We Bought A Boat!
Updated: Jan 16, 2019
I don’t really know when the idea to live small came into our heads. I think it was me who suggested trying to get a campervan when we decided to go to Australia for our working holiday. I had probably read somewhere that they were a great way to see a lot of area for cheaper than following the backpacker route and dealing with accommodation and transportation all separately – why not get it all-in-one in a van? I had always enjoyed driving around with friends to explore new places so road tripping was already a given, and growing up in Canada I was certainly accustomed to driving long distances. The decision was made and we bought Scout, a 2002 Mazda E2000, two days after we touched down in Sydney. I think it was around the time we hit Tasmania that we really settled in to the van lifestyle and had inklings that we would want to continue it in the future. Since returning from Australia, we had discussed many different ideas: from tiny houses to shipping containers, as well as van and bus conversions.
Aaron first floated (pun intended) the idea of living aboard a sailboat here in Boston a couple of months ago and I must admit that I was a bit hesitant. I grew up around boats (my father is a commercial fisherman in British Columbia) and although I spent my summers aboard, I never learned much about how to actually operate the boat. Not only that, but I knew how much maintenance and upkeep they can be, coupled with the fact that neither of us had ever even been on a sailboat, let alone captained one, made me a bit wary. Aaron soon convinced me it could be not only a great adventure, but also a way to save a ton of money while living on the East Coast (Boston ain’t cheap). We did research about different marinas, different types of boats, whether we would be able to liveaboard all year round here, and what to look for in a sailboat. Aaron signed up for the local sailing club and started lessons, and we trolled Craigsist and Yachtworld for listings from Maine to Virginia to get an idea of what we could get for our budget.
We wanted to spend under $10,000 all in. That could mean that we could buy a $9000 boat which needed very little work to get going and was a short distance from our intended marina, or buy a $2500 boat which needed some elbow grease and was perhaps further afield. Since it would be our primary residence, we needed a boat with a spacious interior that could accommodate the two of us and the dog. We didn’t need a speed racer but we wanted something in good sailing condition. We were also looking for a boat with a diesel inboard engine. Other than that, the rest we could budge on if necessary. We ended up finding a couple we liked and put aside a few weekends to see them. The first was located in New Hampshire and was a Morgan Out Island 33 advertised for $2500. The guy explained that there was a little wear and tear but otherwise the boat was in great shape and he just needed it out of his yard. The interior of the boat was very roomy but it hadn’t received a lot of care in the last few years and it showed. There were a few things we were concerned about as well, such as what felt like water damage in the roof and what looked like a crack in the keel. We plopped it in to the maybe column (it was really cheap after all) and kept looking. We scheduled a couple more viewings but they all fell through...
Can I just rant a bit here? Sellers can be very fickle. We had an appointment to see a boat and the night before the seller texted and said it was sold. Annoying but fair enough. Then, a few days later, he texted back to say that it actually didn’t sell and did we want to see it? When we had first contacted him he said it was sold then we saw it reposted on Craigslist so inquired and made the aforementioned appointment. With two sales fallen through we were wary and decided that wasn’t the boat for us. Another seller sent us to the wrong address (30 min away from the correct place), and a final one had his boat advertised as being near Boston, when in fact it was still on the hard in Long Island. Is it really that hard to write that in the advertisement? Anyway, rant over.
The second boat we saw was a Newport 30 MKII which was on the hard in Rhode Island. She also has a large interior with a lot of space and gorgeous wood trim and although she was smaller than the Morgan we saw, she is still roomier than most other boats of the same length. The set-up of the galley is nice and the head is comparatively large as well. The second we stepped aboard we were impressed. The seller went through the new additions he had made such as a rebuilt engine, new prop, new stereo including indoor and outdoor speakers, new battery, etc. Aaron and I quickly fell in love. The boat had the things we were looking for plus some of the extras we had hoped for like a dodger. She is a 1980 and the seller was asking $5000. He did mention some things that needed doing, namely a new coat of bottom paint, hooking up the float switch in the bilge, and that some of the sails needed replacing or repairing. Other than that, he said it was a great boat with no major issues. Hopeful but hesitant, we decided to book a survey for the next weekend. That week we went in to high gear; deciding on a marina, trying to decide when to launch (either soon or waiting until winter liveaboard rates began in October), and the logistics of getting a boat from Rhode Island to the Boston area.
The day of the survey came and we made the trip back to Rhode Island. There we met Jeff Stone and our stomachs immediately fell when he informed us that he had surveyed this very boat about a year before and hadn’t written a report which meant the buyer found out something that was a deal breaker. Of course, it being a year prior, he didn’t remember exactly what it was but it certainly wasn’t a good omen to start off with. He began on the bottom, checking out the keel, prop, rudder, and hull. He immediately noticed some cracking of the gelcoat on the keel. We climbed up and he checked it out from the inside. Luckily, this boat has an encapsulated hull rather than one joined with keel bolts so although it isn’t ideal, the separation shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. He then went on to do a cursory inspection of the interior and again, didn’t find anything too troublesome. “Must be the deck,” he muttered and sure enough, he found a blanket of soft spots from the fore deck to the rear stanchions. Aaron and I both looked at each other and our hearts sank. We had read up about how a soft deck can be a horror to deal with. We quickly discussed what this meant and whether to move forward with the survey. There were absolutely no signs of leakage in the cabin which was definitely good. In addition, since we were essentially buying a boat as a live-aboard first and as a sailboat second, how much did this really affect us currently? Jeff winced a little but relented that for a live-aboard, the soft decks likely wouldn’t cause us issues until it came time to sell the boat. The survey continued. Jeff was amazing at explaining what he was finding, but also giving us tips and tricks for performing maintenance or repairs on the boat. He explained everything really well and if he found something that needed to be replaced, he went through it with us right away so we knew what he was talking about. After about 4 hours, the survey was complete and although he wouldn’t buy the boat personally, he consented that for our purposes and for the price, it would likely suit our needs without too much trouble.
That was pretty much what we needed to hear. She wouldn’t sink, she wouldn’t catch fire, and most of the other stuff were projects that we could take on over the coming months. With that, we worked out that we could keep her in the seller’s yard for another month while we did the bottom paint and a couple other things. We handed over the check and received the title.
We bought a boat!
We highly recommend Jeff Stone of Azimuth Marine Survey if you need to get a marine survey done in Rhode Island. He is based in Newport and was extremely helpful to us complete newbies in explaining the mechanisms of our boat and the changes we had to make to it. He provided us with a comprehensive report in less than twenty-four hours which we will post later. You can contact him at: 401-851-2041 or by visiting his website here.