Groovy – How We Came to Own a Sailboat

Sail blog post - When a very GROOVY sailboat came up for sail in San Diego, we flew back from the Caribbean in a hurry to make her ours.

A cool boat pops up for sale in San Diego

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising & sailing

It looks clean...

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

...and inviting

Leaving St. Vincent & The Grenadines and heading for St. Lucia

Leaving St. Vincent headed for St. Lucia

JKF Airport

New Year's Eve on the conveyor belt at JFK airport

s/v Groovy sea trial

Sea trial of the cool boat...

s/v Groovy haulout

...suspending it for a while...

s/v Groovy survey

...and having the surveyor tap the hull to check

out its integrity.

San Diego bird of paradise flower

San Diego gives us a warm

welcome.

Sea Dragon urban tree in San Diego, CA

"Sea Dragon," one of San

Diego's Urban Trees, greets

us at Seaport Village.

Seaport Village, San Diego California

A mom captures herself and

kiddies in a self-portrait

s/v Groovy Seaport Village, San Diego, CA

This fellow was balancing rocks

in impossible positions.

Hot Licks has every hot sauce

known to man.

A retired Navy officer shares

tales of war on the high seas

The Bob Hope commemorative statue park.

Segway lessons.

sv Groovy ready for us to take delivery

Back on the boat it was time to take delivery.

s/v Groovy delivery

Offshore delivery involves proving that the boat

was signed over from seller to buyer "offshore"

sv Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

The seller's captain signs off.

s/v Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Groovy is officially ours... What did we just do??

SV Groovy liveaboard cruising sailing

Proud new owners

For two weeks we call Kona Kai marina home.

Surfin' community Ocean Beach

sports a lot of funk.

Surfin' hamburgers

A street musician entertains us

at Ocean Beach

Now that's a coffee kiosk!

s/v Groovy becomes our liveaboard home

Prepping for our sail to Mexico.

sv Groovy sails like a dream

Our test sails are a blast.

A schooner slips past in the distance

s/v Groovy - just a groovy boat

The sun feels good. Hard to believe we

were in short sleeves a few days ago.

sv Groovy - our wonderful Hunter sailboat

A happy family moment as the desert dwellers take to the sea.

A New Chapter:  Groovy

January, 2010 - I have mentioned John Lennon's insight that "life is what

happens to you while you are busy making other plans" elsewhere on

these pages, and once again, while in Carriacou, those words proved so

true for us.  I have long had a dream of going cruising in a sailboat and

have gradually lured Mark into this dream.  His response has ranged from

all smiles to the rare bout of kicking and screaming, but he finally agreed

to purchase a boat a year ago.

The boat buying process left us so stressed out last May that we got into a

fender bender with the trailer in California and ended up touring Michigan

by car and motel for seven weeks while the trailer was repaired and while

we decompressed.

We returned to the

trailer determined to let the boat idea slide for a while, but found ourselves

glued to Yachtworld, the online MLS for boats.  Every time we got online to

check for email, no matter where in the world we were, we did a quick check of

Yachtworld too.

When we went to the Caribbean for the winter we vowed not to look at

Yachtworld any more.  But one afternoon, while sitting out on our balcony,

Mark slipped up and took a quick peak.  "Wow!  Look at this!" He jumped out of

his patio chair.  A boat we had seen for sale almost a year earlier was back on

the market, but this time hugely discounted as a foreclosure.  I shrugged it off.

It would be gone by the time we got back to the States.  But over the next few

days, Mark wouldn't let it go. The bank had an online bid form, and one afternoon

Mark entered a bid. "Sweety, what do you think of this?" He asked as he went to take

a shower. Aw heck, that was much too high! I lowered his number by $10k and clicked Send. 30 minutes later we got an email

saying the bank had "respectfully" countered our offer by $1,500. Holy cow! Now what?? Dash away from paradise to the hurly

burly of buying our dream boat for an amazing price in the middle of winter, with the very real chance that things could go awry

and leave us empty-handed, or stay on swimming and walking and

mixing with the locals on the white sand beaches of the Caribbean?

While casting about for an answer, discussing our options, reasons,

hopes and fears endlessly, Mark woke up one day with Simon and

Garfunckle's song Feelin' Groovy running through his mind.  He had

been coming up with prospective names for boats on a sometimes

hourly basis for the past two years, to the point where it became a

comical game for both of us, but none of the names ever stuck.

However, when he rolled over that morning and said, "We should name

the boat 'Groovy'," we both knew we would be owners of a new boat.

New Year's Eve found us flying out of St. Vincent, staring down at the

turquoise sea dotted with little white sailboats, wondering if we would

truly be out there joining them soon or if we were totally out of our minds to be leaving.  The long holiday weekend was a crazy one

for international travel, and especially for last minute ticket purcases.  Starting with the hike from our Bequia apartment to the ferry

boat, then on to the St. Vincent bus ride across town to catch a small inter-island flight to St. Lucia, followed by an hour-and-a-half

taxi ride over that island's mountainous interior to its bigger airport, and finally hopping on three jet flights that bounced up the

Caribbean chain and across the US to San Diego, we were in transit for

a total of 33 hours.

Because a terrorist had tried to bomb a flight to Detroit on Christmas

day, security was extraordinary.  Apparently St. Lucia is a "country of

interest," so not only were we patted down and each of our carry-on

bags hand-searched when we entered the St. Lucia terminal, but all

passengers were patted down and every pocket of every piece of

luggage searched a second time as we all boarded the plane.  It took

two hours to get everyone aboard, and we, of course, were the last ones

on.  The gazillion TSA agents were high-fiving each other as we left their

clutches, the final plane of the day.  They were oh-so-ready to celebrate

New Year's Eve island style.  We rang in the new year at New York's JFK

airport a few hours later, while standing in line at Customs.  Back on

American soil, we snagged some blankets and pillows from the plane

and bedded down on a nice, comfy, secluded conveyor belt in the terminal to await our morning

flight to California.

Once we arrived in San Diego, we went

straight to the boat to check it out. It was

just as cool a boat as it looked in the

photos.  It is a 2008 Hunter 44DS (44'

long), the last unit of that model ever built.

After crawling through many many boats

over the past four years, we had decided a

year ago that this was the exact make and

model we wanted. 

What incredible good fortune.

Boat purchases involve a "sea trial" and "survey" which are something like a test

drive and home inspection, but you must reach a price agreement with the seller

before either can take place.  For the survey, a professional examines the boat

very carefully, checking all the systems and hauling it out of the water for a look at

the bottom.  Groggy from lack of sleep, jet lag, and still wondering if we were doing

the right thing, we were both ecstatic as we took turns at the helm on the way to the

boat yard.  Our surveyor

studied every inch of the boat

for a full day, tapping the hull

with his hammer to check for

problems and making endless

notes on his clipboard.  In the

end he declared it the cleanest

survey he had ever done.

Wow.  Gorgeous weather greeted us and

our spirits rose higher and higher -- even

as fear gripped our souls because this was

such a big move for us.  We were glad it

was shorts weather, as all we had with us

was tropical-wear and airport-wear.

Everything else was in Phoenix.  We

stayed with our son and daughter-in-law and took some time

out to explore Seaport Village with them and catch our breath.

This area was as charming as we remembered it being a year

ago.  Families were wandering through the boutique stores,

enjoying the last bit of the holiday break

together.  We spotted a mom with her two kids

getting a picture of themselves with their cell

phone.

A little further on a man was demonstrating

rock balancing, placing rocks in impossible

positions on top of each other and

miraculously willing them not to fall down.  He

claimed there were no tricks or gimmicks, but

how he could sense where the balance point

was of each rock was beyond me.

The boutiques were all well stocked with their

Christmas goods and the paths were

meticulously maintained.  There is something

ever-friendly and ever-accessible about the

San Diego waterfront.  We stopped at Hot

Licks, a store with a dizzying array of hot sauces lining every

shelf.

Down at the Midway Aircraft Carrier museum a retired Naval

officer told stories of various ships and their adventures on the

high seas long ago.

A group of statues nearby commemorates Bob Hope's many

USO performances, and a little girl wandered among the

statues, carefully checking out each one.

You never know what you'll find on the San Diego waterfront,

and as we strolled a little further we came across a group

Segway lesson.  Those contraptions look like so much fun.

A few days later all the pieces were in place for us to close on the boat.

A mad dash to Phoenix had augmented our clothes collection so we

could handle the weather that was becoming increasingly cool and

damp.  At the same time we had had to stand in the trailer and decide whether to take the kitchen tools, favorite books, bedding,

etc. or buy new things for the boat.  Our plan was to split our time between RVing in the US/Canada and sailing in Mexico, hitting

the prime summer spots on land with the trailer during the southern Mexican hurricane season.  So we didn't want to raid too much

from the trailer.  But did this new move really mean stocking two homes?  What about tools?  Hoses?  Holding tank chemicals?

Personal papers?  We had planned to stay on the boat for the first twelve months before we started splitting our time between

RVing and sailing.  So were we really saying goodbye to the trailer for a year?  Yikes!  We loaded the truck and sped back to San

Diego in time to sign all the paperwork, sticking with the tasks at hand to keep all

these wild emotions in check.

Since our intent was to use the boat outside of California (in Mexico), we

qualified for the state exemption from paying "use tax" (similar to sales tax) on

the purchase.  However, California (like all other coastal states) has strict rules

that state precisely how a boat buyer demonstrates his/her intent to use the boat

predominantly outside of the state.  One of these is to take the boat out of

California waters for the closing.  This is just 3 miles offshore, but requires a

captain to sail the boat until the closing takes place, and then lots of photos

proving both the day's date and that the boat is at a GPS coordinate outside of

the state when the documents are signed.  We had especially memorable

headlines on the newspaper that day, as an earthquake had just devastated

Haiti.

This was an exciting moment and was our first extended period of time out in the boat on the

water.  It was great to be out there, but we both felt woefully inadequate to take charge of

this vessel all by ourselves.  Our next trip out there would be no guiding hand, and we

wondered how we would fare.

Once back at the dock, we hung out in the cabin in a state of disbelief.  We had done it.

Fourteen days from the time we left the islands, we were sitting on our own boat.

Were we out of our minds?

The seller was kind enough to pre-pay a two week stay at Kona

Marina in San Diego, one of the nicest marinas in the harbor.

We had spent many happy hours in the past sneaking onto this marina's docks and then wandering

around checking out all the boats and talking to the

owners.  It was a strange and wonderful feeling to

have a card key to the gate and to walk onto the

docks as bona-fide boat owners.

We had signed our names on the closing

documents, but there was still a lot more to do.

The second part of California's requirement for

demonstrating intent to use your new boat outside

of California is to leave the state as soon as

possible after the closing and to stay out for at

least six months.  We decided to sail to Ensenada,

Mexico, 65 miles south of San Diego.

Our to-do list to prepare for this international

voyage was several pages long.  From a

small sail repair to testing the radar

to remembering how to sail and

navigate, we had a lot to do to

make this easy 65 mile trip a safe

one.

Taking a little time out, we explored

nearby Ocean Beach.  This is a

surfing community that has a hippy

kind of air to it, and it's a place

where it seems that anything goes.

A little dog in a froo-froo dress fit

right in.

Surfing, hamburgers in paradise and cheap

beers at outdoor bars overlooking the beach

invite all tourists to partake of the classic

California beach scene for a while.

A street musician sang his heart out as we

strolled by.

Pirate's Cove Coffee is the most elaborate

coffee kiosk I have ever seen.

Back on the boat we were slowly getting used

to the idea of being boat owners, living on a

sailboat, and starting a new chapter in our lives.

Out on the water the weather got steadily cooler.  Short sleeves gave way to hats and jackets

as we gradually remembered which lines on the boat do what, how sailboats work with the

wind, and what all those crazy markings on the charts are all about.

Then San Diego got one of the worst dousings of rain

in the last decade.  In one week they got almost as much

rain as they had in the entire previous year.  We

alternated between huddling inside and running endless

errands to the big box stores as the rain fell in torrents.

In a way, all that miserable weather was a blessing in

disguise, as it kept us ticking down our non-sailing to-do

lists.  I read 150 pages of Chapman's Piloting's

navigation chapters to refresh my skills, and Mark read

the chartplotter and radar manual, engine manual and

Hunter's user manual.  When the day finally arrived that

the sun came out, we were able to focus on sailing.

We had one brief family day aboard, taking our son Rory and his wife Colette out for a

day sail.  It was a moment that Mark had long been waiting for, wanting to introduce his

son to the world of sailing.  Rory caught on quickly, and we found it was so much easier

to sail with a strapping young

man on board who could handle

all the lines one-handed without a

winch.  After a pleasant few

hours on the water, we hugged

them goodbye at the dock.  Thirty

hours later we untied the lines at

Kona Marina for the last time,

and left San Diego in the morning

mist behind us as we headed for

Puerto La Salina, Mexico, our

first stop on the way to

Ensenada.