As Margaret and I investigated various bluewater boats on Yachtworld, one of our favorite designs continued to be the Passport 42. It is at the top end of both the size of boat and budget we are considering. However, it stayed on the list because of the more than ample cabin, open side decks, and, especially, the beautiful woodwork below. Consequently, when we saw that there was a Passport 42, So Bella, for sale in Fort Pierce, in the same yard as three other boats we wanted to take a look at, we started getting excited. This would be our opportunity to step aboard our dream yacht, and one that was, arguably, the best value of the three Passport 42s listed on Yachtworld.
After having some difficulties with the brokers (a subject we might detail elsewhere), we finally made an appointment to see the Passport 42 and a Valiant 40 in Fort Pierce, on the Atlantic side of Florida. We planned to stop there on our way from St. Simons to my folks’ place in North Port, near Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf Coast. Pulling into the marina parking lot, our excitement level heightened; we were surrounded by offshore yachts, and the yard was bustling with activity. Our enthusiasm was not even tempered by the broker, who continued to act like we were putting her out by wanting to step aboard a couple of boats she had listed for sale (and stood to make a tidy 10% commission off).
Once the broker finally got off the telephone, she walked us across the yard as we gawked at the beautiful cruising boats around us, including a truly magnificent Hans Christian 48 named Kismet. With my first glimpse of the Passport 42, I was a little overwhelmed. So Bella is a huge boat, and she was all the larger out of the water with her decks looming fifteen feet above us. Margaret tentatively climbed the ladder, announcing that she was now certain she would never be the one to climb the mast, and became the first to step on her decks.
Once aboard, my first impressions were that the boat was huge and that the decks were very clear. While clear decks are a very good thing, I was really focused on her immense size. I was once again reminded of a conversation I had with my good sailing buddy Steve about my Catalina 22, a conversation that has been on my mind a lot recently as we contemplate boat size. One of the best, most justifiably confident small boat sailors I know, Steve had remarked while we sailed Helbent that it was hard for him to imagine handling the boat by himself. The comment took me by surprise, because I never thought of the Catalina as big and rarely felt I could use an extra set of hands aboard when I was sailing solo. But having rarely sailed on – and never been the captain of – boats as large as the ones we are looking at, Steve’s comment has continued to resonate, as I wonder how difficult it would be to reef the big sails, winch in the genoa in a blow, or even maneuver a forty foot boat around a marina. Standing on the deck of the Passport 42, looking at her towering rig, her beefy beam, and her long length on deck, my concerns about dealing with a bigger boat were amplified.
While those thoughts about her size lingered, I started to go about examining the boat. Or I should say, I tried to go about examining the boat, because the broker announced almost as soon as we stepped aboard that she had a surveyor coming to look at another yacht and would need to leave us momentarily. What more, yard rules prevented her from allowing us to stay on the boat or even in the boatyard without her present. I tried to be firm – confrontation is not my strong suit – saying that we would need more time to really go over the boat and asking whether it was possible for us to stay aboard while she left to deal with the survey. She relented a little, permitting us to stay at, but not on, the boat. This gave us the opportunity to really go over the hull, rudder, shaft, and propeller, and also plan a strategy for how we would get the most out of what was promising to be a very limited amount of time on the boat.
We found no problems whatsoever while the broker was away and got to work as soon as she returned. Margaret went below to take pictures of the cabin and look over whatever systems she could. I stayed topside and hastily examined the deck, rigging, lazarettes, and all the rest. Then I was able to spend a few moments below, looking in the bilge and engine and glancing around while the broker hovered over us and repeatedly told us we needed to hurry because she had important business elsewhere. Needless to say, these were not the best conditions under which to evaluate a forty-two foot boat that we were contemplating spending our savings and then some on.
My first impression, of the boat’s immense size, remained after our short time aboard. But I also came away thinking So Bella was generally in fine shape. There were a few issues with fittings, hatches, and equipment, but about the most serious problem I could point to was the binnacle compass, which was cloudy and in need of replacement. Of course, the sails were of unknown age and condition, some of the electronics were a little aged, and the rigging had been replaced all the way back in 2005, but she certainly seemed to justify her high sticker price.
And now, Margaret:
As I apprehensively but excitedly climbed the wobbly aluminum ladder I thought about how this could be the one. This was the boat that Jeff and I BOTH thought had the perfect layout based on the numerous hours of yachtworld.com boat porn viewing we had done over the past year. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised when Jeff suggested that we look at her, as she is at the top of our price range and would definitely require us to postpone retirement for many more years than we have been discussing. But the Passport 42 has the kind of lines and woodwork that could woo almost any sailor, and more specifically, one that has spent her entire life as an artist looking at compositional elements such as line, shape, texture, weight, and balance.
Once I stepped off the ladder, I knew that I was encountering an entirely different class of boat than the Southern Cross or the Island Packet. Her decks were wide and easily traversed. The topsides were in pristine shape without the slightest bit of crazing or mismatched fiberglass patch work. The canvas covering all of the hatches, winches, sails, and windlass was obviously new and very well constructed. I knew within the first few minutes on board that this was a boat that was maintained by a meticulous captain. And I sure do appreciate that commitment to aesthetics.
While I was busy snapping photographs, trying to document every square inch of the topsides, Jeff was in the cockpit having a discussion with the broker. As he noted above, she was far from accommodating, as continuing to complain about how busy she was and how she would need to rush us through these viewings to be available for a survey she had scheduled at 9. I should mention at this point that we scheduled our appointment to view two yachts for 8:30. I am not sure who she thinks can look at two boats in 30 minutes, but that certainly was not our plan. We were hoping for an hour or two a boat, so that we could give the vessels a very thorough going over, as we are considering dropping a good portion of our savings on this purchase. Despite Jeff’s persuasion, the broker ushered us off of the boat after about 15 minutes, at which point I had not yet opened a single cabinet or locker.
Back down the rickety ladder, we eyed the company that So Bella kept in the yard. She was surrounded by many boats that had crossed our radar over the past few months. As we counted the thru-hulls and tried to wiggle the rudder we discussed what good shape So Bella appeared to be in while at the same time sharing concerns about her enormity. As I have a fraction of the experience sailing as Jeff, I do not share his concern with our ability to sail this boat. Perhaps I am just naive, but I have read about numerous couples, many who are 30+ years older than us, who have cruised aboard 40’+ yachts for years without incident. If folks in their 70’s can reef sails and climb masts, then so can we! But she was big – as a matter of fact at one point I thought to myself that the SC31 we had just looked at could almost fit topsides like a dingy on this boat!
When the broker returned she allowed us time to look below, though never without hovering within arms reach. I felt like a kid in a china store. As if she thought at any moment we might break or steal something. I tried alternately to loose her by hiding out in the head or v-berth photographing and to distract her with small talk so that Jeff could take the time to inspect the systems that he wanted to see. I even employed her to take a photograph.
If I had to describe below decks in one word it would be regal. She has stunningly maintained woodwork and joinery which command you to run your fingers across the shiny varnish. She has tons of storage space – there are lockers, cabinets, and cubbies galore! Many of these spaces are filled with desirable spares for all of the systems including the engine, electronics, wind vane, and head. But most of all she has space. Tons of it.
From the moment you step off of the last companionway step you notice the immense size of her underbelly. To both your left and right you will find sleeping quarters: to starboard, a great sea berth followed by hanging lockers and cabinets and, to port, the aft cabin with a double berth, a fold down table, and plenty of storage. The aft cabin also has a large hatch and a side port for ventilation.
Moving forward you will find the galley to port with a good deal of counter space, a gimbaled 3 burner stove, and a huge ice box. The current owner has a microwave on board, though we would quickly toss such a power suck. Across from the galley is the large navigation station with a comfy seat and chart table with stowage beneath. Forward of this is the salon, which was surprisingly small for the scale of the boat. It has a stationary table that is affixed to the floor like on the SC31 but with much more space for walking around. Even in the collapsed position one could maneuver around the table on either side. On the starboard and port side settees could be converted to sea berths with lee clothes.
The head and a set of large storage lockers with a drawer are forward of the salon. The head is nicely appointed with a customized vanity with white tile work and has a large mirror with storage. There is a tub/shower combo which would undoubtedly serve as additional storage while on passage.
Lastly in our tour is the forward cabin which has an offset berth to starboard with a nice sitting area and oodles of storage both in drawers, lockers, and cabinets. There is a huge hatch and a few ports for great ventilation. Though I think the offset berth would be more comfortable to sleep on as it would not have the crevices to fall into that v-berth cushions create, it is a smaller berth than the traditional v-berth.
While I was dazzled with the beauty of this boat, I imagine that I could have been even more impressed had the broker taken a few minutes to remove the canvas and allow the boat to be filled with light. Instead we were inspecting her in dungeon-like lighting. And, for a photographer, this is not especially appealing.
Despite the broker’s broken record of “and he replaced this” it was clear that we would still have some work to do before setting sail, but I’ll leave it to Jeff to outline what systems needed upgrading.
Overall So Bella was a knockout beauty, but her size was intimidating. The larger the boat the more expensive it will be to maintain. More hose, lines, teak to varnish, ports to bed, etc.. So while I don’t think we will be writing a check for So Bella, I can’t imaging she will last on the market too long.
But if someone wants to leave us a Passport 42 in their will, we would not complain.
And a final comment from Jeff:
Margaret expected me to add more about my impressions of the boat and its condition, but I don’t really have too much more to say given how rushed we were while aboard. Reading over Margaret’s description provided much more detail than I was able to absorb in the short time I was below. The broker did the owner a huge disservice by speeding us through the boat; in writing this post we have been discussing again all the merits of Passport 42s and So Bella in particular, but we just did not have adequate time to really assess her. While we might look at more Passport 42s, we will almost certainly not be entertaining the possibility of buying So Bella because we have such an incomplete sense of her condition. And, moreover, I doubt we would ever take the time to look at So Bella a second time because it would mean dealing with that broker again.