

Before we left, we looked at each other with the question on our faces—shall we do it? We left with the agreement that we would buy the boat if could arrange the financing satisfactorily and contingent on the survey. The survey will be complete tomorrow. The financing is another story,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Do it Soon!"


Hinckley Bermuda 40 Yawl

November 22, 2012
Every time Angie spotted a Hinckley sailboat, she would point it out, exclaiming how beautiful it was. This was back in the mid 1980s when we were living aboard our Tartan 30 Escapade and cruising the east coast and the Bahamas. Ever since that time, when anyone politely asks, “Is there anything I can do for you?” she is apt to respond, “Buy me a Hinckley yacht.” It was a double jest. Not only were Hinckleys, the Rolls Royces of American built sailboats, far out of our reach financially. But after our year long seagoing adventure, we had gone back to work, and our interests had been diverted to wilderness and white water canoeing, and then to long camping trips throughout much of Mexico, the U.S. and the maritime provinces of Canada. Occasionally we talked about going back to sea again, or maybe buying a converted lobster boat and cruising up and down the Intracoastal Waterway on the east coast, but this was just one of many dreams, like living in France or Italy for several months or a year, and taking a trip around the world.

So this September, when we were renting a cottage in Southwest Harbor on Mt. Desert Island, I mentioned to Angie that this was the home of Hinckley yachts, and maybe we should look at one. There happened to be a 45 foot Hinckley yawl for sale in the Hinckley yard and so we asked the broker if we could look at her. (This isn't going where you think it is!) She was as beautiful inside as she was out, with her sumptuous accommodations and mahogany woodwork. We told the broker we were seriously thinking of going cruising again, but that this boat was too big and too expensive for us. The owner would probably accept a lower price, he told us. “He's a rich doctor, but he's seventy-five years old and getting too old for sailing.” “I'm older than that,” I told him. The broker looked at me, and without a pause came back, “You'd better do it soon!”
No, we didn't buy the Hinckley. The truth is that we were already negotiating to buy a cruising sailboat, and we were planning to “do it soon.”

It's been almost 27 years since we returned from our year living aboard  Escapade. Can this old man and his (much younger!) mate go back to the cruising life after all this time? The boat would be bigger, providing many more comforts but also more challenging to handle. With GPS and modern chartplotters and other electronics, navigation should be a cinch, but the learning curve is pretty steep for an old codger who grew up when even television was a novelty. On the other hand, we are both (thank all the gods that be) in good health, physically fit, and still in command of (most of) our mental faculties. Going back to sea has been something we've talked about for years—really ever since we returned from our first big sailing adventure—but there was always some reason we didn't do it. We didn't want to sell or rent out our house, we had acquired two cats that we couldn't bear parting with, we were having such a good time on canoe expeditions, or traveling around in our van, the list goes on and on. There was always “Some day. . .” But more and more and more of our friends were dying or becoming incapacitated by illness. Then one day Angie said “Let's do it!” and all of the obstacles began to melt away. So we began our search for a boat.


I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)