Fortunately, we do not teach on Fridays, so that allowed us to leave after our classes on Thursday afternoon. We ended up driving out to eastern Ohio before stopping for the night. The next day, we drove the rest of the way through to Connecticut and stayed at a great hotel just north of New Haven that we had picked up cheaply on Hotwire.com. The hotel had a bar, so we sat around having a few drinks, discussing our cruising plans, and getting excited to see Bear the next day.
In the morning, we grabbed breakfast and headed the 20 minutes out to meet Hal, the broker, at Brewer Bruce and Johnson’s Marina in Branford. It was in the lower thirties and sunny, so it was going to be a relatively nice day – at least the best that we could hope for given this winter’s weather – to look at a boat. In person, Hal turned out to be as friendly and relaxed as he had always seemed on the phone. He quickly drove us out to Branford Landing, a converted metalworking factory that was now used for boat storage, where Bear had been sitting for the last 18 months or so. After setting up the ladder, unlocking the boat, and sharing a bit of information, Hal left us to complete our inspection. While Hal was a nice guy, Margaret and I were both relieved that we would have the boat to ourselves to spend as much time as we liked looking her over.
Images and captions below by Margaret. Click on image(s) to enlarge:
As we had hoped, the boat seemed to be in overall excellent shape. Of course, there were a number of small things that stood out as I made my way around the topsides (which was no easy task given the shrinkwrap). For example, the anchor chain was a bit rusty and would probably need to be regalvanized or replaced. Some of the running rigging – namely the staysail furling line and vang – also needed replacing. Examining the standing rigging did give me a bit of pause as the turnbuckles on the aft lower shrouds looked original and were clearly much older than all the other rigging on the boat. And, before we even came aboard, I spotted a small section at the leading edge of the keel where rust was coming through. I was concerned about that section, but was not sure how serious it was. Mentally, I made a note to talk with the surveyor about it and find out what it would take to fix.
Looking into the lazarettes, most of the hoses and fittings seemed to be in good shape, having been replaced in the recent past. However, there was one fitting on the port side (I am unsure of what it goes to) that was a bit rusty and would probably need replacing. There were a few spare lines and some bumpers in the lazarette, but compared to many of the other boats that we had looked at, there was very little old equipment on board. Most of the stuff that we had seen on other boats was usually a bunch of junk, so we did not really miss it, but we were trying to take an inventory of everything so we could get a handle on how much we would have to spend on fire extinguishers, life jackets, and the like to be Coast Guard compliant.
Going below, the cabin was a little smaller than it had appeared in the Yachtworld photos, but was still in spectacular shape. Looking into the bilges, the hoses and fittings generally looked good, though there were one or two that were a bit ragged. There was also a fitting in the head that was rusted and corroded and clearly needed to be replaced. But this was the exception. The wiring was all pristine, the bilges were immaculate (well, at least as close as boat bilges come to immaculate), and everything appeared to be in fine repair. The engine looked brand new, despite the fact it was over eight years old at this point. And, the sails, which had appeared to be relatively new in the Yachtworld photos, proved to be quite new, sitting in their bags on the cabin sole. Further, while there was not too much gear aboard, there were some key engine spares, including a starter, which would be nice to have.
Coming into this trip, one of the things that I was really concerned about was the chainplates, so I wanted to make sure we took a look at them, even if it meant spending the time unscrewing the access panels. We could get to the forward chainplates without a problem, and these looked – to the naked eye – to be practically brand new. Of course, any corrosion and pitting would start in the exact place we could not see, in the area where the metal passed through the deck. But, still, they appeared to have been either recently replaced or in exceptional condition given their age. The other four chainplates were much harder to access. Not only were they behind wood panels, but the screws holding the panels were nearly stripped, which suggested they not only had not been replaced recently, but that nobody had taken a good look at them in some time. I probably labored for about thirty minutes before I managed to remove the starboard side panels; the port ones were just too stripped to get off. The middle chainplate on the starboard side looked as good as the forward one, but the aft one showed a couple streaks of rust. Given the information we had – no word on the age of the chainplates from the broker or owner and a few hints from an internet forum that the owner was looking to replace the chainplates in 2010 – and what we could ascertain visually, my mind was not really put at ease. While it was entirely possible that they had been replaced recently, by this point my assumption was that they would need to be replaced. Though this was disappointing, it was probably only going to cost about a thousand dollars to complete. And, we would probably need to replace the aft lower shrouds as well, maybe another grand or so.
Despite the chainplates and rigging, I was extremely pleased with the boat. And, it was a lot of fun to really spend some time going through every part of her, emptying cabinets, climbing into the lazarette, and paging through all the manuals and notes at the nav station. Despite the chilly temperatures, I could already imagine sitting aboard her this summer in an anchorage on Long Island Sound. I felt like we had made a very good decision to put an offer in on this boat and, also, got very lucky. Clearly the boat had been well cared for; it was in such better shape than any other boat we had been aboard. By my estimation, our agreed price for Bear was a discount compared to any other boat we had looked so far, and, given her condition, there seemed to be far less possibility of any unforeseen problems. Moreover, because of her condition, we were going to be able to take ownership and, with a few minor purchases and a little labor – with the possible exception of some of the standing rigging and chainplates – be able to immediately go sailing this summer. I thought we still had to think about whether we were going to ask the owner for a price reduction for the rigging, but that would be something we could consider on the long ride home.