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Getting Started - Surveying the Boat

After our crazy experience with the Mariner 40 we were considering, we wanted to make absolutely sure the Gulfstar 37 was right for us. On paper, it looked very good - all the design parameters were ideal for our intended offshore use. In person it looked good. But we needed to be sure.

We called Kent Parker from Parker Marine Consultants. When I was first looking for a surveyor, the person who recommended Kent first asked if I was working with a broker. When I asked why, he explained that most brokers didn't like Kent. He found too many problems with boats. We considered no one else.

We made a conditional offer on the boat, had an unpleasant haggling session, and finally agreed on a price. The sellers and I then motor-sailed the boat from the Southbay slip to Alameda. We unfortunately chose to go to Nelson's Marine for the survey hang, which turned out to be a big mistake.

We picked up Sara, who had a work obligation in the morning, and sailed out into the bay for our sea trial. I was intent on seeing how the boat handled, and managed to convince everyone onboard to sail over into 'the slot', the area of the bay directly downwind from the Golden Gate bridge.

Full sails


Sara sailing

Most afternoons in the summer the San Francisco bay is perfect sailing weather: strong winds, little chop. Many afternoons have a 'small craft advisory' warning put out by the weather service - this means there's a lot of wind, and you should look out for all the small boats that are sailing around!

We had a blast. The boat handles well, heads up nicely in gusts, and just rips along in 20knts of wind. We hit 8 knots without trying too hard, I put the starboard rail underwater - getting a squeek from the owner - and we had a great time.

Sea trial


Sailing together

Before making a conditional offer, I had carefully examined the boat two separate times in the southbay. I squeezed into the lockers, taken pictures of everything, and felt like it was a sound vessel. Still, I was happy to have Kent's expertise.

With the boat at the dock for the weekend, Kent and I spent almost nine hours crawling around looking at things. It was a real learning experience for me, and Kent uncovered more fixits than I had previously found. Looking at the 'todo' list was depressing, but I was much comforted when Kent said it was a sound vessel.

Going up the mast


It's really tall!

Mast survey


Masthead examination

Getting Started - Buying the Boat

After Kent gave us the green light, we looked at the fixit list and decided that the original price was a bit high. There was a lot of work to do! We didn't have any luck negotiating with the owners; they wouldn't admit the boat had any problems. It was frustrating.

We bought her anyway.

It was a difficult decision. We knew we were stretching our budget, we knew there were a fair number of projects that needed to be addressed, and we knew we probably hadn't considered every expense (we were right - we spent about 2x what we thought we would refitting her).

In the end it was the right decision. The important stuff is sound, the not-so-important stuff can be fixed or replaced, and we were on a schedule! We had to leave in five months!