The Passport Project: Part 2 (Stars align)

This photo, emailed to us in January, was our first glimpse of the Passport we hoped to buy.

The email completely floored us.

The very day after we’d decided to put our Island Packet 38 on the market, a couple in Oregon tracked down Marty on an IP owners forum and asked if he knew of any older Island Packet 38s for sale on the West Coast.

Why, yes. Yes, we do.

We figured this must be a sign. It couldn’t just be a coincidence. It meant that selling Three Sheets must be the right thing to do. So we made plans with the couple, Ron and Joan-Marie, to come and see our boat in early February when they were in town for the Seattle Boat Show.

Meanwhile, we’d been checking Yachtworld daily for any Passport 40s coming on the market. But day after day it was the same six boats, and the closest was in Wisconsin. The rest were in New Jersey, Texas, North Carolina, Maine. We’d decommissioned Three Sheets ourselves and had it trucked to Seattle from Mexico, and had no desire to repeat the experience.

Plus, only one of the boats listed had the layout we wanted, a V-berth and a head with a separate shower stall. All the other Passport 40s have a pullman berth, which we like, but no shower stall, which was a dealbreaker. We knew Passport 40s were sought-after and typically didn’t stay on the market long, and only about 150 of them were ever made. We realized the chances of finding one in the Northwest were pretty slim.

Then I saw a review of a Passport 40 on YouTube and it was the exact boat we wanted, in what looked to be terrific condition. It even had the U-shaped settee, which not all P40s have.

Among the comments under the video was one posted about a year ago by the boat’s owner, advising that it was for sale. I knew it probably wasn’t still on the market but I contacted her anyway.

Sure enough, it had sold. And I knew chances were the new owners wouldn’t be interested in selling it. But you never know. Situations can change — someone loses a job, a relationship breaks up, cruising plans fall apart.

I put the word out among our sailing friends and quickly found out who’d bought the boat: a couple who reportedly love it and are getting it ready for long-distance cruising.


But I am nothing if not resourceful. One of my credos to live by is “sometimes all you have to do is ask.” It’s served me well many times in the past, opened doors that would not have opened if I hadn’t dared to ask.

So two days after that unexpected email from Ron and Joan-Marie, I turned to that trusty source of all things bought and sold: Craigslist. Other times I’ve put ads on Craigslist and found exactly what I was looking for — in one case a free piano, another time tickets to a Gillian Welch show. I figured I’d try once again and post an ad in search of that elusive Passport 40. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Marty scoffed.

“People don’t sell boats like Passport 40s on Craigslist,” he said.

“Hey, you just never know,” I replied.

I posted my ad on Jan. 4. Two days later, I got an email.

A radar arch with davits was among the extras that had been added to the boat.

It was from a man named Eric who had a 1985 Passport 40 he planned to sell. It wasn’t on the market yet. It was homeported in Poulsbo. Not Texas, not Mexico, not a plane ride away. Poulsbo!

I couldn’t believe it. I was almost too excited to be smug (but not quite) when I showed the email to Marty. We immediately called Eric and made plans to see the boat before he moved it up to Port Townsend to have some work done. In mid-January, we excitedly got on a ferry and headed over to Poulsbo.

Eric met us at the Poulsbo Yacht Club and led us down the dock to his boat, Meridian. The darkening skies on our way over were now sending down wet, slushy snow. I took a quick look at the decks before going down below and noticed they were definitely in need of work. And the brightwork had obviously been neglected for some time.

Down below, things were in disarray as Eric was in the process of moving items off the boat. But it wasn’t hard to look past the clutter to see a beautiful boat, the boat we’d been looking for.

Eric had owned Meridian for 21 years and was her second owner. Clearly, he’d loved the boat. He’d sailed her to Mexico before moving to Seattle about 10 years ago from the San Francisco area. But from what we gathered, his wife and kids weren’t that keen on sailing, so he and his brother brought a trawler a few years ago. But Eric kept making improvements to his Passport — perhaps, we thought, to delay the inevitable sale.

He’d added some nice-to-have equipment, including a radar arch with davits, mast steps, a max prop and a heavy-duty Lighthouse windlass. In the past two years along he’d added a new chartplotter and radar, new sailing instruments, new BottomSiders cushions for the cockpit and — oh, joy! — a new Vacuflush head, which meant no more composting toilet. We’d installed an Air Head composting toilet in Three Sheets a year ago and while I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t exactly love it either.

But best of all was the brand new Yanmar 4JH4E diesel engine, with about six hours on it. Knowing we wouldn’t have to worry about repowering the boat anytime in the near future was a huge bonus.

Meridian's interior, the first time we saw her.

As if on cue, the sun came out as we headed for the ferry. We went home happy and excited about the possibility of selling our boat and buying the Passport.

As Ron and Joan-Marie’s visit got closer, we set about getting Three Sheets ready to show. The weekend before they arrived, we hauled most of our belongings off the boat and cleaned her until she sparkled. I’m talking toothbrush-in-corners level of cleaning. The stove was so clean I would have smacked the hand of anyone who dared touch it.

We worried a little about our tired dodger, which needed replacing, and the composting toilet, which is admittedly not everyone’s cup of tea. We hoped those wouldn’t be deterrents. But the boat looked great and we knew it would show well.

At the appointed time on a Monday morning, we waited a little nervously for Ron and Joan-Marie to arrive, hoping they’d like the boat. And they did. They asked informed questions, and it was clear they’d done their homework and knew exactly what they were looking for. They weren’t concerned about the composting toilet and already had plans to have a new dodger made. They left and said they’d be in touch soon.

The next few days were filled with anticipation. Ron and Joan-Marie said they expected to make us an offer, and we hoped it would be a decent one. And Eric was going to get back to us on a sale price for his boat.

That weekend, five days after coming to see Three Sheets, Ron and Joan-Marie emailed us with a strong offer. A couple of hours later, Eric emailed. We were pleasantly surprised: his price was what we had hoped and anticipated, given what other Passport 40s were listed at. He’d even drawn up a purchase and sale agreement. After a little back and forth over the lack of a heater, we agreed on the price and told him we wanted to move forward.

The next step was arranging for the boats to be surveyed. It was all moving so fast my head was spinning. Marty and I were excited and a little nervous. We hoped neither boat would have major unforeseen issues, hoped it would all work out as planned.

We’d soon find out.

On Friday: the day of reckoning arrives — the two boats are surveyed. Will they pass with flying colors? 


11 Responses to The Passport Project: Part 2 (Stars align)

  1. Tawn Midkiff June 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    The Passport looks a lot like Palarran down below…lucky for you she doesn’t look like Palarran near the keel, you are gonna appreciate that modified full keel. Can’t wait to see her. Tawn

  2. Stuart Scadron-Wattles April 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Nice piece, Deb. You were made for series writing, and this story. I’m with Mike, but with a lovely name like Meridian, why threaten the Trident?

    • Deborah Bach April 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

      Thanks, Stuart! What a lovely compliment.

      We don’t dislike the name Meridian; we’re just kind of neutral about it. We may rename her Three Sheets but probably wouldn’t do that for a while. Her original name was Sea Star, which I do like.

  3. thom permenter April 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    You stole my thunder, Two happiest days of a boatowners life in the same day!!

  4. mikey bamboo April 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Wow what a fun story thanks! Are you going to have it all ready in time for this years Neptune’s Bash?

    s/v Defiant
    STYC Vice Commodore

    • Deborah Bach April 19, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

      I hope so, Mikey! It will probably still be up in Port Townsend by then but should be back in the water.

  5. Courtney Kirchoff April 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Meridian looks wonderful. How exciting!

  6. Jess Schefstrom April 18, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Wow! Perhaps you should rename your “new” boat “Kismet”. Great article, we are looking forward to more installments…Tell Marty that a brand new engine is just plain “sick”…

    Keep your readers posted…


    S/V Vita E’ Bella
    Beneteau 36s7

    • Deborah Bach April 19, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      Jess – given how this all happened, Kismet would probably be appropriate.

      A brand new engine is sick, isn’t it? 🙂

      Next installment tomorrow! And I’m sure I’ll be writing many more.

  7. s/v Eolian April 18, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Great writing – you do a creditable job of conveying the excitement of the moment.

    What’s the happiest day of a boat owner’s life? When the boat is yours. What’s the second happiest day? When the boat is sold. You had both of these going at the same time, and somehow managed to get thru it while keeping your lives pulled together… admirable indeed!

    s/v Eolian

    • Deborah Bach April 19, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

      Thanks, Bob.

      That hasn’t been my experience. Buying a boat is anxiety-inducing and selling one – at least so far – has been a little sad. Neither were the happiest days of my life, not by a long shot.

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