The perfect boat
21 September 2011
Have you ever been to the Southampton boat show? This was our first boat show and we picked the biggy. We hit the queue of cars at 1pm and crawled our way to a car park by 1415. We were given a choice of car parks on illuminated road signs and eventually chose one, only to find that it was a multi storey with a height restriction that was too restricted for our van. Then we got lost in a shopping experience. Welcome to Southampton retail park, the sign read, parking for customers only. We retrace our tracks to the main road and head back to the Leisure complex, which we almost chose half an hour earlier, about half a mile back down the road. It's eight quid for all day, even though its now 2pm, but at least we've got a berth. Then the heavens open just as we're about to head for the show.
By now it was 2.30 and we wondered whether it was even worth going in at such a late hour but as it didn't close till 6.30 we decided that four hours would be enough time. It was and it wasn't, but we paid the girl and entered the site. By this time we were starving and in need of sustenance, bugger the boats I needed a burger.
We weaved our way between hundreds of nautical paraphernalia stalls, over bridges and eventually found what we were looking for, food. The gourmet burger stall had tables and chairs so we sat down to eat, but within seconds of our arrival the heavens opened again and we sat under the brolly munching our food as the downpour rained down harder and harder until we eventually had to admit defeat and took shelter under the awning.
The shower passed and we headed off for the pontoons to take in the cornucopia of exhibits. We stepped aboard a number of boats that were well beyond our price range, pretending to be millionaires who just might buy this boat or that, and dodged the torrential showers that marched on through the afternoon.
In the end we bought a couple of life jackets and at 6.30pm headed for a town nearby called Hamble to find a B+B for the night. Unfortunately there were no B+Bs in Hamble but we did find a camp site. Hamble sounded like a good idea as Jackie reckoned she had seen boats for sale in a place called Hamble, and how right she was, as the next day we discovered this creek was filled with wall to wall boats.
We pitched our minuscule tent in the dark, drank wine, played back gammon and went to sleep. It was cold and miserable, the tent was inadequate, wet with condensation, and we spent a fitfull night being uncomfortable.
The next day, tired and unrested we found Hamble marina and an expensive waterfront cafe for breakfast. After breakfast we checked out some of the brokerages windows and picked a couple of boats to go and have a look at. We chose a couple of the cheapest we could find, a Contessa 32 and an Island Packet 350. The Contessa was a nice boat but too small and at 45,000 out of our price range but we're only looking and every look brings you closer to knowing what you want.
And then we ran into our dream boat. She is an Island Packet 350 and we want this boat. It took about ten seconds aboard to know it. She's way beyond our budget, at £80,000 but she hit all our buttons. Maybe in America, where they are built we could find one in our price range, but if we had anywhere close to this money we would have sailed her away there and then.
So even though we didn't find it at the boat show the trip has been very fruitful, and although by the time we get back to Ulverston were knackered to say the least, we have perhaps homed in on our perfect boat. A quick surf of the net produces at least one that's the same price in dollars, and the same year, but in the USA.
We'll keep looking of course, but our search is narrowing down, and by the time we come to buy, and have the money, in 2012 the Island Packet just may still be top of our list.