Today I bought the third most expensive thing I have ever paid for… But it wasn't a house. It's funny, immediately after I say yes to any number with more than 3 zeros in it I always get that little pang of self-doubt. All the inertia leading up to the moment washes away and I am left on a little island of "You've done it now" but in this case it's a rather nice little island, with perhaps a palm tree or two.
It has been many years in the planning, a minimum of twenty years, probably closer to thirty, but I have always planned to retire, or at least stop living to work, as close to 50 as I could. I think my father first put the idea in my head and nearly every plan I have made since has involved having everything in place do that. The Mortgage will finish when I'm about 50 and the kids will all be over 18, that's the major things I suppose! I'm not 50 yet mind you, it's all in the planning.
My wife says I'm just trying to copy my dad, in a way I am; but only in the way that you would look at somebody putting their umbrella up and agree that putting on a coat might be a good idea. When my parents separated, my mother went off into Europe with my siblings, I stayed at home making a living and my father decided to buy a steel boat (from memory for about £10K) he then spent another £10K making it ocean going, then, with about £30K in the bank he set off around the world, going sort of the wrong way through the med. He never got all the way around, but he learnt a lot (some of which he told me) and he had a right giggle on the way.
Today I took my own view on my father's bright idea, I bought a second hand Ocean going cruising yacht. My take is I bought one that you could set off in immediately. I'm not going to (set off immediately that is) but I am going to use it as a base to live in whilst I work as a solution architect for Ordnance Survey in Southampton. The idea is I learn all the foibles in a nice safe mooring and get to implement all the bright ideas I've had in an environment that won't kill me! In the meantime I have a place to live very cheaply near my work place (I actually live in North Devon.)
The boat I bought is a Steel Callisto 385, I'll cover why Steel is about the best material in later posts, take it from me it is. This particular boat seems to have been owned by somebody who knew what they were doing, it's actually very difficult to find anything wrong with it; apart from being 19 years old, the previous owners meticulously took care of it, possibly too well, so everything is as original. The standing rigging for instance is original, it is in beautiful condition and fantastically well specified. But it is 19 years old. Really you should change the rig every 10 to 15 years, but the owner took such good care of it you wouldn't be able to tell it from a 5 year old rig unless you looked at the records - that may come back to bite me if the insurance company insists on a set age for the rig, or indeed just one piece has in fact worn.
The Yacht is a Bill Dixon design, built by Croft Marine. The builders went bust in the late 90's because, well, everyone was going bust then; particularly those in the luxury sector. Bill Dixon to this day is one of the worlds most respected designers. The boat itself is fantastically pretty, a round bilge design (meaning it has a smooth rounded hull, rather than the plate chines you normally get with steel.) I may actually have stumbled upon an absolute gem of a boat though, when they built the hull it was sprayed with molten aluminium inside and out, kind of like a high class galvanised coating that heals itself if it gets scratched. We could hardly find any rust on the boat at all! All over the boat everything is extremely well specified if not over specified, from water management to pumps to sails to cupboard space to cookers to heating. In fact we found it very difficult to fault the build in any way! The only areas of doubt on the whole boat were:
- The teak decks - which had been cleaned so often they were getting too thin
- The Sole plates (floor boards) - which for some reason were finished with linoleum rather that a nice wood
- The instruments - which were fairly basic, I suspect because the owner actually knew how to sail properly
- The Main in-mast furling - which can be troublesome or joyful; but are unloved by cruisers
Overall though nothing would stop you from just getting on the boat and sailing into the sunrise (must resist just a bit longer!)
Paul Fay (www.faymarine.com) helped me do an inspection after my initial viewing, he confirmed my view with proper evidence of the quality of the boat and he will be doing the full survey. Have a look at his site, he has more experience of self builds and steel boats than I care to think about and is massively pragmatic and practical. I would trust my life with him on a boat, indeed I kind of have!
I will write more as my journey progresses, in the meantime Aquamarine of Beaulieu is waiting for me to take ownership. It will be an interesting voyage.