Q&A – #82

I get questions …

Woody, I’ve never been to a boat show before so I hope to see some of you swabbies. If you were to go sailing, where and when would you go? Where are the best places to snorkel and find calm waters? I would like to charter but I’ve heard horror stories of bad boats and bad equipment. Can you give me some ideas please. My wife wants to do a short 5-day if possible. Thanks for your help. Randy, loyal reader.

What’s up dude? If I could go sailing anywhere I would head back down to the South Pacific (Raiatea?). Our summer, their winter is the best time. Or better, I would go somewhere I haven’t been – Micronesia, Japan? Sunsail just opened a base in Vietnam! I bet that’s interesting.

But I think you probably meant something closer by. The Caribbean is best in the winter. Calm snorkeling? You want to go to the Bahamas. There is unbelievably beautiful water there. It’s clear because the Gulf Stream sweeps the waste from the U.S. up and away. It’s a great color because of the beautiful powder white sand underneath it. I haven’t been in 12 years. I can imagine there are a lot of boats there nowadays being just 60 miles from FL. It’s a big area though. Too crowded? Just head south.

I’ve had better experiences chartering from the bigger companies. There is more accountability. The last couple years we’ve been using Sunsail for our Lats Share the Sails. I’m told that the other big company offers a higher-end experience. We like laid back and easy going, you know, Low Key. Both companies have elite fleets that have new boats if you want to pay for them. Both companies will send a chase boat out to fix your problem. Most companies work on a seven day trip. You take the boat Friday afternoon. They let you sail Saturday morning after your briefing. The boat must be returned before noon the next Friday. For a more customized charter experience, try the charter brokers – Ed Hamilton comes to mind. Send pictures!

Subject: Help!
Dear Capt. Woody, I am in fairly desperate need of some advice and feel that you might be the best authority with the most resources and knowledge to answer my questions. To make my situation brief, I grew up on the Great Lakes and spent six years in the Navy. I am now landlocked and desperately yearn for my mistress, the sea. About three years ago, I realized the cause of the enormous void growing in my soul and decided that I must buy a sailboat and cruise, perhaps indefinitely. Shortly after this I discovered your wonderful magazine and have used it like a lifeline to cling to my goal. I have an opportunity to purchase a 30′ Hunter (1991) on the Great Salt Lake.

Now, my questions:
1. If I purchase this boat to learn to sail (unfortunately, I cannot get to a coast presently, but am in Salt Lake City two days a week) and use as a refuge on my time off, can I convert it to a blue water boat and relocate it to the coast? I haven’t really discovered what differentiates a blue water cruiser from a coastal cruiser.
2. If I purchase the boat, will it’s having been located on the Salt Lake decrease it’s resale value if I want to upgrade later?
3. In your opinion, would I be better off waiting and building up a sizable savings and following Tania Aebi’s path to Trinidad to find and fix up an abandoned boat?
My current plan is to pay off my debt, buy a boat and build up enough in investments to ensure a $500-$1000/month income, and then disappear. I am planning on accomplishing this over the next three to five years. While I have a lot of experience on the ocean, I have next to no sailing experience and wouldn’t mind gaining this along the way. I know you have to be incredibly busy with the magazine right now, especially with Bob and Jody off on an adventure, but if you have some time to throw some advice my way, I would be forever in your debt. Thanks for anything you can give,
Chuck – Armchair Sailor

I doubt the word ‘authority’ comes to mind when most people think Captain Woody. I just stopped back into the office between deliveries. I’ve got a few minutes. I would get the boat. I would grind the buyer to get the boat for as low a price as possible so I won’t lose on the resale. Go to nada.com or bucnet.com to get an idea of what the boat is worth. Grinding: If the price is, for example, $10k, I would offer 7 or 8k contingent on a survey. Often, you can get the owner to split the cost with you. I would arrange it myself though – a call to a surveyor, usually $10 a foot, and a call to a boatyard for an in-the-slings survey haul. The survey will find some things wrong with the boat. If they’re any good, they always do. Figure out what the repairs would cost if you had the boatyard do them – you’re already there. You will, of course, do many of the repairs yourself for less. If the repairs estimate is $2k, offer to split them with the owner and adjust the price once again. You are now closer to 6k.

Sail the boat for a year or two and figure out what kind of gear you want to have on a boat. Learn what works best for you, and most importantly, what gear you can do without. Cruz it on the weekends or when you have time, and hang out with other boats that are cruising to find out what works for them and what doesn’t.

When you feel ready to move up, strip off the gear you like, make her look real pretty, and sell her (for a profit?). Then you can go buy a heavier boat. If she’s not selling on the lake, strap her to a truck (try our friends at: brownellsystems.com) and put her in the ocean so you can try your hand at coastal cruising. The more experience the better.

As far as cruising that Hunter, I’m not familiar with that particular boat. In a cruiser you are looking closely at things like the strength of the hull to deck joint, the keel attachment, the rigging (is there a backstay?). You may be able to make it work. You just don’t want to get into the situation I had. I had a very well planned low expense adventure going, but I ended up paying about a third of my funds toward keeping my coastal cruiser from breaking up. All told, I would have been able to afford a slightly sturdier boat.

I know the feeling. Your soul aches to get out there. If the Hunter is what you can afford and you don’t have to keep working to afford her, then do it and cruise on her. Outfit her simply though beef up the rigging. As you sail around you will learn what the boat’s limitations are. In the right season, you should feel comfortable sailing anywhere in the Caribbean on a coastal boat. It’s all overnighters everywhere you go. In theory, you’re always a few hours from rescue (bring your Epirb). I found that on my boat, even when a bulkhead started to crack or the rudder started to break out of the deck, they did so very slowly. If you’re going to go light, then constant hull and rig inspections will be your new pastime. When you catch problems early, the fixes are easier and can often be made at sea – bring epoxy.

Captain Woody
p.s. I take payment in coldies.


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