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How we bought a $12,500 sailboat with $0

It was the summer of 69’—Just kidding, more like 2018. So—there we were with our 2 children, Aiden (9 at the time) and Paisley (4 at the time) with our 21’ Clipper Marine sailboat sailing and sleeping aboard on Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho. The boat had a v-birth and a quarter aft birth, and it was very tight. If you were over 3’ tall you were basically crawling to get into the bed. Even so, we loved that boat.

I (Bryan) love online window shopping for sailboats. We didn’t have any extra money at the time for a new boat but dreaming of having something a little larger and more practical for our overnights was still exciting.

I came across a listing one day for a Laguna 26’ in Boise, Idaho for $12,500 and the thing was a dream. Most sailboats listed in our area need tons of TLC and almost none are this size. But there was the price tag and I had to move on.
A couple months went by and I happened upon that listing again. Recently I had just watched a TED Talk on the Red Paperclip (this is a good one). Basically, this guy has a red paperclip and eventually through many trades ended up trading that red paperclip for a house (a real house—not Barbie’s dream home).

I of course didn’t think I could go to my desk drawer, find a paperclip, and then see if the owner would like to make a trade. But the idea came to me that maybe there was something I could trade in order to make a deal.

So, what did I do? I asked. I emailed the seller, I explained how much our family had grown to love sailing and the community and that I am a graphic designer and web developer and if by chance I could trade any of these types of services I would love to see if we could make a deal.

The seller emailed me back and although was very intrigued about the idea decided it was not for him.

Two months went by and I opened my email and to my surprise the seller had sent me an email. He said, “if you would like to come take a look at the boat, I think I would like to take you up on your offer!” I almost couldn’t believe it. You hear about these things but I’m not one to think that they work out for me.

I went and looked at the boat and he asked me what I thought about it and if it was still a boat I was interested and I was overjoyed to say yes. We made the deal and I drove the boat home later that week.

I think I would just like to say, if you really want something, even if it seems a little crazy, it doesn’t hurt to try and, in this case, just an email of me asking, allowed us to buy our 26’ Laguna for $0.

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Why We Decided to Start Sailing

A love for the water and adventure
Tabby and I both have a love for the water, whether that’s the ocean or fresh water. I grew up water skiing, wakeboarding, and pretty much anything you could ride behind a boat at our nearest lakes, Lucky Peak in Boise, Idaho and Payette Lake in McCall, Idaho. Every year for the past 33 years my family, grandparents aunts and uncles, and cousins have gotten together to enjoy a week on the lake and all of the activities with the we water we enjoy so much.

I grew up in Boise and have never lived anywhere near the ocean. Tabby, however, grew up on the east coast in Maine. She has also lived in Florida, Hawaii, and Japan. She has a very different experience than I do living by the ocean, eating fresh fish and lobster, and experiences you can’t have living in a landlocked state.

Tabby and I met each other at Boise State University working for the school’s newspaper, the Arbiter. She broke things, I loved to fix them—a trip to Playa del Carmen and that’s when I proposed. We ended up getting married the next year on a beach in Playa del Carmen at the Sandos Resort.

We spent two weeks there relaxing on the beach and taking a trip to Cozumel. We rented a scooter and went around the whole island stopping at so many fun little spots along the way. One place we stopped at for lunch, which I would most definitely recommend, was this place on top of a cliff, right before you turned to cut through the island to get to town, called Coconuts. We thought it was named after the fruit. We were wrong.

A trip to San Diego
For our third anniversary, we decided that a quick four-day trip over to San Diego was the perfect idea. We were cruising through listings in the area and found a retro cool hotel on the water at Sunset Cliffs (The Inn at Sunset Cliffs). We booked that one for 2 of the nights. Then we came across a rather interesting listing, something we did not even think about—a sailboat! The boat was a 39-foot Hunter. We had no clue what that was, but the pictures looked awesome and would give us an experience we never had before.

A Hunter 39′ Sailboat Airbnb
We arrived at the Sunroad Resort and Marina where we would be staying aboard a Hunter 39′ that we had found on Airbnb. We were pretty excited about this experience being so different than anything we had done before. We met with the owner’s mother who was super nice, she gave us the gate code to get in and the keys to the boat. She showed us around the marina which had a pool, hot tub, and a nice shower room. I was pretty impressed already with the marina having only been to marinas at our small lakes back home. She took us to the boat and showed us how to get in. The boat had one bathroom (head) and a shower. It seemed very spacious with an aft birth and the V-birth. The boat was in very good condition. 

Sailing Vlogs
After our trip to San Diego I was looking on Google about how to sail and came across a Project Atticus’s episodes on YouTube. I was intrigued and started watching their videos. Cruising on a budget was their thing and they bought a boat for 5k and then did a refit. After 2 years they left Florida for the Caribbean with only $2,000. I thought this was so cool. I watched every video they had then wondered how many other younger people were on this adventure on the ocean.

I found a ton of people who decided that this was for them vs. the suburban lifestyle. After Project Atticus, Sailing Soulianis was next, and I was so impressed with their story and had to give it up to the video quality and stories they shared. You can tell they spent a lot time on these. Below is a list of some of my favorite vlogs I’ve watched.

Project Atticus really got me into thinking I would love to sail offshore one day, Sailing Zatara gave us the inspiration that we could possibly do this with our kids, Sailing Soulianis for the book recommendation and giving me ideas on how we could pay for a cruising adventure, and Expedition Evans for making me believe there might be room on the internet for another unique story about finding adventure and new experiences sailing the ocean with our family.

A special thanks to all of the inspiration that got our adventure started:
Project Atticus | Sailing Soulianis | Sailing Uma | MJ Sailing | Gone with The Wynns | Expedition Evans | Sailing Zatara


Made with ♥ and Fair Winds,
Bryan, Tabby, Aiden, Paisley and Charlie
Sailing Tipsy Turtle

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We bought a boat that sinks…

First Question—Why?

Answer: We don’t know what we’re doing

What do you look for when buying a boat? I took to google and read the long list of things to look for when buying a boat. The beginning of the list started off with a strong suggestion to hire a boat surveyor to give the vessel the proper walk through. Since the boat I found on Craigslist was $1,500 I couldn’t justify paying $500-$600 that google said it might cost to have someone look at it. Some of the things I was going to look for included:

  • Leaks
  • Spongy Decks
  • Engine Problems
  • Sails
  • Water Damage

  • Chainplate Corrosion
  • Rig Problems
  • Keel and Rudder Corrosion
  • Oder
  • Canvas
  • Cracked Bulkheads and Stringers
  • Through Holes
  • Hoses and Clamps
  • Running Rigging

The Boat

A 1972 21′ Clipper Marine

21′ Clipper Marine Sailboatdata.com

I wanted to get a little more information on the boat I found and I had one big question. How easy was it for a sailboat tip over? Again I have never been on a sailboat and my father has a rather large fear of open waters—mainly because of sharks.

The thought of being in the water with sharks does seem scary but after some googling on I found you have a better chance at getting struck by lightning and was good to go. Also, after googling—sharks are most definitely not the only thing to be worried about when sailing offshore.

Back to how easy it was to tip (capsize)—I found out there is a thing called the Capsize Screening Formula that sailboatdata.com provides. For this particular boat that was 2.39. Was this a good or bad number? What I was able to find online was that a number higher than 2.0 was more prone to capsizing when offshore. So with that information and knowing we are only going to be taking this boat on the lakes in Idaho near Boise I was comfortable with it’s Capsize Screening. This formula is much more complicated than stated above and like I said, It greatly depends on what type of sailing you are doing and where. I found a great read for more information here:  oceannavigator.com/assessing-stablity/

Inspecting the boat

I arrived where the boat was stored in Nampa Idaho. The seller was nice, a teacher by profession and had a fascination with the outdoors and adventuring. I asked why he was selling the boat and he said after learning how to sail with this boat he was going to take up kayaking. I love that this was his first boat and that he learned to sail with it.

So with my vast amount of knowledge in surveying (haha) I went around, on and in the boat—tapping and inspecting things I had no clue what they were called or really even what to look for. The boat was a 1972 and definitely looked like hell. For me though, this felt like the boat our family would learn to love, fix and learn how to sail.

I offered the seller $1,250 and the seller accepted the offer. I drove the boat home to surprise the family. Did I mention my wife Tabby had no clue I was looking at and buying a boat? I don’t think I will be doing that again ;).

Putting up the mast on our new/old sailboat

After researching how to put up the mast (we did not do a good job here) we got a sitter for the kids, grabbed my mom and a friend and left for Lucky Peak, the closest water we could launch our new boat into.

We got to the marina and began the prep work, getting the boat ready to put in the water. Once the boat was ready we slipped her into the lake (reservoir). So I had never drove a boat without a steering wheel. At the time I didn’t even know what the stick was that I would be steering with but I was eager to just get out on the water. It’s called a tiller (insert hand slapping face emoji here).

Surprisingly—with just a couple pulls of the starter rope we got the old crummy looking 6hp Evenrude outboard motor started. I untied our dock lines, pushed off and slipped the motor into the forward position. We were off. It didn’t take long to get the hang of steering the boat with the tiller and soon we were in the middle of the lake. We decided, hey, let’s put up the sails! We are a sailboat. We got the sails up, not pointing the boat into the wind with the motor (insert hand slapping face emoji here) but they were up and we were actually moving.

Nope, we did not know what point of sail we were on because we had never heard of that and didn’t know what that meant. But for our first time ever being on a sailboat, raising the sails and actually moving—was a pretty magical feeling.

Taking on water

With the sails up and the winds to our backs, I thought this was a great time to grab a drink from down below. Before stepping into the boat I noticed something was out of place. There was water in the boat! Probably 10 gallons or so if I would have to guess. I told Sean, our friend who had joined us for the day to come take a look with me. The water was not coming in fast, so that felt like a little bit of a relief. Still, there was enough water in the boat that it was concerning.

This boat did not have a bilge pump, so we grabbed our drink cups and started bailing out water before we inspected where the leak was coming from. For a minute I thought, shit, I bought a boat that was going to sink the fist time we put it in the water. But after 10 or so minutes with the cups, the water was mostly gone. We found that the keel bolts were the culprit. It was a very slow drip. We dried it off best we could and threw on some duck tape. This seemed to stop the drips for the time being and the boat was no longer taking on water.

We had a drink and continued to learn the ropes, or lines—sheets? I was pretty confused at the time and couldn’t keep the terminology I read straight.

All in all—I would call our first launch of a sailboat a success.