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© 2017 Ian Watts

Flying Cloud

A long time ago... in my younger days, whilst in the Royal Navy, I bought and lived on board a Maurice Griffiths Lone Gull 2. The next 4 or 5 years saw me sailing her all over the West coast of Scotland whilst refitting her. Some 6 to 7 years after purchasing her I had left the Navy, started a marine electronics business, sold the boat, sold the business some years later, became involved with the Navy once again for a few years creating a secure GPS tracking solution, raced on others people's boats for years, got married, moved from Scotland to France, had a son... and stopped sailing :(

 

We always hankered to be afloat again but felt it too impractical and costly. Instead we moved our way through various motorhomes but, even being able to park up at any number of beautiful beaches, we still dreamed of being back on the water... As happens, our son grew up and is now in his last couple of years studying for his BAC... finally we could start seriously looking for a boat with a view to, once he's finished his studies, living on board and, subsequently, heading off... the Med, Azores, Caribbean, east coast US, Great Lakes, Vancouver/Seattle, west coast US, Panama... We're not sure after that...

 

Anyways, we really wanted a "proper" boat with a "proper" owner's aft cabin, 44 - 50 feet (max) and, no matter how many ultra-modern centre-cockpit boats we looked at, we always kept returning to the turkish gulet / cutter rigged ketch-style yacht.

... and then we saw a Vagabond 47 by Blue Water Yachts. Blown away !

We read up loads on Vagabonds in general and on Blue Water Yachts (the Taiwanese builder) and we chased a good dozen potential condidates... Hunting one down at the right price and in right location seemed to take us an age; we looked at boats in the US, Mexico and South America in general, the far East and, closer to home, in Europe.

After a lot of thought and soul searching, it seemed that for us, being based in North West France (home) and looking for a 47 that needed an extensive 're-fit', we needed to constrain our search to Europe. Bringing a a boat back from the U.S. or the far east appeared to be inordinately difficult, expensive and impractical - given that we were looking for a tired yacht in need of a full refit. Then, there were the costs involved with visiting any potential boat, arranging and undertaking a detailed survey, making her fit to travel any distance, transferring her from wherever she was to our home port, dealing with any unpaid VAT / TVA, handling the inevitable European importation and 'non-conformity' issues... etc... etc... etc...

So... Europe it was...

The 'logic' here was that we wanted :

  • a 'project' boat - to keep the initial costs manageable, make use of our combined boat maintenance / marine engineering capabilities and reduce the inevitable 'guilt' of wanting to upgrade otherwise perfectly functional but often elderly electronics with ultra-modern kit to suit our longer term aims. It should also mean that, in the longer term, the cash we spend on the refit would be offset by a potentially higher selling price... when that day comes !!

  • fibre-glass construction - for ease of ongoing maintenance (elderly boats seem to have been built before the strength of fibre-glass was fully understood and, as a result, are generally more 'tank-like' when compared to their more modern / mass produced counterparts)

  • a proper owner's aft cabin (with a 'proper' double berth etc)

  • a large, airy saloon for relaxing and entertaining

  • and a second double cabin for our son

  • a Ketch with cutter rig- for stability and manageability for two-up sailing

  • proven blue water capability

  • and... be as pirate-ship -esque as possible !!

To be frank we fully understood that we were looking for a potential night mare. These boats are often referred to as 'leaky teak-ies' which, whilst often being true is also rather unfair. They didn't start life that way... age coupled with limited owner-budgets and poor maintenance programmes has / have made them leaky... and a leaky boat starts to rot - often not in a particularly visible way which means detailed owner and professional surveys are an absolute must when looking to buy. On the up-side, these boats (late 70's into the 80's) were (form research, not owner experience) built like the proverbial brick-outhouses. They were constructed before the strength of fibreglass was fully appreciated and they were built in relatively small numbers which although lending itself to individual layup errors did tend to mean that they were over-constructed without too much emphassis being placed on knock 'em out mass production or tight budgets and timelines. I guess being constructed in Taiwan also helped with labour costs ! In any case, the end result seems to be a classic looking, William Gardner designed, easily handled, ketch / cutter rigged yacht with a beautiful hand made teak interior and, although not overly fast, an ocean-crossing pedigree. 

Either way, from the moment we laid eyes on the Vagabond 47, we were smitten and couldn't shake the feeling that we were *meant* to be together !!!

The trick was to find *our* Vagabond... before anyone else did. The hunt was on !

As it turns out, 9 months after starting our search we found two candidates; 'Jade Woman' in Valencia and 'Flying Cloud' in Benalmadena.