Feeling refreshed from the coconut drinks in St. Pete, we headed down to Punta Gorda to check out the Hinterhoeller.
Hinterhoellers are Canadian-built with a reputation as solid, sea-worthy vessels. We were looking at a 1985 Niagara that was primarily a one-owner. The seller, Jack, had owned it since 1989 and you could just tell he loved that boat. It was extremely well-cared for. Polished and clean, organized and tidy. She was most definitely Jack’s baby. And, for good reason. Jack had sailed the boat several times in the Mackinac race (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Huron_to_Mackinac_Boat_Race) from Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, MI (a 290-mile freshwater course) single-handedly. As a result, just about every system on the boat was streamlined and rigged for quick, easy, single-handed use. He and his wife were now retired and and, as tough as it was for them, after decades of wonderful sails on the boat (from quick weekend trips to month-long voyages) they were ready to retire from the cruising as well. Jack greeted us with a bright smile and big paw handshakes and jumped right on the boat with us to tinker around.
The Hinterhoeller had a spacious cockpit with plenty of room to kickback and stretch out at the helm. To use the old cockpit/living room analogy – where the others had felt like the stuffy, formal “sitting” room you keep at the front of the house for show, this one felt like the comfy den in the back with the old, grungy couches where everyone piles in on Saturdays to watch the game. It was just so damn comfortable.
We felt the same about the galley and saloon down below.
(And, a fun little boat fact for those useless knowledge junkies out there – much to my surprise, turns out the word saloon originates not from the old swinging doors, whiskey-busting joints you see in old westerns, but from boats!! It’s true – it has to be – it’s on the internet: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/saloon).
It also came with a hard bottom dinghy and a 15 horse-power, 2 stroke outboard. A rare find, and a bonus that had our broker salivating like a kid in a candy store.
Phillip and I felt the same (minus the salivating). We were like teenagers with a crush, secretly doodling pictures of the boat in our Five Star spiral notebooks with little squiggles and hearts all around it. It was all we could think about. It was all we could talk about. Looking back on it, it’s probably a good thing no one else made that trip with us, because they probably would have jumped right out of the Prius and hitchhiked home. Phillip and I were enamored. Images of the two of us with our hands on the wheel while the boat glided through crystal green waters filled our heads all the way to Daytona.
We still had one more boat to check out on this trip, the Tayana – a beast of a boat, but we both had a sneaking feeling we had already found ours.