What does Michael Jackson and sailing have in common? Not much you say but concepts from each make us happy.
I never thought Michael Jackson would inspire us. “This Is it” the recent MJ movie exposed him as the creative genius he was. His dancers extolled their excitement of up and coming live performances. Michael softly reminded them “this is it” – life’s happening right now, enjoy this moment.
On board our new boat (new to us), this is our mantra. Steadily, the hands of time click by, each second adds up to one less moment to enjoy in the long run. We are living a great nomadic life, but installing a new head, fixing an oil leak and all those ‘not so pleasant’ jobs, can be hard, frustrating and rather disagreeable. Our adopted mantra may seem obvious to some, dumb to others, but for us this works. We are enjoying everything we are doing. Which is pretty lucky as at times I think I am about to lose my mind. It’s been rather an extraordinary time lately.
We purchased “Pyewacket II” in America. Craving the simple lifestyle, our plan is to go adventuring, not race home to sell her on. We had lived onboard our cutter rigged sloop Mariah II for nine years. Then we spent three years on terra firma and finally the pull back to the ocean was too strong to ignore any longer, so we upped anchor.
The idea of buying in the States was to give us another opportunity to explore the bejewelled Pacific Ocean, last time we saw just a smattering of her diamonds. We weren’t that interested in doing the Panama Canal again and we’d already explored much of the East coast and the inland waterways of America, including the Great Lakes, Ohio River and the Mississippi.
Primarily we wanted a boat with a longer water line than Mariah’s nine metres. It was time to try something different. We were seeking a waterline of around 13 metres, giving a greater hull speed and increased comfort. Neither of us were interested in steel, timber was okay, but we seemed to be steering a course towards fibre glass. Other specifications included:
– 6 ft draft (not missing out on shallow anchorages)
– Two cabins
– Two heads
– Lead keel (encapsulated, less chance of corrosion)
– Full keel with protected prop, (help protect from fouling ropes)
– Double spreaders (strength)
– Double back stay (strength)
– Centre cockpit (something different)
Really, that list could go on and on. We avoided balsa cored hulls and teak decks. Teak decks look fantastic, however we viewed eight teak decked boats, they all leaked to varying degrees. Mariah was, what I call, a dry boat. This was important, there is nothing more demoralising than getting wet down below. The idea with two cabins is to accommodate all our visitors. We have a lot of sailing friends keen to do a leg with us or just come and sit on anchor. We like that idea and two heads means a little extra comfort for us all.
We landed in San Francisco mid October. We arrived with the clothes on our backs and one bag each stuffed with handheld GPS, Nav equipment, sextant, handheld radios, hand water-maker, a clean set of undies and a huge dollop of determination. We were already exhausted. Our impossible timeline between finishing work and flying out meant we had to perform miracles to organise our house and affairs in Greenwell Point, NSW. We are lucky to have great friends renting the house. So when I simply could not pack up the last items of the kitchen (kettle and toaster), as the plane would not wait, I didn’t have to worry too much.
San Francisco is a buzzing, colourful city, crammed with characters. We have two marvellous sailing friends that live there, who kindly provided a base and put us up (or put up with us), while we found our feet. The first amazing concept in boat hunting in this part of the world is that most boat brokers are not the slightest bit interested in selling boats. We were staggered at the lack of interest in our enquiries. In desperation, Noel wrote an email to one broker stating “we are from Australia, we have cash, we have jet lag and a desperate stare in our eyes, in short we are mugs ready to be led down the path of nautical slavery, if you can’t sell us a boat there is something very wrong.” Perhaps they just don’t get the Aussie humour.
In the suburb of Sausalito we approached a broker in a long narrow office. He sat at the back of his domain and shouted at us from his chair, some ten metres away. This was our second attempt to arrange a viewing on a boat he had advertised. “I need twenty-four hours notice,” he said, we tried to give him that notice, but simply got tired of shouting. The first broker that we pried from his chair was out of a Hollywood movie, not because of the glamour, but because he was unbelievable. “Jed” wore orange plastic flip-flops, Hawaiian shorts and t-shirt and a smoking fag hung perpetually from his mouth. The boats we viewed were on the hard. “Jed” smashed the ladder onto the topsides with a crunch that made us cringe. He did this with a shrug at our horror and sat in the cockpit puffing like a steam train, while we looked at the generally beaten up boats. Another broker yelled “Buy! Sell!” into his mobile phone while we were all crammed into a tiny aft cabin. We were close to Hollywood, but this was getting ridiculous.
During this fiasco, we commenced discussions to view a boat we literally stumbled across. At this point we had only been in the States two weeks. It felt like two years. We quickly became disillusioned with what we saw, which was primarily, rot, delaminating decks, blisters and mould. It sounds like a dream to hop on a plane and spend each day viewing boats. The reality is quite different. Our budget meant we had clean motel rooms, but that was all you could say about them. Hiring a car in the States is extremely expensive (the insurance capital of the world). Also our desires were difficult to fulfil, centre cockpit boats seemed few and far between. We toyed with going to Seattle, where we had just missed out on an Olympic Adventurer but there were other boats that sparked interest. Ted Brewer designs caught our eye.
How did we find “Pyewacket”? As I said, during bothersome brokers’ debacle we were arranging to view a boat we accidently found. On our very first boat viewing we had spied “Pyewacket II” a few docks down. The boat we had arranged to see was not for us, we stepped on deck, saw leaking teak and a cockpit that two midgets could possible squeeze into with the aid of a crowbar and told the broker to forget it. With our buddies Roy and Chris, we meandered along the dock to a proud, large monohull. “Wow, look at the rigging” was the first comment. Her pristine, heavy duty rig included two backstays and running backstays – a good start. Right then I felt that this was our boat. Uninvited we rudely inspected Pyewacket’s exterior; we simply assumed she was for sale. Meanwhile, Roy slinked off into a neighbouring shop. A few moments later he returned accompanied with a big smug grin. “She’s for sale and here’s the owners number!” I felt the butterflies of excitement flit.
Pyewacket’s current slave, Ed, confirmed that the boat was for sale, he admitted that he was completely fed up with the broker. He was selling her privately for just a little more than we could afford. “I’ve just dropped the price significantly for the third time!” He explained. Already I was pressing the calculator in my mind into stretching the finances to agree. Having harvested a collection of disappointments once viewing boats below deck, I tried to curb my enthusiasm. Thereafter we inspected Pyewacket several times, below decks she did not disappoint. Buyers and seller slowly became friends. During tricky negotiations we viewed other boats, none striking us the same way. Pyewacket II met our needs, but we just couldn’t seal the deal. Finally frustration grabbed us by the throats and we booked flights to Florida “we’ll find our boat there” we said, in an ever so grown up way!
The day before flying out, to commence our search on the East coast, we were back with our friends Roy and Chris. In the evening Noel announced “I’m going to call Ed just one more time”. I was annoyed as I had paid for the tickets, but couldn’t hide the spark of excitement that twitched on my lips. We didn’t speak to Ed until we were driving to the movies to see This Is It. We increased our offer, but had not stretched to Ed’s expectations. We watched the film; Ed gave the dollars some thought.
After the inspirational story, with a spring in our hearts, we agreed to enjoy every waking minute of this adventure. Then the ‘phone rang and my skipping heart stopped momentarily. The collective silence hummed, the car’s interior groaned under white knuckle grips. I knew this moment would shape the rest of our cruising lives. As I grinned like a maniac I said to Ed “take this as a virtual handshake”. We reached an agreement and Roy, Chris and Noel broke into applause; Roy offered me a job “my god, you can negotiate!” he said.
During eight weeks in San Francisco, we inspected umpteen boats. We’ve hauled out, completed a survey, anti-fouled, changed anodes, fitted filters, fan belts and freed up the spinnaker poles and sea-cocks. We have fixed hanks, hosing and housing, cleaned, wiped, scrubbed and washed everything within an inch of its life. We’ve balanced, built, bodged and bought tonnes of gear. Onboard are the builder’s notes, which have been read, absorbed and regurgitated. Eating became a time absorbing inconvenience. Burgers and soft drinks laden with salt and sugar worked at hardening our arteries. Helping to work off the consumed lard, we polished the hull, moved onboard, sealed the deal and sailed several hundred miles south.
We were lucky to find what we wanted so quickly; avoiding further costs and delays by completing the purchase privately. And Pyewacket? She instantly became home, successfully meeting 99% of our rigorous requirements.
Don’t forget “this is it”!
This was much harder than we imagined even after two years carrying out internet research, prior to leaving. There are thousands of boats for sale, most we saw had major problems.
• Have a very clear idea of what you are looking for and where you will/will not make any compromises.
• There will be at least one compromise you have to make.
• Budget 30% more than you think for expenses and for the boat.
• A lot of boats already have a survey of varying age, most brokers/owners will let you read them – a great time saver.
• Many chandleries give discounts if you have just purchased a boat or you spend enough – if you don’t ask you don’t get.
• Hire a document agent – be aware of fraud, check and compare engraved numbers to document numbers, used an insured and certified document agent.
• Research, research, research, we joined several “chat rooms” for lots of different types of boat owners. This led to a day out sailing on a Pan Oceanic 43 on Sydney Harbour!
• Ensure you extract the construction of the boat from the broker prior viewing. One broker avoided this question for nearly a year – just before flying to Mexico he told us the boat we were interested in was fibreglass/ferro build, something we did not want.
Our Costs (US dollars)
• Car hire $320 per week ($AUS394)
• Value Motel rooms $70-$100 a night (AUS86-$123)
• Mobile phone (charges to you make AND receive calls).
• Free Wifi (own laptop)
• Document Agent, $500 minimum ($AUS615)
• Surveyor, $500 minimum ($AUS615)
• Hauling costs, $250 ($AUS307) haul out/in +$102 per day ($AUS125)
• Australian Import duty – 15% of value of vessel. (10% GST and 5% duty)
• Inspiring movies!