A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Plans and Custard

“The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay”. The much mis-quoted line from Robbie Burns’ old Scottish poem, “Tae a moose” (To a mouse), which loosely translated means: “no matter how good your plan, it’ll often turn to custard!”

First the plan of sending the dinghy and 5HP Mercury outboard over to the USA as suggested in my last posting. I checked with US Customs and found no issues with the dinghy, just a 2.4% import duty to pay and a requirement to prove ownership. DO YOU THINK I CAN FIND THE ORIGINAL INVOICE!! I found the credit card receipt, an invoice for re-tubing my old dinghy which was done at the same time…but no document that said I own the new dinghy. I rang the manufacturer who told me that they had bought the Company just after I bought my dinghy and they would have to go through the old paper records to find an invoice. They sounded quite reluctant to do this, but a week later (bless their little cotton socks) they faxed me a copy of the errant document.

The outboard has a 1% duty and is required to meet US EPA emission standards. No probs – the manual that came with it says it does. It also says that the motor has a decal on it saying so. Nope….no decal. Also the manual was written in 2006 and it appears that in 2010 the EPA rules hardened up and, of course, my motor was manufactured in 2010. I have emailed Mercury in Australia and the USA and even sent the US a fax asking clarification but, surprise surprise, no answer from either. Probably not high on their priority list. It looks like the motor will have to stay here….I was wondering why there were no new 2 stroke outboards being sold in the USA – I suspect this is the reason. Still, an AGLCA member has advertised that he has a 4HP Mercury for sale and I may be able to catch up with him on my boat buying trip in September and buy it off him – so at least we’ll own a motor in the USA, if not a boat! – although what we will do with it until we arrive is another matter.

And speaking of the boat buying plan: In making the appointments with the brokers to see all of these prospective Loop boats, we eventually came to the conclusion that there were too many boats over too long a distance, and too little time. Since we don’t want to reduce the number of boats to look at, and can’t do anything about the distance, we had to increase the time. As all the flights were already booked for both of us, and rental cars and hotels also, we couldn’t add on to the end, so instead have brought forward my departure by 5 days. This brought additional airfare costs and cancellation costs for a hotel in LA, but gives me more breathing space for the boat viewing, particularly around Chicago. (although I am now going to be there over a holiday weekend – so I hope the boats will be available!) There is also a Looper get together in Chicago on that weekend, so I am going to attend that and I am hopeful of catching up with the AGLCA member with the outboard – so some dark clouds have silver linings.

On the subject of clouds – it snowed in Auckland yesterday. The first time in 70 years and the coldest day ever recorded here. So much for Global Warming!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Boat Buying

A couple of weeks ago I “hit the wall” regarding the Loop planning and it all started to get a bit daunting again. There is a lot to buying a boat anywhere and the plan to “go over and buy one next June” suddenly began to develop a lot of flaws. Firstly, there are just so many of them and they are so spread around except for the ones we thought we really wanted, like the Meridian 459 and Carver 444 of which there are very few and they are spread even further around. Then I came to the realisation that, in planning for the Loop, you have to have a starting point and a starting date – neither of which are possible until we have a boat ready and waiting. Finally (and I should have thought of this earlier) everyone in the Great Lakes region puts their boat away in a heated shed or wrapped up on the hard over winter because it freezes up there and they don’t go back into the water until after May. If we want to leave Chicago in August, and have a month or so to shake down the boat before we leave, that only gives us a month to find, and buy a suitable boat – and that just ain’t enough time!

So, it was time to revisit the whole boat buying plan and we began by widening the criteria for suitable boats. We wanted a cockpit, but there are only the 2 mentioned above that have them with the layout we want. Do away with the cockpit requirement and suddenly you have 14 to chose from. These are: 

Meridian 459 (cockpit) or 408
Carver 444CPMY (cockpit) or 396
Carver 456 and 466
Cruisers 4450/455, or 405/415
Silverton 43 and 453
Sea Ray 420AC
Maxum 41SCA.

The next thing was to look at the territory we had been searching. Canada, the NY river system, and the lower Mississippi became just too hard to manage, so we restricted it to just the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi and Tennessee/Ohio river areas. This brought up around 40 boats on our shopping list in an area that would require around 2000 miles of travel to see them all. We then started contacting the various brokers to ensure that the boats were still available (the vast majority were!) before making plans to travel to the USA and look at them before they all get shut away for the winter.

The upshot of all this is that I will leave NZ on the 4th September and fly to Minneapolis where I have some business to do (and there are a couple of boats to look at!) and then to Chicago. There I will pick up a rental car and drive down to Pickwick Lakes, Chattanooga, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, up to lake Eerie, Detroit and around Michigan before returning to Chicago. Below is a map of the area with driving distances (in miles) and where the various boats are. At this time I have 37 boats to look at in 8 days – although some of them may be dismissed beforehand once I see what the models are actually like. Carolyn will fly across to Chicago on the 16th, by which time I will have a short list of suitable boats for her to look at. We then have another 7 days to decide which ones we would consider making an offer on before we fly out on 23rd.

Once a purchase is finalised the boat can be stored away for the winter (although it probably already will be) and we will have a starting point and time to aim for. We will also know what is needed to provision her and, if necessary, can send a shipment of stuff from NZ rather than buying it all over there. eg only one of the boats on our shopping list has a dinghy, so I could ship my (deflated) RIB and brand new 5HP Mercury outboard over, rather than sell them here. We could then put a lot of other stuff in the crate to make it worthwhile. We can also get the New Zealand registration carried out while we are still here, which will be a lot easier than trying to do it by “remote control” from the USA.