On being … just what we were both looking for

By Ingrid Sapona

The past five or six summers (maybe longer) I haven’t made much use of my sail boat because I usually sail with friends on their boat. I inherited the boat from my dad in 2001 and the club where I keep it isn’t that expensive. That said, given how infrequently I’ve gotten out on it the past many seasons, on a per sail basis, each outing is probably more than the most expensive day spa you’d ever find! 

This year, after launching her I discovered a part of the furler broke. It was really unusual, but maybe water got in and froze over the winter, causing the metal to split. Ugh. The boat can be sailed, but I knew I’d have to do something about it and I imagined it’d be expensive.   

As I was looking into options related to the furler, I started to think maybe this was a “sign”. Was this the universe (or my late father) tapping me on the shoulder, urging me to focus on the underlying question of whether it’s time to sell the boat. At first, I put that idea out of my head, thinking I was just frustrated at the unexpected expense. When I found out the fix was only a few hundred, it was clear that the cost wouldn’t be a deciding factor. So, I started to try to honestly assess the question of whether it was time to let her go. 

The boat’s been in our family 40 years and my sentimental attachment to it weighed heavy in the equation of pros and cons. The only way I could bare the thought of parting with it is if I thought it was going to someone who’d enjoy it (dare I say love it?) as I had. But how do I find that person? 

As 49-year-old boats go, I think she’s in pretty good shape, but she’s not turning any heads any more. I’ve maintained her, but I’ve not poured money into new sails or fancy electronics. And, at 25 feet, she’s almost small by today’s standards. So, hard to say if anyone would be interested in her at all. 

After much soul searching, I decided I’d try to sell the boat. I figured if I didn’t find the right person, then next spring before launch I’d replace the furler and I’d enjoy her for another season. Though I think I had reasonable expectations, I had a pit in my stomach all the same. 

I put up a “for sale” notice on the bulletin board of my club and a few other nearby clubs. I also mentioned it to friends, asking them to help spread the word. A couple folks suggested Facebook marketplace, which I’d never heard of. But, I found a boat buying/selling Facebook group that seemed promising and I submitted the listing for approval. 

A few days passed before I logged back into Facebook. When I did, I found messages from two people. One person just had a question. The other person (Magnus, rather like a character from A Little Night Music) had sent me three messages. His first was that he’s a willing buyer with cash and a dock at a nearby club. His second was that he could come look at the boat any time. His third was, “Why are you ignoring my messages?” I wrote him back and assured him I wasn’t ignoring him – I just don’t check Facebook too often. I gave him my number and within an hour he called. He wanted to come see it later that day. I wasn’t ready to move that fast, so I stalled, agreeing to show him the boat later in the week. 

Meanwhile, before I placed the Facebook notice, someone I used to work with expressed an interest. She and her husband and daughter were coming to see it the day after Magnus’ viewing. 

Magnus was on time and enthusiastic. We chatted about how long the boat’s been in the family and he seemed to “get” my attachment to it. He walked around on the boat, thumping the deck here and there to hear how solid it sounded (I guess). I showed him the furler problem and I told him the costs I’d been quoted for fixing or replacing it and that didn’t seem to phase him. He kept saying what great condition it was in and how solid this vintage was. A few minutes later he sat down in the cockpit and said, “I really want your boat. I have cash with me. Let’s sign something and close the deal.” 

I was definitely flustered at the thought – it was moving quicker than I could handle. I told him I needed to think about it. He cheerily said, “But this is exactly what I’m looking for. Come on – First Dibs!” Though that struck me as kind of a guy thing to say, it was endearing. I told him he didn’t actually have first dibs because someone else was coming to look and they were in touch with me before him. Besides, I was going to have to think about it in any event. I said I’d phone him in four days to let him know my decision. He said he’d continue looking in the meanwhile, and I assured him that was fine and I wished him luck with that. 

The next day he texted to thank me and to say he appreciated my resolve. He also apologized for nagging and said he looked forward to hearing my decision. Two days later he texted to let me again, this time to let me know he did not buy the other boat he went to look at. I must admit, I was relieved to hear that, as the more I thought about it, the more I felt that same tapping on my shoulder, telling me Magnus was the one. 

The next morning, I phoned him and told him if he promised to take good care of her, he could have the boat. Magnus promised and we made arrangements to meet that afternoon to sign the deal. He paid the asking price with no qualms or haggling and we talked about the logistics of him sailing it away. After we parted, he texted me to thank me again and he said he’d be happy to take me for a sail if I wanted to visit her. 

I won’t lie… I feel sad closing this chapter, but I’m happy the ending I had hoped for came to pass. I think she’s in good hands and will be well loved… 

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona


On being … undaunted

By Ingrid Sapona                  

There’s a British show I’m obsessed with: Escape to the Chateau DIY. It’s the sequel to Escape to the Chateau (EtC), which was one of my mother’s favourite shows in her last few years. EtC featured a quirky British couple (Dick and Angel Strawbridge) who bought a 45-room dilapidated French chateau. EtC focused on their transformation of the chateau into a one-of-a-kind wedding/event venue. 

Angel is incredibly creative and imaginative. She can take scraps of material or odds and ends and create wall coverings that have to be seen to be appreciated. I used to love listening to my mother try to explain to me what Angel made or created each week. (Back then, the show wasn’t high on my list of things to watch. Besides, it was almost more fun for me to hear Mom’s descriptions and to try to picture what Angel had made.) 

Anyway, recently I noticed the initials DIY on the TV listings for EtC. Given that Dick and Angel’s rehab of their chateau was very much a “Do It Yourself” adventure, I wasn’t sure if that was the name of the show all along. One evening I decided to tune in and see what projects Dick and Angel were up to. To my surprise, the DIY show – though narrated by Dick – features other middle-aged Brits who have also bought French chateaus. 

The past couple months the CBC has been running EtC DIY weekday afternoons. So, I’ve kind of been binge watching it. The premise is similar – it features mainly couples (there are a few brave – crazy? – single women) who have always dreamed of owning a French chateau. The series features a mix of folks at various stages of their chateau journey. Some segments feature couples shopping for a chateau. It’s interesting to watch them as they consider just what level of dilapidation (in some cases it’s really dereliction) they’re willing to take on. Though the chateaus are magnificent – especially from the outside – many have not been inhabited for decades. 

True to its title, each episode features chateau owners tackling renovation projects. It might be something seemingly simple, like converting an empty room into a luxurious guest bedroom and bath. But even those simple-sounding projects can be huge challenges, given the age of the buildings and scale of the rooms. Indeed, I have a new appreciation for the usefulness of scaffolding and cherry pickers. 

Projects are often inspired by some item found in an unused room or at a flea market. For example, one couple found an old, cast-iron claw foot tub and they decided to make it the centerpiece of a new guest suite. A few chips and cracks? No problem – seems there’s paint that works wonders to cover such flaws. And while they were at it, they add some bling by gold-leafing the outside. And if the refurbishment wasn’t impressive enough, when the tub was ready, they had to move it into its new place on the second floor. I’m sure I wasn’t the only viewer holding my breath as they hoisted it up through the second story window using their cherry picker! 

But it’s not just living quarters that they’re re-doing. Chateau owners often discover some original feature that was covered over that they decide to bring back to life. When an owner discovered a brick bread oven that had been sealed off behind a wall for over 100 years, she decided to restore it for use. When she realized the flue was sealed about half way up the chimney, she came up with a work-around. She knocked out a hole in the brick flue wall and ran a pipe up into an adjoining fireplace flue one floor above. She managed to bring that bread oven, which used to be used by a baker that served 10 farms in the early 1800s, back to life. 

What I find most amazing is the chateau owners’ “can do” attitude toward everything. Centuries old stonework needs re-pointing? No problem! Hire a mason to teach you how to do it, and then get to it. One couple decided to turn an out building that housed the chateau’s huge, defunct water tank into a cinema lounge. The first order of business was getting rid of the old metal tank. No problem: get a special metal-cutting blade for your hand-held circular saw, don heavy duty protective clothing and what looks like welder’s goggles, and cut away. After that work, carting off the heavy pieces of metal seemed like child’s play. 

The chateau owners’ willingness to tackle repairs has lit a bit of a fire in me. So last week I decided to try to replace a few broken cam cleats on my boat. I won’t bore you with the details other than to say it turned out easier than I feared. The only tricky part was finding someone to help hold the screw on the top of the cleat while I worked the nut in a tight space below. Then, the true test came a few days later when it rained. I’m happy to report there were no leaks around the cleats. Pleased with the result and with myself, I realized part of what keeps the chateau owners going is the sense of accomplishment. 

Buoyed by my success with the cleats, I’ve decided to try to fix the toilet on the boat (the “head”, in sailor speak). I recently discovered the manual pump on it isn’t working. Though new toilets aren’t that expensive, they attach differently, which means I’d have to move the existing fittings. I called the toilet manufacturer to find out if they still make replacement pumps for my old unit and they do. So, undaunted – and channeling EtC DIY – today I ordered the part. And, when it comes, I’ll do as the chateau owners do: I’ll give it a go.   

© 2022 Ingrid Sapona