Sunday, July 11, 2010

How it all started...

Hello, my name is Debra, and this is a story of a pair landlubbers (my husband and myself) and our adventures aboard the M/V Seawolf. With very little real knowledge of engines, absolutely no shipwright skills, and subscribing to the philosophy of "if you can't tie a knot, tie a lot", we blundered ahead anyway. Here's how it all began...

We started talking about buying a boat while visiting my sister in Haines, AK during the summer of 2002. A friend of theirs had his commercial crab boat for sale at a steal of a price, but the timing wasn't right, our money wasn't right, and in reality, the boat wasn't right either. It was little more than a pipe dream. The boat sold to someone else and we went on with other things.

We are always full of hair brained ideas, but the idea of living aboard had taken root and began to grow. I read a great book Escape from Someday Island, subscribed to Live Aboard magazine, and in general drove Scott crazy. Over the next few summers we spent many afternoons and evenings walking the docks, buying several boats in our minds, weighing the pros and cons of power vs. sail, old vs. new, project vs. turnkey. We looked at old seine boats, crab boats, steel boats, wood boats, fiberglass boats tugs, sailboats, even an old landing craft! In the end, we always came back to reality - we couldn't afford any of the ones that were remotely appropriate. I started searching on line for ideas and possibilities. I drove Scott crazy with my "look at this one" or "I found this..". It soon became clear that a project boat was the only possible option for us. We were short on cash but long on spirit, carpentry skills (for houses, not boats- big difference!) and enthusiasm.

On Alaska Boats & Permits website I found a 54'x16' ferro cement sailboat (no mast, no sail, no rigging of any sort), listed as a great live aboard project. It was 20 years old, had been in the water barely 10 of those years. I didn't have a clue what I was looking at, never even knew boats could be made out cement. I didn't mention it to Scott because I didn't know if it was even something to consider. The story behind her was that a father/son were building a boat to sail around the world, the dad had a heart attack, she was sold to a couple that was going to finish the work and sail around the world, they got divorced, sold again, the luster faded for the next owner, and then she sat the remaining time in the boat yard. It was 4 years later before we found out she was built by a shipyard in Anchorage.

A couple weeks later Scott and I were a his company picnic, and while eating, the talk soon turned to boats. Scott was telling the guys how we were shopping for a boat and another fellow (Tim) started talking about an internet site where he saw a great boat we should check out. As he continued to describe it, I soon realized he was talking about the same boat I saw earlier and decided I would show it to Scott later. We checked into that one and a few others in the area and at different points became interested and excited about each of them.

Eventually I nagged Scott into looking at the one I found on the internet and we decided to investigate it a little more seriously. The problem was it was in Homer, we were in Kodiak, and we knew absolutely nothing about ferro cement. We had no idea what the condition of the hull and even though the engine and generator were both very low time, we didn't really know what shape they were in after sitting in the boat yard for 10 years. Scott and Tim hopped on the ferry for Homer one Friday to go take a look. Later we made what we thought was a ridiculously low ball offer, to be surprised when it was accepted!

At this point, I still had not actually seen the boat - only the pictures posted on line and the few Scott took on his trip. When we called the boatyard in Kodiak to make arrangements to haul out for work we wanted to do, the yard owner wanted nothing to do with the boat and had nothing good to say about ferro cement. Pigs were going to fly before he was going to put that thing in his yard! Apparently other folks had put their boats up there, got discouraged, didn't know what to do with the cement and abandoned them, leaving the boatyard to dispose of them. Disposal of a concrete boat is no small thing apparently! This caused us to have 2nd and 3rd thoughts, our feet froze, and we cancelled the deal. It was late in the summer and nearly time for us to leave Kodiak for the season so the whole boat dream was put on the shelf. I was so disappointed about getting all revved up then shut down, I didn't even want to talk about it anymore.

Over the winter we kept thinking, reading, researching what we could find on ferro cement (there wasn't a lot out there!). We found one book written by someone considered to be the leading expert on the subject, but after all was said and done information was still sketchy. A lot was left to our interpretation, but eventually the dream won out and we made the offer again and it was accepted, again. I still had not actually laid eyes on this beast yet, but somehow I was convinced it was for me! I found one other person listed as an expert in this field and emailed him, but did not hear back. Scott and I headed up the Al-Can Highway for Alaska that spring, earlier than ever before on March 13, 2006, and seven days later we were on our way to Homer to see what we had done!

Tuesday March 21-2006 We arrived in Anchorage today, did a few errands, tomorrow we will head to Homer - then I will see this boat for the first time! The hotel we are at is very close to a shipyard where another boat is located that we also found on the internet, but had ruled out, so we drove over to take a look in person. It turned out to be a confirmation for me that we weren't overlooking anything by setting this one aside. It was a 42' steel schooner, nice, but doesn't really fit what we have in mind. When we returned to the hotel I checked my email and was surprised to see a response from my email requesting information from a leading ferro cement expert. It turns out that the man I tried to contact had passed away last fall and his widow was going through his things and found our communication. She passed along some contacts for us that might be helpful. I am so excited, I can't wait to talk to them. A friend of Scott's from his commercial fishing days, (Mike B.) lives in Anchorage and dropped by to see us for a minute. He has an friend in Australia that has a ferro cement boat and has sailed it around the world and loves his boat. This was one of the first direct contacts we have had that didn't make us feel like idiots and that we were making a huge mistake!

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