It’s all coming together. The surveyor just emailed us the official survey report, which means we can sign the Acceptance of Vessel agreement, sign up for an insurance policy, and schedule the closing.

In two days WE WILL OWN A BOAT.

The Tartan 37 popped up on our back-to-square-one internet search one month ago. We had no desire to see it. We had found two other boats (a Pearson 39 and Southerly 115) listed by the same broker and figured okay, a two-for-one showing. The Pearson looked affordable, the Southerly was more for kicks. A beachable monohull? We were planning to cruise the Bahamas…

Then I figured, the Tartan is just around the corner at another marina. I can make one more call.

The photos of this boat inspired zilch. We’ve seen thousands of boats like this. As a real estate photographer, I should have known not to be so dismissive. It is my profession to make things look better than reality. In my jaded state of emotional exhaustion, I forgot the reverse is true: lackluster photos can make a great house (or boat) look worse than real life.

The broker picked up on the first ring. He said he was free the next afternoon. We would see three boats in one day.

The Pearson was rough around the edges. The photos made it look so good. Foiled again. The owners had moved to South Carolina five years ago. A lonely boat needs love. A lot of it.

The Southerly. This thing had so many bells and whistles its bells were banging its whistles. Two air-conditioners. Two heads. We had no desire to fix two heads. When we arrived, a crew of guys in polo shirts were waxing and polishing away. Which might seem nice… “It’s great the owner can pay to have this done, but who’s actually caring for the boat?” Kirk said.

I hadn’t thought of that.

Looking back on our boat buying history, our connection to any given boat correlated almost directly with the seller’s relationship with their vessel. For example, we really liked the catamaran Nice Pair, and the owner seemed infatuated with the boat (as he expressed several times he didn’t want to sell her), but after Kirk witnessed the owner’s arguably rough treatment of the boat, our reservations eclipsed our desire to make a deal.

Then, Tokrimo, the beloved Morgan 38, owned by Jack the master woodworker, tugged our heartstrings, hard. We fell for this unfinished boat, and fell for Jack’s love of his boat and his energetic plans to complete her. But when his serious back injury prevented him from finishing the woodworking, we were forced to decide between delaying our timeline or looking for another boat. We opted to begin the search once more.

This brings us back to the Tartan. When we arrived, the owners were on deck, installing new running rigging. They had just launched the boat that day and this boat sparkled in the afternoon sun. From 100 feet away it was evident how well they had cared for this boat.

We got on board, mouths agape. Down below, the cabin was immaculate. The teak wood gleamed. The portlights shimmered. For an old 37-footer, the salon felt roomy. The v-berth felt cozy. The head was clean. The entire boat smelled nice.

Kirk and I exchanged excited looks. Is this the one?!

Talking with the owners, Jeff and Linda, only reinforced our feelings. They told us how they stored the boat inside every winter. How the followed a strict upkeep regimen. They listed recent upgrades they’d made (new running rigging, Raymarine chartplotter, radar, transmission and dripless drive shaft seal). How, any time, any little thing popped up that needed fixing, they took care of it.

Jeff is a retired school principal and works part-time at a hardware store. Linda is a sign-language interpreter and prolific land and seascape artist. She creates a new piece in every port she visits.

We liked them immediately. And we loved their boat.

We went home and put together our offer. Jeff and Linda countered once, and we accepted. We scheduled the survey, the results of which were unsurprising; the boat was in damn fine shape. Bristol, in fact. We scheduled the closing.

In one month, we went from zero boat prospects to Tartan 37 SAILBOAT OWNERS.

Now, that’s how a boat purchase should go.

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