If you're lucky enough to live to 100, the years between 50 & 75 are your third quarter. That segment in life could be the waning of your physically agile years, so it's a good idea to stay active. It's also a good time to challenge your brain to keep things limber up there - by mastering something new. We decided to go sailing, and this is a chronicle of our journey.

4/5/12

Searching for a Sailboat: Crossing the Country & Getting Sidetracked

Amazing October skies on the east coast
Knowing there were only 11 Cape Dory 36 sailboats on the West Coast, we spent the rest of the summer and early Fall researching, studying and scouring the net.  We were about 4 months into our search when we spotted a CD36 on the East Coast that looked like it fit our criteria. We contacted the broker, and planned a trip. Since I'm originally from New England, I added a detour so I could visit family. Shortly afterwards, we discovered the Annapolis boat show was being held that same weekend. (This is what my husband Don calls Scope-Creep. Our travel itinerary was getting a little exuberant.)


 When you look at boats for sale online, you can bet that the owners and/or brokers have spit shined the hulls, varnished the teak, polished the brass and added throw pillows to the fluffed cushions. The photos are shot on gloriously sunny days with canopies of blue sky. Often, some of the listing photos are from the seller's personal archives; beauty shots of reflective hulls on glassy water in secluded coves at sunset.  It's broker boat porn.
At anchor in Key Biscayne, Florida on my step Dad's Cape Dory 31 Heiress
 By the time we saw this CD36 - we had already learned that no matter how gorgeous the photos are, you have to see the boat in person. The photos make you fall in love.  You start fantasizing about being the Captain on that boat, on a balmy day, in a beam reach, wearing a bathing suit & holding a cool beverage. But stepping into the cockpit will reveal details the photos didn't show and tell truths buried under the bling. Even if she's on the hard, there's something visceral between people and the boats they're distance-dating - as soon as you finally meet. Regardless if her cosmetics are flawless and her gear sets your heart a thumpin', the one-on-one chemistry has to be good too.

The boat we traveled East to see was plenty pretty, and the broker said she had been sailed hard, and far, and had the gear to prove it. She did indeed have the gear, and she had recently completed a bit of a cosmetic face lift, which - for me - backfired a little. In contrast with the new shiny, her bones seemed weary. Among several things I noticed, all her top sides had a topographic map of hairline cracks, and her cabin showed too many signs of fatigue. We felt uneasy about the contrasts in her presentation, and we had a gut-feeling that this wasn't our boat.
The line to get into the Annapolis Boat Show
We consoled our disappointed hearts by going to the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  This is one of the oldest and biggest boat shows out there. It's in historic Annapolis, literally next door to the Naval Academy, surrounded by historic, slim little antiquated storefronts along the water.

The Beneteau boat section at the Annapolis Boat Show (Oct 2011)
Annapolis is beautiful, and even though it was October, we strolled the docks in shorts, enjoying sunny skies and 70 degrees. The show was packed elbow to elbow and the crowd was clearly international, because we heard languages we couldn't identify. Each boat manufacturer had a floating, carpeted, covered dock, encircled by a selection of their boats, and a pretty posse of polo-shirted sales staff, passing around slick photo brochures to entice every sailor to step aboard and start dreaming.

A beautiful Hyla 56 at the Annapolis Boat Show (Oct 2011)
Every boat at the show had a placard with their specs, a floor plan and a giant price sticker. Quite a few of the "slip models" had huge red SOLD signs on them to encourage the urgency to 'get one while you can'. If you wanted to see up close and down below, you left shoes on the carpeted dock, and waited in line to step aboard with your spouse & brochure to see all the shiny. The layouts of the new boats are broad and tall and built to host parties. Generous cabins, big, plush settees, and tons of beds! We sat in swivel leather chairs at broad teak navigator stations, arranged with with recessed panels loaded with all the latest technology twinkle. There were speakers everywhere, flat panel tv's, clear acrylic and chrome grab bars and lit curio cabinets. Galleys (kitchens) had microwaves, two refrigerators, wine cellars, corian counters and trash compacters. Even smaller boats had two heads (bathrooms) with stand up showers, and easy access to the engines from three sides!
The Tartan booth at the Annapolis Boat show (Oct 2012)
The lure intoxicated us. Even though we never set foot in the Hendricks Gin booth where a Pretty stood outside the tent, hawking cocktails for show attendees, we felt drunk with boat bling. These were not the boats we imagined buying and sailing, and they certainly cost more than we planned to spend.... but daaannnnng, they were so roomy and new and designed for comfort. You could really take your family sailing with you on one of these beauties, with seating and beds for everyone. We started to wonder.... maybe we should re-think this. We went to dinner and talked about our original plan and pondered the what-ifs of buying a new boat. We went back to the show the next day, and looked at the boats we liked again. We left with a bag full of glossy brochures, price lists and spec sheets, marked in pencil along the margins with all our notes and questions. 

I flew out of Annapolis to see my family up north for a few days, and Don flew back to California for work. Our months-long plan felt like it ran aground on a sandbar. We needed time to marinate on what we saw, compared to our original vision for this journey. We were both overwhelmed. 

Don, sitting on a Bavaria, feeling a little saturated with boat bling.
To be continued....

1 comment:

Brendan Keefe said...

Hey, congratulations, you two!