Not All Who Wander Are Lost
13 March 2012
Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan led me to have an early infatuation with boating. As a young boy, I remember going down to the nearby marina to walk the docks and admire the many boats. Back then there was an active commercial fishing fleet and some very classic old sailboats. My father bought a 15' Venture Catamaran when I was 13 and my friends and I would sail or paddle it around the shores of Lake Michigan every day during the summer. When I was in my 30's I bought an 18' Sol-Cat, then a 20' high performance Hobie Cat Miracle. After a while though the desire to have more people on board, not get wet, and go further in less time led to me switching from sail to power boating. We have spent many great days running all around and even across Lake Michigan enjoying the beautiful shoreline.
However, I always loved to sail. There is something about the feel of the wind blowing past you and pushing you through the water that is intoxicating. I'd like to say it's relaxing but so far I haven't become a passive sailor. Tending to the boat, actively sailing it is the fun part for me. There is always something to do. Adjust the sail, your course, tidy up a line, or quasi-race the nearest boat is the enjoyment for me. So, for as long as I can remember, I have dreamt about getting a voyaging sailboat and venturing out to explore the world.
Cruising World is a magazine about sailors exploring the world and how to do it. In the back are brokerage listings for all kinds of sailboats. For many years (20) I would get that magazine and read it cover to cover. After reading it, I'd check out the listings in the back. Over a period of time, I started to get fixated on one model listed for sale. After so many months of thinking and dreaming, I had to have it. I was sold without ever seeing or sailing this boat.
I also like to snow ski. My good friend Brian and I would go on a guy ski trip to Park City every winter for 5 days and talk about - what else - sailing. Brian is a huge boater with vast experience purchasing, restoring, using, and then selling all kinds of watercraft. I had brought along my magazine with the listing to show him the object of my desire. I unfolded my whole story to him about what I wanted to do, why this was the boat for me, and why it made sense. Unfortunately, on a long chairlift ride, Brian explained to me why the dream didn't float, so to speak. It was a combination of use, expense, and depreciation verses just chartering the boat whenever I wanted and it the end, it could never make sense. By the time we unloaded, the dream of buying was gone and the only thing that would cure my depression was a hot toddy at Stein Erickson's. That was 12 years ago.
Jeanne and I took an ASA 101 Basic Sailing course in Traverse City a few years later. We then started to charter boats for vacations. We went to Tampa, the BVI's 3 times, and then to St. Maarten. We progressed to larger boats each time with the last one being a Fountaine Pajot Bahia 46' catamaran. Anyone could probably guess that during this time, my dream started to get re-kindled right? I was stuck on that Bahia model and started working the listings on the internet. In 2009 a guy from a sailing forum I read contacted me about helping him deliver his Bahia from Cape May, New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This would be an 1100 mile near shore sail leaving in November and expected to take between 6 to 8 days. Two things happened during this trip. The first is the bug really bit me again, and second, I realized the Bahia would be too small for what I wanted to do.
Once I got back home the computer really started to buzz. I was checking out boats all over the world and reading everything I could about them. The internet and a listing site Yachtworld.com helped me with the search because you can set up the parameters you're looking for and it e-mails you anytime a new boat comes on the market. My annual ski trip by the way had since changed to a Caribbean golf trip which was scheduled for the first week of February 2010, in the Puerto Rico. About a month before the trip, I found my boat again. That's right; it was the same model from 10 years previous. Only 40 had been built and this one was an ex-crewed charter catamaran for in the BVI's. Since I was going to be in the neighborhood, I scheduled an appointment with the broker and a sea trial with the crew. My intension was to go there, check out the boat, get a sail in, give him an extreme low ball offer that would be declined, and then go home.
It didn't go that way.
I arrived in Tortola late in the night with the sea trial scheduled for 9:00am the next day. At breakfast I used my lap top to download my e-mails since I hadn't had a connection for several days. As I sifted through the messages there was one from Yachtworld. Do you believe in Karma? Because as luck would have it, just that morning another one of my boats had been listed for sale and it was mind blowing. This was a private owner boat, never chartered, tricked out to the Nth degree, discounted to a very low price, and sitting 90 miles away from me in St. Maarten. As I paged through the pictures my hands started shaking. I'm not just writing this for the prose, I mean I was freaking out at the breakfast table. Here in front of me was my boat, in perfect condition, at an unbelievably low price.
Now I really had a problem.
On the taxi ride to the Tortola marina to meet with the broker and do a sea trial on a boat that had absolutely no chance of being sold to me; I made calls trying to get more information on the boat in St. Maarten. To give credit, the boat that I went out on that day was in very good shape. The captain and hostess/cook kept it in great shape and really knew how to sail it. I only spent about 5 minutes with this broker, informing him about the new listing and that if he wanted to sell his boat, he would need a monster, and I mean monster reduction in the price.
I'll quicken up the story. I ran to the airport and couldn't get a flight to St. Maarten that day. The next morning I flew to Antigua then back to St. Maarten, was met at the airport by Ziad, the broker, and taken directly to the marina where Alexia, the boat, was berthed. I spent two hours opening every cupboard, cabinet, hatch, floor board, and equipment compartment taking pictures and going "holy s*&t", check this out! Ziad in the meantime had picked me up a 6 pack of Carib's, as a good broker should. We stood in the salon drinking one and I opened up one last cabinet and found a built in ice maker. I looked at Ziad and said "I'll take it". He looked at me and said "I had you at Hello". (pretty true)
Palarran is a 2001 Fountaine Pajot Marquises 56' Catamaran. It was very lightly used by her previous owner, who was in the ocean dry bulk shipping business. Because of his history and industry, literally no expense was spared in fitting out Palarran. I still can't believe my luck in finding this boat after falling in love with the model 12 years previous. Having owned Palarran for two years now I can say it was the right decision, the right boat, and close to the right time for me to get her. We are both now ready to Wander Far.