After Viribus Unitis we gave up the dream of exploring the world together on one ship and decided to do it with two ships in flotilla. And after Carmen and Iñaki quickly found, checked out and bought their dream ship – a Cal 246 called Blue – on the west coast of Mexico, we were restricted in our search radius. Because, for example, sailing from the Mediterranean over the Atlantic to the Caribbean and then through the Panama Canal to the west coast of Mexico takes at least 2 years if you want to take your time. If we had found and bought a boat in Europe, we would have had to give up our dream of traveling in flotilla. So, we had no choice but to try our luck on the west coast of the US and Mexico.
After several hours of searching for a boat on the Internet and shortly before giving up – we had already imagined that we would simply sail on Blue and look for suitable ships directly in the ports on site – David found one that was on our imaginary shortlist of blue water cruisers suitable for us: Scorpido, a 14m long Kelly Peterson 44. The ship was equipped for long cruises – the owners Eric and his wife Robyn had already sailed around the world. Scorpido was moored in Los Angeles and on our budget.
Since LA is not a stone’s throw away, we had to be sure that the purchase probability was high. So, we studied the pictures and information we had received intensively and asked Paul, our trusted surveyor, what he thought about it. We phoned Eric, the owner, several times to get to know him and to ask questions about the boat. All of the information and assessments collected made us feel good, so we decided to take a closer look at the ship. Iñaki wanted to accompany us, on one hand to support us laypeople with the visit, and on the other hand to visit his ship in Mexico and to work on it.
Three weeks later the time had come: David and Iñaki landed in LA at the end of July 2019! It was an arduous journey to get there. From Switzerland, we had to organize an inspector, a rigger (a specialist for the entirety of equipment that carries the sails and mast of a sailing ship), a mechanic and a haul out appointment from Switzerland on a date on which also the owners and we could be there. Phuhhh. The boat broker responsible for Scorpido offered to organize all of this for us, but since a broker always represents the interests of the seller, we thankfully declined and looked for our own, hopefully independent, inspectors. Thanks to intensive research (thanks!), David had reduced the list of possible top inspectors to a few. Unfortunately, it turned out that due to a long-ago incident, our favourite was banned from entering the marina where we wanted to haul out the ship. And since Eric didn’t want to go to the other possible haul out point, we had to switch to another inspector. It was complicated.
In addition, as described with Viribus Unitis, we had to submit an offer that had to be accepted by the owner and served as a preliminary contract. Since we were dealing with American law, we were particularly cautious and at the same time glad that we were able to use a standard form. Furthermore, we had to deposit 10% of the purchase price with the broker, which would cover any damage during the inspection and which underlines the intention to buy. Again, it was not easy to get a successful bank transaction into the US with the information provided. But we eventually managed to organize everything in the right place at the right time.
Another thing adding complexity was that I “had to” go directly from LA to London because I had planned to go on a narrow boat holiday on the English canals.
So, it happened that I flew to LA a day earlier due to the flight options available. I used this day to do the LA tourist program. For this I booked an Airbnb experience: the biggest LA sights condensed in 7 hours on a minivan. It included the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach, Little Venice and the Santa Monica Pier.
Then I picked up David and Iñaki from the airport with an Uber and brought them to our Airbnb in Long Beach. The two young hosts were totally relaxed and were not surprised about our yoga session in their living room..
Next was an appointment with the broker. He was a pleasant gentleman named Lon with many decades of experience. He kindly picked us up in front of the house and took us to the marina in San Pedro, where we could take a first look at Scorpido from the outside. In real life we liked her even more than in the pictures, and according to David KP44 are anyway the most beautiful sailing ships in the world (apart from Orcella of course). Afterwards Lon showed us the “Brouwerij West”, a local super cool brewery with street food, which should become our home pub. We chilled out in the best weather, explored the harbour area with a fun free ride and mentally prepared for the upcoming meeting with the owners and the intensive two days packed with inspections. Robyn and Eric had previously invited us to spend the few days with them on the ship. We thankfully accepted this offer, because it allowed us to try out life on board and also saved us the not-so-cheap accommodation costs in LA.
The next day, while we were settling in, looking at the whole ship from front to back with the owners, having everything explained to us and listening to their stories, the inspection of the rigging (mast and its fastenings) took place. The result was not a cause for concern, but it was still time to replace the entire rigging.
During our first inspection, we noticed that the bilge was anything but dry. But it should be. You could also perceive a rather penetrative, musty fragrance, which also indicated moisture in the ship. When asked about this, Eric said that it had always been this way and that it was normal for an older ship. Since we had dealt with the weaknesses of the KP44 in advance, we quickly suspected that this could be due to leaky fresh water tanks. But first we wanted to wait for the inspection, which might confirm our suspicions.
On day two of the inspections, we got our things out of the way, took out a notebook and pen, and were ready to follow the inspector and mechanic like shadows. Because one had to benefit from the experience of these people. Unfortunately, I found that the inspectors only shared their findings with David and Iñaki; they probably assumed that I was ‘only the woman’ aboard. The mechanic diagnosed that the engine hour meter was not working properly, the engine was overheating fairly quickly, and was not properly attached. The latter point in particular was quite serious because the engine could have been blown out of its suspension at any time due to its own vibrations. If the engine in the ship suddenly starts to wander, it is not the greatest thing since sliced bread.
In the meantime, the inspector put the ship through its paces: first moored at the dock in the marina, then during the passage to the crane for the haul out and then also the underwater ship. We were pretty excited when we got the ship ready to sail the few nautical miles for the haul out. And we were not disappointed: the ship ploughed steadily and comfortably through the water, past huge ships from all over the world that headed for the port of Long Beach, and sea lions that basked on the signal bins. And we felt it. We could imagine how we would sail the seven seas with Scorpido. Even during the haul out, where everything went great, we were nervous, as if it were our own ship being pulled out of the water on a trailer.
Unfortunately, we did not feel the final assessment of the inspector as much as sailing. The ship was only in a satisfactory condition, as evidenced by a long list of recommendations on what to do and the finding that the current price was around 30% too high. Since the owners returned from their circumnavigation in 2011, only minimal maintenance had been carried out. In their eyes, everything was new and had just been serviced.
The wet bilge was still a concern and we wanted to do a test to find out where the water came from. So, we dried the bilge completely, filled the water tanks to the stop and went to bed. The following morning the bilge was wet again and it turned out, as suspected, that the weld seams at the top of the tanks had rusted through and a repair or replacement was an extremely arduous task.
With all this information and unknowns, we were not convinced that this ship would become our new home. Although this trip to LA had cost us a fortune, we pulled back from the buying process. This decision was really not easy for us, because Scorpido was nevertheless a great ship …
Since everything had somehow gone faster than expected and we should have spent another night on Scorpido, but didn’t want it anymore, we had to find another solution. I decided to look for a place to stay on Venice Beach and to enjoy the LA flair a bit before I went to England. Unfortunately, the only affordable and short-term sleeping option was a bed in a bedroom of 6 in a youth hostel. For lack of alternatives, I had to bite the bullet. Since David did not return to Switzerland until three days later, he decided to accompany Iñaki to Mexico to his ship. Best decision ever (as it turned out later). They actually wanted to rent a car, but since Iñaki did not have a credit card and David did not have his driving license with him, they could not take the car that had already been reserved and had to switch to the Greyhound bus. What initially led to moderate depression should turn out to be a stroke of luck.
But: more about that, next week.
(This is the ending of every YouTube video made by the very inspiring White Spot Pirates.)