Different Survey, Different Day

Posted in: Buying, Featured on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

and a different boat!

If you’ve never bought a boat before then an important thing to do before signing on the dotted line is to have a pre-purchase survey done. It’s a comprehensive examination of all areas of the boat, both above the waterline and below and is undertaken by qualified surveyor. For our survey on Runaway Moon we used Barry Colson, we had been very happy with his service during Tygress’s insurance survey last year and we felt we could trust his assessment of the vessel.

We woke at our version of ‘early’ which is a very civilised 8 o’clock and had some coffee while waiting for our broker Detlef and Barry to arrive.

It gave us time to think on the differences this survey day compared with our survey day for Tygress.

For a start we woke only two berths down on our own boat that we’ve lived happily on for over three years, last time we traveled across Brisbane to be here. Secondly, with Tygress, we went through the whole sale and survey process without ever meeting the owner.  This time with Runaway Moon we were very lucky to have Alan with us and available to answer any questions Barry had about onboard systems.

But I think the most important difference this time is that we’re boaties, boats are our thing and it’s second nature to be around them. We know a bit more about them and what it’s like to live on one. Last survey day we knew hardly anything about them except that we wanted one. And we got one.

Then we got another one.

Detlef and Barry arrived and spent about 1 1/2 hours going over Runaway in her berth, then she was moved to the marina’s travel lift so she could be hauled out. While Detlef and Alan moved the boat we walked back with Barry and were so heartened when he gave a glowing opinion of Runaway. We learnt that her fiberglass hull had been hand laid and as a result was incredibly strong and well made. A big relief to know as moving away from the strength steel was causing mild anxiety.  We learnt that Barry thought she was an exceptionally good little boat for her age and price, one of the best boats he’d inspected.

Watching a boat being hauled out and rolled back over land is always a bit nerve wracking but under Alan’s watchful eye the marina crew did a great job and got her lifted safely. Then comes the next uncomfortable bit, watching Barry bash all over the hull with his hammer checking it’s integrity and listening for any change in sound his thumps produce.

Barry inspecting hull

There was some small blister repairs but other than that she was in really good condition.  Back in the water and off for a sea trial in conditions that could be best described as flat.

We didn’t care though, this was our first experience with Runaway in motion and it was lovely. She has a full keel and hydraulic steering so she handles differently to Tygress but she handles well. There wasn’t much wind but we got the sails up which is always a magical experience and we floated very slowly around the bay. Too soon our time was up and we headed back in and the survey day was over. The day had left us buoyed and excited and ready to sign on the dotted line.


Don't we look happy?

Don’t we look happy?


Boat Shopping Sucks

Posted in: Buying on Saturday, May 16th, 2015

A strong statement I know, but it’s true.

For me personally I find it very hard. It’s an emotional and at times heart breaking roller coaster.

Hours are spent online pouring over hundreds of photos and listings.

A shortlist of practical options develops alongside a much longer wishlist of dream boats (commonly referred to as boat porn). There are so many things to consider. I like some boats, Ben prefers others, and occasionally we both like the same one and it gets added to the shortlist.

The boats listed with brokers benefit hugely from professional photos taken by brokers with their magic cameras, that add space and light. First time boat buys beware, the space and light isn’t always there! The privately listed boats suffer from very average photos taken by owners with their very normal cameras that make spaces look smaller and pokier than they are.  Photos like these make it hard to figure out the layout of the boat and struggle to raise enthusiasm levels. Don’t get me wrong, boat interiors are very hard to photograph and I would not like to rely on my skills when Tygress goes up for sale! You have to look past the quality of the photos and find the real quality of the boat. Read the listing carefully, request more photos if needed, get as much information as you can. Its so important to inspect any boat that catches your eye.

For me the inspection process is the most exciting and also the hardest part. It’s the part of the process when you get to step onto the boats you like and get a feel for them. It’s when the emotions really kick in.

Marina Boardwalk Vintage

We live aboard our boat so the boat shopping process for us is twofold. We want to buy a boat that will allow us to reach our sailing dreams, it has to be able to get us to the places we want to go, and we also want to buy a boat that is going to be good to live aboard. A boat with the right mix can be hard to find and it can be heartbreaking to find a boat with great live aboard qualities that we have to walk away from because of practical considerations.  Part of this twofold process involves picturing our life aboard each new boat to see if it would work for us. I imagine cooking in the galley, sleeping in the cosy berth, and spending lazy days in the cockpit reading. It doesn’t take long to get attached to the life imagined and the boat you imagine living it in. Heartbreak follows when you have to walk away.

So far this search there have been boats that have been a great price, that have had so much space and great live aboard qualities (read; a large, unbelievably comfortable leather settee) but that have simply had too much work to do (read: rust, rust and more rust). Which explains the great price part.

We have found others that have everything we could want in both live aboard and practical categories but that upon some deep thought, were really to big of a jump in size for our current experience levels. But oh how we loved the huge saloon settee that could seat 6-7 comfortably, we loved the roomy and fully enclosed cockpit, and we were seriously impressed with her 1000 litre water tanks and massive deck storage lockers! Sadly though, at over 41′ she was just too much boat for us and her ongoing expenses were daunting.

There was a boat we had discounted online as her interior didn’t appeal to us, I make no apologies that interior aesthetics are a big deal for me, so the lime green galley and 70’s tiles in the head were off putting. But we looked at her on a whim during a day of inspections and she had been weirdly tempting. Yes the lime green galley colour was bad but the space itself was quite functional and offered a good size pantry, which would mean no more rifling through multiple storage lockers wondering where’d i’d shoved the sugar last (Note to self: stop shoving things in random places!). And yes the tiles in the head were no less deeply retro in person than they had been in the pictures but the head itself was much nicer and roomier than we expected. Although she was priced attractively and a good size for us to handle, in the end it was the work still required that made her unsuitable. Our next boat will be ‘no work required’.

Which is why we put in an offer on a boat that is truly just ‘provision and go’. Our boat search, short lived as it was, is happily over.



Survey day

Posted in: Buying, Featured on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Survey day was here and the weeks of lovely spring weather had deserted us.  Clouds, a chill breeze and he threat of rain greeted us as we woke Saturday morning.  Not that the weatherWet and rainy day mattered once we saw Tygress bobbing in her slip at the marina workyard waiting for us.

Our surveyor had gotten an early start (which thankfully we didn’t have to be there for, 9am is a much more appealing time than 8am for night owl like me) and was busy giving Tygress a thorough internal inspection.  Paul, the vendor’s representative, who incidentaly is a qualified marine surveyor himself,  was on hand to help out and answer any questions.  He proved valuable throughout the day, spending time scraping barnacles from the hull and propeller and helping to sail her during the sea trial.

Detlef, our broker, introduced everyone and then left us to continue on without him.  I was grateful to have Ben to rely upon because I felt supremely out of my depth having to talk with bona-fide boating people.  But my worries were unfounded, both Peter and Paul were very friendly and patiently answered any questions we had.  It was important to us that we could ask questions freely because as first time boat purchasers we had many.  Peter was very up front with us and was frank about what he saw and thought about Tygress.  Nothing was sugar coated or glossed over.   It was a sobering but not off-putting experience.

Once Peter was finished inspecting the interior it was time for Tygress to be lifted out of the water so that her hull and keel could be inspected.  Tygress was ‘poled’ into position, two yard hands used long poles to gently manoeuvre her into the slipping berth, where two large straps would be slung underneath her hull and the travel lift would begin the slow process of raising her out of the water.   A slow and fascinating process.  At first it seemed like nothing was happening, but over a few minutes it was apparent that she was being inched up, revealing her dark underside which given her recent hull repaint and anti-foul, was in good condition.

After she was hoisted to full height, the lift began to roll back over the concrete of the work-yard so that the hull could be water blasted clean.  There were 4 other vessels up on hardstands, including ‘Phoenix Star’, the boat we inspected before Tygress (had we had the money we would’ve bought her, but at $70k she was out of our price range)

I had expected large patches of barnacles but there was only minor patch on the starboard side.  These are easily scraped off and Paul happily obliged.

It was surreal to be walking around underneath her, and at first I didn’t trust the straps to hold her up, but I soon relaxed and was fascinated by the matt black, submarine-like finish of her hull.  Peter tapped with the back end of a screwdriver along the underside, listening for faults in her metallic echo’s.  He then did the same for the keel and rudder.  We were watching him intently for any sign of unhappiness or possible problems.  But all proceeded well and when Peter was finished she was rolled back to the dock and lowered down into the water.  The yard hands then poled her back to her slip and we all boarded for the sea trial.

As Murphy’s Law dictates, this is when it started to rain and the wet weather gear was put on.  We um’d and ah’d about whether or not to take her out in those conditions, but we didn’t want to let the weather put us off so out we went.  It’d be naive of us to think we’d only ever sail in fine conditions so we thought we’d best go see what the flip side was like.  It was a wet, uncomfortable, bumpy and incredibly fun ride.  The head sail wasn’t in the best condition to start with (part of the reason for her lowered price) and the wind was gusty enough to rip it shortly after we headed out.  A fortunate turn of events as the vendor then had to replace it at their cost instead of ours as part of the conditions of sale.  Now we just need to replace the main sail.

Ben took the helm for a while Peter and Paul kept her on course, and he handled it superbly, grinning from ear and getting soaked all the while (our Twitter picture is of Ben at the helm on survey day).  I spent my time down below seeing how well she rode out the waves, it was the most fun i’ve had in a while which I took as a good sign.  Our first sailing lesson had been in crystal clear conditions, and our sea trial in quite the opposite.  We’ve seen both sides of what sailing can be, some of it’s better sides, and some of it’s worst, and we’re still keen.

We made it back to the harbour fine, if not a little wet and tired, disembarked, shook hands all round and then went home and waited eagerly for the completed survey report.  Our bond with Tygress seems even firmer, we know her faults, we know her strengths.  We feel can make a much more honest appraisal of her now.




Gladstone and the unsuitable ‘Kailani’

Posted in: Buying, Featured on Saturday, July 16th, 2011

It’s becoming clearer with the passing of each day that we have grossly underestimated how easy it would be to find our yacht.  And our recent trip to Gladstone has only served to reinforce this realisation. We drove to Gladstone from Bundaberg, having driven to Bundaberg from our home in Brisbane on Friday.  The weather should’ve been an indication of the disappointing day to come, for it was wet, windy and overwhelmingly bleak.  I had to keep reminding myself that there will be days like this on the boat, it won’t all be sunshine and calm weather.  I’ll be honest and admit that I will struggle to live on a boat on days like that. I will struggle with the cold and will struggle with being almost constantly wet.  Part of me is looking forward to that struggle and the growth that will come of it.

Having found the office of Ensign Ship Brokers we introduced ourselves and were asked to wait for the broker, Steve.  We waited a while.  When Steve showed it was handshakes all round and out into the marina to look at ‘Kailani’, a little Adams 31 sloop that had so tempted us with her lovely interior and roomy aft cabin.

This is where I confess that up to this point I had only climbed aboard 2 yachts previously.  I was a little unsure at first of how to get up, there was no indication of where to put my hands and feet. Thankfully I’m in love with a  gentleman who duly extended a strong arm and guided me up.  I know with Ben by my side and at the helm I will be safe and looked after and have no need to be afraid of anything. Even my own footing.

The second we were onboard and got our bearings it became apparent that ‘Kailani’ was going to be much too small.  I’m not usually claustrophobic, sometimes I even enjoy being cocooned in a small space, but below decks on this little boat was something entirely different.  I had the distinct impression of climbing down into a coffin or more accurately, a floating tomb.  It was so small and dark that my mind struggled to reconcile the boat we saw in the pictures to the boat we were seeing with our own eyes.If Gladstone has taught us anything, it’s how naïve we’d been when estimating the minimum size we’d need for a decent liveaboard.  32ft is just not going to be big enough, nor will it provide comfortable headroom for my 6.2ft skipper.

Getting off the boat proved even more daunting being that it’s usually easier going up than coming down. Once again Ben was on hand to provide strength and support as I clambered down okay.  If not facing the wrong direction.  Steve had only just finished advising to always climb down facing forwards.  This is in case of an accident I can put my arms out to break my fall.  But it doesn’t feel natural so I did it my way.

After ‘Kailani’ we were under the impression we’d be shown around a few other yachts, but that wasn’t to be the case.  The other yachts Steve didn’t have keys with him for, another was being extensively repaired on hardstand and yet another the owner hadn’t been advised of our inspection and was still aboard and not keen for us to see what he was hiding below.

Back to square one.