Friday, March 30, 2012

Closing in on a boat

We are at the Elks lodge in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles, California (map). This is nothing more than a parking lot, and a not very level one at that, for $10 per night, but it is the closest legal parking space to Marina Del Rey, where we looked at a boat yesterday. We arrived Wednesday afternoon after a short drive from Dana Point, and we had a nice dinner at an excellent neighborhood Italian restaurant, The Good Pizza, a block away.

The trauma and associated anxiety of having the window blow out on the freeway has mostly receded, and we've resigned ourselves to just driving around with the remaining inside pane for the foreseeable future. NeoPart tells me they can get us a replacement window for $2,070, plus freight FOB Honey Brook, Pennsylvania which is probably around $300 to the west coast. The kicker is that it is on a 6-week lead time right now from Germany, and that's to PA -- figure another week for shipping.

If I order it in the next few days, at least I can predict with fairly high confidence that we will be in the Puget Sound area in 7 weeks, and we could have it shipped to Infinity Coach and hire someone in the area to install it. I would estimate the whole project to cost us in the neighborhood of $4,000, and with working glass still in that frame, I'm reluctant to invest that much without exhausting other options first.

At least two people have contacted me with single-pane take-outs, which is always an option, but removing the one pane we have left to install a different single pane of glass seems like a lot of money for not a lot of benefit. One person has contacted me to say he might have the correct window but will not know for sure until he digs it out of his warehouse. And I am continuing to ask around for any other possibilities.

On Wednesday our focus shifted as we arrived at the Nordhavn docks at the Dana Point Marina. We spent an hour aboard a 2002 Nordhavn 46, a later example (hull 76 out of 82 built) of Norhavn's venerable original model. The listing broker hinted that the boat might sell for a good 10% or so below asking, which would make it a good deal, and we liked the layout and feel of this particular boat. We've been aboard perhaps ten of these boats over the last six years, and of all of them, this one comes closest to being the right boat for us, when all factors are considered.

Still, there were some issues with it. It had what we've come to call the "Nordy 46 smell" -- some combination of permeating sanitation hose, bilge residue, and hull outgassing that we have noticed in every example of this model (all of which are at least a decade in age, and some twice that). The rigging is very tall and not easily brought down, making a Great Loop trip an expensive challenge if not entirely out of the question with this boat. It has paravanes instead of active fins. The engine room is cramped. And, while ready-to-cruise, it is at the very top end of our budget, leaving very little to put into changes to make the boat more livable for us. Nevertheless, we had to see it, and it remains a consideration.

Yesterday's boat spoke much more clearly to us. It is a 1983 steel trawler designed by renowned Dutch naval architect Pieter Beeldsnijder and built by the Lowland yard in Holland. It was extensively refitted in 2007 by the previous owner, and today has a nice couple living aboard. It is immaculately kept, and we found the boat open, spacious, and well laid-out. It seems very seaworthy and we like steel-hulled boats. We could easily see ourselves living aboard this vessel, and we are always happy when the boats we look at are current liveaboards, because it means they are constantly in use and maintained, and usually all of the live-aboard issues have been solved in one way or another.

All boats are compromises. This one, too, has some issues for us. For one, the previous owner eliminated the guest accommodations, including the second head, in favor of an office. While we could cram perhaps one guest, two in a pinch, into that office, or perhaps modify the dinette to convert into a berth, our guests would have to come through the master stateroom to use the potty, which is less than ideal, especially on passage. If we buy this boat we will need to spend some money to restore the head and some kind of guest berth.

This boat also has paravanes rather than active fins, but they appear to be much easier to deploy and retrieve, and the rigging also appears easier to lower for either the Loop or the canals of Europe. And with a full canoe stern and high gunwales and transom, it has no swim platform of any kind. Lastly, it had no get-home system, although that did not stop it from coming across the pond on its own bottom. Oh, and it's priced far and above the other four examples of this model currently on the market, all of the same vintage.

Still, there was lots more to like. The canoe stern means she'll weather following seas much better, and we liked the pilothouse and afterdeck arrangement. The master suite is enormous and well laid out. Engine room access is very good. The smooth narrow hull and efficient propulsion give her excellent fuel mileage and range. And she looks, well, "shippy."

We also liked spending time with the current owners. At least, half of them, as the husband was away on business. They are in the market for a larger boat, to accommodate family visits. We enjoyed meeting the wife and hope we stay in touch regardless of whether this ends up being the boat for us or not.

This was the first boat of this kind that we've seen, and so we owe it to ourselves to go and look at one or two of the others on the market. One of those is in the Seattle area, and so it will be a slam-dunk for us to see it when we are up that way in May for Trawler Fest. Another example is in NJ, and if we are going to make an offer on a Lowland, we'll probably want to go look at that one, too, the lowest-priced of the current market. We already have our broker working on setting those up. (Being a Dutch marque, the other two are, unsurprisingly, in Holland.)

We spent so much time on board that we did not arrive back here until past 3, including a quick stop at the West Marine to pick up some rubber-boat cement to repair a leak in our hot tub. So we decided to just spend another night right here. Readers, fellow busnuts, and good friends Tom and Donna, who live just down the coast past the airport, dropped by last night and we all drove back to Marina Del Rey for dinner at El Torito, right on the water.

Today we'll load the scooters back up and head northwest to Ventura. There we will see our final boat of or SoCal excursion, another steel trawler. This one is a one-off custom built by the renowned yard Metalcraft Marine. The asking price is near the top of our budget, but I suspect the boat will sell for considerably less. Custom boats are like custom bus conversions -- perfect for the person who ordered it, and therefore overvalued by same, but just another boat (or bus) to the shopper looking for one, and worth what other similar boats in the market are worth.

Ventura is pretty far from the bulk of LA, and on our route to the bay area. So once we are done there, we'll be heading north along the coast, and done with the LA area. It would have been nice to have a few more days here to see some more folks, perhaps eat at one of our clubs, and maybe take in some of the sights. But boat viewing was the real purpose of the detour, and it does not really make sense to backtrack once we are as far as Ventura.

With all the scheduled visits out of the way, we'll be free to return to our "normal" pace, which means around two hours of driving per day. Slow-rolling up the coast will put us in the bay area towards the end of next week. That should give us plenty of time to visit friends and get some projects done before continuing north to Washington for more boats.

Photos courtesy of YachtWorld


  1. Hola from Mazatlan!

    We have used in the past. They make RV windows on site. Located directly across the river from Portland Oregon. They are a great company to deal with.

  2. Funny. I have got the *exact* same window broken (only mine is de first on the right). I've got a 1992 Neoplan N122, the doubledecker-sister of Odyssey. I asked for quotes on a repair. One supplier would replace it for 1700 euro all in (incl VAT & installation), another could ship me the window for 1200 euro. Because I am not sure if I want to close one of the other windows, I want to check if it would be possible to replace this window with one of the other ones (as I am in a RV-conversion at the time). And like you, I too have the inner pane left. I bought the bus this way, and as far as I know it rides like this for longer. Only one pane is not really a problem, only in chilly conditions you miss the insulation.

    I thought you might want to know this. Although I am aware of the fact that it would not be easy for you to come over, for I'm in the country of that boat.. :-)

    Regards, Ron.

  3. Wow, the navy blue boat sure is purty!


  4. Hi Sean and Louise, I was looking for something else propane related in our area and came across this boat/ship just listed. I'm not sure if this is in the range you're looking at but since you're heading up this way I thought I'd point it out.

  5. I am very excited to read about all of your boat adventures! Can't wait for more.


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