SA’er ‘ravings’ tells the 3 year story of buying, refitting, and getting a somewhat neglected Swede 55 from a figment of his imagination to his home port in the UK. More on the thread here, and a great Swede 55 thread with tons of pics over here.
Three years ago, an old sailing friend came to me with a theory – Big old fibreglass boats are far cheaper in the USA than they are in the UK. A few days later after scooting about the internet, I had to concur.
Two years ago, I get a call: “There’s a Swede 55 on yachtworld for $70,000, needs work”
This is ideal, we are both keen amateur boatbuilders, plus he used to work for Ian Ridge, I used to help them out. Work on a boat is good for us, plus it’s (then) $2 to £1. Two days later, we are on a flight to JFK. We have lined up five boats to look at varying in price & condition. We hire a car, and take a trip around Connecticut & New York.
The conditions are awful on November 6th 2007, gale force winds, driving rain and election fever on the car radio. We look at a Compass 47, a Sparkman & Stevens, A Hunter 48. They are ok, but….
Then we see the Swede. She is tatty, but beautiful, and has a new engine. My reaction is that she needs too much work, but my friend is adamant she is the boat to buy. We go to the brokers & make an offer, and they phone the owner, only to be told someone else has made a lower offer which he said yes to.
We wander off dejected to a local café, & get lunch. Then I get a brainwave. I ask my mate how much he can put on his debit card, he can put the full amount. We go back to the broker and offer the full amount, and now. It turns out the people who offered the money were late on their deposit. After a bit of a delay, the card is swiped & the boat is ours. The sun breaks through the clouds. We will sail her back next summer
Through the winter I work out the route, the logistics, we sort out the safety equipment, I just start reading up on bad weather techniques, launching para-anchors, buy a sewing machine & start making stuff, full time evening job.
My friend flies to New York in April, but there is far more to do than we imagined, and he wants to get it right. When my brother in law and I fly out in May 2008, it is obvious we are not sailing her back that year. My friend has done nothing but the boat for 8 weeks, but it was too much work. She is on a swinging mooring with the mast down. The floors are rotten, no cooker or fridge, the windows leak, the wiring is shocking(?). We have a long discussion, and agree, she spends another winter in the USA. Having decided what we are doing, we refit hatches, swap out floorboards, get arrested by the marine police for flying a red ensign and enjoy memorial day.
We finally get the mast up & install a full Raytheon suite in a day, works first time. Then the first sail from Oyster Bay to the Captain Islands, she is stunning to sail. On the way back we are hit by a 35 knot squall, but she’s fine. I go home after working on her for three weeks, and my friend continues to work alone.
Early this year we debate the crossing again. I suggest Dockwise or Sevenstar. When we do the maths, the lift option is a good one. We book the lift ship from Newport to Southampton UK, and arrange a skipper for the trip from Oyster Bay to Newport.
But then it isn’t Newport, its Baltimore, two weeks later. My friend is now in my spare room waiting for his fiancée to arrive & his house to complete. Two weeks ago we get the message:
“Lotus has loaded in Baltimore”
Now it’s a waiting game, two weeks and she will be back, but there’s a twist.
She is due in Thursday 12th November, so I take Friday off work. Wednesday 11th, we are told Friday 13th (?) mid-day. Friday is a stinker, driving rain, Force 8 gale. We get the release papers & wait. I get on the AIS website. Spuigracht is flying up the channel at 17 knots, then stops, turns south at 2 knots.
What is happening? After everything that has happened, what more are they going to hit us with?
The wind builds, and starts gusting mid-forties. Our boat is 15 miles from home, and heading away. Then next morning at 8-00am the liftmaster calls us to say he’s not sure when the ship will be in. 10-00am, the liftmaster informs us that the ship was unable to anchor, they were dragging. The Port of Southampton is closed. The wind builds to an average of 50+, and gusting 62. We sit in front of the AIS & watch. And watch. VHF announces Cowes Hi-Speed are “Giving up for a few hours”. We are told the ship will dock at 11-30pm. 11-30 arrives, she is south of St. Catherine’s Point.
By now, I am getting obsessive. I am glued to the AIS. At 2-15am Sunday morning, a pilot boat leaves dock head. Spuigracht is perfectly positioned as the most Northerly ship. She takes the pilot & hits 16.9 knots between Ventnor & Fawley. Finally the AIS registers her as “Docked” & I go to bed, just feeling “Finally, she’s here”.
The next morning we get to the lift ship. There is no wind, and the sun threatens to shine. Lotus doesn’t even have a drawer out of place & is perfectly dry. We are lifted, lowered into the water, turn the ignition, engine fire first time, sun shines & we thank the guys on the ship & swing South to Shamrock Quay.
Two years, one week after the purchase, Lotus, the Swede 55 has finally come home.
That was yesterday, my friend moved into his new house with his fiancée today.