Tin Lizzie – the purchase

I’m trying to take up roughly from this post. If I ever get organized I’ll try to package things up a bit better. Anyway…

I first got thinking about owning another keelboat last fall. I was hanging out at Crowley’s having done a complete loop of the four lower great lakes on Mazurka and getting ready to head south.

I’ve really enjoyed the power boat thing more than I expected, but long open water trips under power really aren’t my thing. Boring at my normal slow speed and wasteful/expensive at higher speeds.

While there I went through an old J35 that was for sale. Cheap – under 10k – a bit rough, but seemingly solid. I’ve always liked those boats. I also roughed out a possible plan for ownership, where I would base the boat there but head for Ontario for the summer. Move aboard in the spring, go sailing for 3-4 months, return to Chicago for the fall. And I could cover a large part of the cost of ownership by helping out at the yard during the peak spring and fall seasons.

I noodled on this over the winter. Thought some more about my use case, and about the realities of owning a 35 year old J boat. What bubbled up to the top for me was that I really wanted to do some racing in the boat, specifically single-handed or short handed distance racing. And there is an active and accessible offshore series the the Great Lakes run by the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. And when I thought of the J/35 I inevitably started thinking about adding a water ballast system to maintain performance when solo.

It turns out that my needs are almost mainstream now. Just look at the target audience for the exciting new J/99. Go read about the boat. Pretty cool, and I’ll circle back and mention it again I’m sure. To give a sense of price, a recent review estimated US$225k sail away.

Anyway, back to my world. I was cruising around Florida in Mazurka dreaming of a $10k boat that I could race and sail fast single-handed through the great lakes. I figured that whatever boat I bought would need mods, so say 10k for that right away. I also figured that just about anything would do in terms of liveaboard comfort. My standards are pretty low. The performance expectations were sort of locked in with my dalliance with the J/35. But trying to get and keep that boat in any reasonable racing form on a shoestring budget seemed impossible. And I didn’t want to devote my life to repairing rotten coring.

With all that in mind, I saw an ad on Kijiji in late February and immediately recognized the boat from the description and location. I called the seller, rented a car in South Carolina, and drove up to Ontario a few days later. Soon after that we had a deal.

I should say that while I took a 25 year break from larger boats I didn’t stop looking at them. Whenever I pass by a marina or storage yard I stop and look around. This boat had caught my eye in 2017, when I saw it sitting on the trailer in Port Stanley while visiting in Mazurka. I had visited the club a few times over the years, and knew of the owner and the boat, but hadn’t seen it previously. When I saw it I liked it right away, and read up on the Whitbread/Mount Gay 30 then.

The design seemed to aligned with my needs very well, particularly the stability requirements and water ballast system to facilitate short handed racing. While I hadn’t had any experience with alloy construction I had confidence in the builder/owner, and didn’t see anything during my inspection to scare me off.

I picked up the boat in May and took it to Chicago by land.

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