I had a vision of a man at the tiller, taking the Alberg home. He was bundled up, handle bar mustache, rugged looking, and certainly taking the boat on some sort of adventure that would result in further ruggedness. This ain’t a boat for the faint of heart. The right owner will see what she lacks not as a bargaining chip, but as a blank canvas. And everything she has they’ll see as the culmination of a dream…
I wrote those words in my journal and a week later, the boat I was representing sold to a man with a handle bar mustache.
Pickle is a 1977 Whitby Boatworks Alberg 30 and was located for sale on the Long Island Sound in New York. The Alberg 30 has a reputation as a stoutly built and sea kindly vessel, and was made famous by Qubecoise circumnavigator (and my personal hero) Yves Gillenas. These boats have a cult following, and Pickle was basically the best Alberg 30 on the market. New rigging, new chainplates, new sails, new through hull fittings, new engine. She wasn’t outfitted with the latest and greatest electronics, her interior needed some sprucing up, and she had some delamination on deck around the hand rails on the cabin top.
From the time she was listed to the time she sold, I must have interacted with fifty potential buyers between email and phone calls. As soon as most of them heard the word “delamination,” they were running scared. I tried to explain to people that delamination doesn’t spell doom and with a grinder, some cloth, some wood, and a gallon of epoxy they could fix this issue. Plus, it didn’t stop them from sailing the boat as is, right now. Yes, it needs to be fixed before a major voyage or before several more seasons of freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw made it worse—but it did not compromise the integrity of the vessel.
We listed the boat slightly higher than she was likely to sell for, but it was not much of a stretch considering what she was worth. But people didn’t see that. In the world of modern boats designed for comfortable interiors rather than seaworthiness, we were looking at a niche group of people who would be interested in this boat. I had interest from several people who I could discern by the end of the conversation were interested in a clorox bottle, not a classic plastic.
Towards the end of my first adventure into brokering, we were closing in on a deal and I could easily decipher between serious buyers and the Looky Lous. Sometimes it sounded like I was convincing certain people not to look at the boat. Like the guy convinced he was going to sleep on the boat, in the cockpit, at anchor, through a northeast winter. Or the several hipsters from Brooklyn who were tired of paying high rent, wanted to live on a boat but weren’t sailors. It may sound crazy but I knew this boat would only sell to a certain type of person, and they certainly were not it.
We eventually listed the boat at the owner’s bottom line and informed people it was not negotiable. We just couldn’t, in good faith, sell the boat for any less. When an offer came in for $1000 under that price we held fast, but with another season of yard fee’s looming the owner gave me the go ahead!
The buyer was somewhat elusive. We only corresponded by email, much to my chagrin. It would have been so much easier to explain everything to him over the phone. The day before he was set to meet the owner and finalize the deal he sent me this in an email:
In 1978, I restored a sad Herreshoff 12 ½ that I found and bought out of a guy’s backyard in Bristol. I almost flunked out of school because of the time I put into it and only had one summer to play with it. I had to sell it when I moved away. This is my first boat since that one. I am really scared.
I thought he was going to back out, so I told him what I tell everyone in a position to buy and sail an old classic boat for the first time, or the first time in a while.
Good. Stay scared. Fear will keep you alive on a boat. When I bought my boat, started my first refit, set off on my first trip by myself I was in way over my head. I still am. But if I can do it, anyone can.
He bought the Pickle the very next day.
Congrats to Mike on the ownership of his new vessel!
If you’d like to list your classic plastic sailboat with me contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org