S.V. Gratitude is new to us… but not new to cruising. She’s a 2015 Leopard 48 catamaran that has sailed around the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and the western coast of the United States. (Photos to follow, as soon as we have a really good one!) Moreover, she’s a YouTube star! More on that momentarily… Here’s how she came into our lives.
After Andy and I finished getting ASA certified for bareboating catamarans, it didn’t take long for us to decide we wanted a boat of our own. The more we discussed it, the more convinced we became that we wanted to spend an extended period of time traveling by sail – months at a time, not days. We knew that our window to travel this way would not stay open forever; eventually work, or our kids, or our parents would need us closer to home. So we decided to look for a used boat in great condition that we could sail for a year or two, then sell when we had accomplished our goals and it was time to come home.
Our first step, besides Internet research, was a trip to the Annapolis Sailboat Show. There we toured catamarans of all makes and sizes: big manufacturers like Leopards, Lagoons, and Fountaine-Pajots, as well as smaller, custom boats by Balance, Maverick, Antares, and a really incredible Xquisite (that left us drooling). We came to the conclusion, after standing at the helm of boat after boat, that we wanted something under 50 feet. Anything larger just felt too big for a boat for just the two of us. Something around 45 feet, give or take a few, would provide plenty of interior space without requiring a back-up camera to help us dock it or extra crew to help us sail it.
We also discovered, at Annapolis, that we were entering the boat market at a very interesting time: In late 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated a large portion of the Caribbean. Many boats were destroyed outright, and even more were damaged to the point of needing extensive repair. Charter companies in the Caribbean gobbled up every available newish-but-used boat for sale, and claimed every available spot in the new-boat production line for 2019, to replenish their diminished fleets. Anyone else wanting a new boat at the end of 2018 would be waiting a minimum of 2 years for it.
Boat shopping, therefore, was a tricky and somewhat discouraging process. We hired a broker to help us, but we missed out on a couple of promising boats because they were snapped up before we could make an offer. We finally decided, rather reluctantly, on a sparsely-equipped 2014 Leopard 48. Neither of us loved the idea of having to take the first few weeks of 2019 to outfit her, but it was the only way forward that we could see.
A few words about how boat-buying is done: Most people make an offer sight-unseen, based on the broker’s listing. The offer is always contingent on a thorough inspection, called a survey, in which a trained professional goes over the boat with a fine-tooth comb, testing engines, systems, and hull integrity. The day of the survey is often the first day you see your potential boat in person. Then, when the boat’s issues are evident, you can accept her as is, reject her for any reason, or re-negotiate your offer.
We scheduled our survey for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, we started planning for all the refurbishment and upgrading we knew we would want to do to this boat. That’s how I first got to know Randy Smith. His YouTube sailing channel, hHappy Together, chronicles his adventures with his wife Lennie aboard their Leopard 48 catamaran. Randy and Lennie had outfitted their cat with every feature we could possibly want in a sailboat. So I emailed them and asked their advice about how to go about upgrading ours, assuming our offer resulted in a purchase.
Randy wrote us back immediately, generously sharing advice and even spreadsheets detailing every upgrade he had made to Happy Together, including who did the work and how much it cost him. Moreover, he added our email address to his mailing list – which is how, a week before Thanksgiving, we happened to receive another email from him, announcing that Happy Together was for sale.
When I first read his email, my heart leaped with hope! That may sound overdramatic – but it’s the truth. We weren’t in love with the boat we were scheduled to survey – and here was Happy Together, a boat we had watched Randy sail, and upgrade, and maintain to perfection, about to go on the market. She had everything on our wish list, and then some.
Having learned from previous mistakes, we acted quickly. We wrote Randy back that same night and expressed our interest as well as our time-constraints, with the date of our survey approaching. Randy and Lennie once again showed their generous spirits and went out of their way to help us find an immediate date to visit Happy Together in person.
That’s how we found ourselves in Ft. Lauderdale, two days before Thanksgiving, getting a personal tour of Happy Together. Honestly, we were blown away – not only by the boat, but also by Randy and Lennie as people. They were just as warm, friendly, smart, and helpful a couple as we’d seen on YouTube. We toured the boat in the morning, went to lunch together, and after lunch sat down with the paperwork to make Happy Together our own.
The rest was, in many ways, very easy. There are a million to-dos in buying a boat – but Randy gave us advice, contact information, and guidance that smoothed the process. And that made the renaming of Happy Together a slam-dunk. We’d been trying on different boat names ever since taking our certification classes. Once we knew Happy Together might be ours, though, the name Gratitude stood out as the clear winner. We had so much in our lives for which we were grateful – and now we could include a beautiful, well-equipped catamaran, as well as new friends in Randy and Lennie Smith.