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2007-05-16

"The Loaner"

Here is the dilemma (and I am painfully aware that my dilemma of "one too many sailboats" is absurdly trivial): I have, with my wife, a new sailboat. See below. If it is not destroyed and our health, will and money hold out, we want to go to sea as a cruising family.

Nice, eh?

I had a boat already, a boat suited not for cruising the South Pacific independent of marinas and fuel pumps for weeks at a time, but a classic plastic racer. Think "MG ragtop" versus "Land Rover equipped for safari". This boat I had bought myself, and largely repaired myself, and certainly sailed alone a fair bit. And, sentimentality aside, it was and remains a near-perfect boat for the sort of short-haul cruising and daysailing I have tended to do on Lake Ontario. The new boat has attributes of a different, more oceanic kind: it needs more than 10 knots to get going, and points less well even as it goes downwind rather better.

So I thought: "Well, the sensible thing would be to sell it. You can get a nice radar and a pair of those purple Crocs for the new boat."

But when has owning a boat been about the sensible thing?

So I thought further, and realized that if planning for a five-year circumnavigation represents the victory of hope over experience, I might as well emulate the late Chairman Mao and harvest crops not yet budded. I decided to keep the old boat, but to give it away.

Quite the head-scratcher, isn't it?

Here's the plan: I find a person willing to take on the running and storage costs of the boat (club fees, dockage, insurance, winter storage and its maintenance chores), and sell the boat to him for an agreed price. Then I don't take his money. Instead, I become a lien holder for the entire amount, and for a fixed term (until my projected return). He becomes the go-to guy for insurance and fees, and in return gets the use of a boat he can race cheaply. At the end of the term, I can reclaim the boat, sell it to him for the previously agreed price, or if he doesn't want it, sell it on the open market and give him a commission of that price.

This allows me to maintain a real hold on a boat that I am essentially loaning without the difficulties of being called back from the ends of the earth if a crane drops it on someone's head, which would be the case if I were a co-owner, and not a lien holder. As a lien holder, if an insurance claim is made, the cheque goes to me. On the other hand, if the fellow who's borrowing the boat tires of it or want to bail on the deal, I can simply take it back or attempt to replicate the deal elsewhere. It's "please drive my car while I'm away" writ large, or a type of lease of the "no money down" variant.

The fellow in question is a decent sailor who already owes an eight meter race boat, and who also happens to be our general contractor. I have no fear that he'll maintain the boat. I also intend to maintain it myself (protecting my interest, so to speak) in the two years until we go. I also intend to keep sailing her on occasion, just so I remember how to work a tiller now that I've got two hydraulic wheels with which to play. There goes Valiente now, the wee boat in the distance...off to a new berth three miles west. Mixed feelings, yes, but relief also that keeping two very different boats won't play havoc with our finances and divide quite so radically my boat-altering attentions.






My hope is to eventually get Valiente back in 2014 or so, and to sell Alchemy in Europe as a "proven design". My fellow cruisers think I'm delusional, anticipating that I will ever go from a comfortable pilothouse cruiser back to a cramped and frankly Spartan racer that will be over 40 years old. Perhaps my fellow cruisers are right. I spent several years getting Valiente the way I like her, however, and I feel she's an ideal boat for the kind of sailing we do around here. So this is a blatant attempt to have it both ways, I suppose, and hinges on an improbable set of circumstances.

In this way, it's quite like the idea of encompassing the world.

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