Ok, I was last here in 2011. I've been too depressed over the outcome of my first foray into the used 'fixer upper' boat
universe to come back and tell the story.
I bought a 35' Ferro Ketch
, which needed work. At the time it was cheap
(though there are cheaper/better now...) at $14k on the east coast
After some health
issues that ate money
and time, I finally got there to take her home, coastal.
Well. We got as far as Sydney
Harbour and struck trouble.
We got the engine
to work (after some time and tinkering) and it started easy and ran nicely. Got the boat to sea from Pittwater and after one false start on a day with a howling headwind and no main or jib
rigged yet (jammed halyard
and shredded jib
on a furler) we anchored in a bay overnight and motored on next day (around 30nm to the dealerships jetty where we were to pick up our promised tender
Half way, the water pump
on the old Yanmar
(an odd looking plunger thing on the side of the engine
that seems to run off a cam on the crank.)
Well that was a problem. We hove to and let it cool off, fortunately we'd allowed enough sea room for that sort of thing. The pump
was still pushing a little water
and after some experimenting, found we could get about 2-3 knots just above idle and it would take about half an hour or so to get hot enough to need a break. Set the mizzen which got us another knot
or so and got her to the dealers jetty and he found us a mooring
for a few days.
Tackled the pump
and found that to get it off was non trivial, only two bolts holding the sod on, but one couldn't be got at without removing other bits, which required removing other bits etc. Boat shed quoted $300 to fix it which is ludicrous considering it probably just need an O ring or two. So I started pulling it down. While this was going on, we noticed the floor had a bulge. Pulled the floor boards. Well. Seems that at some point, water
(probably rainwater or runoff from the shower) had penetrated into the keel
, which apparently used steel
punchings in a cement matrix as ballast - common in ferros). It had been 'repaired' by dumping a wheelbarrow full of cement on top of it. Probably worked for a while, but now the steel
in the keel
was still corroding and expanding, the cement 'cap' was pushing the wooden floor beam over it up to the extent it had broken in half causing a sizeable bulge in the floor. A brief look at the keel a day or so earlier (we grounded at close to low water on an uncharted mud bank fifty feet from the public wharf we used to load up - another story, but we floated her off ok with the tide, no drama) had revealed some marine
growth which is took the opportunity to clean off (told later that's not allowed in navigable waters - oh well - water police did pay us a visit, but boat was registered and I explained what happened and they just said if we couldn't get off to let them know and they'd come back with a bigger boat and help pull us off. (Anyone gives the NSW Water Police a hard time in my presence is going to get an earful). Anyway, the keel was perfectly intact, no cracks or other damage. The hull
had some rust throughs in places that I was fixing with mortar and Bondkrete and we'd started to paint
the upperworks while working to get the engine going. Looking at all I was sure if I could get it home, it would be tedious to fix but by no means impossible or even expensive. However given the stress it was obviously putting on the keel, I considered it might be very risky to sail it 1500 miles home through Bass Strait etc. So after a conference, we reluctantly left her with the broker
we bought her from (who in fairness was embarrassed he hadn't seen that issue) and went home empty handed.
The sad outcome of that was that the mooring
he found me was not his, as he stated at the time, but in fact an 'Emergency Mooring' which is apparently used by Maritime et al in emergencies only. Didn't know that and my illiterate son was the 'mooring hooker' and aside from checking the mooring each day, I didn't even look at the marker buoy. We don't have those where I come from or I'd probably have woken up then.
A month or so later I got a phone
call from NSW Maritime that they were going to impound my boat if I didn't get it off their mooring. I explained the situation and though they couldn't comment much, the particular dealer involved was 'known to them' and that many boats he sold
'wound up in their impound' reasons not stated. Uh oh.
I called him and asked if he could find a mooring for me as it wasn't possible for me to go to Sydney
at that time. I was planning to go again at the end of the year and try and fix the keel and engine issue if the boat hadn't sold - which it hadn't even at 5k less than I paid. This was due to the 'market changing' or so the broker
With some help from him, I found a marina that would let me store it there for a few weeks at least, and arranged with his business partner (or employee, that was never clear) to move the boat to the marina two days later.
I called the lovely lady from NSW Maritime and explained the situation. They really did sympathise and tried very hard to help and I have nothing but respect for their work. She very kindly agreed that provided the boat was gone from the mooring by the end of that week, they'd leave it there and she waived fining us for being there in the first place. Since the broker assured me the boat would be moved by mid week, which I told her, we were done and dusted. Or so I thought. Got a phone
call from her a week later - they had impounded the boat. $24 a day storage
, plus a couple of hundred in towing and impoundment fees
. I called the broker literally foaming at the mouth and he said, yeah, saw it being towed away. Sorry. I asked what happened as I had an agreement with his partner to move it. Seems he fell off a motorbike or something and decided it was all too hard. Unfortunately he didn't bother letting me know. Maritime would only release the boat to me on payment in full of all owing and subject to it being fit to moor. I tried for over a month to find a mooring, but I needed in total almost a thousand dollars for mooring and charges (which increased daily). They kept it over a month and then sold it at auction
for $1000, which didn't quite cover the fees
and charges. Out of the goodness of her heart, the Maritime officer recommended that they not pursue the outstanding fees and charges so I can't really find it in my heart to be tough on them. She was genuinely upset at our situation but the law tied her hands. So I did a small fortune in a month. I suppose we had a month's holiday on the water in Sydney and my landlubber wife (after some initially nerve wracking issues with small boats) was quite at home in 2m seas and modest swell on the way to Sydney Harbour - enough to help resecure the genset when the beam sea we were in snapped a tiedown loose. She was also seasick (on the mooring!) at first but the wife of a a very kind secondhand boat bits shop in the Pittwater area kindly gave her some 'accupressure' bands to wear - and to my slight surprise it worked fine, she didn't take them off the whole time until we left and didn't have any motion sickness thereafter, even on the trip to Sydney with a beam sea etc. And she got to sail under the harbour bridge and is still keen to do the whole boating
thing, so I guess that's a win.
I've been (very) tempted to try and sue the broker for breach of the verbal contract
to shift it, not to mention telling me the Emergency
Mooring was one of his, and recover at least some of my money
, but don't have the money left now to do it, particularly from half a continent away and he didn't respond to a suggestion that he might like to come to some arrangement. He's still in the business selling somewhat dodgy boats and in fairness, it seems some people have done ok with him. Also, he tried very hard to help earlier and prior to us getting there to pick up the boat, arranged mooring at his expense until we got there almost four months later to pick it up and he gave us a lot of support including loaning us his own runabout as a temporary tender
until we got to his dock
and picked up ours. I have to balance that with the fact that it wasn't him but his partner/worker that was the direct cause of the confiscation. That guy no longer works with him and he doesn't even know where he went, or so he says. I'm not even sure what the working relationship was, ie employee, a mate helping out, or some other business arrangement.
I am not a lawyer and can't afford to launch a civil action and even if I could, I'm not sure how I'd prove any of this so no guarantee of success. It's two years now but it still hurts. We really liked the boat and she would have come up fine in time. What really annoys me is that the boat was pretty much as I expected it to be, the motor
problem was trivial, it was in fact the gearbox
- nothing physically wrong, just stuck in gear
. I filled it with clean oil
and a liberal dose of WD40 and got it unstuck and into neutral. With it in gear
, the starter simply wouldn't turn the engine fast enough to start, and it took me a few days to realise what had happened, (probably a frozen dog clutch) and I only picked it up when I finally noticed the prop shaft was turning when the gearbox
was supposedly in neutral. Easy fix. With the exception of the water pump
(which worked fine for most of a week when we were prepping to go) the engine was smooth, quiet and started easily so no major issues. I've no doubt with enough time (which we were also short of - the Chief Officer wanted to be home in time for the birth of another grandchild and we had expected to be well on our way by the end of January with two weeks to get the boat home. As it turned out we didn't leave Pittwater until the 25th and spent over a week trying to sort the problems before conceding defeat. The broker seemed to think he could sell the boat so I took him at his word, packed the 'disposable' car (bought for $500 just for the trip -part of the deal was to give it to the broker when we left to cover his costs on the mooring) and went home.
With 20/20 hindsight, I could probably have rigged a cheap bilge pump
to feed seawater to the engine, however I was (perhaps overly) concerned about the keel popping off under stress. If it had been just me, I'd probably have risked it, but with two non sailors as crew (wife and son) I thought it was best to be cautious so made a command decision and stepped away.
I'm slightly happy I got the boat through into the harbour in the early evening dodging twilight racers, ferries and other stuff with barely steerage way and smoke from the hot engine burning oil
off it's exterior wafting out of the companionway
. I remember seeing someone in similar circumstances a month or two later (engine trouble, no sails
rigged) in virtually the same place having to call for rescue
, so I guess I can chalk that up as a win.
Well, now I'm hunting for something else. I don't have that kind of money anymore so my choices are now very limited. Realistically, my biggest problem was being a bit undercapitalised, the four month hiatus while I got some health
problems sorted cost us money and time (not for treatment but other things). Had I been able to fetch her soon after I bought her, most of it could have been sorted.
Would I do it again? Probably yes if the boat and price
were right. In many respects there was a lot of bad luck involved and in hindsight I would have done some things differently. The timing was bad and there was pressure to get home in time for the birth... many little things that went wrong.
That's my tale of woe. May you learn from it as I did.
Still keen to sail and cruise
, but I have to figure out how.
If you are in Sydney and know someone that bought a 35' Hartley Queenslander Ketch
from a Maritime Services auction
for a grand or so, I'd love to know what happened to her. If you were lucky enough to get her, I'd love to hear how you got on with her as well... Her name was 'Free and Easy' according to the nameplate I found...