Chapter Two – The Boat

“Did he inspect all of the thru-hulls?”


“Did he run the bilge pump?”


“Did you guys try to reef the sail?”

“Well … ”

Phillip was running Mitch through the paces after the survey/sea trial and he was passing with flying colors until he got to the reefing.  Mitch was down in Ft. Myers, reporting back to us after the survey/sea trial of the Nonsuch.  The selling broker had been right.  Mitch put in an offer for half the asking price on the Nonsuch─albeit contingent on a satisfactory survey/sea trial─but the owner accepted.  Phillip and I were shocked.  Surely Mitch’s luck would run soon.  We didn’t want to think it, but you couldn’t help but imagine Mitch walking up to this too-good-to-be-true Nonsuch and finding it half full of water, the sail only a shredded, tattered remain and actual, you-could-fall-through holes on the deck.  He was just getting too damn lucky!  

But, apparently that’s not at all what the boat looked like when Mitch made the ten-hour trek─the very next week─all the way from Pensacola down to Ft. Myers to have his first look at it and attend the survey sea/trial.  The owner of the boat attended as well and Mitch was cracking us up telling us about him: “The guy’s like eighty years old, hopping up and down all over the boat faster than I can, completely unwinded, and apologizes for being a little late because he had a tennis match that morning. Pssshhhh … ”  Yeah, owning and single-handing a sailboat will do that to you.  Mitch didn’t find it quite as funny when we told him he was going to be just as fit once he started taking care of the boat himself.  But, what had we told him?  “It’s a lot of work buddy.  A lot of work.”

Mitch said the survey sea/trial went exceptionally well.  Phillip encouraged him to make sure the surveyor inspected every inch of the deck and hull.  Being a Hinterhoeller, he knew the Nonsuch, like our Niagara 35, has a complete balsa core─a great feature, but also a costly one if there are any leaks or any areas of water intrusion. Phillip also wanted to make sure the engine─the original Westerbeke 33 (ours is a Westerbeke 27)─was in good condition.  Apparently, Mitch’s luck was still soaring because the surveyor gave the Nonsuch an exceptionally good bill of health.  He told Mitch he was surprised at the boat’s condition, especially for its age (1985).  


The only real issue he noted was some rotting of the rub rail on the starboard side and an area where the strut that holds the propeller shaft attaches to the hull that would need some fiberglass repair, but there was no water intrusion.  The boat’s integrity was solid.  She fired right up for the sea trial and Mitch said the boat sailed very well.  Well, that was, until they got to the reefing.  I mean, it is a huge sail.  It’s going to take some muscle to reef her in.  Mitch described their efforts to bring her down as two monkeys trying to you-know-what a football.  Don’t ask me where the man gets his colloquial phrases, because that was a new one even for me.  But I have to say the visual was certainly effective.  I guess it’s because there’s no reason monkeys would do that so you just assume they’ll be awkward at it. After that … incident, the surveyor noted the reefing lines needed to be replaced as well.  Otherwise─he deemed her right and true.  This was all good news to hear and seemed to mean Mitch was getting closer and closer to that big pie-in-the-sky dream of owning his very own sailboat.  Ahhh … such bliss!


While still finding the whole idea wildly radical (Mitch Roberts with his very own sailboat?), we knew there was a pretty good chance everything would go well with the survey/sea trial and Mitch would then have a boat, ready and waiting for him down in Ft. Myers, that would need to be sailed back across the Gulf of Mexico to its home port in Pensacola, FL.  For this reason, Phillip and I put together a list for Mitch of certain critical safety equipment, spare parts and other items that would be needed for the boat and crew to safely make the passage so Mitch could check or locate them on the boat and inventory them while he was there for the survey/sea trial.  These items included, but (in true lawyer speak) were not limited to, the following:

  • The house batteries─what’s the situation?
    • How big of a bank?
    • Starting battery and house?  2 bank?
    • Charged by the alternator?
    • Power cord, battery charger, etc.?
  • Is there an auto-pilot?
  • What safety gear does the boat have?
    • Flares
    • Fog horn
    • Life jackets
    • Smoke signals
      • Check expiration dates on all of those
    • Ditch bag?
    • First aid kit
    • Emergency underwater epoxy kit
  • Does the boat have a 12 volt (cigarette lighter) charger?
  • What spares are on board?
    • Impeller
    • oil filter
    • fuel filter
    • alternator belt
    • zincs
    • gaskets
    • hose clamps
    • fuses
  • What fluids are on board?
    • Oil
    • coolant
    • transmission fluid
  • Is there a repair kit for the sail?
    • Sail tape
    • needle, thread
    • whipping twine
    • cotter pins, etc.
  • Make sure the head functions
  • Does it have a life raft?
  • Do all sea cocks function just fine?
    • How many and where─identify and try all
  • Dock lines, fenders, etc.?
  • Cockpit cushions?
  • Make a list of what tools are on board
  • Make a list of what’s on board dishes-wise─pots, pans, silverware, etc.
  • What’s the bilge pump situation?
    • How many bilge pumps?
    • Are they wired together or separately?
    • High-water alarm?
    • Check for manual bilge pumps─how many?
  • Check for emergency tiller, make sure it works
  • Make sure there’s wooden plugs, nerf balls, whatever for plugging holes
  • Fire extinguishers?
    • How many and expiration date
    • Smoke alarms, CO2?
    • How many and where?
  • Spotlight
  • Radio and VHF─check them
    • Handheld?
  • Reef the sails while you’re out on the sea trial─learn the procedure

I have to say─for Phillip and I─it was really kind of fun to think back through that mental process, that “toss the lines for a true offshore passage” mind-frame.  It’s a little frightening, a little exhilarating, certainly a fun prospect for adventure.  I remember that thought of it starting to pulse through me after our own survey/sea trial.  “We’re about to sail this boat across blue waters baby!”


Mitch was a little nervous, beyond excited and kind of giddy.  He prickled with energy every time we talked to him.  You could hear it through his voice on the phone.  Even before he had set foot on the boat, he was tingling with the idea of getting this boat, sailing her back home and then taking her out and dropping the hook in Pensacola’s pristine anchorages with his family finally on board.  

And when we spoke to him after the sea-trial, it was clear he loved the Nonsuch.  It was quite the fortuitous find, too, because Mitch is a tall man.  He needs space to move around and this was the only boat he said he had ever set foot on where he actually felt comfortable moving about.  While that may not seem like a critical factor when you’re thinking about a boat’s integrity, its capabilities, its condition, if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the boat─weekends on the hook─you want a boat that is truly comfortable to you.  The fact that 6’4” Mitch Roberts stepped on this boat and felt, in his words─“comfortable”─was huge.  Phillip and I kind of saw the writing on the wall.  It was no longer “too good to be true,” it was just true: a solid, well-made boat in great shape, for a great price, that seemed just about hand-made for Mitch.  All that was left was the seemingly little matter of paperwork: letting the time expire for rescinding his offer and then it was final.  Mitch would then be the owner of his very own Nonsuch.  All he would need then would be crew to help him sail it across the Gulf of Mexico to Pensacola.

These two seem comfortable on a boat …


Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey.  Get inspired.  Get on board.


3 thoughts on “Chapter Two – The Boat

Leave a Reply