My first sleepless night

I am a notoriously sound sleeper. I’ve slept through many a New Years celebration, thunderstorms, even the odd hurricane. But the night after I purchased my first boat, a 1961 Rhodes Chesapeake, I found myself in the unique situation off staring up at the ceiling.

All I could think about was my recent purchase and the affects it would have on me. My bravery that had been front and center earlier in the day faded as every sleepless hour passed. Was this smart financially, will I even be able to sail it, and can I really restore it like I was so certain I could?

The next day after a few winks of sleep, I turned my focus to the Web, determined to find the answers to all those questions. Terms like bill of sale, notary, registration, insurance, sales tax, and winter storage cost seemed to reach out from my monitor and slap me across the face. I quickly realized that buying a boat would take more than a check and a handshake.

Now in a cold sweat, I decided the first thing I needed to find was a local mooring to keep the boat for the few weeks after the sale. An hour of searching and a few phone calls led me to Clark’s Boat Yard in Jamestown R.I., which was only 10 minutes from my apartment in Newport. The price was right, the staff seemed friendly over the phone and their website boasted stunning images of Newport Harbor and the iconic Pell Bridge.

As quickly as I began daydreaming about this location, I ran into a obstacle. The hiccup was Clark’s required insurance before renting me the mooring. A bit of hunting on the Internet led to a patient woman at a local insurance company who informed me I could recieve coverage immediately as long as I got the boat surveyed first. Great, right? Well not really.

You see, in order to get insurance I needed a survey, but in order to get hauled and get the survey, I needed insurance. Jeeze!

My next call was a second one to Clark’s, this time not as a frazzled madman but as someone calmly looking for advice. When I explained to them that I was in over my head they patiently provided advice on insurance and the type of rider I should try to get. A phone call to Boat U.S. with this information about a rider in mind and I was insured.

The following night, I met with the boat’s owner to finalize the sale, which thankfully went rather smoothly. A few forms and the big check later, I was officially a sailboat owner!

The (now previous) owner even offered to come along on my maiden voyage to make sure I got it to Jamestown all right. An offer I immediately accepted.

Reflecting on this series of events, I realize now that I have already committed my first mistake in boat ownership, which is trying to figure everything out at once. In this sport, I don’t think you ever really have it figured out. There is always more to learn, and there is ALWAYS someone out there who knows more than you. Lucky for me, I have found that many seasoned boaters are generous with their time and advice.

Bird Crap, Craigslist and my Diamond in the Rough

A constant desire to be out on the water is something of an occupational hazard I face working as a marine journalist, which in a way makes sense. Day after day stories of turquoise water, wide-open diesel engines and adventure pass across my desk. This sparked what would become two serious past times, daydreaming and browsing on Craigslist for my first boat.

I’m not stranger to boating, much of my life has been spent cruising aboard my parent’s 33-foot Egg Harbor. Summer vacations from our homeport on Long Island to northern destinations like Maine and Montreal and southern destinations like the Bahamas instilled in me a love for the sport. It’s no surprise that I would one day want to own a boat of my own, the shock would come in the type of boat I was pursuing. I wanted a…sailboat (gasp). Living in the sailing capital of the world, Newport, RI, and watching beautiful boats silently and gracefully glide across the picturesque harbor by harnessing the wind fascinated me. Jumping at a handful of chances to ride along these, to me, mythical creatures and I was hooked.

I would spend months scouring Craigslist.  Not to toot my own horn, but over the last few months, I had gotten pretty darn good at navigating that site. I mean, I knew all the tricks. No picture? Not for me. I would scan the price, name and models, selecting only those that fit my initial criteria. If I did click on the link, I would be able to separate the serious sellers from the scam artists within seconds.

Once in a while a chosen few made it to my next round, where I would request more images and information, which is where most of my searches would ultimately end, until the other day. While doing some evening scanning, I came across two sailboats that made me do a double take. One was a 25-foot Catalina that was the right price and came with all the toys. The second was a 32-foot Rhodes. A bit outside my price range, she didn’t come with any of the bells and whistles and needed serious cosmetic work, but her sleek lines were speaking to me, asking to take a closer look. I arranged to view both boats that weekend with my girlfriend, Karen, who would keep me from making any rash decisions, or so I hoped.

Our first stop was the Catalina 25. The owner would not be there but the tender launch service at his marina would take us out to her and we could look around from there. Standing proudly across the flat calm harbor, she was pretty from afar. I thought she could be “the one.” As the tender pulled up along side her, my heart sank. The entire boat, from bow to outboard was absolutely covered in seagull excrement.

“I’ve got to pick up some other people, did you want to look around or do you want me to just take you back?” asked the tender launch operator.

I had come too far not to at least go aboard. I (literally) dragged Karen aboard too.

“You have to look past the crap,” I pleaded, as I opened the cabinets with my foot. We ventured below into the cabin, where the smell of mildew hit me like a stiff jab. Karen’s face showed that she was less than thrilled.

boat 1 (1)

“You have to smell past the smell,” I begged, while breathing through my mouth. We quickly wrapped up our tour and flagged down the tender.

We drove in silence to our next viewing. We met with the owner of the Rhodes 32 who took us aboard his fishing boat, and around the corner to where she was moored.

Love at first sight may sound a bit cheesy, but when I saw the light beige hull and the tall wooden mast glistening off the water, my pulse quickened significantly.

I hopped aboard the boat, walked past the wooden ships wheel and took a lap around the (excrement free) topsides. While it was obvious that a coat of paint and some serious TLC on the brightwork was needed, I saw her potential immediately. A lap around the interior revealed that while some finishing touches were necessary, she certainly had character to spare.

I opened up her hood and saw a pristine 2004 30-hp Yanmar diesel. A young heart pounding inside a classic, it seemed we had much in common.

With the best poker face I could muster, which I imagine still showed an obvious smirk, we began talking price. When the owner threw out a bottom line below what I was expecting, I responded with three little words; the words that have both defined and haunted boaters for centuries.

“I’ll take it!”