Since deciding that the Beneteau 393 was the boat model we were interested in, we contacted sellers/brokers for any on the East Coast. There were 5, of which 4 were well used charter boats and one which was a one owner boat. Two of the boats were deep keel boats with a draft of 6 feet versus 5’-1” and were eliminated. Of the remaining three two were chartered boats and not in as good of condition cosmetically as the boat with one owner. Cost was all within 5% by the time that we could get them to Florida (one would need shipping from inland Texas).
Since this boat seemed the best we put an offer on it, and after counter offers we landed on a price. The offer is contingent upon an inspection and sea-trial. I spent an afternoon finding a boat inspector, called a surveyor for us landlubbers, and booked flights down to Tampa. Finding an surveyor wasn’t easy, because brokers aren’t allowed to recommend one and I know no one in Tampa who could recommend one. Ended up searching cruisers forum, calling a few and decided based on the references they gave.
With the sea trial and inspection scheduled for Friday I flew to Tampa and stayed on the beach in St. Pete Beach. The hotel I stayed at was 50 years old but in good condition, and the location was pretty amazing. Drove to the boat yard where the boat was sitting and met up with Stan the Surveyor. There was a screw up and the boat was still on the hard (not in the water) so we had to wait while the sellers Captain arranged moving it into the water. I walked over to the boat and the first time I touched her I got tingles. Then we started to survey her.
Stan and I tapped the hull with a hammer and looked for problems. There were two problems with the boat that we found before it was splashed, first there is a bit of fiberglass on the rudder that will need some grinding and repair and second was that it is hard to fall in love with a boat that isn’t in the water. The second was more disturbing for me. A famous quote about buying and selling boats is that two best days in a boat owners’ life is the day he buys the boat and the day he sells it. The other thing commonly said is that you need to love your boat because all boats are compromises and if you don’t love it you will be unable to overlook her flaws and idiosyncrasies.
You hear about people who walk up to their cruising boat and “just know” that this is the boat for them. I have never “just known” about anything I’ve bought when I saw it for the first time, maybe because I have too much logic in me, thanks Gord ;). If I think about my Ford Mustang, the first time I saw it I really liked it but didn’t “just know” and love it. Now after a few years of owning it, nearly every time I walk up to it I can’t help but marvel that this is my car and how much I like it. I guess I don’t fall for stuff quickly – not a bad thing, but prevents some of the poetry of life. Even the charter boat Oscar, which was a pain in the butt, very quickly was growing on me… so likely the same thing is going to happen with our new boat. Maybe it is the experiences that I have with stuff that causes me have affection for them as opposed to just seeing them… I’ll let you know in 6 months.
We finally got the boat on the water and went sailing. First we had to install the jib on the roller furler which was a bit of a challenge but we managed. Once that was completed the boat sailed great, but with only one jib sheet and a falling tide we didn’t tack the boat and had to bust back to the dock. The balance was pretty good and the autopilot worked well under power and sail. Motored back to the boat yard and put the boat on the travel lift. We spent about half an hour going over the boat before it was put back on the hard.
Thinking back on the experience of the sea trial, I would have preferred to spend more time on the boat looking at stuff, and more time shadowing the inspector. That being said the sail was good, everything worked, there were a few small things that should be fixed and the boat was not dirty aside from needing a good vacuum.
The next day I went back to the yard to check out the boat one last time but the yard was locked, until someone drove in and left the gate open. So I snuck in and walked around it, then escaped before I got busted. Spent the next day scouting the area around the boat yard for supply stores etc and headed back to the beach before flying back home.
Next Steps: Push on the seller to fix some of the findings and then buy the boat!