Monday, June 25, 2018

Midnight Sun III - new boat or not?

Midnight Sun II - at home in her slip

New Boat or Not?

Midnight Sun II, our current boat is a 1997 Hunter 42 Passage.  She has been a great boat to us and IS still a great boat.  But every once in a while you get the itch for a new on YachtWorld...or "boat porn" as Larry calls it.  And somehow, I've had a feeling that I probably  have one more sailboat left in me before age will force me to the dark side (trawler or even a pontoon boat!).

Over the last several months we have toiled with the idea of a new or different boat, but each time we have come back to a couple of issues: (i) what would we really need to buy to have something significantly better than Midnight Sun II?; and (ii) cost-benefit, i.e.,  how much money are we prepared to put into a boat and will that increase our enjoyment or use?  Difficult questions!  Midnight Sun II gets used most weeks and we just spent 6 months on her - so hard to think how we would use a boat more.

Item (i) became a very difficult question.  I have always been intrigued with the Southerly - a monohull with a retractable keel.  A very well built British boat which is featured on a sailing/travel show called "Distant Shores"see Distant Shores TV.  I have been watching the used market for a couple of years, but frankly they are over-priced and rare.  I guess its a case of supply and demand - not too many of them around, especially in the US and those that are looking for them, know what they want.  So going back to questions (i) and (ii) above - very hard to justify.  Equipment, size, and comfort would be very similar to Midnight Sun II.  Yes, it may sail a little better, particularly in heavier seas or to weather, but would it really be a significantly different boat?  As to cost-benefit - well prices were about high $300's to $400k.   Same size boat, newer, but not really a stepwise improvement as we have all the bells and whistles on Midnight Sun II.  Hmm.

Caliber 47 LRC
On our way home from the Bahamas, we did stop to view a  Caliber 47 LRC. 
Now that was a nice boat.  47 ft Long gave it some added interior features and comforts, but it had a large bowsprit giving it a LOA of at least 54-55 ft.  Price $430k, but I know they would come down a lot.  The boat was like new, but still a 2008.  It had been stored for most of its that would involve some projects as things start to break when coming out of hibernation!  Still, if it could be purchased at the right price, it started to fit some of the criteria.  It was even shoal draft (5'2") and ICW friendly.  One big downside - it would not really fit in our slip behind the house due to the that would not work.

So, thinking about our slip - this now becomes criteria (iii)....we can't really go longer, can't go deeper (Midnight Sun II draws 4'11", and about 5'6" is the max draft for our canal).  So we are limited to a shoal draft or retractable keel boat at 42-45 ft max length.  To be honest, I was finding it hard to find a monohull that fit these criteria and really excited me more than Midnight Sun II. Have I mentioned - she is a great boat!

But how about a "double-wide"? [aka "full boat" - Dean French; aka "boat with training wheels" - Larry Cost].  Well our slip is inset from the canal, so it may stick out a bit, but no more than some other boats?  It might work.  The bigger question was the entrance to the canal, which is quite narrow - and would the sail drives on a cat have sufficient depth at that width?  The solution was to borrow a cat and try it.  As it happened, we were able to find someone with a Lagoon 440 that needed to be moved - long story, but that's the gist of it.  They also wanted to sell it - but man what a project, and a floating reef!  Nevertheless, I volunteered to help, if we could take a slight detour down the canal.  It worked out - the 440 made it in no problem and did a 360 turn adjacent to our slip.  So a cat was becoming a possibility.  Maybe something a little smaller than the 440 as that has a 72 ft mast height and as such was not ICW friendly!

The used catamaran market is very active at the moment, with not too many real bargains to be found.  Several reason have been put forward, including: they are just more attractive to charterers due to size and space; many of the cats in charter fleets were lost in recent hurricanes - particularly in the BVIs (affecting the supply/demand situation); many people like the stability and space; and they are just "in vogue" at the moment. 

Nautitech open 40
We had looked at a few used and new cats.  We had seen what appeared to be structural/design flaws on a couple of new Leopards and while we liked them, this together with the Ikea-look of the interior put us off.  We looked at new and used Lagoons and decided that some great improvements in space use had been made on the newer versions, and the aesthetics of the "box" had also been much improved.  We also saw a Bavaria/Nautitech Open 40 which we really liked - but Bavaria had just filed for bankruptcy and build quality raised a few questions.  We had looked at a brand new Open 40 and there were some carpentry issues.  We liked the Balis, built by Catana  - but were they an ocean-going cat, or a nice charter/weekender?  The openness and solid forward deck raised some concerns for me in terms of sea-worthiness and stiffness. So we just kept coming back to Lagoon - tried, tested, nice build quality - the best we had seen so far, heavier than most (so a little slower), and backed by the Beneteau Group.  Personally I like "heavier" even though the cat dealers promote "lightweight".  Heavier to me generally means more material, better durability and strength - something I want in a boat.  Lagoon just kept coming out at the top of our list of "almost affordable" boats.  So we tested the waters with a couple of low-ball offers on 2-4 year old used Lagoons.  Hmm, no takers, one rejected our offer, one came back with what the broker said was a great counter.

We looked at new boats, but they were just "almost affordable" at best and criteria (ii) above kept raising its head.  But after talking to Dream Yacht Charters and looking at their programs, we stumbled on a situation that would work for us this year.  A program that would give us a substantial tax break and some income potential if we placed a boat into charter for one to two years.  So "almost affordable" became "about affordable" and due to a personal financial situation, could work for us this year only.  So after some considerable thought, discussion with CPAs, price negotiations, etc., we jumped in and ordered a new 2018 Lagoon 40.

New Boat! Lagoon 40

We are very excited about the prospect and the beginning of a new adventure - with a full boat!  lol.  Yes, one with two hulls!
Lagoon 40 - stock photo
The next chapter is still unfolding, but we plan to take delivery of the boat in France in November 2018.  We have elected to deliver it ourselves (with a great crew of friends) to the Virgin Islands where she will go into charter for a season or two depending upon how we like the program. 

The delivery will be our next big adventure in itself and will satisfy a "bucket list" item of mine - to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  Stay tuned as I try to document the process of buying the boat, planning the maiden voyage, and hopefully document it on video.  Already the details of the preparations are building into a daunting task.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Florida's Forgotten Coast

From Marco Island, we did a reverse bounce back up the FCYC Yacht Clubs - once again, making the most of our free nights at reciprocal clubs.   These included: Naples Yacht Club, Naples Sailing and Yacht Club, Venice YC, St. Charles YC, Bradenton YC, Sarasota YC, Clearwater YC, and St. Andrews YC.  All were great stops, some were fantastic, and a couple were exceptional in their own ways.  To mention a couple of the most positive attributes  is appropriate I think:

  • Dockmasters were great at all, but were exceptional at Naples Sailing and Yacht, Venice, Bradenton, St. Charles and Clearwater;
  • Friendliest YC members - St. Charles and Clearwater without a doubt;  
  • Fanciest YC - Sarasota of course, but a bit stuffy (only beaten on the trip by Royal Palm on the east coast - but the members there were really stuffy);
  • Best Food - Clearwater was a clear winner on this front.  Their food, wait staff, and chef were amazing.

Its always a nice touch when a yacht club displays burgees for visiting clubs on its yardarm.  A couple of clubs made this effort and it is very welcoming - these included: Royal Palm, St. Charles, and Bradenton.  The other nice touch is when they recognize you in the dining room. Thank you St. Charles!  

Although this is yacht club etiquette/tradition, it seems to have sadly fallen off the radar at many clubs.

Big Bend

Sunset - Big Bend
Crossing the Big Bend of Florida is one of the longest hops when we go or return from the Bahamas.  Most people are surprised by this, assuming that the jump to the Bahamas from Florida is longer.  We typically try to minimize the distance in open sea, especially when we have Salty with us.  Although he has been brought up on the boat, he will not use the bathroom on the boat.  We have tried all the trick - grass, artificial grass - you name it.  He chooses to hold it until dry land.  He has held it for well over 24 hours in the past, but we try not to do this to him.  I guess if he really has to go, he will go.  So our Big Bend crossing was timed with a stop at Anclote Key (just north of Clearwater) and a stop at Dog Island, making the rhumb line about 130 miles.  

There is always a little anticipation before setting off - weather checks, boat checks etc.  And of course, the forecast was not as advertised.  Wind on the beam quickly changed to 15 on the nose making progress slow and bumpy in the shallow Gulf waters.  The forecast was right in that the wind died down overnight - in fact to about 3-4 kts from behind.....which is essentially no use at all in terms of sailing.  The result was that we motored for 98% of the way.  Bummer - but at least it was an uneventful crossing.  Except for a VHF call from Witchy Woman and Sea-Esta, two boats that we know from the Pensacola area.  They saw our signature on AIS and passed us at about 2 am headed for the Bahamas.  What are the chances of that!  Two boats that we knew from home were about the only vessels we came across other than some small fishing boats when we approached Carrabelle/Dog island. We had a good conversation and gave them a few suggestions on places to stop along their way.

After making a potty stop for Salty at Dog Island, we continued on to Apalachicola.  Always one of my favorite stops and this time was no exception.  No YCs in Apalach, so we got a slip at Apalachicola marina - well a dock on the river just inside the bridge.  In the past, we have used the "municipal dock" which is the sea wall near the fishing boats.  There are no facilities or power there, but they used to charge $20 per night, which the local cop collected - if he remembered.  However, the local marinas have apparently pressured City Hall to increase the rate to the same as the marinas, so now nobody stays on the sea wall. - why would you when you can get a marina with power and bathrooms at the same price!
Anyway, Apalachicola is a wonderful little town and it was the Plein Air painting festival.  During this festival, artists from across the country congregate to compare their work and compete in a number of contests.  We were there for the "Blessing of the Easles", and got to see several artists in action.

From Apalachicola, we moved on to port St. Joe.  We stayed in the marina a couple of nights and had a couple of nights off the boat on Cape San Blas.

Once again we were reminded that this IS one of our favorite places in the world.  and that is no exaggeration.  The tranquility, beauty, beaches, and wildlife around St. Joe's Bay and Cape San Blas are in my mind second to none in the US and rank way up there in all of the places we have visited throughout the world.  We did note however that the area was busier than we have seen it in past years, and while this is great for the local economy, I sure   hope it does not spoil things!

Beaches near Ft. McRee - Salty enjoys a swim!
After this stop we were truly on the last legs of the trip.  An overnight stop in St. Andrews (yes another yacht club!), then a full day back to Pensacola.  As we arrived in the Pensacola inlet, shortly after sunset, we were surprised at the amount of shipping in the channel so late - it turned out that dredging operations were in progress and also some commercial fishing.  Thankfully I have been in and out of the pass enough times to know where the hazards are and we were able to avoid the traffic.  Some friends of ours heard us talking to the ships on VHF and told us that they were at anchor in Ft. McRee adjacent to the pass.  Since it was now dark, we accepted their kind offer to raft up for the night.  It was great to see Kristen, Cliff and family and exchange some stories about our trip.  We were also ready for a rest.  The next morning, we made our way home - just a couple hours away.  It was nice to be home, nice to see friends and neighbors.  Relief that the trip had gone well with remarkably few and only very minor maintenance/repairs.  But also a sense of sadness that this was the end of another fantastic trip on Midnight Sun II.

What next?  Stay tuned......we do have some news to share soon!