Saturday, January 30, 2016

Just Like That, She's Mine!!!

My(!) Westsail 32

So, on the ocean with Alex and the good ship Eleanor, I learned that though my Albin Vega was a proven ocean capable design, I wanted a bigger, heavier boat. Part of that motivation was the seakindliness I experienced aboard Eleanor, but also because I plan to cruise permanently with no home base for a good while. I need more room than I had with the Vega. Bella would compare to a nice camper. A Westsail 32, or something similar, would be like a small apartment that I could retire to and not ever have to worry about outgrowing. The Westsail has at least twice the interior volume as the Vega.

I became obsessed and surfed the web constantly. It was taking over my life, and, as I mentioned, I was in the process of cooling my jets, convinced I was maturing about boats [false alarm]. My plan had evolved to waiting until about June when I might have $15,000 or 20,000 to buy a good boat and not have to make some kind of deal. Then last week, an ad for a Westsail 32 popped up on Facebook, I just knew it was a good deal on the right boat. And I could nearly afford it. However, there were only three exterior pictures in the ad and she was in Florida.

Often the lack of interior shots is an indication that a lot of work is needed inside. Despite that logical conclusion, as soon as I'd seen the ad, I started blowing up the poor guy's phone last Wednesday morning. At first I was getting a message that 'the cellular customer is not available at the moment.' Frustrated, I waited for a half hour or so, and tried again; and again. When the ‘not available’ message disappeared, the phone just rang and rang and rang, I gave up after three or four tries. I figured they were ignoring their phone because they had already sold the boat. I got dressed and went to the gym. Of course, I called once or twice from the parking lot before I went inside. 

I did get some interior shots

As I was driving home, all sweaty, I checked my phone with all the coolness of an expectant father. Nothing. No calls. 

This was looking grim; another near miss. Nevertheless, a bit closer to home, the phone rang and the caller was from an area code I knew was Miami!  The guy apologized that his personal phone was not near him all morning and he had missed me. I apologized for stalking him.  We had a good rapport and talked about boats and other Florida things for a while. The Westsail needs some work. He had gotten frustrated by a boat shop dragging their feet on an engine project. In a moment of weakness and frustration, he had fallen in love with another boat. 

More conversationally than as a formal bid, I told him what money I had that I could send that day. If we couldn't start something with that then I wasn't going to be able make a deal. He countered that if I was just going to buy her right then and not have the chance to change my mind when I saw her, he'd come down to my price ... and we had a deal. 

By then I had gotten all the way home to the driveway, but I backed right out, went straight to my credit union, got a bank check, and went to the post office to overnight the money to Coconut Grove.  The next day he had it, the following day - Friday - with clear funds in his bank, he pulled the ad and asked me how and where to send the title. Suddenly, she was mine. My head still spins.

By now, I have the title and she is already registered in Michigan for now. The next paperwork to do is to officially document her with the U.S. Coast Guard as soon as I get the Michigan Title in the mail. Essentially, it is required to 'document' your boat to easily get in and out of foreign countries, besides the Bahamas. This boat and I have big plans.

Badass. I am smitten.

This Westsail 32 needs a little bit of work. There is no engine, but the good news is there is no old engine in the way of installing the new one. She is in the water but dry. The interior is in the process of recovering from another owner's pukey green paint. With the price I paid, compared to what I would have had to pay to get into a Westsail 32, I have plenty of budget for an engine and getting her refit properly and shipshape. I will replace the bowsprit and the boomkin which are the original wooden parts. She needs a proper galley, especially a stove. There are no interior cushions inside, but there is a home built composting toilet. Actually, I've been looking at composting heads lately, but I'll install a commercial one. Moreover, I’m getting pretty good on my Sailrite sewing machine and just finished upholstering cushions for my current boat. Cushions and a dodger are on the agenda. The sails are supposed to be in decent shape, but I'd like to make a tanbark set of sails someday. There is an anchor windlass on the bow.

My Sailrite machine and first project, a duffel.

She might have been named Muriel at one point. The previous owner had taken off a 'sticker' but hadn’t really named her. I'll keep her in the Dinner Key Marina mooring field temporarily but plan to move her as quickly as possible to the DIY boatyard in Ft. Pierce where Alex and I left Eleanor. Riverside Marina is the best deal on the East Coast of Florida where you can do your own work. I have to move her about 100 miles with no engine and the I probably have 8 to 12 months worth of work. Most of the working capital I'll need will have to be earned while I'm down there. I'm looking into trucking jobs that will allow me some boatwork time, but I'll probably mostly drive for a time and then quit to run through the punch list and get her back in the water. I don't have a name for her yet.

That’s really all I know. I’ll go down to see her in a couple weeks and will have a complete report.  For now, I am out of my mind, excited to own a Westsail!! She is one badass, old school, full keel cutter!

Not mine, but a sister ship; just frikkin' beautiful. 

Norfolk to Florida, the abridged version.

The Great Bridge Lock

[Note: In order to get caught up to recent developments, I'm just sketching the rest of my trip with Alex and Eleanor from this summer.]

Poor Joe caught a bug on the flight to meet us, but we had a great time cruising down the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). Even though he was suffering a good deal of the time, Joe was a great addition to Eleanor's crew. We wandered down through Virginia and into the Carolinas. There were beautiful anchorages, explosive sunrises and sunsets. One afternoon, we were overtaken by a strong squall and even had to dodge a waterspout! [Editor’s Note: that day alone should have had its own blog post.]  

Storm Captain

Just as we were trying to get to the creek we had picked out for the evening's anchorage, we were consumed by a squall coming across the Pungo River from Belhaven. Alex had to steer hard to miss a hissing whirlwind of spray that cut across our bow. Neither of us could see as the wind raked the rain acrossed our eyes. Yet somehow, with no visibility, Alex managed to get us into the narrow opening of Slade Creek. The sunset after the storm was a beautiful apology from the universe for our troubles.

Apology Accepted

At Charleston, there was a small Dorsey family gathering and then Joe and Alex decided it was a good time for Joe to get home over land and try to get better. I did a little more caulking and cleaned up aboard Eleanor while enjoying the chance to hike around the old neighborhoods of Charleston. It was here that Alex and I were joined by a third crewman, Wade, who is a very interesting cat and a pleasure to sail with. He helped us out a lot, right when we needed it too. [Editor’s Note: Wade should rightfully be the star of two or three blog posts.]

Old Charleston

From Charleston, we left the ICW at Port Royal and cut the corner across the Atlantic to Jacksonville. The ICW in Georgia is notoriously shallow and Eleanor needs more than 5 1/2 feet of water. The night watches on the ocean were very special to me. The chance to be alone with the moon, the ocean, and at one point, an enthusiastic dolphin, was like going to church for me.

Night Watch Church

On the way down the Florida ICW, we took advantage of some free city docks and tried to use the dock of an acquaintance of mine. Without enough water to get all the way up next to Carl's dock, we opted to head back out and use the Melbourne anchorage. I got to chill out there with Wade while Alex went to check in on his dad. Unfortunately, Joe was not doing better and Alex chose to end the trip and stay there in Florida to help Joe. The good news is that Joe came through just fine and is now living in Panama near Alex and Carla. By all accounts Joe is truly enjoying life, I am super happy for him. [Editor’s Note: Actually Joe too should have had his own blog posts.]

Wade jumped a flight home and Alex found a marina to store Eleanor until he returned to complete the trip to Panama. Though I had an open invitation to finish the trip and even to stay right there with Eleanor, I decided that I needed to get back on my own plan. I learned more in two months with Alex than I can ever explain. Having lived the sea life on a daily basis, my nautical confidence has soared. However, the most important thing I learned is that out there on the water is exactly where I belong. My focus was sharpened on this goal and I came home determined to get back to the ocean as soon as I possibly could manage.

Life Changing Atlantic Sunrise

Whew ... it's been a while.

I'll tell you about this one in a bit.

A lot has been going on in Bubba-delphia since I returned from Florida - good god - in June(!). When I returned, I was nearly broke (on purpose) and jumped back into the working world. I continued blogging for a bit as I tried to catch up and cover the whole trip. My schedule went right back to crazy; driving a truck all night. Also, having been on the ocean for the first time, and able to spend a couple months learning from one of my sailing heroes - my mind was thoroughly bent.

Sailing on the ocean aboard Alex’s Westsail, I fell in love with the seakindliness of a heavy displacement boat. Even though their production stopped in the early 1980’s, Westsails are some of the best built boats out there. Alex and Carla do some chartering and bought a 42 footer. I don't need all that space, but the W32 seemed just right. As soon as I got home, I started chasing W32s like a man possessed. There was one in Alaska that they never sent me the info they promised, one on the West Coast that sold quickly though it had some bizarre modifications, one in Florida that wasn't even put together, and two in rough shape on eBay - one in Maryland and one in Louisiana. Oh, and there was one in Texas rumored to be available but was not. There were nights I hardly slept as my brain tumbled through how I was going to attempt to acquire any one of the boats I’d seen.

Atlantic Sunrise

After a time, I had given up on finding a W32 I could afford. There were plenty available but they were all well beyond my price range. So, I started falling for other boats. It was like a Junior High Dance, I would get absolutely smitten and possessed by one and turn around to see another equally attractive with many, clearly superior qualities, and then I would see another and then ... I talked to a guy in Virginia, a couple guys in Ontario, a boat broker in Miami and those were just the boats that I was captivated by enough to actually make calls. Many others caught my eye and wrecked my sleep for a couple days. And just when I had convinced myself to just not look until I had enough money ... someone shared an ad on the Westsail Facebook page - an inexpensive W32!!!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I really meant to finish telling the story of the trip. Though it seems like years ago now, it was this last spring and summer. I left off when Alex and I had got to Norfolk, Virginia. We did some caulking and other boat work after crashing down the Chesapeake, spent some time enjoying the hospitality of a fan of Alex's website, and we picked up Joe, Alex's dad. In fact, we worked so hard there are no pictures in Norfolk, but I was living the life. Next, I’ll try to sketch the rest of the trip and get on to more recent developments.

If you came here from a link, click on 'Newer Post' on the left toward the bottom to see the rest of the story.

Homeward Epilogue

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