End of the Beginning
Sometimes you enter the tunnel and there is no light, no way to judge how far in or how far out you might be.
I entered one of these tunnels last Monday, and after a seven days I think I am at the end of the beginning. To be honest, I thought I had a good fix on the end of the tunnel two days ago. Turns out it was a bad read, most likely generated by false hope.
The saga began when Afishinado melted a bearing and limped back to Avalon to confirm the bad news...the motor is toast after only 1004 hours on a motor which should go for 10,000 hours.
The challenge of removing and repairing a boat motor from an island destination is a story for another day. Suffice to say, this is a costly set back in terms of money AND time.
Rather than lose customers and the positive momentum for a new season, I decided add a new boat to fill the gap. And that is where this tale begins.
Oddly, there are no boats in Southern California that would fit my specs and budget for a highly versatile cruiser that can fish and tour the isle in style. We built Afishinados Charters on such a promise to our customers, so I take the selection of a new vessel very seriously.
My goal was to find a recently-built boat with low hours that could comfortably carry six passengers with covered seating, and self-contained facilities. It had to be sea worthy, fast, easy to operate, simple to maintain and economical to run. And, it had to fit into the Afishinados brand.
Now it is probably clear why I could not find a boat nearby.
I did find a number of potential candidates in Florida, some in Louisiana and a few in Texas. Buying a long distance boat adds a lot of risk, cost and time to the decision.
After more than a few long nights at the computer with no viable candidates, a suitable boat came up for sale in Oxnard. Oxnard! That is close enough. Unfortunately, my bid came in 3 hours after the seller had accepted another buyer’s offer.
I try to never let such misses bother me. I have bought enough big tickets items to know that it is part of the process, but it wasn’t easy. I consoled myself knowing that a swing and a miss was a sign that I was ready to buy.
A friend once asked me how I always seemed to find great deals. My answer, “You have to be ready to pull the trigger when the right deal comes along.” You cannot do this without doing the research and getting clarity on what will and what will not fit the bill.
I widened my boat search parameters and revisited my objectives and pre-conceived notions for the type of boat that might fit within our charter operation. I was primarily searching for center consoles. They are a great design for warm climates, but Southern California is often chilly and there is little protection. Plus, the head system is usually only fit for Houdini.
I started considering cuddy cabins with walk-arounds, but most of these builders try to cram too much stuff into the cabin. I have no need for a galley or a TV or a gen set. Many of these boats have limited cockpits and narrow beams, not ideal for charter.
I finally stumbled upon SportCraft, a little-known boat builder in Michigan whose boats showed up in area charters on the great lakes. The SportCraft 30 has a 10 foot beam, full walk-around, spare cabin with full head and uses a single diesel as power. Ideal for a charter operation. Simple, clean, stylish and economical...hmmm.
I ran a new computer search and found one for sale in Oakland with very low hours (126) and 2016 electronics on a new trailer. I contacted the broker and hit him with a slew of questions regarding the condition of the boat, the motor and the electronics. “Yes, the boat has very low hours, the motor had a full service within the last year, the electronics are new and top-of-the-line.” He answered.
I did an additional bit of research on the builder, the boats sold and in use and the electronics package. Satisfied, I sent in a bid to the broker who sent back a note letting me know he would present my offer the next day..."not good enough" I replied, "I want it presented immediately."
Twenty minutes later I got confirmation that the seller was pondering my offer and would soon respond.
This is a stall tactic to see if another, higher bid comes in while holding my bid as insurance. I mentioned to the broker that I had another bid out on another boat, and that I would accept either. That did the trick. I got a counter from the seller and accepted it.
I was now squarely into the tunnel, with a survey, sea trial, financial transaction and transport problem to solve, but that is fodder for the next column, stay tuned.
By Capt. John
Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours - email@example.com – 888-613-7770