We almost sank it!

“The vessel was found mechanically and structurally sound, …maintained and equipped in above average condition for a boat this age.”

That was the overall conclusion of the survey and sea trial. Other than a few minor, very fixable issues the boat is in excellent condition.

The day started with yet another 6am ferry ride. We needed to get to Kemah to meet the surveyor by 8am, and the ferry only runs once an hour that early. We also didn’t really know what the traffic between Galveston and Houston would be near morning rush hour so we made sure we had extra time.

We met Nick, our surveyor, right on time at the boat and got right to work. It’s enlightening to watch him work as he meticulously tapped every square inch of the deck with his little hammer. He was looking and listening for any signs of delamination or water intrusion. He then checked every fitting, attachment, screw, and line from the bow to the stern. Our confidence continually grows as he frequently mentions how nice and maintained everything is, and is surprised at how few hull issues he is finding. “I can usually find at least one spot of delamination or water intrusion, but I’m not finding any” he said.

I consider the hull to be the most important part of this survey as it is the real soul of the boat. It’s a huge relief at this point to see that it is solid and in near perfect condition. That being said, there’s still a lot more to look at, including the below water parts of the hull when we haul it out later in the day. As we start getting into the details of all the electronics and other accessories on the boat, the issues start to arise.

We fired up the auxiliary generator, a huge bonus to have in my mind, but find that the cooling water is not flowing and the intake hoses are rotten. Not too big of a deal, but that means no generator until it is fixed. We move onto the inverter, which I’m also excited to have on-board because we have a lot of toys that need to be charged, but no go. It doesn’t turn on. Strike two.

There were several other little electrical quirks, the running light didn’t work, some of the interior lighting was bad, but all of that is fairly easy to replace, and probably something I want to upgrade anyway.

A few hours had passed and it was now time for the main event. The haul out and sea trial. Let’s see how this old girl performs, and look at her not so visible parts.

It’s a bit concerning watching a boat get pulled out of the water. It is clearly not its natural state. Even though this boat was not ours, we were both quite tense as we watched the lift pull her up. Once she was on the hard, Nick got right to the tapping again. Every inch of the hull below water needs to be checked for any issues. Once again, she came out with a surprisingly clean bill of health for a 32 year old boat. The bottom paint needs to be redone, and some standard maintenance items, but all of that is to be expected as bottom paint should be redone every few years anyway.

The quick haul out complete, it was now time to put her back in the water and go for a sail. The weather was not all that great though. It was sunny and warm, but the wind was blowing a lot harder than we wanted. Steady wind at 10-15 miles an hour, with regular gusts above 25. For any real sailor, these are not really issues, but for us, on a boat we don’t know, it was quite scary. Even with the wind, the boat performed amazingly well. “shes a tank” says Nick calmly as we get hit by yet another gust with full sails up. My knuckles are white as I’m steering the boat and have to make some small, but easily made adjustments to keep course, but the boat just heels over and takes the gust in stride. I keep watching Nick for some sort of reaction, but this is nothing to him. He is running up and down the deck checking out the rigging and sails as I nervously sail along.

Once back at the dock and coming down off the excitement of the sail, we start digging into the inner bowels of the ship. We have to check every cable, every hose, and every inch of the interior. If you’ve read this far, this is the part where the title of this post comes in.

Nick had been checking out all the plumbing of the head (nautical speak for bathroom) and noticed that there were some shortcuts taken. In particular, the raw water line to the toilet was not running through an “anti-siphon” loop. He explained to me that in the right conditions, without this loop, water can just start flowing into the boat, and we should always make sure this valve is closed any time we are sailing until it gets properly fixed.

Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later we are looking at some pipes down in the bilge and start seeing water flowing in. We check all the obvious things before turning back to the head. Turns out that exactly what he was explaining could have gone wrong, had, and the toilet was full and overflowing with sea water and it was freely running into the boat. We quickly shut off the valve and stop it before much happens, but if we had not been aboard, this could have easily sunk the boat in a few hours. Usually the bilge pump would just pump the water back out, but due to another issue we found, the the bilge pump was wired through and unprotected switch and we had turned it off earlier to test it.

Another hour or two of meticulously checking and testing everything on the boat, the survey was complete. We learned a ton about this boat and what it means to take ownership and maintain her. We have picked a good one it seems. Other than some minor and totally fixable issues, this boat is in fantastic condition and is very well equipped for what we want to do with it. A little bit of negotiating with the current owner over the final price with these issues and we may be buying a boat!

It is so very exciting at this stage, no matter how much planning Shannon and I did to get here. I’m continually blown away at where we are.

Let see where this goes!

6 Replies to “We almost sank it!”

    1. No real estimates, but it’s a used boat. There is some leverage in negotiations, he really wants to sell, and we really want a functional boat. Many of the issues are standard maintenance issues though, Not much leverage there.

  1. Justin – your dad just gave me the link to this blog. I’ve heard a little about your plans in snatches of conversations at the recycling center (trailer, boat) but no details. What’s the plan now that you have the boat – hug the shore to stay within Wi-Fi range? 🙂 Or will you both quit your day-jobs and head for the blue water? If you make it to Grenada I have a few connections still (and some sailor in Annapolis). Less in Swaziland (and it is land-locked).

    P.S. if you need Wi-Fi gear I’ve been working at Ubiquiti on their “Unifi” line in Draper for almost a year now.

    1. Our current plan is to stay in a marina and continue working for a while while we upgrade/learn the boat. The marina has decent Wifi, but we wont know how good until we get there and test it for some time. We have a backup plan of shared office space nearby, but thats another expense we would like to avoid.

      We actually have a Ubiquiti AirGateway device with a new 9dBi antenna that we have bridged to our internal network. Its been working great for us so far in the trailer. Planning on moving that to the boat when we get there. There seems to be a need for terrestrial wireless internet for all the marinas down here. Looking to start a new business?

      1. >> There seems to be a need for terrestrial wireless internet for all the marinas down here. Looking to start a new business?

        Nope, I never want to be the guy whose phone rings when the network is down (or is perceived to be)

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