|nonoctave.com / Rebel Yell / Part II / Chapters 2-4|
|Rebel Yell||Jason Scott||Part II - Landlocked!|
In this hunt for sailing adventure, as in all
hunts, the greater part of the fun is the
chase, not the kill!
AUTHOR’s NOTE: THE FOLLOWING INVOLVES THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN
BUYING A NEW BOAT AND ARE VIEWED FROM THE POINT OF ONE WHO DID
NOT HAVE MUCH PAST EXPERIENCE IN THE PROCESS. IF THE READER IS
ALREADY ADEPT IN SUCH, SKIP THIS CHAPTER AND PROCEED TO PART III.
With all the preliminary skirmishes over, the collective family now turned their thoughts to overall planning for a world cruise and all that it entails. The piece de resistance which moved Chris into full swing was the enthusiasm Jeff’s teachers expressed. It was hard for me to subrogate the gnawing feeling that they were happy to remove from their jurisdiction a student who continually pushed them to move forward and teach him something which he had not learned all by himself.3 Their position was that a year of world travel would be worth at least three years of formal schooling. After observing how inadequate the Ramona school system4 was in serving his needs, there wasn’t too much doubt that what they said was true. Jeff added fuel to the excitement by his comment when Chris suggested that it might be better if “Daddy went by himself.”
“If you don’t want to go with us men, you don’t have to. We can handle it by ourselves. . . Dad and me!” He was 9 years old at the time.
Mulling the situation over, Chris subdued her natural nesting instincts, fears and built in dislike of non-routine circumstance and started to speak offhandedly to her cronies about world cruising. Of course, all the men wanted to go and most of the women thought she was out of her gourd to even consider it.
“l’ve always wanted to climb the pyramids of Egypt,” Jeff confided.5 That cinched the logic of the situation and made everything all right as far as Chris was concerned. She truculently, dragging her heels all the way, agreed to become a part of the odyssey. Once over that hurdle, the discussions centered around where we would sail.
My preference was to revisit the islands of the Pacific. Both Jeff and Chris overruled me on that one. She would agree to spend a year or so cruising but most of that time had to be spent in the Med.
“Near the pyramids,” Jeff chimed in.
The concession was not hard to accept.6 The next most important thing on the schedule to determine was what the configuration of the yacht would be. As always, not being totally unconscious to funds, whatever we decided had to fit within what we had to work with. The basics were something like this:
Size of a cruising boat has little to do with its seaworthyness. That is a function of its design and manufacture. If a boat is to be used by a family for an extended period of time, it had to be large enough to be comfortable but not so large as to rule out single handing if necessary. Weatherwise, we wanted to heep it under 50 feet because if a yacht gets much over that the open ocean swells with a short fetch can put a lot of strain on the structure. We agreed that in our situation, something around 40 feet would be ideal.
We were going to ply warm waters infested with little boring worms called torados. These little hitch-hikers liked to get into wooden hulls and eat their way through. They start out microscopic in size and fatten up until they are as round as a thumb. No amount of wood preparation or preservatives before the fact seems to deter them for long in their quest to eat out the bottom of a wooden boat. It is not at all practical on a long ocean voyage to call the Orkin Man. The bottom had to be made of something they didn’t like to eat. Fiberglass, metal or cement.
Steel boats are great for large transports and naval ships. There are some problems with compass deviation and maintenance. Just ask any swabbie about how many coats of paint he has chipped and redone. Besides, steel boats do cost a lot and do not seem to be much safer if you hit a rock or a reef than any other material. Aluminum as a material has been out of style for some years due to original cost and the corrosion problem when tied up to a steel pier. (Bottoms have been known to fall out at the water line when tied up to a steel pier.) Also, there is the little problem of maintenance. Not many dock worhers in Borneo or the Soloman Islands are adept in riveting or heliarc welding!
There are a lot of ferro cement boats around. Most are sitting in yards waiting to be finished. They are heavy, cumbersome and damp. No matter how much Thompsons Water Seal is used, the dampness still seems to come through. If you hit a reef with one of these things, it doesn’t seem to bear up better than any other material. But, they are cheap to buyt
By process of elimination, fiberglass seems to be the ideal construction material for a cruising yacht. It is important that it be hand layed rather than blown and, for many engineering reasons, sandwich construction should be avoided. One of the problems with fiberglass is that so many yachts using that material seem to have lost the estheticism of traditionally beautiful lines and the warmth that wood brings. A lot of them remind me of inverted bath tubs! The solution? Traditional lines and tasteful overlays of wood.
These two go together like Barney and Barney. Under 35 feet, the best rig for a cruising boat is a sloop. Between thirty five and forty feet, the cutter seems to be ideal because it provides better balance and more sail area without resorting to Empire State Building sized main masts. Anything larger than 40 feet lends itself to a multimast configuration. Schooner rigs and the like tend to require more crew work than necessary and are not as efficient (beautiful as they are) as the ketch or yawl. During the past 30 years or so the yawl has pretty well disappeared and replaced with the ketch. In either configuration a great deal of sail can be carried without resorting to hormongous sized mains. This facilitates single handing. Even more efficient is the addition of the jib staysail (some call it a cutter-ketch). In weather, the ketch is the easiest boat to get under control. All one has to do if a quick squawl comes up causing an oversail configuration, is to drop the main! Also, the advent of the two masts permits a variety of configurations to suit a variety of wind and weather conditions. For our purposes the ketch was the one.
It is impossible to cover the multitude of keel designs now being offered to the unsuspecting yacht buyer. Every designer worth his salt has his pet secret sauce when it comes to keels. We are only concerned with cruising configurations. With me, speed is of little consideration to a real cruising buff. After all, if you are in a hurry to get from one place to another. . . take an airplane. Safety and comfort are the primary concerns. If history is any harbinger, the great majority of open ocean incidents of knockdowns, pitchpoles and turn-overs have been with non-full keel boats. I would just as soon forgo a few knots and be sure to get there with my family intact. Besides, I have never been uptight when a fin heel wave-shimmer passes me during a beer can race! For me, the full keel boat is an absolute requirement. Particularly one with a lot of lead in the bottom.
Much as I hate to ’fess up, the stink pot is an important part of any world cruising yacht. I have watched with much admiration as Larry Pardee sculled his little 26 foot SERRAFIN into Manila Bay after his six year honeymoon around-the-world cruise with the lovely Lynn was almost over. I admired it but didn’t want to emulate it. If the occasion called for sitting for five days in a doldrum or turning on the iron spinnaker and moving on, there wouldn’t be the slightest hesitation on what to do. There are times when, in weather with the sails down, the safest way to maintain directional way is to have a screw turning. And, if you really want some purist excitement, try sculling across the breaking waves of a reef either getting in or out. For me, the only question was type. I do have this terrible fetish about volatile fuels on board so gasoline was out of the question. Diesel is the answer. If diesel is not under pressure, you could light a match and throw it into the tank and the match would go out before the diesel will ignite. The size of the boat determines the size of the diesel.
Everything thus far involve druthers. All considerations have to be mollified by the common denominator of just how much money one has to start with and how much is coming in to sustain oneselves. In our case, adequate money came in each month but not much other than what we got for sale of the house was in cash. Luckily we unloaded the place in the country at the peak of the housing boom in California and there was a small nest egg. With her womanly logic, Chris insisted that we split the proceeds into two accounts. I would use mine to buy the boat. If it ran more than what I had available, she would, to a point, take a note for whatever was needed (some partnership! In case the point hadn’t been made previously, Chris had been a CPA). What it boiled down to was buying a 40 foot fiberglass ketch with diesel and esthetic wood overlays for a down payment of about $10,000 down and payments of around $300 per month. It was immediately obvious that the kind of deal we were looking for was not available in the American shipways. Our thoughts turned to Taiwan. The Taiwanese shipbuilders built anything. . . for a price. The search for that which fit began.
On one of my treks to visit sailing buddies down at Seaforth Landing, I had swung by Shelter Island to watch the yachts sailing past the entrance to San Diego Bay. On my return I passed by the Smilin’ Hybernian’s Yacht Sales, Ltd. (fictitious name for reasons which will later appear obvious.) There in the window in glorious color was a picture of a Garden designed Sea Wolf. Now, if there ever was a beautiful sailing yacht designed, that was the one.
Pursuing the point with the broker (the Smilin’ Hybernian himself ), I found that, even though it was the perfect boat for me, it was out of range pricewise. He said something which intrigued me.
“You can save a lot of money by taking delivery over there.”
Now that the basic configuration raindance was over, it was up to me to pursue the point with the family. But, so far, this part of the adventure. . . the planning. . . was pure fun!
A rose is a rose, but if it originates in Taiwan, it is best to look closely to see if it’s even a reasonable facsimile.
The idea of going to Formosa and living there for a few months while the boat was being built appealed to the entire family.
“Why not go directly to the builder, have the fun of seeing the craft built, equip it and commission it in the water right there? That way we could start our sail for the Med directly from the far east,” came the reasoning.
Jeff was intrigued by the thought of living in such an exotic place and started reading up on the history of the people and island. There were some things which the books just didn’t warn us about. Chris had never been further out of the country than an occasional trip to Tijuana and our one visit to Victoria, BC. The whole idea sounded great so we started making some inquiries before going to the bank and signing our life’s savings away.
Now, anyone knows, the real fun thing about buying toys is what goes into the effort before money is actually put in. We were now all getting so excited that we pretty well lost our perspective. Even so, with all this euphoria, there seemed to run a certain thread of warning which just wouldn’t disappear. The further we dug the more we started hearing denigrating remarks about the builders in Taiwan and the wisdom of going over there on our own to have a boat built. It was the old story of the boy digging into the manure pile. He just knew there had to be a pony there somewhere under all that horse doo! So we kept on. . . happily digging away!
It seemed, according to the worry birds, we would be extremely vulnerable to certain oriental chicanery. It was a general consensus of opinion that most of the Taiwanese yacht factory owners left a lot to be desired in the way of business ethics. It isn’t that they didn’t have any. It boiled down to the fact that their standards were not the same as western standards. According to these “hearsay mavins” we stood a very good chance of spending all of our money and getting far less than we had planned or, even worse, an unseaworthy craft. There had been those who had tried it and came away with nothing at all but a depleted bank account. God! In this day and age it couldn’t still be true. (As a matter of fact, things have improved some but not that much. It is still caveat emptor. Even though, if you are very careful in selecting the factory, you can get an outstanding product for a fraction of the cost of an equivalent article in the States. One of the present keys is to be very careful of the manufacturers out of Taipei/Keelung area. Manufacturers in Kaohsiung have a much better reputation.)
The thing bothering us the most was that all of these unsolicited opinions were not coming from a single source. Any serious buyer who wants to walk this path should have second, third and perhaps final thoughts about the matter. Above all remember your boy scout training: Be Prepared!
We were even cautioned about trusting the numerous occidental residents of Taiwan who offer to oversee construction for a price. Their scruples could have been tainted by long exposure to the oriental way of doing business and, in some cases, are even more devious and fallacious than those from whom they have learned. Many, we were cautioned, are in direct cahoots with the builders and, as a result, you could be had both coming and going.
What and how much to believe? Weigh everything and then decide. Pope said, to know oneself diseased is half the cure. This is important but it is also true that the turtle never advanced without his neck stuck out! The payoff could be significant. The finished article with all their carved teak and green marble counter tops are acknowledged as absolutely beautiful. The difference in price between having it delivered in the States was significant. The final cost if you eliminate State tax, duty, and shipping, can approach half. You can do a lot of fixing up for the difference!
If you can’t trust your friendly used yacht salesman, just who can you trust?
The entire family traipsed down to see the Smilin’ Hybernian himself. He promptly convinced us that we could get the same design as the CT 41 (which we had selected) but a boat of the same quality at a much lower cost by using a builder which old Shamrock himself recommended. It wasn’t long before he put the “Ltd” behind the company name. Ltd means limited and limited is what they were. He took our money, put in our order at the factory and promptly forgot that we existed! He did offer some advise: “Don’t take delivery in Taiwan.”
I had the sneaky feeling that he was more interested in the added commission resulting from higher costs of a boat delivered on the west coast (he works on a percentage) than he was in protecting us from the wiles of the orient. He emphasized not so much the problems which might be encountered with the builder as with the problems we might encounter with ROC customs. These, we were solemnly told, were insurmountable. (In fact, those problems were quite easy to resolve.)
In order to further shake us up, he gave us example after example of those who had tried the approach of shipping parts for the boat in Taiwan and ending up, in frustration, shipping boat and all either to the U.S. or to Hong Kong at much added expense and lost time. Further, he added, once the boat was put into the water and the builder paid, their hospitality abruptly ends and no one is given more than two weeks to clear the harbor never to return! This might be the case, we were solemnly warned, even though the boat proved to be unseaworthy. In addition, the harbor at Keelung where the boat must be commissioned was described as generally filthy, the surge dangerous and a general attitude of official harrassment abounded.
The problem with hearing all of those things is that it just presented that much more of a challenge to me! All it did was add more jalapeños to the chili pot! To have some semblance of protection, there were certain steps we decided to take based on these horror stores:
We would oversee the building in Taiwan but have the yacht shipped directly to Hong Kong for commissioning and outfitting. We had the assurance of the Smilin’ Hybernian that he would help us and this would solve most of our problems.
“Besides,” he confided. “My builder has recently turned over a new leaf and is now the most honorable and trustworthy of the lot.”
It bothered me that the builder needed to turn over a new leaf but it was a mute point in our headlong rush to get on with it. We wanted to believe! Oh, how we wanted to believe! We conned ourselves that we had the prestige and honor of a good old American company behind us all the way. Just how far behind remained to be seen. The light wasn’t long in coming.
The first necessary action when embarking on any new adventure, a new life, is to summarily remove any sustaining ties to the old life.
Configuration of the yacht was completed by the entire family with much gusto. The order for the ketch was placed on the 20th day of December for delivery in March. In January, we were notified that the boat would be ready for delivery the first of February. What we didn’t suspect and what the broker failed to tell us was that the boat we were going to get was not newly on the ways but was one which had been rejected by another buyer and was therefore available sooner than contracted. All of our planning depended on a March delivery date but, in the great wisdom and custom of the east, the only thing that mattered to the builder (and his broker cohort) was what was convenient to them. We accordingly adjusted the date for acceptance and forthwith bought tickets for Taipei. It meant that we could not participate fully in the initial stages of construction. We could oversee the fitting of the finish work. Again, what no one told us was that the boat had already been finished except for what we decided to add. This incident was merely the start of a series of events which were almost our undoing!
Furniture was stored, one car sold and the other put into the hands of my older son for use and keeping, arrangements were made for my income and bills to be automatically deposited and paid and mail routinely forwarded. Also arrangements were made for West Marine to respond to any requests made for purchase and shipment of any parts needed. (As it turned out this was an extremely judicious move.)
Jeff said goodbye to his friends in the neighborhood and school. Very few of them really believed that he was going to do what he said he was going to do. He became the hero of his school and bore it all with a simulated air of boredom most befitting his 10 years.
Most people advised that no one could document a foreign built boat unless it was brought to a U.S. port. This is not true. The last thing I did for the boat was to make arrangements to complete the paperwork for documentation.
This is done by setting up the paperwork with an agent in the home port. Transfer of ownership from factory to individual is accomplished using a Certificate of American Ownership which is obtainable overseas at any American Embassy. When the yacht is brought to the first port which has a U.S. Coastguard station (such as Manila) the Coastguard will complete the admeasurement and forward same to the home port office. The work is then completed by the agent you hired and a documentation number is assigned in due time. It is necessary to etch the number issued into the hull and send photographic proof of same to the appropriate documentation office.
It is important to document a cruising yacht. It makes the craft a little part of the U.S. and there are certain advantages tacked to that. For example, It is considered a part of the U.S. fleet and as such has some protective devices attached. Also, if a crew member (not the Captain) becomes critically ill, the U.S. will see to it he gets back to the States for treatment. Even though it doesn’t happen regularly, an undocumented boat (licensed by the state, for example) has no official status outside the United States and could be treated as an interloper. A lot of the advantages are hidden in the archives of the bureaucracy probably because the government doesn’t want too many people to find out what goodies are available to them. It is well to look into them.
Unlike the bon voyage revelry on the docks held by our friends and well wishers when we sailed from Seattle, we left the U.S. without much fanfare. Our departure was not without its moments, however. We had planned on visiting Chris’ folks in Northern California the week prior to leaving and that date happened to coincide with one of the once-in-a-decade California rain and flood sieges. We had planned on leaving from Los Angeles but, after examining the motel room we had reserved in Bakersfield on our way back (it had two feet of river water running through it), we drove all the way back to San Francisco and caught the same airplane from that port. Just made it too! We dragged into the airport unwashed, rumpled, groggy from lack of sleep and bleary eyed from trying to peer through a driving rain for some 28 hours. I noted some lack of enthusiasm in Chris and suspected that she didn’t appreciate the occasion as much as Jeff and I did! It was Winnie the Pooh (me), Tigger (Jeff) and good old Eeore (Chris) who finally piled into the 747 on our way to the adventure of a lifetime. . . something the less for the wear and tear!
|Part II||Part III|
|Chapter 1||Chapters 2-4|