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  • Writer's pictureHeath Tredell

010 - We Bought a Boat!!!!

For those of you who own a boat or have the drive to travel the world, sometimes you meet people who ask “Why?”

When I am asked where I got the idea from, I often recount a memory from my younger years; that is when I was about 24 and I used to care for people in the old folks home. Back then there were two old ladies, a chatty pair who would often watch the news and comment on the day’s events. One lady seemed to always have a story to tell about this place or that place. Despite neither of them being able to care for themselves any longer she’d often then encourage her friend to “go there before you get too old!” as she had done. The other lady, had only ever been to Margate for a holiday and in fact was blown away when we took her on a day trip to Hunstanton. Their lives had clearly been very different.

Now neither of these ladies were particularly well off and it seemed to me that they must have had different outlooks on life. Despite not having much money, one had clearly saved her hard-earned cash to go on holidays to far off lands with her then husband. The other (according to my theory at least) must have spent it on the first colour TV in the street, a new rug for the lounge or twin tub for the kitchen. Either way she had chosen things that gave her those pleasures at the time. I considered that she had probably long forgotten that she had a colour TV first, or a new car once, when the other lady still fondly remembered her experiences her spending choices had given her. I decided, when I reached that grand old age where I needed care, I would be the person with a thousand stories to tell and I would grab whatever life’s experiences came my way. I wanted then to see the world and about 5 years later decided a boat was the best way to achieve it. So, I have never chased a top of the range phone, a new car or other such trinkets that might stop me affording it. Then when I met Pookie and she said she’d love to see the world with me, our plans were set.

My previous blog recounted how the worst airline in the world (Ryanair) had thwarted our plans to buy a St Francis 48 in Spain (Yes I’m still angry about that). That was in April, since then we have been enjoying the relaxing of social restrictions in the UK and have been hosting many parties. As you may know Pookie loves putting her “style” on foods and one such night and menu was deliberately designed to teach people who had been locked up for a long time, how to party again. Our “Learn how to Party Party” was such a success we had to do it 3 times with different groups of people.

Finally two things happened. Firstly travel in Spain relaxed and the owners decided to sail to Ibiza. Secondly Ibiza went onto a “green” list of countries whose access to from the UK was not restricted. So, this time we booked with Jet2 a flight to Ibiza. The hotel we chose was just in Talamanca, the next bay from Ibiza town marina and port. We walked into the reception and there before us, sat in the bay, was Noyana, a 2003 St Francis 48 with a Turbo rig.

Turbo is an odd name for a boat with a 1.8 metre taller mast but we like it. The taller mast adds 13sqm to the size of the mainsail and 3sqm to the genoa. The boat won’t fit under as many bridges as the height from waterline has gone from 19.7m to 21.5m or 70.5 feet but it’s a small price to pay and I will just have to keep an eye on that.

Our room was not ready so we decided to sit on the small beach in front of the hotel and message the owners to say we’d arrived. They immediately called to say they had just been shopping and were on their way back to the boat. I noticed a couple a few feet in front of us getting into a dinghy and it turned out to be them. We bought them a drink and sat chatting for a while before agreeing to come and brief look at the boat later before a proper look round in the morning. The seemed nice and the wife said that she was a foodie and that was all the excuse Pookie needed. She promptly went shopping for some things from a local store and later when we met them again we took the food to their boat and Pookie offered to cook something the next day.

The next day we went to see the boat again and I was determined to have a good look around. I was very impressed, the bilges, sugar scoops, in fact everywhere was immaculately clean and well looked after. It turned out the boat had originally been owned by a Dutch man who for whatever reason when he bought it already had 3 catamarans around the world. Well, the St Francis sat in his home town of Amsterdam on a river and was apparently hardly used and had accumulated only 850 hours on its engines between 2003 and 2018 when the current owners bought it. Their plans had been very similar to our own in that they wanted to circumnavigate, sadly ill health had meant that after making major improvements and sailing to Spain their journey had been forced to end just as Covid19 struck. Despite having new sails, new rigging and updated navigation equipment they felt their change in plans (staying in the Med) meant she was too big and so they planned to get a small house and a smaller boat instead.

Pookie made a lovely meal for us whilst I looked around and did the best check that I could (based on my very limited knowledge of what to actually look for). The owner mentioned that the hull had some small blisters and asked me if I’d like to take a swim and look at the hull; I explained that I wouldn’t really know what to look for and I’d leave it to the surveyor. We went back to the hotel and chatted about it, Pookie wasn’t terribly impressed, we knew what we liked but she was probably hoping it’d look more like the new ones at the boat shows.

So, we decided to make a list of what she didn’t like and see if there was anything that could be done about it:-

1. The Look – small port hole windows looked dated.

2. The cockpit cushions looked old.

3. The Oven and Microwaves looked very dated.

4. The orange curtains/blinds looked dated.

5. The hull looked to be an off white plastic and looked dated and old.

6. The toilets looked like they were out of a 1970s caravan and were as big as a side plate.....

So we decided to put a price on any that could be fixed. The small portholes cannot be replaced easily and although they look dated (compared to the large ones you get now) they are safer (but we may be able to hide them?) Cockpit cushions, OK. Oven/Microwave - now as you know we're big foodies so these had to go. Blinds, Check. The hull could be painted or wrapped, OK that had a big cost and finally the toilets... OK. We had an amount and if the seller would come down enough money, we could afford to get the upgrades done and have the boat we were both happy with. We emailed the owners and broker and put our offer in which was about 8% less than the asking price. The owner asked if we could meet, we agreed and sat on the beach, chatted and agreed a price. We were very happy and began finding out how to get the alterations made.

The owner was normally based in Almerimar, but would have to take the boat back to Cartagena so it could be lifted out for the survey. They asked if we could delay the purchase for a month so that they could enjoy the boat with their daughter one last time. We agreed.

With our 10% deposit down a date of mid-August was agreed and we flew out to Alicante. We hired a car so we could travel from a villa that a friend had offered and planned to see the boat the following day. However, apparently during a check of the sail-drives the Yanmar specialist said they should replace some parts and these would have to be ordered.

So, after a few days holiday-making we went to see the boat in the dockyard in Cartagena (our surveyor was already there). We had chosen a British surveyor to get around any complication language may cause. I must admit, never having hired a surveyor before I was a little surprised at his lack of effort. A short look around the hull (that he’d seen earlier) confirmed that the bubbles the owner had mentioned in Ibiza were not Osmosis but probably drips from a poor hull paint job.

During its time out of the water though, the hull had clearly been patched a lot though and this made me nervous. The test sail was a non event as the boat never got out of the harbour as there was no wind. The owner drove it out, lifted the sails to show the surveyor and all was done. Was that it? I asked. “Yes she’s in very good condition overall, I think it will need a new coppercoat very soon though.. I will write a report.” We promptly paid him and Pookie (also nervous of the state of the hull and surveyor’s comments) asked the dockyard for a quote on a new coppercoat finish to fix the hulls. The surveyor left and we went back to the villa.

But nagging doubts began to trouble us… at no time did the surveyor “test” the engine or drive/steer/sail the boat at all (how did he know if the engines were any good.. he refused to check oil as part of the survey). I had not seen him check the hull or take any pictures of note, I pointed out that a crack was in the windlass housing and that some of the WCs didn’t seem to flush properly (that turned out to be the valve still set for being on the hard). Sure enough the one thing noted in the survey when it arrived was that the coppercoat should be done immediately before sailing. Pookie and I started worrying about the immediate €7000 bill we faced. I decided to write to the owner and broker saying that although the surveyor was positive about the boat in general, his comments about the hull gave us some concern (plus we weren’t honestly comfortable with the quality of the report and maybe this meant other things were missed…). So we made a suggestion; we offered to pay €1000 towards the repair bill and left the owners to consider coming down €6000. After all, according to the surveyor, the boat shouldn’t be sailed until it was done. The owner offered €4000 and the broker €1000 meaning we would have to find the extra €2000. We agreed.

With a new contract printed we went back to sign it with the owners. The owner was still fuming at our stance on the coppercoat and insisted that I should have known it needed doing. He reminded me I could have looked at it in the sea in Ibiza. I insisted that I didn’t know what I was looking at and that was why I employed a surveyor who said it needed to be done before being sailed. This fundamentally to me made the vessel unseaworthy (remember that term from the Privilege last year!?). Anyway, he was so angry calling us names that Pookie became very upset. Now no one likes to see their partner upset by someone else and I became quite happy to walk away (out of the sheer stubbornness of it). But instead we offered to give them back €1000 so that the coppercoat in effect cost us €3000 each with the broker €1000. They agreed and the contract was signed and monies paid. We owned the Boat!! Pook had a prior arrangement in the UK and so as soon as the ink was dry, she had to fly home (look out for THAT story!!).

However, after helping them move their things it turned out that they were still bitter. So, when I asked a simple question about the boat I was promptly told that unless we apologised to all parties and gave all €4000 back then we would get no help in handover.

So… we are now proud owners of a St Francis 48 Turbo!

So, what brought us to this? Well here it is .. a geeky assessment:-

I like to think of St Francis as making the BMW of catamarans… quicker than most, solid, built well and comfortable. The furniture is all built in and part of the fabric of the boat meaning she is stiff, strong but light. Now, during my research I had come across a number of different ways of determining performance. One was a Sail Area / Displacement calculation. This determined that if a boat had a small sail and was heavy it would be invariably slower than a similar boat with a large sail area and that was lighter. I thought (rightly or wrongly) that this would be an indicator of mainly beam or upwind performance as downwind performance can be more affected by the boat’s ability to glide over the waves. Longer boats seemingly go quicker as the longer hulls mean they are less likely to “dig” into the waves, particularly downwind. Now I am probably wrong however but that was my assertion.

However, there is another calculation that looks at length.. this was displacement / Waterline length or LWL. Again, I thought if two equal boats were sailing downwind, the longer boat would go quicker simply because it would ride the waves easier.

I wasn’t happy with this comparison however, as displacement is often whatever the manufacturer decides to leave on when weighing them. So, I decided to find out how much water and fuel each vessel held, calculate the weight full tanks of each would weigh, add our 2000kg of stuff to end up with a realistic displacement figure. Before you think I’ve gone all geek, consider this. The Knysna 500SE (which we genuinely liked) holds 1097lbs of fuel and 1319lbs of water (a total of 2416lbs). The St Francis 48 holds 1321 and 2977lbs of water, meaning a massive total of 4298lbs almost twice as much. Of the 29 boats I looked at, St Francis hold the most water and the 48 is 13th highest at holding fuel. Now, as a self-taught fledgling when it comes to boats, I have no solid idea whether that meant a tin of beans and no idea what the real impact of having no dagger-boards will have on her but I put these two recognised numbers together and came up with an upwind vs downwind graph of fully tanked up loaded boats.. So SA/Displacement is the "Upwind" scale and Displacement/LWL is the downwind and this graph combines the two.

Either way, anything up and left is quicker than boats down and to the right. As you can see I don't think she’ll not do too bad. I left early considerations in there just for that. We had actually long ago moved them into the "no chance" or "possible" box. Anything in the circle was a possibility in terms of speed. The Privilege 515 made our possible list purely on luxury. Now of course this is just performance.. Price, Luxury, availability all also counted. So the 48 Turbo is not as luxurious as we’d probably like (but that’s more to do with her age) but she’s got 90% of our “must have” list.

Either way its too late now… she’s ours!!!! and already we love her.

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