A New Chapter - January 2010

Late last summer I decided that I needed to have, no, would like to have, a larger boat. I was beginning to plan my retirement and was thinking that I wanted something I could live on for lengthy periods of time. At the end of July (2009) my son took ownership of Serenity. I figured I would have my "retirement" boat by the end of August. Ahhh, the "best laid plans" . . . . .

During my lifetime I've made lots of "major" purchases; houses, numerous cars and and many other things that required some degree of decision making. I don't believe that any of those things were as difficult, or maybe as impossible, as finding just the right boat. Like many who begin this process, I had two lists: "Have to have" and "Would like to have".

The realities of managing a boat dictated that Serenity's replacement probably shouldn't be longer than 35 feet but it should have a very wide beam (width). I was looking for a boat with as much interior space as I could get. I looked at a LOT of boats but ruled each one out because it was too big or too small or needed too much work or was too expensive or didn't have this or didn't have that, etc., etc. Just as with houses and cars there is no such thing as the perfect boat. It's a matter of how much compromise one is willing to make.

After more than a month of looking I found a boat that, although it didn't make my heart beat faster, seemed to meet most of my requirements. I paid the deposit, had a survey done, renegotiated the price, and had a cashiers check ready to send to the broker but I had nagging doubts.

There was an interruption in the process. Due to unforeseen and uncertain circumstances I felt it was not prudent to go through with the boat purchase and cancelled it.

Two months later I began the search all over again. But something had changed. I was no longer interested in the biggest boat that I could manage. I wanted a boat that when I was walking away, would make me turn around and take another look. I have always admired the classic designs with the long over-hangs both fore and aft. But, boats of these designs are, more often than not, narrower than the newer designs. Less width = less interior space. Since this type of design is no longer popular, if I found one in decent shape it was probably going to be an older boat. I traveled the length of the Chesapeake looking. I don't know how many boats I got aboard and looked at but I was beginning to be on a first name basis with lots of brokers and private sellers around the bay.

I got a call one day from a broker who told me that a boat just came on the market that I might be interested in. He said it was in fantastic shape. I had become used to hearing "well cared for", "lots of upgrades", "ready to sail away" and other similar phrases. I had found that very often when a broker said a boat was "ready to sail away" it meant it still had the ability to float. "Lots of upgrades" often meant that some original equipment had been replaced - - at some point in the distant past.

I went to look and was very pleasantly surprised. The boat was a Bristol 32, considered by many to be one of the prettiest of the "old" design boats. It was, in fact, in very good shape. I did some quick research and learned that Bristols were well built boats. I made an offer. The owner turned it down and his counter offer was not acceptable. In view of concerns I had about the size and age of the engine I did not make another offer.

Things happen for a reason some times. I found myself repeatedly looking at the pictures I had taken of the Bristol. It was almost the exact opposite of the type of boat I thought I wanted in August. Narrow beam, no quarter berth (bunk at the back of the boat), designed to heel (lean) more than I liked when sailing, but they sure are pretty. I continued to look.

A month later I saw an ad for another Bristol 32. The pictures weren't good but I decided to go have a look anyway. The owner of this boat had put a great deal of money into upgrades, albeit a few years ago. The boat had a newer engine with twice the power of the original, in mast mainsail furling, a completely rebuilt head (bathroom) with hot and cold water and a shower, a compressed natural gas stove and cabin heater, new electrical panels and lots of extra equipment but . . . . the interior woodwork was kind of shabby and the exterior teak trim needed to be refinished, the forward navigation lights needed to be replaced. A number of other things needed some attention. In short, there were lots of things that needed to be done but nothing major.

To shorten this narrative that is already to long, it's now mine. I've started the process of refinishing virtually all of the interior cabinetry. Next is a vigorous cleaning. I had forgotten about my lists but when I found it a couple of weeks after the purchase I was pleasantly surprised. This boat had all but three of the items on the "Have to have" list and it had all of the items on the "Would like to have" list.

I find myself, on occasion, questioning my decision to buy a boat of this design but every time I walk away from it, I find myself turning around to take another look.

More pictures will follow as I get her "in shape."



Shakedown on the South River prior to taking the boat north.


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