Monday, June 14, 2010

Boat Quest, Part 14

Valiant 40 'Little Walk' - Photo 1It has been well over a year since I last wrote a Boat Quest post. The most recent one, Part 13, was about Otter II, the Valiant 40 I looked at with Stan Dabney while I was in Miami in January 2009 helping the Caouettes prepare their Valiant 40, Wild Iris, for a transatlantic crossing. Otter II sold several months later, much to my disappointment, before I could get anywhere close to making an offer. I went back occasionally to to check the Valiant 40 listings, but there were no other affordable boats worth considering.

Valiant 40 'Little Walk' - Photo 2Late last fall, I was checking the listings and noticed a 1980 Valiant located in Baltimore. As I looked at the photos in the listing's slideshow, I had the feeling that I had seen the boat before. I dug through my computer's photo archive and found the set of photos I had taken of Little Walk (Boat Quest, Part 10 and Part 11) back in May 2008 when I was in the Washington, D.C. area for an Internet conference. There was no question about it. It was the same boat, just located in a new place and listed with a new broker. I had not been able to get adequate answers from the previous broker to my questions about the boat's condition, so I had given up on it and assumed when it disappeared out of the listings that it had been sold. Apparently not. It was still priced higher than I thought it should have been but not as high as the previous broker said it would be based on some improvements the owner was putting into place.

Valiant 40 'Little Walk' - Photo 3I studied the description and the photos in the listing, and I studied the many photos I had taken myself. In addition to the basic design of the Valiant 40, which I had decided several years ago was the perfect boat for us, there were many features to like about this particular boat. Some Valiants have been almost excessively customized to meet the needs and desires of their owners, but not this one. It was close to stock, looking very much like it must have when it left the Uniflite factory in Bellingham, Washington back in 1980. The distinctive wooden hatchcovers, the fold-down saloon table, the tapered mast, the port-side pilot berth, the original electrical panel--it was all there.

Valiant 40 'Little Walk' - Photo 4I watched the listing compulsively through the winter, hoping for the right combination of factors that would make my dream of owning a Valiant 40 come true. The first factor was, of course, my wife Nan. If she was not in agreement, then that would be the end of it. But then, during her charmed birthday weekend in Denver back in January, Nan proposed the idea of living in Isla Mujeres, Mexico for a year. We could rent an apartment at Color de Verano on Laguna Macax. And since there is a pier right out back, we could maybe have a sailboat there to sail on weekends in order to help build Nan's confidence for more ambitious trips. Since I can work from anywhere that I can get a high-speed Internet connection, as I did last fall when we spent a month in Isla Mujeres, I was thrilled with the idea.

Valiant 40 'Little Walk' - Photo 5The second factor fell into place at the beginning of April: the listed price came down by $10K. At the previous price, the boat might never have sold, but at the new price, I was afraid it would sell quickly, so I called the broker to find out what it would take to put in an offer. He emailed me a form that I completed and faxed back to him, and I mailed him a deposit check for ten percent of the listed price--I didn't want to lose the boat to a better offer. I had been saving money in a "boat fund" for just this day since giving up on Sea Hawk back in November 2007. The offer was contingent on the results of a marine survey, so there was no risk of losing my deposit if the boat proved to be unseaworthy. I was able to coordinate getting the survey conducted before Nan and I left for our Central America sailing trip, but I wasn't able to get the results until we arrived in Roatan.

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