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Getting Started - Finding the Boat

We started planning right after getting back from our Mexico sailing trip in January 2006. By March we were looking at boats. Lots of boats. We hit yachtworld.com, craigslist, boats.com, eBay, local marinas, everywhere.

We did a lot of research. We went to bed talking about stability factors, advantages of ketches vs. sloops, and sail area to displacement ratios. We crunched numbers and looked at a lot of different boats.

Comanche 42
(600x450:89Kb)

 

Cockpit
(600x450:92Kb)

The first big boat we considered was an S&S-designed Comanche 42, an overbuilt extremely-seaworthy boat in need of a lot of love. The metrics were all good, it definitely is a bluewater-capable boat, but it needed a lot of work. Something about it wasn't right, and it was a little outside our price range.

Roberts 44
(600x450:111Kb)

 

Engine
(600x450:96Kb)

Next was a huge Bruce Roberts-designed Roberts 44 ketch. This thing was gigantic, so much larger than everything else we had seen. Again: an overbuilt sea-worthy boat with a few problems: the engine installation wasn't complete, it needed a lot of work, and oh yeah, it was a little outside our price range.

I really liked this one, but I was comparing the keel shape to the plans Roberts offers for sale on his website and it didn't match! It kinda looked like a Mauritus 43, but not. I wrote Bruce an email and funnily enough he responded: "The keel needs to be fixed. I'll sell you the plans for $500." Well, lets be serious, we're not going to take on a project like fixing the keel, so that was the nail in the coffin for Ballena.

Newport 41
(600x450:74Kb)

 

Winches!
(600x450:96Kb)

Next was a very different Newport 41. Both the Roberts and the Comanche were overbuilt cruisers, but this was a completely different boat! Low freeboard, narrower beam, smaller cabin, but oh so sexy. I don't know if the Newport qualifies as a racer, but it's much closer than the others!

I really liked the Newport. It was well setup, well thought out, and it was pretty clear it would sail like stink. Check out the winches around the mast - awesome! Still, we wanted something sturdy. Something that we wouldn't worry about when out in big waves and high winds. Something I could stand up inside.

Mariner 40
(600x450:87Kb)

 

Cockpit
(600x450:96Kb)

Next we found a gem in the rough in a 1970 Mariner 40. A huge boat with a few cosmetic problems that elbow grease and a little money could fix. The seller was a bit strange, but the boat was big, beautiful, and within our price range!

We went back and forth with the owner, Michael, and kept discovering unpleasant little problems - like the cockpit was a little rotted. At first all the issues seemed to be fixable, but as we got to know Michael more, something just didn't feel right. He lowered the price and we were still interested.

It turned out he had never sailed the boat, didn't know how to sail, and hadn't been very forthcoming with the problems. We kept 'finding' things that he must of known about, and he kept claiming ignorance. Still, he dropped the price further and we spent more and more time thinking about the Mariner.

Michael tried to convince us we shouldn't get a survey, "you would be crazy to survey a boat, you have to know how to evaluate this stuff yourself", and that was when he lost his credibility. He claimed surveyors were out to get him, and when I was calling around I just happened to find a surveyor who had looked at the boat two weeks previous! She told me all about the rot.

Rotting bulkheads
(600x450:110Kb)

 

Rotting decks
(600x450:56Kb)

I asked Michael about it and we had our first argument. He claimed the surveyor had tricked him, lied to him, and was trying to extort money out of him for her contracted buyer. He accused me of trying to bully him and threatened to walk. Anyway, the drama unfolded for another week before we decided - even with all this - to get our own surveyor to look at the boat.

We were extremely lucky to find Kent Parket, surveyor extraudinaire, hated by brokers everywhere, who thoroughly uncovered the rotting plywood decks, rotting cockpit, rotting beams and bulkheads, rotting spruce spars, and a few other minor structural problems. That last bit was sarcasm.

Rotten spars
(600x450:46Kb)

 

Cracked rigging
(600x450:42Kb)

Michael turned out to be a raving lunatic. He insisted the rotten mast, corroded rigging, delaminating spreaders, and rusty tangs weren't a big deal. We should take the boat to sea and "fix problems as they occur". He offered to fight me when we decided to walk away from the deal. I don't beat on seniors, but it was tempting.

We'd dropped a cool thou on the engine surveyor, the structural surveyor, the boat yard, ugh. We had a huge emotional investment in what had originally seemed like a good deal. I guess any of the problems could have been fixed. The lunatic seller and his crazy head games were just too much. We were also starting to slip our schedule- it was now five months before we wanted to leave.

Gulfstar 37
(600x450:89Kb)

 

Cockpit
(600x450:66Kb)

Then we found her: a Gulfstar 37. Not very well known on the West coast, only 150 were built from 1977-1981. Designed by Vince Lazarra to cruise the Carribbean, most Gulfstars live in the shallow waters of the East coast.

It looked good, but the more we examined the details, the more we were convinced this was our boat. It was well taken care of, had been sailed up and down the California coast by it's owners, and while it needed work, the important stuff was in good shape. It was smaller than all of the other boats we looked at, but it seemed to have a huge interior, and we felt comfortable handling it ourselves.

The Gulfstar 37 is well suited for coastal cruising and offshore passagemaking. It has a thick overbuilt fiberglass hull, common for the era but difficult to find in new boats. Graceful lines, nice sailing characteristics, and a fairly shallow draft to let us get closer to the shore. Check out the metrics we examined!

We decided this was the one.


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Random 'best-of' trip reports:

Spinny and Genoa downwind

 

Mike and the hatch we named after him

 

Church and statue in Mazatlan