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Good News, Bad News

So many of you have written to ask about the mighty Bossanova, my beloved steel trawler, that I thought I'd bring you up to date. This part is the bad news. Editor's Letter from our September 2012 issue.

October 17, 2012
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Bossanova

Mary South

Last week I went to the boatyard for my first sight of her since the corrosion was discovered. Driving around to the front of the boatyard, my eye instantly found Bossanova, and I was struck, as I always am, by how massive she looks on the hard. From the waterline up, she was as beautiful as ever: Her high bow and reverse raked pilothouse windows suggested that Poseidon could bring it.

But looking beneath the waterline, my heart sank. The pitting and corrosion were everywhere. There wasn’t an ounce of zinc left.

Malcolm Elliott was meeting me to help sort through my options. An amiable Scot who moved to Fort Lauderdale in his 20s, Elliott is the owner of Florida Nautical Surveyors, and back in 2004 he performed the original pre-purchase survey of Bossanova. I knew his steel-boat experience was extensive and I trusted him. Marine Safety Consultants of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, had first discovered this corrosion during a routine insurance survey, and I had no reason to doubt their good work, but when the prognosis is grim, a second opinion is not only a good idea but offers a last, desperate hope.

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Elliott dispelled that hope pretty quickly. If I were a welder or if I had time to learn and then devote to the repairs, this was not such a big deal. The damage was extensive but she could be repaired — hiring someone to do it would be expensive. I already had an estimate from one local welder who recommended doubling — welding good plate over the entire bottom of the boat. It would add more than 8,000 pounds to my boat, but more important, it’s a band-aid rather than a real solution. And if I wanted to sell Bossanova, the doubling would be a liability.

And here it must be said: I had been thinking of selling her, despite our long and wonderful history together. She is a ship made for voyages and adventures, and my current schedule makes those rare indeed. I had started feeling guilty about Bossanova — as though I owned a Ferrari that never went above 40 miles per hour, or a Clydesdale that gives kiddie-rides at a petting zoo. I singlehand this formidable small ship, but I can’t claim it’s always fun. She is a lot of boat to manage, with a single screw and lots of windage. I can’t come home from a long day at the office and just toss off the lines for a relaxing sunset cruise. More and more, I had been craving something smaller and simpler. So, on top of everything else, I felt guilty: Bossanova was ailing — I couldn’t desert her now.

So … I am still unresolved, but here’s the plan: I will blast the bottom to bare metal and round up some bids. I’ll finish the survey of the rest of the boat and subtract the bids from the valuation to arrive at an approximate unrepaired value. And with bids for cutting and cropping (the right way to do it) in hand, I’ll know whether it seems smart to pay for the repairs or whether I should offer the boat for sale to someone who has the skill or resources to fix her. I could also donate Bossanova to a school that would restore her. None of these is the perfect solution.

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The good news? We’ve all experienced those situations when it seems like boating is just not worth it. It’s not that it’s expensive: We know and expect that. It’s that there are too many people in this business who think overcharging is a marine industry birthright. It can be demoralizing. But my recent experiences have reminded me, once again, of how much goodwill and kindness also exist in our community. The folks at Bristol Marine in Somerset, Massachusetts, have been helpful and patient. Elliott took time out from a vacation to meet me and offer his expert advice. And many Yachting readers have written to express concern, offering support and, in a couple of cases, even volunteering donations to save Bossanova. Thank you all.

I don’t know what will become of her, but I do know I’ll make sure that Bossanova will be repaired and loved by someone, even if I have to face the heartbreak of letting her go. And I don’t plan on “swallowing the anchor” any time soon.

Mary South
[email protected]

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Read more from Mary in her blog, From the Editor.

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