The Voyage


Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Boat Buying’ Category

Finding Spectacle

Posted by: andy

Now that we have the boat (!), I thought I’d write a little bit about our search for it.

The prospect of finding the right boat for our adventure was VERY daunting.  As I’ve said to many people, it seems like buying a boat combines all the worst elements of buying a used car with all the worst elements of buying a house.  As early as last December, we began researching brands and models and messing around on Yacht World looking at individual boats.

There are surprisingly few boats that are actually designed for blue-water (i.e. ocean-crossing) sailing. Sailboats come in roughly three categories: (1) production boats, (2) semi-custom boats, and (3) custom boats.  For the most part, the largest boat manufacturers — Beneteau, Hunter and Catalina – do not design their boats for the kind of long ocean-passages and potentially violent conditions we will see. Have people sailed these boats around the world?  Of course.  It’s just not really what they are designed for.  These so-called “production” boats just aren’t as heartily constructed as “semi-custom” or “custom” boats.

“Custom” means different things to different people, but most of all it implies very small production. This was also a little bit scary to us.  We didn’t want a “one-off” design that could have any number of undiscovered – and potentially unfixable — quirks to it.  Basically, we wanted a proven blue-water design from a proven manufacturer.  That left us with the “semi-custom” category.

The day after the Rose Bowl debacle (don’t get me started), our search began in earnest with a trip up to the Seattle Boat Show.  Although this is not one of America’s biggest shows, it did give a chance to walk around on a number of different boats.  We saw several boats that we really liked (several different Hallberg-Rassys especially stood out) and others that we had expected to like but didn’t (we’ll keep that info to ourselves).  This helped us further refine our list.

We knew we were going to be attending a wedding in Michigan over July 4th weekend.  We also knew we wanted to buy a boat on the east coast.  So, on one particularly neurotic early March evening, I managed to track down every potentially suitable boat listed on Yacht World (believe it or not, there were only about 50) and list them in geographic order from Michigan to Maine to Florida, with the thought that we’d spend the month-or-so after the wedding driving down the east coast and finding the boat.  Needless to say, this plan would involve a considerable expenditure of both time and money.

However, we also knew we were going to be in Fort Lauderdale in March, so we might as well start the search then.  And the very first boat we saw was Declaire.  Both in terms of size and in terms of price, Declaire was at the top of our range.  However, it took about two minutes for us to know that she was exactly what we wanted.  We kept our cool until our broker, Patrick Jackson of Bollman Yachts, dropped us off.  Then I turned to Melissa and said, “We’re buying that boat, aren’t we?”   She said, “We sure are.”

So much for our month-long tour of every major marina on the east coast.

As we sailed down to Panama and back with John Kretschmer (who knows just a few things about buying a boat), we had five weeks to think about making an offer.  We prattled on and on about how much it loved Declaire, and we got John to agree to come look at the boat when we made it back to Lauderdale.

We got back, and Declaire was just as we remembered her, if not better.  John’s reaction?   “I think you can probably get this boat for $[X], and if you can, you need to buy this boat.”  Well, if the author of “Used Boat Notebook” (one of the leading books about purchasing a used sailboat) says we need to buy the boat, then we’re buying it.   We made an offer a couple of weeks later and, after a brief round of negotiation, we had a contract.

The purchase of a boat is never going to be the smartest financial decision one ever makes, but we feel very confident that we ended up getting good value for money.  And, no, you may not ask us how much we paid for the boat…

“Tale of the Twin Fiascoes”

Posted by: andy

Episode I – Fiasco Autopilot

“If you had told me two years ago that I’d have a tranny-adjacent, Bahamian auto-pilot repair man who shares my name climbing around on my bed (that’s where the access to the autopilot is), I’d have suggested you get your head examined.”

At long last, the long-promised first installment of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes” has arrived.  Given its length, we’ve posted it on a separate page, which you can find here.

Episode II — Big Wind = Not Fun

At one point, Erik was wretching over the starboard cockpit combing, and I was puking away over the port cockpit combing.  Only Melissa emerged unscathed.

Again on its own separate page, you can find Episode II of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes” here. 

Episode III — The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

So as we bashed upwind through the night, I thought about the apologetic phone call I was going to have to make to my mother in which I was not only going to have to explain that Erik wouldn’t be home for Christmas but that the reason for this was that the boat had no engine and was losing power.  I’m sure just having two of her sons out sailing on the open ocean already had my mother replaying  Ordinary People in her head.

For the latest in our continuing saga, check out Episode III here.

Episode IV — Christmas Really Is a Holiday in the Turks and Caicos

“Get the flares,” I told Erik.  We proceeded to shoot two flares at this plane.  We waved our arms in a distress motion.  We couldn’t possibly have been more obvious in trying to convey that we were indeed the boat for whom they were looking.

Why are we shooting flares at planes?  Read on to Episode IV, which you can find here.  

Episode V — A Retrieval With “Flare”

Of course, after firing off 5 cannon flares, 4 pistol flares, all sorts of smoke flares, self-firing parachute flares, an assortment of handheld flares, and plenty of duds — well, after all that you begin to feel like you know what you are doing.  You also get trigger happy.

For the exciting conclusion of “Tale of the Twin Fiascoes”, click here.