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Bonnie’s Adventures Buying Bearaway

Speculator Reborn as Bear Boat

by Bonnie Sue Schloss

Last Updated 2000 (Copied from Old J/30 website)


In 1986 I decided to buy a boat. I figured something in the 30 foot range was what I wanted. I saw a used J/30 advertised for sale and went to take a look at it. It was a well-raced boat, and not exactly what I would call aesthetically pleasing. So I let my head be turned by a lovely little Swedish boat, and I soon became the proud owner of Bear Boat an Omega 30. For the next eight years I was to be constantly barraged with the question “why didn’t you buy a j/30?” The situation became worse and worse until I finally started asking myself the same question. In the fall of last year I ran out of excuses, and finally decided that it was time to “just do ” it”.”

I figured that since I had made the decision to buy a J/30 the rest was going to be easy. Wrong. I of course expected the world to come running to my door begging me to take their used boats off their hands at incredibly low prices. Well, miracles do happen, after all Bear Boat and I had actually won a couple of races.

I began the search at the boat show when I started telling everyone I knew about my intentions. I got two immediate responses. Peaches and Speculator were both for sale. I went to look at Peaches that weekend, and two days later it was sold. Scratch one. Speculator I found out was listed at $48,000. Scratch two. Next I heard that Jimmy Allsopp was interested in selling his boat. So I went to take a look. All I could see was her bottom as she was being painted for frostbite. But rumor had it that she was definitely a fixer upper and unfortunately I was not a fixer upper. Back in the prehistoric days when I was going to school, little girls were not allowed to take shop. So when my peers of the opposite sex were learning how to handle tools and fix engines and other useful things I was learning how to bake cookies.

I got a call from a yacht broker telling me about a great boat in New York state that was in terrific shape and was an incredible bargain. It was still early in the game and I wasn’t interested in venturing into foreign countries like New York to buy a boat. And then I came across a real problem, I found out that J/30’s had two different cockpit arrangements. Options can seriously complicate life, and here I was already faced with a crucial decision. To cockpit or not to cockpit that was the question. The earlier boats without seats and cockpit coamings were going to be more reasonably priced, and easier to find. It was therefore obvious that I had to like the other arrangement much better. So I made the decision to complicate my life and buy a later model boat, which severely limited my options. At this point I decided that having more options might not be such a bad thing.

It was around this time that I heard a rumor that the price on Speculator had been dropped to $40,000. I still considered this out of my price range, but I figured it didn’t stop me from looking. So I called Larry Potter who owned the boat, and he was not only willing to show it to me, he offered to take me for a sail. So I gathered a few friends and we went down to the yard to meet Larry and go sailing. When I got to the boat the first thing I noticed, it would be impossible not to notice, was the large red stripe around the boat. I developed an immediate aversion to the large red stripe, but decided to go sailing anyway. It was a lovely fall day with light winds and we put up the main and the number one.

The boat had Ockam instruments which was sort of fun, but of questionable legality under class rules, and they didn’t seem to be telling us the truth either. Then as we were sailing around out there we were passed by a Pearson 30. The boat actually seemed to be in good condition but the sails weren’t and the bottom hadn’t been cleaned for a long time which was probably what had made it go so slow, and of course there was that ugly red stripe. The search continued.

I called Bob Rutsch at the J/30 Chesapeake Fleet who sent me lots of J/30 type information and gave me a few suggestions about boats that were available or might be available. Finding my new boat close to home didn’t seem to be a possibility, and I called what I thought would be the most promising name on the list. I was soon talking to a man in New York City named Arnold Zeigle. The more we talked the more excited I got. This had to be my future boat! The boat was a lovely shade of white, with just a thin blue pinstripe. It seemed to have everything on it that I could possibly hope for, and more– a decent set of instruments, autopilot, radio, shore power and hot water.

The owner talked about her lovingly and I just knew he had taken good care of her. He also told me that he had accepted an offer of $35,000, but the deal had fallen through. I called the broker involved who had more nice things to say about the boat. He did say that the offer that had been accepted before was $37,000. But he was a broker and I figured that it was his job to try to jack the price up.

The next day I was on the phone with Bill Mies who my boat was listed with. I figured it was better to have one yacht broker dealing with another one, and within days we were writing up an offer on the boat named Metaphor; and I was making plans to go see her. I learned that the boat’s keel and rudder had not been faired, a necessity for racing one design, and then I found out what fairing would cost me. I also found out what bringing her down here would cost and started thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a great deal. And then there was the question of the sails, which I found out weren’t quite as good as I had been led to believe. My offer was not accepted (the first ones never are), and I decided not to make another offer on it.

So I called Larry back and asked him if I could have my sailmaker look at his sails. He said sure, so I took Petey from North over to the boat. He took a look around and said, “wow this is a great boat in great ” condition, but you’ll need a new traveler, a couple more winches, the foreguy needs to be run to both sides, and by the way the sails are beat.” i called ” Larry again and told him what the sailmaker had said. He told me the sails were not that bad and the sailmaker was just trying to make a buck. I tried to get him to talk to me about what he really would sell the boat for, but he wanted to play the game. You know, make me an offer and then I’ll make you an offer, etc.

The next boat on my list was Kestrel which had sailed in Solomon’s. I had been ignoring this boat because I figured he didn’t have class sails and the boat had no instruments to speak of and no extras and was listed at $36,000. But you never know until you try, so I called the owner, only to find he was not the owner any more. He had bought a new bought and the dealer had taken the J/30 in trade. So I called the dealer and went to take a quick look at the boat. It was very cold the day I went to look at the boat, and I think my brain was half frozen; I thought it didn’t look too bad.

I made an offer on Kestrel and the broker and I settled on a price of about $26,000. I knew the boat needed work but at that price I figured I could hire someone to do it, I thought I had gotten a good deal. So I called Dick Stimson, friend and surveyor extraordinaire, and we went to Havre de Grace to do a survey. The first thing we found was gelcoat blisters, bad start. Dick checked the structural stuff and I had a good look around. It was filthy, but dirt can be cleaned. The tiller was bashed in, the compass and knotmeter were broken, and the loran and depth sounder weren’t working. There were lots of holes in the deck which had been patched with anything handy at the time. There was large patch on the hull and of course the color didn’t quite match. So I told myself I was buying a race boat, pretty wasn’t supposed to matter, and I really had wanted a complete set of KVH instruments. The boat was beginning to look like less and less of a bargain. Then Dick found the holding tank. When he announced that it was still half full I felt my stomach turn. This was not going to be my boat.

It took me about 24 hours to decide to stop looking for a bargain and buy a well maintained boat. I called Dick and asked him when he could go to Connecticut with me to check out Metaphor. Then I called my sister who has a boss with an airplane and he agreed to fly us up. The day dawned for our trip complete with snow warnings in the Northeast. Trip canceled. I decided to call Larry back and try playing his game. I offered him $32,000 and got a lot of silence back. I told him this was his game but in truth I was hoping to get the boat for $35,000. He said he would think about it and get back to me.

We planned another trip to Connecticut. More snow. I decided to take a more reliable form of transportation, but as I was on my way to Key West race week, the trip would have to wait. Dick and I made definite plans to drive up the weekend I returned. I flew to Ft. Lauderdale for the race to Key West. We were docked at Lauderdale Yacht Club when a J/30 pulled in behind us, also doing the race down. I immediately ran up to the owner and asked if he knew anyone selling a J/30, and he said his was for $40,000. Several people told me to stay away from the boat owner and any boat he might own. When he never made it to Key West I figured this was good advice. We did get to Key West and on my arrival I phoned my answering machine and got the word that Metaphor had been sold. None of this was working out as I had planned.

Back to the drawing board. When I got back to town I called everyone I knew looking for suggestions. Racing Bear Boat again seemed the best idea anyone had, after all she was at the top of PHRF C this year. But I have a stubborn streak and I had made up my mind I was going to be sailing a J/30 this summer. I took Dick to lunch and since it was his slow time of year he agreed to take a look at Speculator’s bottom. He took out his little hammer and tapped for a good long while. The bottom was in real good shape he said. Then we stopped at J/World and lo and behold as we walked in, there was a woman from North Carolina on the phone who had a J/30 she wanted to sell. I asked for more information as soon as possible on the boat and went home and called Larry. “weren’t you going to get back to me?” I asked. He made several excuses and told me he wanted $38,000 for Speculator. I told him I would get back to him.

Information on Blueprint, the boat in North Carolina, was slow in coming, and spring was coming fast. I put an offer on her hoping to speed up the process, and called Dick to see if he could go to North Carolina with me in two weeks. I also called my personal airline service figuring March in North Carolina was much less risky than December in Connecticut. It was all set except I never got a counter offer. In total frustration I called Larry and said let’s split the difference I’ll give you $36,500. He said he’d think about it. This time he thought quickly and left me a message the next day saying I could have it for $37,000.

So now I am the proud owner of a J/30 with a big ugly red stripe. And I’m thrilled to death, mostly because the ordeal is over and I finally have a J/30 to call my own. She’s a good boat in great shape and I am in debt up to my ears. And it gets worse everyday as I figure in the cost of the new sails and new equipment and all the little fixes she needs. But we’ve been out sailing on her and she’s worth every penny I don’t have that I’ve spent on her. The stripe may have to stay for a couple of months but when I can get her painted and have her new name “bear away” put on her sides she will truly be the boat I have dreamed about all winter long.

See you on the race course.

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