The tale of Sweet Allie – Back to the beginning

Because of the two days spent in Atlantic City waiting for my ribs to calm down, the day count gets hazy. Yet another reason to get it written down. At my age, the memories get hazy rather faster than was the case even a few years ago.

I’m going to go back and tell some tales of the weeks spent in the yard, and even before. As the nubees can attest, finding that boat of our dreams can be a challenge. On a “buy budget” of $20K the challenge gets even bigger, or so I believe anyway. Not that I would know what the challenge is like with a bigger budget since I didn’t have one. I am just taking my experience and extrapolating a bit. It seems logical that if my budget restrains me to the “clunker” end of the spectrum, an unfortunate phrase used by another poster to describe older boats, then if I have a bigger budget it seems logical that my universe of potential boats available to buy would grow larger. Now to me, given the small universe of boats within my budget that seems like it would be a wonderful thing, to have so much money that I could afford what I wanted instead of what I could afford.

Knowing human nature as I do, I understand that expectations rise with the available pool so perhaps I am better off constrained to the clunkers. Only the very wealthy can actually afford “what they really want”, all the rest of us find ourselves constrained, even if just in our own minds, to “what we can afford”. And please do not take my use of the phrase as an insult, to me these clunkers are “plastic classics” as another poster calls them. I ended up with a 73 Morgan Out Island and I love my boat.

That said it is not what I started out dreaming of. We are often warned not to “fall in love” with a specific boat, keep an open mind. And that works when? The boat I fell in love with (within my budget) was a 70s 37’ Hunter Cherubini. I only mention that because it seems important to acknowledge that sometimes we get something far different than what we started the path seeking. A ’73 Morgan OI 33 is very different from a 70s era 37’ Hunter. My boat has shallower draft, a wider beam by a fair bit, shorter of course by 4 feet. And slower, smaller Sa/D and a slightly shorter LWL. But in the end, the majority of boats have a pointy end and a not pointy end. They all have a V berth. They all have a salon. Some have a quarter berth. Some have two quarter berths. In the end however, after you look at enough floor plans you begin to notice that they all look pretty much the same inside. The key dimensions are the LOA, LWL, beam and draft. After that the stick height. And in the end I did not end up with my dream Hunter Cherubini 37, and the Morgan OI 33 I ended up with became my dream. Strange how that usually works eh?

I came to CF just like the next (and previous) nubee, asking for boat buying advice and forced to wade through the enormously varied, and all very valid opinions. Being new to the forum I wasn’t really prepared for that variety of opinions. I was annoyed when I got the inevitable negatives. Let me just say that one poster actually posted a one sentence response “You can’t get much of a boat for $20K”. Welcome to CF.

So if all you have is $20K, what does one do with a response like that? It took awhile but I eventually understood that thing about the universe of boats within our budget, and that if my budget is $250K, a $20K boat is literally unimaginable. It is inconceivable that anyone could be happy on an old clunker. Or for that matter anything under 40’ (or 50’, or 60’). Or a boat without a watermaker and walk in refrigerator freezer. I know I am getting silly here but the point is none the less valid, if our budget allows a walk in freezer, then a clunker from the seventies with a hanked on jib and no anchor windlass at all, never mind an electric windlass… well looked at from that other side of the fence, it really isn’t much of a boat.

And so I got my fair share of those kinds of replies. And happily for me, my little plastic classic is a cool little boat and I could afford her. Yea she leaked around the packing gland, and she doesn’t even have a chain locker, never mind a windlass, but she’s a very cool boat.

But I didn’t have a boat yet. So I put my head down and searched the want ads, Ebay, Yachtworld and craigs list, day after day, week after week. Looking for the boat of my dreams, slowly discovering what was possible in my budget universe. Being an engineer I built a spreadsheet which I could enter Sailboatdata numbers into to calculate comfort index and other such stuff. And dreamed of sailing away over the horizon. I scrimped and saved and searched and scrimped some more. I came to understand the compromises involved. Project vs sail away. “I can afford this” vs “sure would be nice”.

I finally found “the one”. And made an offer. And the offer was accepted. I had a boat. Well maybe not. I had the surveyor go in to do the survey. The boat was on the hard and had been so for a year, maybe more, which was a good thing it turns out. He could see the hull, do his tap tests, take moisture readings and just generally do a survey with the boat already out of the water.

But… he informs me that the boat is in a marina where it cannot simply sail away. I’ll get to why in a minute. That’s part of the drama. The owner had informed me that he would splash the boat so the surveyor could survey the boat in the water but that the boat couldn’t be sailed out in the bay. Hmm….

The Yachtworld ad had mentioned a marina by name, but the surveyor gave me a different marina name. Hmm….

So I did a search and discovered that the marina it was actually in was in a man made cut, at the end of that cut, and all along that cut were houses with power boat docks. I fired up google earth and looked down on the marina from the earth view. The first thing I discovered is that there were no mast poles casting shadows in the picture. It seems my boat was in a power boat marina. Now a Morgan OI 33 has a 4 ft draft but power boats don’t even need that. So I fired up Navionics and started looking at the charts and discovered that while the cut was 7 or 8 feet deep, the end of cut came out into the bay across shallows, perhaps 3 feet deep.

I thought and thought about what was going on, the dates involved and everything I could ascertain across the phone with the broker and finally surmised the following. I discovered that the owner was a power boat guy. He had bought Sweet Allie (not her name at the time) for reasons known only to him, but his timing was bad and shortly after he took possession Hurricane Sandy aimed its sights on his new possession. Understand that this is all surmise on my part. As near as I can tell, he already had a powerboat in this power boat marina and so he managed to get Sweet Allie pulled by the marina to protect her from the storm.

I have no idea how he got her in the cut but he couldn’t get her back out. At least not easily. My surmise is that the hurricane blew in and an onshore wind pushed water into the bay and he motored her right up into the cut and hauled her out for the duration. It does actually appear that once he hauled her he never again floated her until the week I bought her.

Which explains why I couldn’t take her for a sail, ‘cause she was trapped in a power boat marina with shallow water between her and freedom. Once I figured all this out (or surmised anyway) I put the brakes on big time. I was a tad upset as well, basically I had paid for a survey for a boat I couldn’t (easily) get out. So I went back to the drawing board and told the owner that I was now willing to offer $6K for the boat and would use the difference to hire a truck to load it and haul it to NC, ‘cause I didn’t believe that the boat could be extracted any other way. I was assured that the boat could get out I just had to wait for a “really high tide”.

Like would happen the next time a hurricane blew through with on shore winds.

That is my own interpretation. I was pretty much convinced that the owner was blowing smoke.

He assured me (through the broker, all this transpired through the broker) that it was in fact possible. So I told him I would pay $10K if I took possession in deep water otherwise $6K to take possession where it sat. Weeks went buy and the next high tide approached and I’m getting antsy. Am I gonna own a boat or am I going back to the want ads? And write off my survey to experience.

Then I get the call. The boat is out and sitting at the marina I had specified. I had been in discussion with the owner of a sailing school to give me sailing lessons. That sailing school was right next door to the marina where Sweet Allie was SUPPOSED to be (but wasn’t), so I had called the marina owner and arranged to have the boat delivered there if it ever did get extracted, and with the sailing school to give me lessons. My boat was out and now the clock was ticking. I was paying for a slip now.

I had drafted a plan to rent a big car, load it with everything I thought I needed and drive it to BB and drop it. Buy the boat, take my lessons, and sail south. I had started all of this back in early summer and the extraction phase had cost me two months. So it was now September. I rented, packed and drove up to Barnegat Bay to buy my boat, never having a wet survey. I got there planning to be there a week. Except the boat needed this and that, all small things but necessary before I could sail. And the world turns on its own schedule so my week turned into two and then three.

At the end of week one, on a fine Saturday, I got a call from the broker that the owner was coming by to sign the papers so I headed around the inlet to the marina that the broker worked (remember the ad with the marina name that WASN’T where the boat was?). Yea. Anyway I headed over to his office and met (and in fact talked to) the owner for the first time. A really nice guy it turns out. He had boxes of pieces and parts to Sweet Allie which I took from him and put in the car. We signed the papers and I was the proud owner of my own clunker… uh… plastic classic. Paid for in cash.

The broker gave me a bottle of champagne to celebrate with. Now I am one of those “recovering” types and so not wanting to insult the broker, I quietly drew the old owner aside and explained that I didn’t drink and gave him the champagne to celebrate selling his boat.

Another cool story, perhaps the coolest of the entire trip. I headed back around the inlet to the marina where Sweet Allie was now berthed. It was about 11:00 o’clock in the morning and as I stepped out of the car I noticed a 30s something man and woman about twenty feet away looking in the general direction of Sweet Allie (not yet renamed). And I heard him tell her “That’s the morgan”. Since mine was the only Morgan in sight I walked over and introduced myself and asked if I could help them. They proceeded to tell me that Sweet Allie had belonged to his dad all those 37ish years. At that time his dad had owned a house on long island and apparently had a dock at which he kept Sweet Allie. This kid (in my mind) had lived on her every summer during high school, sailing her all over the area. He knew where the boat had been kept and had just decided to look at her again. Maybe he was told she was being sold, not sure exactly but he had gone looking and noticed her missing from the power boat marina and had gone driving to see if he could locate her. What is the chance that I would pull back into the parking lot at the very instant that he found her. And step out of the car at the very instant that he would say this thing to his wife.

In any event, I got to talk to the son and daughter-in-law of the man who owned her for 37 years. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and talked for a half hour, just standing in the parking lot. Then they drove away. Life is strange sometimes.

At the ripe old age of 47 I became a foster parent and at 49 I adopted my two children. My 12 year old daughter Allie (Sweet Allie) has a ton of disabilities. But she loves doing computer stuff, and my 14 year old son had helped her get a username and password set up for a game called Roblox. Being very into Pirates of the Caribbean, he had made up a user name for her, Sweet Allie Bluebeard. I thought that would be a perfect name for a boat, no one else in the entire world would have that boat name. And vaguely nautical.

When I pulled the boat to do the bottom I had them remove the old name and apply the new name, Sweet Allie Bluebeard.

I had a boat.

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