Things seem to always have a way of happening differently than expected. I arrived in Beaufort, SC, fresh with three hours of airplane sleep (on a twelve hour trip, door to door) and an hour and half drive. The broker took me to the boat, a 27′ Albin Vega named “Isis”. Walking up to her, I was not immediately excited. Down below, I was even less excited. Her cabins were in disarray. Nothing was stowed properly, just stored in big plastic bags. There was mildew on the bulkheads and aluminum foil was used for part of the heat shield by the heater. I couldn’t figure out where we could possibly stow all of our stuff. It was small. On a brighter note, the sails were crisp, the engine started right up and sounded great, the anchors were in good order, the running gear was fine, and the electronics were more than sufficient. I tried to think rationally, keeping in mind our limited budget and the reality that less money in a boat means more money for cruising. I could clean and organize the boat. The major systems were in place and functioning. The only problems, aside from lack of space, were cosmetic. So, I gave the guy an offer, and then felt like I needed to vomit.
“You just got a boat. You should be happy.” the guy said. “Congratulations!” said the people in the boatyard. I did not feel happy. I did not feel congratulatory. In fact, the only solace I found was knowing that I could recoup my deposit anytime during the two week acceptance period. I did need to consider, however, that the surveyor would be there at 9am the next morning. I was not interested in paying for a survey on a boat that I did not want. It was 1pm. I needed to make a decision within the next four hours. I felt rushed. So, I went for a run through the Spanish moss lined streets of downtown Beaufort. Running somehow makes everything better and clear.
Joey had mentioned a 32′ Bristol in Charleston that was in our price range. Off to Charleston I drove. I walked into Peter Dodd’s office at 4pm. He reminded me that I should be happy about buying a boat. If I was not happy, then I shouldn’t be buying it. And of course, he had the Bristol for me to see. The owner was desperate to sell, he informed me. It was a deal waiting to happen. The boat was a bit of a drive away and I would have to wait until the next morning to see it. After a few phone calls, my next morning was rearranged. Tommy Eve, who I am convinced is the best surveyor EVER, was super flexible. He said that he would be on call to survey whichever boat I chose. He also reminded me to like a boat before choosing to purchase it. At that point, I sort of knew that regardless of my opinion of the Bristol, I didn’t really want the Albin Vega.
Wednesday morning I followed Peter Dodd to a marina by the old naval base on the Cooper River. Bristols are known for being pretty and this old one still had her charm. I had to check in with myself and question my priorities- function or fashion. Why couldn’t I have function and fashion? Honestly, I want to like looking at my surroundings. The owner had gotten it ready for cruising, I was told. Upon inspection, it appeared he had gotten it comfortable and nice for living. However, he had not prepared it for functioning as a sailboat. It needed sails and new running rigging. Where the Albin Vega needed mostly cosmetics, the Bristol needed most of its major systems reworked. What the Bristol did have though, that the Albin Vega could never have, was space. Five feet are a huge difference on a boat and I could see my family actually being comfortable on the Bristol. And the owner really needed to sell. Was this the deal we were looking for? I still felt a bit rushed. In a perfect scenario, I would live closer and not need to schedule a survey on the same day. Oh well, this was not my scenario. I had this one day, so the survey was on.
Mr. Eve met us down the Cooper River at the boatyard. He was immediately encouraging and kind. He took his time and talked me through everything. His main concern was ensuring that the boat would be safe for the kids. Having raised two girls himself, he knew what to consider and what advice to give. I felt as though we struck gold with Mr. Eve. And I could listen to his soothing Savannah accent all day. After the haul out inspection, we sailed back to the marina. The Bristol sailed nicely in the lovely 10 knot breeze. Porpoises came up for air all around us and pelicans flew overhead. Back at the dock, Mr. Eve and I worked for the rest of daylight discovering all the best and worst of this boat. Structurally she is sound, many systems need to be reworked, but she has the foundation of what we need.
I am back in Bellingham in the midst of negotiations. The owner has come down a lot on the price, but not quite as far as we need him to. We are waiting to get the written survey in hand before making any final decisions. I am reminding myself that the right thing will work out. It always does.