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Monday, 30 January 2012

That rules out the Taiwanese boats then

We had a call yesterday lunch time from a guy called Richard who owns a CT 41 that's in Whitehaven. We had spotted this boat standing in the boat yard a couple of weeks ago. The boat wasn't for sale and it looked decidedly like a project boat, which it was. Being new to this boat buying game, and being romantics, we had always been drawn to the photos of these, and other Taiwanese models, the Cheoy Lee, Formosas etc. They just have that look about them, that look that turns heads as you sail into harbour, such pretty lines, they just seem to fit our ideas of what we wanted, and quite often they were cheap, within our budget.

We had asked Richard to call us whenever he was going to be visiting his boat so we could come and have a peep inside one of these, as there seem to be few, if any for sale in the UK. Although we knew this one was not for sale and that he had already begun to take her apart it was still a great opportunity to get on board and find out if this was the sort of boat we wanted to buy.

Now Richards emails had been, shall we say a little less than chatty, he seemed to communicate in lists, so I was prepared for a bit of a character, I suppose. When he rang it was a very last minute call, he was going to be there this afternoon if we wanted to come see. We were watching the Australian open final and it had just gone into the 5th set, so at first I said thanks but we may give today a miss. Anyway we were an hour and a half away and he sounded like he was only making a quick visit. Call you back, I said if we're coming. When I rang back he informed me that they would be there at 14.28. Now that was a bit weird, I thought, why not half two, mmm Richard was going to be different.

We arrived at 3.15. Richard was in his early 60s, I would say, and a bit of a live wire. From the off he told us how this boat was not the sort of boat we should even think about buying. He piled the negatives on top of negatives and then finally invited us to climb the ladder and come see the pain that we would inherit should we be foolish enough to buy a boat like this. Jackie, declined the offer to come a board and chose to stay on terra firm and chat to his girlfriend. She had already decided that  this was not our boat, much to big, much problemo.

I followed Richard up onto the rotting deck to be shown the horrors that lay buried beneath the bowels of this project. It was dark and dingy inside and all over the place were lifted boards that revealed a couple of years of restoration that Richard was embarking upon. It was not a pretty site, although I could sense that he was committed to bringing this craft back from the brink. But as he pointed out the herculean task that he was undertaking I could see that this was not the way I wanted to go. The dream of romantic sailing craft ebbed away as fast as the falling tides of Morcombe Bay. Sure, the teak interior was lovely but the mass of rotting pipe work and fraying wires exposed soon put paid to my ambitions to own this type of vessel. Richard talked it down, and down some more. Even though for him it was going to be a labour of love he made a great job of quashing my enthusiasm, and I thank him for this. We had be seduced by the lines, the superficial shimmer of the woodwork and space that we had seen in the photos of boats like this on the web. But no longer, we came away with a reality check, and Richards wise words.

We have been barking up the wrong tree, we want to sail, not too inherit a project.

So the trip was well worth it, we have struck another set of boats off our list, and although we don't have a clue what we want now, at least we know it's not going to be some romantic notion, we will choose more wisely, and may even go for a plastic bath tub with a stick that we can sail tomorrow, not spend our time doing something up that could take years to get to be seaworthy.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

No it's not a Gibsea 38

Another trip out to view another boat today, this time it's a Gib'sea 38 in Whitehaven, which is about an hour and a half up the coast from us. For a change the weather has been more like winter with clear skys and frosty mornings. It was a fine day to take a drive, a drive that took us along the coast with clear views into the mountains of the lake district as a backdrop to our mission. Lenticular clouds hung motionless over the landscape like giant almonds in a clear blue sky.

The last time we were in Whitehaven it was also a cold day, in fact so cold that the water in the marina was frozen solid. That was a couple of years ago, today it's cold but the waters are ice free. We stop the car in the car park overlooking the harbour, light a fag and watch a couple of swans perform a symmetrical dance of pre mating foreplay on the water in front of us.Then, just as it all seems to be getting serious one of them, the girl I suppose, decides it's all to public on the waterfront and glides away, followed by her suitor, later maybe he'll have more luck.

We're here to have a look at this Gibsea but we've been unable to get anyone from the brokers to come and open her up so we can get the full picture. Never the less we have decided that a look around the outside will be enough for today, and it's a good excuse to get out in this beautiful day. The yacht we are going to view is called Grumpy, not the best name for a boat. Why would you call your yacht Grumpy? We find her lying at the end of jetty QB bobbing on the slight breeze. She's a ketch with in mast furling and looking a little forlorn, in need of a little TLC but at first glance she looks in reasonable shape for her age. My mobile rings and its the broker asking if we've found her yet. Yes, we've just arrived, I say. What do you think, he asks, I say we haven't had chance to look yet but one of the stantions is a bit loose, I'll give you a call when we've had a proper look round.

After about 15 mins of crawling round her deck and peering through the windows we decide that it's probably not the boat for us. Sliding windows don't feel right, the route from the cockpit to the companion way is awkward. The jammers are too far from the helm and we don't need a separate entrance to the captains cabin. It's OK but it's not our boat. That's fine at least it's another one to tick off our list. We saunter off along the jetty and cast an eye over all the rest of the boats, although not for sale it's good to be in among lots of different craft and make mental notes of the ones we should look up on the net next time we're surfing. It's a needle and haystack business finding the boat that's just for you, unfortunately our haystack is not even a sheaf, and  today we drew another blank, but the more we see the more we eliminate. It's a long game we thinks.

After soup and a cuppa in the harbour side cafe we take a detour to the repair yard where we go looking for the boat we came to see last time we were here. There's a couple working on their boat who we discover have just returned from a two year cruise around the Caribbean and the East coast of the States. They're stripping her ready for a new paint job and we chat for a bit, about boats, what else. A few pearls of wisdom are dispensed in our direction, always a plus to talk to those who have been there, done that, got the T shirt. They're sailing a 43ft Onvi, which is way outside our league, but this chat reaffirms our idea that we need a long keel boat, an old long keel boat, and that still points to the Tayana type of thing, or perhaps an Island Packet 31, both are about within or just outside our budget of £30,000.

Home, and we drive into a sunset of baby pink clouds and misty mountains. We chat boats, and chew over our conversation with the Onvi crew. It's been a fruitful day and another step closer to finding our boat. The thing is that we don't even have the funds, as yet, until we manage to sell the bungalow, we can't buy anything anyway. It's going to be much harder to make the decision when we have the money I suspect, but for now we just have to keep on looking  because you never know when your going to stumble upon the one.   

Friday, 6 January 2012

Is this Nicholson 35 our boat?

Our search for a boat continues, and today we were at Glasson dock, a quaint old fishing hamlet near to Lancaster. There is a small marina here and we've come to have a look at a Nicholson 35 which I had arranged yesterday with Wendy from the brokerage at the chandlers. The fine still morning had turned to a low cloud and drizzle afternoon when we arrived a few minutes after two. We had been here just a couple of weeks before Christmas to see this yacht but hadn't been able to get on board as they were short staffed and couldn't let us on board by ourselves. As it turned out we had missed the owner by about 20 minutes on this occasion, so we were only able to check her out from the pontoon. She looked like a fine boat, and we were now back on a Friday to get the full picture. Unfortunately they couldn't find the key. Seemed that the owner had failed to leave a key with the broker, and he may be in Greece. We were a little deflated, to say the least, but agreed to look at another boat we had thought may be worth a look, a Colvic something or other. This boat was on the hard standing and so we would need a ladder. The problem there was that all their ladders had been recently condemned by the health and safety police. We went outside, in the drizzle, for a fag and a moan. Wendy appeared with an illegal ladder and we followed to the Colvic something or other. The moment the door was opened into the pilot house we knew we didn't want this boat, and after about 5 minutes of chit chat we climbed back to terra firma and back to the office, but taking a detour to the pontoon where the Nicholson lay to have a sniff about on deck.

We hopped aboard and at once were impressed with the her. Good sturdy oversized standing rigging, big winches, her soaring stepped mast, CQR anchor, spacious cockpit. Everything looked like a boat that was ready to cross oceans, solid, such a shame we couldn't get to investigate her below decks. We returned to the office. Here we heard that Wendy had managed to contact the owner who was on his way over, from near Blackpool, and would be with us in three quarters of an hour. We went to the local pub and ordered a pot of tea. The old Vic was empty, but with a roaring fire and was crammed with nautical memorabilia, a good place to while away half an hour on a drizzly afternoon. By the time we met Dave, the owner of the Nicholson the day was coming to its gloomy conclusion but that wasn't going to stop us having a tour of the boat.

Dave is a youthful sixty something whos' obviously been sailing a long time, he had that air, and drove a black 4x4. Dave is very handy and has, as we discover on the tour lovingly transformed this 1978 Nicholson from a bog standard boat, to something of a work of art. He's rebuilt the galley and topped it off with some ceramic top that they make mortuary slabs out of, not sure if that was a selling point Dave. Its had a brand new engine with a "Z" coupling, built cupboards here there and everywhere, except he forgot to build one for hanging cloths. There seems to be a back up for anything that might fail, and all in all this is a fine boat, we're impressed. We even get every chart we may ever need for cruising Scotland, plus a decanter and more cutlery than we need to serve a full compliment of Nelsons Victory. Dave is the consument salesman, excited to show us each labour saving device he's incorporated into this labour of love, each safety first addition and every angle that he's covered to make this a boat that would keep you safe and sound. This is a boat that won't let you down, a boat to carry you any where you choose to go. We spent over an hour below with Dave and now it was dark. He now showed us round the deck, but I was getting cold and I'd seen enough. I'll start the engine, eh. It starts at the first attempt. Yes we're impressed but it's time to go, hang on, he says, I'll show you the flood lights that i've got here I'm going to fit on the aft end, enough, enough. Your now overselling it Dave, we like what we've seen but we now need to be on our way, which is what we do. We head off down the pontoon in the dark and find our way to our car outside a closed and deserted marina. We light a fag and Dave pulls up beside us in his 4x4 to explain we need him to open the gate to let us out. Good job he thought of that or we would have been stuck there all night.
On the way home we chew the fat and come up with the downsides of Daves' boat, there's not many, but they are there. But that's the way it is with boats, compromise, it's all compromise. As a sailing vessel it's going to be hard to fault this boat but at the price he wants it's perhaps a no no. However it's very close to what we should be looking for, and I'm not ruling it out, and it is here. But we need to look at lots more boats to know we've found our boat but I must say this was very close to the boat my head says we should have, my heart will need a little more convincing.