MyBoatQuest: Down East Dreaming Through the Financial Crisis
Think back to what you were doing before 2008, when things began to go south in the economies of the world. Boater Nick Cameron was living in New Jersey and he had decided, for all intents and purposes, to get out of boating for a while, mostly due to lack of free time. But other reasons to drop the sport began to develop as he thought more about it.
“[My boat] was a Carver 405 aft cabin which my wife loves,” Cameron says. It’s a comfortable boat—it’s a nice boat to live on, which we don’t do.” Cameron had bought the boat new after having been smitten with the cruising life on his Carver Saltega 38. But things had changed. “I had concerns about its seakeeping abilities, to be frank with you,” Cameron says. “It started making me kind of nervous. So I wasn’t unhappy to decide that Hey I don’t need this boat anymore.” Cameron noted that the bottom of the Carver 405 he bought, hull no. 4, was different from the running surface of hull no. 2, and he thought they may have been still tweaking the tooling at that stage.
It wasn’t long after that Cameron and his wife decided to move. “We changed our location from New Jersey to Connecticut, and I was able to see that I could get back on the water more frequently,” Cameron says. “So I said I’m going to go out and get another boat. I focused in on what I call the Maine lobsterboat concept. Just from paper research I narrowed my search down to the Grand Banks Eastbay, Sabre, and Legacy. Hunt-type designs were what I was interested in.” Cameron looked at boats right around 40 feet.
His research well begun, Cameron set out on the next phase. “I did see the Legacy,” he says. “I thought the boat deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence with the two other boats, but at the time I was buying, there were rumors around that they might be going bankrupt, which of course they did. For that reason, frankly I didn’t pay that much attention to the Legacy, I kind of looked at it because I said I would, but beyond that… Because again I called it my paper research, before I got on the water, really had me focused on that Sabre and Eastbay type of design for what we were going to get.”
Cameron found himself with a real opportunity for comparison at the Norwalk Boat Show in October 2008. “My mind was more on the 40 Eastbay. But the Eastbay and the Sabre 38 were located back to back on the dock,” he says. “And I literally had the joy of being able to investigate one boat and step across the dock and see the other of comparable size and make up my mind as to which one I thought was the better boat.” Cameron understood early on in the process that no amount of “paper research,” as he calls it ,could have given him a better comparison than looking at the two boats side by side on the boat-show dock.
“Hands down it was Sabre, which surprised me, because I guess with all the press there had been on the boats, the Eastbay had been painted as the gold standard,” Cameron says. “Why? Well it was some of the subtleties of her design. Silly things, like on most boats I’ve had—motorboats and cruising boats—the design of the chain locker. The only way you could get at your chain locker was to go over your bed. Sabre, the way they described it to me, because they wanted to lower the level of the bed they had to move it aft because of the rake of the bow, created a space forward of the cabin, which they made into the stowage space for fenders and the chain locker. So in the Sabre you get to the chain locker by coming down through the deck and you didn’t have to go across the bed. I thought that was a great idea. Subtle things like that. It makes a terrific difference. My wife and I are cruisers and we like to get out on the boat and go off for a couple of weeks. I regret to say anchor lines, for whatever reason, have been the bugaboo of my life. You’re always having to get in there and adjust something. And to be able to do that and not interfere in your living space, I thought it was a terrific advantage. Just a simple thing like that.”
So Cameron had found the boat, done his research, and decided, this was his next boat, so he began to work with Petzold’s Marine Center, a Sabre Yachts dealer with locations in Portland, Connecticut, and Norwalk, Connecticut. “He just focused on the 38,” says Ken Petzold, vice president and sales manager at Petzold’s. “That was at a time when Sabre had the 34 and of course they had the 42, but that 38—he was just enamored with it, and it was a boat that we had inventory just spec’ed out the way he wanted it.”
Cameron got the lowdown on the 38. “They made a proposal to me, it was a serious amount of money,” he says. “I said well I need to think about it—which I did. I guess time-frame wise the boat show is in October, just to give you a little perspective. I thought about it hard, and said That’s more money than I thought I wanted to spend and I said, Well you got it, so you might as well spend it. A day or two before I went to see them, we started to see the collapse of the economy. Our Congress had responded to the first fix that [Secretary of the Treasury at that time, Henry] Paulson had come up with, and which I totally agreed with. I understood what the problem was, and what he was doing. I wasn’t on Wall Street but I was on the industrial side, and I understood the markets very well. I’m a former CFO. Paulson’s first plan when he went up there was right on. The first thing he had to do was stop stop the markets from panicking and the world from losing confidence in the U.S. currency. His plan I think would have done it but congress’s only reaction was, Who did this and how are we going to make them pay? So they didn’t do anything and at that point [things went south].”
The stage is set for nothing good to happen. “So I was scheduled to meet with Ken Petzold of Petzold’s Marine Center and salesperson Fred Brown like two days after that had happened,” Cameron explains. “Because I loved the boat so much I went anyway. And fell in love with the boat again. But I had to be honest and said, With what’s going on around here, I’m not going to write a check for anything. We had a long conversation about the economy and what I thought about Congress and so forth. These people down in Washington have done the worst thing possible that you could do for a crisis like this, to destroy our confidence and the world’s confidence. There’s a bottomless pit ahead of us and I’ve gotta figure out where the bottom might be.”
Petzold recalls thinking the deal wasn’t going to happen. “We expected him to do something because he was headed down the road in the fall and then things started happening and he just wasn’t comfortable with where the economy was,” Petzold says. “And then it picked up steam after the first of the year and he felt that time was a better time to make a commitment.”
Cameron had been going through a bit of soul-searching. “That was before the new year,” he says. But he couldn’t help thinking about the day of his sea trial. “On the first day I did the water trials on the boat, back in November, I went out on the river and drove it,” he says. “That in itself, by the way, if you haven’t had a chance to drive one of these things, you’ve got to, you really do. They’re just beautiful the way they move through the water and they handle so precisely. But in any event that kind of stirred the heat.”
In February, Cameron called up again. “I said, Look, I gotta have the boat, I’ll come up and start talking turkey with you. And for whatever reason and I still don’t know, Bentley [Collins, VP of marketing for Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts] was there. Not that he broke my arm, but somehow it impressed the hell out of me that the marketing manager of Sabre Yachts is sitting there with Ken Petzold, telling me how great it would be having me as a boat owner. Just another nail in the coffin, my coffin.”
Cameron signed the papers that very day.
“Just tremendous boats,” Cameron says. “Beautiful! My view is I think they’re works of art, actually. You get on one and the fit and finish is fantastic. Not to say I couldn’t make some improvements on it. I talk to the folks at Sabre regularly and tell them that. But it’s nothing I would say are knockdown problems. These are just ways that, as you’re using a boat and your hands move around, and you’re trying to get from place to place, say, this would be a little bit better off. And Sabre has responded to that. Not just to me. They’ve made improvements of mine. My wife and I just are such enthusiasts we had to go up to the Sabre factory in Maine, just to see how they’re made, and the new models just keep getting better.
Many details struck Cameron as just right on the Sabre as well. “The way they laid out the engine room, and access to it,” he says. “The whole finish of the cabin I just thought was outstanding on Sabre.
The boat also fit in with they type of cruising he does. “The boat operates very efficiently,” Cameron says. “Mine’s got twin Yanmars, and we can cruise at 20 knots all day long and I’m only burning 18 gallons an hour. Actually I can say the tanks on the boat will outlast me, in terms of daily travel. You’re not plotting your cruise just gas pump to gas pump. Some of our cruising, we can leave the mouth of the Connecticut river and we can go off for four or five days and be back and not even go through one tank of fuel.”
Cameron has made a couple of modifications as well. “The one thing you’re going to see on that which is of course not standard equipment, because we do cruise a lot we carry a dinghy with us,” he says. “I refuse to haul one through the water after me and I’m frustrated a lot at seeing people take their outboards off and stow them in inconvenient places, so I ended up splurging on a Freedom Lift. And when we’re off on our couple of weeks cruises I stay in touch with the world with the satellite TV—I got the KVH TV One it’s called. The only other thing I had is kind of funny. Sabre and Petzold’s together put together a great electronics package, and they made great choices so I had no issue with it. But one of the units was a VHF radio that had a DSC button you could push if you’re in trouble and it’s automatic. But it had on it another feature that I didn’t think, it’s an automatic fog horn. But he didn’t put a hailer on it!”
Cameron is looking forward to another season of cruising on his Sabre 38.
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