How I found my Westsail

I wish I could say that I am fanatical about Westsails and that I fell in love with my boat the first time I saw her but the truth is, I was just being practical. I came by way of this crazy notion of buying a Westsail through my experience of owning a 65’ Summerset houseboat on Lake Lanier in Georgia. My kids and I had raced snipes on Lake Allatoona for a few years before, with the Atlanta Yacht club until I got sick of either bursts of too much wind or long periods of not enough, so we sold it and joined the power boat fraternity. My family spent just about every weekend including Thanksgiving on our houseboat for 4 years and had so much fun spending the night out on islands, skiing, jet skiing, lighting tiki torches on the beach with a bonfire and music until sunrise. Then a group of us from the marina dock rented out a couple of Villas in Costa Rica for 10 days. Again loads of fun with deep sea fishing, rainforest trips, snorkeling and partying. We ran into some Americans there who had bought land, built a retirement home and then got bored, selling up just after a few years. It was then that I realized that I too was bored with my houseboat. 

What to do? My retirement was on the horizon and I had already bought beach front property in NZ that I had planned to build on. I certainly was not ready for an old folk’s home just yet. Would I be yet another one of those retirees who reached their destination and got bored, failing to find satisfaction? Then it came to me. The only way that I could keep having fun for the foreseeable future was by always going forward.......Literally! It really is all about the journey. So I looked around for a boat to travel on. Now there is so much to buying a boat that it can be overwhelming. The advice from the Pardy’s became my mantra. They say that the boat that you will be most happy with is the one you can truly afford. For a start, I really didn’t want to buy a boat until I retired because of the marina fees and the fact that in theory it is cheaper to buy a boat that is already setup and ready to sail. But the problem was that I really didn’t want to put too much money into this venture , so that if worst came to the worst and I sank her , then I would not lose too much. 

So I chose $40,000 as my all up budget. That is one tough objective but I figured that if I couldn’t find one for that price I would just buy a small sailboat and just do coastal sailing. Now I have done enough sailing to have the fear of god instilled in me from broaching so I definitely wanted a safe boat. That meant full keel. I finally found a Southern Cross 31 down in Mobile Alabama, which fit the bill and was ready to go all up for $25,000. I could have jumped on her and sailed across the Atlantic. It was set and ready to cruise. She had a chart plotter, AIS, autopilot and the works. Problem was, I was not ready. So I came back to Atlanta and resolved t o get myself organized. I had a huge house full of memories. First I tried garage sales and craigslist. Then I resorted to goodwill. I took 10 trailer loads of stuff there and 3 more to store in my son’s attic. Now I know that the hardest part of buying a boat is paring down and why so few manage to go cruising. Most never even make it out of the house. Getting the house ready to sell took me took a lot of work but I was a man on a mission. 

There is no such thing as failure in my mind. That is how I KNOW once on the boat, I will conquer the three S’s that may turn out to be very tough to overcome.....Seasickness, sleeplessness and storm tactics. Finally after getting in a position to pull the trigger on buying a boat, I realized that there was more to getting one than I had considered. There are some other BIG factors that will cause a derailment if you are not careful. For instance, marina fees for most places amount to $3,000 a year. Not an insignificant amount. One other big factor is Tax. I really wanted the freedom to cruise in Florida and if you are there for more than 90 days you have to pay the 6% use tax or show that you have paid it elsewhere. I subscribe to the KISS theory so I decided that it would be easier to just pay the tax instead of trying to jump through hoops trying to avoid it. The stress is not worth it. The yearly registration is just $18 there too and they have no yearly luxury tax which is a sizable chunk. I looked at quite a nice Pacific Seacraft 31 Mariah down in St Pete’s and an Allied 36 in Pensacola but the numbers just didn’t add up for them and they would have involved a lot of work anyway. The Westsail that I bought ended up being more of a project than I had planned on but it was mainly labor and nothing too expensive and all of it I felt was within my capabilities. 

What sold me on the boat I bought was a lot of factors some of which were;
1. It was outfitted for blue water having already circumnavigated. For instance, it has padeyes in the cockpit. One Pacific Seacraft in Lake Guntersville that I looked at for 5 times the price didn’t even have latches for the lazerettes.
2. Location......I liked the fact that it was on the hard. That way I could be confident of fixing it at my leisure with the storage being just $128 per month.
3. I liked the fact that it had a Yanmar. Parts are readily available worldwide and they are relatively inexpensive.

4. Bottom line, it was inexpensive. Another tough task and major objective in this journey was fitness and health. I have religiously exercised daily for the last few years and tried to stick exclusively to fruits, vegetables and salads in my diet, with yearly medical checkups. 

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