It was a hot summer´s day some weeks ago …
… and I was underway with my little son to see boats at the yacht harbor Hamburg. We made our way between the sheer uncountable buildings associated with kind of every yachting-hotspot around the world: There are wharfs, boat shops, huge halls for winter-storage and open plains for those who do not want (or can afford) to have their boats sheltered. Then I saw it – a nice boat. Partly covered under the big blue tarpaulin. And a weathered sign stating it for sale. I parked my son (he thankfully embraced this little pause to discover this strange interesting place by himself) and went on to look at the yacht.
I spent nearly one hour inspecting the hull. Noticed the saildrive which appeared having to be overhauled lately. I saw the extra 200 Kilograms of lead under the iron-keel as well and I probed with my smartphone-lights into the outboard-valves. Just as if I could see anything. The boat seemed to be in a very good shape considering its building year: 1977. 2 years older than me.
Leisure 27 – a seventies room-wonder.
I learned that this yacht, OPONGA, is UK-built, a Leisure 27 feet long daysailer. It felt huge as I roamed about, inspecting carefully every inch of her hull. Some 8.30 metres overall with a maximum breadth of 2.80 metres and a draft of 1.40 metres. Big enough for a family of 3 (or 4), I instantly thought. In some forums I read that this great space is dearly bought with a huge freeboard, causing the boat to be vulnarable against wind-gusts. But I decided not to let go the idea that this might be my ship …
I couldn´t spot bigger flaws resulting from collisions or hefty berthing maneuvers, the antifouling seems new and the boat´s surface looked shiny new like it had left it´s slip in UK only weeks ago. Very pleasing: The current owner wanted a price that seemed very attractive, above all concerning the boats good shape and the more than complete list of the equipment to be sold along.
I took some pics with my smartphone and showed them at home to my wife. Well, she didn´t instantly fell in love with OPONGA, but she liked her and wanted to give her a chance. Minutes later I phoned with her owner.
First inspection & Internet research
The owner was very friendly and lives, as it turned out, only some 500 metres away from us. We arranged a date for inspecting the boat – as I was especially keen on seeing the interior – for the upcoming weekend and my tension grew stronger day by day. I began internet research about the type and what people might say about her.
Well. Shes´s definitely not a racer. That´s what I´ve learned very soon. But maybe that´s exactly what we are looking for, since we are absolute beginners with a small child – we don´t want to break records or sail through Beaufort 9, we want to experience some nice cruises. Smooth and easy. Roomy and stylish.
That´s what a Leisure seems to offer to a great extend, I assumed after having read virtually all of the internet publications available. Not fast, but well-tempered. Then came inspection day.
Her current owner turned out to be a man of god in his late 80ies. A born-and-bred seafarer and from the first minute onward I felt his deep love and connection for the boat. He welcomed us aboard as we sat in the cockpit. He began to tell everything about the boat he could. It was so much, since he was the one and only owner so far, 38 years of trips and cruises all around the Baltic and North Sea, he raised three children on the boat and spent uncountable hours filled with adventure, pleasure and joy.
The interior – internet didn´t exaggerate – was more than huge. I am of 1.88 metres in height and I could stand straight up in all of the saloon, even in the forecastle. My wife tested the berths – no problem. The style of it all appeared a bit outdated, but since I want to refurbish my boat from scratch this didn´t bother me so much.
I had a good feeling overall.
But I am no expert. And even the price being extraordinarily attractive, I asked for another date when a sailing friend of mine would take a look at OPONGA. The owner – Father Braun – agreed and I had again five days of tension to cope with.
Second inspection: Doubts and precariousnesses
Jan arrived and he by himself was also very curious because he had recently bought a Bianca 27 in Copenhagen and was very keen on matching the two boats since they seemed similar in a number of aspects.
Again Father Braun showed his talent in entertaining our wives and children as Jan and I where searching more accurately. Armed with a headlight we searched under the floor-panels if the keel-bolts where okay, if there where no hair-cracks or other flaws, Jan checked the engine (but not running nevertheless) and crawled the deck for all the fittings and stuff. He asked questions, I didn´t ask and discovered, that the boat was still running the first standing rig, even if it was a bit oversized with its 6 mm thick niro-lines, he said, he certainly wouldn´t go to see with a 40 year old standing rig.
He also discovered that the rudder was flooded, as Father Braun was willingly talking about when asked.
“Overall a very good boat I would say. But …” But what? “Look at these cracks here all around the connection between keel and hull here”, he told me pointing to some half of a millimeter thick cracks running down all the length of the keel. I was instantly shocked.
Expertise and a choice to be made
Father Braun was also astonished and shocked as I told him about our discovery. He said he´d never sell a wreck to a young family. And being a man of god I believe him of course. He promised to deliver a professional expertise to wash away my doubts. Yeah. One week more to wait.
Day by day I look at my photos. I roamed the internet checking classifieds on Leisure 27 boats, mainly sold in the UK for 13.000 to 16.000 GBP. I talked to my wife, made lists, compared hundreds of online-offers and thought of the pros and cons of OPONGA. Her engine – second one with more horsepower – looked like it had been installed yesterday. “I´ve barely seen such a clean engine-room on boats.”, he wrote in an Email afterwards. The boat has been refitted 2007. The price. The space. And it was already here, in walking distance!
To have more comparability I decided to have a look at another candidate: A Neptun 33 in Bremen. The boat was in such an awful condition that I refrained from taking pictures instantly. Apart from a weird cabin-layout I´ve found the engine-bilge full of water (strange enough, but the owner didn´t seem to care and only raised his shoulders as if this was the most normal thing in the world. I could even spot the engine under a thick layoer of rust … Well, no thanks.
A week later we talked on the phone. Father Braun read to me the expertise made by the CEO of the nearby yacht-wharf. The boat was in “excellent shape” and the cracks being visible only rip in a bit the too thickly applied antifoul-coat, but surely no structural problem with keel and hull.
What to do? What to do?
How did you manage to come to a conclusion whether to buy or not to buy your first boat? Feel free to share your story by commenting this article.