The Right Boat for Right Now

Is it too complicated or tricky to swap out boats while in a foreign country, with miles yet to go? Here’s how this young, growing family pulled it off.

Faulkner Family Ketch

Upgrading from a 35-footer to this 41-foot ketch inspired the Faulkner family to continue voyaging.Evan Gatehouse

“Move!” Tim yelled. Our 14-year-old son woke up with his 10-year-old sister, Carolyne, on his side of the bunk. The fabric divider that ran down the length of the V-berth and separated Tim from Carolyne had unsnapped again during the night. Whether Carolyne rolled or the sea pitched her into enemy territory, the result was that both Carolyne, and the sand dollars she’d found while beachcombing, had turned Tim’s bed into an unwanted—and gritty—slumber party.

I sipped my coffee in the cockpit while looking out across the rosy, calm cove and tuned out the indignant roar erupting from our teenage boy and the shrieking defense from our daughter. As the chaos escalated below, my husband looked at me and raised his eyebrows quizzically. “OK, Jim,” I acquiesced before he was able to get a word out. “But only if it comes with a Jacuzzi and a towel boy.”

Jim had recently broached the subject of getting a larger boat. When our family initially purchased Windfall, our 35-foot Cal, in 2007, it was the smallest boat that we felt we could live aboard comfortably and also sail with relative ease. We had no bluewater experience, and starting out with a 35-foot boat seemed manageable. The cost involved in purchasing a smaller boat was affordable, and if we discovered that we couldn't hack the cruising lifestyle, then we felt that we could sell the boat fairly fast. Preparing Windfall for cruising in 2007 and living aboard her full-time in 2008 and onward for 18 months was a phenomenal experience. Our boat felt like a part of our family.

The idea of replacing Windfall seemed financially and pragmatically, well, ludicrous. First, we were in Mexico. I couldn't imagine dealing with boat buying in a foreign country. Second, a larger boat would be more expensive in every sense; the up-front costs would be big, but then so would new sails, rigging, bottom paint, and marina fees, and the list would no doubt grow.

Lastly, we were in the middle of our cruise. How crazy was it for us to consider upgrading to another boat right now? Not only would purchasing another boat cut into our cruising budget—what about all the places we’d miss visiting because we were putting blood, sweat, and tears into getting another vessel ready to go voyaging? But now, as I absorbed how my children were morphing into military-school candidates as personal borders were breached, it was time to face the facts: Our children would continue to grow.

Midcruise boat swapping isn't as uncommon as one might think. Why would anyone consider swapping boats in the middle of their time away? In our case, a growing family dictated a need for more—and larger—private space. As a family, we'd simply outgrown Windfall.

| |Young, Growing Crew Cruising with children of all ages isn't unusual. Boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 10 often bunk happily together. The kids consider this to be great fun. Pre-teens and teens tend to fare better with some privacy and space for their personal items. A simple solution can be as easy as hanging a sheet or curtain. Space swapping is common. If there's a favored bunk, then the children can take turns. Photo by Meri Faulkner.|

The Search
Once Jim and I began to accept this situation, we started searching for a larger boat by surfing the various online yacht brokerages to see what listings were available. Price was a big factor for us, and we were interested in what people were asking for their boats. The difference between searching for a boat three years earlier and looking for a boat in 2010 was the economy. In 2007, when we bought Windfall, boat asking prices were beefy, and sales were high. In 2010, boat sellers were asking less on average. It was clear to us that we were in a good market to buy a boat but in a lousy one to sell our smaller vessel.

We were anchored in La Paz, Mexico, when the need for a change in boats hit, and we decided to ask Mike Rickman of La Paz Yachts for advice on purchasing a boat in Mexico. We didn’t know what type of boat we wanted, but we were looking for something affordable in the 38- to 45-foot range with separate sleeping areas for the kids. What this meant was that we were looking at a fixer-upper. Since selling our 35-foot sloop in a soft market was a consideration, we agreed that we’d wait until we found the right boat at the right price.

Within two weeks, Rickman brought to our attention a 41-foot Tartan offshore cruising ketch (known as a Tartan TOCK) that was listed in Mazatlan. The layout looked perfect for our family, and though the listing price was high, we decided to sail down and take a look at it. The boat had some serious problems: The 128-gallon steel fuel tank had rusted and let go, and a strong diesel smell had permeated the cabins. We also discovered that the 80-horsepower Ford Lehman engine was seized; these meant months of work for us if we decided to proceed. But the seller was motivated, and we struck a deal. The name we gave to our new sailing vessel? Hotspur: impetuous virtue. How apropos!

Suddenly we had 76 total feet of boat in marina slips. We needed to sell Windfall fast. We'd accepted from the beginning that we'd have to sell Windfall for less than we purchased her, and for a lot less than we put into her. We didn't list with the brokers right away, but instead took the first steps to making her availability known to our family and friends. We took numerous pictures, something that proved to be a bit of a circus since we were still living aboard. We felt it was important to get aesthetic photos that were free of clutter, so we shifted our stuff around as we snapped each shot. The process took several days. Then we made a page on our blog site and emailed it to everyone we knew, asking them to spread the word. Seven weeks after purchasing Hotspur, we sold Windfall.

For our family, swapping to another sailing vessel has been ideal. The kids now have their own bunks in the forward cabin, and Jim and I have the entire aft saloon and sleeping berth to ourselves. These days, sibling bickering is a rarity; it’s been awhile since Jim or I muttered, “How soon before they grow up and move away?”

Upgrading from a 35- to a 41-footer has inspired our family to continue our sailing journey. And as for the Jacuzzi and towel boy? Hotspur still boasts neither. But I'm satisfied with the peace, the quiet, and the largest swimming pool in my backyard that I'll ever need!

Boat Swapping in Mexico
Boat buying in Mexico isn't as tricky as it appears. Foreign-documented pleasure boats in Mexico can be sold or purchased through a title company in the United States. Brokers in Mexico must be licensed, and they understand the requirements. No money actually changes hands through any bank in Mexico.

Mexican import documents can be obtained easily and are relatively inexpensive. There are boats for sale in La Paz, San Carlos, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, and some are listed online through brokerages. Many cruisers who’ve completed their personal journeys, not wishing to bash back to the United States or Canada, leave their sea-ready vessels for sale in Mexico. Great deals exist, but be sure to find out how long it’s been since the boat was last actively used, as wear and tear and exposure to the elements will eventually surface.

Brokers include La Paz Yachts (brokers Mike Rickman and Shelly Ward; www.mazmarine.com and lapazyachts@aol.com); Mazatlan Marine Center (brokers Jeanette Sarrasin and Ray Watson; www.mazmarine.com and mazmarine@aol.com); and Vallarta Yachts Sales (brokers TJ Durnan, Jenny Durnan, and Robert Kupps; www.vallartayachts.com and info@vallartayachts.net).

The Faulkner family savored new discoveries and the adventures of a growing family while cruising aboard Hotspur in Mexican waters.

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