Saturday, May 28, 2011

Our new Obsession

Movies love using the plot device that starts with our hero in some kind of predicament or unexplicable situation.  The action on the screen freezes at a climactic moment, and the words "one month ago" flashes across the screen.  The real story then starts, having given the viewers  a taste of the future.
Well, this is my opening sequence.  It's a hot day, with temperatures in the 30's (for all you non-Celsius readers, that's hot).  The sun is out, but the day is hazy and quite humid.  The heat is countered by a fresh breeze blowing across the waters of Barnegat Bay, NJ.  No buildings block the wind, because I'm sitting out in the cockpit of a new-to-us 37 foot Beneteau 373 sailboat, anchored in a shallow inlet along with a handful of other boats, looking at the lighthouse at Barnegat Light, marking th entrance to the Atlantic Ocean.
-- One Month Ago --
We had spent a lot of time deciding to upgrade from Obsession to a larger sailboat.  We had only owned Obsession for three years, and had thoroughly enjoyed cruising on her.  But, Obsession was our first cruising sailboat, and we knew we wanted to move up.  A Beneteau 305 is a cuiser-racer, and is actually designed more along the lines of racing with the occasional weekend cruise.  When we bought Obsession, we mused that we would like to race once and a while, but with the exception of the Montague Regatta one summer, we never did.  However, we discovered that we liked the cruising aspect more and more.  For the longer term cruising we want to do, we wanted a bit more living space.  So the search began, helped along by a strong Canadian dollar (making US-based boats cheaper) and a depressed boating market because of the economic problems.
April saw us driving down into the US to take a look at a couple of Beneteau 373s that caught our eye.  One was in New York state on the Hudson River above New york City.  The second was in Bayville, New Jersey.  The latter was a dream boat.  For cruising, there was a lot of equipment and upgrades we would want for our new boat, and we thought we would buy a boat and then add equipment over the next couple of years.  The New Jersey boat came with almost everything we would want.  Unfortunately, it had a price tag well outside our budget.  However, a little compromise on our part and on the part of the previous owners made the deal work.
Suddenly, we had an agreement to buy our new sailboat.  It was in New Jerey, and would become ours on May 25th.  So began the most hectic four weeks of our lives.  Both of us had multiple work commitments to complete, which meant many late nights and crazy hours.  Also, May is when we open our book store for the season, so even without having to prepare for the new boat, it is already a very busy season.  Now, we had also added getting Obsession on the market, preparing for the trip down to the US, finalizing the details of the sale, making financial arrangements, planning for the trip back home, and determining what other additions we might want to add to the boat.
Finally, we managed to survive to our day of departure, which involved final packing at 2am.  Michelle's parents were driving us down, since it's never very difficult to convince them to go on a driving trip.  We had been told by our broker to make a list of all items that we were bringing to the US for the trip back to Canada, and to stop at Canada Customs to get it stamped.  We pulled into the Customs office at the border in St Stephen, NB, and the officers there cleared our list very quickly.  At the US border, they asked a few more questions than usual, but we weren't there for long before passing through.  We made it to Portland, Maine the first night.  The second night we went through the edge of New York City and stopped at Toms River, NJ, just a few minute drive from our boat.
Although we had mostly finished our work commitments, there were still some remining tasks to complete.  One advantage of the work we do is that we are very mobile.  Each evening in the hotel, I would spend a few hours working.  That night in Tom's River, I had to complete a project by the next day, so I spent six hours after we stopped.  In fact, during that drive on the second day, I had to make a work phone call, so we pulled over to a rest area in Connecticut for an hour while I called Ottawa to discuss my project.
Finally, the immediate work deadlines were completely out of the way, and we had a few days to concentrate on the boat.  On Wednesday morning, we drove the few minutes out to the marina, where we finally got to take posession of Aquaries.  The previous owners were there to meet us, and turned out to be a wonderful couple.  They had just moved from NJ to Florida, and had decided it was time to sell their boat.  It was wonderful to spend a few days with them, giving us time to get to know them and our new boat. They were incredibly helpful and spent lots of time with us going over the boat's systems and the modifications they had made and showing us how everything worked. It was so wonderful to have had that time. Our only regret was that we did not get a chance to spend even more time with them. We hope we will keep in touch with them. We promise to care for the boat as carefully as they did! We love the boat. It is like it was made for us. As for a name, we are importing the boat into Canada and registering it then, so a new name will wait have to wait for a few weeks.
The first day of ownership was a whirlwind.  Since we were sailing her home, we had to be provisioned for an extended cruise.  First up was grocery shopping.  Because we were coming across the border, we took very little food with us.  That meant we had to buy all the basic provisions, along with lots of non-perishable items to last the length of our trip.  Over the next couple of day, we made multiple trips to the grocery store as we would discover items that we had not purchased earlier, or to stock up on additional provisions.  Having a vehicle for on-land transportation was a luxury we would not have for long, so we took advantage and purchased extra items like water, which is very heavy and awkward to carry on foot.
As for the boat, the main item which we needed was a dinghy.  Our plan is to anchor as much as possible on our return trip.  Marinas are usually much more convenient, but they are also much more expensive.  Having a dinghy is then the only way to get supplies back to the boat, or to visit the areas near our anchorage.  We purchased an inflatable 9 foot dinghy from West Marine, along with a 6hp engine.  Getting the boat ready was so busy that, although we got the dinghy inflated and tied to the stern of Aquaries, we still haven't used it.
The boat has refrigeration and a freezer, air conditioning and reverse cycle heat, TV, DVD, microwave, wind power generator, solar panels, davits, bow and stern washdowns, bimini, dodger, auopilot and chartplotter and, best of all, the V-berth has been converted to an office. With lots of extra storage space the boat is very comfortable for much longer cruises than the 2-3 week cruises we did on Obsession.
The previous 4 weeks and the three days in Bayville getting the boat ready were crazy busy, but now we are on our way. We left Tom's River this morning and headed south to Barnegat Inlet where we anchored. Tomorrow we leave for Sandy Hook and our first short ocean passage of the trip. By Monday we should be passing through Hells Gate and into Long Island Sound if all goes as planned. We'll try and keep posting blogs of our trip, although internet connections are hard to come by at times.

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