In Search of A Polar Bear

Blog Post #1 Preparations The Story Begins Here
Bayfield 40 Cutter Ketch - Polar Bear
on
June 4, 2018

When a five year plan is no longer a five year plan, it becomes something seriously stuck on the bottom of your shoe. You know the damn thing is there, every time you to take a step you feel it, but you just don’t have the time or energy to pry it loose.  I don’t think John and I really talked about the plan much at that point.  I was swamped with my photography business and living behind a computer practically 12 hours a day/seven days a week (hooray for being an entrepreneur), and John was busy with his massage therapy career and researching.  Five years just came and went.

When the five year plan hit the ten year point, we just metaphorically took off the damn shoe.  Time to figure out our next step.  Having realized that there was a point where waiting was not going to be a benefit, we just picked a date.  Well, John just picked a date.  I accepted.  While I was busy with my no-time-for-anything-else business he had been researching everything we both would need to know about this undertaking.  Boats and equipment, timelines and sail-plans, a date just needed to be set or we might never cast off.  He flew to France that May to gain some blue-water experience and ended up with a fair amount of insight on a somewhat eventful boat delivery (the $800,000 brand new pajot catamaran that he helped to partially deliver kept breaking down).  So we agreed, probably naively, that we would set sail the following year in October 2016.  But it did mean that we needed a boat.

I hear it’s common that when people are looking at making a large purchase, they expect some sort of a sign.  A feeling.  An a-ha moment.  I had it when I bought my house.  I actually disliked my home from the outside when I first saw it but the moment I walked inside, I knew.  This house was for me.  This wasn’t quite the same with the boat.

We scoured online sites, contacted brokers, realized that we really couldn’t afford the average boat that was for sale.  We knew we would have to do a lot of the work ourselves.  We had an idea in our heads of the total amount that we could spend by the time that we set sail: boat, repairs, outfitting, insurance, etc.  Being in the wedding industry, I knew that almost no one has any idea what things actually cost, and initial budgets, like five year plans, are basically just shots in the dark.  So we would have to be smart and try to stick with a boat that was fairly inexpensive but had potential.  She would need to cross oceans and be our home for the next several years.  We began actively looking in August 2015 and reserved a slip for the 2016 season at Beacon Harborside Marina in Jordan Station in September… for a boat we didn’t yet have.

The first boat we really looked closely at was in Etobicoke Ontario.  It was a 45′ classic cutter ketch whose hull was in good condition but inside needed a fair amount of work.  She was in the water when we saw her and for 45′ she seemed manageable. I liked the feel of her, and we loved her lines. Her living space was an open concept and the head was in the bow of the boat which meant there was room to turn around and actually close the door without legs sticking out into the galley or passageway. This, I later learned was not a common thing.

We decided to keep her in mind and keep looking.  I had a lingering feeling though that we’d be back.

By the time we began viewing more boats, they were all up on the hard.  It is a very different feeling climbing up on a ladder, ducking under tarps and seeing a boat with muted lighting.  Before we found the ketch in Etobicoke, we had, quite by accident, found a frightening thing in Grimsby Ontario.  We had been looking for a marina to call home and happened to spot it with its for sale sign.  I don’t remember what it was but I felt the immediate need to seek open air as soon as I got down below.  Not an auspicious start. The next vessel was a Formosa – we had seen an immaculate one for sale in the Niagara region and loved the look of her, but found out that they had taken her off the market – We did find another for sale, not nearly as well kept and in need of work.  On the hard it seemed like a huge wooden beast that would have appealed to anyone with a pirate fantasy/fetish: wooden masts, wooden deck, pretty much wooden everything, and forward quarter berths that surprisingly would only suit children.  The beds were no more than four feet in length – I’m imagining the Lost Boys under the command of Captain Hook would have suited this boat perfectly.  Other than the (lack of) sleeping quarters, the boat just seemed massive and all that wood was going to be far too much work. Boat four had us travelling to Plattsburgh New York to see it, it was a C&C sloop and wasn’t really what we were looking for, but at that point we were getting a bit disheartened at the lack of choices.  Boat five was on Toronto Island.  We ferried over but soon discovered that the person who had wrapped it for winter had failed to leave an access in the plastic so there was no way to see her properly.  We had made the trip for naught and just wandered through the Island boat yard before heading home, looking for other boats we might like the look of.

A break was needed.  After a few weeks we went back to see the first boat again and got swayed by the boat’s neighbours to look at their boats, both of which were apparently for sale.  We almost bought one of them, (the other was out of our price range) but at the time when we made our offer, the Captain’s wife had vetoed her husband and decided against selling.  And so, we were left standing looking at the original boat once again in the yard.

We discussed it and did the research.  We wrote to the broker about some of our concerns and he passed them along to the owner.  The owner was kind enough to comment back:

She is a true blue water boat with her displacement.  We have been out on the open ocean many times with her and when the seas kick up there are few other boats I would want to be on.  She can handle all seas better than most boats her size…  I have taken her over 30 foot swells and can assure you she can ride them better than most.  Her hull is over 2″ thick and can handle the pounding the ocean can bring…

She rides the sea with confidence.  Like the Bluenose, the deck is about 25 percent longer than the waterline.  This helps with seas breaking over the deck and keeping you dry in the cockpit.

I am confident Michelle and John would find this boat to provide them with the comfort they are looking for at sea and anchor.  Ted Gozzard is considered to be one of the great blue water boat designers for a reason…

I am sure Michelle and John will thank me one day after being in the Pacific.

We put an offer in on Polar Bear – a 1982 Bayfield 40 Cruising Cutter Ketch on December 10th, did the survey on December 11th, and became the new owners on December 14th, 2015.  Driving home with the completed paperwork in hand, I left the marina and saw this double rainbow.  Whether it was a sign or co-incidence is up to you, but we were now owners of our very own liveaboard-able sailing vessel.

Now we had a new five year plan.

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Michelle Kauntz
Wild Blue Yonder

Seems you've found us. I'm one half of the charming and somewhat frustrating duo that is John & Michelle. (I'm Michelle) We once had this one-day idea that we wanted to sail around the world. We made a five year plan. After ten years of talking and two years of prepping and postponing, we are finally underway. Feel free to follow us and live vicariously though our pratfalls and adventures as we take our almost-as-old-as-John Bayfield 40 Cutter Ketch out of the safety of Lake Ontario and out into the world. On a shoestring budget. With two fiercely independent people. In basically 300-ish square feet of living space and with not a heck of a lot of sailing experience (yet) ...This is going to be fun...

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