It's amazing the lengths people will go to when it comes to finding that perfect boat. You know--"The One." It's a lot like trying to find your soulmate (if you believe in those). Or at least a soulmate-for-a-little-while. Making a poor choice can mess your life up and cost you a ton of money and it can even turn you against boating or endanger you. Maybe this is why people will do a lot more research when it comes to boat-buying than they do for other cash-equivalent purchases (I woke up this morning thinking that a lot of people spend more money on cars than we're looking at spending on a boat...and you can't even live in most cars!). In two cases I've seen recently, the research has lead to uncanny human connections.
My best friend's father passed away last summer. It was unexpected and terrible, and left Michelle's three half-siblings (young adults in their early twenties) without both parents and my best friend without the dad that she'd cherished and sailed with and fought with and loved. It also left them with a sailboat--a rare shoal-draft center-cockpit Columbia 40 named Kokomo
. Michelle's Dad had lost his wife a few years prior, and had bought the boat and was getting it ready to go cruising. It was his dream, and he planned to leave in the Fall of 2012 to head south. Michelle, her sister, and I spent an emotionally charged afternoon aboard her in September, shortly after Gary's passing, cleaning her and polishing her and getting her ready to put up for sale. I briefly considering trying to purchase her, but decided that she wasn't right for my small family (an amazingly enthusiastic husband who is up for anything but who requires a certain amount of physical space, and a crazy-hyper and awesome toddler who also needs space). So Michelle, her sister and I rolled up our sleeves and put all of our girl power into prettying her up.
My book, a memoir about growing up living aboard
, came out in October, and shortly afterwards a man named Larry Wlison friended me on Facebook and sent me a note that he had enjoyed the book. I noticed some photos on his page that looked like Kokomo, with some captions about it possibly being "The One." I commented, saying, "I think I know that boat--message me!" Around the same time, Michelle forwarded me an email she had received from Larry, saying:
"I'm interested in purchasing Kokomo
if she's still available. I live in Richmond, I'm retired and can travel to Little Creek pretty much anytime. My daughter and her husband own a beach home in Ocean Isle, about 30 miles north of Myrtle. Let me know if she's still for sale, and if so, when it would be convenient for me to take a look. In browsing thru your facebook page, I found a link to Melanie Neale's book. I bought it and downloaded it yesterday, and sat up til 2 am this morning, reading it from cover to cover. I feel almost as if I know all the people she wrote about."
In Larry's quest to find "The One," he had not only stumbled across my book, but learned about Gary and Michelle and become so much more connected to Kokomo
than he would ever have if he had simply browsed and Googled. He took the next step and took the risk (is it a risk? It seems like some people would think so...) of reaching out and making a human connection. Ultimately, someone else beat him to the sale, but I have this feeling that he and Kokomo
are going to cross paths again. Someone else buying the boat isn't the end of the world...people do sell them eventually!
I'm not going to say that this is "The One," because I haven't even seen her yet. But yesterday, while browsing Yachtworld (I refer to it as boat porn) in my office when I should have been working, I found an intriguing boat. An Ericson 36C in Ft. Pierce, FL. It didn't look like other Ericsons--it had more of a shippy Taiwanese look, with lots of teak, a flush deck, and a large interior. I'd seen them before but never paid a whole lot of attention. There were many things I didn't know about them. As I do with all boats that intrigue me, I emailed the link to my husband, who was sitting across town in his cube and, like me, in need of some good boat porn.
I dig Ericsons. I lost my virginity on one. Read my book
. People who lose their virginities in cars remember what kind of car it was, don't they? I went to the Bahamas on one. I had a strange habit, as a matter of fact, of dating guys who owned Ericsons (a 35, a 39, and a 27, in that order). But I know little about the 36C.
Being resourceful, I Googled it. (Have you ever seen the website "Let Me Google That For You?"
It's a great thing to share with non-resourceful people.) I came across several 36Cs for sale and a few mentions in chat rooms, but no reviews and very little specific info about the construction (was the keel bolted on or encapsulated? What was the mast step like?). Then I found a blog
by Arline and Jon Libby, who had bought and refitted one and were now cruising on it. They had tons of great photos of their refit, and seemed to be loving what they were doing. Their boat was named Kasidah. At that point, I took the next step and shot them an email, asking them the questions I had about the boat's construction. I had no idea whether they would respond, but it seemed like the best way to find out what I wanted to know (I also shot an email to my broker, a former slip-mate of mine from Maule Lake Marina, and asked him to find out more about the boat in Ft. Pierce).
Shortly thereafter, Jon emailed me back, giving me all the info I'd asked for and more. And, even better, he'd been aboard the specific boat that we were interested in! I thanked him, and later that night he and his wife dug up some photos that they had taken of the boat in Ft. Pierce. It was uncanny to me that a random email had generated so much valuable information, and a great reminder of how nice, giving, and informative people can be. Nobody knows as well as I do about how busy we all are. I work in a high-pressure job (that's why I need to take small breaks for boat porn), commute 2 hours a day, write on the side, and am a wife and mom (and yes, I want to add a boat to that mix of craziness!). And I know that most people are just as busy as I am, if not busier. I value time and efficiency above a lot of other things, and the fact that these total strangers had just taken the time to write me such a thorough response and send me photos blew me away.
Anyway, this may or may not be "The One." But, as always, boat shopping is proving to be a great adventure. And I have a good feeling .
BOAT GIRL: A Memoir of Youth, Love & Fiberglass
by Melanie Neale is now available through Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in both print and e-book for Kindle and Nook users. Not into online shopping? You can also ask for Boat Girl in person at your local bookstore.
While you're at it, please like our page on Facebook Sailing with "Boat Girl" Melanie Neale and Will McLendon