Category Archives: Who?

People we’ve interacted with.

Could God Be A Parrothead?

We sailed to a Jimmy Buffett Concert.

Just saying that makes us smile. We harnessed the wind to travel to see the patron saint of the cruising life. While performing, he gave a shout out to anyone who had actually sailed to the show. We’ve heard that line before. But this time, he was speaking to us.

Best line of the evening: Jimmy starts the show with “Jimmy Buffett in Orange Beach and the mullet toss at the Flora-Bama—it’s the redneck rapture!” You locals will understand.

The setting was perfect. The Amphitheater at the Wharf is an intimate (i.e. small) outdoor venue. Jimmy Buffett fills stadiums. I’m not sure why he elected to do a show in a smaller location like The Wharf. Maybe it was a convenient way to earn some beer money on his way to perform at New Orleans Jazz Fest two days later. Maybe it was a favor for his sister Lucy, who owns a locally famous road house just a short ways up the intracoastal.

The Wharf says the show will go on rain or shine. But we’ve learned that management can be fairly flexible in their definition of “show.”  It’s happened that lightening in the area or heavy rain will postpone the start of a concert. If there’s a brief break in the weather at 11PM and the headliner can take the stage long enough to belt out a quick tune or two, well, you’ve had your promised “show,” no refunds.

It’s been a very rainy month. The forecast called for isolated thunderstorms, and as showtime approached the skies looked threatening. With some lightweight emergency ponchos in our pocket, we headed from dinner to the amphitheater and took our seats. There were a few stray drops of rain, and the sky flashed with lightening. But at 8:10 PM, Jimmy and the Coral Reefers took the stage to wild cheers and applause, and played for two hours uninterrupted by quirks of weather.

Maybe God is a Parrothead.

Did I mention we sailed to a Jimmy Buffett concert? 🙂

Motor Sailing To Orange Beach

Motor Sailing To Orange Beach


Traffic On The Intracoastal – Taking His Three-Quarters Out Of The Middle


Traffic On The Intracoastal – Yes, We’ll Move Out Of Your Way Mr. Barge



Safely Docked In Orange Beach – All Our Flags Are A Flying

Dinner Before The Show

Dinner Before The Show

We love the logo for this year’s tour. I didn’t love it enough to buy the $40 T shirt though.


Pretty Good Seats



Love The Zoom On This Camera!

In addition to the concert, The Wharf was also hosting a classic car and hotrod show that weekend. There were some awesome rides on display.



We Found One We Could Possibly Afford

We Found One We Could Possibly Afford

Remember These?

Remember These?

I Had One Just Like This. Well, It Had A 289 Instead Of A 390. And The Paint Was Falling Off. But It Was Just Like This!

I Had One Just Like This. Well, It Had A 289 Instead Of A 390. And The Paint Was Falling Off. But It Was Just Like This!

Will we ever get another chance to sail to a Jimmy Buffett concert? I sure hope so. But if there’s to be a next time, we hope it will be someplace like Antiqua or Martinique…

Dreams Of All Sizes

Rhonda and I have lived aboard for three months now. From bow to stern, our floating home is just a hair over 37 feet long. It seems just about right to me. While we could always use more space (especially of the stowage variety), we’ve adapted to our new surroundings. We have sufficient room to go about the routines of the day without having to continually do the you’re-in-my-way-please-move tango. We’re actually one of the smaller boats on our pier though, and I’ve noticed that most of the cruisers that pass through, the ones that are obviously in mid-adventure, laden with arches bristling with gear and wind generators and jerrycans and bicycles tied to the railing, are usually in the 40+ foot range. But I feel that what we have is manageable. The work (and the cost)  to operate and maintain everything at this scale isn’t intimidating or overwhelming. I told Rhonda I’m content with Eagle Too, because I can get my arms around her. I’m not sure I’d feel the same on the Beneteau 411 parked next door.

But we’re all pursuing our dream in our own way. And when it comes to the dream of cruising, life is certainly not one size fits all. Walking back from dinner the other night, we noticed we had a new neighbor.

Compac23-1She’s a Com-Pac 23 Pilot House. Let me show you a different angle, so you can see how she measures up to the other boats on our pier.


She makes me smile everytime I walk by, because she looks like the nautical equivalent of what I call a clown car:

SmartCarI had to learn her story as soon as I saw her registration. She seems to get around.


Surely she didn’t sail here from Oregon? I approached her owner the next day, anxious to know more about his boat and his adventure. His name is Sam. He’s an older gentlemen, I’d guess around 65. He tells me he’s recently had both hips replaced. It’s been his dream to cruise. He didn’t sail from the west coast, although he and his boat have logged a lot of miles together around the Portland area. But when he finally decided to chase his dream, he had her towed to Brownsville, Texas.  He’s working his way along the Gulf Coast, headed for Carrabelle, maybe further. He’s single handing it. His girlfriend told him the boat is too small for both of them. But he seemed in love with his choice and his decision to embrace his dream.

As I helped him load his dinghy on his foredeck, I asked him questions. She has no galley. Just a one burner stove. There’s a porta-potty that has to be taken ashore to be emptied. The electrical system is just a battery to start the engine and power the running lights, as well as a single LED cabin light. He uses a handheld VHF.  Surprisingly, she has an inboard two cylinder Westerbeke diesel engine, but she’s only capable of 4.5 knots underway. Sam tells me this made the transit along the Texas and Louisiana coast quite interesting, as he was unable to keep up with the heavy commercial barge traffic and often had to head for the shallows to avoid being run down. But undeterred, he’s pressing on.

Could we do it? Cruise on a boat like that? Not for a minute. Could you? But dreams come in all sizes, and our boat is not better than Sam’s. It’s just different. What’s important is that Sam took the leap. He decided to embrace life and follow his dream in the way that best suits him and his circumstances. And in the end, I think that’s all that’s truly important.

Fair winds, Sam!

Work Before Play

I squirmed in my seat with frustration as I surveyed the long line of cars ahead of us. What idiot of a traffic engineer designed a four lane highway that feeds through a six lane toll booth and then dumps you onto a two lane bridge? The sign on the shoulder says “Foley Beach Express.” Foley Beach Parking Lot would be more appropriate. And then thank you very much, I hope you enjoyed your half hour of traffic hell, that will be $3.50 please to finally squeeze though the booth and merge into the single south bound lane to cross over to Orange Beach. We’d left home with ample time to make the trip. I had allowed for an hour to browse and sightsee before our 6PM dinner reservations at Villaggio. Now I wasn’t sure if we were even going to make it.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We’d booked tickets back in February to see Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers at the Amphitheater at the Wharf. The Amphitheater sits adjacent to the Wharf Marina, located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Orange Beach, Alabama.

wharf-marina It’s a delightful four hour motor sail from our marina in Pensacola, and on concert weekends we like to travel over on our boat, take a slip for the weekend, and vacation in our backyard as it were, enjoying the restaurants and activities the Wharf has to offer. In how many places can you dock your boat and walk to a top-name concert? Florida living at its best.


But not this time. We had to cancel our slip. There was not going to be a relaxing weekend lounging with boat drinks and good books. We just have too much to do. In February we knew we’d be starting our transition from dirt dwellers to Life On The Hook™. But we couldn’t have foreseen how fast the pieces would start falling into place once we got serious. Normally we spend every weekend we can from April to November out on the water. But it’s all we can do at the moment to keep up with the pace of transition. The season is half over, and we’ve been able to get out on the boat for only two weekends. We just have too much of this to do: Painting

We promised the realtor we’d be ready to go on the market in the next few weeks. The work list is still very long, and the time grows short. We must work before we can play. But I know it will all be worth it in the end. These missed weekends on the bay will eventually enable us to depart on our waterborne search for perpetual summer.

We did make it to dinner on time by the way, but with only a few minutes to spare rather than the planned hour. As for the concert? The Doobie Brothers are still Rockin’ Down The Highway as good as they ever were, and Peter Frampton still Feels Like He Did, although it’s hard to adjust to hearing that voice, which hasn’t changed at all, coming out of a middle-aged bald guy.

DoobieBrothers But the real surprise of the evening was the opening act, a young new blues guitarist named Matthew Curry. I was shocked after hearing him perform to learn that he is only 19 years old. He played a short set, but it was all original music, and his talent has not gone unnoticed. Fender has admitted him into the Brotherhood of the Guitar. I think we’ll be seeing more of this young man in the future. I certainly hope so. Have a listen:

Not your typical boat music, but I do believe that a little Blues is good for the soul.

Now where did I put that paint brush…

The Return Of The Blues

For those who aren’t aware, we call Pensacola, Florida home. Pensacola is a town with an enormous amount of history (it’s America’s first city, after all) that has often stumbled over greatness but has always managed to find a way to pick itself up and continue on as if nothing happened.  It’s a city of contrasts, offering incomparable beauty along with a record number of Superfund sites, elegant Spanish moss draped turn-of-the-century neighborhoods beside pockets of drug and violence plaqued squalor, and an approximately equal number of “A” and “F” rated public schools. But while we may often feel overshawdowed by flashier and better marketed towns to our east and west (the beaches of Destin to the casinos of Biloxi), we have one thing that no other city in America has. We’re home to the US Navy Blue Angels. And Pensacola loves their Blues.


Of the numerous iconic cultural events scattered throughout the year, one of the brightest stars on our community calendar is the Pensacola Beach Airshow. The show includes a variety of aerial performers, but it’s the headliner that everyone is really there to see. The Blue Angels, our own home town heros, performing for their family, friends and neighbors.  The show is held every year on the weekend following the Fourth of July, and for the businesses along the beach, it’s the weekend that lets them make bank for the season. Tens of thousands of hungry, thirsty, souvenier craving locals and tourists descend on the beach in need of cold beer, warm food, sun screen, tacky T shirts, pool toys and hotel rooms. They spread across the white sand like a human carpet, erecting acres of colored canopies and umbrellas to stake out their personal front row seats to the greatest show on wings.

This year was special. The Blues were back (caution – gratuatious political swipe ahead, proceed at your own risk). Last year, our beloved government, in a petulant fit of pique over its citizens daring to complain about its out-of-control spending, reacted to having its budget trimmed a few tenths of a percent by looking for ways to impose the maximum amount of pain on we unruly citizens. Rather than spreading the minor cuts across the entire Federal bureaucracy, the government threatened layoffs of fire fighters, police, border control agents and air traffic controllers. When the political heat from that threat grew too great, they then turned to shutting down all national parks and museums (even though the cost of renting barricades and deploying additional personnel to ensure we obeyed the closure signs was greater than the amount saved). And the Blue Angels were grounded for the 2013 season. So while the Blues’ annual budget was less than the cost of a typical Obama family vacation, the weekly celebrity-studded White House parties rolled merrily along while the Blue Angels performance at the Pensacola Beach Airshow was cancelled. (End of political commentary for now).

But that was then, and this is now. The Blues are flying again, and the show was a go. The civilian acts start flying at noon. The Blue Angels arrive promptly at 2PM. To see the show, people start arriving on the beach the Thursday before. Most locals know the best day is Friday, when the Blues fly their full dress rehearsal. The crowds are lighter, and the traffic less intense. By 6:30 on Saturday morning, the main parking lot is full. By 8AM, the traffic over the bridge is backed up over six miles. To see the show, you can either show up before dawn, or spend hours in traffic.

Or, you can come by boat. We learned years ago that the best way to see the show and avoid the traffic and parking hassles is to sail over on Friday morning and watch the entire affair from the comfort of our cockpit. Of course, thousands of our fellow boaters know this as well, but that just adds a dash of color. Seeing more boats than you can count jockeying for position, many operated by drunk mariners with little regard for COLREGs or rules of the road, makes the show on the water almost as good as the one in the air.

But enough prose. We’ll let the pictures do the talking.

An early Friday underway means breakfast on the bay.


We picked our spot and watched the crowd build.


The predictions of a record turnout looked accurate.



We thought we saw a familiar face in the crowd. It was an emotional moment to see our old boat that we had just turned over to her new owners sail up and anchor several hundred yards away.


While waiting for the show to begin, we watched the Hilton Hotel catch fire and burn. Apparently no one was hurt, because the fire was out by show time and we never heard any more about it. I’m guessing it probably had something to do with drunken tourists and leftover Fourth of July fireworks.


The show began with the civilian acts. They were good, but they weren’t what had drawn all these people to the beach.


Between acts, these young ladies worked the crowd selling ice cream. If only they’d been offering Margaritas and Bushwackers!


Finally, after a two year wait, the Blues returned to the beach and the magic began.

Blues1 Blues2 Blues3 Blues4 Blues5 Blues6 Blues7It was 45 minutes of kerosene fumes, thunderous noise, and amazingly awesome acts of aerial artistry. In short, simply stupendous. God we’ve missed them so.

I have no idea where we’ll be at this time next year. Maybe we’ll still be sorting out our affairs in preparation to begin the next phase of our life, or maybe we’ll already be living Life On The Hook™. But I’m glad we had the opportunity to spend this wonderful weekend on the water together taking in this glorious performance by Pensacola’s favorite sons. If we’re still here next July, we’ll definitely be back for more.

Here’s a better tribute to the Blues than I am capable of producing. Please enjoy!

The Broker Dilemma

This one is for all of you who have bought or sold a boat or have plans to do so in the future. The rest of you may not get much out of it, but might I suggest some other lovely posts such as I Am Serious, And Don’t Call Me Shirley, The Ocean Doesn’t Care, or Life’s True Purpose?

OK, off we go. Those of you who have been following along probably know that we currently own two boats. We love the smaller one, but it’s not really suitable for the type of cruising we’re preparing for. We need to sell it. While it is theoretically possible to do this on our own, we’re probably going to have to obtain the services of (insert ominous bass chord here – duh duh duhhhhhh) a broker. Why? Well, because Rhonda and I still both work full time and have numerous commitments on the weekends, and just don’t have the time or patience to deal with all the looky-loos, tire-kickers (rudder kickers?), penniless starry-eyed dreamers and waterfront shysters that boats attract. Better to leave that for the (duh duh duhhhh) broker to handle (OK, I’m done with the dramatic accent, but I want you to keep imagining it’s there whenever I say “broker”). We’ll pay their usurious 10% commission so that they can filter out the obviously unqualified buyers, show the boat a few times, and post an ad on Yachtworld for us, which we can’t do ourselves because we’re not brokers (did you do it in your head? Good.)

Surely they do more than that for 10% of the selling price? Why yes, yes they do. Another service they provide is to tell you what your boat is worth and should sell for. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we’re primarily here to talk about today. Because it’s that part of the process where I think many (lots? most? nearly all?) brokers do their clients a huge disservice. Let me do one of the things I love to do best, which is to illustrate by example.

See this? 

What the heck is that? Yes, I know it's a car, but what type?

What the heck is that? Yes, I know it’s a car, but what type?

I’ll bet you’ve never seen one of these before. I doubt there could be more than a handful left, because they tended to spontaneously turn to huge piles of rust while simultaneously catching fire. That, my friends, is a 1969 Rootes Sunbeam Arrow, an incredibly crappy little English sedan. I’m probably one of less than half a dozen people in the entire country who had one as his or her first car. I named it Herman. No idea why, it just seemed to be the appropriately dweebish name for an incredibly dweebish car. God I loved that thing.

So what would you think a car like that would be worth? I’m guessing $500 on a good day, provided it had new tires. But let’s suppose that somewhere, someone still has one that hasn’t oxidized into dust pan sweepings. They decide to sell it. I find out about it. I’m at a point in life where I have some disposable income, and this really rings nostalgic for me. I really want that old piece of crap, I mean, car. So, I offer a grand. Maybe twelve hundred if the light switches still work, and you don’t have to twist wires together under the dash to turn the headlights on (true story). Am I crazy? No, I’m just a member of an incredibly small group of people for whom this car has special meaning (so small we’d probably have trouble fielding a basketball team).

What in the world does any of this have to do with brokers and selling boats? Well, let’s just say that against all odds, another example of this fine piece of British automotive engineering existed, and that owner wants to sell it too. Not knowing what the car is worth, he checks (that site’s for sale btw, in case anyone has any good ideas for it), where he/she learns that the last example that came to market sold for $1,200. Ipso facto and as a result, the car is worth $1,200. Question answered! On the market it goes, priced at $1,450 so that after some dickering, the seller thinks he can get his $1,200.

Is the car worth that much? Absolutely not. But because someone somewhere at some time was willing to pay that much, bingo, they’re all worth that much now.

That’s what a broker does. When you obtain their services, one of the things they do is check a super secret site that only brokers can access called It tells them how much other people have paid in the past for similar boats. But here’s the kicker – it makes no allowance for how long it took to get that price. So the broker says to you, “Oh, your boat is worth $XYZ, because one in similar condition sold for that amount last month.” So you price it there, believing that’s what it’s worth. Only it’s not. Because what the broker didn’t tell you is that it took over two years for the boat to sell. It just sat and sat and sat some more until finally, against all odds, someone like me, for whom that particular boat had some special significance, was willing to overpay to get their hands on it.

Personally, I think that’s a terrible way to sell something. Free markets assign value. Regardless of what you think something is worth, if you’ve had it for sale for six months, a year, eighteen months or more, and it hasn’t sold, then I can plainly see your problem, even if you can’t. You’re asking more that it’s worth, and most people, being fairly rational when it comes to money, won’t pay it. You’re holding out for that incredibly tiny sliver of purchasers who have enough cash and some reason to overlook the fact that they’re paying too much.

What’s so sad about this is that for the vast majority of us, boats have ongoing expenses that have to be paid. Payments on a note, monthly slip fees, insurance, maintenance and upkeep, maybe the occasional bottom cleaning, those costs just keep clicking along month after month. So let’s say that you do eventually get something near the price that you’re holding out for, the price that your broker told you it’s worth. His expertise is confirmed, because you did get close to his suggested price after all, and the data gets dutifully entered in SoldBoats so that the next sucker, er, seller, can make an informed decision. But when you back out the eighteen months of fees you incurred, you find you actually netted about what you’d have gotten if you’d priced the boat realistically and sold it in 90 days.

So what is realistic pricing? OK, I’m speaking to the HunteBeneLina owners now. You know who you are. We own mass produced fiberglass boats and are damn proud of it. What I’m about to say may not be as applicable to an old Tartan or Sabre or some fancy-pants Morris, but there’s a lot more of us selling boats than there are of them. And here’s the way it works:

Boats are expensive. Most buyers are probably financing the purchase. Oh sure, there are those who have sold their house or inherited the family fortune or settled their personal injury lawsuit and have stupid amounts of money to burn. But the majority of buyers purchasing production sailboats are probably doing it with a loan. Loans come from banks. Banks are not stupid with money. They don’t let emotion and nostalgia cloud their judgment when establishing value. They don’t care one bit how graceful the lines, how shiny the brightwork, how good you look behind the wheel. They look at NADA and BUCValu. They enter the year, make and model, and look at the result. Maybe, if you have a really good relationship with your banker, they might consider the condition, but generally they’re just going to take the lowest number. That’s what they call their loan value. Which they’ll then loan you 75% to 90% of depending on their down payment requirements. That’s it. That’s what the boat is worth. Anything above that, and you’re going to have to make it up out of your pocket. You’re going to have to be willing to overpay.

So why won’t a broker tell you this? Why won’t they give you a price that you can reasonably expect to sell the boat at within a reasonable timeframe? Because they don’t care. There’s not a lot of upside for them if you’re willing to price the boat to sell. Remember that 10% commission I mentioned? The more you can make on your boat, the more money they can make. But they’re not the ones incurring those monthly costs I mentioned. It’s your bank account that’s bleeding, not theirs. As long as the boat eventually sells, they’d much prefer to make the larger commission. It’s your problem that it took two years. They insulate themselves by maintaining a portfolio of listings, so that something sells every month, regardless of how long it sat on the market.

I can already hear the indignation from many of you proud owners out there who have their babies on the market. “I wouldn’t sell my boat for the NADA value! I’d be giving it away, and I won’t do that.”

No you wouldn’t. You’d be selling it, rather than holding out for months or years waiting for someone to come along who will overpay. I’ve been watching the market for about four years now while we patiently waited for what we call our “island boat” to appear for sale. Here’s what I learned. Most boats get listed for anywhere from 25% to 100% above what BUCValu says they’re worth. When I’d contact the owner and point this out, they’d get indignant, because their broker told them what the boat is worth. Those boats just sit on the market month after month. Then there will be a price reduction. Then more months on the market. The another, larger reduction. “Motivated Seller” appears on the listing. Maybe another reduction after that. Finally, a year and a half, maybe two years later, the boat finally sells. For just about the NADA value. The seller ends up netting less money out of the sale due to all the ongoing expenses of maintaining the boat than if they’d just put a “sell it in 90 days” price on it to begin with.

Occasionally, I’d see a boat I’d be interested in, and feel it was fairly priced. I’d look up the value, and find out it was right in the sweet spot of what a bank would say its worth. I’d give the broker a call, and there’d already be several offers. The next week, the ad would say “Sale Pending,” and three weeks later, it would be gone. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s how I’d prefer to sell our boat.

So let’s review. When the time comes to buy or sell a boat, you have an excellent resource to turn to in NADA and BUCValu. You can carry on all day long about how that’s not the real value of the boat, but that doesn’t change the fact that that’s all the bank is going to consider it worth, that’s all they’ll lend against, and most people will need a loan to buy it. So by insisting that your boat is worth so much more than the bank says it is, you’ve made a deliberate choice to restrict the potential market to just those people who are willing and able to overpay. Now it’s your boat, and it’s your right to do that if you choose, But that’s a pretty small market. Which is why a lot of boats just sit for a long, long time. And the broker isn’t going to take you by your lapels, give you a good shake, and say “hey dummy, you’re asking too much,” because there’s nothing in it for them unless yours is the only boat he/she has listed and has a mortgage payment due.

I don’t mean any of this to be disparaging to brokers. Running some ads for you and insulating you from most of the petty annoyances of buying and selling can be an important service, although I could do a whole ‘nuther post about whether it’s a service that’s worth a 10% commission. But I do deeply believe that a really good, honest, ethical, I represent you and not just me broker would give you options. Option A would be “here’s the price that maybe someday you might find someone who would possibly pay if you wait long enough,” and option B would be “and here’s the price if you actually want to sell it.” How interesting it would be to see what price the broker recommended if their commission was calculated on a downward sliding scale, reducing 1% for every month the boat sat unsold. I strongly suspect their advice would instantly become much more pragmatic. 

Be honest with yourself. This is not your boat. Don't price it as if it is.

Be honest with yourself. This is not your boat. Don’t price it as if it is.

OK, I’m done. Feel free to have at it if you wish. Just let me point out that we write this blog for our amusement, not yours. So while you may not like everything I’ve said today, I hope you’ll at least agree that the opinion is well expressed.

Now we have a boat to list. After this, I hope we can find a broker! I definitely know what price we’ll be asking…


Do You Wanna Be A TV Star?

Apparently the Discovery Channel has expressed interest in developing a show about life on a sailboat. They’re using Life On The Hook as the working title. I know this because in the last 24 hours we’ve been contacted by two different television production companies who found our blog while conducting research for the project. They wanted to know if we’d like to be on reality TV. They quickly lost interest, however, when I described our circumstances. They’re apparently looking for people who are living on something like this:


I guess it’s supposed to be one of those “man (or woman) vs. nature” things, and so they want someone who ekes out an existence by catching their own fish, capturing rainwater to drink, and just generally living like Robinson Crusoe on a boat. I explained to them that the vast majority of full-time cruisers live lives similar to that of someone in an RV staying in campgrounds. They shop at markets, visit restaurants, and tend to drink very little rainwater. So they thanked me for my time and moved on.

One of the producers did mention that they’ve done work with the SyFy channel in the past, which gave me a chance to pitch my book as a possible TV movie. So if anyone out there knows of someone who may be living a life that’s closer to The Beverly Hillbillies or Castaway on a boat, please let me know so I can pass it along. If I can generate some useful leads for them, maybe they’ll actually take a look at Lunar Dance.

This guy would be ideal. Anyone know his email address?

This guy would be ideal. Anyone know his email address?

The Kaufman Rescue – An Interesting Perspective

Like many, I watched the evening news cover the recent rescue by the US Navy of a family and their small children from a sailboat 900 miles off the Mexican coast. As is typical of most “mainstream” news coverage, the reporting left me with more questions than answers. I recently found some of these answers in a very interesting post on a blog that I follow by a couple that are out walking the walk everyday. As avid followers of sailing blogs (because why else would you be reading this blog? We don’t do beach vollyball photos here!) I thought you all may be interested in their perspective:

Oh America, You Make My Heart Hurt