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Author: Michael

How We Found Our Boat

How We Found Our Boat

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.

February 2016

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!)

8 months preggo at the helm!
8 months preggo at the helm!

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 for what seemed like days.  There was a good selection in this price range that were already outfitted nicely for world cruising (bonus!).

June 2016

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.


July 2016

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!)

This was a heritage 46 we looked at, a spacious boat but only 2 cabins.
This was a Heritage 46 we looked at, a spacious boat but only 2 cabins.

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.

August 2016

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.

Thar she goes!!! Into the water.
Thar she goes!!! Into the water. And Hyatt the marina dog, AKA everyone’s best friend.

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!

Our First Week On the Boat…Challenging, Beautiful and Windy

Our First Week On the Boat…Challenging, Beautiful and Windy

We have had one busy week!

Every day has been packed, quite the opposite of what most folks think of as the “cruising lifestyle”.  But we are preparing for a trip, buying food, setting things up (and figuring them out) for the first time, everything takes four or five times as long as they should.

Building the Portabote.
Building the Portabote.

Case in point, the Portabote.  On the recommendation of the previous owner, we bought one, and it’s a pretty neat folding boat.  When we’re not using it, it’ll fold up nice and neat on deck, and when we are using it, it’s pretty light and a small engine pushes it well.  I picked it up used from a fellow who bought it in 2006, used it once and kept it folded in his garage for the next 10 years.  Folded for 10 years equals very hard to open, and there’s a bruise on my leg to prove where it snapped shut on me!  The cheap pins that hold the seat on just wouldn’t cut it, so I replaced them with bolts and wingnuts (also recommended from the previous owner).  The transom bolts were missing.  The brand new engine seemed too difficult to start (turned out this was just my weak arms).  After the first night of rain, we installed a drain plug (which leaks, we’re still working on that).

All that to say something I thought would take a few hours to accomplish wound up taking a whole day.

And then there’s the other issues:  so far we’ve found three leaks, the biggest one is from the mast boot which soaked through three towels last night (this is probably what filled the bilge while we were gone).  The engine stop kill switch cable rusted in place, meaning we can’t stop the motor when we want to.  We rebuilt it last night in 30 knot gusts!

The last sunrise before the rain and winds


(Brittany here) Which brings us to the weather! We have experienced a little bit of everything, in only a few days! When we first arrived, it was a very calm, cool and sunny day. The temperature was in the 70’s and it was glorious. The first night of sleep on the boat felt like we were on land, there was no movement whatsoever. In the morning the sun’s rays peeked out from the clouds then quickly disappeared. The rest of the day was overcast and gray but serene. A line of geese skimmed the water as they flew, birds snapped up little fish and I was in heaven. It was so peaceful being on the water and it seemed all was amazingly calm.

The next day, after the clouds moved on, the sun shone bright and we were actually hot in the middle of the day. The girls found the little beach where people put their dinghies in the water and had a blast splashing in the water, playing in the sand and making friends with a sweet dog in the boat yard named Hyatt. Hyatt was their new “best friend” and they eagerly looked for him when we were out in the boat yard.



We had many errands to run, shopping trips and laundry and as I was finally taking our clothes to the nearby laundromat, the rain began. It began and didn’t stop except for a few breaks throughout the day. By the evening, the wind picked up and we could start to feel the boat rocking a bit. Last night as we finished projects and went off to bed, the wind gusts were 25 knots (which is quite a gust!) Our boat is faring very well compared to lighter, smaller boats which are bobbing up and down a lot more than we are. We are really appreciating this very heavy, solid boat!

The rain helped us find the leaks on the boat (as my husband was saying) but they are minor and nearly unavoidable as all boats will have a leak somewhere. But we all felt secure and snug as we heard the wind howl and whistle through the night air, the waves bumping and slapping the hull, and the wind rock the boat.

Haven hanging out in her life jacket!

For now, we are staying put. The wind and rain will hopefully start to move on by tomorrow and we are continuing to prepare to sail south as soon as the weather permits!





We Made It To The Boat!

We Made It To The Boat!

After almost 3 days of driving, and some unexpected (but OK) delays along the way, we finally made it to our new boat on Sunday.  We were all pretty excited / delirious when we finally arrived.


Currently named Gromit, we haven’t come up with a new name yet.  There were a few in the running, but everyone thinks Gromit is pretty cute, should we change it???

Before we even got to the boat, someone on the dock told us an alarm was going off inside, uh, ok, great, what happened?  Why didn’t the marina call and tell us this?  We all hop on the boat, which is harder than we thought with 3 little kids and I begin searching for the problem while Brittany and the kids explore the boat.  The culprit – bilge was full, but why?  I didn’t really have time to look into it right then, the secondary bilge pump seemed to be keeping it in check, but eventually found the float switch was not working.  Actually it was, but it got stuck.  I could go into the details (which I would love to), but it would probably bore you!  (Here is what I did to fix it)

The culprit - bilge pump was stuck in the off position.
The culprit – bilge pump was stuck in the off position.

Next problem, the aft head output leaks, we found this one out after the girls used it and it leaked the “output” all over the floor in the bathroom.  Problem #2.  (No picture!!!)

BUT… all of that being said, we are still super excited to be here!  Those two issues are relatively minor, we’ve had so many great moments in between all of that.  From sitting on the back watching the still water, to watching the girls play in the forward cabin.  It’s been a lot of work, but totally worth it.

Aft deck view of the South River, Chesapeake bay.
Aft deck view of the South River, Chesapeake bay.
Is this the "don't take a picture of me" look?
Is this the “don’t take a picture of me” look?
Haven seems to like the boat!
Haven seems to like the boat!
Quiet morning in Selby Bay
Quiet morning in Selby Bay
Through the aft cabin hatch
Through the aft cabin hatch
Getting settled in.
Getting settled in.

The list:

  • Assembly dinghy, motor, and find a way to mount on the davits.
  • More provisioning
  • Attach lifeline netting
  • Pick up dad from the airport
  • Fix aft head (we have two heads, so this is somewhat optional)
  • …. (I’m sure there’s more which I’ve forgotten)

But we made it!  We set sail for the first time as a family tomorrow or Thursday, depending on the weather.