As with anyone looking for a boat to live on and travel the world in, we spent years on the prowl, looking at hundreds of boats across dozens of boat shows. Well…not really. Some folks do this, and I thought this is how our search would go, but in the end we found one within 6 months of looking, having set foot on less than a dozen boats.
On our first foray into boat shopping we stayed local, had a friend watch the kids, and Brittany was 8 months pregnant! (She has continued to surprise me throughout this entire process!)
After Haven was born, a young baby and recovering mommy doesn’t bode well for spending hours in the (Houston) heat climbing up and down companionways. But we took our experiences with the first trip, along with a list of boat shopping tips from The Voyager’s Handbook, and started to work out what we wanted in a boat:
- 3 cabins
- 2 heads – because one will break when you least want it to.
- Heavy construction
- Center cockpit
- Simple sail plan
- Easy to handle – not too big!
- Fin keel
In the end we found that boats in the 47-50 foot range, and built from the 70’s to the early 90’s, were probably what we were looking for. This was after surfing yachtworld.com for what seemed like days. There was a good selection in this price range that were already outfitted nicely for world cruising (bonus!).
We found a broker in Houston and one day, with a sick kid (totally unexpected until we were halfway there), we looked at a couple of boats we were seriously interested in: A 1985 Endeavour 51 (4 cabins!), and a 1976 Olympic Adventure 47 (3 cabins, with workshop). We realllllly liked the Endeavour, but it was basic and was going to take a lot of work (money) to outfit for world cruising. The Olympic was a great layout, and I liked the workshop, aesthetically it was it great shape, but mechanically needed some work, and a bit overpriced. Somehow we managed not to get a single picture of any of this.
As with anything I’m interested in buying, I spend hours researching on the internet, looking at reviews and opinions from other owners. Finding any information on boats of this era beyond basic data (displacement, sail area, etc.) has proven to be somewhat difficult, because a lot were semi-custom boats. In searching, I found another Olympic for sale, a 1974 model located in Maryland. This one had just completed a 7 year circumnavigation with a family of 5 on board, and it was outfitted well! Late that night, with both of us laying awake in bed, reflecting on the day, we agreed: we had to go see the boat in Maryland! Sorry, I don’t have a picture of this either, so here’s a picture of an idea bulb.
Because we found the other boat in Maryland through the owner’s blog, we contacted him directly, then his broker (John Albertine from Passport Yachts). John agreed to show us some other boats in the area while we were there, after all we were flying halfway across the country. July 4th weekend we boarded a plane for Washington D.C., having only made contact a week before, with our youngest daughter (our friends graciously watched the older 2 for us). Were we crazy???
We spent the entire day Saturday looking at boats, 6 in total. All of the boats in Houston were in the water, but almost all of the boats in Annapolis were on land, making it quite a chore of climbing up and down ladders! Since John could park his car right next to the boats, and it wasn’t hot out, we generally left Haven in the car, she slept most of the time (with all of the doors open, of course!)
John saved the best for last. The owners of “Gromit,” the 1974 Olympic Adventure we found online, had driven down from Canada to meet us and give us a personal tour of the boat. Admittedly, Gromit did not show as well as some of the other boats we looked at. The interior had been lived in, to say the least, but mechanically she was in top shape. The Husband / Father was an engineer by trade, and was very thoughtful in how he designed the systems, he also had redundancies in many of the systems. I spent hours with him going through the systems while Brittany chatted with his wife about their adventures. We ended up cancelling the next day of boat shopping to spend the morning listening to their stories of world travel.
I returned to Annapolis by myself for the survey, and came a few days early to help the owner recommission the boat (it had been winterized). This was a valuable experience that most new boat owners don’t get, not just a few hours but a few days with the owners going through nearly every system on the boat.
The survey went off without a hitch; the surveyor found very little wrong with it, only a few recommendations and all of them minor. He asked them plenty of questions about the systems on the boat, and he discovered just as we did that the owners had been very thoughtful in over-engineering and making redundant as many systems as possible. After a while he would look at me with this certain look and I knew he was thinking, “Yep, redundant, yep”.
Of course, as with most boat purchases you have until after the survey to decide if you want the boat or not. Unlike buying a home there was no earnest money involved, just a deposit that we could get back if we decided not to take the boat. We gave it a few days to think about it, because this is kind of a big deal (life changing) after all, it’s also really freaking expensive. We tried to get a few concessions for issues we found, but in the end they didn’t budge on the price. I don’t really blame them, they had invested a LOT of time and money in the boat since they bought it, and they loved it as well; it had been their home for over 7 years. Plus we weren’t hiding it very well that we really wanted it.
So that’s the story on how we found our boat, one month later we officially owned it!