Thursday, January 31, 2013

Surveyors, Cranes and Barnacles

One of the first steps in purchasing any boat is that the purchaser has to hire a "surveyor" to come in and survey it and make sure that it is actually sea worthy.  The surveyor's job is to check the boat to make sure the purchasers (us) are making a worthwhile investment and that there are no hidden surprises once ownership is given to the new owners.

In order for a surveyor to work their magic, the boat has to be pulled out of the water to be inspected from all angles.  This is no easy task, but it has to be done before any purchaser feels safe in buying a boat.  He checks for blisters in the hulls, checks the engines, checks electronics, and looks for any huge cosmetic problems.  Mainly, he tests all the working and moving parts. (Rarely are all the "surprises" found.  Those surprises usually introduce themselves when you're about 150 miles from nowhere.)  Martin and I have prepared ourselves for the unknowns, although who knows how I'll react when it does happen... and it will.  The first thought that comes to mind... "MAY DAY!"
The crane getting ready to pull the boat out of the water.
In our case with Amara, there were a few things that absolutely had to be fixed by the owner before Martin and I would purchase her.  She's only two years old, but two years in sea water can wreck havoc on a boat.

First thing, they had to repaint the bottom.  When boats have been in the water for a certain period, lots of soot, barnacles, and all manner of marine life attach themselves to the boat--not good.  So, if you don't get down and rub all of the grunge off periodically (which is really what you should do), you get a tremendous build up of sludge.  With Amara, this was the case.  She needed a good scrub and also needed the bottom to be painted with an anti-fouling paint.
Before.  Ewwww. Gross!
One dirty boat!
Now, for the AFTER photos:
Much better!
A good scrub can do wonders.  Now to get the painting started.
There were/are still quite a few things that still need to be done (the list is too long, and frankly makes me want to break out in hives).  I'll spare you with the list, but this is one of the reasons Martin needed to get to France. He needed to supervise the repairs and make sure they were getting done... and done properly.

Quick story...

This fall, when Martin and I were traveling through Europe for six weeks, our boat broker in the states set up a meeting with a gentleman named, Pascal, in Canet, France. The idea was for him to show us a few boats that he and his company were fixing and maintaining.  He thought it might give us a good feel on whether or not we should buy a new or used boat.

Well, we didn't like any of the boats, but we really liked Pascal.  Pascal works for Boat Management and Services (BMS) which specializes in boat maintenance.  Basically, he took off the rest of the day and showed us all sorts of catamarans and even walked us over to the Catana factory (a boat we were very serious about buying) to let us see the process of building a catamaran.  He even scheduled a meeting for us to see Catana's newest catamaran.  Amazing!  The part about Pascal that I appreciated the most was that he was very patient in answering the some odd 200 questions that Martin and I had about "cats" (short for catamaran).  He was really such a nice man.

When Martin and I left the marina, we figured that we'd never see Pascal again. We were both so impressed with the time he took with us (he's not a broker, so there was no money in it for him to do this.)

Long story short, the Lagoon that we purchased just happened to be parked in the Canet-Roussillon marina in France.  Right in front of BMS where Pascal works!  The stars were aligning.  We knew that if there was anyone that we wanted to be working on our boat, it was Pascal.  It almost brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how all the pieces of this complicated puzzle came together.

This past week, Pascal has overseen all of Amara's repairs and it has really helped to settle both mine and Martin's anxiety.  Even before Martin went over to France, we knew that our boat was being well cared for by Pascal.
Back to the boat repair...

Martin sent me pictures of our newly painted boat being put back into the water this morning.  So exciting.  Our dream is getting closer.
She's going back into the water.
Check out that new paint job!
Now, to just get Martin on the water and get him and his crew out of France.


Martin called this afternoon, and it looks like there are still more repairs to be done on Amara.  It's actually okay because the weather is pretty bad over there right now.  In fact, one cruiser that I have gotten to know very well left from France two weeks ago on the same route Martin will be taking.  I read his update yesterday and he has been stuck in Spain for a week because the wind is around 56 knots; making it not an ideal situation to be in if you're in a boat.

For all you non-sailors, a knot (kn) is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile (1.852 km) per hour.  Which is about 1.151 mph (wiki).  So 56 knots is 64.4 mph.  I found a video on youtube of a boat sailing (rather motoring--no sails should be up in this kind of storm unless you're very experienced).  They are in 56 kn.  It's not pretty.

(You might want to turn down your volume if you watch this.)

So Martin is sitting tight in Canet.  He figures that while he's there, and has Pascal at his finger tips, that he might as well continue making repairs.  No matter how small they are.  Who knows when we'll find someone like Pascal down the road... err... ocean.

NOTE:  A good friend just wrote to me telling me that this video that I posted is terrifying.  So, since I know that both of our mothers will be reading this; to calm their nerves and avoid any unnecessary phone calls tonight, let me explain. We have a resource called MaxSea on our boat which downloads GRIB files from the internet.  These files are from the the Global Forecasting Computers that help sailors to read the weather and avoid storms such as this one.  Meaning, we will be warned in plenty of time and will either choose to sit it out at the harbor or go around it so that we avoid these types of storms.  This is one of the reasons why timing is crucial for us in getting through the Panama Canal in March.  This is also why Martin is staying put in France until these storms subside. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How We Found Amara

Setting out to buy a boat is no easy feat.  Especially when you are new to the whole boat scene.  Every person that dreams of buying a boat goes to one site,  This is where Martin and I would spend countless hours at night going through all the boats available on the used market.

Next, we went to boat shows where all the newest boats just out of the factories would be on display.
At the Cannes Boat Show in France.  Martin is checking out the storage space on the Lagoon 560
After all the boat shows, Martin and I decided that we were probably going to purchase a new boat in the 50-foot range.  However, out of the three models that we ultimately decided on, none were available in the time period that we needed them.  All of the boats wouldn't be coming out of production until March 2013.  This made it hard for us because the ideal time to go through the Panama Canal is March.  Purchasing a new boat is a lot different than buying a new car.  Boats need to be tested on the waters.  All the moving parts need to be actually working and it takes a good 4-6 weeks in testing, going back to the factory, and then testing again to make sure your boat is ready to sail the high seas.  We had heard countless horror stories of new owners finding out that one of their engines on their new boat had failed, or their electronics weren't functioning properly and they were 150 miles off shore without a boat in sight.  So sometimes it's just smarter to get a used boat because a lot of those issues have already been addressed.  Also, boats depreciate just like cars and so most of that depreciated value has been absorbed by the previous owner.  Economically it makes better sense.  Problem was, every used boat we looked at had a musty smell or wasn't in the best of shape.  So, of course, I wanted a new boat.

You're probably wondering why we wanted our boat before March?  Well, because sailors, in our case, "cruisers", need to pay particular attention to the weather and trade winds.  That pretty much predicts where a cruiser and their boat should be in order to avoid potential storms or bad weather.  That is why getting through the Panama Canal in March is the ideal time--just in time to catch the "trades" that head over to the South Pacific.  Our plan is to try and hit the South Pacific in June, so as you can see, time is of essence for us in getting through the canal at the right time.  If we miss that window, it could push us back months.

This past November, Martin was in France looking at a just announced new model by Lagoon catamarans and it was just coming off the line at the factory in Bordeaux.  The timing would be tight, and we knew we would be cutting it close, especially since it was Hull #1 on a brand new model.  Getting the first "hull", meaning the first boat off the factory line, isn't ideal because even the manufacturers aren't sure if all the kinks have been ironed out on their first model.  It's better to get one a few hulls down the line because by then, most of the big issues have been addressed.  Knowing our timeline, we were anxious to just make a purchase and get started.

While Martin was in France, he saw that a 2011 Lagoon 560 had just come up for sale that week and it just happened to be located in France (albeit the opposite end of where he was).  The price for her was fair, so Martin drove down to Canet to go see her--keeping in mind my strict guidelines in what I wanted in a boat (no musty smell!).  She turned out to be in good shape and for the most part, she was ready to sail.  Since we knew that we really wouldn't be able to get the new boat in our hands until March, the timing was just a little too late for our timetable.  So, we made a quick decision and decided to press forward and purchase this Lagoon 560 before any other offers were placed on her.

Have I lost your attention yet?  All this boat talk.  Get used to it. (wink.wink.)

Martin is a master at conversation and was able to create a good friendship between him and the previous owner (which has paid off a lot this past week).  After a few long discussions on the phone between Martin and the owner, they were able to come to an agreement on the price and our offer was accepted.

When I write all this out, it seems so easy and uncomplicated, but buying a boat in France is not as simple as handing over the money.  There are mountains of paperwork and contracts to be signed.  We made the offer and paid in early December and we are STILL waiting for the final contracts from the owner's bank in France. Tedious.  That is one of the reasons why Martin chose to fly over when he did, in hopes to speed up the process.  No luck, we're on their timetable.

Now, to get the boat ready for blue water...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How We Got Started...

So, where to start?  How did we get started on this journey to set sail?
Somewhere off the coast of Tortola, British Virgin Island's.  
May 2012.
Just about a year ago, Martin asked me what would be a fun adventure for us to experience together, as a family.  Honestly, all I remember saying was, "Travel the world!"  He quickly replied, "How about by boat?"  "What?", I replied, "By boat?"  I hadn't even considered it to be an option.  I mean, I grew up on a large ranch in California, what did I know about boats?

Well, if you know my husband, when Martin sets his mind to something, he goes at it with full guns blazing.  This was no exception.  A week later Martin flew to Florida to start his licensing to skipper a boat (Basically, to get some sailing experience under his belt). When he arrived home he said that he had enrolled the two of us in "sailing" classes at the Oakland boat show that was coming up a week later.  Never one to pass up a trip to my old stomping ground, I eagerly agreed.  That's right about the time that I should have known something was up, but I didn't.  We went.
The moment I realized that I was getting myself in DEEP.
At the Oakland boat show, we saw rows and rows of boats.  We saw monohulls, which is a basic sailboat with one "hull" and we also saw multihulls (catamaran) which have two hulls.  I haven't mentioned it yet, but if you don't already know, we have a 4-year-old daughter, Lily, who is disabled.  Lily doesn't walk or talk and she is getting to be a big girl for us to haul around.  Taking Lily's delays into consideration, we decided on a catamaran since it would be easier to get her in and out of the cockpit, salon and to her bedroom.  Catamarans are just easier, so it made our decision quite easy.
My first time at the helm in the San Francisco Bay
Although we had decided on a catamaran, I still wasn't completely "in" on the decision because that meant giving up so much that I love.  It meant leaving our home, pulling Lily out of a school that she just loves and worst of all, leaving my family and dear friends.  Something not easy for me since I am a real people person—so is Martin for that matter.  Although, he is an adventurer first and it would have taken a lot for him to give up on this dream that was snowballing at a rapid pace.

After about 3 weeks of looking at the site and reading and oogling over boats, Martin suggested that I enroll in a local sailing school (Bonneville Sailing School) held on Utah Lake.  I loved the idea and signed myself up to experience it firsthand.  I went out one night a week for six weeks and got the hang of tacking and jibing and learned the points of sail.  My instructor, Todd, was amazing and always stayed calm even when I got confused between port and starboard.  I think I even got a few bits of terminology down but I was by no means a "sailor" at that point.
Lily, our daughter.  She may not have learned to sail, 
but she sure has mastered the art of being cute!
After really contemplating this dream and seeing that it could be a reality, I grew more and more excited to join Martin in on this dream.  Quickly, it became our dream.  So, by early May of 2012, and being completely on board (pun intended), Martin and I decided that we needed to get our feet wet even more and chartered a catamaran in the British Virgin Islands (BVI's).  We left two weeks later, hired a captain, rented a catamaran and if it killed us (actually just me), we were going to learn how to sail together.  I was game for this adventure 100%.  I mean, I'm no dummy to pass up a trip to the Caribbean.
Martin climbing up the mast.
Meredith and Martin helping to get us into harbor.
Once in St. John, we boarded our boat, a Catana 50-foot catamaran and set off with Captain Will, Lily, my step-daughter, Meredith, Martin and two of our good friends, Belinda and Garry. While sailing in the BVI's, Captain Will taught us, tested us and pretty soon after 7 days we all became eligible to captain and charter a boat through the American Sailing Association (ASA).  I can only giggle about this because I am by no means a professional.  In fact, I feel sorry for anyone that thinks that just because I have had lessons and passed all the tests to get my ASA sailing certification, that I am going to keep you alive or afloat for that matter.  BUT what it did do (and I am sure according to Martin's plan) is that it gave me the bug.  It showed me that this dream of ours was possible.  We really could to do this!  I was in.

Now, for the next step.  Shopping for a boat!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Our First Siren From the Sea

Martin and our good friend, Garry (who was kind enough to fly over to France to help Martin get the boat ready and sail with us across the Atlantic) went on a drive after church yesterday to a city in France called, Collioure. There, in the waters below, they saw this.  A Lagoon catamaran, similar to ours, just enjoying the view.

THIS FOLKS, is the reason why we bought a boat.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

So, We're Buying A Boat

A first time look at Amara!  Our boat.
Currently, Martin and I are oceans apart (not really a good way to start this adventure, right?) but only for a little while.  A week ago, Martin left for France while Lily, our four-year-old daughter, and I are still tucked away at our home here in Utah.

First things first, I guess I should explain that we are in the process of buying a boat.  Not just any old boat, but a 56-foot Catamaran that we will soon christen her with the name, AMARA (a-MAR-a), which means, "To the sea" (ok, so we took poetic license and added the "A" at the end).  We played around with hundreds of names but kept coming back to Amara since it really was what we wanted to do in the first place, "Go to the sea!"
Martin's bags that he took with him over to France.  
In case you're curious, that long tube is full of fishing rods.
There he goes.  Off to France.
Martin is in France finalizing the sale of AMARA (which he actually purchased on a satellite phone while skiing through Antarctica to the South Pole), installing additional equipment, testing engines, checking sails, buying sails and pretty much getting her ready to sail.  It takes a lot of time, energy and money to get her ready in time to hopefully sail her next week to Mallorca, Spain.  Martin's plan is to leave the docks in Canet, which is in the South of France and head toward Mallorca, Spain. Then he and his crew will go around the tip of Spain and aim for Gibraltor.  From Gibraltor, they will set sail for the Canary Islands.  Right now, the plan is for Lily and me to meet Martin and Amara in the Canaries where we will provision the boat for our 18-day trip across the Atlantic to St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

If all wraps up this week and all the issues have been addressed and fixed, Martin will leave from Canet to the Canary Islands at the end of this week.  This should take Martin and his crew about 10 days, pending weather.  I'm going to need to get used to this phrase, "depending on the weather" because it will be the topic for many discussions and decisions in the future while sailing Amara.  Right now, we live in a world where everything is instant, e.g., downloading a book, a song, seeing a movie, getting food, gas, anything... in an instant.  I'm going to need to rewire a few things in my head so that I can get used to understanding it when Martin says, "Well, we're going to need to check the weather."  Some things may not come so quickly, but I am fine knowing that we are sailing together.

Here, in Utah, I have been given the duty of wrapping up all things at home (insert panic attack here).  I am working on getting the house handed over for family to stay in, finalize last minute bills, and oh yea, buying bedding and decor for the boat.  I plan on shipping everything we need for Amara to some unknown destination in St. Maarten.  Truthfully, it makes me a little nervous.  Of course, I could do the shopping and decorating along the way, but if you know me (which I'm sure you will through this blog), I'm a bit OCD and terrified of ambiguity.  So I'd rather buy now, rather than regret it later.
Chaos.  Which I'm known for not handling too well.
Getting closer to ship these off to St. Maarten.
We'll meet them there in about four weeks.
Martin is in France with our captain, Patrice, and our good friend Garry.  I feel a wee bit sorry for them because not only is France freezing this time of year, but add in cold, brittle wind that is whipping at them all day long as they hang out at the dock in Canet.  This doesn't sound remotely enticing to me.  So, I'll go about my assigned duties and only moan and beg for sympathy from my family and close friends.  I'll keep quiet when Martin calls.

Many have asked Martin and me why we are even doing this in the first place?  Well, my gut reaction is to say, "Why not?" but that isn't why.  This is something that Martin and I have mulled over for the past year.  We've done our homework.  First, we attended three large boat shows (Oakland, Cannes and Annapolis) where we looked and looked at every catamaran out there.  We have sat in on many seminars at these boat shows, received our ASA sailing certifications and have plotted and planned over how we were going to make this happen.

Martin was born to be an adventurer.  He still has a boy-like quality that always wants to see what is on the other side, no matter the route.  He has always wanted to know what is possible to do that no one else has done.  He has swam with sharks, dolphins and whales.  Martin has participated in Ironmans and above all, he is an accomplished outdoorsman.  Martin bought his first sailboat when he was nine and has continued his passion for the sea up into adulthood.  It is his first love (and I am okay with it).

I, on the other hand, I'm a planner.  I like to know where I am going and figure out the easiest way to get there.  In this respect, Martin and I are polar opposites.  I had really never thought about seeing the world on a sailboat, but you have to admit, it does sound pretty dreamy.   Even though it was never a lifelong dream of mine, the minute Martin put the thought into my head, I couldn't yank it out even though I tried.  I would say to myself at times, "This is crazy!  We have a daughter!  We can't just pick up and go?"  However, I am just as much of a dreamer as Martin and as soon as those fears subsided, I was on board with him 100%.  A girl can dream too, right?

This isn't about us leaving the lives we currently have, getting rid of all of our worldly belongings and wanting a simpler life.  We like things complicated, but the timing is right for us NOW.  Our daughter won't be in kindergarten for another two years and there is no time like the present for us to get out there and see the world from a different view.   Our view will just happen to be from the deck of Amara.

Last year, Martin and I were at a boat show and we sat in on a class that was being given by the famous sailor, Jimmy Cornell.  Someone in the audience asked him why he would sell everything, uproot his family and take off on a sailboat for six years with his wife and two young children.  I loved his reply.  He said, "I grew up in Romania.  At the time Romania was behind the iron curtain.  You Americans take your freedom for granted.  You don't know what it is like to grow up where your basic human rights and freedoms are taken from you.  So, when I had the chance, I left Romania and decided that I wanted to be free.  I wanted to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted.  Sailing on my boat and seeing the world with my family--that is my kind of freedom.  So we went!"

So, we are going to go as well!  We are about to embark on an adventure that neither Martin nor myself are completely sure of how it will turn out.  Martin is terrified that after 3 weeks of this I'll be ready to head back to the mountains of Utah.

Boats break and we aren't the most apt sailors as of yet.  That is why we are bringing a crew with us for the first six months, to make sure we learn the ropes and become more sure of ourselves and in handling Amara on our own.  In fact, we may decide to keep the crew the entire voyage, we're just not sure yet.  Martin keeps telling me that I need to get used to living in ambiguity.  That's tough for me, but I am willing to take a stab at it.

Truthfully, I have to pinch myself thinking that this is really going to happen.  That we made this dream of ours a reality.  We already have our plan mapped out to where we will sail for the next year and a half and I'll make sure to post it so that our readers can get an idea of where we'll be... or trying to get to at least.  I can't wait to get this adventure started.

We hope you follow along as we set sail on Amara.

Post Edit:  Martin just read this post and sent me an email that said, "The ocean was my first love, but only because you weren't around yet.  You are now my foremost love!"  (Love him to the moon.)