CHAPTER 15   

GRADUATION

 

MOONSHOT FOR SALE

            There is a tendency for boat owners to bond with their vessel. The more care and effort you put into your boat, the more you feel the pride of ownership. This especially applies to engineering work and upgrades. Since we had done many things to improve Moonshot, it was quite an emotional experience trying to sell her. We drew a hard line with ourselves. We weren't going to buy another boat until Moonshot sold. I had enough experience at being a Fleet Captain. After we listed Moonshot for sale with Gary of ABC Yachts in Sausalito, we stripped off much of the cruising gear. I ran a small ad in Latitude 38's Classy Classifieds advertising to people not shopping through brokers. After the first couple of calls, I learned more about how to try to sell a boat. In my first attempts over the phone, I believe I turned people away trying to describe Moonshot. It helped to get an understanding of what prospects were looking for first. If there was a reasonable match, I should close on an appointment for them to meet in the marina to see it.

            During the process of trying to sell Moonshot, we decided we wanted to take it to the Deltas for a week vacation before it left our lives. We ended up hauling much of the cruising gear we had taken from the boat, like the CQR anchor back for the trip. Before leaving for the Deltas, we took advantage of an offer Bank of America was making on home equity loans. We had experienced the surge in housing values over the past few years. With their offer, we could gain the ability to write a check for up to $50,000.00. The payment plan was flexible, they just asked that we didn't write checks for less than $300.00. This line of credit would make it easy when the time came to buy a bigger boat.

            The Delta trip was fun, we got to sail for the first two days. Jim and Joann joined us for that part. They drove two cars and left one in Rio Vista in the Delta. We left the dock at 7:30 planning to stay the first night in Benicia. Once in Benicia, we started feeling the Delta warmth. Jim had been looking forward to the entire day of down wind sailing since we had described it from our first trip several years ago. After dinner in town Saturday night, we were up early and soon sailing down the river. We did get to sail the entire day, except for the last mile. Before that, the winds calmed to the point we were traveling about 2 knots. Jim and I were having fun jumping off the boat and dragging on floating lines. Once tied up at the guest dock in Rio Vista, we deployed the dinghy. Jim and I tried our luck at fishing for striped bass, but didn't have any. It was just a weekend for Jim and Joanne, so we called it quits and got back to the boat to get them packed. We drove into town for dinner, and then they dropped us off and left. We were now on our own, and on vacation. We didn't get to sail for the rest of the trip.


Figure 114: No fish killing this day

            We tied up to a root on a small tulle in Potato Slough on Monday afternoon in route for Locke. We tied to a tree on shore in Railroad Slough for the next night. We decided to rely on our provisions while they were fresh and try out the restaurants later in the week. After exploring the Meadows by dinghy, we moved 3 miles to tie up at Giusti’s, an Italian restaurant we had read good things about. Soon after we pulled in, several small powerboats docked all around us. Their passengers quickly unloaded and went to the bar. We followed close behind. We learned they were participating in a once a month weekday poker rally. Instead of committee boats, their destinations were local bars. They would have a drink, pick up their card, and then move on to the next one. After a fine dinner that evening, we motored our way back down the Mokelumne River the next day, making our way to Moore's Riverboat. I was eager to eat more of their crawdads.

 


Figure 115: Camped out at Potato Slough

 



Figure 116: Fine dining at Giusti’s

 


Figure 117: Also fine dining at Moore's Riverboat

            We got an early start the next day. This would be the rough day of motoring across Suisun Bay into the wind to get back to Benicia. We learned the Benicia yacht club served from a menu on Fridays so we enjoyed a prime rib dinner that evening. We had only been there for dinner with SPYC on Saturdays which was always served buffet style. I had been able to go running in Rio Vista and Locke, and now had an opportunity to run along Benicia's water front Saturday morning. It became my favorite spot to run, traveling west along the coast. It was a moderately hilly course through the coastal neighborhoods. We were able to get a mooring buoy off Angel Island that afternoon and used up most of the remaining provisions before returning home the following day. This was the first time we had been alone cruising on Moonshot for several days in years. We were able to compare this trip to the first time we went to the Deltas. All the enhancements we had made and equipment we had added to Moonshot made for an enjoyable difference. At the end, though it had been a relaxing vacation, I felt as if it wasn't a vacation. If felt like how I wanted to live when I retired.



Figure 118: One of the many Delta Houseboats

 


Figure 119: Delta scenery

            We left much of the gear on the boat this time, planning to get it later. I thought having the dinghy on the boat's forepeak would help show that it was possible to go cruising with Moonshot to prospective buyers. The ad ran again in Latitude 38 and this time I got a call and offered to show it. A German couple showed up the following Saturday morning before the October Beer Can race. I told the crew not to mention racing if they arrived while the prospective buyers were still there. I wouldn't call what we had been doing racing, but the word still leaves visions of broken and stressed out gear. The couple liked the boat, but I could tell I lost the buyer in the discussion of blisters. He was asking if it had osmotic blisters. I didn't know how to discuss the situation. It had a few locations where we ground out a few blisters and exposed the holes in the gel coat. I think he thought I was trying to cover up the problem but I didn't know how much of a problem it wasn't. I called Gil, the proprietor of South Bay Boat Works, explaining I was trying to sell my boat and wasn't comfortable discussing the blisters we had repaired. He remembered having his people fill the pockets with epoxy before the last paint job. He stated those kinds of blister problems were just band-aids and nothing to get alarmed over. Most fiberglass boats get that after a while. He advised me to show whomever the yard bill. We paid about $75.00 for those repairs and there would probably be the same amount the each time it was hauled. That calmed me down. We would continue to try to sell Moonshot.

            The next day, we went to the open boat weekend in Alameda. We saw the prospective buyer talking to a boat salesman we had talked with before. I spoke with the salesman later, after we toured an absolutely gorgeous used Nordic 44 on sale for $149,00.00. He stated, “The German guy didn't know what he wanted, he was just kicking tires”. Before leaving the show, we also toured a new Crelock 37 built by Pacific Seacraft. A beautiful boat at only $147,000.00.

 

SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT BOAT

            After chartering several ketch, sloop, and cutter rigged boats, touring boat shows, and tracking down classified ads, we were getting closer to knowing what we wanted in a larger sailboat. We were still at odds on a few things. Marsha was leaning towards a more traditional full keel cruiser, but I couldn't bring myself to own a slug. It was safe tire kicking because we had to sell our boat before we could buy another one. We wouldn't be really ready until our cars were paid for. Over the course of the summer, we continued looking at boats, trying to decide what was the specific set of compromises we were willing to settle on. Marsha had liked the looks of Union 36's having seen one leave Clipper Cove one morning. We tracked down one for sale through the classifieds and made an appointment to meet with its owner, Shawn in Redwood City on a Sunday afternoon. That morning, while wheeling our canvas cart to the marina parking lot, a man I had never seen before started a conversation with me by admiring the utility of my cart. In the conversation, we learned we both knew a person named Shawn that just returned from the South Pacific and concluded he was the same person. Those kinds of coincidences make you wonder sometimes.

            We met Shawn at Pete's Harbor. He was in the process of getting his boat ready to sell. He was letting all his cruising gear go with it, ham radio, extra anchors, etc. It was a sharp looking boat. It was a cutter rig, though he said he rarely used the staysail. He claimed his cruising speed was around 4 knots. Unions come from the same mold as Hans Christians, a traditional classic design. Shawn even showed us the photo collection from his trip. Cruising had been costly for him. His wife was prone to seasickness, so he had to fly her from location to location while he made the passages with a friend. They made it as far as New Zealand. His boat sold privately for $64,000.00. He called me back when he officially became a landlubber. We kept looking.

            Gary from ABC called to have us drive up to Sausalito again to look at more boats. We looked at an absolutely gorgeous Cabo Rico 38 cruiser. It was a marvelous yacht. The only thing wrong with it was one of the companionway steps needed varnish. These boats are made in Costa Rica where they have a light colored teak wood. This one even had air conditioning. They were asking only $100,000.00, but we felt it was beyond our budget. This boat, like the Union had a long wooden bowsprit. Shawn had commented that he always had a problem pulling into slips because of it. He would have to have someone run forward to watch for collisions. It sure was an attractive boat though, huge for 38 feet.

            Another vessel that crossed our path was the Tayana 37. We were planning on touring and checking one out in our marina on a Sunday afternoon. Its skipper's name was Rich. We were just about ready to walk down to dock 2 when we saw Rich bringing the boat to us. He motored towards us and docked near by. His boat only fit half way into the slip. It was one of those sunny afternoons when many people are on the docks, so folks were swarming the Tayana. It was in great shape. He had been living on board and was a stickler for cleanliness. It had an inviting interior, similar to but better than the Cal 39. It was another Pinocchio slug though, and I didn't like the steering configuration. It had rack and pinion steering originally. Rich had replaced the worm gear with a cable system. He had since moved onto a 54' cutter rigged ketch named Sheba Star and claimed he would entertain offers in the mid $60's, though it was listed for $70,000.00. I ran across another Tayana 37 in the classifieds where the owner was willing to trade for a smaller boat. I called. It had wheel steering but wooden spars. We never followed up on either of them.

            We considered more than one version of the Ericson 38. Close, but it just seemed too small. We never sailed one, but it looked as if it would be a swift boat. There were others as well, but nothing we looked at over the summer and early fall had the same effect on us as the Cal 39. The same feeling had come over both of us, a feeling that kept us checking out the boat for hours. We kept looking, and besides, the cars weren't paid for yet. I just didn't feel like I wanted to own a full keel boat. I know that it is supposed to be the best for ocean cruising but I bet or at least feel most of the boating enjoyment will be before and after the passage, and most of the time on the cruise will not be in rough conditions. I needed more information to understand those feelings and how to make an informed decision on keel design. I turned to the book, "Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts".

            Though they discussed full keel boats, they did not rule out boats with separate keels and rudders. Steering is easier and the rudder is more protected with a full keel boat. Performance and maneuverability are greater with the separated rig. Given the trade offs, they were not pointing the discussion strictly at full keel boats. I felt reinforced in my feelings that one might be going a bit overboard adhering strictly to the full keel design. The other chapter I looked into while examining the reference material in the book was the description they gave of the Pearson 386, one of the boats described in the chapter titled "5 Good Boats". The section begins, "The classic specifications of a good cruising boat contain the elements of ease of handling, crew safety, good steering control, balance, ample stability, speed and accommodations that are both functional and comfortable." I couldn't find better works to describe what it is I think is important in a boat, based on the many steps we had taken in the world of boating. These were the words of Bill Shaw, who also designed the Pearson 424.

            Early in our search a couple of years prior, a yacht broker first suggested a Pearson 424 after we explained what we were interested in. A few days after that conversation, Dave Mills was strolling down dock 5. We ended up in a conversation with him about what we were looking for in a yacht. Using the exact same words, he commented, "Have you looked at a Pearson 424?" He lived aboard his Pearson 424 sloop. He also told us about another one in the marina, a ketch named Tenacity. Over the following months we would stare at Tenacity as we exited and entered the marina thinking someday, until eventually it moved elsewhere.

 

GETTING TO THE BOAT

            It had been a few weeks since we looked at bigger boats, so it felt like the thing to do the following Sunday. SPYC's installation dinner was on Saturday night and we were planning on staying in the marina. While perusing ABC Yacht's ad in Latitude 38 for the month, I noticed they had a Pearson 424 listed. I called Gary to make an appointment to see it. He stated it was a ketch. Though being slightly disappointed in that type of rig, I still set the appointment for Sunday morning. We had never toured the inside of a 424. I also set up an afternoon appointment with City Yachts to look at a Nordic 40.

            We decided to drop our bags off on Moonshot before walking to the clubhouse for the dinner. When we arrived, I noticed a light was on and there were a pair of sandals next to the boat on the dock. As we climbed on board we found Gary with a perspective buyer. He introduced us and asked me how to get the hatches open. The prospect was Canadian. When he saw inside the starboard lazaret, he noticed the Fortress anchor. With a frenzied voice, he exclaimed, "Does that come with the boat?" I could tell I didn't want to hang around and possibly mess up Gary's deal, so I stated we were running late for the installation dinner. We said we would see him in the morning, dropped off our bags and left.

            The installation dinner was a fun event. About 50 people showed up for the club's only dress event of the year. There was the usual sea of blue blazers. I spoke with Geri Gollihur for a while. She admitted trying to dump the youth sailing program on me when I was trying to get racing started. We laughed. The dinner was catered so we had good food while no volunteers got stuck with the work. I looked forward to the day when the club could afford to pay staff to make some basic services more reliable without having to tax the kind natured volunteers. I expected that would take a while. I did receive a round of applause from the audience for my efforts in starting the Beer Can Racing. That felt great. I stood up and shouted "Never run out of Beer Cans!" It was good to have the recognition as I was stepping down from the helm. We spent time talking to Doug and Diane, a couple that live aboard their 40' Mariner ketch Encore. Diane loved the boat, Doug loved the rig. It was a full keel boat and solid. Its only problem was maneuvering in the close quarters of a marina. Diane's only complaint was that the shower and head were not separated, it was a hassle having to wipe everything down after a shower. The party was good, but eventually we left to rest up for boat shopping the next day.

            While driving to the city on Sunday, things felt different than other days spent boat shopping. The difference could have been that our cars would finally be paid for in two weeks. We were finally in a position to buy a boat. We still had to get rid of Moonshot, but our listing broker was actively showing it. Besides, a yacht broker in Alameda had recently reinforced the idea that it isn't unreasonable to make an offer with our boat as part of the deal. This would give the owner of the larger boat the option of reducing his liability by moving down. It would depend on the position of the seller.

            Gary and his dog, Pepper took us to see the Pearson 424. The vessel's name was Spirit. We climbed aboard and after Gary unlocked the companionway entrance, we went below. Most of the owner's stuff had been removed so it was easy to look around. The layout captured our interest immediately. We had gotten close to seeing what we both wanted on other boats. This had a layout that was roomy and well thought out for living as well as designed for being able to cruise comfortably. Good handrails all along both sides, no large open space with nothing to hold on to, and lee cloths on most berths. It had 3 separate rooms with doors to close off the other two. The navigation station seemed functional. The large double berth aft appeared to be easy to get in to and out of. This part of the layout was similar to what we had liked about the Niagara 35. The head was large with a separate shower stall and a dirty clothes hamper. The galley was large with plenty of storage, 2 deep stainless sinks, a propane 3-burner stove with an oven, refrigeration with a freezer, hot water, and foot pumps. The main salon area looked cozy. It was symmetrical with a large table in the center with 2 leafs that folded up. Both settees slid out to make berths that almost looked as if they could sleep 2 apiece. There was plenty of storage behind the settees. The forepeak contained another large double V-berth with a sink, vanity and plenty of drawers. There were 3 hanging lockers on board.

            Gary explained that the vessel had been cruised for 3 years, mainly in the South Pacific. He showed us the bilge. The owner had implemented an anchoring system with an electric windlass in the bilge used to pull the 400' of 3/8" chain down a tube from the bow roller. There was easy access to the engine. We felt good about the interior layout and decided to check out the topside. There was a second midships companionway on the starboard side. We had never seen this before on any of the boats we had looked at and weren't sure what to think about it. The cockpit seemed huge. The helm felt good. There was a custom made seat for the helmsman. The rigging appeared to be in good shape. There was a new canvas dodger and windscreen. The ketch rig seemed to have a good feel to it, already swaying our thinking. The boom on the mizzen was high enough to be totally clear of endangering the helmsman, which had been my objection about owning a ketch rig. Overall, the boat looked like it had been used quite a bit, but well maintained and in good shape. We rode back to ABC with Gary. He had to meet his next appointment.

            The owner had the boat listed at $92,500.00. The listing broker stated he knew they would accept $88,000.00. That was at the high end of the price range we were considering, but it didn't scare us away. We were torn because we had a 2:00 appointment to go look at a Nordic 40 listed for $138,000.00, which we knew we couldn't afford. We asked if we could spend more time with Spirit. Gary gave us an ABC slip of paper with the dock number in the Sausalito Yacht Harbor and the lock combination. We decided to bag the Nordic appointment, grab a couple of sandwiches and go look at Spirit more closely. Back aboard, we took our time soaking up the vessel's ambiance. It had a modified keel with a 5'-3" draft. This would provide for good maneuverability and not be too deep for shallower anchorages. The overall displacement was 23,000 pounds. This was on the heavy end of what we envisioned moving up to, but after seeing how easily the Cal 39 bobbed around under tow, it seemed like the attractive end of the scale. It had 80-gallon fuel and 150-gallon water capacities. These were on the high end of our expectations, which was good. The engine was a Westerbeak 58, more horsepower than we had anticipated. The interior finish was varnish. We hadn't been varnish oriented, but it looked good and appeared to be resistant to mildew, which was a constant problem on Moonshot's oiled woodwork in the winter. The outside had varnish trim, but it looked very attractive. Bright work.

            We got off the boat to wander around, look at other boats in the marina, and then look at Spirit from a distance. We walked over to the next dock to look at its transom. It seemed to look like out boat. One thought I had was, "Production stuff, just lots of it." This seemed like a feature, it would be easily repairable. Back on to Spirit for a couple more rounds. The primary winches were Lewmar 55s, the largest 2 speed, self tailing winches in West Marine's catalog. The deck had bulwarks, which I thought were desirable. At this point, we were trying to shoot down the idea of us owning this boat, to see if we could. Everything we tried to think of seemed to turn around and end up with "I like this boat." Even the idea of a ketch rig. They are extremely well balanced. Sail handling is easier and more flexible. In heavy air, you can have the jib and mizzen up and sail just fine without having to work the large main sail. There was a radar antenna and reflector on the mizzenmast. Marsha liked the idea of having something like the mizzenmast in the cockpit to hold on to.

            We went back to the van, left the parking space and headed somewhere to think it over. There was parking at the Margaritaville restaurant so we went in. We added up the figures. Eventually it seemed like the right thing to do, pay up and go for a walk. We walked and talked and suddenly realized we were back on Sausalito Yacht Harbor's C dock. Though we didn't go back on board Spirit, we walked around it, looking at it from every angle we could. It looked like a neat boat. We went back to the van and decided the right thing to do was drive back to ABC Yachts. As we were driving, we discussed turning back and heading for home, but the van just kept on moving towards ABC like a horse that knew the way was pulling the sleigh.

 

MAKE AN OFFER

            Gary was just finishing with his other client as we walked in the door. I was sure he could tell by our appearances that we were ready to do some kind of business, but he remained cordial and coy and let us lead ourselves through the desire phase of the sales cycle, on towards the close. The idea was to offer something high enough to be realistic so the seller would consider it, yet low enough to be taking advantage of the depressed boat market. The news these days was the severity of the recession. The listing broker supplied us with a survey report from 3 months ago. Another couple had attempted to purchase Spirit, but their personal situation would only permit financing of $78,000.00, and the seller wouldn't sell. The survey's market value stated $110,000.00 and a replacement value of $165,000.00. The survey stated the overall condition of the boat was good.

            After chatting for a while and walking through quite a few questions and answers on the subject, we came to a number and had Gary get out his pen and offer form. $70,000 plus Moonshot, in the form of $85,000.00 contingent on the sale of Moonshot. Gary was sharing in our enthusiasm and excitement. This is the action that makes all the other stuff yacht salesmen have to do worthwhile. Once the paperwork was complete, including a deposit check for $1,000.00, Gary mentioned two things: 1) We would be entitled to a discounted shopping spree at West Marine, through a deal between West and Anchorage Yachts, 2) We would be required to take him out for a sail at least once a year. Gary was patient with us, providing as much time as we needed and dealing with all the thoughts and impulses emitting from our brains as they occurred.

            We decided we had better leave. It was well after dark and we had a long drive. On the way, we decided to stop at Brisbane marina and try to find Dave Mills and talk about his Pearson 424 sloop. When we found Dave's boat, it appeared dark but we knocked on its hull anyway. After a minute, the midships entrance hatch slid open and Dave popped his head out. We stated we wanted to bother him for a few minutes explaining the offer we had just made. He invited us in. We described the day's saga, and then he started talking about how much he liked his boat. He particularly liked the midships companionway entrance. He thought the Bomar Autopilot was the good one. He was quite happy with his Westerbeak 58 HP engine. His interior layout was identical to Spirit's. He didn't have anything bad to say about his boat. It sailed well, amazingly good in light air. He commented that a 424 ketch pulled away from him one time out on the bay. We let him get back to Sunday evening television and headed for home.

            That evening, it was hard to believe what we had just done. Occasionally, I would feel shivers up and down my spine but we never felt remorse or that we wanted to stop the deal. We wanted to own the vessel Spirit. The seller had a few days to respond. During the following week at work it was hard to contain our excitement and we individually let everyone we sailed with know that we had made the offer. The network was electrified. Meanwhile, Gary was working hard to sell Moonshot to the Canadian prospect. We realized that by making an offer on our next boat through the same broker we listed Moonshot with we increased our leverage on selling activity. This would be much more motivating for the brokerage firm to sell our boat, the thing that needed to happen before we could move up.

            One thing Marsha and I discussed shortly after making the offer was that no matter what happened with the deal, we had actually decided on a boat together. It was an incredible feeling of closeness and a sense of being one that followed. For some time, Marsha felt I had been dragging my heels on moving up to a bigger boat. Listing Moonshot didn't have enough impact to dispel those feelings. My only reservation had been that we couldn't afford to make the move until our vehicles were paid for. Well, those feelings had been totally dispelled so it had a very positive effect on our relationship. Marsha worked with a woman that owned a 38' Catalina. I teased her about now owning a bigger boat than her friend's, she just went "Hah!"

            As another sanity check, I called a recent acquaintance to see if he knew whether a Pearson 424 was on John Neal and Barbara Marrett's list of approved cruisers. Don and Janet owned a Valiant 47 and had joined SPYC over the summer. In a discussion with Don on a club outing, I learned he had quite a bit of ocean experience. He mentioned the list he had obtained from one of John Neal's cruising seminars. Don had many positive things to say about 424's. The negative thing he had to say was he didn't like the fact that if the owner was off shift and in the aft cabin, the crew would have to go out of the cockpit forward to the midships entrance. He preferred not to send crew forward. I couldn't believe I was hearing this, but I let him talk. It was hard for me to see putting that on a list of negatives. He had sailed off shore on a Pearson 363 sloop, which was part of the same line of boats. He was sure the 424 would be on Neal's list. Comments like this only made the whole idea more exciting. We didn't hear anything back from the seller or the Canadian potential buyer by the end of the week.

            The following Tuesday, we received an offer on Moonshot for our asking price. We signed the offer and returned it to Gary as fast as possible. We canceled a dinner appointment with friends to go take our personal possessions from the boat. Gary said the Canadian prospect had lost interest, but this one planned to live on Moonshot in a marina in San Rafael. His financing still needed to be approved, and his boss and boat mentor still needed to come see it and give his blessings. It took all night to unload our stuff and say good-by.

            Thursday, Spirit's owner came back with a counter offer of $88,000.00. We were planning on countering with $87,000.00 but Gary thought the seller was firm. Marsha brought up the fact there was more equipment on the boat when they last thought they had an $88K offer, namely the TV/Video cassette player and microwave oven. Gary discussed this with the seller who agreed to bring the equipment back if we would quit negotiating on the price. Now we had an accepted offer. We set up sea trials for the following Saturday.

            As the weekend approached, Gary told us the buyer's mentor was having family problems and wasn't sure he could make it down to Brisbane that weekend. He also mentioned he had heard rumblings of advice to the buyer that no one buys at the asking price and that we should expect to hear a request to cover the cost of the haul out and survey fees. It would help the deal if we could move the boat up to a local marina in Sausalito. We agreed to move the boat up to Schoonmaker's guest dock on Saturday. I wouldn't feel too bad paying for the haul out and survey fees as long as they went through with the deal. We had expected lower offers, but hadn't given Gary the authority to promote the idea. Since we were going back to Moonshot to move it, and that Gary stated the buyer had very little, we dug out some of the things we didn't need, to bring back to the boat. We got to sail while crossing the Gulf of Candlestick, but motored for the rest of the trip. With Moonshot tied safely to the guest dock we went to a nearby cafe for cappuccino while waiting for Gary to pick us up.

            Finally, it was time to meet Spirit's owner, Jerry Williams, and go for a sail. The boat was ready with its engine running when we arrived. We hopped on and he backed out of the dock space. Everything about the boat seemed better than we had remembered. The main and jib went up after we cleared the channel. It didn't look as the wind was going to pick up, and a strong ebb tide was on schedule. It seemed to be moving quite well in light air, at 3 knots. We started heading for the gate, steering for the choppiest water we could find. Spirit cut through the chop smooth and steady. While out past the gate, I asked Jerry about the spinnaker color scheme. He paused, and then said we will be quite distinctive. It's black with a red skull and crossbones. It was the first owner's design. Jerry stated he had only flown it a couple of times. The wind was dying, and our attempts to run back in wing on wing against the ebb were failing, so we decided to try the motor. He usually ran it between 22-2400 RPMs but said it was OK to go at 3000. Spirit did over 6 knots at 2800. We went back in because everyone was getting cold. Gary whisked us away as soon as we got back, thanking Jerry as we left. Gary drove us back to Brisbane. We told him the sea trials were acceptable. All that needed to happen now was closing the deal on our boat. He was hopeful the sea trials on Moonshot would occur soon. He would keep us posted.

            I received a call from Gary on Monday evening. It seemed there was a discrepancy between a stated hourly wage and W-2 figures for the buyer and his financing didn't go through. The plan became get financing through a different bank. No word on Tuesday, we learned Wednesday that the loan application would be submitted at 4:00. We could know as early as tomorrow. Thursday, we learned the deal had fallen through. The mentor didn't like the shoal draft and broad beam that made for a tippy boat. Back to square one. We asked Gary to propose or have Jerry reconsider taking Moonshot at a reduced rate to reduce his liability. The following Sunday, Gary told us Jerry would be willing to carry some paper. I needed to understand what he meant. If this deal didn't go though, we had at least accomplished complete emotional detachment from Moonshot. Monday, we made a new offer on Spirit. Moonshot plus $76K. While waiting to hear back from this offer, we had an interesting thought about our cruising plans. We had been experiencing some strife about whether to turn right from Mexico and head to the Caribbean, or turn left and go to the South Pacific. The revelation that relieved the strife was to sail around the world and do both.

            I received a conference call at work the following week from Gary and his boss Mike, the broker in charge of ABC Yachts. They were trying their best to close the deal on Spirit, without having Moonshot sold. They explained how slow sales tax was to come due on a Coast Guard Documented Vessel. It could take years to get through the system, until we would have to pay the taxes. We could also consider taking the 90-day vacation in Mexico we had always wanted to do, take delivery of the yacht past 12 miles off shore and not have to pay sales tax at all. Besides, we could move Moonshot to a marina near by the yacht brokerage and even if it took 6 months to sell, it would only be a couple of thousand dollars in slip fees. That wouldn't be that big of a deal if Jerry were willing to carry the paper on $15K until the boat sold. Yeah, but I would loose my leverage in getting Moonshot sold. Poof, that burst their bubble, in terms of their trying to push me into the deal.

            We worked up a new plan. It was deadline day for their monthly one page ad in Latitude 38. They would rearrange the ad to feature Moonshot in it, with some bold letter fluff. They hadn't advertised it yet, probably because I hadn't checked the exclusive box on their listing agreement. I was going to cancel slip 5-84 in Brisbane and move Moonshot to a permanent slip at Kappa's marina in Sausalito. I was going to take the Loran off the boat, because we figured anyone looking for that type of boat would only be interested in a daysailer. I would reduce the price to $14.5K and give Gary more latitude to deal on the price. I sent a $25 deposit to Kappa's to hold a slip for us.

 


Figure 120: Moonshot’s first good-by


            It was depressing after the excitement of having a done deal, going through the final steps, then having it fall through. For a while it had felt like dominos falling, now it just felt pooky. Jerry would be in Colorado for the holidays, and not much boat selling activity would occur then, so we would just have to wait. Because of all the activity, we hadn't been dealing with the Christmas season. We decided to just send money to our nieces and nephews in Michigan. We didn't put up a tree or send out cards to friends. We decided to look forward to spending weekends over the holidays exploring Sausalito staying on board Moonshot.

 

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

            We made it to Kappa's marina on the Saturday morning of December 21st. The marina was at the end of Gate 6 road, nestled in the middle of a large variety of live aboard houseboats. Kappa's was the last marina as you go into Richardson Bay. We filled out the application form and paid for the slip, $189.00 per month. We climbed aboard Moonshot once again. It was docked it in a slip close to the parking lot and showers. Things seemed safe and convenient. The surroundings were pretty. We unloaded our gear and drove to meet Gary and Mike at ABC.

            They were both in. The feeling in the air was somewhat tenuous because of me backing off from their sales thrust. We wanted them to understand we were still as interested in Spirit as when we originally made the offer. We just had this slight problem of already owning a boat. Mike was sorry we hadn't moved forward on Jerry's offer to carry the paper, explaining boats like Spirit in that price range just don't come on the used boat market that often. The good used boats are being scooped up. Even richer people are buying used boats and restoring them because of the economy. I agreed with him on that point. I think the 10% luxury tax that had been imposed on boats selling for over $100K had helped to shy more people away from more expensive new boats. That had made boats in Spirit's class even more attractive. I think that helped to move Spirit's price down, because boats in the slightly over $100K price range were sliding their prices to avoid the tax. Our offer on Spirit had expired the day before. We advised Gary to hang onto the $1,000.00 deposit check for now to show Jerry we were still interested, just not able to close. We changed the listing on Moonshot to $14.5K, removed the Loran, and added the CQR anchor. Gary was taking off for Mexico for the holidays. Mike would be around but didn't expect much to happen. It felt as if Moonshot was going to be tied to us forever.

            We went back to Kappa's to swap out gear, and clean Moonshot to be as attractive as possible, and then decided to go tour Sausalito. We spent time in the Armchair Sailor, looking for Jimmy Cornell's new book, "World Cruising Routes". They were out, and it was undergoing a reprinting. The second edition would be available in a month. We left the bookstore for a walking tour of the town. Given the time of year, the normal tourists were non-existent, and many of the locals had left for the holidays. All the Christmas decorations were up, and there were people about but not enough to call a crowd. We felt as if we had the town to ourselves to enjoy. We strolled the length of the Sausalito Yacht Harbor, thinking about Spirit, then stopped in the Sausalito yacht club. The bartender suggested hot brandy to warm us as we enjoyed the nighttime view of San Francisco across the bay. The club was closing early that evening and would be closed for the rest of the holidays. We continued our tour walking one block in land from the main street and noticed a Japanese restaurant. It was crowded so I thought the food might be good. We stopped in to top off a great evening.

            The next morning, while cleaning the boat some more, Marsha and I started discussing the possibility of donating Moonshot to the Sea Scouts or some charity so we could take the tax deduction. We had already considered taking $12K and that would have a 10% brokerage commission fee. When the boat was surveyed in 89, it was given a market value of $23.9K. If we could get appraised anywhere near that figure, it would mean a deduction close to the low end of what we were willing to accept and we would be done with the deal. The thought of that money going to a youth sailing organization as a Christmas gift felt warm and appealing. We hadn't gotten around to the Christmas spirit of giving this year. The thought seemed like a good idea. Besides, we could strip much of the cruising gear and either use it or sell it separately through PME. Anything we could use on Spirit would be valued in our minds as what we had paid for it. Much of the gadgetry we had added to Moonshot was involved with converting it from being a daysailer to a cruiser. A youth organization would get good use from a daysailer.

            We left early and bought JK Lasser's Income Tax book on the way home. That evening, we estimated our tax situation and studied the rules on deducting the gift. It appeared above board and we would realize a 37.7% return on whatever appraised value we could get an authorized appraiser to give us. The next morning, I discussed the idea with our income tax person. He confirmed it would work as long as we had a signed appraisal. Marsha and I discussed it more that evening and decided to do it. We wanted to get Spirit off the open market. I phoned Mike at ABC to inform him about what we decided to do. He thought it was a wonderful idea and strongly urged us to make the donation through Lloyd, the surveyor he had lined up for us to survey Spirit. That surveyor had been affiliated with the Sea Scouts for years and had experience with this type of transaction. I agreed and stated I would see him tomorrow. Lloyd stated he was active with the Sea Scouts out of San Rafael and he trusted them. If the boat was sold within 2 years of the donation, its appraised value would be reduced to whatever it sold for and if there's a difference, it would become a tax liability for us. He said he could handle the entire transaction, and it would be OK to use an appraised value close to the market value on the survey I had received in 89. Full speed ahead. I made an appointment to meet him the next weekend.

            We were back to being extremely excited. After years of looking at and learning about boats, we were on the verge of owning a world-class liveaboard performance cruiser. My company closed at noon on Christmas Eve, then I was on my way back to Sausalito. Mike was waiting for me. As I walked in I said, "Hello, I want to buy a boat for Christmas." Soon, we were in the back room amending our original offer to fax to Jerry in Colorado. I was asking for 120 days same as cash on $10K to give us time to receive our tax return.

            With that task complete, I drove to Moonshot for several hours of furious stripping and reinstalling older gear. The CQR, autopilot, whisker pole, stove, shelf unit, and other teak accessories filled my car. I would need help with items bolted to the deck and getting hoisted to the masthead to retrieve the 3 way light fixture. I invited Lewis and Barbara up the following Saturday for an ABC authorized tour of Spirit and to help with the last of the gear. Marsha made a special Christmas dinner the next day, anxious as could be. The following day, we received the signed offer from Jerry. Being a lawyer, he had reworked the amendment adding legal ease. He wanted the Coast Guard Documentation to reflect he had a lean on the boat until we paid off the loan to him. We signed.

            Friday night was the holiday party at the Callans. Jim picked an off day this year as opposed to his more typical New Year's Eve effort, to give friends more options for the holidays. We watched videos of our Windward Island charter that Charlie had taken and the choreographed version of the SBYRA race Gabe made. Near the end of the evening, we realized the only people left was our cruising crew. There was a distinct feeling in the air that they needed another cruise to look forward to, badly. Marsha and I had been so wrapped in acquiring Spirit that planning another charter never entered our minds. I could see by the looks on everyone else's faces that something would have to give. We weren't ready to put any steaks in the ground at this point, but I got the message. Look at all the people we had spoiled with our research.

            Lewis and Barbara met us at Moonshot the next day for the final stripping. We retrieved all the remaining items that we didn't think were essential for Moonshot to be a serviceable daysailer. What was left were the dodger with solar panel, windscreen, leather wheel, power cord, VHF radio, depth and knot meters, 2 burner pressurized alcohol stove, and the chart table. We left some cushions for the cockpit and life preservers. With less than 3-year-old rigging, a well-maintained engine, 10-month-old bottom paint, two roller furling jibs, and jiffy reefing for the main sail, it was a fine gift for introducing young people to sailing. Lewis pointed out though, that it looked as if someone had blasted the boat with a machine gun that shot out pan head stainless steel screws. We now felt Moonshot was ready for Lloyd's appraisal. Lloyd met us at ABC, I gave him directions to the boat and it's lock combination.

            Mike took us to Spirit. Technically, he wasn't supposed to be showing the boat while Jerry was out of town but he figured we were on the verge of buying it and should have the right to poke around one more time. As we arrived, we found the engine survey was still in progress. A toolbox was on the floor and the engine compartment was left open. Mike had lined up Tom Hall to do the engine survey. Tom's was the only shop around that was open for the holidays. We started right in giving Lewis and Barbara the first grand tour of our almost new boat. Mike could see we were in the process of further committing ourselves to the deal by the looks of approval on every one's faces. He decided to leave us to lock up. Before leaving, we discussed the impact on Coast Guard vessel documentation by Jerry having a lean on the boat. The process sounded complicated and drawn out. I mentioned we might be able to locate enough funds to work the deal without Jerry's assistance. He advised us to keep that information to ourselves until after the haul out and hull survey. If there was any problem found from the survey, that fact could put us in a better negotiating position.

            We spent another hour on Spirit poking around before heading into town for dinner and another visit to the Armchair sailor. This time, I noticed they rented marine videos and thought that was a novel idea, to be on your boat in Sausalito and walk to the video store. Lewis and Barbara approved our boat selection for the record, before heading home. Marsha and I went back to Moonshot for our last night on board and to say good-by one last time. The next morning, that's what we did, take a few pictures and good-by. Finally!

            To close the deal on Spirit, we had to get the results of the engine analysis, then have it hauled and surveyed. Everything needed to be satisfactory before we would make the final move of handing over our money. We authorized the haul out for Thursday the 2nd. Marsha and I both took the afternoon off work to drive up and see the hull. Mike and Lloyd drove the boat to Anderson's boat yard and made the arrangements. The bottom looked good, though it would need another paint job in a year or so. There was some minor surface blistering, the band-aid type. We would probably be resurfacing at some point. Mike pointed out the propeller would need cleaning, so we lined up that work with the yard before it went back in the water. Everything looked OK.

            I planned to come back to Sausalito the next day to close on the deal. I took the afternoon off and met Marsha at her office. She didn't need to be there for the close, but we both had to go to B of A to get a certified check for $89,240.00. We drained our checking and savings accounts and wrote a check against the revolving line of credit for $50,000.00. On to Sausalito. The closing was straightforward. Once Jerry and Sheri were convinced the money was in the possession of ABC, they went to get the bill of sale notarized. While they were gone, Mike and I went to ABC's bank to deposit the cashier's check. We met back at ABC to sign all the paperwork. Jerry and Sheri split as soon as they had their cash. Jerry agreed to meet at Spirit the next afternoon for a walk through. I called our insurance company to get the insurance transferred, paying with a credit card, then called Marsha to inform her we now owned a bigger boat. Lloyd gave me the income tax papers for the donation. I called the FCC to get our marine radio license transferred, then left for home, tremendously excited.

 

NOT SURRENDERING THE SHIP

            The next morning, Saturday the 4th of January, 1992, we drove to Sausalito, stopping by the Brisbane Marina to sign up for our new dock space and get the keys to dock 2. It turned out that neither of our checking accounts had enough money left to pay for the deposit and first month's fees. We worked it out by agreeing to pay from the 1st of January, then one month less rent was due today. On to Sausalito. The van was crammed full of stuff to load on to Spirit. The crew for the ride home on Sunday would be David and Marcy, Lewis and Barbara, Jim Callan, Doug Chandler, and Bernie Battaglin. I was to meet them all at the ferry building in San Francisco leaving the van parked there closer to Brisbane. They would arrange to have at least one vehicle at the Brisbane Marina to drive the drivers of any vehicles left at the ferry building. If it was rainy, Dave would call us through the marine operator to let us know he would be driving the van instead of ride in the boat so we would have to monitor channel 16. That was the plan for the maiden voyage.

            Jerry met us on time, carrying the TV/Video Cassette Player and Microwave oven. He stated he had spent the morning shopping for a TV/Video Cassette Player and a Microwave. They had been using the appliances where they were now living. At least they had the funds to get what they wanted, all our life's savings. There was no way to get all the details, but he was quite thorough about describing how things worked, including his engineering changes, which were well done. Eventually he couldn't think of any more details and left us to our new boat.

            I finished loading the stuff from the van about the time it started raining. We closed up the boat and turned on the heater. Dressed in rain gear I walked to Cafe Trieste to order pizza to go, then on into town to rent a video. The Armchair Sailor was closed for the evening already but there was a video rental store nearby. I couldn't find a title I recognized, so I rented one called Pyrates. It was about a couple that falls in love, but every time they get together to make love, fires break out. It sounded perfectly simple enough for the evening. The pizza was ready when I returned to the Cafe Trieste so I headed back to Spirit with dinner and the evening's entertainment. The boat was warm now and felt extremely cozy with the rain pounding down on the deck. We hoped it would clear for the trip home the next day, but we were prepared to go rain or shine.

            One amazing thing appeared in the beginning credits of the random video selection I had made. The backdrop for the credits at the beginning was a black screen with a red skull and crossbones. Marsha and I had already drawn metaphysical connections between the skull and crossbones on the spinnaker of the boat we purchased and the flaming skull we had seen in the fire we were sitting naked in front of on Strawberry Island over 10 years ago. This coincidence only helped the sensation there is purpose to life. We were destined to own this boat and wondered what was in store for the future.

            The next morning, before meeting the crew, I emptied the dock box of all the stuff Jerry left behind and filled the van with it and other stuff we had taken out of some hatches. They had left many things on board, spares and items they had accumulated to be independent while cruising. It rained briefly, but then started to clear, complete with sunshine. The crew all converged at the ferry building like clockwork and soon we were walking along the Sausalito waterfront on our way to meet Spirit. Once on board we opened several bottles of Champaign to celebrate the new vessel. Everyone thought it was a fantastic boat, especially compared to the boats we had been chartering over the past few years. Eventually we got under way. It was light air sailing in the city and motoring after that. The boat seemed to handle well in light air and we experienced our first jibe maneuver and first run wing-on-wing. The crew meandered around the boat, always a few below deck exploring. With the two entrances, no one seemed to get in any body's way, even with 10 people on board. This was great. We made it into slip 2-14 just before dusk. Our new boat was home.

            It took the next three weekends in their entirety to clean out and sort all the hatches, lockers, etc., and bring our own stuff from home. At first if felt as if we were on somebody else's boat, but eventually we came to realize that we paid the money and anything we saw was ours to keep, sell, or throw away. As we identified our own space and got our personal items on board, it finally began to feel like home. We now are moving into the future. We developed a 48-month payment plan and expected to have fun restoring the boat while we paid for it, and then take off. We'll have to decide on selling the house or renting it. That really depends on if we can build up enough of a cruising kitty. Moonshot had brought us a long way and I'm sure it will help other people get involved with boating. We're on to new adventures.

 

THE END


Figure 121: Spirit docked in Brisbane Marina


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Keys to the Golden Gate, Copyright © 2002 by Steve Sears