Saying goodbye to a beloved boat is difficult. Saying goodbye while out on her on a beautiful day can be painful. Saying goodbye while underway with the new owners on board can be even more difficult. You feel some disloyalty for falling for another boat; you feel uncertainty that the new owners will ‘treat her right’; you feel the pain of knowing your adventures are over and that the memories will inevitably fade. But most of all you feel sad as you touch her for the last time, memories flooding in at every glance.
When we bought our first cruising boat (for $7000) we asked for a test sail. The old owner, who had, with his dad, finished her from a bare hull 40 years before, looked down at his hands and said “Nope, can’t do it. It would be like dating my ex-wife.” We respected his wishes and when the time came to sell her were not asked to do a test sail with the new owners.
When we bought Phoenix in 2006 only the broker was available for a test sail because of the owner’s advanced age. We had a fabulous sail for an hour or so on San Francisco Bay but the presence of the broker was not that helpful. She sat and provided local knowledge of the Bay while we sailed her. That worked fine, but lots of our later questions were never answered but we figured out our own ways to do things.
Selling Phoenix in 2018 was a different thing altogether. First, we were selling her to folks that had owned her and sailed her for four years and 25,000 miles 35 years before. We had had her longer than they did, but probably only put 10000 miles or so on her, and only 7,000 offshore miles. However in 35 years many aspects of the boat and of sailing had changed – GPS, AIS, solar panels and solar controllers — in many ways it was a different boat. And finally, we had met the new owners first as friends and co-admirers of Phoenix, and only later had the opportunity to consider their offer to buy her. We were not selling her to “customers” but to friends who had loved her longer than we had. Sadly this is a situation that doesn’t occur often, because it certainly eases the feelings of disloyalty somewhat.
When the new owners asked us to help move Phoenix from Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay outside the Gate to Oyster Point inside the Gate we were delighted to have our first chance to sail under the Gate. We didn’t use the ex-wife excuse, and we didn’t pull the age card, and actually we were happy to have another chance to go out on her.
However we had to school ourselves not to take over, this was no longer our boat, we were guests. I intentionally didn’t double check the tides or currents, but was happy to hear how well they had planned ahead, telling us exactly when they needed to pass under the gate and what time we had to meet for that to happen. I actually didn’t touch the wheel the whole day – but practiced being good crew rather than helmsman. I got a brief lecture from my husband on tying the fenders but told him I was doing it the way Steve had told me to rather than the way he liked them done. That passed muster and he admitted it was just a preference.
We left the dock at 7:45 on a cool sunny windless Sunday morning. The day before had been sleeting and blowy so the contrast was profound but not surprising for San Francisco. The waves were abeam, never a pleasant direction, but steady and only a few feet in height, not the jangled mess of eight to teners from every which way that we had encountered on the way down. And the glorious current was turning our 5.5 knots of engine speed into 6-8 knots speed over the ground.
The day got warmer as we approached Pacifica, then Daly City, then The City and the Gate. The only flaw was the lack of wind, but on such a perfectly beautiful day this was hard to complain about. It was glorious just being out. As we turned the corner to approach the bridge the waves, now behind us, calmed down even further. By the time we crossed under the Bay Bridge on our final leg the Bay was a millpond.
We arrived at Oyster Point about 2 pm and pulled into Phoenix’s new home. We now hope for an invitation for the first sailing day as well – this goodbye business is not so bad when the conditions are good. I stepped off and touched her deck goodbye. She will be happy in her new adventures.