Search for the perfect first boat – Catalina 25

Sailing classes are finished. Boating season in the midwest is done. It’s December. But that’s not stopping us! Oh, no! We are on a mission to find our first sailboat. It has been a very interesting ride so far. We have done extensive searches onYacht World and Sailing Texas and Craigslist – even Ebay! Not to mention all the blogs and forums and manufacturer websites and the invaluable advice and experience of sailing friends.

We had narrowed it down to 3 kinds of boats – the Catalina 25, the Watkins 25 and the C&C 26 or 27. Now given our price range the pickings are a little slim for the Watkins and the C&C, but the Catalina has a larger yield currently. We are also not blind to the fact that it’s the end of the season, so prices now will likely go up toward the beginning of spring as those desperate to get out on the water will start sucking up and taking the plunge. We are TRYING to be smart about this. *snort*

Well we found a Catalina 25 fixed keel; with inboard diesel and a wheel to boot! It photographed well. The owner was moving on to a larger boat, but this one had served him well. He and his buddies had taken it from Connecticut to Massachussets when he bought it, and she had sailed like a dream! We asked a million questions about her. He even went so far as to go out and take more pictures specifically for us and email them. Drawbacks? We were warned that the windows were a little leaky at times, but certainly nothing that couldn’t be fixed. There were a blisters, but very small and few and had been cut and drained. Now all that was needed was bottom paint. Well, painting was ok with us. We could choose our colors from the beginning to customize her to our tastes, right? Oh, and it was in Maryland. And there was no trailer. Ok, replacing port windows. Fine. And Maryland from Indianapolis isn’t THAT far. We were accomstomed to drving 6 hours round trip twice every other weekend when we lived in Texas, so this wouldn’t be that big a deal. The hilly route might be a bit of a concern, but we weren’t going to give up hope.

The trailer was a different story. We searched and searched for a trailer. Any that we felt were within a swallowable price range were hell and gone from us and from the boat. The rest were brand new or custom built and would easily cost 50% more or double the asking price of the boat. More frustrating was the fact that we could find plenty of other listings that would include a trailer, well within our price range, but way too far away (ie: San Diego, Ca or Seattle, Wa). We even looked into renting a trailer, and then finally decided to just go take a look at her in person. We figured if she turned out to be THE one, then we would just deal with finding a trailer later and make the double trip. It’s worth it for the right boat, right?

We both drive serious gas guzzlers, so we decided to rent a car. Got up early on a Friday morning, picked up the car, grabbed some Einstein Bros bagels and coffee and took off. We stayed at the new hotel on Andrews AFB (really, really nice) and then met the boat owner at 9am Saturday morning.

Moment of digression: Let me tell you that the views are amazing around the Chesapeake. It seems like you can’t possibly be near the water even though the GPS is telling you that you are less than 1/4 mile from that marina because of the lush forest through which you’re drving and then suddenly, POOF! You pop out of the trees, and there’s the water and millions of boats! It was amazing. Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

So, we found the marina, and located the boat. The owner was there getting her ready for us to take a look. She was on the hard, so he had a step ladder under the swim ladder to climb up. When we reached the cockpit we saw he had dropped a bunch of towels down in the cockpit and cabin because of all the condensation this time of year. ::blink, blink:: Condensation? Dude. It was the mustiest, dampest, mildewiest thing I’ve ever set foot in. The windows did more than just leak. The towels were pretty much soaked. We found soft spots inside and outside.The cushions hadn’t been removed either, so they were soaking up just as much of the “condensation” as the towels.

The head room inside the cabin was supposed to be sufficient. It was not sufficient. I am 5’6″ and Evan is 5″9″ (Everyone says he seems much taller – must be the military officer presence.) We were getting cricks in our necks. The pop top version of these boats – which this was not – are supposed to be able to increase the head room to 6’4. Even if that is not an embellishment, the area raised would be very, very small. The V-berth was more like a V-coffin. Overall, very claustraphobic… and then I started coughing. Mildew, y’all. My lungs don’t handle it well. So now I was coughing and cold (it was maybe 40 degrees in and outside of the boat), and I had taken all the pics I was going to take of the boat.

I climbed back down the ladders, and went to the car to get my overcoat and pocket hand warmers. Standing at the car coughing, I could see the rest of the marina and the docks and the boats and… THE SUN. I left the car and wandered down to the docks. I walked in the sunshine, attempting to soak up every ray of warmth I could and gazed out. The sun hitting the water, all the boats, the smell of it all. I could have stayed there for hours. I took more pics of my views between coughs. I strolled down each of the docks I could and looked at all the different boats. Trawlers, sailboats, a few I recognized from our Yacht World searches and that made me smile.



Sunrise sparkling on the water
So many masts and trees – beautiful!
After about 30 minutes or so, I saw Evan and the boat owner coming out from the among the stilted boats, and could see from their body language that things were winding down. It was time for our 11 hour ride back to Indiana. We talked about it on the ride home, and came to the conclusion that not only was this boat not THE boat, but Catalina 25s were not longer a part of our search. I finally stopped coughing somewhere around Dayton, Ohio. (No, I didn’t have my inhaler with me. Yes, I did a breathing treatment with my nebulizer when we arrived home.) We had seen a few Watkins 25s and it was time to start digging deeper into those.
I debated a while about whether or not I should post about this trip. Looking back it seems almost foolish, but this is how we learn, right? And we got to see a part of the country we had not really paid much attention to before, and the road trip itself offered some really spectacular views as well. Lessons were learned, and that is always a great thing with which to walk away from any adventure!