Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

April 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Coming off the worst six months of my life (after losing my mother, then my father), I was grasping at straws for something to take my mind off grief and loss. Having been introduced to the sea at an early age by my grandfather, the water was the only place I ever really found refuge. So I decided I wanted a boat.

I had owned a jet ski for about 10 years and felt confident that I knew enough about the sea that I would make a good candidate for boat ownership. My husband, a complete boat novice, was on board with my decision.

I wanted to do something responsible with the inheritance from my parents, who had scrimped, saved, and sacrificed their own enjoyment to give their five children solid futures. Mom and dad never took trips, never purchased luxuries, or enjoyed their life’s earnings because they wanted to pass it down to their children and grandchildren.  I reasoned that having a boat was a way to create awesome memories with family and friends. I envisioned spending lazy days on the water, hearing exciting beachside concerts, visiting waterside restaurants, and enjoying fireworks over the bay.

I took to Craigslist to find the right boat.  Keeping in mind that we had two small children, I scanned ads for ones that fit my idea of the boat that would work for us. I came across a 1995 Larson Hampton 220 that looked like it would fit the bill. It appeared super clean and reasonably priced.  The owner’s boyfriend was doing dockside showings and would take interested buyers for a test drive.

During his presentation, the boyfriend bragged about how well-maintained everything was and how he had records of all work performed.  Despite being complete boat novices, we did ask questions about items that were allegedly supposed to work. He provided (what turned out to be) half-truths as to condition or status; both the owner and boyfriend were aware of the circumstances surrounding our desire to purchase a boat.

We took the test drive with children in tow and enjoyed it so much; we decided that it was a no-brainer for us to buy the boat as it was the first time in ages that I actually smiled.  Yet the boyfriend was pressuring us at the dock, telling us that we had to act fast since there were many interested parties willing to offer more than we were.  But he’d take our offer as he needed the boat gone ASAP, as the couple had a bigger boat arriving soon.  We weren’t even given the option of having 24 hours to decide. Admittedly we were naïve, but thinking we’d be foolish to let a great opportunity pass us by, we left a deposit. We were euphoric about the prospect of being boat owners.

The euphoria was short lived.  On Sea Dance’s maiden voyage (just about a half-mile out), she started overheating and had to be towed back to shore.  The first mechanic (one of about nine we’d encounter) indicated that all the hoses appeared original and one had cracked.  From there, the issues and costs mounted. During our initial three months of ownership, we had just one day without issues, so we decided to pull the boat out and address all the problems.

The mechanic we contracted to do the repairs refused to do the work upon full inspection. So did four other marinas/mechanics we contacted, saying they didn’t want to even touch the boat because of all her issues, including bad wiring, ripped bellows, nonworking bilges, and more. They all agreed on something else — I had bought a death trap for my family.

Devastated, my plan was to give Sea Dance a Viking burial or trade it in for a new boat. No matter the cost, I had to turn around the disappointment, pain and embarrassment I was suffering.  Driving along Montauk Highway, I came across Kehl’s Boating Center and told them our story.  Fate somehow intervened because they were the original dealers of the boat! They offered to fix a majority of the issues we were having.  They were a prayer answered as we were able to save about a week of the season, one of the best weeks of the summer for my family!

There are still issues with the boat; some are minor and some significant. So we wonder, do we cut our losses and move on or continue working on a vessel into which we’ve already sunk thousands of dollars?  We did all the right things after we bought the boat — attended boating classes, upgraded our safety equipment, and took out proper insurance. However, what we didn’t do was pause before to reflect, research, and hire a mechanic or surveyor to do an initial inspection.  That failure to pause caused our family untold pain and misery.

If my story of impulse shopping on Craigslist, believing everything I’m told, and impulsively buying after hearing “We’re upgrading to a bigger boat” helps one person remember to pause and think before making such a big investment, I will feel somewhat redeemed.

By Sharon Prussen-Lindner

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