Friday, December 27, 2013

I get buy with a little help from a friend ...

s/v Bella, the Albin Vega I bought
Almost seven years ago I decided to leave the Rat Race and pursue the life of a sea vagabond. It has been harder than I expected to extricate myself from 'normal' economic life. Seemingly small decisions can have long term consequences. The tentacles of bills and banks squeeze tighter and tighter. From the very start I have been humbled by the love and support of my family and friends. That support became drop dead amazing this month.

In August I sold the Cape Dory that I had bought in April 2007. My initial strategy had been to buy a boat that I knew needed a lot of work. I didn't have much money, but I had time and skills. Like a lot of restoration projects, however, she needed way too much. I chose badly. She was the wrong boat.

Nearly everything I've done in the last seven years has been to ready myself and a boat to sail off. In keeping with that tradition, after selling the wrong boat, I went back to truck driving as its more lucrative and I began saving aggressively for my next boat; the right boat. A boat that is ready to go, turnkey, in the water and sail-able.

The plan was to save for two years, but a sailor is always looking at boats. Like the Home Shopping Network in a trailer park, whenever I had a spare moment – I looked at used boats. And then I found her. A boat showed up for sale in Milwaukee that looked like the right boat. A solid boat of known ocean sailing capability with lots of extras and upgrades; relatively inexpensive. An undiscovered bargain or too good to be true? I had to find out.

I emailed the ad to a couple friends who knew my plans; sounding board friends. “Holy crap,” I said. “Look at this! Now I have to find a credit union that will back a 1975 sailboat before someone else realizes what a deal she is.” I expected chuckles and the occasional “Good luck, man.” Instead, a dear friend, Nancy, wrote back and offered to help. Nancy and I have known each other since we were nine years old. Our families were close and we have kept in touch. She said “If [this boat] is the right one then don't let cash flow stop you. I have ... cash I could send as a loan...”

I told her I would keep her offer in mind. I had to see the boat first. She insisted that we could work it out, straight business. My initial ambivalence faded knowing the credit union would mean hassles, and extra time and money. Part of preparing for a vagabond lifestyle is avoiding banks or credit unions as much as possible. Nancy and I started working on the details and I planned a trip to Milwaukee. I was going to have enough cash for a decent offer, but would not be able to get close to his list price – I wasn't going to be able to negotiate.

I exchanged a couple emails with the owner and talked with him for about an hour on the phone. The deal was solid and the guy sounded for real, so I made an appointment. On a freezing day in Wisconsin, I met the boat's owner and saw the boat. I knew right away that she was the right one. No used boat is perfect, but she has been meticulously cared for and is already set up for long distance, singlehanded sailing. The owner is a true blue sailor. All kinds of little details that he has already set up on the boat simply shout “bluewater sailing.”

The boat's owner is my kind of sailor; and my kind of guy too. If something 'feels right,' I tend to go for it. I think he just wanted to find her a good home. He is heartbroken for having to relocate because he can't take the boat with him. The night before I left for Milwaukee, he emailed to remind me that “no one pays the asking price for a used boat.” The guys at work would laugh at his negotiating but he wanted me to think about an offer on the drive over. Likewise, after I had fallen for the boat, I told him “well this isn't the usual way to start but I have this much money to play with.” It was a quite a bit less than the asking price. He didn't want to take “all my money" and offered her for $500 less! I think we both had a good feeling about each other and wanted the deal.

The other thing I have a good feeling about is taking Nancy as a backer. She is one of my closest lifelong friends, a supporter of my vagabonding plans and a fan of the blog. That she would step in right at that moment is more than humbling. My plan is back on track well sooner than I expected. The boat funds I had already saved were a little less than half what I needed. A good down payment for approaching a loan officer, but keeping the deal out of the bank let me grab the boat right away. She really was an undiscovered gem.

The check went through on Christmas Eve, she is mine.

More on the boat later.

Homeward Epilogue

sv Ruth Ann in Beaufort, SC, 12/23 Ruth Ann is the last in a series of boats on which I was attempting to escape. I found her when I found a...