Friday, April 30, 2010

Well, wadda ya know...

The Ste Marie is still available.  Seems the guy with the 100K checkbook has "issues" and so does the other person who wanted to offer. 

She's a lovely boat and we'd love to have her.

Maybe someone will fall in love with Casa Christianson this Sunday and we can get moving.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The first real dissapointment

How can a great day of looking at boats turn out disappointing, especially after being able to walk around on this beautiful Hunter 40.5 on a great sunny day, and talk to the owner about the boat he loves?

We found it.  We have been looking at this boat for months.  It's simply stunning inside and out.  Pat, the owner, is a former USAF pilot who overbuilt everything on this boat.  While most Hunters aren't considered so, this one is truly offshore capable, with examples of this boat scattered all over the world -- they sailed there.

The S/V Ste Marie was it.  Inside and out, it's the boat we want.  

Therein lies the rub.  This may sound a little bitter but, bear with me.  As we arrived Pat was showing it to another couple.  They seemed a little confused about all the systems, asking questions that clearly belied the fact that they knew *nothing* about boats.  Now, don't get me wrong here.  We all know nothing about something when we start.  It was clear though that, they had never moved about a boat before and, as I confirmed with the broker, never sailed a boat before.

So Kerry and I gave them space and waited out turn to talk to Pat.  He was a great guy.  He had improved the Ste Marie in ways that I would have, basically doing my work for me.  We had a frank conversation with him about how much we liked and and how we are in a holding pattern until our house sells.  He even said he'd drop the price 4K when we were ready.  Just let him know.

As we were walking away, after wishing him well, we heard that the first couple had made an offer, a cash offer, and were taking the boat.  They were writing a check.

We saw a very happy Pat on our way back out.  Congratulating him, we went on our way.

Later, on the drive home, Kerry said, "want to bet they don't even haul her and get a survey?"

"True," I replied.  "It's likely they are treating this purchase like their BMW and, when they get bored with it, or scared by it, it will be on the market again, worse for the wear."

There were a lot of feelings around this event that I've yet to process.  We found the perfect boat and, someone with over 100K to burn, cash, just bought it.  Until now we hadn't really wanted a particular boat, found a boat we actually thought we could or should get.  It was perfect.

Kerry and I reminded ourselves that boats grow on trees as we headed home.  We confirmed that by finding about 20 Hunter 40.5 boats from Vancouver B.C to Mazatlan Mexico.  

Still holding...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Learning to sail

When I was nine or ten years old, my father taught me how to sail.  It was a hot summer day.  The water was warm.

The first thing we did was get the smallest little sailing dingy (I forget what it is today) and learn to rig it. 

We sat there on the grass, at the Navy yacht club in Florida, putting it together and taking it apart a few times until I could do it myself.  There would be a pile of parts at one point and, after mounting mast, hanking on the sail, running the sheets; sailboat in about 30 minutes,

After that we took it down to the dock and put it in the water. It sat there floating beside the dock.  Just as I was asking what we were going to do next, my dad picked me up and threw me in the water next to the boat.  I came to the surface to find him laughing -- at me. 

"Climb in," he said.

I did. It took a few tries as he held the bowline so the little dingy didn't float away, but I made it into the boat.  It was kinda fun, actually.

Then he jumped in the water with me (it was only about four feet deep there) and knocked the boat down so the mast was in the water. 

"This is how you right it," he said as he showed me how.

Then he knocked the boat down again and said, "you do it."

And I did -- a few times.

"Now you aren't scared of dumping your sailboat.  Why don't you bail it out and I will teach you to sail," he said, tossing a cut open bleach bottle at me.

With the boat bailed out, dad climbed in and we took off for a bit. Dad showed me where to sit (windward).  He showed me how handle the main sheet while he handled the tiller.  He had me handle the tiller while he handled the main sheet.  He showed me how to point up or release the mainsheet to depower the boat and keep it on it's feet.  Then he handed me both controls and had me sail towards the dock.  We practiced pulling up to the dock without crashing into it.  Once we were there, Dad hopped out and said, "take off that way, I'll be right behind you."

He climbed in another larger dingy and followed me out.  We had a good time putting around in the bay, him giving me pointers, and me learning the boat.

So, that day I learned to rig a boat, how to climb back in one, how to right one, how to sail and how to dock. Yes, in one day. May dad was a great teacher.

Years later, as I sailed other smaller boats I can honestly say I never capsized one but I wasn't afraid if I did.  Oh, I came close sometimes but, the confidence he gave me that day, the way he impressed upon me how to not let a boat get out from under me, really made a difference in my sailing and taught me not to be afraid of the boat.

The second anniversary of his passing comes this next Tuesday.  Thanks dad.


Being good with holding makes sense right now.  All our friends are asking us when we are getting out boat.  The standard answer is, "when we sell our home."

Now, it isn't that we cannot afford the boat and slip right now.  We can.  We could buy any of the three boats on our list and be fine until the house sells. Sure, until the house sells, and as long as we have our jobs, etc.  We could also buy four times the boat we have been looking at for twice the price after our house sells too.  The thing is, if we go through all this and still owe the same debt, and have the same payment load, what have we gained but a simply a different living space?

One of the things I learned a while ago is to not confuse the ability to do a thing with whether or not one should. 

The Freedom Project is *not* about getting a boat.  The boat is one part of the overall manifestation of changing our lives from one focused on owning a home, on using, purchasing, consumerism to something else.  Sure, this *will* involve purchasing a boat but, that is but one small part of the process.

Done right, done with some sense, we will own less, owe less, enjoy what we own more, and have more freedom, both physical and financial.

So we are holding, waiting on a house sale so we can move forward with the shedding of possessions we don't really need or use, finding an enjoyable and suitable boat to live on, and to start a different phase of adventures in our life.

And that may include one of the following; a Nauticat 33 Pilot house sloop, the Freedom 39 Cat Sloop, maybe a Hunter 40.5 that we are going to see this weekend.   So, it's not about getting a boat but that part is sure, so far, enjoyable.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why owning "stuff" isn't fulfillment

The text in case the link dissapears:

Why material purchases are unsatisfying and what to do about it.
Buying stuff can be disappointing. After swallowing the hype, checking out the options and trolling for bargains, finally you've got it; your brand new whatever-it-is.
Before long, though, the excitement fades. Your whatever-it-is isn't so great any more. They've brought out a newer model with more features and anyway you've seen it cheaper elsewhere. It's happened to all of us.
Psychological research tells us that this disappointment is particularly pronounced when people buy things like mp3 players or watches, compared with experiences like vacations or concert tickets (see: experiences beat possessions).
In a new series of studies, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Carter and Gilovich (2010) explore six reasons that material purchases are less satisfying than experiential purchases, and what we can do about it.

1. Objects are easy to compare unfavourably

In their first study participants recalled past experiential and material purchases costing at least $50 and were asked to rate their satisfaction with them. People were consistently more satisfied with their experiential purchases compared with their material purchases.
The reason is that experiential purchases are difficult to compare. The band you went to see on that wet Tuesday after work on the spur of the moment is likely to be literally incomparable. On the other hand mp3 players are much easier to compare: one has more memory while another looks prettier.
When it's easy to compare two things, like salaries, dissatisfaction isn't far away because there's always someone who earns more than you or, in this case, has a better mp3 player than you. And if they don't have it now, they will in six months because that's the nature of consumer culture.

2. A 'maximising' strategy leaves us less satisfied

There's a crucial difference in the way we make decisions about material and experiential purchases, as revealed by the second study.
When people choose material purchases they tend to use a strategy psychologists call 'maximising'. This means comparing all possible options. But because we live in a world of endless choices, maximising takes a long time and is hard work; so people often end up irritated and unsatisfied even when they chose the best possible option.
However, when people choose experiential purchases they tend to use a strategy psychologists call 'satisficing'. This means setting a minimum standard for a purchase then choosing the first option that fits the bill. Studies show that this leads to greater satisfaction with purchases and people are relatively untroubled by the existence of slightly better options.
Although maximising seems the better strategy, paradoxically it leaves people less satisfied than settling (sorry 'satisficing', ugh).

3. Material purchases more likely to be re-evaluated

Imagine you buy a new electronic gadget costing $1,000. After you've bought it, do you ever go back to look at the other options, just in case? Would that change if it was a vacation you'd bought instead at the same price?
When researchers simulated the situation they found that, having bought a gadget participants were more likely to continue investigating the alternatives than if they'd bought a vacation, despite not being explicitly asked to do so.
We automatically re-evaluate material purchases after we've made them. In comparison decisions about experiential purchases, once made, are not revisited and so we have less opportunity for disappointment.

4. The new option effect

It's always the way: right after you buy it they bring out a new, improved model, or introduce better options.
When Carter and Gilovich simulated this situation in the lab, participants reported that the new option effect was more disturbing when buying a watch, a pair of jeans or a laptop than when buying a holiday, movie ticket or fancy dining experience.
Once again experiential beat material purchases.

5. The reduced price effect and 6. A cheaper rival

Like the introduction of new options, retailers also have a habit of dropping the price right after you buy something. Worse, the next day you spot it cheaper somewhere else.
Carter and Gilovich found that people were more troubled about the reduced price of laptops and watches than they were about cheaper holidays or meals out.
Similarly participants reported being jealous of rivals who'd paid less for material purchases at another retailer, but weren't so jealous when it came to experiential purchases.

Think experiential

This all begs the question of how we can be more satisfied with material purchases, other than simply trying to avoid all the above.
Carter and Gilovich wondered if it comes down to how we view our purchases. Take music for example. Buying music can be viewed as both an experiential and a material purchase; it's an object (even if digital), and it's the experience of listening to the music: where you are, how it makes you feel and what you're doing at the time.
Perhaps thinking experientially can help us avoid disappointment?
In their last experiment the researchers encouraged half their participants to think of music as a material purchase and the other half as an experiential purchase. They were then told the price had been reduced. Sure enough participants who were thinking in experiential terms were less bothered by missing out on a bargain and therefore likely to be more satisfied with their purchase.
This experiment suggests that thinking of material purchases in experiential terms helps banish dissatisfaction. Try thinking of jeans in terms of where you wore them or how they feel, the mp3 player in terms of how the music changes your mood or outlook, even your laptop in terms of all the happy hours spent reading your favourite blog.
By thinking experientially we can make more of what we already have and ward off the invidious comparisons that can make the treadmill of consumer culture so unsatisfying.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, and to do list.

While we are in this holding pattern...

All the camping stuff in one box.

All the party stuff in one case.

Looking at my clothes again and seeing that I need to shed.

Move some stuff to storage.

Sell a table, move a table.

Show a bike, maybe sell the bike, make room in the garage.

Get pre-approval on boat financing closed.

Review financial changes both current and planned as we have shed a car and gained a cheaper car.

Thank about and look at more boats for fun.

Go sailing on Sunday at the Center for Wooden Boats.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

and the Freedom Project isn't just about a boat

It's about the overall idea of downsizing, both in the amount of stuff we own and how much we owe.

So, to that end, we went from this:

to this...

Smarty (yes, that is what Kerry named her) has a screaming 70hp, ABS, traction control and, get this...paddle shifters.  I kid you not.  It has paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

At least they are both German.

So, why the change?

Well, the BMW Z4 is a stupendous car -- really.  Driving it around the potholed roads of Seattle - not so much.  When we get the boat, it will move from a secure, private garage to a parking spot near the marina.  I just can't do that to this car.

Also, we are saving *hundreds* of dollars a month doing this (combination of car payment, insurance and such), which means that money can go towards paying down other debt or going into savings. 

After driving it a couple days in Seattle traffic, I have decided that

1) this thing is a breeze to park,

2) is actually easier to drive on crowded Seattle roads than the Z4 thoroughbred and,

2) I am going to install two (2) of these:

Yes, 139dB each.  The next ^%$#%^#@ that changes lanes into Smarty will be seeing his audiologist for permanent hearing loss and a hearing aid.

Saturday was a day

We had another open house.  Apparently, there were quite a few people going trough the place and, today, we had another showing.  It really comes down to people seeing the place until the right one sees it.

In other news, we downgraded on the car Friday night.  I traded in my 2005 BMW Z4 (yyeeeeeeehaaaaaaa!  Zooooom!!) for a brand new Smart Car (beep!).  This saves us about half the car payment and I'm sure, on insurance.   Now, onto boats.

The SkipJack: Saturday started out with an exploratory look at a 35 foot Skipjack in Tacoma. It was priced at an amazing 29K and was solid as hell.  It was an interesting boat, and worth seeing but, in the end it wasn't for us because the layout just couldn't work for us.  We ended up not figuring out where we could sleep together.

37' Gulfstar in Poulsbo:  This was a typical shoal draft sloop and medium priced at 48K.  We took a serious look at this boat.  It was clean, in good shape and priced well.  Though we did find out it has osmotic hull blistering going on so, right off the bat we would be talking a few thousand dollars to haul her, clean that up, seal the hull and get her back in the water.

After that we decided to head over to Marine Service Center on Westlake.  We walked in the door on 4:40 on a Saturday (they close at 5:00) and ran into Gary.  He was great.  He got information together on the Tartan 37 and the Maple Leaf 48 we were interested in and...we started walking the dock and...

Nauticat 33: As we were walking out to look at a Tartan 37, we stumbled across this; a Nauticat 33.  We both stopped and said, "gee that's a nice boat but the Nauticats have been out of our price range."

"Really?  It's only 99K," Gary replied.  Well, we looked at each other in amazement while Gary got the keys.  Climbing aboard we were amazed at the pilot-house design.  All the gauges were right in the house, along with all the electrical systems and the controls. You can literally sail this boat from inside.  Granted, it's a motorsailer more towards the motor end of the spectrum than I usually look at but, it had plenty of sail and Gary said it actually sailed pretty well.  So we looked around there for a while and tried to decide if a 33' boat could work for us and, you know, it just might.

Tartan 37:   Decent, like the Gulfstar in accommodations,   systems and performance.  All in all a decent boat for 58K.  That's about all I can say about it.

Can you say Yacht? But then there was the Cooper Maple Leaf. This is a yacht in many senses of the word.  It was huge, inside and out.  Kerry was awed at the space and accommodations inside this thing.  A huge sloop like this will have little problem sailing in the lighter airs of the Puget Sound. As our home, it can also handle larger parties and visitors, so it's clearly on our radar.  

An asking price of 129K is within our range too.

So we had a good day, looking at some interesting boats.  We got a good sense of space and usefulness of these to suit our purposes.   There is nothing like seeing  a lot of boats to get an idea of what will work for us and what will not.

Now, to spend Sunday resting.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Another open house this weekend and my broker is surprised at the lack of people who have seen it...I am mixed on his suggestion that we lower the price just yet.

Holding....holding...and dreaming of boats.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The process

My key here is to get a good deal for me and not be an dick to the seller and make their life shitty -- I expect the same in my direction. This doesn't mean I give away the farm to get their boat but it also means I don't lowball them or insult their boat. Respect goes a long way in my book, so I give it a go in every deal I make.

1) I go look at a series of boats and get a general idea of the condition and suitability for our needs.

2) Once I am ready, I pay a second visit to a boat and do a more through buyer's non-invasive inspection (using the boat inspecting tips I have seen posted here), letting the broker/seller know that I intend to make an offer and this is a basis to inform that offer.

3) Based on #2, I either reject the boat or make an offer and give them a deposit to be placed into escrow.

That offer is contingent on the successful completion, to my satisfaction, of my inspection, sea trial or survey (I prefer that order but they can be swapped or mixed, depending on the situation), and financing.

My deposit is fully refundable if the above conditions are not met. This is not negotiable on my part, just as not letting me haul a boat or sea trial is not negotiable on most seller's part.

If the owner does not want to accept this offer, which should be reasonable and fair from what I have learned from you all here, then I will go look at the 2nd boat on my list. Lather, rinse, repeat if necessary. I don't expect this to be a problem though.

#2 and #3 can be switched as necessary....

4) Sea trial -- check every major system, check all sails, rigging and general performance of the boat. I'm not talking about expecting a Baba 40 to sail to windward like a race boat but, to answer the question: "based on my knowledge and research on the boat in question, does it perform as expected for that boat?"

5) Survey -- am I satisfied that the results of the survey are either good to go, or do I need to note some items to bring back to the table (problems found).

Like I said, #4 and #5 could be swapped, depending on how the survey is done.

If anything is found in the sea trial or survey, I'm not satisfied, so I can go back and respectfully see if we can work out the differences. Hell, the *seller* might not know about an issue.

6) Financing -- now I am getting pre-approved but, finance companies can be finicky.

So, if all this goes well, and we can work out a good deal for the both of us, then we each get what we want. The seller sells and gets a check. I buy and get my boat.

At least that is my understanding now and the process I will try to follow.

So, how are we doing this?

Anyway, we added up all the costs (the load) if you will, of living in our home. These included the mortgage, homeowners insurance, HOA dues, utilities (gas, electric, cable). That number came to be known as DryHome costs.

Then we added up all the costs (the load) of living in a marina on a boat This number is called WaterHome costs.

Those costs were comprised of estimates of:

1) boat payment

this was based on the asking prices we are seeing for boats in our size range -- 38-45 feet long and the financing estimates for the balance after down payment.

We can drive this down by putting more down on a boat or finding a less expensive boat.

2) moorage (liveaboard costs more here) in a marina

3) insurance for the boat loan

4) liability insurance if we live in a port of seattle marina

5) utilities

6) boat maintenance ($6000 per year which equals $500 a month) going into a savings plan. I've been told this is a pretty good number by quite a few experienced boaters and brokers.

DryHome Dollars - WaterHome Dollars = about 1.5 K savings.

I've built up a spreadsheet with all the costs, so we can verify out estimates as we go along including up front costs like, down payment, surveying fee, hauling costs for survey, and licensing of boat, etc. All those are known and reasonable.

We have also built a down payment by selling off stuff that we don't want (cars, scooters, bicycles, etc) or can't have on the boat or don't want to store.

So it makes sense for us to do it, financially.

And that's how we are doing it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

And do you know what she said to me?

That she is in for this adventure because she trusts me, that I'm not going to do something foolhardy or stupid.

Damn but this is nice.

And now, the Freedom 39

Some of the best parts of this is seeing interesting boats of all types and sometimes, if we aren't dealing with brokers, the actual owners.

In the case of the Freedom 39 we saw on Easter Sunday, it was a double whammy.

The boat is very interesting.  It is an unstayed rig in a cat/schooner (the mizzen, or rear mast, is taller than the foremast) configuration.  To top it off, the masts are unstayed.  That means that, unlike most conventional sailboats, there are no stays, or guy wires supporting the masts.  In this case each mast is a huge, hollow, carbon fiber and fiberglass pole, supported by the reinforced deck and set against the bottom of the hull.  This is an extremely cable and simple boat.

The really nice thing about this rig is how easy it is to single hand. Everything is led back to the cockpit; everything.  There are only two winches necessary to run the entire boat and they both reside under a very nice dodger and bimini.  If you are going to windward (sailing upwind) you set the sails and basically don't have to touch them again.  You just tack with the wheel and the sails self-tend all day.

All in all it was a wonderful visit with the owners.  The man who owns her is very knowlegable and helpful.  He seemed quite honest about his boat and was more than willing to spend as much time as we wanted talking about the boat, sharing his stories, and just sitting about.

As we left, we were struck with the thought of not getting this one if we want it but, Kerry said, "Maybe we haven't gotten an offer because we haven't found the right boat for us yet."

I found it funny, the coincidence between the brand of the boat and the name of our little adventure.

Who knows?  Maybe it will be our boat.  I think we can honestly do a lot, lot worse than this one.

Here is what we have looked at so far (that are acceptable) in our search for a liveaboard cruiser:

Ta Shing Baba 40
Price: 90K
Pros: price, seaworthyness, interior, honest private seller, good sail inventory, blue water capable and proven, price
Cons: teak decks need recalking, a little dirty outside

Hardin 45 Ketch (3)
Price: 110-140K
Pros: Roomy (did I say roomy), great decks, good rigging, nice lines, good engines all, awesome engine access, blue water capable with window covers.
Cons: boutique boat, one had teak decks, proud owner$, full keel

Hunter 380
Price: 111K
Pros:  clean, bright, well equipped, modern, great coastal cruiser
Cons: owner i$ very proud of boat, not necessarily good for leaving the coast, not as roomy as the others.

Morgan 43
Price 114K
Pros: fairly modern, in good shape, clean, well laid out, fairly handsome
Cons: ignorant broker, obvious stern damage from being backed into a dock that broker said, "oh really, where?", once had 6" of water over the sole of the aft cabin (why?), huge mast dead center in salon, some slightly worn and broken pieces.

Freedom 39' Schooner/Cat
Price: 115K
Pros: excellent condition, great single handing rig, almost as much room as the hardin, good decks, good engine, well equipped, blue water capable, free standing masts, awesome private sale owners
Cons: free standing masts (some see it that way), heavily crazed windows (but owner will fix if price is fair), and that's it...except for the fact that the company is out of business.  So, where do I get a replacement mast again?

Franck/Seaborn Raised Salon (52')
Price: 119K
Pros: unique, beautiful, masterpiece, floating museum piece, one family owner, immaculately maintained, fast sailing boat, blue water capable with salon window reinforcements, price
Cons: wood construction, length, single handing ability in question, odd berting layouts, 8' draft.

Hunter Legend 40.5 (not seen this one yet)
Price: 119K
Pros: one owner private sale liveaboard boat, well equipped, known history, clean, modern, good coastal cruiser
Cons: not many aside from being a Hunter in some eyes