As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the reasons Benn and I were able to get our boat so cheaply is that we bought it without a recent survey. After all, we did have access to a survey that was only three years old — and there’s not much that can really go wrong with a boat in three years.
All of the sailboat owners reading this are either laughing, crying, or drafting a list of the marine repair services they and their friends would be happy to offer us at a very reasonable price.
We know, lots can go wrong in three years, but we’ve decided to take a chance. We could have bought a boat in better condition for quite a bit more, but eventually — and maybe very soon — that well-kept boat will also need repairs. Why not buy a boat that needs all the expensive work done right away and save ourselves the trouble of paying for it later? Besides, since we’ve spent so much less on the boat than we had planned to, we can actually afford to do those repairs now. In a year or two, after we’ve been cruising for a while, working odd jobs and basically living off as little as we can manage, I’m not so sure we’ll be in the same financial position…
So, that was our reasoning. The three year old survey told us that the hull was in more or less good condition, but the plywood deck needed some work and we would need to address some corrosion to the mast and superficial damage to the rudder. The previous owner has assured us that most of the problems mentioned in the survey were dealt with after he bought the boat, and his story seems to check out. The bulk of the work that needs doing is cosmetic — renovating the interior, laying new floors, insulating the boat, sanding and varnishing the wood on the exterior, and scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing away at the very dirty deck. These may not be as serious as, say, repairing a massive crack in the hull (which was the case with a far more expensive boat that we looked at), but we will still have tons of work to do.
(If you follow this blog, by the way, you’ll be able to read about all of the blood, sweat, and tears spilled during the course of these renovations — and from the comfort of your own home! That feeling of satisfaction is commonly referred to as Schadenfreude.)
After we bought the boat, however, another, more recent survey magically emerged. Actually, it was more of a valuation than a detailed survey, and it was far less positive than we had hoped. This new surveyor didn’t seem all that impressed with our beloved Pas de Deux — and really didn’t make an effort to hide it.
Without going into all of the dirty details (and they were kind of dirty), he thought the diesel engines were “obsolete”, the safety equipment was “lethal,” and the insulation more or less a firetrap. (In Pas de Deux’s defense: diesel engines do not become obsolete; we would obviously replace the safety equipment anyway; and, the boat is insulated with cork, which is a natural fire retardant.) What we didn’t expect, however, was that the majority of the problems he identified had to do with the layout and design of the boat, rather than any structural or mechanical issues. His preferences reveal a lot about what people are looking for nowadays in a catamaran — which is, unsurprisingly, not at all what we’re looking for.
For example, his two main complaints were: 1) the layout offers limited sleeping space, and 2) there is only one head on the boat. Now, I have to say that one couple and a dog really don’t need more than the one head and 6 berths that you’ll find in the standard interior of the Oceanic 30. And, although it is perhaps regrettable that our visitors — and we do hope to have some — will not have their own en suite bathroom, I have faith that they will be able to successfully negotate the 14 feet between their sleeping cabin and the head.
The surveyor seemed primarily opposed to the fact that the Oceanic 30, a 34-year-old boat, wasn’t designed in the same way a contemporary catamaran is. In the 1970s, when Pas de Deux was built, designers had to address the catamaran’s bad reputation for being unstable, so their primary concern was ensuring that their catamarans were as safe and secure as possible. Contemporary boat designers, however, are more interested in satisfying the demand for luxury yachts, which means that their boats are built more with the comfort of the crew in mind than the functionality of the design. As we are looking for a liveaboard rather than a party yacht, we focused on functionality and didn’t put too much effort in looking at modern boats. (OK, we also couldn’t afford them, BUT even if we had been able to afford them, we wouldn’t have been interested. Really, I mean it!)
I suppose a valuation is really a measure of how in-demand a particular type of boat is, rather than an assessment of structural or technical issues, so perhaps the surveyor was only acting out his duty. But, it is interesting to see how subjective the whole process can be. Much of what he considered to contribute to the devaluation of the boat are aspects of the layout and design that we saw as advantages; but, since they diverge wildly from what is normally found in the newer, fancier catamarans, they are automatically discounted as drawbacks. The problem is that catamarans with huge saloons, panoramic windows, apartment-sized galleys, and 5 separate berths, each with their own private head and dressing area, are best suited for cocktail parties, weekend excursions with friends, and expensive charter holidays — not for a couple and a dog looking for a floating home and a carefree lifestyle.
So much the better for us — if everyone liked the same things we do, we would never be able to afford the things we like. And, we really like Pas de Deux — if that’s not obvious enough already.