Let the fun begin

DEC 2009 – May2010

Back in Australia, we dragged the sale out for as long as possible and watched the Aussie dollar hit $0.85 then $0.90 and we finally did the deed at $0.927. The owner was not happy but as I said to him if the boot was on the other foot I was pretty sure he would have done the same.

The MHC had the paperwork completed and we paid in December. This gave me to the 5th of May to leave Florida waters. Boomerang was removed from the US Coast guard lists and transferred to being an Australian registered vessel, the EPIRB was transferred into our name also. We received the ships papers and Boomerang finally felt like she was ours.

Two days before we shut down for christmas we moved into our new 95% finished house, here we go again, I hope it doesn’t take 18 years to finish this one.

I had a heavy workload back in Margaret River with the 2010 vintage starting in January and finishing in April sometime, so we gambled on the dates coming up with a Virgin flight on the 16th April for me to Florida and Mollie, our 18 year old daughter, to follow a fortnight later. We enlisted a mate, Murray, a sailor and also a very reliable bloke, Jen was going to stay home and run the business until we got to Tahiti, then Jan my sister was taking over until we got back. This proved to work brilliantly.

Mollie and I went and did our HF and VHF license, hard day in the classroom that one after a pretty heavy night on the Jacks but we passed with flying colors, just.

I had looked at a few charts of the trip from US to Panama and there were heaps of guides that the owners sold to us on the boat for the Bahamas.

We weren’t even sure where our travels were going to take us so planning ahead didn’t make much sense and I have got through life winging it to now, so no point in changing.

I had met a bloke, Vinny, who was also going to be sailing across the Pacific at about the same time so I got in touch with his skipper. They were leaving from the Caribbean so the idea was to either catch up with them there or Panama.

I rang Darrel up and told him the dates and to confirm that he was going to come with me on the trip from Cape Coral to Fort Lauderdale, the owner had pulled out, but Darrel seemed committed so I went with that. I had Boomerang booked into the Lauderdale Marine Centre on the 19th and wanted to stick to it if possible.

The owner didn’t reckon it was possible as the wind had been blowing from the North for the last 2 weeks and had blown all the water out into the Gulf of Mexico,we would not have enough water, even on highest tide. I told him not to worry it will all work out and sure enough the wind changed, the water filled back in and the tide was high at 1600 on the 16th.

I departed on the 16th, Premium Economy all the way, only way to fly, and rolled up at the Fort Lauderdale International airport at 0500 on the 16th, got a hire car to Darrel’s, woke him up and dragged him whinging about having to look after his ex missus’s dog.

We hit the road for Cape Coral just on 0700 and pulled up out the front of the Smith’s at 1100 and sent them into a spin as they expected us to stay for a day or two, no wonder they thought my schedule was impossible. We installed the new tender, a brand new West Marine RIB and new Mercury 15 HP four stroke outboard to the davits, fitted perfectly, went for lunch at some rib joint, pretty weird way to cook meat, then did a bit of shopping for the trip, beers, wine, coffee, milk, biscuits, chips, jam and bread. Darrel loves his coffee. We also filled the dinghy tank with fuel.
Once back at the boat the tide was getting good, the Smith’s now realizing we were leaving, we’re starting to get all sentimental, and it didn’t take long and they were balling, we said thanks and seeya later for now as they were coming down to Fort Lauderdale in a weeks time.167578_168084069904204_1694468_n

We followed the canals and then the intercostal waterway and then out into the Gulf to be greeted with mirror like conditions for my first night sail, motor, you couldn’t have asked for more, it was hooting. I sat up front and drank beers as we motored in the balmy conditions south for Key West. The only concerns were ships and crab pots, the latter were everywhere, but had been set in a perfectly straight lines so you find the middle of the row and set the autopilot, otherwise you would be stuffing around dodging in and out all night. Seemed to work as there were thousands of them and we didn’t hit any.

DSC00004We passed ships and trawlers of all sizes, at one stage we had 5 of them within 6 miles, but finally the sun came up and we rounded some beacon in the middle of nowhere and changed direction for Key West. I was completely out of my league, but Darrel was on to it so we safely navigated our way around the Southern most tip of America and started our journey North.

It was once again a beautiful day and we progressed at 6 to 7 knots up past the bridges to around Key Largo when a change in the weather became quickly apparent, right on sunset. The wind had increased from nothing to about 15knots from the North and was making it a bit lumpy but not to bad as we had stuck to the coast and not headed out into the Gulfstream. The worst thing was the ocean liners, one after the other heading our way, we backed off on the revs and made a steady 6 knots all night.

Well what a horror night, we battened down the hatches and pretty much hung in there, my crew was feeling it and was not the most responsive when it came to getting off the lounge, so I kept watch, the autopilot steered us and the radar picked out all the ships.

I was thinking that this isn’t that much fun as the sun came up but that morning the wind increased to 25 knots and as we passed Miami I suggested we head in, Darrel wouldn’t hear of it so on we went. I was amazed at how many other boats were out there, yachts with tiniest storm jibs, cabin cruisers all just appearing as if from nowhere, they were heading for Miami. Visibility was to about 400 meres but we persisted, the poor boat was crashing off the tops of waves and slamming into the next one, water was coming up the sink, horror. At around 1400 the breeze dropped slightly and itPicture 021 made a huge difference to our well being, the crashing and banging was only every other wave and what had been a hostile environment began to calm just a little, even to the point of cracking a bottle of red wine and a nice big fat cigar, Darrel wasn’t real keen though.

We made it to the entry into the port at Fort Lauderdale at 1600 and headed up through the bridge into the New River, passed through the bridges feeding the city and pulled up at my favourite downtown bar, the Pirate Republic, for a well earned beer.

Picture 049

What an excellent experience that had been. Although we hadn’t set a sail the whole way it had shown me what a Perry 43 could handle when the whole plan goes to shit. That feeling of knowing is worth bottling. I also learnt how to use an autopilot, a radar, a GPS and how to use a chart. Grinning. This trip back to Australia all of a sudden seemed quite makable.

I had booked the same condo at the Esplanade in downtown for a couple of weeks.

We hauled out at the Lauderdale Marine Centre on the 19th as planned, organized new anti fouling, new membrane for the water maker, service kit for the props and a general clean up. The Smiths came down from Cape Coral to help, turned out more a hindrance with a pretty costly mistake with the props, but finally I got it right. The Marina crew, in particular the girls in the office are so helpful and will do just about anything to make sure your haul out goes smoothly. If you ever get there and walk into the office you will know what I mean, the smiles are infectious.

 

I flew up to New York to meet our daughter Mollie and did most of the touristy things for a couple of days, the highlight was the pizza from Grimaldi’s which is under the Brooklyn bridge. Wear something Australian and the boss will turn on the charm and ACDC at heaps of decibels. Be warned you will have to cue, but the pizza is excellent. We hit the statue of liberty, the tallest building, times square, Hair was on but Moe wouldn’t be in it, teenagers, what is it.

We then headed headed back to Fort Lauderdale and met up with the other crew member, Muz. He was pretty happy when he checked Boomerang out, she was looking pretty hot I have got to admit. Got on it with Darell, Dave who is another cat owner and a really good bloke. He taught us about minutes and degrees and their relationship to distance. Judy the owner of the condo let us stay for a few days extra and was there on the 4th of May at 0600 to wish us good luck, she is a beaut, if you are going there check them out on the Internet.

DSC00324We had a shocker to start the voyage with a bounce off the boat behind us, wind and current got me, no damage to either boat, thank god. Just before the bump I had called the bridge operator thinking I would be there in a minute or so, ended up taking about 5 or 10, and copped it from him as he had all the cars hooting at him, horror, the next bridge opened and shut without any communications so all was good. Talking on the VHF radio was about as much fun as burning yourself.

We passed under the last bridge and headed for Australia.

Our first destination is North Bimini Island in the Bahamas and from there we would just see how it all panned out.

Captain Rod and crew.

Buying a yacht overseas.

September 2009.

This was an article that I had to write after reading about how difficult it is to buy a boat overseas, Multihull Solutions propaganda, blah, blah, blah.

To all the readers of Australian Multihull World I would just like to say that the issue of purchasing a boat overseas is not as bad as some make out. We did it, reaped the benefits and had the most excellent adventure chucked in.

My wife, Jen, and I went to the USA in September 2009 with a list of 20 catamarans, Fountaine Pajot Lavezzi 40’s, Lagoon 410’s, although I was pretty damn sure I would never buy a Lagoon due to the self opinionated wanker salesman at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in 2008, and a couple of Privelege 44’s.

I had been watching the net with two brokerage companies in particular, The Multihull Company and the Catamaran Company and after speaking with  representatives from both decided on a bloke by the name of Darrel McDaniel from the MHC in Fort Lauderdale. He came across pretty cluey and didn’t seem inclined to shaft the other brokers, although he spoke a bit funny.

We tee’d up some dates and then I hunted down a place to stay in Fort Lauderdale, booked the flights and a couple of months later we arrived in Florida, jet lagged but pretty keen to get into it. We had allowed ourselves 3 weeks to find what we were after and I was quite prepared to fly down to the BVI’s if needed. We scored the best accommodation available right on the New River at Sail boat Bend in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Penthouse condo with all the gear looking over the city and the river, pretty flash and compared to a hotel, pretty bloody cheap. There was one drawback, at 0400 every morning a train would pass through Fort Lauderdale and sound its horn all the way through the city precinct to let the poor buggers doing it tough sleeping on the tracks to get the hell out of there, but the daily viewing of megga yachts, The River Queen and the bridge raisings made up for it in spades. We got to know the owners and ended up becoming mates with them, Jude is an absolute ripper.

Next day Darrel rolled up in a dinky toy, Mazda something, but we came to an arrangement that we would use the V8 Dodge Charger I had rented and he would pay for fuel and drive. This worked well and we set off to see some boats. The first one was at a marina up the New River, only 5 minutes from home, this catamaran according to the advertisement on the web had just completed a circumnavigation and had undergone an extensive refit and was ready to go again.

I took a look at it, stuck my head inside and had a sniff, climbed down and got back into the car and said, “next”. I explained to Darrel that that was not what we were looking for. That day we looked at 6 cats, all from the adverts I had seen.

First lesson learnt on the first day, things that shine in photos are not always shiny.                                                    For some reason some Floridians don’t seem to look after their things as we do, put it this way I would have at least washed the boat down and aired it out if someone was coming to have a look. It made it easy though, you could tell which boats leaked, how they were cared for and how they were maintained. If a leak was to hard to fix servicing an engine would probably be impossible.

Day 1, 6-0.

Next day we headed up to Stuart to have a look at a 2004 Lagoon 410, which ended up being a pretty good looking boat. A couple of oldies had owned her for ever and they had done some miles in her. We went over her from top to bottom and 4 hours later were quite happy with the boat but not the price, $345000 US, we were in no hurry yet.

Day 2, 7-1.

Next day was a lay day as Darrel needed to tee up a couple of boats to look at up at Saint Petersberg and he had heard of another one that he hadn’t seen which was on the way, in Cape Coral.

Next day we were off heading up Alligator Alley at 80mph then across the Everglades to the east side of Florida. Good freeways and if you stick to 80 it is all cool. On the drive over Darrel was telling me about this boat his mates had had a look at and how good a nick it was in, he also let me know the asking price was $425000 and the owners had just dropped it by $75000 to get some interest. I didn’t have anywhere near $425000 so it seemed like a waste of time to me, but he persisted and as he was driving and shouting lunch at St Pete why not. We arrived at a house, snuck around the back and out onto the jetty on the canal. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was a Perry 43, it was gleaming and it was called Boomerang. We went over her pretty hastily as I did not have enough money to buy this beauty. As we were leaving the broker that she was listed with rolled up and his last words were, make an offer. I said how’s $330000 sound and looking at his face all I could see was contempt. I said to Darrel see I told you so let’s get out of here.

We hit the road and checked the 2005 Lavessi 40 and another Lagoon 410 after lunch and a swag load of beers.

The Lavessi was in not to bad condition but needed a good polish, it had no radar or Autopilot and was used for small charters around the local waterways with the owner skippering. This was the boat of choice for me and it looked pretty bloody good for $290000. It was better than the Lagoon and we may have been able to get it down to $270000 if we were lucky.

We left our names with all the brokers and headed home, about a 3 hour journey at 80mph, where else can you get away with that, awesome . Day 4, 10-3.

Over the weekend I had time to think about it and judging on what we had seen it was down to the first Lagoon in Stuart or the Lavessi up at St Pete. After a few days Darrel came back to us with the news that the owners of the Perry had asked for an offer in writing and it had to be more like $400000. I was a bit shocked as I had pretty much forgotten about them, so we sat down and wrote out an offer of $340000 and sent it off to them. They came back saying they wanted more but we stuck to our guns.

As we were now into our second week we needed to get the ball rolling so we headed out to Stuart again and were sitting in a crab king for lunch, sort of like the old pizza huts but with crabs, when the phone rang and sure enough it was the Perry broker, I took the phone from Darrel and said we have not got anymore more cash and we are just about to put an offer on another boat to which he replied, give me 5 minutes. He rang back about 10 minutes later and said it was a deal. I was dumbfounded, it didn’t really sink in until we were sitting in the pool back at the condo. What a bargain.

The next part of the process is the paperwork, which is pretty simple, I put a clause in to allow me as long as I could to pay as the Aussie dollar was on the rise and we needed as long as possible to get our acts together with getting back to sail her home due to the 3 month rule, which requires the boat to be out of Florida’s waters in, you guessed it, 3 months.

Then the survey had to be organized, this is where Darrel came to the party, he organized a surveyor he knew and a date was set when the tide was low enough to get Boomerang under the bridge to Sanibel Island on the way to the Gulf Slip-yard. On the chosen day it was all plain sailing, although the VHF Ariel on top of the mast scraped on the bridge, the owner was crapping.

It was just all too unreal for us, we are talking a beautiful boat, I was grinning like a dead fox. The survey took about 5 hours and the boat was given a big tick by him. We took the boat back out under the bridge, pulled up the sails, new jib, flogged out main that the broker called a perfect delivery sail, and in 8 knots of breeze we were doing 4 to 5, it felt superb. We tacked and jibed then they took her off me and let the owner drive her home for the last time. His wife was balling her eyes out and the tightarse brokers didn’t bring anything to drink, lucky there were a couple of Aussies on board and the Coronas and bubbles went down a treat.

As there was nothing to be repaired we signed the paperwork there and then, transferred the deposit to MHC’s escrow account and agreed to let MHC do all the paperwork and arrangements for the US Coast guard, registering in Australia, an extension of 3 months on top of the 3 you get before it must be out of Florida waters and any other settlement matters. It went smooth as silk and was not bad at $1500 plus any transfer fees. We accomplished all that we needed to in person before we left and that was that. We spent a day with the owners, sitting on Boomerang and floating around in their pool, although I had to put my foot down when they suggested swimming in the nick, only in America, where were they coming from?

In the end we had a great holiday in Florida, I can walk around marinas and check out boats all day any day, we got to see Key West, become a local at the Pirate Republic Bar, drove an airboat in the Everglades, almost got arrested for driving through a red light, watched a Gators game and bought a filthy yacht.

We arranged for the owner to look after Boomerang on his jetty where she had lived all her life. At three hundred dollars a month until we got back to sail away seemed a pretty good deal. Then we flew to New York for a few days with the job done and dusted, how hard was that.

Home open.

July 2009

We have just spent a month of hard labour and have completed all the jobs you never finish when you are an owner builder. It took 18 years but the old place looks excellent and with it nestled on a fast flowing creek surrounded by 20 metre black butt trees and peppies it should sell.

The last time we sold a house it was the first people to come through the door who made an offer there and then, who would have thought it was about to happen again. With most of the world in doom and gloom we happened across a couple with the money and urgently looking for a house.                                                  SOLD

August 2009

Have had to move out of our home of 18 years, a few tears by all of us down by the creek, but lets get the show on the road. We have a half built house in Augusta, a sleepy little town 40 clicks to the south of Margaret River, so we need to pull our fingers out and get that happening plus we have booked and paid for a trip to Florida in September to go and find a cat. I spend every night scanning the internet and have a list of boats as long as your arm, they all look great and so cheap I can’t wait to get there. We have enlisted a bloke by the name of Darell McDaniel  who is a broker with the Multihull Company and seems all right. We will have 3 weeks in Fort Lauderdale and a few days in New York so should be fun, neither of us has been to America so what else could it be.