It's been a very whirlwind existence for the crew of the good ship Pelagic over the past 72 hours.
I flew into Auckland on Thursday, just three days and (it seems) a full lifetime ago.
I came on a very special mission, shoehorned between the demands of my family life and work life back in Hobart and my upcoming trip to the States.
That mission: to see if a particular boat might be the one.
The answer, disappointingly, is a resounding "maybe". And on the way to that fun-as-kissing-your-sister answer (sorry, Jenny), Alisa and I had a few intense conversations via a very poor skype connection, and I gained all sorts of insights into our approach for this whole boat search.
Insights into the self are really best left to the 20-somethings. Given my druthers, post-40, I'd rather skip any further experiences in self awareness.
The main insight had to do with our standards for the next yacht. In our sailing experience we have met people who put all sorts of different amounts of effort into preparing their boats for the grand voyage. At one extreme, we met a South Australian who spent 12 years working full-time to build the boat that he finally circumnavigated on. At the other extreme, we met a Kiwi family who bought a boat in the U.S. that really was "ready to go", and left on their trip across the Pacific two weeks after the purchase. Alisa and I have been generally hoping to replicate the experience of that Kiwi family.
But after seeing this boat, I'm thinking that our expectations might be unrealistic. I realized that I came over to see the boat with fairly utopian expectations, and what I found was a typically non-utopian 15-year-old cruising boat. It really is in pretty good nick, but it's the same sort of ongoing project that any cruising boat is. And when I first saw the boat I decided that for the kind of price that we've negotiated, we really need something better than an ongoing project.
But by the end of the second day of looking the boat over, I was starting to come to grips with the ongoing-projectness of it. After all, I said to myself, it's a damn boat. What do you want?
And today the seller and I went out for a test sail, and really I was very impressed. We had a fantastic day for a test sail: spitting rain and average windspeed of 25 knots for a good part of the day. (That's him above.) We reefed her down and pointed her into the wind, and I was impressed. This dériveur, an internally-balasted centerboarder with absolutely no keel at all, tacked into that wind just fine. Maybe we had some tidal current helping us out, but I couldn't see much leeway at all, and the boat felt solid solid. Jeez, I thought to myself, this really could work for us.
But then I remembered the kicker – on the first day I had discovered that the boat has no insulation at all.
Our whole idea for spending the big dollars on an aluminum boat like this is to be able to travel high latitudes at will: to winter in Patagonia, and sail the Northwest Passage, and then after we get back to Alaska, to live aboard through a winter in Kodiak harbor, where the winds gust to 90 knots and the temperatures can fall to -20° F. I know that people have done all of these things in uninsulated boats, but Alisa and I are nothing if not savvy about living at high latitudes, and both of us recoil at the idea of anything but a factory-insulated boat for situations like these.
So, for now it's back to the drawing board. I've realized how important it is to see a boat in the flesh in order to judge her, and we'll have to figure out a new plan given how far Tassie is from places where we might look at a number of possible boats, and how long the whole search might reasonably take. We've been very impatient to stop moving the family from house-sit to house-sit, very keen to be on a boat, and eager to find a boat that is in good enough shape that we can have it in the South Pacific tropics by the next cyclone-free season, even with me working full time in the intervening months. But now we're thinking that we might just have to take a deep breath, rent a house for six months so that we can shop for a boat without the pressure of needing a stable home, and then see what happens.
Meanwhile, if any yachties with high-latitude experience might want to weigh in on the issue of insulation, we'd love to hear your views.