You looking for a sailboat? A man in a NASA t-shirt said as he finished his Coors. “Um, yea” we responded with a bit of confusion. “We’ve been looking at boats all day”, “Well, I may have one for ya.”
Shannon and I had just finished looking at several boats in Kemah, and were debriefing over a beer at the Voodoo bar. He must have overheard us, becasue he quickly began telling us of his friend who is currently sailing to Panama on a 55ft Nicholson. After a few minutes of pictures and stories, he remembered that he was trying to sell us some other boat.
At this point Shannon and I are rather skeptical as this guys seems a bit, um, spacey. He starts to tell us about this Valiant 40 that his buddy that is currently sailing to Panama has here just across the street. “Its one of them blister boats” he said. Apparently in the late 70s, Valiant started making boats with a new epoxy/fiberglass mix that caused some severe blistering. This issue eventually put the company out of business. The core of the boat though, is still a fantastic big blue-water boat designed by Robert Perry.
As we walked to the marina NASA guys started telling his stories of his years at NASA as an engineer, and all the work he does on all these boats here now with that expertise. As he seems to get more comfortable with his stories, his salty sailor side starts to show. Stories of getting kicked out of marinas skinny dipping with “many ladies”, and missing hurricanes by days with his skilled weather plotting. I think I’m starting to like this guy
The boat itself is great, its old, but well equipped and solidly built. Its quite large, and well proven with multiple trips to South America under its belt. It unfortunately suffers from, what is know in the sailing community, as the plague. The blisters that are forming in its hull are essentially incurable. Many have tried, pumping tens of thousands of dollars into repairs, only to have them reappear. From what I read though, they are generally cosmetic, and there are no reported case of any catastrophic hull failure.
Salty sailor though says that we can have this 40ft boat for $20k. That’s one hell of a deal. and one worth serious thought. It just goes to show that good things happen while drinking at the bar.
It’s now been a month in Texas, we’re on the Bolivar->Galveston ferry again to head to Kemah to look at some more sailboats. It feels like we ride this ferry a lot these days. There’s really nothing on Bolivar Peninsula. There’s only one decent store at all, and it’s a combo grocery and hardware store, aptly named “The Big Store.” Anything we can’t find there we have to head into Galveston, or 30 miles north to a small town called Winnie. There’s no Laundromat, so we have to either hand wash in the sink, or hop the ferry again. We’ve eaten all all local restaurants, all 5 of them, they’re nothing to write home about. So if we have a craving for decent food, well, you can probably guess. One of them, the Tiki Beach Bar, does have one interesting little quirk, it has its own private grass airstrip where apparently pilots from all over come in a have themselves some lunch.
There are some great bonuses to living here as well. For one it’s really quiet, traffic is non existent, except on the beach. The weather is really not too bad, it’s hot, and humid, but a quick walk to the beach and it feels quite nice again. Oh, and the beach, I love the beach. Its half a mile from the house, and ten miles in either direction of sandy goodness. I’ve never been much for just wasting time, I usually want to be doing something (and playing video games or watching TV, does count as that) but I can just sit on the beach and drink a beer and be perfectly content.
It’s not all beer on the beach though, we’ve had some issues with our A/C, and power outages. We had a storm roll by a few days ago that knocked out the power for nearly 10 hours. No power is generally OK for the trailer as we have backup batteries, but no power means no A/C. 10 minutes without A/C it’s a sauna inside the trailer. We were having other issues with the A/C as well. Due to a lovely design feature of the trailer, the thermostat is mounted on a wall that, due to the refrigerator, has some direct outdoor airflow. That airflow with all its moisture flows directly into the thermostat. It hits the cold dry air inside the trailer and immediately condenses. This kills the thermostat. It we woke up one night at around 3am and it was nearly 90 inside. Looking at the thermostat, it thought it was 40, good thing the heat didn’t turn on. I opened it up and found it dripping with water. So I dried it out and hoped for the best. Over the next few days the screen started shorting out, and it started melting, and freezing us in the middle of the night depending on its mood, so we replaced it. (Yet another ferry trip to Galveston.) I also made an attempt to put some insulation in that hole as well, so hopefully we won’t repeat that issue.
We are also still actively searching for our new sailboat. Last Friday after work we, um, took the ferry, to Kemah to look at several boats up there. After our last adventure to Corpus Christi, we were pretty much sold on the Islander 38 we saw, but it’s not really for sale, so we can’t really do anything about that right now. The broker in Kemah has 2 Islander 36’s and a few other boats in our price range so we had to have a look. Turns out the Islander 36 is mostly the same boat as the 38, just without a bowsprit, a pilothouse (really great view from the salon), or the really cool swim ladder on the stern. It has a more standard interior layout with a v-berth main cabin, and smaller quarter berths. Overall the boat was quite nice, and actually really well equipped. Unfortunately, I was still so set on the 38, that I just wasn’t looking at it with the right eye. So today, a week later and no movement on the 38, we are on our way back to Kemah to have another look.
This search for a boat feels like it taking a long time, but we’ve only been at it for a month and we already have some good options. We have one more month paid for here in Bolivar, so we have a bit more time, but we are starting to think of the next place. Do we head across the bay to Galveston? Down south to Corpus Christi? Or across the bay to Kemah? Who knows, but that’s the best part. It doesn’t matter, just go.
After years of clicking through thousands of photos of sailboats on various websites, Shannon and I were finally able to step from the virtual world into reality.
Last Friday, we rolled out of bed at 4:15, gathered Pete and some clothes, and took off to catch the 5:30 Ferry to Galveston. We had scheduled visits with two yacht brokers near Corpus Christi. There were 3 specific boats that we had found online that we wanted to see.
Online, all three looked fairly good, and seemed to be what we wanted, but there was not way of knowing until we stepped aboard. We quickly learned that pictures on the internet and reality were significantly different.
We met the first broker and toured the Endeavor 37 Ketch. First impressions were excellent as the outside of the boat looked great. Clean hull and deck, it all seemed to be well maintained and cared for. Another bonus was that it was ketch rigged. This was something that I had wanted in a boat as it means that there are a lot more options in your sail plan and can perform better in a wider range of conditions. That initial impression continued as we looked inside. The A plan layout of this boat was the main reason it was on our list, it was open and roomy as it takes the V-birth (forward cabin, usually a v shaped bad) and turns it into a large salon (dining room). This really opens up the interior and makes the living space seem much larger. It has tons of storage, and it looked well maintained and clean.
That’s where things started to fall apart a bit. There was not much more to this boat than its good bones. The electronics were ancient, and essentially non-existent. The power system was minimal, and looked jury-rigged to its limits. I expect to have to replace most of the electronics as a geek, but I was not intending to rewire and re-power and entire boat.
Overall we were happy with the Endeavor and felt it was a great start to the search. We had several more boats to look at so we hopped back in the truck and headed to meet broker number two for the main event. The Nicholson 35
The Nicholson 35, according to what we saw online, was exactly the boat we wanted, and was the main reason for the trip. It was a solid full keel ocean cruiser, and its description and pictures were quite exciting. Unfortunately, that excitement quickly evaporated once we got to the boat. It was a LOT smaller than it seemed, and a lot older. We both felt it as we looked at the aging paint on the hull, and that feeling grew as we stepped inside to see that everything onboard looked to be original 1976 vintage. While it looked nice in pictures, it was really just too small, and too much work for what we wanted, so we moved on fairly quickly.
Right across the dock was our next boat, the Ericson 32.5, it was a bit more expensive, but also quite a bit newer and better equipped than the other boats. Ericson is a capable boat in general, but its more of a coastal cruiser than a big heavy bluewater boat, which is more of what we are looking for. This particular boat was less than half the weight of the other boats we had looked at so far, and for some reason that kept us from fully embracing the idea of it. (or it might have been the bummer that we were feeling after the last boat.) It was a fine boat, and in pretty good shape, but so far it was only 2nd on our list, and just a bit more money that we wanted to spend for “mostly” right for us.
The advantage of going though a broker started paying off at this point. We had already looked at several boats and everything that we had planned, but while we talked with him he had come up with some other options. He recommended we look at this C&C 35 that had just gone up for sale and was not yet listed. It was a bit out of our price range, but it was another opportunity to see what was out there and “tune” our expectations. Turns out that it was more of a racer than a cruiser boat. Though the previous owner had made significant changes to make it more of a cruiser, it still wasn’t all that comfortable. With that and cost and general layout of the boat, we had quickly written it off.
Once we had decided that, we spent a good half an hour chatting with the broker about our goals and what we want in a boat. This gave me some hope as he really seemed to want to help us find the right one. He had hinted that there was one more, and Islander 38 C, that he thought we would like a lot, but it wasn’t even for sale yet, and was several miles away at another marina. It was getting late and with the assumption that an Islander was automatically be out of our price range, we decided not to go check it out that evening, but agreed to meet him in the morning just to have a look. What else were we going to do while we were there.
The next morning, we met him at this other Marina. As we were walking to the dock I spotted my kryptonite, a boat with a good looking curved deck and a nice bowsprit. I pointed it out to Shannon just as a “hey look at that nice boat.” As we were admiring the nice lines, not at all thinking that it was the one we were there to look at, the broker hopped aboard, and started unlocking the cabin.
We pretty much knew then that this was exactly what we wanted. As we stepped aboard, and walked into the cabin it just began to solidify for us. This one felt right. It was spacious, and beautiful inside. Large pilothouse windows all around, large cockpit, tons of storage space. While we were touring, the broker got a call and walked away for a bit. Shannon and I just kept talked to each other and it was clear we were on the same page. The more we walked around and looked at everything, the more we wanted this boat.
Unfortunatly, its just not for sale yet. We talked to the broker, and while the owner is talking about selling, it certainly hasnt been decided yet. Even if he does sell, the price may be way more that we want to spend.
While driving home and the whole next day, we discussed all the boats, pros, cons, money, what we want. In the end we just couldn’t stop thinking about that Islander. So we emailed our broker, and essentially said we were very interested and to call us first when he talks to the owner (and have him subtly hint that he should sell it to us).
Now we wait, and hope.
We cant just sit around though, there are TONS more boats to look at. In-fact, we just got back from Kemah after looking at five more boats! But we will talk about them next time.
Hey, we’ve had a few mimosas this morning, lets offer half what they are asking. Whats the worst that could happen? That’s how we bought our RV.
A few months earlier Shannon and I were still working out our plans to move to the coast and start our boat search. where we would live in that time was a big question, and we just figured we would have to rent an apartment or something wherever we decided to go. Having to rent a place, for probably a thousand dollars a month or more and sign some sort of longer term lease was not an ideal situation. We wanted to be able to move quickly if we didn’t find any boats, or move onto the boat if we found one.
I was out for a run one day (where I do most of my good planning) and ran by the local RV dealer. Something struck me, and it stuck with me the rest of the way home. Doing the math (which is most of what I think about while running), I figured if we could buy a used trailer for five or six thousand dollars, that would be just as much as six months renting, and we would have complete flexibility as to where and when we go! The search for an RV began.
The search began as many others do, Craigslist. We quickly found that not only was it possible to get a decent RV for the price we want, but there were several to chose from. Knowing nothing, we just started calling people to try and look at some. This was nearly a complete failure. Apparently the market for used RV’s is such that they sell almost immediately. Every call or email we made, no matter how soon after the post was put up, we we already 2nd or 3rd in line.
Just so we could actually start looking at some we went to the RV dealer that I had passed to originally come up with the idea. We knew most RV’s at the dealer would be WAY over our price range, even the used ones, we just wanted to have a look at what kind of things we should be looking for. After looking at a few, we found one that just connected with is in the right way. Out of curiosity we asked the price. $14,900. Um no, we immediately went back to craigslist.
After several more failed craigslist attempts, we were starting to lose faith in the idea. So while sitting at the bar for breakfast, with our mimosas in hand we decided to just make a low-ball offer for the trailer at the dealer. We walked in with confidence, and offered $7000 in cash (less than half the listing price). To our surprise they didn’t laugh, and a bit of skillful negotiating and some signatures later, we pulled away with our new to us RV.
That very night, we tossed in some camping gear and towed it up to Lake Vallecito for our first excursion in our yet to be named trailer. We discovered many things that trip, how small it was, how not to use the toilet, how to lock ourselves out, and that we needed our own hoses to connect to the water. One advantage was that usually when you buy an RV from a dealer, they want to keep it for a day or two to do a delivery inspection. We were so eager to take it that we didn’t let them do that. but we discovered what worked and didn’t, things like certain lights, tanks sensors, the heater acted weird, and the A/C didn’t work at all. We brought it back the next day and they fixed all of it, $900 worth of work all for free claiming they would have found and fixed those things. I doubt they would have found all of those things as it took several hours of heat running to discover its issues. For more details on the camper itself, check this page, Serenity (our Travel Trailer RV)
We got it back from the the dealer in nearly perfect working order. So I geeked out and promptly began replacing, upgrading, and tearing everything apart. Power is going to be a big issue on the sailboat, and RV power systems are nearly identical to sailboat systems. The trailer has a single 12v battery to power most systems, so I want to know how long that will last. First thing I installed was a battery monitor and live usage gauge. I then spent days testing every light, every pump, every circuit, and fully charging and draining the battery over and over again to determine exactly what everything uses. I found that one of the bigger drains was simply the old incandescent lights. With every light on it was pulling almost 500 watts and about 5 amps, at that rate the lights alone would drain the battery in less than 17 hours of use. I knew replacing with LED’s would significant reduce that power, so on the first of many trips to the RV parts store I found that a pack of 2 LED’s was almost $30! There are 28 lights to replace, so that wasn’t going to work. A quick trip to my local computer found that I could buy a 30 pack of the exact same LED’s for $45, no brainier there. After I installed the lights, I tested again to find that all lit up, it uses ~20 watts total, and just over an amp. Power for lighting was no longer an issue.
Shannon and I live and work on the internet, so upgrade number two was to fully network the trailer. Most RV parks (and future Marinas) have some sort of provided Wifi. For security, I don’t want to be on the same network as everyone else, nor do I want to update all 15 Wifi devices at every stop, so I picked up a Ubiquity Access Point, and configured a separate secure and encrypted internal WiFi for all my devices.
The bonus of all of this? Most, if not all of the upgrades to network and power systems are fully transferable to the boat with we get one!
Speaking of getting a boat, stay tuned for news on that too, we spent all last weekend touring boats down in Corpus Christi.
Its hot, like really hot. All the time. Also humid. I didn’t know hygrometers ever said anything other than 20% humidity (that’s the lowest any of them I’ve ever had registered, and it never gets above that where I’m from.) So far, I have not seen anything below 80 degrees or 80% humidity since we arrived. I’ve never really appreciated A/C until now.
That being said, things are going rather well for us. Our little RV park is full, but there are only 6 spots, and everyone seems to go home all week. Friday afternoon, through Sunday afternoon, its a bit busy and noisy, but all week long we have the whole place to ourselves. The whole of the Bolivar Peninsula seems to be just a really laid back version of my stereotypes of Texas. There are very few people here, but they all seem to be friendly, but most everyone seems to just keep to themselves. The busiest place is the beach, and that’s clearly the “main drag” of the area where big trucks and confederate flags fly proud.
We’ve somewhat settled back into a routine. I went back to work last Monday, and Shannon has spends her time gathering resources for her work that starts in August, as well as lining up yacht brokers and boat viewings for us. Instead of our usual Durango happy hours after work of Carvers Beers, Rice Monkey sushi, or our favorite Tacos Nayarit, we’ve been just trekking the 1/2 mile to the beach and enjoying a cheap beer or three while we watch the waves. Its certainly a lot cheaper this way. We’ve tried to find a local replacement for our regulars, but nothing quite lives up to them. Oh well, I cant complain about the beach.
We’ve taken a few excursions down to Galveston Island, as that seems to be the closest place to do or get anything. We have to take a ferry to get there and it is always busy (at least a 20-30 minute wait to get a car on, sometimes an hour and a half or more), but we have taken our Durango bike lifestyle and figured out that we can skip the line and walk right on with our bikes. It may be super hot and sweaty, but that’s the new normal for us.We have a plan to head down to Corpus Christi next weekend to take a look at a few boats down there. One is an Ericson 32.5, and another is a Nicholson 35. Both look quite exciting, and it feels really good to actually be moving forward and going aboard a few boats.
Its all still really exciting and a bit overwhelming that this is really happening, but I have to say, its nowhere near as hard as we though it would be. If anyone reading this is feels that need to get out and start and adventure, just do it. All that fear and unknown in your head stopping you is far easier than you think to overcome.
Its been a busy couple of weeks for us. July 1st, we pulled out of our driveway in Durango, CO and said goodbye to our quiet little mountain town.
What began as a random drunken conversation at a bar over three years ago has now officially begun. “Someday id like to escape it all and live a simple life on a sailboat somewhere” I said. “Well, lets just go then” Shannon replied. Not one to put too much faith in the reality of it actually happening, I said “sure, lets do it.” Its been a wild ride since then, but I now find myself sitting outside our camper here in Bolivar Peninsula, TX with thirty days to decide where to go next.
With so many changes over the last few months, its hard to know where to begin, so I guess I’ll get the ugly out of the way. I had to leave my dog Lopa with my father in Park City, UT. She had been with me for ten years though all of my adventures. Long solo backpacking trips, epic desert camping, and many hundreds of miles running through the mountains.
Unfortunately, she just would not live her expected happy life in the camper. We made several attempts to acclimate her to the smaller space, but the constant motion, no back yard, and very restrictive dog rules at RV parks just wouldn’t do. The decision was made to let her go live her last few years with dad in Park City. He runs every day, has a great backyard, and will be able to provide a stable and happy place for her. I’m not really great at emotions, but I couldn’t help but cry as we pulled away without her.
With the hardest part over, it was time to begin this new adventure in earnest. Two weeks ago, Shannon and I drove away from our house in Durango, just as our new renters were moving in, and began our journey across the country. We had sold, donated, or just trashed nearly everything we owned in order to fit it all into our 22 ft trailer. Two days of pushing my twelve year old Tacoma to its limits towing it all to our first stop near Tulsa, OK. While there we were able to spend some time with Shannon’s family for a few days.
Then, we hopped a plane to Jacksonville, FL to take part in my brothers wedding before he ships off to join the Navy.
Another two days of slow and slightly nerve-wracking driving, we arrived at our RV park here in Bolivar Peninsula, TX. We have the next thirty days reserved at this quiet little spot while we get our bearings of the area and begin the massive search for a sailboat we can call home.
Last weekend, Shannon and I took a day off of house repair and travel prep to ski closing day at Purgatory. It was just about as perfect a spring skiing day can be. It was sunny and warm, and still a some good spring snow. After a few runs, we both realized that this may be our last ski day for at least a few years. This marked what may have been our first of many “lasts” that we will be having over the coming weeks. That realization made the ski day much more meaningful. Instead of just lapping the runs and thinking of when to take a beer break, we slowed down and just took in what we may have taken for granted over the last 18 years in Durango.
On Tuesday we headed to our regular Super Teds Super Trivia, hosted at the Ska Brewing world Headquarters. We had known for weeks that the Ska trivia season was over, but it finally struck us that this would be our last one as we will be gone by the time the next season starts. We again took that little bit extra to try and remember the wins, the losses, the MANY nights winning the “mediocre” award, and above all, the regular gathering of Los Jefes to drink, have fun, and sometimes answer the questions correctly.
Change is inevitable, instead of holding on the the past, and what has been comfortable, it is time to fully embrace the coming change. These last few weeks have shown me that I need to look closely at all the things that I have, that I do, and that I think, and decide weather or not that thing is helping me toward the next goal, or if it is just something that I do, or have taken for granted for so many years.
While there are many more lasts to come over the coming weeks. It is not the end of anything, but the beginning. The beginning of our next adventure.
Shannon and I had a free day as the rest of the family was rather tired of walking everywhere and Heather *gasp* had to work. We decided to take advantage and explore something not on our normal list.
We had discovered the fortress during our research of things to do while in Korea two years ago, but we never made it. Turns out it was a TON of walking, but some of the more beautiful old buildings we had seen. We walked for hours around the South wall and city fortress buildings. It was especially nice to see the clear(ish) sky being slightly above the ever-present smog around Seoul.