July 20, 2010

Boatless and joyful

ONE OF MY MOST enjoyable pastimes at the moment is reading the boating bulletin boards. You know, the ones where people ask each other for help about bilge pumps that don’t work, and engines that won’t start, and leaks they can’t plug.

None of that affects me now, but I love to read about it (shuddering with Schadenfreude) because I have sold my boat.

I sold it four times, actually. (I may have mentioned before that nothing to do with boats is easy.) The first buyer drove 850 miles from California in a blazing hurry. He looked at the boat, loved it, and offered my full asking price. We had him around to dinner at home, and the next day I took him for a test sail. That evening he called from his hotel room. “I’ve made a dreadful mistake,” he said.

I think he discovered during the test sail that he had no idea how to handle the boat. This little practical matter had been smothered by his vision of cocktails at anchor in a beautiful wooded cove somewhere.

He wrote a touching note of apology and left it, together with $100 in cash, in a drawer on the boat. “I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused,” he said.

I called him as he was driving back to California and said I couldn’t possibly accept his $100, but he was quite adamant. So I thought to myself “Wow, if I get a few more customers like this I can set up a nice new business.” But nobody else ponied up like he did.

The second buyers were two nice ladies who fell in love with the boat but couldn’t raise a loan from their credit union. The third buyer was a man with a wife problem. He badly wanted the boat, but his wife, a rather rotund person, couldn’t manage the gap between the boat and the dock without sitting down and making a public spectacle of herself as she sort of flowed across like a giant amoeba. So after a lot of agonizing, he backed out, too.

Then came a whole slew of tire-kickers, young men looking for a boat to live aboard, and their fathers urging them on. I advised them to buy Catalinas, which have more room and cost half as much as Cape Dories.

Finally, along came a very nice lady who wanted to teach her 11-year-old daughter to sail and explore the wild islands to the north of us. She beat me down $1,500 from my asking price, paid cash, and motored off into the blue.

So now I am boatless in Bellingham and thoroughly enjoying it. How long this euphoria will last, I can’t say. I have been through this stage several times in my life and it always ends up with some boat catching my eye, then filling my heart, then emptying my pocketbook.

Meanwhile, however, I urge all of you boatowners to keep up the whining and complaining on the bulletin boards. You’ve no idea how good it makes me feel.

Today’s Thought
Inequality of knowledge is the key to a sale.
— Deil O. Gustafson, real estate executive

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #72
Hull thickness, fiberglass. The general rule is that skin thickness in inches should equal at least 0.07 plus the waterline length in feet divided by 150.
Thickness usually varies from topsides downward, with about 15 percent less than average hull thickness in the upper topsides, and about 15 percent more at and below the waterline. Incidentally, powerboats should increase thickness by about 1 percent for every knot of boat speed over 10 knots.

Here’s some nice fresh vegetarian verse for you (organic, of course):

The vegetable broccoli,
While not exoccoli,
Is within an inch
Of being spinch.


Lotte said...


Hopefully this won't mean that you'll stop writing in here?

Erick said...

Hi John. I've been reading your blog for some time now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are really interested in seeing someone's misery and the occasional progress of rebuilding a boat for cruising, please check out my stories:


Feel free to comment where you think I need sage advice!

Keep up the great writing.


Aaron Headly said...

Well. OK, then. Congratulations, I guess. I trust you'll still get out on the water on someone else's headache, er, I mean boat. And I hope you'll still have plenty to write about.

It's July 21st, and my boat is still on stands, [sigh].

John Vigor said...

No, I have no plans to stop writing this column. I am not totally deprived of sailing. I have the use of a wooden International Mirror Class dinghy that I donated to my son some time back. It's quite old -- dating from the 1970s -- so it matches me quite nicely, though I go a bit farther back than the '70s!


John V.

oztayls said...

Mmmm, I wonder how long this boatless status will last?

Whaaat? The Mirror still lives?!!!

Melissa in Bellingham said...

What might the next boat be? Perhaps a Pearson Commander?