Let’s see … where was I? (With all the yard-selling, hog-tying and other Naan-sailing events I’ve been throwing in here, it’s easier than you think to forget). Ahh, yes. Day two of the Road Trip. It was Saturday morning and we woke refreshed in St. Pete, ready to look at two old boats. The 1990 Pacific Seacraft in St. Pete and the Hinterhoeller in Punta Gorda (another hour and a half haul).
So, the 1990 Pacific Seacraft. We were looking at this one to compare it to the 2000 model we had taken out for my first sail a few weeks back. It must be true what they say – you always hold a bit of a soft spot for your first (that or a blissfully-skewed image at least) – because if the 2000 Seacraft was akin to my hot, high school boyfriend, the 1990 was the pot-bellied, balding version of him at the 20-year reunion. Just not the same spark. The 1990 also had not been well-maintained (think hair loss and weight gain for a boat), and it was all wood below so it felt very dark and constricted.
We were interested but certainly not enamored. Thankfully, we had a couple more to look at. We also had a few hours to kill before we had to meet the broker in Punta Gorda, so we wandered around St. Pete a bit and stumbled onto a quaint little Farmer’s Market (http://www.saturdaymorningmarket.com/). You’ll be thrilled to know I found it a complete happenstance that they called it the ‘Saturday Morning Market’ and we were there on a Saturday morning. “Phillip, can you believe that? What a coincidence!” Phillip winced a bit from my wicked intelligence. It is scary sometimes how smart I am. Just scary.
But, we had a fantastic time toodling around that appropriately-named little place. There was great art:
Great food (we split a mouth-watering Margherita pizza):
And great drink (cocunut water right out of a coconut!):
(Yes, that’s Phillip and I. We look that good. It’s the coconut water.)
But, we had to pack it up and get back on the road. The Hinterhoeller had certainly wooed our broker, and we were eager to lay eyes on her. So, it was off to Punta Gorda for round two of the road trip boats.
A lot of people have asked me: “A sailboat? Really? Nights and days on end, stuck together on a tiny, little boat? Annie, are you sure?” And, I can tell you, the best way to find out if you can spend hours cramped in a tiny space with someone without beginning to plot their slow, painful death, is to jump in the car and cover 1,200 miles in one weekend. That will tell you real quick. And tell us it did. Phillip and I, despite all odds, had a fantastic time. Road trip!!
We had three boats to look at in three days:
1. A 1990 Pacific Seacraft (same model as the “Mercedes” we had previously considered but ten years older and about half the price): St. Petersburg, FL.
2. A 1985 Hinterhoeller Niagra (Canadian built, a new one for us, but one our broker repeatedly said he had a “really good feeling about”): Punta Gorda, FL.
3. A 1989 Tayana 37 (recall this is the “tank with sails” builder and this boat reportedly had “all the bells and whistles”): Daytona Beach, FL.
It was going to be quite the haul (know that I debated saying “quite the hull” to really capitalize on a cheesy joke, but I decided to forego it):
We left on a Friday afternoon, right after my first visit to the knee doctor. Good news it was not a torn ACL like I thought (I had been down that road before with a gymnastic’s injury to the left knee in high school and knew what an ordeal that would be – not to mention, an appalling hindrance to my sailing endeavors!) but I did sprain just about every ligament in there, particularly my MCL.
My knee was filled with fluid and had a range of only about zero to thirty degrees. Yeah, exactly … not much. But, he drained that puppy and it felt like he sucked the spawn of Satan out of my knee. (Yes, through a syringe. Spawn are small. But, word to the wise, don’t ever Google “spawn of Satan” looking for an image … just don’t). Then he slapped a brace on me and sent me packing. So, Phillip and I, and the newly-engaged torture rack on my leg, hit the road.
We made it down to Ocala, Florida around 9:00 p.m. and stopped at Amrit Palace, a tucked-away little gem of an Indian restaurant (http://amritpalace.com/), to gorge on some incredible chicken tiki masala (recipe for the foodies out there: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chicken-tikka-masala) and piles of soft, warm Naan bread. We finally made it to the hotel in St. Pete around 11:00 p.m. that night, exhausted from the trip but eager to get up the next day and poke around on some beautiful boats! The morning would begin with a visit to the 1990 Pacific Seacraft in St. Pete, with the Hinterhoeller in Punta Gorda slated for the afternoon. We crashed hard, without any meds, while visions of sailboats danced in our heads …
While the Pacific Seacraft was undoubtedly a quality boat, we were still struggling to justify the price. It was going to require some serious penny-pinching for us just to get the boat and another disheartening sum to get it in cruising condition. Instead of “Yes, I’ll have the veal scallopini, please,” we were going to be that embarrassing couple that brings their own PB&Js to the restaurant and then cleans out the table condiments and the mint bowl on the way out. You really don’t get invited back much after a scene like that plays out, trust me. So, after some thought and a smart nudge from our broker (thanks Kevin!), we decided to take a look at some “Toyotas,” i.e., older, more affordable boats that boasted the same cruising capability for half the price.
One of the first boats that fit this bill was a Morgan 382 that had just come in from a circumnavigation. Yes, that means exactly what you think it means. All the way around the world. Not only is that just awesome. Period. But the fact that the boat had been used, really used, and had proven itself, was definitely a confidence-builder, and it was priced well.
But, others had the same idea and were chomping at the bit to see this boat too, so we had to move quick. Luckily, Phillip already had a trip on the books down to Panama City where they were docked so he squeezed in a detour to the marina to check it out. Sadly, though, it had two major downfalls. The cockpit benches were cut out on each side to allow maneuverability around the massive (a.k.a. big, honking) steering wheel.
Meaning, you could not stretch out in the cockpit. This was a deal-breaker for us. As Phillip explained it to me: “The cockpit is like your living room. It’s where you’ll spend most of your time. It’s got to be comfortable.” So, the T-shape cutout in the cockpit was a big downer, but that wasn’t the only thing. Phillip also found, while it was beautiful, the galley and salon felt tight and cramped, even for a 38-foot boat.
Like I said in the beginning, you just know when you step on the boat, and Phillip knew when he stepped on this one that it wasn’t right for us.
So, the Morgan was a no-go. But, to optimize Phillip’s time in PC, our trusty broker had lined up a viewing for him of a Tayana 37 that had already sold but was still in the marina and available for some good poking around. Tayanas are built in Taiwan and are hand-crafted, each one of them, which makes each one unique, and the woodwork is exquisite. Think carvings and shapings worthy of an old Spanish chapel. They’re also sturdy as hell. It’s like a tank … on the water … with sails on it.
Phillip really liked the build of the Tayanas so we decided to add them to the list. In all, we knew we were pleased with the quality and performance of the older boats, not to mention the affordability, so a Toyota it was going to be. We were now squarely on the hunt for a good ‘ole (emphasis on ‘ole) boat!
I remember fumbling through the pages of the American Sailing Association manual on the way there. Trying frantically to absorb everything at once and get my head wrapped around all of these foreign terms, like leech and luff, beam reach and close haul. I figured if I sounded like I knew what the hell I was talking about, they wouldn’t see right through me. It was my first time setting off on a real, live sailboat. My excitement gripped my neck and tasted like iron in the back of my throat. I kept swallowing and biting my lip, without even noticing it. And Poor Phillip. I’m sure after the first few times he asked me anything and I burst and gushed all over him, answering two-word questions like, “You excited?” with paragraphs, pages, complete monologues, that he decided it best to not engage me. That’s when he shoved the ASA manual in front of my face and said I should bone up. Smart move. That shut me up. (I highly recommend it, though. I learned a good deal of the basics from that trusty little manual).
When we got there, we were greeted by the seller’s broker, a ruddy, raucous man with a scar that traveled from the corner of his mouth up and around, almost to his nose. Although it could have been the product of him falling off the swingset when he was a kid or a stupid bar fight when he was a young lad, I imagined, of course, that it had to have occurred when he was a grown man, full of grit and guile, and out on the open sea. It was probably a big fish hook that got caught in his mouth, and he yanked it out without flinching, slapped some bait back on it and threw it back out in the sea, all while battling an angry storm and crashing waves. Of course. Anyone qualified to sell a sailboat must be this kind of character. Or so I thought.
But enough about the broker. You probably want to know about the boat! Yes, the boat, that’s why we were there. Not to set off on a sunny day with sexy man, with the wind whipping through my hair. It was all about the boat for me, I can assure you. It was a 2001, 34-foot Pacific Seacraft, an exceptionally well-built boat, with a low maintenance package. There wasn’t a speck of teak on the deck. I imagined all of the time I would not spend sanding and re-finishing that damn wood. It was a clever design too. The engine was fully accessible through removable panels in the cockpit and under the companionway and there were many user-friendly features throughout the boat that just told you whoever designed this boat had really put some thought into it. And all of the hinges and doors and latches fit together like dovetails and felt like they were hand-crafted by an old oil-soaked carpenter in Italy. You could feel it when you touched anything. It was our first real prospect, and it was definitely a quality boat.
But Phillip and I were new at this sailboat-shopping enterprise, so we brought a ringer, a friend of a friend who knew a guy who knew a lot about boats. And, boy did he. We spoke on the way there of boats he had worked on, boats he had owned, engines he had re-built, systems he had designed, etc. I was thrilled he was there. He was going to really kick the tires (yes, the imaginary boat “tires” that you kick when you’re contemplating the purchase) and look under the hood. (Same thing – they’re imaginary like the tires – just go with it). Funny thing was, the broker noticed it too. After a few short exchanges, he could tell our “friend” was truly far more, a sharp eye hidden under an old college tee and sneakers. He stepped up to the front of the boat to ‘take a phone call’ but instead he got the seller on the phone and let him know what was up. Phillip and I and the Ringer smiled slyly at each other and enjoyed watching him squirm for a minute.
But, it was just a minute. He must have got the go-ahead from the seller to really show us what this gal could do. If this broker was anything, it was ballsy. He jumped into the cockpit and cranked the engine and began to set sail. There was no offer on the table, not even a dollar figure discussed and this guy was willing to take us out on the open sea to show us “what she could really do.” A free sail? Fine by us. Let’s go! And go we did. We puttered out into a little harbor and everything was smooth and calm, a nice, peaceful day sail. That’s how it started at least. But that all changed as soon as we made it out into the bay. It was gusting that day, around 25 mph. Our sails were all the way up, and the wind found us. The boat heeled over instantly and the sails popped and pulled taut. Luckily, I had found a good nestle spot port-side in the cockpit and had my arms leisurely draped on the lifelines, merely out of comfort, but this proved to be far more prudent than I realized when the boat kicked over and I gripped those puppies for dear life. I remember we tilted over so far, I looked over my shoulder and watched my lipstick fall out of my pocket and sink fast into the sea. I was thinking I would jump in right behind it if the boat tipped completely over.
Our Ringer had the helm and he shouted “I’m buried to port!” I had no idea at that moment what that meant, but I was sure it was important and I was sure it was not good. I thought about shouting it, too, to make sure Phillip and the broker heard. “Hey, did you guys hear?! We’re buried to port!” (I know, now, that would have helped none, but it was the first thought that crossed my mind). But I didn’t say a word. All of those cumbersome sailing terms had completely escaped me and were replaced with expletives and things you shout while jumping out of a plane. I looked down the side of the boat and saw the railing on the deck was underwater. Then it hit me. Buried. To port. He couldn’t turn any further to right us.
Yes, I found time to take a picture. If you’re going to tip a 34-foot sailboat over, you might as well document it. I can assure it was the most useful thing for me to do in the moment.
But, thankfully, others were far more sea-savvy. The hook-mouth broker jumped up to the main mast and began reefing the sail, casual as ever, laughing and saying, “I always say: Reef often, reef early.” Phillip and I exchanged a look that said Yeah buddy, a little earlier next time. But, we weathered it out, got the sails down a bit, fell off the wind and got things under control. If that broker did anything, he certainly took us for a kick-ass day-sail. Much like the broker, I was hooked! It came out later, during our small survivors’ celebration on the way back to the marina, that this was my first sail. The men looked at me with surprise and told stories of girlfriends, former of course, who had experienced something similar and threw up or demanded dry land immediately. I figured if the only thing I lost that day was a tube of Revlon Colorstay, it was well worth it. I was sold. We were getting a boat, one way or another. Money be damned!
It was a great sail and a great day that told Phillip and I that sailing was going to be, had to be, a big part of our future. We didn’t end up getting that boat. It was a bit out of our price range and while probably worth the money (that was a quality vessel), it wouldn’t have left us much cash in the kitty to sail on, and that was a real concern. We wanted a quality boat, one that would take us out on a quick weekend sail as well as quench our thirst for blue waters, but we also had a budget. As our broker explained to us later, “That’s the Mercedes. I can find you a Toyota you’ll love just as much, if not more.” It was a novel idea in the moment. One we had not yet fully considered. An older (cheaper) equally trusty boat. A … Toyota? We decided to ponder it a bit. The main focus was finding a good, stout, quality boat. Because, if you’re going to set sail to a warmer climate, you certainly want to do it with two, solid, dependable ladies. The kind that really perform – and don’t need the lipstick.
And, as always, post-drinks (or drink, if it’s big enough) to celebrate the big day. Cheers!