A nor’easter I believe they called it. I had never heard of it before, but of course it was scheduled to slam the northeast coast on the very two days we had planned our survey/sea-trial of the 2015 Outbound 46, s/v Ubiquitous. January, 2021 had been spent in hot negotiations. After we had traveled from Pensacola, FL up to Annapolis, MD over New Years Eve to lay eyes, hands, and feet on this newly discovered build and model, the Outbound 46, after just a few hours aboard one, and this one in particular, Phillip and I knew we were more than impressed. We were stunned, at her beauty, but more so her capabilities and safety features. We were both dying to feel her under sail.
The negotiations were a bit of an emotional roller coaster. We knew we loved the boat. But, we also have level heads and (Phillip, far more than me) sharp negotiating skills. We knew we had to come to a number that was fair for both sides, which usually, in the world of negotiations, means a number that, for both sides, stings a little. We knew Ubiquitous had been shown to others and we knew she was exceptional. But, we also didn’t want to get overly emotional. There were days where we had to tell ourselves “If this number isn’t right, for us or for Jim (the owner), then it’s not meant to be, we’ll find another boat,” (albeit a little heartbroken, we meant it) and then other days where we would chant “She’s the one, she’s the one, please let this number be the one.” It was a bit of a wild up-down, tennis-match experience. Kind of reminded me of when I would go with my Dad to the cattle auction, where the auctioneer does that weird “huma-na-huma-na, and a four, I’ve got a four and a huma-na, huma-na, can I get a five, a five, huma-na, five over there!” and your head is snapping back and forth watching the bids. But, at least there, all the bidding is public. If you understand weird cattle-auction babble, you know who is bidding what and when. Phillip and I had no idea what was happening with the other lookie-loos. Were they as impressed as we were? Did they understand what a quality vessel she was? (We hoped not.). Would they care for her like we would? (We knew not.). Had they made an offer? Was it more than ours? We had no clue. Phillip and I were merely hoping Jim felt a connection with us that maybe would make our bid-that-could, wherever she fell among whatever ranks were out there, have a little more heart to it, a little more hope that we would care for Ubiquitous just as he had. Thankfully, after several weeks, the roller coaster finally braked to a stop, jolting us a little, with the reality that Jim had accepted our bid, subject to a satisfactory survey/sea-trial, naturally. Accepted. We were simultaneously dumb-founded and giddy.
So, we scheduled it up for early February and tensions started to mount in the days before we were scheduled to take off for Annapolis. A rather intense nor’easter was forming and Jim was warning us about ice on the decks. Kevin, our broker, who would be attending with us, expressed some concerns about safely conducting a survey/sea-trial in those conditions and rightfully so. Phillip’s schedule was tight and he was reluctant to re-schedule hoping the deal wouldn’t fall through as a result, but it was actually Robert Noyce, our surveyor (a stranger to us, but a man we quickly nicknamed the “Voice of Reason”) who helped calm everyone down and keep things cool during the chaos of concerns about cancelling. We had selected Robert Noyce as our surveyor based on an incredibly helpful recommendation from my friend (and exceptionally gifted cruising consultant) Pam Wall. Being new to the Annapolis area, we were really digging through our A-lists for references. We were not in Pensacola anymore, Toto!
Upon the advice of Noyce, the night before we were set to take off, with weather looking dreadful and dangerous, Phillip called Jim directly and discussed his opinion and thoughts on putting off the sea trial and survey because of the conditions. We wanted Jim to know we were seriously interested and wanted this to happen but wanted a safe and thorough sea trial and survey. Jim seemed to let out a sigh of relief that we were not interested in “ice sailing.” His words. I told you that Jim was a funny one.
Jim knew the conditions there were far more dangerous than we could even appreciate. However, there was a rub of pushing the date much further out closer so spring to avoid another false start.
But, as things often do, it happened for a good reason because we had been toying with the idea of hiring our own independent inspector to really, really, scour the boat and find any and every possible thing that was failing, that needed to be fixed, or that created a safety concern. However, with everything that had happened so fast in January and early February, we really had not had the time. This was a huge purchase for us and we wanted to take steps to protect ourselves. After researching online to find the right person for the job, all steps took us straight to Steve D’Antonio. Phillip had read about him on Morgan’s Cloud (again, a highly recommended resource) as well as many other publications. I had also seen several followers quote some of the hundreds of helpful articles D’Antonio has put out into the world on my blog occasionally, so his name rang a bell. What we found was, in the world of pre-purchase inspections, D’Antonio was … THE GUY. And, it just so turned out Steve, whose calendar we learned is often full to the brim, had an opening to conduct his unprecedented two full-day inspection just a few weeks out, in early March. It would not be inexpensive, mind you. But, we understood and appreciated the value Steve brought to the table for a transaction like this.
Thankfully, the weather was much more forgiving in early March. Due to the harsh winters in Annapolis, Ubiquitous had been winterized—a new and slightly worrisome process for us as we debated whether to re-winterize the systems that we would de-winterize during the survey/sea-trial afterward or leave them potentially exposed. The thought of such cold harsh temps on the boat was troubling. But, the temps for the survey/sea-trial were in the high 50s/low 60s during the day, with temps of mid- to upper-40s at night. Not bad at all. Still bundled, but not bone-chilled. We flew in first and picked up Kevin at the airport, and the three of us stumbled around to a little brewery, A-Forward Brewing over in Easport (a short walk across the Spa Creek Bridge from Annapolis), where a local sailor there told us where to find the best pizza in town, Vin 909, just walking distance from where we were having drinks. Fortuitous!
Our survey/sea-trial was scheduled to start the next day at 9:00 a.m. and my head was buzzing. An inner confidence told me Ubiquitous would do fine on the survey. Perhaps that was incredibly naïve, but I had confidence in the build of the boat and Jim’s meticulous maintenance of it. Knowing Steve D’Antonio was capable of finding whatever may be wrong (and unsafe and addressing potential safety issues) was also quite comforting.
I heard Robert Noyce’s voice first come booming down the path toward the boat. It was deep and hearty, and he looked exactly like the Gorton’s Fisherman guy would, once he doffed his rubber yellow getup. Quite a character that one. Then, as Forbes Horton was still in the Bahamas (lucky bastard in board shorts!), he sent a stand-in M.J. (short for Mike Johnson) with Eastport Yacht Sales in Annapolis, which is actually where the famous (Red Dot on the Ocean) Matt Rutherford works. Phillip blinked three hard times when he heard that. We felt like we were among celebrities. I half thought Kretschmer would walk by us on the dock and wave hello and just keep on walking.
Then D’Antonio arrived, a meticulous, quiet, observant man, with a litany of tools and bags he brought with him. It was clear he was on a mission and we wanted him to get to it. Jim, a scientist and engineer at heart, seemed to want to see anything Steve was looking at learn what he was identifying. The mood among the lot of us was palpably cheery. Jim got us neatly off the dock and we motored over to Bert Jabin Yacht Yard, where Jim even let me steer for a bit, which all the men later agreed was the right move. Smart man, that Jim. Get the gal hooked first and it’s a done deal. But, I knew, for Phillip, as long as everything went well that day, it had been a done deal months before so I happily took the wheel and was happily pleased with how responsive she was. Must be that bid rudder, I thought to myself.
Then she came dripping, elegantly out. Ubiquitous was a sight to see out of the water. Eye-catching. Well-crafted. Substantial. Having dealt with our weeping keel on the Niagara and the trouble I knew a keel seam with keel bolts could cause, I was immensely comforted in seeing a completely encased keel. I knew I would remember this sight often on any of our more arduous passages where we were heeled over in unforgiving winds. She can take it, I thought to myself.
The bottom paint also looked to be in great condition as Jim had the bottom done about every year and scrubbed often. Steve found a few thru-hulls and things that could be updated and a need to rebuild the Auto Prop, but nothing major. Whew. Back in the water she went and off went our hearty and happy crew. It was time to raise some canvas and really see what she could do. We sailed over near the U.S. Naval Academy, which is a real gem of Annapolis. Phillip and I took the tour when we had been here back in October, 2019 for the boat show, so it was a treat to now get to see her grandeur by “sea” (or Bay, you get my drift).
Under sail, Ubiquitous did not disappoint. We had about 18-22 knots of breeze on a close haul and she was exceptionally comfortable. We’d had the rigging surveyed independently previously and knew there were only minor issues and upgrades found there, so we sailed her full canvas in what I would call sporty conditions. I’m sure the men found it only to have been a nice, full breeze. But, Phillip and I both got to handle her for a bit, me with two white-knuckled hands on the wheel, just nervous I would get frazzled around the guys and turn us the wrong way and backwind the sails, Phillip with one hand on the wheel, his body to the side of it, not even looking at the instruments, happily chatting with everyone aboard. Phillip can definitely “feel” the boat (any monohull) better than I can. But, I could certainly feel she was strong. So, incredibly strong. Being a bit of a stocky gymnastics chunk, I always admire that in a gal.
The engine test, I will have to admit, sent me a bit over the edge. Noyce and D’Antonio literally had Jim run the 80 hp Yanmar at full throttle (full throttle! which I hate to do for more than 30 seconds) for eight minutes-plus to intentionally (intentionally?!) make the engine overheat. Can you imagine? If anyone had made me do that on our Niagara, I’d have shot ‘em. With a flare gun. All Billy Zane, Dead Calm style, right in the face. I was the only one during those eight grueling minutes, however, who kept giving Noyce and D’Antonio the bitch wings and evil eye, praying for them every second to stop. Stop, stop, stop it now! Throttle back. That was just … not fun. But, they did find—which is what they were looking for—that it took such extremes to get the Yanmar to overheat. So, there is that. Maybe I’ll forgive them. Someday.
D’Antonio also had Jim turn the boat a full 180 degrees, one way, and then the other, with the bow thruster alone, out in the heavy chop and winds, which sent the voltage alarm off on the batteries, another occurrence I was not happy with but, being the only gal aboard and easily the least experienced, I wasn’t going to pipe up again. We knew they had to stretch her legs to truly test her. Boy did they, and boy did she impress. D’Antonio’s exact words were “It’s a good, clean boat.” Although he did write up an exceptional report for us, after his second day scouring the boat, identifying some items in the precautionary range (mostly wiring and electrical that should be reconfigured, re-routed, fuses or labels added, easy to do stuff, but should be done), others identified as moderate (“you should to this, but it’s not a rush”-type) things that were also mostly minor (with perhaps the exception of the need to inspect/replace the riser and elbow on the engine), but which we used to make some minute price adjustments with Jim, and another handful of items in the “simply suggested” range that were just suggestions, not required to address safety issues, mostly cosmetic. It was an impressive assessment of the vessel, making Steve D’Antonio someone we would highly recommend for a substantial purchase such as this.
Overall, everyone aboard that day gave Ubiquitous a solid clean bill of health. Kevin, M.J., and Noyce all said they’d never had a survey go quite so smoothly.
Phillip and I almost couldn’t believe it was behind us. That was it? It was done? We’d put in an offer that had been accepted subject to a satisfactory survey/sea-trial, and not a soul on that boat would say we did not have a satisfactory survey/sea-trial. There were a few minor adjustments in the negotiations after, but that was it. Could it really be done? Phillip and I were in a bit of disbelief. It had all happened so fast. But, fast did not mean it was not all very intentional, well thought-out, and researched to the hilt. Nothing had been impulsive, simply quick and fortuitous. I don’t question those two things. When luck comes your way, especially quickly, you seize it without hesitation. And, that’s what we did. Phillip and I felt like two of the luckiest sailors in the world that night. We had an old friend from Pensacola (who now lived in Virginia) drive up to join, Phillip, Kevin, and I as we toasted with bottle after bottle of indulgent red wind and stuffed ourselves silly at Café Normandie. The day had finally come. The deal had been sealed. The boat had been successfully surveyed. Ubiquitous and all that she stood for, the future she promised, would soon be ours.