After another lovely day in Florida, we finally needed to begin our return to the frozen north. The first leg of our journey would take us from North Port, Florida, to Margaret’s Dad’s place in Lucedale, Mississippi, about nine hours away. Of course, we arranged to see a boat along the way in St. Petersburg. A sharp looking 1984 Baba 35, Northern Light looked to be in fine shape in the listing, but did appear to be priced around ten grand over what I might have expected. She boasted a 2007 main, standing rigging of the same year, and new chainplates along with a liferaft, self tailing winches, and a few electronics. But Northern Light also had an original engine and teak decks. We were definitely interested in seeing more.
Margaret and I arrived at the St. Pete city marina approximately twenty minutes early and spent the time staring through the chain link fence at all the boats, trying to pick out the blue hull on Northern Light. Eventually the brokers – a friendly and knowledgeable couple – showed up and took us down the dock to the boat. Unlike our experience with Bad Tayana, the first glance at this Baba was impressive. She looked to be in fine shape and the royal blue hull, teak decks, and varnished teak on the topsides all harmoniously played off each other.
Stepping aboard there were few obvious issues. The mainsail appeared to be in good shape, the ground tackle looked fine, and the winches all seemed to operate smoothly. In the cockpit there was a good deal of corrosion at the base of the steering column, some rust showing behind the plastic on the lifelines, and inoperable speed and wind instruments. But there was also a nice clear binnacle compass, something of a rarity in the boats we looked at. Moreover, the cockpit – and the whole boat – felt both salty and comfortable. The teak decks certainly contributed to my comfy vibe; I am a sucker for these despite the ticking time bomb they represent, though the ones on Northern Light appeared to have some years left on them.
Going below, I instantly felt at home. In my opinion, the cabin had everything one needed and had a nice snug feeling. Everywhere I moved, it seemed I could casually and securely lean against something solid, which would be nice if things were rocking and rolling. I also liked the way the galley was angled and there were no hanging cabinets to divide the space. And, of course, the color and condition of the wood just sucked me in.
In general, I was impressed with the condition of the boat. The wiring and hoses, though not those under the head sink, were generally in good shape and the engine – and genset – looked to be well maintained despite their age. There were a few corrosions issues, including the plates in the anchor locker that, I think, backed the bow pulpit, the windlass bolts, and the backing to a few stanchions. I was taken by the feel of the boat, and I could not find much to complain about condition-wise, which made me like her even more. The price, the teak decks, and the age of the engine remained my only concerns, which were significant.
In talking to the brokers, they indicated that the boat had been on the market for a while. And it was their impression that the owner was not that excited about selling, hence the high selling price. They also said he used the boat rather frequently, explaining why it seemed to be in fairly good shape compared to other boats that had been sitting on the market for equally as long. A few days later, the broker called and said that he had talked to the seller and learned he had a new wife and a baby on the way, so he was more motivated to sell. Whether true or not, it seemed like a low ball offer would at least be entertained.
Margaret’s thoughts: (as always click on an image to enlarge)
I have to admit that I was surprised that Jeff even wanted to look at this boat. It was at the very top of our budget and I was worried that I would love this vessel and we would not be able to afford it if it needed any work (and it seems that all boats need something before launch!) So as we waited for the broker, anxiously peering down the docks to see if we could spot the blue hull, I tried to remain calm, cool, and appropriately disinterested. As disinterested as I could be even though the Baba design had been on my list of contenders since we began looking at boats.
When the broker, Preston arrived, accompanied by his lovely wife, the four of us strolled down the dock to board Northern Light. As we approached, I could tell this boat was well maintained and appeared much closer to SoBella than Equinox on our scale of condition. The boat was clean and obviously well loved by her owner. No one was letting oodles of bird poo pile up on her decks, which were, by the way, in very good condition compared to Emily Luna’s.
Going below I was struck with two conflicting emotions. First, the boat was beautiful. The woodwork was stunning, the layout was great – this boat had style. The cabintop sported a butterfly hatch and handholds that were designed to mimic the curves and contours of the built-in features. The salon table had a beautiful starburst design and the galley had an offset sink. And the joinery was pristine!
But remember, I had a second emotion. It was claustrophobia! The boat, while lovely, felt tiny and crushing. It probably did not help that four adults, sails, a life raft, and other equipment were all crammed into the salon. I desperately wanted to love this boat, so I sat down at the starboard settee and tried to get used to the space.
Across from the galley is the navigation station. While it was a large quarter berth, great for storage, the nav desk had a tall partition which really divided up the space.
Across from the lovely salon table was a slightly curved settee with good storage behind in lockers and below in cubbies.
The head was forward to starboard. It was very small but had good storage and a floor grate for draining shower water rather than a separate stall.
The forward cabin held a v-berth which had a nice hatch and mattress. It was on the smaller size of v-berths we had looked at but had good storage.
This boat sparked a lot of discussion between us. We heavily debated condition, price, and size. It became a marker of condition and design from which to compare other contenders. I still love the layout and design of the Valiant 40…I just wish it had the joinery and price of this 36′ boat!
Northern Light Whiteaker listing
Baba 35 Reviews