Summer of 2015 rolled on while Quincey and I shared a very small, three room one bath beach bungalow with two other adults, two big dogs, and little Pandacat (these roommates, by the way, were the best we could ever ask for). While the galley was huge even in modern standards, the bedroom was much smaller than the lovable 32' boat we now call home. We were really feeling the compression and wanted to find a place to call our own.
In the first month, the neighborhood flooded. So we moved our Beneteau First 235, Gitana into the front yard. (Really just for a bottom job.)
It has always been on the forefront of our minds to live aboard and cruise but owning the ideal boat was not in our budget in 2015. Even still, I was relentlessly browsing yachtworld.com, other brokerage sites, and craigslist. I couldn't get enough. It was constant research, always looking up 'new prospects' that were still well outside our means. Nonetheless, I was keeping the dream alive. We were looking for a 40' Ketch. I figured that was the only way I, at 6'2", could comfortably live aboard and I really wanted a ketch for their versatility and ease of sail handling with a short handed crew. We didn't have the $150k we needed, though. Or the jobs to keep one afloat. Quincey was in school full time and I was half-heartedly trying to open my own coffee shop while working as a barista Monday through Friday and teaching sailing on the weekends.
At that same time, we couldn't afford another apartment in a the Bay Area. Paying higher rent for our own place or for more privacy would have more than rivaled the cost of that 40' ketch we were dreaming about. Yes, that's a ludicrous statement, but it goes along with the ludicrous cost of living in the tech boom.
My roommate, and great friend, Rob, was also looking at craigslist for reasonable deals and came across this 65' ferro cement ketch for sale in Berkeley, for $95k I was already working in the area and though, "why not have a look?" There was some serious gear on this boat, it really was ready to go around the world after a stop at the grocery store. The boat had more then ten sails, all new. Including two mains. Quincey and I considered it for about 15 minutes, then realized how terrible an idea that was. But we had actually gone to look at a boat, and that was a start.
I returned to craigslist with determination. I scrolled past a title for a 1976 32' Fuji Ketch for a day or two, then finally had look. The pictures were not great but the boat was pretty. I moved on. Finally, about two weeks later, I decided to have another look and to do some more research. Turns out the bunk was 6'5" and the headroom was 6'2." The other boats listed and posted on an owners forum were seriously eye opening, the boat was beautiful and livable! Everyone professed superb sailing performance and a few of them have circumnavigated. I thought about it for a few more days and finally called the listed number. The owner, Alan, had a very cheerful, sweet tone and couldn't say enough great things about the boat. It was very obvious he was in no rush to sell, this was not a forgotten and rotting boat. Our first phone call lasted 45 minutes! And the best part? The listed price was $15,500. We schedule a date to meet for a few days later.
Quincey and I came down the docks of the Sausalito Yacht Harbor to find many beautiful and well maintained boats, which, honestly, detracted from Windrose a bit. She was far more beautiful than we had imagined and the interior was spacious. We were with Alan for almost two hours and I asked about taking her for a sail. He chuckled and said that there would usually be an offer made and a survey scheduled before a sea trial. He quickly followed that up with, "But I want to sail with you, sounds like you know what you're doing. We could really sail her. How about next Tuesday afternoon? It's a date.
Quincey had to sit this one out but Alan, his non-sailing brother-in-law, and I certainly did sail Windrose. We sailed with a reefed main and 80% jib for the Golden Gate, making slow progress in the flood tide. As is typical, about 500 yards west of the bridge, the wind eased and we raised the mizzen. It was beautiful, the helm became lighter and the boat sped towards the Pacific. I was satisfied, I wanted this boat. Once to Bonita Lighthouse we bore away on a broad reach for Alcatraz, blazing along at 6.5-7kts. I sailed the boat for the next hour and little was said, the three of us were deep in thought and completely relaxed, taking in all the experience had to offer. At one point Alan looked at me to break the silence, "Man, you can drive this boat better than I can, this is fun!" an exclamation I came to hear often over the next few months. He had the biggest grin on his face, second to mine.
As we neared Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, he asked to take command again, saying we would duck in-between a couple piers where the wind would ease and we could tack, douse the main, and set a tack for Sausalito. He asked me to do the sail handling. As we came up I dropped and secured the main in a flash, realizing we were stalling and surrounded by lee shores, I hopped back to the mizzen boom and backwinded it to starboard, forcing the stern to port then released the backed jib sheet and sheeted the mizzen and working jib sheet for a close reach and we were off, into the full fury of the June wind. Alan exclaimed again, "You really do know what you're doing!" I likely blushed.
A week later we were in the boat lift for a survey and a week after that Alan bought us hors devours at the Seafood Peddler (a new favorite) and we handed over the check. We're still great friends with Alan, and his wife Kathy, to this day. We spent another month in Sausalito readying the boat to move aboard. We added a cold pate to the icebox, removed a lot of old and outdated sailing equipment we would have no use for, and figured out where to put the litter box. We sold all of our furniture and donated most of the stuff that wouldn't fit on the boat. It was a hectic month. When we finally set sail for Berkeley, our new residence, we were exhausted, and elated that we were following and succeeding at our dream of living aboard. Surprisingly, our loan payments and slip rent were exactly equal to the rent of our tiny bedroom in a small house shared with two other humans, two big dogs, and Pandacat. We've continued to move in the right direction ever since.
The blogs to follow will highlight our refit progress over the past two and a half years. As a spoiler, we've spent twice the purchase price of the boat on refits. When you add those costs in comparison to the cost of living in the Bay Area, we're right on par with our peers living in small, old apartments. Big difference, however; we have equity.