We had decided on paper that a Bristol 29.9 could be our next boat, but before we knew for sure we needed to see one in person. Fortunately there were a few for sale in our area, so we figured it was time to start looking.
We began by posting on the Bristol Yahoo groups that we were thinking about moving up from our B24 to a 29.9 to get some input from owners. I posted about our cruising plans and asked if the boat would work for us, and the responses that we received were very encouraging. People that owned 29.9s loved them and had taken them out in all sorts of weather and conditions. I even received a response from a guy who was currently in Fiji on his 29.9, having started in San Francisco. This was definitely a good sign.
We also received a few private responses from people who were selling their 29.9s. One was in Falmouth, MA, and the other was located in New London (a few miles from Shenny). He told us where she was located, said he always left her unlocked, and said to drop by whenever we wanted to take a look – no need for him to be there. It was a very generous offer, and one we were happy to accept.
As part of our search we also contacted a person who had a 29.9 listed for sale in Clinton, CT. Unfortunately he had just sold it the previous week, but when I mentioned we were moving up from our B24 he said he was looking for a B24 and to call him if we found a 29.9 (knowing we would need to sell our 24).
Ultimately we found four 29.9s to look at over the course of a weekend. The New London boat, two boats on the Cape (Pocassett and Falmouth), and one on Shelter Island on Long Island. We were off and running.
First up was the New London boat. We drove down Friday after work on our way to the marina to look at it. This was truly the ideal situation. We were able to inspect every nook and cranny of a boat model we had never set foot on, without the owner’s presence. We were excited as we drove up because, as I said, on paper the 29.9 seemed like a perfect fit. Once we set foot on it, we knew we were right.
There was great headroom for Jeff – 6’2″/6’3″. With his sneakers on and his feet shoulder width apart, his head barely grazed the top. The same stance without sneakers gave him clearance. Plus the galley sink was positioned in such a way that with the hatch open he had all of the clearance in the world. He could do dishes!
The v-berth was workable, and there was a pullout double berth in the main cabin which would work with a modification to extend the end so Jeff’s feet wouldn’t hang over the edge. The double-berth was one of our must-haves, because we had read that a v-berth is basically impossible to sleep in when making passages.
There was A TON of storage. Drawers and cupboards everywhere, plus storage behind the settees and huge cockpit lockers. Excellent engine access was found behind the stairs and via one of the cockpit lockers. There was a very large head that extended athwartship so it didn’t feel like you were in a little cubby. The boat had decent ventilation. The wood was light and there were 10 ports and 2 hatches so it didn’t feel too dark inside. The galley was small, but definitely doable. Bottom line, the boat felt extremely roomy for its size. Now we knew for certain that the 29.9 would be perfect for our needs. All we needed to do was find the right one.
After we had agreed that the New London boat made the cut, we drove to the Cape on Saturday to see the two that were there. The condition of one of them didn’t match that of the New London boat, so it was off the list. The other one unfortunately didn’t have a double berth in the main cabin which was a must for us, so that also didn’t work. After a very long day, all that was left to see was the Shelter Island boat on Sunday, which we were reluctant to do. We were tired, the trip was going to involve a ferry, a bus, and another ferry, and I just wanted to hang out on Pegu Club and go for a sail. The New London boat was good. Why not try for that one? We discussed it for a bit, but ultimately decided to dig deep and go to Shelter Island.
Sunday was forecast to be the hottest day of the summer thus far. We drove to the ferry terminal in New London to take the ferry to Orient Point. Next came the bus to Greenport, a second ferry to Shelter Island, and then a short walk to the marina. It was HOT – and humid – but fortunately there was a nice breeze out on the water where the boat was moored.
As we motored up in the dinghy, you could see that she was cosmetically in great condition, and I immediately liked her. But when I set foot in the cockpit I could smell the sweet chemicals from the holding tank inside. It made sense. This is a normal scent on many boats, and the boat had only been open for an hour on the hottest day of the year, but it’s not something we’re used to because of our Nature’s Head. Now I wasn’t liking her quite as much.
But as we poked in the nooks and crannies, as we spoke to the owners, as we simply settled in, I stopped noticing it. I felt comfortable. I felt like she was ours. I didn’t know what Jeff was thinking, but I knew what I was thinking. This was the boat. The one we almost didn’t go see.
After we left and were walking back towards the first ferry, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to influence Jeff one way or another. After a minute Jeff said, “I think we found our boat.” “Me too!”, I squeaked. It was like an episode of House Hunters.
We had quite a bit of time to kill before the bus back to the ferry, so we decided to find a place to eat and get out of the heat. That’s when we discovered that the entire town of Greenport had lost power and no one was selling any food because they didn’t want to open the coolers. We bought some potato chips from a deli and proceeded to find a bar where we sat in the dark (at least it was a bit cooler), listening to music playing from a boom box, and talked about the boat.
Back at home that night we slept on it and e-mailed the owner the next day with an offer. After a tiny bit of back and forth we had settled on a price subject to a survey. The survey is like a home inspection, paid for by the buyers, and it involves a quick haul out of the water (also paid for by the buyers) to inspect the hull, rudder, propeller, etc., a one hour sea trial where the engine is put through its paces and the sails are raised and lowered, and a multiple hour inspection of every nook and cranny of the boat.
There were a few logistics to work out. The boat was at a marina that didn’t have a travel lift for the haul out, and it also needed to have its exhaust hose fixed because of a hole caused by chafing. The owner made arrangements to have the boat delivered to his winter marina (that has a travel lift), but he wasn’t going to be able to attend the survey so someone from the marina needed to be there for the sea trial. Ultimately the survey was scheduled, and our next order of business was to sell our beloved Pegu Club. Owning two boats at the same time was NOT going to work.