Adventure blog – living on a boat (1)

Many of you know already that Jolanda and I want to move on to a boat. We thought it will be easy to buy a boat and get a slip for it. We did not expect it would be such an adventure! After a few unexpected experiences, I decided to create a blog to keep track of our journey and in doing so keeping you updated too – wherever it will lead us…

    Chapter 1: The Idea and Tryout

In July 2017 we had to leave our beloved apartment in Downtown Manhattan. The owner wanted to sell the apartment. We had wonderful 6 years at 88 Greenwich and developed some great friendships. During the summer it would have been difficult to find a place we would have liked, because there is much more demand for people renting new places. We were very lucky to get the opportunity to live with our friends Sabrina, Natalie, Alex and Atticus at the Upper West Side. Initially we were only planning to stay for a few months and out of a sudden it was already October.

With the winter clothes still in storage we started to think where we are going to live next. We didn’t feel like continuing spending all our money on rent even though Manhattan has been one of the coolest places to live at. Jolanda started a few years ago sailing at the Manhattan Yacht Club moved to Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City. So we got the bright idea “WHY NOT LIVE ON A BOAT?”. It is cheaper to live on a boat and places where you can park a boat are close enough to the public transportation to bring me to the office. We also got inspired when we saw some houseboats during our visit in Seattle earlier in the year and when we went sailing with our friends at City Island where Jolanda saw the following boat for sale:

This is what we started off with.

So we had to try it out how it feels to live on a boat. We booked a houseboat from the 2 – 5 Oct at Liberty Landing.

Very small but we got the feeling on living on a boat and some company from the sailing club across made our experience even more memorable. We also meet the boat broker lets call him Mark (not his real name but Jolanda teases me that I’m always calling him Mark) who told us that he has already the perfect boat for us.

    Chapter 2: The first boat / Sea Ranger 47

During our stay we had a look at a beautiful Boat Mark showed us:

The owner was living on the boat but his girlfriend forced him to move to the city, very nice guy. He showed us around and told us that he did some nice upgrades e.g. new shower. It even had a queen size bed.

This is Jolanda’s favorite until now. So we were new in this boat buying business we saw all the work we have to do before the winter would have arrived: winterization and moving to another marina. Also as a German I had one price in mind and I don’t like to negotiate. Unfortunately that price I had in mind was too low and the boat got sold to another lucky person who had a higher budget.

    Chapter 3: The second boat / Concord 47

It did not take long for our Broker to find another boat, it was his own boat years ago which he sold to a friend and now he is trying to sell it for him. Not sure if he was representing us or the owner to be honest. The boat was located at the marina “Hudson Point”, much smaller but open all year round and close to the train station. The owner’s wife just got a newborn baby and now it was time to settle down with his wife and kid in the city, that’s why he wanted to sell the boat. Jolanda did not like the look of the boat but eventually was convinced when she saw the extension being done to the aft:

I think the shape looked very flashy and fast (actually with two big Detroit engines I think it was fast). We never figured it out how much power the engines had though…

We thought we got the right boat, after hard negotiating with the owner to push the price down we settled on the price “as it is”.

December was coming and we went on our vacation home to see family and friends in Germany and Switzerland. One morning we saw a posting on the web reporting a fire in a marina in New Jersey. You will not believe it, it was the same marina our potential boat was based:

After the first shock we contacted our broker and he confirmed that the fire was two boats away and our boat was not affected. Two beautiful boats fully destroyed that was very sad.
Ok off to our next step on the list was the survey:
Luckily I found a good surveyor from the “Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors“. His name is Jesse and I spoke to him on the phone to find out the details. His webpage is, I strongly recommend his service, he takes his time for the survey and explains all the details. The owner of the boat was also there and he took extra time off from work to tell Jesse all he knows about the boat. Later we found out that he did the extension of the aft on another boat as well, so I guess he was curious if this is passing a survey.

Back to the Concord 47 – Verdict of the boat & important findings by the surveyor:
1. There was an owner-designed and completed extension built onto the transom of the vessel. The structure was essentially an enclosed platform of approximately 8’ in length, spanning the beam of the transom. Although workmanship appeared sound and finish was of apparent high quality, blueprints, drafts or design plans were not available and there is no known involvement or assessment from a naval architect. Without a sea-trial it is not possible to comment on the extension’s impact on performance or handling of the vessel.

2. The marine heads (toilets) were configured for direct discharge; No type III marine sanitation device (holding tank) was installed. – Initially we got told that at a certain age that is not required. Unfortunately that information was WRONG!!!

All other findings were minor.

So the question was, do we want to spend money to get a naval architect to survey the platform, re-register the boat in the full length and install the holding tank for the toilets?

After discussing it with a specialist on the NY boat show and more importantly with Jolanda, the answer was NO!
BTW our broker never gave us the estimate of the waste tank installment and always told us everything was ok. Not sure if he knew how deep our pockets were 🙂

    Chapter 4: The third boat / Marine Trader 48

Off we go to our next endeavor: Craigslist
As we were disappointed with our broker, we wanted to try it on our own. Quick search on Craigslist found this nice Marine Trader 48. It looked beautiful and was below our price range. So clever thinking we have some budget left for nice upgrades…

Very cute right, for the first viewing I brought my friend Alex along who knows a lot about boats and could give me some initial thoughts. So the first inspection passed Alex and I asked Jolanda to come back from sunny California before I will make an offer.

On a bright Sunday afternoon we drank champagne on top of the boat and were confident that this is the boat we are going to buy and making it our own with the spare money.

I have to say that the owner was super nice, he is living in Florida with no plans to return to the cold North and wants to give his boat to someone who appreciates her. I saw some panels loose and some holes in the ceiling, but the owner confirmed that everything was fixed from the outside and sealed, so we just need to replace the inside.

So I scheduled the survey on my birthday January 31st, maybe this is my own birthday present? We meet Jesse at the train station and he gave us a ride in his car to the Marina. Since the boat was winterized we could not get it really warm so we were freezing a bit. Jesse spend a good 2hrs in the engine room and then was checking around the boat, then he came with an interim update. And I can tell you this was not what we expected. We said that we have quite some budget left to fix things. He gave us a preliminary list of findings:

1 – There was significant diesel accumulation throughout the bilge. The two forward mounted fuel tanks appeared to be leaking
2 – Approximately 30% of the deck and cabin structure is suffering from visible rot and water damage and will require rebuilding.
3 – The engine exhaust hoses between the engines, water lift mufflers and exits from boat need to be replaced
4 – All batteries due for replacement

In summary the surveyors opinion is that the vessel could make a good project for complete refit, but it should be approached with the expectation of spending nearly the current value of the boat to bring it to serviceable condition,

Here are a few pictures to highlight the damage:

At this point we decided to discontinue the survey and realized that this was not the right boat for us. We talked to the shipyard and they told us how much it would cost just to replace the fuel tanks. If you are a carpenter who just retired and is looking for a challenge, I can give you the details of the owner, this might be the right project for you.

    Chapter 5: The forth boat / Grand Banks 42

Maybe I should give Craigslist one more try. We saw this nice Grand Banks 42 foot boat and we wanted to know if we could live in a 42 foot boat.

Super friendly owner who was getting too old for boating and he was very knowledgeable. Straight away you could see what quality the Grand Banks boat was. This boat was not used for a while and smelled a bit and also could have used a clean up. The price was rather high from what we have seen in the past and some money needed to be spend to make it nice. Looking in the bedroom we realized that this boat was just too small for us.

So from that we learned that the minimum size of boat we need is 45 foot.

Maybe we should increase our budget? Four boats considered to buy and have not even done one haul out or a sea trial.

What we have learned until now, we have the following list:

Must have
1. Registration without any issues including all taxes paid and proof for it.
2. Service Records available
3. Hull: Fiberglass
4. Length: 45 To 49ft
5. Head/Bathrooms: 2/2
6. Master: minimum full, but prefer Queen size bed
7. Engines: 2
8. Power: at least 2 x 30 amp connectors
9. Proper wiring
10. No smell in the boat (fuel/diesel/ mold)
11. Plenty of outdoor space
12. Kitchen: big fridge
13. Large windows in living room
14. Boat has to be occupied recently – no empty boat for longer as a couple of months
15. Space to do yoga indoors – ok to move furniture around

Nice to have
1. Kitchen on same level
2. Wooden floor
3. Trimtabs
4. Boat style – Trawler
5. Sun Cover
6. Non-electric heater
7. Comes with a slip in Hudson Point or Liberty Landing

    Chapter 6: Boat not worth to mention

A friend of ours found a boat which was on top of our price range and looked beautiful, we contacted the broker and he told us that it is ready to move in. So we got excited to get a flashy “looking new” boat. I took off a Friday afternoon on a cold rainy day and went with the train to Stratford/CT. The friendly local Broker greeted me and told me that the boat was already sold. I could still have a look at the boat. That was a very quick adventure….

    Chapter 7: The fifth boat / Jefferson 52

After this disappointing experience we felt that we running out of time. Our friends we lived with had to move to Philadelphia to start their new life in the country side and we were homeless again. Luckily we found the next temporary accommodation with our Columbian friends in Union City, NJ. Bye bye NYC life, Jolanda was a little bit sad to leave Manhattan behind and move over to the other side of the Hudson into another State called New Jersey.

The view is not bad though…

Suddenly our favorite broker Mark came back and found another boat for us, the boat is based in Washington DC and is a bit longer than we wanted (52ft). He was already on the boat and took some pictures to show us. So we had a look at the pictures and thought this is a good option especially since the price was in a nice range.

To speed things up he offered to drive me down to DC so we can have a look at the boat together. The current owner is moving with her job and she just bought the boat less than a year ago. A big advantage was that she was providing us a survey which was done in April 2017 when she bought the boat. That gave us some confidence what condition the boat was in.
I survived the drive down to DC with the Mark who was probably a ex NASCAR driver. I had a nice chat with the owner of the boat and could get a good picture of the boat.

Having all of the information and Jolanda who trusted me (without seen the boat “live” – as she was traveling), we decided to make an initial offer for the boat. At that time we found out that the seller had signed a contract with a broker who of course wanted to get his commission too. So Mark contacted the selling broker and found out that he was not willing to split the commission (at this point the selling broker had not done any work). For all Mark has done for us we decided to pay him a flat consultant fee. The first offer from us was (of course) not accepted and with the additional broker fee and consulting fee we were facing much more expenses that we initially expected.

After a lot forward and backward we finally agreed to a price we could both live with. So we signed the agreement and needed to get the survey and sea trial sorted out, also there was a fuel pump repair still ongoing. Two weeks later the pump was repaired and the seller was keen to move forward with the sale. The boats location did not offer a haul out so we needed to convince the selling party to move the boat down the Potomac River to do the sea trial.

That might be even save us one day on our journey back to NJ.

Finally Jolanda was coming back… her flight had 9 hours delay from Europe due to bad weather in London and New Jersey. After 5 hours of sleep she went with me to do a 8 hour US Coast Guard Safety course which is required to operate a boat in New Jersey.
Even though feeling really sick and had a hard time to concentrate I proudly report we both passed the test.

In the meantime we flew down to Palm Beach FL for the Trawler Fest to learn more about boats and socialize. It was a great experience, smaller than expected but we meet some very nice people. I did a diesel engine maintenance course and also an offshore essential course.

Back to New York (actually Union City), we are now keen to get things going and get the survey done. The survey was scheduled for March 20th and we were good to go. Just before picking up the rental car we got a call from the Selling broker to call off the survey due to weather. His captain did not feel comfortable to operate the boat during that weather:

The survey was postponed to Tuesday March 27th – this gives us a bit more time to sort out the insurance and the slip – our wish is to keep the boat in Jersey City.

Fingers crossed!!!

Tuesday March 27th – The day of the survey
Late at night after a 4.5hr drive we arrived at Colton’s Point Marina. The survey was scheduled for 11am and everyone was on time besides…. the surveyor….. Unfortunately the surveyor had to do another survey before ours and came finally 2 hours late. Luckily we were already able to haul out the boat, so it was ready for the hull inspection:

Overall the following people were present:
1. Friend who represented the seller
2. The seller’s broker – who as pulling out the contract to sign before the survey was even finished, when we declined he left suddenly
3. The captain steering the boat – luckily paid by the seller
4. The surveyor hired to give us a good summary of the condition of the boat
5. The owner of the marina (no cash no splash)
6. Our broker / consultant Mark who was trying to talk me into a new paint job of the hull and all the other ideas he has to “improve” the value of the boat

With that big party in front of us Jolanda and I were holding hands as all of them wanted a part of our money…. I told them if there is a party tonight I’m not the one paying. 🙂

After the bottom of the hull was assessed (luckily it did not show too many blisters) it was time for the sea trial. Actually we have to call it trial run as there was no sea close by. The seller hired Captain Jon (in the picture below left) who was very knowledgable and was able to explain me a lot of things during the time on the water.

Overall everything went very well, there are a lot of little things which need to be fixed as the previous owners did not take care too much of the boat, but no major concern.

We are not quiet done yet, last hurdle is the insurance, we need to find a reasonable coverage and we are all done (this is not so easy for first time buyers with not much experience with so big boats). Another good news was that Liberty Harbor Marina confirmed that we will have a slip for us.

Keep the fingers crossed.

    The insurance part was harder than expected for the following reasons:

– survey showed a lot of little things which needed to be fixed, as well as the condition of the bottom and the valves from the through-holes which are not to the latest standard

– our inexperience and lack of previous ownership
– age of the boat

A lot of insurances were not willing to cover us, only one came back and told us that we have to fix the issues found in the survey and we are good to go. We needed to get an estimate from the Marina where the boat is currently based for all the repairs. We got a bit of a shock how much we needed to pay for all the things which need to be fixed, luckily the seller agreed to help us with the bill.

In the meantime we secured our slip at the Liberty Marina, so we have a place to stay during the summer. The swan is taking care that no one else is taking our place:

During our romantic vacation in Las Vegas we got the repair and insurance sorted out and we finally signed the acceptance letter. A quick trip to the closest CHASE bank to transfer the money:

…. and what can I say

WE GOT THE BOAT!!!! finally

Next stop celebration refreshment:

Now we just need to wait until the repairs are done (will take up to 4-6 weeks) and we can pick the boat up and bring it to NJ. I will post some pictures from the repair and of course our journey to NJ, so stay tuned.

    BTW: thanks everyone for helping us on the way, if it was giving us shelter, taking care of our cat Luna or giving us valuable advice.
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3 Responses to Adventure blog – living on a boat (1)

  1. Juergen B says:

    Wow guys, what an adventure – I am sure glad you are so discerning and detail oriented… Have met a photographer here in Sarasota who sold his cruising yacht in the north-west and is going through the same dance of trying to find a suitable alternative.

    He had his inspection the other day and is now trying to negotiate the price down.

    Robyn and I are looking into land-based solutions, went to the Tampa RV show the other day: Land Yachts, really – and something interesting to talk about when we see you in Florida next time.

    Best, JB

  2. Mike Garside says:

    Hells bells, Marcus, that’s one steep learning curve you’ve been on! However, I have complete confidence that you two will get it right. And you’ll have a lotta fun getting there! Love to you both from Di and me, too.

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