After five days of working (okay, and eating fresh fish and seafood and kayaking and chillin’ on the Gulf), the rain cleared and we left for Indiantown, to see Snowbird.
I have left out some of the details in previous posts because I wanted to put the whole story in one place. I first came across Snowbird back in November, 2014. I had started hatching a long-term plan to sail around the world someday. The first step was to get a boat and get to know her for a while. I had done some research and decided that I loved the Hallberg Rassy-Rasmus. There was one in Marina del Rey at the time but she was in quite a state. The head was missing (out for maintenance) and the original 1975 engine looked like it would need to go, too.
Remember, Greg and I were just friends back then. Around this time he and I were trying to find a way to do a sailing trip in the Caribbean, but renting a boat and splitting it two ways was proving cost-prohibitive.
While googling “Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus” I found this blog written by a Swedish couple during their Caribbean sailing adventures – and then I noticed the “for sale” tab – and it looked like she was in Grenada. I wrote and asked if they might be interested in Greg and I renting her for ten days or so – and, if I liked her I would buy her and we would come back later sail her home. They politely responded “no” – and that besides, the boat was now in Florida.
Fast-forward to September 17, 2015 – about two months before Greg and I hightailed it to Florida. We were thinking about boats and I suddenly remembered Snowbird. Sure enough, she was still for sale. I forwarded the link to Greg and he responded, “I love that boat. Make it happen.”
In the months that had passed Greg had spoken with the agent and I was in contact with the owners. Because their stories occasionally diverged I had started to distrust the agent. Plus, I learned from the owners that the marina was not taking care of Snowbird. And after we made an agreement (they would pay us to go and clean her up and in the process we could get a pretty good look at her), the marina said no.
So that morning as we prepared to leave for Indiantown, when the agent told us that another couple had made an offer, I felt sure he was bull-shitting us. But it threw Greg into a panic. He wrote the owner and said, “Give us a chance to make a better one!” The owner, of course, had no idea what Greg was talking about.
When we arrived, we were on our guard. The agent barely looked at us but handed the key to an associate and off we went in the golf cart, hurtling along through the yard. Indiantown is known as a hurricane hole – and a place to get your boat out of the ocean to over-winter her. In our case the owners had purchased Snowbird in North Carolina, fixed her up and sailed her to the Caribbean before real life caught up with them and they had to return to Sweden. She was one of maybe 50-60 boats on the hard there, all of them in various states of disrepair.
They had at least taken time to dust her off before we came and clean out the wasps’ nests. But after a few years in the Florida sun, she was weather-beaten. Her wood needed oil and almost all her running rigging would need to be replaced. The engine looked good, but we had concerns about the fuel pump and the fuel situation (if you leave fuel in a boat over a long period of time condensation can cause biological growth and the water and growth can cause some serious problems. These can be remedied – but you kinda want to test drive a boat before paying for the fuel “polishing”. Last but not least, the batteries were dead so we couldn’t test anything. So we realized that just taking her for a sea trial at her was going to cost us a pretty penny.
We left Indiantown without making a decision.
Greg has dear friends in Miami and they invited us to camp on their covered patio, so for a few days we took them up on their offer. Just long enough to affirm the fact that we did not like Miami – in spite of how much we loved being in their company and the few restaurants we tried. Then we finally made our way to Key West.
We camped at Bahia Honda State Park where we got eaten to death by noseeums and where the headlights from the cars along the highway danced like strobe lights through our tent all night long. In Marathon we looked at two boats – just to have something to compare Snowbird to. One was horrible, clearly a live-aboard with cat hair everywhere. The other was smaller, but in much better shape than Snowbird – and cheaper. The crack in our plan grew a little larger.
We spent a day walking around Key West with my folks, and an afternoon driving by houses. Then, with all our decisions up in the air, we headed to New Jersey for Christmas.