It’s been a couple weeks, but things have been happening.
The texture of the traffic is different on 195. There are fewer lanes than on 295 and it’s clogged with minivans and beat up pickup trucks going below the speed limit. People aren’t keeping to the right. I have to work harder to keep my 4800 pounds of truck moving at this speed, but I’m two or three steps ahead of everyone else on the road and I’m maintaining. I see the gaps developing and I’m already downshifted as the space materializes. I wield my truck like a rapier. I’m not usually an aggressive driver, at least by Jersey standards, but it’s not because I lack the ability. I can do it when I have good reason. I’m going to look at a boat. Again. And I just passed a crotch rocket.
On April 9, I woke up Jen at 1:30 in the morning to tell her I found a boat. Jen is used to this brand of craziness, and took it pretty well—even waking up to look at the pictures on her telephone. In diametric opposition to the stereotypical sailing wife, she said “Let’s buy it!”
We weren’t really boat shopping, but I am also always kind of boat shopping, and this boat had a lot going for it: a Catalina 27, recently repowered, with new sails and a whole lot of bottom and keel work already done, all for a very reasonable price. A draft of 4′ is pretty good for Barnegat Bay, but more importantly, that fin keel weighs more than our entire 22—it’s is a much more substantial boat than we’re used to. While it wouldn’t be my first choice for a rounding of Cape Horn, this is the kind of boat that would allow us to cash in some of the chits that we’ve been saving up by sailing a light, tender boat in conditions that keep most of the 30+ footers tied to the dock, and actually do some real coastal cruising.
We immediately made plans to go check it out. On April 13, we drove up to Sea Bright and were given a detailed walk-through by the personable owners. The boat was still on the hard, and looked great from the ground. All of the mechanicals were in order, to the best of my ability to assess such a thing. The one thing that I couldn’t shake, though, (and is feels so dumb even writing this now) is that I didn’t immediately fall in love.
In preparation for this inspection, I re-read sailingdog’s famous Boat Buying Inspection Tips and was stuck on the part about first impressions. He went as far as to suggest bringing a tape recorder with a lapel mic so that you could speak your first impressions aloud and refer to them later (which I wasn’t about to do, even if there was still such a thing as a tape recorder) and in that moment when I first climbed the ladder to get aboard, I was abnormally conscious of my feelings. I don’t know if it was because I was trying to suppress my enthusiasm for this boat in order to try to perform an objective assessment, or if I was unfairly comparing it to our 22, which is in unusually good shape for a boat of her vintage (and also eerily similar to the 27 in a lot of ways), or maybe I had just built it up in my mind to be basically perfect, but my initial impressions were that she looked tired.
This really tripped me up, and the next 24 hours were torturous. Jen was a “yes,” although she deferred to me. Everything checked out on paper. The engine was probably worth more than the asking price of the boat. I just couldn’t reconcile my [already barely accessible] emotions. I got all the way down to questioning why I even sail, and kept getting stuck on some nebulous joie de vivre that seemed at odds with buying a boat with which I felt no connection. I tried to read up on refreshing a boat and reached out to some sailing friends for advice. Pretty much everyone I talked to backed me up, although I imagine that many were backing up my apparent decision and not necessarily my logic.
We thanked the sellers, and declined to make an offer.
I’m doing everything I can, but there’s too much time to make up. I’m nearing the Parkway, and all of the road signs refer to place names in Bruce Springsteen songs. I put on Born to Run at a nearly uncomfortable volume. I could have my New Jersey credentials revoked for this, but I don’t even like The Boss. It just seems right in the moment. Or maybe I don’t even know what I think anymore. Pondering why the hell there’s a glockenspiel in this song keeps me from thinking about the fact that I should have been there by now.
A couple weeks passed. I talked to more people, and in the process of trying to articulate what happened, I began to wonder if my take on the 27 was flawed and superficial. To fill the void, I also stepped up my boat shopping—mostly 30 footers, Sabre, Pearson, Lippincott—probably better built boats, better performing boats, boats we could theoretically sail into retirement, if there is such a thing by the time we’re old. The one thing that all had in common was that they’re also all boats that we wouldn’t be able to afford without several more years of saving. Which would be several more years of getting beat up in a boat that’s too light for our home waters. Several more years without gaining any experience in diesel engines or plumbing or other big boat systems. Several more years of strictly limited cruising.
On April 27, I got an email from the seller. He thought that he had the boat sold (at substantially less than the asking price), but the buyer flaked out at the last minute. He was now offering that price to the other people who had looked at it.
Before I responded to the seller, I called Val to see if he would be willing to take a look at it with me. In some strange cosmic alignment, Val was already up in the Atlantic Highlands, basically around the corner from the boat. I quickly ran this plan by Jen, and we agreed that this was much more like the whirlwind of chaos that typically surrounds our major purchases.
For some reason, I told Val I could be there in an hour. According to Google Maps, I’d have to average 88mph to pull that off—the same speed required for time travel in your DeLorean. It was a little like time travel, in that we were getting a second, improved, shot at this boat. I didn’t quite average 88, but I did drive like an idiot all the way there. Val gave his blessing on what he could see, and assured me that some spit and polish would have her looking good again.
We bought it!