Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Boatless in Seattle

We are parked on the street in Kirkland, Washington, at our usual spot across the street from where the transit buses lay over. We have friends here in town, and we will meet them for dinner a short walk from here this evening. Louise's cousins drove down from Woodinville earlier today and we had a nice lunch with them.

This is the first breather I've had since my last post here, and I have a lot of catching up to do. It has been a whirlwind ride, and something of an emotional roller coaster as well, which I will describe shortly. Suffice it to say, we have not bought a boat, although we came very close.

There were two boats on our "must see" list at the show, a DeFever 46 and a Krogen 48. The DeFever was well out of our price range, but we wanted to see if we could make the boat work for us, as they come available from time to time and one within our budget coming along some day is not out of the question. The Krogen was also out of our range, but the selling broker had hinted that it might close inside our budget, so we went through it quite carefully.

We liked the DeFever, but not well enough to hold out long-term for one to come along. The Krogen had too many issues that needed attention for the price we'd have to pay. The boat that ultimately ended up being the front-runner for us in the show was actually the one we took the ride on that first day. She's a Dutch-built aluminum passagemaker in apparently excellent condition, with all the features and amenities we would want in any boat, and then some. We had looked at this same boat two years ago, but the asking price was well out of our range and we did not give it much thought. Since then, however, it has come down to within striking distance, and we thought we might be able to negotiate a price we could live with.

Since the boat was at the show and our very own broker was listing it, we were able to spend a great deal of time aboard and get many questions answered by the current owner. The boat is 60' long, a good ten feet longer than our comfort zone, and with three staterooms seemed enormous to us. But the longer we looked, the more appealing it became, and we worked past our discomfort with the length and size. The only other issue with it, as far as we could tell, and what probably kept her from selling for the past two years, was that she had two spiral staircases that were so steep as to hardly even count as ship's ladders. We are young and limber, as trawler buyers go, so we were willing to look past that.

By the end of the show we were pretty convinced we would make an offer on the boat, and our broker Curtis arranged with the owner to let us ride with the hired captain as he brought the boat back to Lake Union from the show in Anacortes on Sunday, a cruise of some seven hours. This would give us a feel for how she handled, and how she looked, felt, sounded, and smelled under way. It also gave us a chance to have the captain answer some questions the owner could not, and look around the boat without the worry of being in the way of other show attendees or potential buyers.

Since our plan had been to check out Sunday morning and get rolling out of Anacortes, this meant we had to scramble around and make alternate arrangements. We stopped by the harbormaster's office and paid for another night in the RV parking area, and I booked a rental car at SeaTac to get us back to Anacortes from the lake. Curtis would give us a ride to the airport after we arrived.

By the time we tied up at the dock, we had decided to make an offer. We spent a half hour or so sitting on the boat with Curtis and Gill after the captain left and discussed the details, but we had one more step to take. Long-time readers may recall seeing me refer to marine consultant and Passagemaker Magazine technical editor Steve D'Antonio from time to time here in the blog. Steve was, as always, at the show, and we attended his most excellent technical seminar on Thursday, as well as his always popular engine room tour and lecture on Saturday. Seizing the opportunity wherein Steve, we, and the boat were all in the same place together, I asked him if he would have time to conduct an inspection of the boat before we moved forward.

Steve agreed to do this on Monday in the slip at Lake Union, and the owner agreed to the inspection as well. So after returning to Anacortes in the rental car Sunday night, we got Odyssey ready for an early departure Monday morning. There was no way we were getting the bus to Lake Union, so I followed Louise in the rental car Monday to the Tulalip Casino (map), a familiar stop for us, and got squared away in one of the courtesy RV spaces before heading the rest of the way to the lake in the rental car.

Steve spent the whole day with us aboard the boat. After a brief lesson on the metallurgy of aluminum boats and the special problems that presents, we started out in the forward end, working our way aft and opening every bilge hatch we could find. By the third hatch or so, my heart had sunk, and by the time we stopped for lunch at about the midships bulkhead, I knew there was no way we were going to end up with the boat.

Nevertheless, as we had paid for more or less the full day as a "light inspection" (Steve's full inspection, typically conducted after an offer has been made and the boat is under contract, is much more extensive and involves tools, coveralls, and more than one day), and one never knows how low a seller might go, we spent the afternoon finishing the job. The owner showed up at one point while we were removing an access cover on the hydraulically operated swim platform, and was able to answer a couple of questions.

The terms of a nondisclosure agreement we signed to have Steve conduct his inspection prohibit me from sharing the full details here on the blog. Neither do we want to have any legal conflict with the seller. But let it suffice to say that changes made to the boat on the part of one or more previous owners (not the current one) essentially compromised the inherent seaworthiness the boat had when it left the builder's yard in Schiedam, Holland some 28 years ago (yes, the boat is one year older than Odyssey). Several problems, while serious, were of the sort that a few hundred dollars in proper marine-grade materials and a lot of sweat equity on our part could have resolved. But at least two major issues would require the services of a well-equipped and capable boat yard, at costs running into the tens of thousands.

At the end of the day Sunday, we were ready to offer a firm 90% of the seller's recently-lowered asking price, an offer which we think had a good chance of being accepted. By the end of the day Monday, the most we could pay was considerably less than that, in order to have the critical yard work done and still be within budget. We passed this along to the broker, but we can't imagine the seller accepting such an offer unless the boat sits unsold for at least another six months.

Given that we had to talk ourselves into the boat in the first place, and having so thoroughly embraced it in the process, it was a huge letdown to come to this position. I was so exhausted Monday night I collapsed in the bed by 10pm. That might have been from poking around in the bilges, but more likely it was from the roller coaster of emotions.

When Tuesday morning rolled around, I could finally start thinking about how we were going to get the rental car back to SeaTac. Our cut-rate car (it was just $16 a day) could only be returned to the airport, and we had booked just two days, so it was due back by 4:45. There is a shuttle from the airport to the Tulalip Casino, but it's $24 apiece one way, making returning our $32 car a $48 proposition.

We decided instead to come straight here, even though I had told the casino security that we'd be there three nights (they allow up to seven). We knew from past experience that we could get here on a single bus from downtown, whereas getting to the casino is a three-bus affair, in what was likely to be pouring rain -- this is, after all, Seattle.

As long as we had the rental car for the whole day, I dropped off a pump at Sure Marine that needed to be looked at, and we drove back to Elliott Bay Marina to look at one more boat that I turned up on Yachtworld after concluding we would not close a deal. We made it back to the airport in plenty of time after one final stop to gas up the car. Somewhere in the process, we ended up going over a toll bridge with no tolltakers, so the rental agency will get a bill for the toll in the mail. We wonder what they will charge us for the $3.75 toll once they get it.

At the airport we were able to hop on the most excellent Link light rail system, which for $2.75 apiece got us to downtown Seattle. We had a nice dinner there at the Columbia Tower Club, high above the city, before hopping on the #255 bus, which stops just a couple blocks from here. A long day, but we got the car returned for just $10, had dinner in the process, and ended up here where we needed to be for a visit anyway.

That last boat, by the way, was a non-starter, so we are back where we started more or less before the show, although wiser and further along the search curve. We always learn something new at these shows, have a great time socializing, enjoy going on a variety of boats, and now for the second time at Anacortes, got some sea time in as well. Steve's light inspection, while an expensive foray on a boat we're probably not going to buy, was worth every penny and the most educational thing we did while here.

Tomorrow morning we will head back to Sumner to collect our missing loveseat and brush guard, and perhaps take care of one or two more items before heading east. We need to start heading towards the Tri-Cities to sell our property in Desert Aire, and then on to South Dakota to finish transferring our domicile there. All things which need to happen before we buy a boat, anyway, and we would have been under the gun to get it done pronto if we had, indeed, made an offer on a boat this week.


  1. I have watched you local adventures with great interest and had considered making contact with you a couple of weeks ago. Sorry to hear the boat deal fell through but all things seem to happen for a reason and perhaps there is a better opportunity awaiting you somewhere down the road.
    Have a safe journey.

  2. I thought there for a while you had found just the one..... Oh, well no sense getting your self into more trouble than it is proverbially worth.....

  3. Stay in the bus! Stay in the bus!


    Sort of.

  4. Love the title "Boatless in Seattle" lol. :)

  5. Thanks, all, for the comments. In re the post title, we cruised past the "Sleepless in Seattle" house after locking through at Ballard on our way to the slip on Lake Union. That was, in part, my inspiration for the title.


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