It felt quite surreal. In any other year, at any other time, this would be completely normal, but at this moment—December 30, 2020 at 9:15 a.m.—walking into an airport amid a sea of masks, getting on a plane and wiping our seat, tray, and armrests down with Purell wipes, courtesy of Delta, the starch scent of disinfectant in the air, it all felt … strange. Just strange.
Phillip and I hadn’t been on a plane since puttering from Nassau to Eleuthera back in March when we were scrambling to get back to our Niagara in Spanish Wells, Bahamas. While we had planned, initially, to only move her to Great Harbour Cay for hurricane season, once we landed on March 13th, it became clear that the world was shutting down around us and a mad-dash sail back home to Pensacola, FL was likely the only way to keep her under our wing for hurricane season. We called it our Corona Crusade, when the auto-pilot went out, we weren’t allowed to go ashore for supplies in most places, but somehow Phillip and I made some of our most memorable cruise memories during that voyage. Isn’t that just the truth about cruising, though? Sometimes the worst of times are the best of … memories? Perhaps that’s why we keep coming back to it. Every cruise is either going to be great or it’s going to make for a great story. Those are two pretty good outcomes. And, with the world still in an unprecedented lockdown in December, 2020—a reality that struck us again and again walking through the empty airports, watching everyone’s eyes darting back and forth from above their masks—our plan to travel in the future on a boat that could truly take us everywhere was solidly reinforced. I don’t think they can shut down the ocean. Don’t tell me if they can.
With our last-minute flight to see the last remaining Outbound 46 available on the market, s/v Ubiquitous in Annapolis, Maryland, booked, one thought kept ringing through my mind. “For offshore, we couldn’t have made a better choice.” It was what former Outbound 46 owners, Lisa and Andy, told us. In researching the Outbound 46 we found the Outbound owners’ forum was superbly active and many former and current owners happily share information there, even with people who are simply shopping for an Outbound 46. Lisa and Andy on s/v Kinetic stood out to us as they are highly experienced offshore sailors, captains, and sailing consultants, having successfully completed many offshore passages in their 2015 Outbound 46, the hull number (No. 59) built after Ubiquitous (No. 58). In the days before our flight to Annapolis, Phillip and I set up a Zoom call with Lisa and Andy, who generously shared an hour of their time to talk to us about the Outbound 46, its build quality, the different features, its performance, etc. They even knew our owner, Jim, and s/v Ubiquitous. They told us Jim was a meticulous owner and that Ubiquitous was a very well-kept boat. Good news. The exterior and interior Outbound 46 tour videos in my previous blog post are actually of Kinetic.
Our chat with Lisa and Andy only solidified our hopes that setting foot on an Outbound 46 would tell us what Phillip and I already felt we knew: for offshore, we couldn’t make a better choice. On the plane, Phillip and I were tingling. My pulse felt electric. And, it was a good thing I had so much adrenaline pumping through me because Annapolis was bone-chilling. We were expecting lows in the range of 29 to 36 degrees and highs from 40 to 52 (our warmest day). We stayed at Governor Calvert House as we did when we attended the boat show back in October, 2019. It was wild to think when we had last stayed there, had last been in Annapolis, we could have never predicted all of the extreme change that lied ahead for us. It was also a bit wild when they assigned us the very same room we had stayed in back in October, 2019. Phillip and I took it as a sign. An omen.
Our suitcases, which we had stuffed with sucked-down Space Saver bags to house all of the huge fluffy layers we knew we would need, exploded in the room, our cargo growing three times its size. I distinctly recall wearing long johns, a long sleeve, a fleece over that, my puff jacket, and my foul weather jacket out to dinner that night and I was still a little uncomfortable. But, nothing could chill our fiery moods. The next day Phillip and I were set to meet the owner of Ubiquitous, Jim, at the boat at 11:00 a.m. His broker, Forbes Horton, was out of town, but they all agreed it was fine for showing, just the three of us. It was all happening so fast (literally because it had to, Ubiquitous was highly sought after) it felt unreal. Within a matter of three weeks Phillip and I had decided to get a new boat, get a bigger, more complicated boat, get an Outbound 46, specifically, and now, perhaps, get this boat, 2015 Outbound 46, Hull No. 58, s/v Ubiquitous. We wouldn’t know for sure, however, until we stepped aboard. Everything on paper is just that—paper—until you step aboard.
My heart was pounding as we approached her. She was brilliantly white, her stainless glistening all over. She was 46-feet, but she didn’t look too big. It was a strange revelation Phillip and I both had. Standing next to her at the dock, she didn’t feel like she was too much boat for us, a feeling Phillip and I both expected we might feel coming from our moderate 35-foot Niagara. That was comforting.
It was a little odd meeting Jim for the first time while staying six-feet apart and wearing masks but, despite it, his knowledge and sense of humor easily started to shine through. Soon it was time to step aboard, a step we had to make carefully as the dock was a bit icy. The boat, however, Jim had carefully dried and he had the Webasto diesel heater aboard churning, keeping the boat warm and dry. I remember grabbing a stanchion post to help myself aboard and noticing, when I put all of my weight on it, it did not budge. Not one bit. While our Niagara is a solid, well-kept boat, I can wiggle just about every stanchion post on the boat no matter how many times I tighten the screws at the base. The one on Ubiquitous took all of my mass as if I weighed nothing. The railing on the back also came up to my hip, much higher than it had on our Niagara. The tall railing all around the stern felt like a hug. The cockpit also allowed Phillip and I to easily brace against the opposite seat. We could each lay down fully on either seat. The back of the seat was also comfortable (which is not true for us on some other boats, Catalinas in particular with the slanted back is quite uncomfortable for us).
Then I stepped behind the wheel and was stunned. “I can see!” I squealed. Phillip and Jim both gave me an odd look. But, on our Niagara, standing behind the helm the dodger is right in my line of vision so I would often have to stand with one foot on either seat and bend down to look over the dodger to see, not a position you want to hold for hours on end. And, when I sat on the Niagara, I couldn’t see well over the companionway. On Ubiquitous I could see (through massive, tall, supremely clear Strataglass windows) whether I was standing or sitting. The visibility on the Outbound won my heart as I knew I was going to match Phillip toe-for-toe in handling the boat. Our vision of cruising is where either of us can fulfill any role at any time. We truly strive to have two fully competent, equal captains aboard. So, visibility for me checked a massive item off my list.
Then I walked forward and I did so without once having to turn to the side, lean out around a shroud, or otherwise try to squeeze past any rigging as I had to do on many of the boats we had boarded during boat shows. I just walked. The width of the side decks was impressive. Then there were granny bars. I’ve never had granny bars. I climbed right up with ease and could reach the top of the main and every chalk on the mast.
And, even though the boat is 46-feet long, a good four-or-so feet of that length is behind you at the helm, so looking forward, she really feels more like a 42. The Outbound 46 just didn’t feel wildly bigger than our Niagara. It was exciting. And, she felt so substantial. Although the interior below is beyond stunning, it is also impressively strong. Every handhold felt like a two-inch thick club in my hand and one magically appeared at every point I felt I would need to grab hold. Doors shut and clicked as if the boat had never flexed in her life. And, she was cleeaannn. Almost every bilge locker we opened looked like I could eat my dinner down there. It was clear the boat had been exceptionally well-maintained.
And, she struck the right balance of performance and pleasure. Not only were the decks, hardware, rigging, build, etc. exceptionally substantial, but curling up in the corner of the saloon felt so luxurious. She was just beautiful, with all the necessary creature comforts: solid surface countertops, fans where you want them, color modes on the LED lights, cedar-lined closets with LED lights inside that come on when you open them. It was like a five-star hotel. And, the little features really spoke to me: a separate scupper the anchor chain, the crash-forward bulk-head, keys to lock the engine compartment, locking floorboards, massive stowage under the bed, the locking buttons on all lockers and drawers, curved edges on the countertops so no crumbs gather, a pan at the bottom of the companionway stairs to sweep dirt into, pad-eyes for tethers all over the cockpit. I could go on, but I’ll stop myself here.
While the many, many complex systems (particularly the lithium battery bank) did have our heads spinning, overall Phillip and I were exceedingly impressed. I’m not sure Jim had other showings where the potential buyers crawled all over, opened every single hatch, tried to look at and ascertain every hose, every wire, every fuse and switch. But, Jim was gracious and fun, honest and seemed to enjoy answering our dozens of questions. Phillip and I had come with a long checklist of items to look at and ask Jim about (literally, an eight-page bullet point list) that Jim cordially walked through with us, beginning to end.
We had come to Ubiquitous at 11:00 a.m. on December 31, 2020, and when Phillip and I started walking away from the dock a little after 3:00 p.m. we were shocked that four hours had just passed and it felt like a blink. We were simply enthralled with her. Ubiquitous did nothing short of blow our socks off. As Phillip and I headed back to Calvert House that afternoon, we knew we were definitely going to pursue this boat. Negotiations still had to be undertaken and compromises made, but he and I didn’t have to discuss much further. “I want that boat,” we both told each other that night. Then we did what any good sailor worth his salt should do to commemorate their good fortune and luck. We ordered up a massive pizza from Fox’s Den, picked up three bottles of red wine at Mills, put on Captain Ron and drank ourselves into a deep sleep, with visions of Ubiquitous dancing in our heads and an exciting, wonderfully new year that lied ahead.