Friday, November 27, 2009

Visiting a Selene 53

What an opportunity! My friend Don shares a similar but different disease in loving boating. But Don is a fisherman. He's got a 26' Grady White - one of the best fishing boats made. And let's just say that he gets good use out of it. His enthusiasum for boating is so strong that his son has caught the bug and works for the local Grady White dealer. So I guess it runs into the family.

A couple of months ago I ran into Don at a party. I was telling him about my apsirations to liveaboard with Joan and he asked if I'd talked to anyone who's doing it. Gee, that hasn't occurred to me yet. What a good idea!

Turns out that Don has fellow fishing friends that also liveaboard a 53' Selene. So today Joan and I went with Don for a tour. The weather here in Seattle was unusually beautiful, so it was a perfect day for a tour. The view at Elliot Bay Marina was just stellar. I'm going to have to take a walk down the dock on a rainy, nasty day, so I can see what we're in for. Because today all I can think of is, "YES!"

J'Anna and Larry were quite the hosts and totally ready to show off their boat. They've been living aboard for a number of years now...previously in a 42' Grand Banks. This was perfect! By the time they'd ordered the Selene, they knew a lot about what they liked and didn't in boats, so this boat was really set up exactly the way they wanted it. In fact, they made two trips to China to see it built, and to customize it to their specifications. Now that's the way to do it!

I don't expect to be so lucky, but for instance, I really liked the way they had the galley setup. They altered the side of the salon across the galley, eliminating a window in lieu of a full height Sub Zero refrigerator with two drawer freezers below. Very nice! This also gave the main galley area more workspace by eliminating the refer. The stove and oven are both electric. No propane here. They learned in their previous boat that when on the hook, the generator almost always needs to be running if for no other reason than to recharge the house batteries. So why have the propane complexity? The smooth glass cooktop also allows anyone to use the area as a plain counter when not cooking. This is a great deal when your counterspace is limited already. I expect to be making some modifications on whatever boat we end up with, so input like this is golden.

Another question I had is why go to a 120v refrigeration unit? Larry explained that 12-volt units are made in such limited quantities that they generally are a lot less reliable. In the past, they'd experienced the refer going out about every 6-8 weeks for a spell there. So basically, everything in the fridge was wasted. That wouldn't last long for me! Meanwhile, 120v refers are typically made by the 1,000s, so they're much more reliable. Parts are easier to find, etc. Makes sense!

The rest of the tour was great. Larry gave me a lot of context to many systems in the boat. One engine instead of two, bow thrusters, stern thrusters, etc, etc. I really appreciated his perspective on heating systems. Fussy! They went through three systems before finding one that was reliable and comfortable enough for their Grand Banks. All this info is really great to know BEFORE you buy.

Another thing I was grappling with was comparing an aft cabin boat to the pilothouse style. An aft cabin boat will put the master stateroom behind the salon, and the guest accomodations forward. This is nice for separation of the host from their guests -- at least in theory. But to me, this tri-cabin layout requires a lot of stairs up and down, and when you exit the boat on a rainy day, you walk right into the weather, rather than into the covered cockpit area in back. That seems unpleasant! J'Anna totally agrees with the weather issue, but didn't think that separating the accomodations with the salon means much. "It's still a boat with limited space. No matter how big the boat is, you're still on top of each other." J'Anna should know. She's had both boats!

Thanks J'Anna and Larry for the great tour. And the great context! And thanks Don for putting the tour together!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm a mileage freak.

Let's talk MPG.

What boater does that? Isn't that masochistic?

I prefer the perspective that it's perilous to NOT know how much fuel you'll be burning. I mean, when you plan any vacation, do you not consider the value you are getting for the amount you're spending? I do. This is why I resent paying more than $100/night at a hotel (which is getting more and more difficult, of course).

Back in college I bought a diesel Rabbit. It was a great car. Lots of fun to drive, and very reliable. I had a job delivering pizzas at Dominos, and they paid me by the mile, so with that and tips, I was making good $$. So when I started looking for what turned out to be the Contessa, I ran into a Chris Craft Cavalier with twin 350 Crusaders. When I asked the owner about fuel usage, he replied, "this boat isn't for you." Well, he couldn't have been more right!

When I narrowed my boat choices down to the Contessa, I quickly learned that depending on the year, you can get a sterndrive made by Volvo (82-87), OMC (87.5-89) and Mercruiser (90-newer). The Volvo has the reputation for being the most efficient, and most reliable of the three, and the mileage difference between the three is impressive. At 21kts, we are talking 9 vs 12 vs 14 gallons per hour! So, not only does my boat have the efficient Volvo drive, it's also a duo-prop unit and the engine is fuel injected. This combination yields just under 7 gph, or more than three miles per gallon! Match that anywhere - I dare ya!

Okay, enough gloating. So when I look at these bigger liveaboards, MPG is important to me. Of course, the first thing I realize is that I'll need to slow down. A displacement hull is likely in my future, though some boats, like the soft-chine 48' Tollycraft, might give me the option of great economy at displacement speeds, and still reasonable economy at 10-13kts. We'll see. But this is one of the first things I'm looking for...

Okay, here we go

Bill here. I've really got the boating bug. I'm 1/3 owner of a 1985 Bayliner Flybridge Contessa here in Seattle. What a great boat. I don't know of another boat I'd rather own at this point in my life.

But I definitely have 15-25'-itis. 2'-itis is for guys that always want more. My itis is because of a picture I have for my wife Joan and I to liveaboard. Our youngest daughter is five years from college, so I'm using this time to get to know all sorts of boats that we might liveaboard. Between now and then I really don't see leaving the Contessa partnership -- it's too great a deal and too perfect a boat for our current use.

So I picture my blog entries to be more about what I learn between now and when we can move aboard. I've learned a lot already, and now I'm getting a bit confused. So this is a diary of what I've seen, and what my reaction to it is at the time that I learn. Hopefully, I can go back and make notes on each boat as I learn more about it, it's power system, it's seaworthiness, etc.

Right now, I'm heavy into the 50-ish foot Pilothouse cruiser. Something that will run offshore is appealing because I'd like someday to be able to reposition the boat to the Sea of Cortez for use down there for a season or two. This would, of course, require a pretty significant change of life for both Joan and me. Our jobs, our friends, what we consider beautiful (Joan's not really excited about the desert), etc.
This is a 1980 Defever 49. It's considered a very well made offshore cruiser and there are many of these plying the waters of the West Coast and the Carribean. In fact, I've been following another blog that features this boat. Check out the Pederson's blog at: They just transited the Panama Canal this week - doesn't that sound exciting. That's probably more than my wonderful wife could handle (and the idea of high seas cruising makes me a bit nervous too).

The nice thing about considering all this is that there's lots of time to consider all the options...