Skeeter and I exited from the interstate and worked our way back towards my parent’s subdivision. Beautiful homes and perfectly manicured lawns lined the streets surely making it difficult for any judge to select a “yard of the month.”
Mom busied herself in the kitchen tending to the last few items before supper time.
Skeeter’s perpetual shedding had him banished to the back porch. His food bowl remained full as he stared at us through the sliding glass window.
With the dinner table set to perfection mom began preparing our bowls at the stove.
We all took our places at the table as dad looked at me and asked, “How’s the boat search coming along?”
I turned to dad, “We haven’t found much within our price range.”
Dad doesn’t put much value on anything, even his own stuff, and with a bit of disgust in his voice he continued the conversation, “People who sell stuff are usually delusional about its value, especially boat owners. What you need is someone who has had their boat for sale for years. You want them disgusted with the boat.”
The weeks seemed to pass by too quickly. Roxanne had flown in from New Orleans and we spent our days meandering up and down the docks, viewing the boats with interest and appreciation.
We would stop in front of a boat, it didn’t matter if it had a “for sale” sign on it or not, and point out different aspects that we liked or didn’t like. From bow to stern our eyes didn’t miss a single aspect of the yacht and only after we exhausted everything worthy of discussion would we move on to the next one.
I’m not sure I could have articulated it back then, but we wanted a boat that we would love. Any boat that we could afford would certainly require years of work and 1,000s of man hours to make beautiful again. With this sort of time commitment in front of us, we didn’t want to settle for anything less than a boat that we could take pride in.
At night we would spend our time surfing all of the different websites that had boat listings but we never seemed to find the perfect boat.
When mid April came and went, we began discussing a plan B but none of the plan B options appealed to either of us, so we kept searching.
With a click of the mouse I froze and stared at my computer screen in disbelief as it displayed a 49 foot trawler that had a beautiful classic look that we love and needed just enough repairs to fall within our price range. And as if the pendulum of good luck had finally started to swing our way, the boat was docked in Tampa Florida, about an hour’s drive from my parent’s house and more importantly just 500 hundred nautical miles from Louisiana.
The boat looked very nice on my computer screen and absolutely beautiful in person.
Bob and his wife Pam had owned the boat for the last 10 years and according to the yacht broker, they hadn’t used it in the last three. They were already on the boat when we arrived and had a cheerful and optimistic glow about them. Cash buyers seem to have that affect on boat sellers.
I had only one requirement. Take us on a short cruise on Tampa Bay.
Bob, now at the driving station, started the engines and proceeded with his boat departure routine. I mentioned that I had no idea how to drive a boat like this so if he would describe what he was doing, I would certainly appreciate it. After a short stunned silence, Bob became a teacher and tutored me on the basics of operating a 49 foot yacht.
With enough buttons and levers at the helm to mimic the flight controls of the space shuttle, I soon became overwhelmed with all that Bob described.
I had to ask “Bob is it hard to dock this thing?”
Without hesitation and oozing with a sweet southern drawl Bob replied, “Naw, after about 30 times, it will become second nature to you.”
“What about my 1st through 29th time?”
“Try not to run into anything, this boat weighs 50,000 pounds and will crush anything that you hit.”
I made a mental note to purchase liability insurance
I listened to the engines and felt for unusual vibrations and looked around for anything that would throw up a red flag and kill the deal.
By the end of the day we needed to make a decision. Did we want to buy this boat or not? Everything told us that this was a great deal, but with a bad case of pre-purchase jitters it’s easy to talk ourselves out of things.
Without a valid reason to turn the boat down, we had a very brief round of negotiations and came to an agreement on price.
Our boat purchase went a lot smoother with the bank than our boat sale. Debbie, the petite blonde bank employee that is evidently happily married with two children, if you can trust pictures on people’s desk, just couldn’t contain her curiosity. She was busy completing a wire transfer for our new boat and the lengthy process led us into a discussion about how my wife, daughter and I spent the last couple of years sailing on the warm clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
With a smile and a laugh Debbie asked the non-confrontational question that would lead the discussion to how we can afford such a lifestyle, “Did you two win the lottery?”
Owning a boat and cruising from interesting city to interesting city seems like a rich man’s hobby but that really isn’t the case.
I described to Debbie how we lived on the crystal clear waters of Key Largo in a resort marina that included power, water, wifi, exercise rooms, hot tubs and three different swimming pools for less than half the price of a typical mortgage.
I continued, about how we lived amongst the rich and beautiful near the famous Los Almos Blvd in Ft. Lauderdale for less than $500 a month.
I went ahead and finished my speech with my absolute favorite thing about living aboard, “And the beauty of it all is that we have waterfront property and don’t have to pay a dime in property tax.”
Debbie flashed an envious grin as she refocused on her work. With one final click of the mouse, she completed the money transfer and we were boat owners once again.
With smiles on our faces and the satisfaction that everybody feels after a purchase, we headed out of the bank riding our new purchase high.
With two steps of our plan completed and only two to go, I felt confident. We still had 2 ½ months before August 1st and I began to believe that we could pull this whole thing off.
But I knew in the back of my mind, that old boats require a lot of work and that we would find much more wrong with our new home than Bob and Pam cared to mention.