After listing S/V SeaSprite on Sailboatlistings.com and Ebay I had numerous inquiries. In fact, I was slightly surprised at the level of interest this 30 year old boat attracted. The first Ebay listing did not reach the reserve price of $22,500 but there were more than 30 bids and it did make it to $16,500 so I re-listed it starting at $16,500. A couple of days after re-listing the bidding reached the reserve price and the high bidder contacted me to ask a number detailed questions. He had been looking for a C.E. Ryder Southern Cross 31 for some time and had experienced a couple of disappointments when boats turned out to be far less seaworthy than described. Unable to find his preferred model he had widened the search to include the Sea Sprite 30. He was very interested in the condition of the decks and the engine and pending a successful survey he was committed to buying S/V SeaSprite. In order to end the auction early we negotiated a final sale price of $26,000.
The prospective buyer had grown up in Annapolis and was planning to live aboard at Port Williams if he ever found a decent boat. He asked about delivery to the Annapolis area and I noted that I was planning to move S/V SeaSprite to Herrington Harbour North (HHN) over the coming weekend and if he really wanted to check out the boat then he should come along for the trip. He accepted enthusiastically and we agreed to meet at HHN Friday morning so we could drive down to Regent Point Marina and prep the boat for an early Saturday departure.
The buyer, I will call him "Sarge," was a great character. He had served in the Marine Corps from 1970-1979 and it clearly had a significant formative impact on his worldview and personality. Sarge arrived at HHN wearing Vietnam era olive drab fatigues, a white t-shirt and an old USMC cover (hat), his clothes were stuffed in a green duffle bag and his vernacular was right out of "Full Metal Jacket." Lee Ermy couldn't hold this guy's rucksack! Interestingly, he was also wearing some wild sunglasses with clear frames and black hi-top converse Chuck Taylors with orange laces so there was a bit of a rebel in there somewhere.
Sarge w/ his Chuck Taylors & Sunglasses
Arriving at Regent Point Marina around 1:30pm we set about provisioning the boat. We topped off the diesel and water and went to the Deltaville Market for food. Sarge stocked up on canned beans, vienna sausages, Mac & Cheese, and copious quantities of milk!
Back at the boat I walked Sarge through the various systems and even started the engine to be sure all was in order for our planned 5:30am departure. As I am 6'5" I offered to sleep on one of the settees and offered Sarge the V-Berth but he declared he would prefer to sleep in the cockpit. Luckily the bugs were absent and we both had a good night's rest. Sarge rolled out his sleeping bag and then opened a can of butter beans and ate them cold right out of the can! For desert he finished off a can of vienna sausages washed down with a pint of milk!!!
We were both up at 4:30am. Sarge made coffee on the propane stove in his vietnam era canteen cup while I removed the sail covers and made final preparations to get underway. We cast off at 5:45am and motored slowly out of Regent Point's tight channel. It was close to low tide and my depth gauge was reading dangerously close to the 4'8" draft of S/V SeaSprite.
We hadn't gone more than 50 yards beyond the marina retaining wall when I felt the nose of the boat lift up and then settle. I had drifted slightly to starboard of the main channel and found the soft Rappahannock mud bottom. We were aground but the tide and the prevailing breeze were in our favor and within about 45 minutes we were back underway.
The wind was blowing a steady 12-15 knots right out of the East which meant we had to motor all the way out of the Rappahannock but once we reached Windmill Point we raised the main and then the jib and were soon flying northward at an average speed of close to 6 knots.
Once we had the sails trimmed and the autopilot engaged there was more time to discuss the merits and demerits of the boat. I quickly realized that Sarge was not aware of the magnitude of annual maintenance costs for a 30 year old boat. We spoke of bottom paint, sail inspections and repairs, engine maintenance, seacock servicing and occasional replacement, hardware re-bedding, haul outs and storage fees. I could see the surprise and concern in ol' Sarge's eyes each time I described a new maintenance requirement and its associated cost.
To further complicate the matter, S/V SeaSprite was sailing beautifully. With the wind building to a steady 18-20 knots and heeled over to 25 degrees she was regularly exceeding 7 knots. Her motion was very sea kindly, even in the short square waves of the Chesapeake. As she cut through the dark tea colored Chesapeake Bay chop I really began to regret putting her up for sale.
Sabre 40 en route to Solomons Island
Southern Cross 31 Listed on Sailboatlistings.com
After another pleasant night's sleep we cast off from Spring Cove Marina in a complete calm around 6:45am on Sunday morning. The motor out was pleasant as we admired some of the beautiful boats moored at marinas along the creek.
The Bay was dead calm. The wonderful breeze of the day before was completely gone so we motored north for 5 hours until we were just off Chesapeake Beach which is just south of Holland Point and the entrance to Herring Bay.
Sarge Giving the "3rd Herd Salute" on the motor up to HHN
Sarge at the Helm
S/V SeaSprite @ HHNI returned to S/V Corsair at her slip in Herrington Harbour South and as I reflected on the trip I became increasingly depressed about the prospect of selling S/V SeaSprite to Sarge. I worried that not only would he not be able to afford or otherwise keep up with the annual maintenance but I also began to realize that I wasn't mentally ready to part ways with this good ol' boat in to which I had invested so much time and money. How could I avoid selling her without offending my new friend? I was contractually obligated to go through with the sale as long as Sarge was willing to pay the agreed price. The survey and sea trial were scheduled for 8 July and Sarge was paying for the launch and re-haul.
I remembered the new listing for the Southern Cross 31. I sent Sarge an email with a link and suggested he check it out since it was right there at HHN. Then I opened up Yachtworld and did a quick search of new listings only to find a 1978 Southern Cross 31 (Yachtworld SC31 Listing) that had never been launched until 2013. Everything other than the hull was brand new! This had to be more than serendipitous! I decided it was an omen and I immediately sent the link to Sarge suggesting this was a better deal than S/V SeaSprite if he cost averaged the total expense of ownership over 5 years. The next morning Sarge sent me an email saying he would like a release from the sales contract so he could make an offer on the SC31. I happily agreed and even offered to help him sail her up from Oriental, NC if his offer was accepted.
As far as I know Sarge hasn't yet closed the deal on a Southern Cross 31 but I am happy to know that S/V SeaSprite will remain in my care for a while longer. She is on the hard now at HHN and I am planning to continue the restoration over the next few months. I guess she is still for sale but any prospective buyer needs to be more of a collector of fine art than someone shopping for an R/V.
S/V SeaSprite on the hard at HHN