An Update on Our Search and Plans

I thought I would break up our recent string of boat reports by trying to explain a little about where we are at in our search process.

We had started looking at yachts in earnest during the fall, when we began monitoring about 15 different types of boats on Yachtworld, ranging from the Baba 30 all the way up to the Mason 43. We created a spreadsheet that listed every boat for sale within our price range along with pertinent details about the yachts, especially their equipment list, condition, and price. Every couple weeks we would revisit the spreadsheet, updating it with new listings, adjusted prices, and the occasional pending sale. It did not take long before we could spot a good deal and, often, see that boat sell soon after we identified it as such.

Our next step, as we have described elsewhere, was to look at a few boats over our holiday break when we would be traveling to Florida and the Bahamas. At this point, we were serious about looking, but less certain whether we would actually be making an offer, even if we saw a real deal. While we definitely were moving towards purchasing a boat, at that point we were not sure whether we would just wait until it was closer to Margaret’s sabbatical to pull the trigger. While waiting would save us the cost of upkeep and storage, buying sooner would allow us to work on the boat and spend some time aboard getting to know her.

This part of our boat search began with Attitude, a Southern Cross 31 on St. Simons Island, Georgia. After checking out Attitude, Margaret crossed the boat off our list, recognizing she needed more room below. That was only the first boat that would be tossed by the wayside because of size. Following the SC31, we never actually looked at anything smaller than a Baba 35 (beautiful boat…review to come soon). However, we did step aboard a Westsail 32 in Marsh Harbour that, together with a few other experiences, resulted in us limiting our search to boats over 35 feet. In fact, Margaret is certainly more inclined to look at nothing smaller than the Tayana 37.

On the other side of things, my own minor reservations about boats in the 40+ range grew as we looked at larger boats and chartered a Fountaine Pajot 41 catamaran. As I eluded to in our post on the Passport 42, boats bigger than the Valiant 40 – and really the Valiant itself – seem like behemoths to me. Just standing on their deck, I get concerned about our ability to handle such a big boat, something that was driven home on our charter. As Margaret routinely tells me, I would certainly get used to the bigger boat in time. But, I am worried about the months or years until that happens with just the two of us handling the boat (and one of us not really all that familiar with boats and sailing). I plan on writing a longer post about my litany of concerns about larger boats, but the important thing at the moment is that we are no longer seriously looking at boats larger than the Valiant, though we still monitor them on Yachtworld.

At this point, I should also explain a little about how our purchase and sailing plans have evolved in the past few weeks as well. On the long drive south and, particularly, during a couple beers/bottle of Prosecco conversation at Sharkey’s at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami (right where Strictly Sail is) the night before we flew to the Bahamas, we hatched a slightly less vague plan. Now we hope to buy a boat in early 2014, bring it to the Chesapeake and Long Island Sound this summer, and sail it every summer until Margaret’s sabbatical. This would allow us to begin outfitting the boat to fit our needs, me to get comfortable with her, and Margaret to learn a little more about sailing and sample the cruising lifestyle a bit. So, with narrowing our search and committing – more or less – to buying a boat, it feels like we are in a very different place in the process then we were just a month ago.

Chopping off the smaller boats and moving away from the larger vessels has left us with a much smaller pool of boats centered around the Tayana 37, Cabo Rico 38, and Valiant 40 to focus our invigorated search on. There are more than enough good candidates in this group to keep us occupied, and we remain optimistic that we will find something in the coming months. Of course, there are a few other designs that we still monitor on Yachtworld, but we do not really devote a tremendous amount of time or attention to those outside the big three.

At the same time we have honed in on a narrower range of boats, we have also improved our ability to spot potential problems in the scanty, low-resolution photos and always insufficient list of specifications on Yachtworld…call this the experience gained from looking at hundreds of listing and inspecting a dozen of them in person. All of this has allowed us to make a short list of, currently, about ten specific boats that we will be traipsing up and down the East Coast to look at come spring break in March.

But our search might not last that long as there are a few boats that we are considering putting offers in on much sooner. Two of these we looked at while in Florida, and the others appear to be choice boats on Yachtworld. With the latter, our offer will not only be contingent on a survey and test sail, but also dependent on us – or, more likely, me, because Margaret is unable to fly – doing our usual inspection and approving of the condition of the boat.

So that is where we are at. It has been an exciting search so far, and both of us have learned a tremendous amount about our own desires, the boat market, and the condition, cost, maintenance, repair, and equipping of boats, something that we will surely share over the coming weeks. And we will be sure to keep you updated on how the offers shake out.

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