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Let the hunt begin!
Here is our story of how we found the perfect boat for us, when we first saw Rachel J Slocum.
Over the past year and a half, Andrew was way ahead of me in scouring the nets looking at sailing videos, He also really took to heart that one of the stickies on the whiteboard that I wrote down was “maintain comfort.”
He took this to mean to find a boat that would maximize Denise’s comfort. This steered him toward beamy catamarans as the top picks for boats we would consider liveaboard cruisers. These were along the lines of Fountaine Pajot or the luxury brands of Antares, Outremer, Seawind and others.
While impressively slick and spacious, I hesitated on account of a few factors:
- While I’ve crewed on a catamaran, I’ve never skippered one,
- I don’t like how they respond in confused seas (feels like you’re in a washing machine),
- They’re really expensive to maintain, berth, etc. let alone outright purchase.
I also explained that I didn’t need all this stuff, as I gestured to the furniture and fixtures around our living room. Since I had lived in a 300 square foot apartment for 6 years, I didn’t necessarily need space. I just don’t like clutter. So if the boat we buy is clutter free, has good ventilation, and good heating, I would consider that comfortable.
Catamarans officially came off the list, and Andrew began to look at monohulls.
Boat Shopping in Southern California
Southern California has some great marinas filled with beautiful boats, and while we have sailed out of Marina del Rey quite a few times, I don’t know that I really paid attention to the boats that were in the marinas.
Now through the lens as a boat buyer, when we scanned the online boat sites (yachtworld, boattrader, etc.) for boats on sale, a pattern began to form. Many production boats (Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau, etc.) were readily available to step on and check out.
We called up a Denison yacht broker in Long Beach who happened to be hosting an open house for Kittiwake, a 2002 50’ Valiant going for $345,000.
Establishing a Budget
Andrew had proposed going into this process with an open mind to assess each boat on her own merit. I, on the other hand, really wanted to wrap my head around a budget for initial costs, on-going maintenance, and then also factor in our living expenses so as to ballpark how long we can maintain this lifestyle. With some rough numbers thrown together, we came up with a budget between $100,000 and $300,000.
With that framework in mind, Kittiwake was over the budget. But in the spirit of evaluating each boat with an open mind to assess her on her merits, we went to see her.
Kittiwake is a cutter rig with a full skeg rudder and an aft cockpit. Sturdy construction, looked great, good engine access, decent electronics installed and overall was in great condition… very little wear shown. She passed the sniff test (which from now on will mean to say that we didn’t smell anything off-putting, like mold, urine, etc.)
Verdict? Not bad, but over-priced.
s/v Any Isle
The second boat we looked at was a 2007 54’ Jeanneau called Any Isle going for $369,000. She is a fractional sloop rig with a fin hull with bulb keel and spade rudder, and twin helms in the aft cockpit.
From the stern, I stood at the starboard helm and leaned far to get a sense of her length. Her bow seemed like a football field away, and I puzzled on how or whether I would feel comfortable coming into a slip. Sure she had a bow thruster, but frankly I was intimidated.
She did show well…was in great condition and when we stepped down into the saloon she had a light, airy and modern layout. We noticed she didn’t have as many hand holds which would make crossing the saloon while under sail and significant heel during an ocean crossing perilous… well maybe not that extreme, but I do bruise easily and it just seems like unnecessary lack of safety.
Verdict? Hard pass due to price and her sheer enormousness.
Resetting the Budget
Over the course of the next few days, Andrew continued to search for sailboats around the $250,000 range while I was looking at $100,000 range.
Once you begin to search at these price levels, you are looking at used boats and since we both are interested in blue water sailing in a boat that offers the most flexibility, from tropical cruising to high latitude sailing, and being able to handle gale-force storm conditions rounding Cape Horn, we then needed to get smart about boat builds.
Coastal Cruising vs Offshore Cruising
The first resource we turned to was John Neal’s Selecting an Offshore Boat:
Selecting a cruising boat is the most important decision in preparing for an offshore voyage and often is a pivotal point in the changing of dreams from “Let’s take off and go cruising some time,” into the reality of “Let’s get outfitted and go.”
Obviously there isn’t any one perfect boat for everyone. The boat you choose should be safe, comfortable, well built, and ideally capable of fast passages while proving to be a good investment. If your plans are only for coastal cruising, you can consider a wider range of suitable boats than those who are headed offshore and require a sturdier vessel.
I would say my knowledge of boats took a quantum leap after reading and re-reading this resource. For example, I could speak to the underbody characteristics and have an appreciation for how that would affect sailing performance.
We were narrowing our searches to certain shipyards (Discovery, Hallberg-Rassy, Ta-Shing) and certain designers (Robert Perry, German Frers, Yves Marie Tanton).
s/v Rachel J Slocum
It was then that Andrew came across a 1989 50’ custom Tanton-designed, one-off, ready-to-go, world cruising staysail schooner.
When First We Saw Rachel J Slocum, she was described as follows:
- Bullet-proof Kevlar hull
- Wing keel designed by Dave Pedrick (America’s Cup)
- All Spectra sails in excellent, or brand new, condition
- Harken headsail furlers & rigging, sta-lock fittings upper and lower
- Lugger engine with Max Prop
- ABS certified
- Lovingly maintained by one owner
- 110 and 220 VAC international electric setup with dual 160-amp alternators
- 30 gallon/hour water maker
- Washing machine
- Master stateroom bed tilts on thrusters
- Fleet 250 broadband communications, 48-mile radar
- Forward-seeking sonar
- ABS certified collision bulkhead
- Diesel heater
- Loaded with extras
When I first read the website’s write-up on s/v Rachel J. Slocum, these words stood out to me:
- Nothing must compromise sailing ability
- No consideration to cost
- Ready to go
Nothing must compromise sailing ability
s/v Rachel J. Slocum is a fast, comfortable one-off staysail schooner capable of sailing at 7.5-8 knots in almost any wind condition, and staying there. She usually gets more looks than any other boat in the harbour.
There was only one rule given to the designer: nothing must compromise sailing ability. With its huge sail area and lean hull, Rachel J. Slocum begins cruising upwind at 4.5 knots in open-ocean conditions at only 4 knots of breeze while most other vessels must rely on their motor, and gets to the next anchorage, under sail, faster than you or others will believe possible.
The captain can choose between wind vane or electric auto pilot to maintain an excellent track in varying wind conditions.
No consideration to cost
s/v Rachel J. Slocum took 1 year to design and 3½ years to build with private US and British inspectors, and with the present owner, on site every step of the way. She is ABS certified (ABS Certificate No. KS 6055X).
The owner, who grew up on sailing yachts and whose father owned Concordia Boat Yard and Marshall Marine in Padanaram, Massachusetts, took care to incorporate every good idea learned after nine continuous years cruising around the world in a different yacht.
She has been continuously refit and upgraded since launch, with no consideration to cost. Everything works.
Ready to go
This is a yacht that was designed for and will appeal to one couple who wishes to sail the world immediately in comfort and style, and with speed, with provision for three live-aboard guests on an occasional basis.
She is “ready to go,” with nothing that needs to be upgraded or fixed.
When First We Saw Rachel J Slocum
She’s a stunner. She’s bomb proof. And she checks all the boxes, but 50 feet!?! I was still intimidated that she might be too much boat for me. She’s a schooner, which I have never sailed, and she has so much sail area and different configurations.
It took some time to do our due diligence as you’ll read in our Project Slocum series, but in the mean time she remained in the background of my mind as we plodded through work over the holidays and new year.
Thanks for reading!
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