Friday, December 17, 2010

About that boat...

Boat on a Bus
Photo by Koocheekoo

My last post here generated a question of sufficient magnitude to warrant answering with its very own post. At some point I will post separately with our current whereabouts and plans for the next week or so.

Reader Lisa asked: "Are you getting rid of the Odyssey when you get the boat????"

This, of course, is an excellent question, and deserves a complete and thoughtful answer. Which is, "Maybe." In all seriousness, when we first decided to follow our land tour of North America with a sea tour of, umm, the rest of the world, we assumed that we would be somehow parting with Odyssey whenever we completed the transition to the boat. The "ideal" situation would be that we'd be able to live in Odyssey at the boat yard while "the boat," whatever she may be, was outfitted and readied and tested and whatever. Then we'd pass along Odyssey's keys to her happy new owners as we sailed off into the sunset. Or so the story goes.

To that end, at some level, Odyssey has always been "for sale." And, face it, like that old "will you for a million dollars" joke, nearly everything in the world is for sale, at the right price. Having said that, though, I will tell you that in our very first year on the road, a woman expressed interest in buying Odyssey and we were definitely, at that point in time, not ready to sell -- at least not at any sort of real-world price. But after perhaps our second year we started saying that if the right offer presented itself at any time, we'd take the money and run. And of course, the "right offer" naturally has decreased over the years.

Its a bus. Its a boat. Its a er er . . . .
Photo by Elsie esq.

In our first year on the road, someone would have needed to offer us not only every penny we invested in the bus, including the value of our own sweat equity, but also something extra to make up for the time setback to our dream, sort of a loss-of-use payment. Somewhere during the second year our price had dropped to just under what we had invested, and after we'd been to every state in the continental U.S. it was more like "fair market value," where our idea of fair market is influenced by the special capabilities we included when we built it.

What has happened, though, in the past two years has really changed everything. Which is to say, the bottom has dropped out of the RV market, and in particular the bus conversion market. Many of our readers already know that several coach builders went out of business entirely, and others were bought for a song. Inventories are at an all-time high, and used rigs are all but worthless. Many RV owners found themselves upside down on their coach loans in short order, and the resulting short sales and foreclosures or repossessions have driven used inventory up even further and prices lower.

Bus Boat Tour
Photo by P M M

The reality is that we'd have trouble selling Odyssey in today's market. Oh, sure, I harbor fantasies that there is someone else out there "just like us" who would value the highly specialized features and capabilities of our bus as much as we do and would be willing to pay a premium for them. But to most buyers, Odyssey is just another converted bus, and a quarter-century old one at that, and there are thousands of used bus conversions on the market today. Most are newer than ours and many are selling for a fraction of what we could accept for our beloved bus. Compounding this issue is the fact that we have led a very public life right here on this blog, and so every tiny little problem with the bus, whether since corrected or not, is now public knowledge. We can't very well claim that it belonged to a little old lady who only used it to boondock at church on Sunday.

So here's the answer: Odyssey is, and has been for some time, "for sale." If someone walks up to me with the right offer, which might be cash in hand or it might even be a trade for an appropriate boat, with some cash in one direction or the other, we are ready and willing to move out of it and turn the keys over tomorrow. But we are not yet to the point of actively pursuing such a sale by, say, creating a sales page on our site, or listing Odyssey with any brokers or sales sites, although that day will surely come. However, we are making alternative plans for the possibility that we will move aboard a boat without selling Odyssey at all.

boat sandwich
Photo by Ole M

Those plans broadly fall into two categories. One would be to find a nice, inexpensive, secure, and climate-friendly place to store the bus indefinitely. We would take all the appropriate precautions to preserve its condition for some future time when we retire from boating and return to the land, at which point it would again become our home. In the meantime, several of her systems and appliances might be moved into the boat for use there, such as the marine refrigerator, the inverter, the diesel boiler, the Advantium oven, the A/V equipment, and even the batteries.

The other would be to find a "tenant" or bus-sitter. Someone with similar interests and skills who would be willing to take care of Odyssey, keep up the maintenance, and take care of any problems in exchange for the ability to live and/or travel in her rent-free. There would be a contract and some sort of deposit to ensure that the bus was not deliberately mistreated in our absence.

Bus Or Boat
Photo by tracky_birthday

We are often asked about timing. When, exactly, would any of this happen? And in keeping with the rather unplanned and unscheduled nature of most of the rest of our life, the answer is not pat. We're asked often enough, though, that I am very practiced in responding: We will move from the bus to the boat when one of three things happens: 1. We get an offer we can't refuse on the bus. 2. We get a deal we can't pass up on a boat. Or 3. something happens to the bus that renders it impractical to repair (Louise worries about this one every time we embark a ferry). At this writing, #2 is the most likely event of the three. But you never know -- maybe someone with cash and a secret longing to own our bus is reading this post.

ferry carrying bus
Photo by bunky's pickle. All photos used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. You know, I think we are in pretty much exactly the same place.

    Boat dreams, customized super-unique RV, etc...

    I can only imagine what the coming year has in store for us!

  2. Hah.. yeah.. replace 'bus' with 'small fiberglass geeked out trailer', and this could have been pretty much our thoughts exactly :)

    Let's sell our RVs already and get to the ocean!

  3. pam allen-thompsonDec 18, 2010, 2:29:00 AM

    Sean and Louise, I not only enjoyed reading these postings, I felt quite informed. You two are such special people--gifted in every way imaginable. So I know that the "perfect opportunity" will work out for you. In the meantime it's great to see you experience so much of the world, at so many levels-figuratively and literally.

  4. Somehow I really don't picture Odyssey turning out like any of these pics...Ha!!!

  5. Hi Sean & Louise,
    How will Opal make the transition from bus to boat.
    Hope both of you and Opal are doing well. Mojo turned 16 in October and is not showing any signs of slowing down.

  6. Potential problem with a world wide boat trip today are finding safe ports of call in many places. Europe is still good, but there are many places where Americans are simply not wanted.
    Selling our rigs today is a true problem. At best Karen and I will eventually be able to lease a site at the Saguaro Coop and put the RV into a storage site when we're not in residence. Then, a used, smaller Class B ro travel back and forth with, with the 3 pets would be ideal. Should they still be with us of course.

  7. @Cherie&Chris: Will look forward to seeing you on the water. So long as you rag-hangers don't mind hanging with a stink-pot! Oh, wait, is that like an unpowered fiberglass trailer hanging with a giant diesel-belching bus? :)

    @Pam: Thanks for the note. We'll be pretty close to you, in Arcadia, after the new year; perhaps we will get a chance to get together again.

    @Judy^2: Ah, our dirty secret is now out. I type most of the text on the blog, and then Louise reviews my post and adds photos before it gets posted. She takes the theme of what I have written and tries to find photos to match, and on this post she went with "Bus/Boat" or "Boat/Bus" as a theme, and that's what came up. I've seen photos of some of those rigs before -- wild.

    @Kelly: When we first started thinking about boats that was actually a concern. However I think we are now at the point where we do not expect Opal to be with us on the boat. If we end up with a boat while she is still alive, we will find some way to cope with that, possibly to include carrying her on and off in her crate. But realistically even if we made an offer on a boat today it would be many months before we could fully transition to life aboard, and we really don't know that she has all that much time left.

    We do keep talking about getting another dog, and we'd get one right now in part as a way to provide her with some extra stimulation. But we've decided it will be best to wait until we have made the transition ourselves before getting another dog, as that will be one fewer issue we will have to deal with as we go through our own transition and learning process.

    @Ed&Karen: I am just not worried about traveling as an American. We worry as do all sailors about pirates in certain waters, and there it is a matter not of nationality but of whether your vessel looks to be valuable or contain something valuable. And there are places in the world that simply should be avoided by any westerner. But we are firm believers that people are basically good and not evil the world over, and the experience of cruisers worldwide would seem to bear that out.

  8. You never considered instead of a boat, put Odyssey ON a boat, taking your trip to Europe? And just doing (t)here what you're doing now? Odyssey was made for that continent in the first place. And you would see MUCH more cultures than in the US... Lots of places to stay for free, and it would take years to see it all.
    I just wondered...
    Regards, Ron
    The Netherlands


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