Table of Contents
In this final installment, Project Slocum Part 5 reveals our second day aboard s/v Rachel J. Slocum, continued discussions with her owners, and our go/no-go decision under the shadow of coronavirus.
In the wee hours
Once again, Andrew slept great. Me? Not so much. After a few hours of writing, I did get a few more hours of sleep in the morning and woke up relatively refreshed, if not in a silly mood. The reason for this was that I had drafted a boat purchase agreement in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t wait for Andrew to read it.
Andrew groaned when he woke up again to the sound of tapping on the keyboard. But, sometimes these things can’t be helped. A boat purchase agreement isn’t going to write itself!
09:00 Breakfast consisted of a guava & cheese pastry and a cup of cortadito from El Cafecito. They had warned us of a new edict from the government that even take-away was being taken away the following morning (pun intended). Once again, this is another good lesson in going with the flow.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order to close hotels and other lodging. Exceptions will be made for first responders, displaced visitors or residents, domestic violence victims, airline crew members, patients’ families, and journalists from out of town. We had until 11:59 a.m. Monday to vacate.
Luckily, we were set to depart Sunday morning, so the impact on us would be minimal. We spent the rest of the morning both working on serenadewind.com. Andrew worked on the redesign of the new launch to future-proof our needs, while I continued to work on content.
14:00 Bill and his wife picked us up once again and drove us to the boat. Earlier in the day, Andrew and I had picked up a few things at the grocery store. Neither of us were particularly hungry at lunch time, so we thought we might want to snack on some charcuterie later.
We also picked up a six-pack of Samuel Adams Lager. I generally don’t touch the stuff, but I do enjoy the taste of Sam Adams from time to time, reminiscent of my days living in Boston. In choosing this brand, I thought it would be a safe choice for Bill, given he is a Massachusetts native.
We crossed the grass toward the wooden dock, with Bill’s wife leading the way. As she was negotiating the distance between the dock and the boat, she backed away, opting instead to step aboard from the bow as she had done so the previous day. Just as she turned and passed us, the dock collapsed underneath our feet.
Bill and I plunged into the water.
When I resurfaced moments later, I sputtered and looked around for Bill. He was still under and I couldn’t see him. I swam toward the nearest piling, covered in sharp barnacles and hooked two fingers on a gnarly 3 inch bolt to keep myself steady, while I still held onto a few personal items.
To our relief, Bill surfaced a moment later and cursed. He had been carrying his laptop, which was now doomed. Bill checked to see if I was okay, and I said yes. He called out to his wife to have her retrieve his laptop, which she did.
I hoisted the six pack of Sam Adams over my head, and I called out:
“Save the beer!”
The main goal was to get rid of the object which was weighing me down. I’m not a terribly good swimmer and was pretty desperate to get rid of the beer in order to save myself. In retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t just let the damn thing sink.
Andrew stooped over me and took it from my hand along with a Nikon SLR camera that was slung over one shoulder. We had intended to use it to capture some artistic snaps of the boat for serenadewind.com, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Once again, go with the flow.
Assessing the Damages
Bill and I swam away from the treacherous dock and toward the powerboat berthed next to us. She had a lower freeboard, which allowed us to pull ourselves out of the water. We then took stock of our injuries. A few scratches. Couple bruises. And even though I hit my head, it didn’t seem to be a concussion.
Then we had a closer look at the dock.
Based on the angle of the collapsed dock, it now made sense why the fall sent Bill deeper into the water than for me. He stood at the longest arc of the collapse. I stood at the shortest end. So while we both fell, he had a longer ways to go given the momentum and distance travelled.
Bill looked pissed while I was mugging for the camera. Eventually, I was able to muster a pout, but at that point we gave up coordinating our expressions.
We were both lucky, being able to walk away with a couple of bruises and scrapes. The biggest loss would probably be Bill’s laptop. I wasn’t too bothered by the Nikon SLR since there was a strong likelihood that we had the SD card backed up recently. We plan to bury it in rice for a week and see what happens. Since it’s an older model, it isn’t a big deal to have replaced or upgraded to newer technology. I think the minimalism kick that we are on, really puts things into perspective.
Boot Deja Vue
Interestingly enough, I lost my shoes in the process. (Again, I know!) Check out the post from our trip to Boot in Dusseldorf earlier this year, and you’ll understand. I can’t seem to hold onto any shoes these days. More importantly, I think Bill and I were both happy that we had taken the fall rather than the ones we loved.
Once we finally settled into the cockpit and changed into some dry clothes, we exchanged calamity stories over a beer. It helped to settle our nerves after the unexpected event. However in the interest of time, we dove into the topic at hand…
Earlier in the morning as we were running errands, Andrew and I had a good discussion about our approach for today. We could “play the game” much like everyone in the world would advise or we could “play it straight.” From all that we read and from all our communication with Bill over the past few months, our gut instinct told us to play it straight. We’ll approach it very much like old school gentleman’s agreement.
Much like we described in earlier posts in this series, we really could not put a dollar amount on the knowledge and experience we hope Bill would impart to us. In many ways, we considered the purchase of s/v Rachel J. Slocum not as buyers but as becoming stewards to a legacy that Bill began and that we hoped we had earned the right to continue.
We believed that Bill would never want to part with her knowing she would be sitting in a berth because her new owners would be too freaked out to sail her into open waters. Worse yet, a scenario in which her new owners grounded her or do something incredibly stupid. In this respect, both seller and buyer goals were aligned. As a result, Andrew and I made clear our sincere intent to learn and to be successful in handling her much in the same way he would.
It’s as simple as that.
As we wrapped up our visit, we had pretty much exhausted all of our major questions. Some, we had decided, could be put off until we were on a sea trial. Others just seemed trivial.
But when pressed to continue to ask as many questions as we wished, we obliged. We did a quick-fire round of random questions such as:
- What are the pros and cons of having Divinycell core?
- Did you have to do any fuel polishing?
- What are the major items that need to be replaced in 2 years? in 5 years?
- How much power is drawn on all the electronics when you are on passage?
- What is the age of the windlass? the anchors?
- When you wrote, “Hydraulic take-off from the transmission at idle or underway,,,” - What does this mean?
The final question was a kicker:
Why did you name the vessel Rachel J. Slocum?
Upon hearing our question, Bill had a twinkle in his eye, and he began to describe the story. I may need to ask him to elaborate on this again, because I found it a profound gesture to his family heritage. We learned that, on his mother’s side of the family, he is descended from the very same Slocum’s as Joshua Slocum, famous for being the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed in 1895 to 1898. He chronicled his journey, which was later published in a book: “Sailing Alone Around the World”.
Given the loud noise from motorboats along the river, I couldn’t hear much of the tale. Certainly it wasn’t enough information to do the story justice and to summarize it here in a few sentences.
Suffice it to say, we will never change the name. She will remain “Rachel J. Slocum.”
On a lighter note, Bill also shared with us another fact.
When they were cruising through Patagonia, Bill and his wife had to find a place for the night to tie-off, and all of the usual spots were taken. So using their forward-seeking sonar on s/v Rachel J. Slocum, they traveled through uncharted waters and established the first caletta in a new region.
As a result, the caletta was named after s/v Rachel J. Slocum, and it appears on nautical pilot charts of Cape Horn.
By way of comparison, Andrew’s claim to fame is having a whiskey drink named after him at our favorite gastropub, Side Door in Corona Del Mar, California. If ever anyone drops in for a drink (when that is permitted again), ask for “The Andrew.” It’s similar to a “Whiskey River,” an equally delicious drink.
We thought having a Chilean pilot chart marked with your boat’s name was impressive. Bill countered that having a drink named after them would be more impressive to most cruisers.
Bill kindly drove us back to our hotel. On the way, Bill said that this was a bittersweet moment. Selling s/v Rachel J. Slocum after having sailed her around the world, the adventures experienced aboard, and then in the final years doing less and less sailing. It was time to retire from the cruising life. He continued to invest in her, because he didn’t want to see her languish in her berth. His wife put it aptly when she said, “She was born to swim.”
In retrospect throughout this boat buying experience, what I am reminded was an overall guiding principle that we referenced. We always had Bill’s perspective in mind in all of our dealings and communication. So many times, we thought of how we would feel if we were in Bill’s shoes, and that helped us a great deal.
How would I feel if I wanted to sell a boat I had designed and lived on for 30 years? I would be pretty damn picky about who I sell it to. And if there wasn’t a connection, I might turn any offer down. But if I didn’t have the luxury of being picky, I would die just a little bit inside taking an offer just for the money.
As we bid our goodbyes, Bill said, “I really hope to shake your hand one day.” Andrew and I hoped so too.
We promised to each other to be safe and to stay healthy in these times, so that when things turn a corner, we can continue on our journey.
Andrew and I have a few things to follow-up on when we get back to Los Angeles. The timeline will still be contingent on some factors out of our control, i.e., restrictions imposed due to coronavirus precautions. Notwithstanding, we’ll be setting out on this sailing adventure in a few months.
Not so wee hours
05:30 I rose early once again, grateful that I slept through the night. Andrew and I had been up until past midnight getting some work done. My sleep was fairly shallow as I was thinking through the deal terms I wanted to work into the purchase agreement.
07:00 The sun had not yet risen when I decided to wake up Andrew. We didn’t get a chance to pack the night before and left the activity for this morning. Of course, this meant getting up early enough to do so.
Andrew hopped into the shower while I began to pack everything up. It didn’t take long since we tend to travel light. I took a few minutes to stand on our patio to watch the sunrise.
08:00 When we climbed into the Toyota Camry, our Uber driver informed us that the whole city was shutting down on Wednesday (i.e., shelter at home mandates). He reported having seen a train loaded to the gills with military vehicles heading to the city. We were pretty relieved to be leaving while at the same time wondered what it would take for the US to go into a full, nationwide lockdown.
09:00 I sent a text message to a good friend to give her the all-clear sign that we were headed back to LA. She was on standby in case we weren’t able to board our plane, so that she could take care of our cats, Oreo and Xiaolong.
10:30 Peace out Ft. Lauderdale. Stay healthy. Be safe.
Thanks for reading!
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