After the dream of Orcella (read about our humble beginnings here) had unfortunately vanished, we didn’t give up. In order to find our dream ship in the mass of yachts offered worldwide, we first had to narrow down the search criteria.
The most important points we quickly determined and were as follows:
A maximum of 200’000 Swiss Francs / 190’000€ / 206’000$
We’d be four or more people on board at all times. The ship had to be of an acceptable size so that there were possiblities to retreat. It is important to have space and privacy when you’re caged together in a small space all the time. We also wanted to be able to accommodate guests.
A pilothouse was needed. This structure brings the luxury of being protected from nasty weather and swell and still having an eye on the surrounding area and the ship itself. We have never heard of a owner of a sailing boat with a pilothouse who would ever forego the roof over his head.
Based on his experience, Iñaki knows very well which kinds of ships are suitable for long blue water sailing trips and which are not. Bad tongues would say, for example, that our Cape Verdean Whisky was more of an expensive sunbed than a sturdy long-distance yacht. Thanks to his input, we knew relatively quickly what to look for.
With these guidelines we rummaged through the many homepages on which ships are offered for sale. We quickly realized that the task would not be easy. In our financial framework, the supply of ships that met our expectations was very scarce.
After a few weeks of in- and extensive search, we were able to agree on a first trip to Spain. Near Alicante, three promising sailboats were moored in the same port. So we booked viewing appointments, our flights, and a nice Airbnb in La Manga del Mar Menor near the Marina Tomàs Maestre.
The arrival was easy; With flights directly from Basel to Alicante and rental cars, we quickly arrived at the Airbnb. There, we felt like we were in a post-apocalyptic film. The apartment was great, but the surroundings (as expected) were less. The entire region was in a great location on a promontory that protrudes into the sea, but built up with unsightly little houses and towers in which holiday apartments were stacked on top of each other. The place was also completely extinct since it was November and therefore low season.
The next day it was time – the tour of a first candidate who was supposed to take us out into the big blue. ‘Gran Atalaya’ was her name – she was a 65 foot (20 meter) steel sailboat. Our research had brought to light that she was apparently often used as a charter boat for day trips. We did not meet the owners of the ship, but a friend of theirs. Gaspar picked us up at a small restaurant in the marina where we ate our brunch – ‘Spanish Fries’. French fries baked with cheese sauce with chorizo and fried egg. Sounds disgusting, but is in fact a real treat. Back in Switzerland, we immediately had a go cooking our new discovery for the debriefing of the trip.
Then Gaspar took us to the ship, which was moored on a remote dock of the marina. Gran Atalaya must have been an absolute dream yacht back in the days. Her lines were breathtaking, the deck tidy and generous, her cabins very comfortable to luxurious in the stern, the galley felt like at home, the salon in the pilothouse was beautiful.
We hardly arrived, as disillusionment spread. Apparently, only pictures from good times were uploaded online that did not correspond to reality. Instagram for ships, so to speak. She was completely run down. We cannot understand how on earth you can do this to a sailboat. The engine room was a nightmare of dirt and cables, the hull seemed to have cracks and rust problems that had just been painted over carelessly, the teak deck was in questionable condition. Various ceiling covers sagged completely. Dirt and rust everywhere. As soon as we took a closer look somewhere, a problem appeared. We immediately saw that the entire offer was a joke, last but not least also because of the owner’s asking price.
So we left Gran Atalaya to her sad fate. During the subsequent walk through the marina, we could see Atalaya’s port side for the first time: Rust dripped from cracks in the hull. She was moored exactly with her other, visible side to the dock. Shamed be he who thinks evil of it.
We continued our stroll through the marina and suddenly spotted candidate two. A Lubbe & Voss steel yacht, also around 65 foot (20 meters) long. A mighty barge with beautiful wooden deck structures. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name. Of course, we had to look at her immediately, even if the appointment for the inspection was only the next day. It turned out to be a good idea.
When we got to the ship, work was going on. With Iñaki’s knowledge of Spanish, we found out that the workers were in the process of treating the engine room with a new paint job. That would be fine; the only problem was that the two men sprayed the entire engine compartment from top to bottom with a paint gun. Walls, ceilings, wiring, pumps, the engine itself – everything was covered with a thin white layer of paint. What madness. Now we already knew what to expect from the rest of the vessel.
The next morning, we met with the owner, a businessman with sunglasses and Maserati, on the ship for inspection. At first glance, the Lubbe made a much better impression than the rust pile from the previous day. But you could also see that she was more of an investment property than a lovingly maintained sailing ship. A good example of this was the anchor chain, which was rusted on the hull and could not be removed from it. At least on deck, the ship made a solid impression. Everything was where it had to be, the equipment was alright.
The whole thing looked a little different below deck. Although the Lubbe was actually a large barge, everything felt relatively cramped. The saloon in the stern with its huge semicircular sofa (10 people would have had enough space at the table) took up a large part of the interior, while the cabins in the bow of the ship felt very tiny. We simply couldn’t overlook this flaw. During our investigations, we also found evidence of moisture problems and leaks. The paint spraying action in the engine compartment, which probably should have taken place unnoticed, also left no better gut feeling.
There were no enthusiasts at work here, but people who simply wanted to get rid of a ship for as much money as possible. After all, we were able to fill our experience pack a little more, thanked everyone for their time and left the Lubbe to its owners again. Hopefully this awesome ship will find someone to give her the love she deserves.
Disillusionment spread again, but a third yacht waited to be inspected that same afternoon. We chose her because we found out at the last moment that she was also located in Marina Tomàs Maestre. This time the tour was at least personally accompanied by the owner. Charly was a kind elderly gentleman, owner and resident of his sailing ship, a 20m Wauquiez, which made a good overall impression. One saw that Charly took care of the boat and equipped her with many upgrades. The interior was also cozy with 4 cabins and spacious salon in the middle of the ship. The Wauquiez didn’t have a pilothouse, but she did have a large dog house (a roof structure with windows) for protection from spray and shitty weather. The ship was worn and torn, but still in an acceptable condition.
There was one huge problem. The headroom was a big drawback for Iñaki, the giant of our crew. When moving through the ship he had to keep his head drawn inat all times. It is simply not possible to constantly bend yourself and hit your head everywhere in the smallest swell. The effects over a long time were certainly not positive. So we sat a little bit with Charly on his ship and chatted about everything and anything before we returned to our Airbnb in defeat.
The next day we went on a little trip to Torrevieja, a pretty town a bit north with almost 80,000 inhabitants. The weather was fine, so we explored the alleys and huge harbor walls, enjoyed chorizo, wine and jamón and did not miss the opportunity to look for ships for sale in the pretty marina in the middle of the city.
Unfortunately, the search in Spain was not successful. While having a beer in the bar in the marina bar in Torrevieja, I looked around. Residents of ships and visitors sat with snacks and drinks or were on the way to and from their ships during the evening and the seagulls screeched. I thought to myself:
I guess, such a sailing life should be quite nice.