Saturday, December 21, 2019

Walk Away...

We wrote a book about being on the buyer’s side of a boat purchase. It is a modestly popular book, selling much better than either of us had anticipated. One of the core ideas in that book was that any potential boat buyer should be spring-loaded to walk away from any deal for pretty much any reason. An idea that, rumor has it, prevented a few people who read the book from getting stuck with a boat that wasn’t right for them.

For now, we are temporarily on land, replenishing the cruising kitty and spending time with family we didn’t see enough of while out wandering the waterways. We are also looking, when the time comes, at going back to the cruising life as trawler dwellers rather than sail boaters. But even if we ultimately decide that sailing is still the way to go, we have decided that Kintala is not the boat on which to live out the closing chapters of our lives. A nearly all-out racing, big-blue-water boat with a few of the harshest racing edges smoothed out a little…making her come to life and romp across the waves as she was designed to do is a little more work than is comfortable for a short-handed crew on the plus end of middle-aged.

So we are now on the seller’s side of the boat purchase equation. An effort that is proving to be just as frustrating, and with just as many pitfalls, as being a buyer. And while my opinion of boat brokers has gone up during this process (our’s working relentlessly on our behalf), that of the marine industry in general, and surveyors in particular, has plummeted to new lows.

After a year of effort we finally had a buyer make an offer on the boat and put down a deposit. All was looking well for closing by the end of the year…then came the survey. The surveyor is said to be young, enthusiastic, not that experienced, and very thorough (I haven’t met her). She even climbed the mast to check the rigging and there discovered that all of the swaged fittings on the standing rigging are cracked.

Big problem.

Big, big problem.

A problem big enough to set any return to the cruising life back a year or more. Rigging is expensive, and getting the job done remotely? A recipe for nothing but endless heartache and delay. Then we would have to start the boat selling process all over again.

We were a bit stunned to hear the news. Kintala’s rigging is only six year old. We had it installed at Oak Harbor just before setting out, an outfit known for building and installing racing rigging. They let me help build and install the rig. Though I am not a sailboat expert (or at least I wasn’t back then) I had spent nearly 4 decades in aircraft maintenance. Wire rigging is nothing new or special just because it is on a boat rather than a plane. It was a fun (if expensive) project and I am forever grateful to the good folks at Oak Harbor for showing me the ropes.

Kintala’s potential buyers, after thinking about it for a day or so, decided that offering a lower price then facing the repairs was not what they wanted, and backed out of the deal. Yes, they read the book and, yes, I was getting a taste of my own advice. I understood, as I would have done the same. Still, we are on the other end of the equation now and it is a pretty massive blow. But life is what it is. Kintala is an older boat. Though we loved her and spent uncounted hours and dollars getting her in the best shape we could, she is not perfect.

Within minutes of learning that the deal was dead, Deb was on the phone, getting quotes on fixing the rig along with other items the surveyor listed that helped scare off the buyers. One is the typical keel smile present on nearly every boat I have ever worked on with a bolted on keel. Another is a soft spot in the foredeck that will take any half-competent glass worker a couple of days to fix. We were told the survey makes a pretty big deal out of each, though I have no clue why that would be the case. I haven’t actually seen the survey. I was told I might be able to buy a copy of it if I liked, something that is not likely to happen before the sun explodes and swallows up this little planet. You will see why in a moment.

As it turned out, the rigger recommended by the yard was actually working in the yard when Deb called him. He was stepping a mast and allowed as he would take a look at Kintala and get us a quote asap. Barely an hour later he called with the news. There is nothing wrong with the rig. What the surveyor described as “cracks” are, in fact, the normal tooling marks that come with building a rig.

Truth to tell, I suspected all along that was what he was going to say. As mentioned, I helped build and install that rig. It is oversized for the boat and we aren’t racers, never pushing the boat to anywhere near its maximum capacity. The only other explanation for what the surveyor “found” was the fittings themselves being defective: not impossible, but pretty unlikely. But it appears to be too late as far as the buyers are concerned. They are new to this cruising world, paid a lot of money for that survey, and are not likely to be easily convinced that there is nothing much wrong with the boat after all.

(A big shout-out to the rigger here. He knew about the survey, could have easily given us a reasonable "quote" for fixing the rig, spent a week working on other things, and sent us a bill along with a couple of cracked fittings laying around his shop.  Being a thousand miles away he might well have gotten away with it.)

So here we are. The rig is fine but the “survey” is out there, authored by a person who, apparently, doesn't have a clue. How a surveyor cannot know about tooling marks and rigging is simply beyond understanding. It is central to what they should know as experts inspecting a boat. Worse, my experience is that a bad survey is like getting a DUI. Even if it turns out the machine was out of calibration and pinged you for the single beer you had at lunch, the stink will linger.

The rigger has agreed to send us a written report on his findings, and we are working toward getting the “smile” and soft deck spot fixed. They are minor issues that a) are likely part of nearly every older boat currently for sale and b) if we were still on the boat, we could fix in about a week. (Indeed, Kintala’s keel smiled at us the first time we saw her, and I’ve fixed two other soft spots on the deck in the ensuing years.) But they now carry “offical” surveyed stink as well.

I guess the good news, for us anyway, is that - had the buyers offered a price contingent on the rig needing repaired - we would have likely said "fine". They would have then had the happy experience of finding out there was nothing wrong and walked away with a smoking good deal on a pretty nice boat. So, in this case, my advice cut both ways.

So it looks like our sojourn on land will likely be extended a bit. Life is what it is. And if one chooses to take part in the business of boats…well…life is what it is.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Throwback Thursday - The "Why we do this" Series

If asked what the best thing about our nearly six years of cruising was, I would immediately respond, "The Cruising Community." I admit that when we dreamed of doing this, that would not have even hit my radar, but in these years of cruising we have met more life-long friends than we did in the 57 years before. This post captures the very best of it all. And here are photos of the ones who made it possible:

David and Nancy to the right - October 2013

Wayne and Sue on the right - Dec of 2015

The Talking Pumpkin

Halloween was a big deal in the neighborhood; a suburban enclave where our "baby boom" generation was born and lived its early years. Hundreds of kids would go door to door in costume, collecting enough candy to keep a sugar buzz going clean through to the New Year. Houses were in costume as well, some modestly with just a pumpkin on the doorstep and maybe a sheet thrown over small shrub as a welcoming "ghost". Others were more elaborate; family members in full scary makeup and costume, garages and lower levels turned into haunted houses, off-key dirges playing in the background, and lighting to fit the intended theater.

Our house fell somewhere in the middle, but still managed to be the talk of the neighborhood. Each year we would find the biggest pumpkin we could, hollow it out, carve a scary face, and set it in the window by the door. Hidden inside the pumpkin was a dim light to set the scary face aglow, and a speaker. Hidden in the darkened room with microphone in hand was my Dad, the voice of the Talking Pumpkin.

It was a pretty innovative use of technology for the early 1960s, which turned into a kind of neighborhood staple. As the years went by people would drive in to introduce their kids to the Talking Pumpkin, little ones giggling but also looking around, not exactly sure what to make of the mysterious voice.  It was all good fun.

Pops at our eldest daughter's wedding in  2005
On Sunday, October 18th, 2015, late in the afternoon, the Talking Pumpkin fell silent. The news came via the tiny speaker held in my hand, the voice of Brother Youngest telling me that our Father had passed away suddenly, fallen by a massive heart attack.

Kintala was anchored at the edge of the grid, waiting out some weather. It took more than an hour of broken communications and dropped calls to get the news to Daughters Three. The logistics of finding a safe place to dock the boat for several weeks, then finding our way to PA as quickly as possible, looked to be nightmarish.

But then...

Two years ago, on our first trip down the ICW, the Beast sprung a massive fuel leak forcing us to spend a month in Oriental, NC. We were there over Thanksgiving, our first away from family. Chris and Sherry were also away from family, working to get their own cruising plans together. We shared Thanksgiving dinner at a local eatery that caters to the cruising tribe, and they became some of the earliest of our cruising friends. As it turns out they bought a slip in Oriental but their boat is currently on the hard. Seeing us heading south they had gotten in touch with us once again, enticing us to stop in Oriental with the offer of a free slip and a chance to catch up.

Oriental was a day's sail away when we got the news, and they offered us the slip for as long as we needed. We arrived after a glorious day of sailing to be met by Friends Mizzy and Brian. After a couple of days of buddy boating they had beaten us to Oriental by a few hours and so were on hand to help ease Kintala safely onto the dock. Over dinner that night their gentle conversation and obvious care helped ease our hearts as well.

A week or so ago Friends Nancy and David cut their Seaward 32 loose from Oak Harbor and pointed the bow south, leaving their car behind as they normally do. A car free for us to use if they could work out a way to get it to us, or us to it. So they did. Currently in Hampton and having already made plans to rent a car for a day to do some chores, they left at O-So-Dark-Thirty the next morning and drove to Oriental. After a quick coffee with the Gang from Oak Harbor (Mizzy, Brian, Nancy, David, and us) they loaded us aboard the rental and headed north. At about that same time other members of the Gang from Oak Harbor, Wayne and Sue, themselves just two days away from dropping the lines and sailing off, got in their car and headed south.

The two vehicles met at a truck stop somewhere south of Richmond. Deb and I were handed off for the next leg of this Pony Express of Kindness. By late afternoon we were back at Oak Harbor loading up. Barely 36 hours after picking up Kintala's hook in the remote waters of the Pungo River and unsure of how we were going to get where we needed to be, we were pulling into the driveway of family with all transportation worries behind us.

There are no words big enough or deep enough to describe people who step up like that, utterly careless of their own plans and time; not expecting, indeed rejecting, any idea of getting something in return. They had friends in need and that was all that mattered.

If a person be very lucky in life they will accrue debts like these. Debts that can never be repaid.

Debts that can never be forgotten.

Pops and his brother Gene
We will be away from the boat for a few weeks. Kintala will sit quietly, as will this blog. Fathers die. Sons and Daughters lay them to rest, struggling with a world that is somehow, fundamentally different than it was. Then we look to our own sons and daughters.

And the journey goes on.

Pops and Tim and our eldest daughter at their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004