Buying La Roja (Our Sailboat)

Buying the boat to go cruising in is the most important  investment. It is also the most nerve wracking as it has to be sea worthy but it also must be something you can afford. After much searching for just the right boat at the right price, here is an excerpt from Dolphins Forever On Her Bow describing our purchase :


I cannot believe it was just a year ago that we bought La Roja. We looked for several months, up and down the coast, trying to find a blue water cruising boat within our budget. We had made a pact that if the dream of sailing away was going to work we would have to leave on our journey debt free. Always the ones we would fall love with were way out of our price range and the ones we could afford were junk.

I will never forget the day Bob called me at work and excitedly told me:  “Babe, I found our boat!” I can still feel the thrill I felt when he said those words. I had begun to feel that our dream was always going to stay a dream. How could we possibly afford to buy a cruising boat, give up jobs, property, possessions, and sail away?

The moment Bob said that he had found our boat, I mean the very instant he said the words, I knew we were going to somehow reach our goal. He went on to describe her, telling me how seaworthy and perfect she was. It was when he got to the part about how one needed “vision” to be able to realize her worth, I became nervous. “What do you mean, vision?” I asked. “Well,” he explained, “she’s been neglected for several years. She’s owner built and not quite finished. There’s no holding tank, electricity, instruments, refrigeration, etc. But her hull is hand laid fiberglass, bullet proof. The inside is all mahogany; standup engine room with a Westerbeke 4-108 diesel, a good engine. She’s a Bruce Roberts’ design offshore 45′ cutter, with a beam of 13’3″ and a flush deck. She was built in Santa Cruz, California, and designed for heavy weather sailing. All her standing and running rigging was designed for heavy weather sailing. She has all self-tailing wenches and is rigged to be easily handled by one or two people. I think with a little work she will be not only a beauty, but definitely seaworthy as well. She has been sitting for quite awhile and the salesman seems to think the owner is anxious He’s asking $49,950, but I think we can come in much lower. Do you want to see her?

Of course I wanted to see her! We made arrangements to meet with a yacht broker the following day. Much to Bob’s surprise, I loved her at first sight. Frank, our broker, smilingly told me that there had been a couple of men interested in the boat in the past, but when the “other-half” was brought onboard it was always the same ending, a resounding “NO!”  “One lady,” Frank laughed, “had screamed at her husband for wasting her time and threatened divorce should he make an offer.” 

AlbionWe were sailing aboard Bob’s 33′ Hunter sailboat, Albion, with some friends when the cell phone rang. Bob went below to take the call. Since we had only met three months earlier and Bob was still finishing up a very messy divorce, we had agreed previously to keep our plans secret. When he came topsides he said not a word about the phone call. It was not until our friends had their backs to us that he whispered: “We just bought a boat. A big-ass boat!” My breath was taken away yet it was hard not to shout “Oh My God!” out loud. I had told myself that our low offer would never be accepted. All day we would look at each other when no one was looking and fight back laugher as Bob would mouth: “We just bought a boat! A big-ass boat!” Amazing.


 Our offer to buy the boat was contingent upon the results of a haul out inspection and survey. The surveyor was Hans J. Andersen in Lompoc, California, who had a reputation of being fairly tough and much respected. His inspection report was pages long, and began:

 “The vessel, OWO, is a home built vessel constructed to the design of Bruce Roberts. She was constructed on a batten mold using C-Flex fiberglass and hand laminated fiberglass built up on heavy scantlings. The vessel hull is heavily constructed and is framed with internal stringers, floors and bulkheads. The keel is fitted with four columns of steel shot for ballast and additional trim ballast is noted within the bilge. The deck is well secured and is found to be in good condition. The superstructure consists of a wooden cabin trunk which is in good condition. Bulkheads are well secured by secondary bonding of fiberglass and the job was done in a better fashion than most production builders. The finish of the vessel is in poor condition with the vessel needing to be cleaned and painted. Below decks the vessel is approximately 85% complete.”

Rotted floorThat wasn’t so bad, so far. But then the report went on to say: “There is a significant amount of rust and corrosion noted on the engine and its accessories. The heat exchanger appears to be corroded and in need of repair or replacement. The exhaust piping from the manifold to the aqua lift muffler is in poor condition and needs to be replaced.” The report continued on listing defect after defect, everything from needing to replace all the hoses, pipes, valves, to replacing all the electrical circuits and wiring. It ended with nineteen Primary Recommendations for Immediate Compliance; eleven Secondary Recommendations for Routine Maintenance, and six Tertiary Recommendations for Regulatory Compliance.”

I was dumbfounded, but Bob was not concerned with the report. In fact, he was pretty pleased. He said the report more or less confirmed what he had originally said, that she was basically very seaworthy, but needed a lot of work.

I was still a little shaken and very much unconvinced. We were having a cup of coffee in a corner of the marina still going over the report when Mr. Anderson found us. I looked on in amazement as he shook Bob’s hand and more or less reinforced Bob’s feelings by confiding to us verbally that even though the boat was not the prettiest boat he had ever seen, her construction was some of the best he ever surveyed and she was built to go anywhere, safely. I was astonished

The really good part about the report was that we were able to reduce our initial offer by $2,000 successfully.

Cover for Cruising BookFrom: Dolphins Forever On Her Bow

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