To fleet or not to fleet…that is the question?
We didn't mean to buy the first boat that we looked at but as the saying goes, “the boat picks you.” One rainy afternoon I was thumbing through Latitude 38 while waiting for River to finish his Basic Cruising test at our local sailing club. While he was acing the test I kept interrupting him to have him look at the ad. I brought up the website - I was sold!! We called the guy and within a few weeks we had a survey and a sea trial. We got the loan and placed the boat into a charter fleet with the sailing club.
We made the decision to put Rhea into a charter fleet to help defray the cost of ownership for the 2 years we were supposed to be looking for a boat and getting our lives in order. We were over the moon to have her (we still are) and figured that this was the best way to have our cake and eat it too. The owner of the club assured us that the partnership was a good match and that our vessel would be chartered by capable skippers that were evaluated by the club prior to leaving the dock. Having been involved in the club and knowing the dedication to excellence demonstrated by the instructors we felt comfortable with our decision.
Charter fleet good decision or bad? Having our precious girl in a charter fleet proved to be moderately financially beneficial and emotionally taxing. We bought the boat planning to live aboard one day. Our thought was that people who belong to a sailing club would take extra care of such a precious investment. Wrong. Boats break on the daily and our minimal understanding of that complicated the situation. Add to the list that the fleet maintenance department was unable keep up with the needs of the boat and accounting for their time correctly due to high turnover. The staff on hand did the best they could.
Having to stay on top of the oversight of the boat with my limited knowledge of boat maintenance (hello, that’s why I hired professionals!) was exhausting and proved to be too much for me. Parting ways with the sailing club was a good decision on all fronts.
The upside is we got a crash course in boat maintenance and we both feel better prepared to handle all of the “little” things that Rhea will need along the way. We have a full library of books and refer to them often. Don Casey, Nigel Calder and a host of others keep company on the bookshelves with our cruising guides.
Additionally, owning an ocean going vessel has increased our comfort level with the unknown as we prepare to throw off the dock lines. If we had only had a year or less to learn systems, quirks and special handling techniques we would be on a much steeper learning curve.
Let’s not forget that with Rhea came Eric. Eric is Rhea’s previous owner. The phone calls, texts and emails that he answered were countless. “What does this button do, again?” - “Hey man, this thingy looks like it doesn’t go here" (coupled with a picture) – "Dude, want to come by on Saturday and help us top off Otto’s transmission fluid?” Eric has continued to sail with us and we have sailed with him aboard his catamaran Zephyr.
In the final analysis placing Rhea in a charter fleet was a good experience. We learned a lot and we are ready for what comes next.