We flew down to Florida Thursday morning before the chickens were up to crow the day in. Our mission was to view several prospective cruising boats scattered around the state. We began by renting a miniature car with unlimited mileage at the airport and then off we went.
Our first stop was very close to the Pensacola airport and we arrived early for our appointment to view a project Island Packet 31. We parked at the marina and walked over to the Oarhouse Bar and Restaurant to sit outside and have an early lunch. We really enjoyed the nice weather, great food (Fish tacos and a shrimp salad) while the Blue Angels trained right overhead.
At the boat we found a very neglected boat that had sat for three years without any love. The broker had recently ground the bottom down and done a thorough bottom job on it. Additionally the diesel had been gone over and ran like a top. The asking price was pretty high for a boat in this condition, so we passed.
Back in our tuna can on wheels we zipped our way from the west side of Florida all the way to the East coast town of Jacksonville. The broker was very accommodating and allowed us a night showing of a newish Beneteau 321. It was in really good condition and aggressively priced. We both liked the spaciousness of the cabin and the rear berth which looked like a queen size bed. The V-berth was sized to match our rental car and would only be suitable for a very small couple. The head was way too small as well. Afterwards we found a cheap motel for a quick rest until daylight to get another look at this boat. The Beneteau showed well in the light and had us talking about it as a possibility.
Back into our rent-a-shoebox and we were off to look at the boat we were both excited to see. We arrived in Daytona on a beautiful Friday to look over a Baba 30. These little ocean capable yachts have pulled at our hearts every time we saw one listed for sale. They are salty double enders with teak adorning every area possible. Practical? Nope. Did we want one? Yup!
Within minutes of entering the cabin Mike knew this particular dream would never happen. He just didn't fit in the nav station or the head. Oh well, we had a lot of fun looking her over from stem to stern. We hopped in the car in search of a waterside bar/restaurant for a drink and some lunch. We stumbled upon the perfect spot. Sunnyside had outdoor seating, good food and island music playing at the perfect volume. We had a tough time getting up to leave this lovely spot, especially when it meant another 4 hour drive across Florida.
The broker for our next boat appointment in Bradenton was having a tough time getting permission from the owner to show his boat. We wasted a few phone calls and then finally said forget it. We drove to Palmetto which is the location of another Island Packet 31 that was on our wish list, but out of our price range. Mike had previously told the broker that it was out of our budget, but we were hoping to just look it over. The broker indicated that the seller was motivated and he would love to show us the boat the next morning. Since we were already there we walked down the public pier hoping to catch a glimpse of the IP. We did see it in the distance and it looked like the boat of our dreams. Solid, well equipped and nicely maintained.
At the end of the pier there was a bar/restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the beautiful bay. We just melted into the sunshine, warmth and maybe a cool drink. A nice couple sat down next to us and Brenda being Brenda just had to talk to them. It turns out they own an IP 32 and they would be living aboard very shortly. They were a nice couple and maybe someday we will anchor next to them for a sundowner.
After finding a really sad cheap motel we ordered a pizza and enjoyed just staying in one place for a few hours. Good old Waffle House for breakfast and off we went in high anticipation of seeing this lovely Island Packet.
We met the broker and his wife who work as a team selling boats. They have cruised extensively and were a source of knowledge and encouragement on our future plans to cruise. Walking up to the boat we felt excited to see such a well kept example of this model, but a bit reserved in our excitement knowing it was most likely not in our budget. We looked her over thoroughly, raised the sails and ran the diesel. We were having a hard time finding any issues with the boat. The Bimini canvas had some patches in high wear areas, a couple of lines were starting to age and we all disliked the appearance of the diesel stove and it's ugly black chimney. We love the lay out of the 31 and we fit in all the places we need to fit. At this point we both knew that even if this wasn't our boat, another IP 31 was going to be.
As we settled back into the rental car both of our minds were working hard to figure out a way to make this boat our home. We drove while discussing the boat, the price and our future lives as cruisers. We agreed that it was out of our price range, but we wanted to at least test the waters on this motivated seller. We called in a lowish offer which was promptly rejected and countered with a number well over our budget. Well, at least we tried. Mike was pretty unsettled feeling we were letting a good solid boat get away. We ran our budget numbers and for the first time since we committed to cruising we set a hard number on the boat buying budget. Allowing for taxes, surveys, haul outs, and oversights we called in our top offer which wasn't really much higher than what they had already rejected. Mike felt at ease knowing that we had offered what we could afford and if that didn't cut it then so be it. We gave it our best shot.
Three hours after making our all-in offer we figured it was a dead deal. The phone rang and the broker said believe it or not the boat was ours. Sweet! She goes through her survey next Wednesday and if all is good we will close on her shortly afterward. We drove along with plans flying and dreams unfolding making the 8 hour drive so much more tolerable.
That puny little rental car felt pretty good about then. She had driven us 1266 miles and delivered us to our new home on the water. Not bad for a 4 day rental with a total bill of $62.00. Maybe that is what Lynn and Larry Pardey meant by, "Go small, go now."