(Also, The Process of Buying a Boat)
Soon enough we were back in the water, where we reignited the screaming banshee choir long enough to motor around the corner to tie off at the boatyard’s seawall.
John 1 called the previous long-time owner of the boat to inquire if he knew where we could get a replacement alternator. He replied, “A new alternator? What’s wrong with the one that’s on there? It’s only been on there two years!”
I’ve been warned during the process of boat shopping that sometimes the boat owner’s recollection of when specific systems were replaced or repaired might lack a certain degree of accuracy. In this case I’d say he has to have been off by a factor of 6 or more, because when I tried to remove it the bolts holding it in place were completely fused to the mounting plate. No amount of WD40, blow torch, pounding, or twisting could break it free. Over the next day I ended up removing the entire assembly that included not only the alternator and bracket but also the engine-driven water maker pump.
So there I was, sweating my pits into swimming pools, covered in oil and grease, fixing what amounted to someone else’s boat. At least it was a good way to get to know some additional nooks and crannies. They say that ‘cruising’ is another term for ‘working on boats in exotic places’. West Palm isn’t the most exotic place in the world, but it sure beats the heck out of Oklahoma.
I eventually had it all apart and took the assembly to a machine shop, where it took everything a 12 ton hydraulic press had to break the thru-bolt on the alternator free. Yeah. Only on there two years. Right.
Two days and a couple of scraped knuckles later we were motoring back down the channel towards the mooring with a shiny new alternator and new belts all around. I ended up just disconnecting the seized cold plate compressor since I hadn’t planned on using it anyway and thus had no reason to fix it.
While I was toiling away in the engine compartment John 2 came back and finished his survey by doing additional thermal imaging of the decks and a full inspection of the sails and rigging. We were both pleasantly surprised with the quality and condition of the sails. That’s one big ticket item that won’t need replaced right off the bat.
With the survey finished, I finally had a chance to start putting things back in order from tearing everything apart and by the end of the fifth day most things were back where they belonged and cleaned up.
In the process I discovered that the solar panels weren’t charging the battery bank. So day six involved sorting that out and getting the batteries charging again. Turns out that the current owner doesn’t understand voltages when battery banks are run in series-parallel. He had the charge controller wired in the middle of the battery bank so it was only receiving 6 volts instead of 12, and since the unit requires a minimum of 9 volts to even turn on it couldn’t do it’s job. Unfortunately I started at the other end of the system and tested each of the five panels, the wiring, the controller, all the connections, and everything in between before I got to the battery end of the system. Had I started at the battery bank end I could have fixed it in five minutes. Instead I spent 8 hours tracing wiring and wearing out the battery on my multimeter. Lesson learned.
Thus I arrived at day seven of my seven day trip without having accomplished anything on my list of things to do while I was there. I had planned on putting together a detailed refit list, making some diagrams of structural changes I wanted to make, contacting local contractors for quotes on system changes, etc.
I did manage to make a pit stop in a consignment store that caught my eye where I snagged a perfect set of davit-making raw materials in the form of a used T-Top support set off a fishing vessel. These are almost exactly what I had designed in my head and dreaded the cost of making (or having made). Major score at $150 for the set! Easily saved many many many hundreds of dollars.
In the end there weren’t any deal breakers during the survey. Southern Cross is structurally very sound, and that’s all we were really concerned about. The rest is all just plug and play stuff that we had intended to replace or update anyway in the name of safety, reliability, and comfort (in that order). I’ll attach the full survey report in the event that you’re a sado-masochist in the mood for a good intellectual flogging, but be warned that it’s 70 pages of stuff that’s basically mumbo-jumbo to anyone but a prospective buyer or an insurer. I can save you the time and distill it down to this: Southern Cross is a well designed, well built, old boat that is extremely sound structurally, isn’t imminently going to sink or fall apart, and has a long list of little things that need to be addressed. It’s pretty much exactly what we were hoping for in that we can customize the systems to our needs, choose the things that we deem necessities, and work on the rest as we go… all the while adding value in the form of sweat equity. If you are itching to see what a true professional produces while conducting a survey here is our survey.
As a side note, I highly recommend Captain John Bannister with Suenos Azules Marine Surveying and Consulting. The dude is a wellspring of knowledge and information and really did a professional, thorough job. He travels all over the Caribbean and Gulf to perform his services, so if you’re a buyer looking for a surveyor you can’t go wrong by dropping him a line. He’s also a really nice guy and good company to boot.
All in, I would not recommend choosing Seminole Marine as a boatyard. They were also very professional and did a great job with the haul out, but man are they expensive. Of course their yard is tailored to humongo mega motor yachts. Southern Cross was the only boat with masts there. I guess that’s part of the price you pay for buying a 25’8” wide trimaran. If you’re a mega millionaire and have an 80’ power boat that you need hauled out to pay a crap ton to have overpriced boatyard services performed, this is the place for you. Otherwise, check elsewhere if you can. They were the only ones close by with a slip large enough to get us out of the water, and since their slip is 26’ wide it was still a VERY tight squeeze leaving only 2 inches on either side of the boat. Not much choice in our case.
Also, do not choose to stay at the Extended Stay America off 45th and I-95 in West Palm. Unless, that is, you enjoy crackheads roaming the parking lot at 3AM holding heated debates about whether the WWF was better than the WWE (bonus points if you remember the Iron Shiek). To stay here and enjoy it you must also be partial to:
- hookers in the parking lot
- smelly trash piles in the stairwell
- your hotel catching on fire (no, I’m not kidding)
- said fire causing the alarm to go off for two hours after the fire is out
- ‘continental breakfast’ consisting of nasty shrink-wrapped ‘muffins’
- nasty stained carpet throughout
- noise (you get the idea)
- worrying about your rental car being stolen
- wondering what disease you might catch if you choose to sleep on the bed instead of the couch.
- unexplained chemical smells (meth lab, anyone?)
- useless wifi
- …. you get the picture. Just. Don’t.
Other than that it was a beautiful hotel.
After everything was said and done, I managed to finagle another $2K off the original offer I made based on the labor I put in and the results of the survey. Southern Cross is now ours, ready for us to update and customize in the way we see fit and well under what you would expect to pay for just about any other vessel of similar size and structural integrity. I’m glad Byn is like me in being able to see the potential in things as opposed to outward appearances. Not that Southern Cross is ugly or uncomfortable by any means, but she’s certainly not a fancy production boat with leather trim, finely worked teak, and shiny brightworks throughout. She’s safe, stout, functional, roomy, and economical. Just what the doctor ordered!
As a bonus on the plane ride home I got to witness an interesting atmospheric anomaly caused by the shadow of my plane on the clouds.
Now to address all these pesky issues in Oklahoma before we can get a move on……..