The Dream is Born

This is the story of the trials and tribulations of finding, buying and outfitting a cruising yacht for our retirement home. We had lived in a large A Frame home in Wonder Lake, IL since 1976. From 1976 through 1985 Sander worked for a manufacturer’s representative firm. At the end of that time he took over the business which was located in Wheeling, IL and required a commute of more than an hour each way. In 1983 we moved the office to the basement of our home. This move allowed us to find time during the day to work on personal projects and later proved to be a very important advantage. Jane spent the majority of her professional life as a public school teacher moving to the family business in 1990.

In 1987 Sander purchased a Cessna 182, a 4 place single engine aircraft. During the years from 1987 through 1995 we used this airplane extensively and traveled as far as the British Virgin Islands. Travel over the ocean served to give us a trust in our abilities of navigation, communications and pushing beyond the boundaries of comfort. It also opened our eyes to the wonderfully diverse cultures around the world.

For Christmas vacation in 1993 we traveled with some local flying friends to the BVI and rented a bare boat to cruise the islands for ten days. This was the first real experience that Jane had with living aboard and she loved the whole thing. After that vacation the idea of living aboard and cruising could no longer be left on the back burner.

Certain decisions had to be made regarding the type of boat we wanted: the materials of construction and the amenities that were needed or even wanted. Due to the extensive amount of blue water sailing that we had planned we decided that the boat hull would need to be either steel, aluminum or, as a last resort, a very heavy fiberglass. We were also looking for the type of rigging that could be handled by two people. Because we do not enjoy being tossed about outside during a storm, we also decided that a pilot house would be an extremely large plus for us.

There are few metal hulled used boats available in the USA. Many cruisers argue our need for metal. A steel hulled vessel can easily be repaired any place around the world where a welding torch is available. Aluminum hulls are not as easily repaired as welding aluminum requires an inert gas to shield the weld from oxidation during the welding process. This is similar to the shield that is present on steel welding rods and essentially serves the same function. Add something about disadvantage here The advantage of aluminum over steel is the ability to take a temporary patch when needed. A patch can be bolted or screwed into place until a final fix can be accomplished elsewhere. It may not be pretty, but it will work. Fiberglass repairs are simply non existent in some areas of the world. We have read some horror stories about glass boat owners having to air freight all of their materials from the USA in order to affect needed repairs themselves.

From a safety and efficiency aspect steel or aluminum seemed to be the best choice. They are obviously not the best choice from a maintenance standpoint. Steel rusts and the joining of any dissimilar metals aboard an aluminum boat can be a nightmare. The choices that we make in a boat are always a toss-up.

Having decided on the basics we started our search over Christmas vacation of 1994 in Florida. We looked at approximately 15-20 boats during that time period. One boat, Satori, had all that we sought: aluminum hull, pilot house with inside steering, an engine room with enough space in which to work. It was even more than we had ever dreamed of owning and had a price tag to match. We crossed it off our mental list but could not forget it when comparing other boats that we examined.

Returning to Chicago we continued to deal with brokers around the country to see what else might be available. Because most brokers use the same multiple listing system, we kept seeing the same basic list through those months. Late in January we learned that the price on the Satori had dropped somewhat and we began to look creatively at our financial situation. Early in February Sander flew to south FL again to look at several other possibilities. At that time he spent about 3 hours aboard the Satori again. Could we actually buy this gorgeous boat? If everything worked out we might be able to pull it off! We made an offer and it was accepted. Sander sold some property and his airplane in order to pull together the down-payment. The closing was set for the middle of April and we faced the task of finding the financing for a French made boat that was 15 years old and unfamiliar to all in the U.S. market.

The search for financing turned out to be the most frustrating task of all. We contacted numerous brokers submitting all of the necessary information. They all needed to know the tiniest details of our lives. One after the other came back with a rejection: declining personal income, declining corporate income, insufficient collateral, collateral that was not liquid, larger loan that we had ever had in the past etc etc. Given the situation at hand and our desire not to give up, we decided that we would need to raise most of the capital ourselves. We had only one offer for a boat loan covering about 28% of the cost. It was not a good deal for us but was the only game in town. A second mortgage on the house and the cash that we were able to raise combined to do the job.

As the actual date of the closing neared, we were caught in a flurry of activities. It was inevitable to have some sleepless nights. Because the Satori had been involved with having her tops and hull repainted we had not been able to take sea trials. We were making the biggest purchase of our lives without ever having sailed this boat. A friend of ours agreed to make the trip to FL with us for the closing. Jim had owned several boats through the years and came the closest to being an expert within our circle of friends. We thought that he would sail part way back with us before needing to return for prior commitments. The best laid plans never do pan out as we were soon to discover.

The visit to Ft Lauderdale did not begin on a positive note. We arrived about 2:30 exhausted from our road trip and nervous with the excitement of what we were about to do. We had reservations at a local hotel that night. The manager claimed to have lost Jane’s charge card slip and Jim had to change his room because his air conditioning failed. None of us could claim to be well rested the next morning on the way to the closing.

Because there were several issues unresolved due to a lack of sea trials and work that remained to be completed prior to splashing the Satori, 10% of the purchase price was held back. A specific punch list was agreed to by owner and buyer at the closing. We all felt that the list was clear cut and simple. Perhaps we only wished them to be simple.

The past owners of the Satori were Dutch citizens, Kees Hollander and his wife Willie. Sander is also of Dutch decent. That common heritage was the extent of what Kees and Sander would share.

The night of the closing was spent aboard the Satori while on jack stands at the Riverbend Marina. The next day all the seacocks were reinstalled and the name and hailing port applied to the boat. In the late afternoon she was back in the water. That night we had some shocking electrical experiences. We had installed a new bank of house batteries consisting of eight 24 volt bolt batteries were plugged into the available 110 volt shore power utilizing the original boat power cable. This cable was coiled up in a large reel. Later we were to discover that the ground connection in this cable had been removed. Additionally, this cable was no larger than a common extension cord forcing it to act as a transformer. It grew so hot that it had to be rolled out on deck and hosed down to prevent its melting.

Sander was in the engine room and touched the 24 volt charger while leaning on the fuel tank when he received an electrical shock. In the meantime Jim was in the pilot house and also received a shock. Measuring the current told us that we had 110 volts AC going through the hull indicating a dead short somewhere on the boat. In retrospect we feel that most of the current was being dissipated by the aluminum hull which saved the day for Sander and for Jim. The shore power was disconnected right away and an emergency call was placed to Ward Electric who had already installed a galvanic isolator for us and furnished a 110 volt transformer.