Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Suddenly Sailing - Meanwhile, in Seattle...

It's been a slow few months for boating, and an incredibly busy few months for life. This entry will touch on a few things I've been meaning to write about:

- The Boat Hunt
- Reading 
- Costs

The Boat Hunt

The last time I wrote about what we were looking for was after the boat show, I believe. At that point, we weren't terribly impressed with the run-of-the-mill Hunters and Beneteaus and so on. It turns out that we're both pretty darn eccentric when it comes to what we like in a boat - The Sir a little more so than myself.

At one point, we found an absolutely beautiful steel schooner, which someone purchased while we were determining whether or not we'd be'd be getting in way over our heads with such a unique boat. It turned out that it actually would have been an excellent boat for us to pursue, but we were too late by the time we even contacted the seller. It was a huge setback, as The Sir could barely look at other boats after missing out on it. 

With The Sir more or less out of commission, I was left leading the hunt fora boat that would suit us both. The steel-hulled schooner was quite traditional, with a gaff rig and full keel. We spent a fair amount of time reading up about alternative rigs and steel construction vs. fiberglass. And while each element has its trade-offs, it turned out there was no reason for us not to keep looking for similar ships - except for how comparatively rare they are. 

For those who aren't terribly into boats, a few notes on rigs and keels:

The rig refers to how the mast(s) and sails are arranged. A sloop has a single mast, and a schooner has a taller rear mast and a shorter front mast (sometimes the masts are the same height). A gaff rig has a quadrilateral sail - the top, or head, of the sail is smaller and the rear edge is the highest point. A bermuda or marconi rig is what you see on a normal sloop boat. These are the boats with a large, triangular mainsail. So, you'll usually hear things like "bermuda rigged sloop" (single mast, triangular sails) or "gaff rigged schooner" (two masts, at least one quadrangular sail). Fun, silly, sailor-speak trivia - mainsail is actually pronounced without the "ai" in sail.That's right, it's mains'l. And no one who actually sails will look at you like a jackass if you say it that way, no matter how dumb you feel saying it. 

As for keels, the keel keeps the boat from tipping over when you're sailing. It acts as a counterbalance to the forces of wind on the sails and also allows the boat to cut through the water in a way that generates lift. Most modern boats have a fin keel. These usually extend far below the water and are located near the center of the ship - it looks like a fin sticking out the bottom of the boat. Meanwhile, a full keel does not extend as deep into the water, but runs nearly the full length of the boat. It's more like a long, narrow strip of of the hull without any sort of point.

Now, back to the boat hunt!

At some point, I stumbled across the Bruce Roberts Spray design while looking for something that appealed to me. The Sprays are typically built of steel and have a fairly traditional look to them, despite the Bermuda rig. They also have a full keel and were about the right size for us. I started learning more about Bruce Roberts designs. It turned out, most people weren't very happy with them. The overall impression was that the designs were outdated, and typically, people building steel ships (not just Bruce Roberts designs) would not build to specification. The resulting boat would be too heavy and perform poorly. We weren't looking for a boat to race, but we didn't want a floating tub, either. While I liked the look quite a bit, The Sir was very "meh" about it. 

For a while, we got to looking into junk rigs. If an image isn't coming to mind, think of the traditional Chinese vessels with the butterfly-wing sails. But, really, we weren't looking for quirky just for the sake of itself. And while there are some very beautiful junk rigs, none that we've run across met our needs. 

Most times I'd show a boat to The Sir, he'd either be non-plused or allude to the fact that it was neither a schooner nor gaff rigged. And, most of the schooners I found were either constructed of wood ( a huge maintenance time sink), located in obscure locations, or insanely expensive. Or, they were gargantuan, wood, and expensive. Turns out, there's actually a decent number of 70+ foot wooden schooners in the area at any given time.

I joined a sailing forum and started a thread asking about small, steel gaff rigged boats. I nearly started a few debates, and got a number of incredibly helpful responses. And I googled, and googled, and googled. I looked through hundreds of designs on http://sailboatdata.com/, trying to find a designer who had made a boat that matched what we were looking for. 

Then, one day, I googled something stupidly simple and actually found a boat that was exactly what we were looking for. It seemed too good to be true, and in fact, it was. The boat existed, but only a handful had been made and most were located far, far from us. So now, the trick is figuring out how to get one. If it all pans out, or eventually doesn't, I'll write all about that. But, for the time being, our hopes are hinging on a lot of maybes coming to fruition. For that reason, I'm leaving the details out - but, we have a very exciting prospect that I hope I'll be able to share in the not too distant future. 

Reading

Aside from the ASA course material, I've been through a few books, have added titles to my to-read list, and am currently working my way through some as well. Shortly after our decision, I also bought a kindle, which has been a surprisingly good investment - I was expecting to hate it, as I really enjoy paper books, but it's been a pretty easy transition. For most of these books, both The Sir and I have read them.

This is what I've been reading the last few months:

The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat by Mark Nicholas - This was the first book we dug into, and opened our eyes to a lot of the logistical issues of living aboard. It was incredibly helpful and easy to get through, even with our limited knowledge when we first read through it.

Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual - This is actually 6 books! So far, I've only read through the book about evaluating the condition of a boat, which has been very insightful. It identifies many of the common problem areas of boats and how to pre-inspect a boat before paying to have it surveyed professionally. While it focuses on fiberglass boats, it still has a wealth of information just in the first book. The guides for electrical systems and diesel engines are next on my reading list.

Leap of Faith: Quit your Job and Live on a Boat by Ed Robinson - While not entirely educational, I had a lot of fun reading this tale of a man and his wife leaving it all behind to go pursue living aboard a powerboat in Florida. 

Buy, Outfit, and Sail by Cap'n Fatty Goodlander - This was also an incredibly entertaining read, which also squeezes in countless valuable tips, tricks and just generally good information and food for thought. Not all of it applies to our situation, but regardless, we learned a lot.

Costs

To-date, this is what we've invested in our transition to living aboard:

$2,390 - Sailing Lessons/ ASA 101,103, and 104 Sailing Certification for 2 - Aside from all the rigmarole of actually buying the boat, this will probably be our single largest cost until we get into the nitty gritty of boat maintenance. I've no doubt that there are cheaper ways to learn to sail, but for our purposes, this has actually been an incredibly good investment. 

$240 - Kindle Paperwhite with 3G and case - I splurged a bit on this, but since I'm only going to have a handful of physical books and could end up sailing anywhere, I wanted a quality reader that I could download to anywhere with reception.

$52 - Sailing Books 

$36 - Boat Show Tickets - While not life-changing, this was actually a very useful experience for us. More than anything, it gave us a quality dose of what to expect from boat shows. There will be a much larger boat show in Seattle at the end of this month, which we'll be checking out. This time, though, the focus will be on hitting up all of the seminars that we can. 

$20 - Boater Education Cards - Washington State requires boater education cards for operating most vessels. We were able to take a free online course through http://www.boatus.org/ and mail in our fees ($10 each) to acquire our cards.

That's all I've got for now, but I'm sure there will be more to share once we go to the boat show at the end of the month.







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