The lead up
Over Christmas we went for dinner on a friend’s boat. The skipper mentioned in passing that he used to have a Hans Christian.
In January we looked up what a Hans Christian was out of curiosity, and immediately fell in love with them. We never envisaged buying another boat, but when we discovered the Hans Christians, they ticked so many boxes we began spending our evenings fantasizing over the boats. Trawling through all the listings on YachtWorld. At the time it was an innocent, but obsessive bit of fun. Most people would have already slipped their lines and gone exploring, but not us. We argued over models and sizes of Hans Christians, what is better, a pullman berth or a v-berth configuration. Would I want a nav table facing forwards, backwards, upside down. We looked at similar makes such as Babas, Tayanas, Valients. We spoke to a broker and stepped onboard a Tayana that was for sale. Life was more fun dreaming of the next boat than sitting on the beach quite frankly.
My dream boat started off being a Hans Christian 38, then, well, if we had a Hans Christian 43 wouldn’t that be nice?!
From harmless fun, we then theorised about whether and how we could afford one. Just blue sky thinking. Potentially, if we wanted to get one, would it be possible? One thing led to another and suddenly it seemed like a viable prospect.
We kept seeing one boat that was a cut above the rest. It was bigger at 48ft, and with a bowsprit and a bumkin (a small platform that extends out from the rear) overall it measured 57ft. To be honest, I thought there must be something wrong with the boat as it looked amazing and the spec was incredible, too good to be true for the money.
Trina offered to call the broker, and I didn’t think there was any harm in doing so. I expected Trina would find out some detail that would raise alarm bells, and that would put an end to the pipe dream. Anyhow one thing lead to another, and we were in regular contact with the broker and asking questions about the boat. The boat was in Bonaire.
Trina did all the calculations, and did some desk research to find out where would be the best place to keep a 57ft boat in the UK. She also spoke to shipping agents, as we had to think about what we’d do with Excalibur.
Obviously this is life changing stuff. Our lives would be tied to the boat financially, and in many other ways. Once we’d done an affordability assessment, and debated how we’d shape our lives to make buying a huge boat worthwhile, we put an offer in.
Our first offer was rejected, we tried again and it was accepted. I think at this point I was still in denial, even though we’d we’d reached a point where our offer was excepted. So we were having these conversations all the while as we were heading south to Grenada (further and further away from the ‘new boat’).
When it came to sorting out a survey, the seller wasn’t happy with hauling it out nearby as he doubted the reputation of the yard services. We offered to help him sail the boat to the BVIs as he preferred hauling it out there for a survey. That offer was accepted, so we started thinking, Christ! we need to get Excalibur up to the BVIs, and book flights to Bonaire, to do a 4 day sail on a boat we saw on the internet, with a chap we’ve never met, close-hauled north across the Caribbean sea.
Things increasingly start to become a bit more real. Something that I thought was a pipe dream was hurtling along at a ever faster pace.
To say the last 6 weeks at this point had been a rollercoaster of emotions would be an overstatement! We were hanging on to every email, checking and rechecking outlook, crying out ‘Why hasn’t Carl emailed us??’ (Carl being the broker).
We managed to agree a timeline that would allow us to complete our southbound journey to Grenada, which was the last island in the chain we planned on visiting, before heading to Bonaire to take the boat to the BVIs for its survey.
The contract came, and we had some back and forth with completion dates. We found a surveyor in the BVIs that could do the survey. We signed the contract……and then the day before departing north came a phone call from the broker that the sale was close to being called off. Nothing to do with us. We couldn’t believe it as all we needed was one signature from the seller and we would be on our way.
We wrote a long email to the seller to see if we could rescue the sale. Friday morning just as we were setting off to the BVIs we got an email from the broker. The sale was back on, the seller had found a yard on the neighbouring island of Curaçao that he was satisfied with. So to summarize, we wouldn’t have to sail close-hauled for 4 1/2 days with the owner, instead we’d do a nice 6 hour sail from Bonaire to Curaçao.
Of course this new course of action threw up many new challenges. Without a signed contract we booked the flight to Bonaire from Tortola and found a surveyor in Curaçao.
Our priority was to make sure whatever happened we got on that flight in Tortola. I didn’t want to sail directly to Tortola from Grenada just in case the forecast changed after 4 days which may have made it difficult to reach our final destination.
With all the commotion going on, we left without checking the forecast, and couldn’t make it to St Lucia where I wanted to leave for the BVIs from. With time running out we needed to leave Excalibur somewhere nearby and fly to Tortola or Sint Maarten to catch the flight to Bonaire. Trina worked out the most cost efficient plan taking into consideration the cheapest marinas, flights and hotels.
In the end we left Excalibur in Martinique, flew to Sint Maarten, and got our connecting flight to Bonaire.
That’s the shortish story. We also had to think about what we’d be doing if we did get the boat. We’d have to wait in Bonaire for the sale to complete, then move the new boat to the BVIs as that’s the best place to get both boats together, unload Excalibur and then take her to the US Virgin Islands to get loaded on to container ship to the UK. Further complications involved not having a proper visa to sail to a US island. But, we think we can take a ferry to a US island, get a multiple entry visa stamp in our passports, ferry back to the boat and then sail to a US island with the boat for a maximium period of 90 days. Another thing we had to consider was that sailing from Bonaire to the BVIs can be a bit tricky with winds, and we may have to stop off at Puerto Rico, another US island – and then what if we needed repairs, we wouldn’t have the US stamp in our passports. So for a while Trina was trying to find a flight to Bonaire that had a connecting flight through the USA.
The whole thing required expert timing with kung-fu skills.
While Trina has been working this out I started going through the listing, drawing up a checklist of questions and locations of systems etc (70 questions in all). Of course this boat is a lot more complicated than Excalibur, so I went on a mission to learn all about the various things that the boat came with.
For reasons I won’t go into publicly, the purchase of the new boat was exceptionally difficult which is why I’ll just refer to the boat as HC for now. Putting it politely, the previous owner wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. I’ll shortly have a password protected post explaining all, but you’ll need to message me for the link and password.
Since becoming the owners of HC, we’ve been working like dogs in the blistering heat in Curaçao to get her seaworthy and ready to set off to the BVIs. The days are long, dirty and tiring, but the boss lets me drink on the job and it beats working in an office.
We’ve had quite a few dramas since owning HC. We spent 2 1/2 weeks on the hard. Once the previous owner left we went on a massive cleaning spree. The boat stunk of stale piss, so the first job we did was empty and disinfect the entire boat.
The first night we squeezed into the aft cabin and slept there, as the master cabin and toilet smelt like a public toilet. The next night I discovered mouse poos in the bedding, so we slept in the main saloon.
Then we found more and more cockroaches, so we had to get pest control in and empty the boat again and get the whole place sprayed. The guys used an odourless spray that was non-toxic to humans. Water, I thought. Suspicious but in dire need of a cockroach-free boat we took our chances. The first night, we saw a daddy cockroach climbing the walls, and from then on we only found dead ones. Though 2 1/2 weeks later, we’ve started seeing a few live ones. This morning I found one under the table, on his back performing his best death scene. All the dead cockroaches seem to die on their backs, why the amateur dramatics I don’t know. A few days after writing this, we found one under the table, another in a food cupboard, and after moving all our food to an unused fridge in the workshop, we then found one in there. Disgusting beasts!
As for the mouse, we’re still doing our best to catch the little shit.
We’re now back in the water, and almost ready to sail to the BVIs. We’ve been waiting for an autopilot to turn up, but we’re out of luck and will have to hand steer for 3-4 days to the BVIs.
Someone asked why we decided to buy a bigger boat, and the answer is not entirely clear cut. We wouldn’t have bought one had our friend from the ARC not mentioned Hans Christians. I think had we not gone to that dinner we’d have continued sailing on Excalibur quite happily. To satisfy my own curiosity, one night I set some filters on Apolloduck to only show boats over 40ft with a budget beyond what we could afford and found nothing that tickled my fancy.
The Hans Christians for us, encompass everything we like in a boat and ultimately that’s whats brought us to this point in time. We saw our future selves living and sailing on this boat, and we’ve taken a gamble and we’ll now see how well our vision and reality matches up…
But I’m straying from the point, the main things that attracted us to the HC was:
- Full keel
- Heavy displacement
- Built in the 80’s when fibreglass hulls were over-engineered
- Beautiful solid teak interior
- Classic boat feel
- Comfortable sleeping quarters
- Big galley for cooking
- A workshop
- Second cabin
- Large water and fuel tanks
We think from an aesthetic point of view they have all the benefits of a fibreglass boat, but with a wooden boat’s charm.
Having a larger boat means we can take friends with us sailing, and with larger water tanks we can sit at anchor for longer. And one other bonus is that I can stand up without hitting my head in practically every part of HC.
It’s going to be a sad day to see Excalibur go. Excalibur has been a superb boat and a great introduction to sailing, she has given us the opportunity to cross oceans on a small budget and has always looked after us. I’ve had Excalibur for around 9 years now, and have spent the majority of that time living on her. I hope the next owners will have similar aspirations. I might put a clause in the sale that they have to promise to take her through the Panama canal.
I’ll write up a bit of a bio for the boat in the future. But here’s a few pics for now.