We’ve all had it happen to a friend at one point or another. They see you’ve got a boat. They come and hang out a time or two on said boat. They start asking you questions about maintenance, where you keep it, how much this costs, how much that costs. Then it happens. It’s inevitable. They get bit. They want to a sailboat too.
Then they drive you crazy. It’s all they can think about. All they can talk about. They drive their spouses mad. They spend every free minute, even to the early hours of the morning, poring over listings on craigslist, yachtworld, broker sites, even eBay─trolling their fair share of ”boat porn.” They should have a support group for the addicts. The hunt is consuming.
Now usually these friends don’t actually take the plunge. It’s easy to shop, compare, research, ask hundreds of questions but when it comes time to actually choose a boat and put in an offer, most of these “bitten” friends find the urge is not quite strong enough. They talk a big game, but when it comes time to actually sign up with a broker and put in an offer, well … But, while they are “seriously shopping,” I’m curious─what do YOU like to do? Encourage these poor boating newbies because you want to watch the show? “Of course you should get one, Jim. Sailboats are awesome. They’re fun 100% of the time and they never give you problems,” you say through a slick, devilish smile.
Or, do you really try to help them? Wise them to the realities of boat ownership? “Now, it’s a lot of hard work, Jim. It’s going to be very costly in the beginning and will continue to always cost you more than you expected. It also requires a lot of time and labor. It needs to be your biggest time and money commitment. Are you sure you’re ready for that?” You might do the latter because you’re a good person and you really care about poor Jim and his continued financial and marital stability. Or you might do it because you know if he does get a boat and it does in fact give him problems─shocker!─the first person he’s going to bring those problems to is you. You’ve got your own boat, remember? Your own daily host of boat problems. You don’t need his too. But, sometimes, no matter how hard you try to talk Jim out of it─ease him back from that ledge─he takes the plunge anyway. He’s getting a boat dammit! If that’s the case, you might as well jump on the bandwagon and help him. You know, at the very least, it’s going to be one hell of a show.
That’s where we were. After Phillip, Mitch and I made the initial epic Gulf crossing bringing our Niagara 35 from Punta Gorda, FL where we bought her to her home port in Pensacola, Mitch really did swear he would never get back on the boat with us to cross anything. And he didn’t. Never again for a passage. But, he did get on our boat again a time or two when we invited he and his family out for the occasional weekend to enjoy the brighter side of cruising─life on the hook. Hourly dives off the bow into warm crystal-green waters, grilling burgers in the cockpit, eating dinner under a smattering of stars, falling asleep to the sound of the wind and water lapping at your hull. Then it happened. Then it really was inevitable.
Mitch got bit. He wanted a sailboat too.
Look at him, all kicked back, Havana day-dreaming. He was a goner.
Oh boy. At first, Phillip and I kind of scoffed at the idea and laughed it off. While Mitch is a good sailor, he is still─as I outlined in critical detail in Salt of a Sailor─a screamer, a slapper and certainly a big person to fit on a little boat. We didn’t think it would really come to fruition. But he proved us wrong by going out and buying a boat all on his very own─a very small boat, however, for his not-small stature. It was a Sea Pearl 21─a trailerable open day sailer. A very cute little boat and one that he picked up for a helluva “I’ll-pay-cash-now” deal but it was a tiny little rocky, rolley thing for he and his family.
I even struggled to keep that thing from tipping and Mitch’s lovely lady, Michelle, reportedly wedged herself in a far corner like a wet cat pretty much every time they sailed. In fact, the story we heard was the last time she went out with him on the Pearl, they darn near tipped over and she’d vowed to never set foot on that boat again. With that ultimatum, I guess Mitch really didn’t have any other choice if he was going to bring his lovely lady out with him on the water.
The Pearl was just the wrong boat for them, but Phillip and I were not yet convinced any boat would be.
Mitch, however, was still succumb to the delirium. He sold the cute little rocky-rolley boat and did what those bitten do. He started scouring listings, shopping online at midnight, looking at boats in marinas around town. It was all he could think about. All he could talk about. Phillip and I tried, initially, to talk him back from the ledge. “It’s a lot of work buddy. A LOT of work.” Every time he talked about getting a boat we would warn him again about how much it would cost, how much time it would take to maintain it, how hard it would be, how tough sometimes, how much it would cost (yes, again). But none of it stuck. He waved us off time and again. Our words seemed to strike him like little pebbles and clatter uselessly to the floor. No matter what we said Mitch persisted. Until finally his persistence won us over. It became clear Mitch was going─hell or high water─to get himself a boat. It was kind of inspiring. Even in the face of stern advice, it was like he knew he wanted this. It seemed he needed it. We couldn’t stop him. So we joined him.
“We might as well help him get a good one,” Phillip finally conceded and we were officially enlisted as Mitch’s trusted boat counsel.
Mitch’s number-one concern was a boat he could easily single-hand. While his significant other is a fun, bubbly, attractive lady, a sailor she is not and does not desire to be─which is fine. It’s not for everyone. And, at ten years old, Mitch’s son─while he may someday become a great sailor─doesn’t yet have the knowledge or strength to truly help Mitch handle a boat.
Initially, it would be Mitch manning the entire vessel, so his primary concern was a boat that was large enough to fit them all comfortably, including his sizeable 6’4”, but that he could also handle and sail alone.
He also wanted a boat that was essentially “turn-key”─just toss the lines and she’s ready to go. Mitch did not have the time, knowledge and money to dump into a fixer-upper. Oh, and he had a very tight budget─as we all do. Mitch is a savvy businessman and wisely frugal. In all, it was a bit of a tall order but the man is irritatingly lucky.
One of the first boats Mitch considered was a Nonsuch. It’s a cat rig boat with a very simple set-up. Think one big sail. Seriously, that’s it. Once you hoist the sail, there is nothing more to do than trim it. How do you tack? You turn the wheel. That’s all. The boat handles the rest. It was a great idea for a single-handed sailor. And, it was a Hinterhoeller─the same make as our boat─so of course Phillip and I gave him a thumbs-up there. And, it was Hinterhoeller’s flagship model. Compared to the number of Nonsuches they produced, the Niagaras were a mere fraction. But, it’s not a very common boat. I had never seen one before. And the first sight of it from the pictures Mitch sent made me do a double take. It looks awfully funny─with that big tree-trunk mast at the very, very front of the boat and no stays. Not a one. That huge, hulky mast stands of its own accord, like a pine in the wind.
I’d be curious if many of you have seen a Nonsuch sailing around in your parts. We certainly hadn’t, which made it a bit hard for Mitch to find one close to home to set foot on. Most of the ones he did find that were even worth a look were hundreds of miles away. So, he honed in the hunt to boats closer.
Mitch sought the trusted advice of our Broker-Turned-Boat-Buddy, Kevin with Edwards Yacht Sales, to run a few seemingly potentials by him that Mitch had found himself among the numerous local listings. Because Mitch was working on a tight-belt budget, Kevin offered to help give him a little guidance and insight at no cost. I’ve said it before, but─I don’t care, it’s my blog─Kevin is a fantastic broker. Thankfully, he was able to steer Mitch away from some real dogs─boats that needed a ton of work or had real problems (termites, deck rot, you name it) perhaps not visible to the novice sailor’s eye. Then Mitch stumbled upon a late-eighties Hunter 34 located in Pensacola. Kevin’s colleague actually had the listing so he was able to coordinate a look-see for Mitch. (Real technical term in sailing─you look at the boat and see what you find.) Phillip signed on for the look-see and what he and Mitch found was that Mitch didn’t fit. It was a good boat, in good condition for its age─as Kevin had said it would be─but Mitch literally hung head-and-shoulders off of the vberth bed. While this alone was a tell-tell sign (no sail pun intended), overall the boat just didn’t feel right. You just know when you step on a boat if it “feels right” to you.
For whatever reason, all roads kept leading Mitch back to the Nonsuch. There’s just none such like it. (Don’t worry, that will not be my last Nonsuch joke. Get ready.)
Seeing as how it’s a Hinterhoeller, Phillip and I highly approved. We knew, at the very least, the boat would be good build quality and a dependable boat for our insatiable new sailboat buddy. Once he’d set his sights on it, it was a done deal. I mentioned the savvy part. Mitch searched high and low and finally found one within suitable range. There was a Nonsuch down in Ft. Myers that had been on the market for quite some time. It was a 1985 like ours. (I know, kind of eerie.) And it appeared to be in good condition. The man who owned it sailed it often. Reportedly all systems worked. No big repairs, overhauls or major modifications were needed. The selling broker told Mitch the boat was just as it appeared in the photos which─minus a little elbow grease and Simply Green─it appeared pretty effin fantastic. He also told Mitch the owner was motivated.
“If you put in an offer half the asking price, I think he’ll go for it,” he told Mitch.
Half?! I was annoyed at the thought of it. I mentioned the irritatingly-lucky part. But, it made us all skeptical. To be such a good boat in such great condition for such a great price? It sounded too good to be true. On Phillip’s recommendation, Mitch made the offer contingent on a satisfactory survey/sea trial to be sure, and that way he would find out if the owner was serious. It was a smart move but still a little bit of a crazy one in my opinion. An old Nonsuch sitting down in Ft. Myers, and Mitch While-You’re-Down-There Roberts puts in an offer. Sight unseen.
Oh boy …