Bareboat Cruisers

Guys, 8 weeks have already passed since we left California! We packed so much into those two months that they’ve gone by in a blink. I remember getting on our boat for the survey and sea trial, feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared as I looked at control panels, VHF radios, navigation equipment, and most of all the sheer amount of lines running back to the cockpit needed to actually sail.

Being pushed so far outside of our comfort zone on a constant basis has been exhausting; none so much as during our back-to-back, crash-course sailing lessons. SO much information was thrown at us as we got certified as Bareboat Cruisers. I just had to keep reminding myself that it was like riding a bike—scary and tricky at first, but you only have to go through the learning curve once. If you can push through, you’ll have the skill for life, and nothing can take it away from you. I’m dreaming of the day when sailing becomes effortless for us, but that will only come with practice. Right now, it is hard remembering all the little things, and we are stretched taut mentally and physically until we dock again. At least living on the boat has started to become more automatic as we settle in. It happened so gradually that it took a while to realize that I’d stopped bumping my head on things, or needing to ‘experiment’ with the control panel switches to turn the right lights on.

But here is how our ASA 104 class went: much more smoothly than our first! Aka our engine worked perfectly and I’m not deep cleaning the boat this week. What did we go over this past weekend?

  • Cruise planning
  • Boat systems (diesel engine, batteries, GPS, etc)
  • Routine maintenance
  • Emergencies
  • VHF radio
  • Docking and anchoring under power
  • Advanced sail trim
  • Sailing/reefing under difficult conditions
  • Dinghy operation
  • Navigation and weather
  • Chart plotting

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head right now. WHEW! Now that it’s over, I am so so happy that we did it. It probably would have taken us a year to ‘baby step’ our way on our own to get to the level that our instructor pushed us to in just 4 days. Now we need to practice as much as we can and as often as we can to get our confidence up! (But to be honest, we’ll probably take it easy this weekend and catch our breath for the first time since May 1)

Love,

Taylor and Conor

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Our First Sailing Weekend

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this blog post all week, but circumstances from our 2nd day on the water have had me scrambling to get life back in order! Here’s what happened.

On Saturday, we had our first sail on At Last with our ASA private instructor Mark Fields. It was mostly review for us, almost identical to the US Sailing weekend class we took in San Diego two years ago. We had to repeat 101 with ASA because unfortunately US Sailing qualifications don’t transfer between programs! Plus, our US Sailing class had been on a 22 ft keelboat, and this time our 101 class was on a 38 ft sailboat, so it was good to go back to basics. We had very light winds as we went over parts of the boat, rules of the road, and sailing physics. Conor was at the helm while I worked the sails, and I think the biggest victory was when he docked us back into our slip perfectly! Our 100 question multiple choice test at the end was a breeze, and I think our first lesson did a lot to get our confidence up.

Sunday: This lesson was to get our 103 certification (Coastal Cruising) and the day started off great. I was at the helm while Conor worked the sails, and we went from almost 0 wind to over 25 knots! Mark talked us through everything and helped us remain in control of our boat. It went from terrifying to a roller coaster kind of fun as the boat heeled over and cut through the waves. The exhilaration crashed through me while I white-knuckled the wheel, and my only thought when the winds died back down was, I can’t wait to do that again.

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The sailing part of the day ended on such a high note, but then we turned the engine on to motor back to the marina. I felt it sputter and whine, and then diesel smoke started pouring out of the companionway and up into the cockpit. I’m proud to say that no one panicked. I killed the engine and then Mark went below to try and figure out what went wrong. The manifold on our engine had snapped, a malfunction that no one could have predicted (even a very experienced sailor), so exhaust filled our aft cabin instead of mixing with the intake water and exiting out the back of the boat. We were dead in the water.

Luckily, we had seen Mark’s friend out sailing a few hours before, so he radioed Chuck and asked for a tow. I was so thankful that our first ’emergency’ on the boat was accompanied by an instructor, so we got to see how to handle everything in a calm and safe manner. We got 103 certified, and learned how to get our boat towed as a bonus!

Back at the fuel dock reality hit. The boat would be unlivable for the next two days while the fumes aired out, it needed to be deep cleaned, our engine didn’t work, and we had no power hookups (no A/C!). Conor had to go back to Virginia that night because he had a Monday morning class, so Scout and I checked into a hotel. The next morning, I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively—it was 90 degrees, of course I was in a tank top) and got to work.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were filled with phone calls, cleaning, scheduling, and repairs. Our mechanic is coming in about 30 min with the replaced engine parts to get us back up and running in time for our 104 Bareboat class with Mark this weekend. The best part of this disaster was seeing firsthand how caring and helpful other boaters are. I had so many offers to stay aboard other boats, people checking in on me hourly while At Last was stuck at the fuel dock, offers of snacks and cold drinks, and advice or a sympathetic ear. My gratitude was met with a chuckle and, “We’ve all been there.” I guess I’ll just have to pay it forward.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

All About Our Boat

I’m typing this as I sit in the cockpit of our new home, underneath the bimini cover, listening to the rain fall onto the marina. Neighboring boats are gently rocking, the only sound from them is an occasional echoing ring as lines sway into the mast. There are no pounding feet on the dock, no rumble of dock carts rolling past. Residents are cozy in their own little world, tucked away and waiting for the summer downpour to pass. I’ve got tasty raspberries on my left, Scout snuggled on my right, and I’m finally ready to introduce you to our beautiful boat.

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We chose a 2002 Catalina 380 that was kept in pristine condition by the previous two owners. The boat is 38 ft long, with a 4ft 10 in draft, making it shallow enough to sail comfortably almost anywhere we want to take it. It has an aft cockpit, so our master stateroom has a very low ceiling that we are adjusting to (and by adjusting to, I mean accidentally headbutting and then cursing loudly to numb the pain). There is an entrance to the head (bathroom) from our bedroom, as well as from the galley (kitchen). There is only one bathroom on board, but it has a separate stand-up shower and lots of counter space. I would much rather have one large bathroom than two small ones!

The galley has a three-burner stove, a small refrigerator/freezer, sink, and lots of counter space, but minimal storage that we will have to figure out the best use for. The settee (blue couches) make up the kitchen table area/living room. The table can drop down and an extra cushion put on to make a double bed for guests. There is also a TV, surround sound, and internal AC/heat throughout the interior. At the very front of the boat is the v-berth, which has its own door, separate sink, bed, and storage closet.

What drew us to this particular boat was the fact that it looked brand new. (It also lacked that gross boat smell that all the other used boats seemed to have, which I believe is indicative of neglected ‘under the surface’ issues) The layout of this boat makes it feel incredibly spacious on the inside, comparable to older boats that are 44+ ft. We thought, why pay for the extra maintenance/dock fees/upkeep on a bigger boat, when you can have everything you want in a more convenient size? We also realized that this was the boat for us because you can actually sail it single-handed. All the lines lead back to the cockpit, and there is an automatic mast furler! The winches are purposefully oversized, which is a great strength equalizer for male and female sailors, allowing everyone to be an active participant.

I truly believe that we found the best Catalina 380 on the market. It is currently cruising-ready (even if we aren’t!), equipped with fancy navigation, water-maker, and customized tiny comforts of home that are too numerous to list. Even though this boat was at the top of our budget, I’m so glad we did not get a fixer-upper. With our limited experience combined with jumping right into liveaboard life, it would have been too confusing to have things falling apart around us!

So without further delay, here are some photos! (Taken the day before in glorious afternoon sunshine)

 

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Looking down from the stairs
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Galley
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Navigation Station (and all of our manual binders stacked up)
boat2
V-berth
boat3
V-berth sink
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Master stateroom straight ahead, the closed door is the head
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Scout’s room, apparently

boat8

boat4
Head w/ separate shower
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Cockpit (where we spend most of our time)

How to Buy and Live Aboard a Sailboat in Your 20s (with little experience)

In honor of moving aboard our Catalina 380 this weekend (!) this post is dedicated to the people who want to do the same thing, but don’t know how or where to start. Having just been through this 6 month process, here is a step-by-step list of how we did it. Keep in mind, we aren’t cruising yet! This is about living at a marina in the U.S.

(NOTE- This is a LONG technical post. If you’re looking for an update on “Conor and Tay’s Big Adventure”…hi Mom, hi Dad…it will be up tomorrow)

1) Take a sailing 101 class. Make sure you actually like sailing. If you hate it but like the simplicity of small living or dock life, think about a trawler.

2) Make sure you and your partner (if you have one) are on the same page. Go to your local boat show, and tour different models. How small are you willing to go? Which boats do you fit comfortably in? Are you a fan of catamarans or do you like the traditional feel of a monohull? What would you need to live day-to-day? And last but not least: what kind of use are you looking to get from your boat? Coastal cruising or bluewater?

3) Start saving money. You will need to put between 10-20% down on your boat. Also, a lot of extra fees will pop up, so leave some wiggle room. We saved 25% of our max boat budget. (Make a note: figure out your own max budget/expenses projected at least 3 years out)

4) Research marinas in your area. If you are west coast, you might have a harder time finding marinas that allow liveaboards (some only allow 10% of slips to be liveaboards). What is the wait list? In California, it was up to 10 years. Price to dock per foot of boat? Are the facilities nice? Is it a reasonable commute to work? It would really suck to buy a boat, only to find out that you can’t live on it! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLACE TO PUT YOUR BOAT BEFORE YOU BUY IT!

5) If the stars are aligning and you’ve found your perfect marina, contact a local BUYERS boat broker. They work for you, like a real estate agent. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look at sailing forums, see what people have to say about certain agencies or brokers. Call around, and find someone you mesh with. I decided on our broker based on his great reputation, his bio (lived aboard for 15 years—can’t beat that expertise!), and the fact that the brokerage company as a whole promised to help newbie buyers navigate a complicated process. I wanted someone who would be patient with us and answer questions we didn’t know we had. If you don’t get that vibe, look for a better broker. They’re honest and they’re out there, you just have to do the legwork.

6) Start getting rid of all of your shit. Donate it, sell it, store the important stuff with family—and even though you THINK you’ve downsized to your bare minimum, you will still have way to much. We downsized to a 7×7 POD (only half full, too!) and I’ve discovered we will only need about a third of it all. Once it is gone, you won’t miss it, I promise.

7) Remember what I said about the boat show? Make a list with your broker about your wants/likes. You can talk make/models, but if this is your first boat, keep an open mind. Then let him or her do their thing. Our broker came back with 3 solid choices, and 2 additional boats that he thought would be a good fit, even though they didn’t fit our minimum length requirement. Lo and behold, we went with the smallest boat!

8) Once you’ve found your dream boat, you’ll need financing. You will put an offer on the boat, making sure that the deal is CONTINGENT ON SECURED FINANCING and a SATISFACTORY SURVEY. This clause is important, because if you can’t get the money or your survey sucks, you can walk away from the deal. 10% of the boat cost will go into an escrow account (remember when I said to save money?) while you find someone to finance your boat. Such a large loan that is not a house is difficult for some credit unions and banks to wrap their heads around. If you’re younger like us, they will basically laugh at you. Be prepared to have someone older than you with a longer credit history cosign the loan. Our cosigner will never pay a CENT of our loan, but he was needed on the paperwork. We went with LIGHTSTREAM for financing, a division of Sun Trust Bank, because their rates were reasonable and they allow liveaboards.

9) Schedule a survey with a certified surveyor. This will include a thorough check of the boat’s internal and external systems, as well as a haul out to inspect the bottom/keel (Ding ding! Surprise fees! See my post about our survey for more details). Your boat broker and the current owners will accompany you for this. It is an excellent time to ask questions about the boat! What are her quirks? What is their favorite thing about her? If no major issues are found during the survey, then is no need to counter-offer back and forth with the current owners regarding your original offer.

10) Now for the tricky part—GETTING INSURANCE! We hit a snag on this one. Nobody wants to insure first time boat owners, especially when your boat is a lot of money and you want to live on it. Add in the fact that we have never actually sailed a boat this size, and we were in trouble. Forums will tell you all the time to just get regular boat insurance and not tell your insurance company that you live on it, but I refused to lie. I was not going to deal with the anxiety of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and plus, this blog would give us away in a heartbeat! WR HODGENS MARINE INSURANCE was willing to work with us, thankfully. They don’t care if you want to live aboard, and we were able to get insurance by adding in a “Captain’s Clause”. This was basically our promise to not take the boat off of the dock unless we were accompanied by a certified captain. Once we have fulfilled a certain number of private instruction hours on our boat, our captain will send in a letter to the insurance agency stating that we have enough experience to be on our own. Then voila! Restriction removed and we will be the sole operators of our vessel.

*Remember when applying that ALL boat experience is experience, even small powerboats. Every little bit counts.

11) Once you have insurance, then you wire the rest of the money into the escrow account, the old owners sign the paperwork, and you’re the proud new owner of your boat! Everybody wins.

12) MOVE ABOARD YOUR BOAT! The old owners (absolute saints that they are and knowing that we are newbies) left us a detailed manual on how things work (galley, head, AC., etc) that we’ve been slowly working our way through. Even the simplest tasks become so much harder on a boat! We’re learning, though, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our first private lesson is next weekend, and until then, I’m just focusing on not hitting my head on everything.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

PS—If you have specific questions pertaining to your own situation, please feel free to email or comment and ask! I would love to help you out 🙂

Sea Trial, Survey, and Surviving Suitcase Living

Say the title 10 times fast. Now you know how the last few weeks have been for us: JUMBLED!

I swear the days have just flown by in a blur. But lots of stuff has happened since our offer was accepted on the boat!

We were living at an Extended Stay America hotel in Jacksonville (NC) which, to put it politely, is NOT somewhere we will be staying again. We had hit the two month mark of suitcase living, and Jacksonville tried its damnedest to break us. But we needed to be close enough to Camp Lejeune for Conor to have an easy commute to work, so we put on our grownup pants and dealt with the grossness. Weekend escapes to beautiful places like Topsail beach helped us keep things in perspective. Also, Conor checked into his new unit, and he is now incredibly excited for all of the amazing travel and training opportunities lined up for him! Just have to survive a little longer being homeless.

Our boat survey and sea trial finally happened yesterday. We tried to get a surveyor scheduled for last week, but this region is about to enter the ‘high season’ of boat sales, and everyone was booked! For those who don’t know, a surveyor is like a house inspector. He or she is a professional who works for YOU and has your best interest at heart regarding the vessel you are purchasing. Surveyors know how to spot any problems/warning signs with the boat, and can prevent you from making a bad investment. Their expertise is definitely worth their price (around $20 per foot of boat in this area) and their assessment of the vessel’s worth is vital for things like insurance or renegotiating price.

We arrived at the dock at 8am to meet Stephen, our surveyor, who patiently explained EVERYTHING he was doing, from walking us through the engine inspection, to analyzing the electrical system, to searching for issues with the water tanks, etc. Some buyers just let the surveyor handle everything and read the report they submit, but we wanted to be very hands-on the whole way. We learned a lot over three hours, and then it was time to take the boat for a sea trial and haul out!

Along with the current owners, our broker, and the surveyor, we motored up New River to a boat yard (and the predicted lightening storm held off, thankfully). Our haul out picture below:

haulout

For those interested in pricing, the haul out was $10 per foot of boat. A necessary expense, but well worth the peace of mind. The bottom looked great and there were no major issues. We all climbed back aboard and were back to our dock at 4pm. It was an exhausting day, mostly because we were hit with so much information. The current owners are amazing people, and answered all of our questions openly and honestly. They loved and cared for this boat for many years, so I hope they know she is going to a good home where we will love her just as much.

Next steps: get the written report from the surveyor, shop around for insurance, and then BUY THE BOAT! If anyone has any additional questions about the survey/sea trial process, please post them in the comment section and I will respond! This was just a brief overview of a complicated process.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Going With Our Guts

 

love at first sight
Or in our case, a boat!

Conor and I met with our boat broker yesterday, and it went very, very well 🙂

Mike showed us the Bavaria 47 and the Catalina Morgan 44 that we had been eyeing for the last month (spoiler alert—they weren’t the right fit for us after all) as well as 4 other boats that fit our requirements. I don’t want to jinx the sale, so I’m going to wait to reveal the boat that we picked for our first home until after the paperwork has gone through. (Ok fine, I’ll give you a hint—we don’t need as much length as we thought we did!)

But let me tell you, SHE IS BEAUTIFUL. We are so happy, and just knew as soon as we saw her that she was the one. We put in an offer at 2:30 yesterday and less than an hour later the owners accepted it. This feels like a dream.

I was a little nervous initially on the drive over to New Bern, and wondered if we would feel overwhelmed and unprepared once we saw the boats, leaving us too doubtful to make a decision. Much to my surprise, I was able to compensate a bit for my lack of experience with all of the ‘book smart’ knowledge I learned from stalking blogs and forums. And, of course, our broker made us feel totally comfortable during the process and was very patient every step of the way.

Now that our offer has been accepted, we need to secure our financing, put a 10% down payment into escrow, and schedule our sea trial and survey. If any issues pop up with the boat, we can either re-negotiate, or walk away from the deal (not that we want to!). It will still be a few weeks (at least) until she’s all ours and we can move aboard, but we woke up this morning with butterflies of excitement and without any buyer’s regret, so I think we made the right choice.

Love,

Taylor and Conor

Nebraska to North Carolina

WE MADE IT! Not gonna lie, it has been a long few days. I’ll keep this short and to the point as we recover. Tip: If moving across the country, take more than 5 driving days to do it. Our days were intense, and the 14 hour drive from Nebraska to Knoxville, TN about did us in. Scout mutinied, and projectile vomited in the car and at 4am in the hotel room. Here was the good and the bad of the trip:

Highlights:

We surprised Conor’s sister in Omaha for her college graduation! The look on Ashley’s face when she saw us was priceless. We spent a lovely 2 days in Nebraska with my in-laws, and parted with tearful promises that they would visit us soon at Camp Lejeune.

Conor got two tattoos! On his feet (ouch!)

No speeding tickets or car crashes, and we are still speaking to each other 🙂

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Conor realizing just how much feet tattoos hurt

Lowlights:

Vomit. So much vomit.

The disturbing amount of religious billboards damning us to hell as we drove through middle America. Why do people pay money to advertise messages of hate and judgment?

Road food. I can only eat so many burgers, and I think we gained about 5 pounds each.

camp lejeune
Hello, Camp Lejeune!

 

But, despite it all, we are here. We have an appointment tomorrow with Mike Wood from Neptune Yachts to look at the boats! After everything it took to get this far, it will be surreal to climb aboard. Fun boat updates to come!

Love,

Taylor and Conor