Finding Our Ocean Voyaging Sailboat, Part Three

by Leslie Godfrey in ,

The Tried and True Valiant

October 2012

Sonrisa remained on our minds quite a bit.  Of all the boats we looked at, she was in the best condition, most well equipped, and most well regarded as a design.  Reading cruising books and researching on the internet, we learned that a Valiant 40 is a renown cruiser that has safely carried their people to all corners of the earth in relative comfort.  Book after book mentioned their seakindly movement, strength, and seaworthy layout.  Much has been written about the benefits of a U-shaped galley, sea berths, small and safe cockpits.  Valiants have been known to survive whale attacks, shipping containers, and even 12 hour bashings against reefs.  When asked about how they handle in storms owners have said "what's a storm?" (While I'm sure this is an over-statement, some boats handle better than others in a blow.)   Books also say that Valiants are relatively speedy for a cruising boat, often making 150-160 miles per day on average, even when weighted down with all the gear and provisions needed for a long passage.  The first thing anyone mentions when they talk about a Valiant is how nice they are to sail.

We needed a strong, but relatively fast 40 foot boat we could purchase for $125,000 or less, sitting somewhere in Southern California, in 90% sail ready condition with only typical maintenance issues to resolve before leaving. And we would buy it as soon as we were confident we had found the right boat at the right price.

...Could it be?   It just seemed too good to be true.

So many people we know and/or read about have had years of struggle finding the right boat for them.  Every time they find something they think might work, when they visit in person, they find the condition to be far more rough than anticipated.  How could it possibly be that our boat is the very first boat we physically looked at?    

Sonrisa was the first boat, in the first slip in the marina directly behind the first broker's office we visited.  She was in our price range, well equipped, and already located in San Diego - the place we ultimately wanted to slip the boat until we were ready to leave.  She's a 1981, but she has never had a blister.  She has already sailed two different owners across the Pacific Ocean.  She has been well loved.  How could we be so lucky?

We mulled it over, discussed for hours upon hours. Despite not being very superstitious, I was very superstitious about the fact that she was the first boat we looked at.  I would have felt more confident if she had been the 5th, 10th, 40th, whatever.   At this point, two typically rational people took to black magic for confirmation of our decision.  First, Andrew tried to read his tea leaves, then he asked the (online) Magic 8 Ball which provided a very decisive assessment of the situation:

Andrew: Should I buy Sonrisa?

Magic 8 Ball: Absolutely!

But even the 8 ball wasn't enough to convince us, so we consulted a friend's trusted taro cards. And in a last ditch effort to make sure The Universe was on board, I employed my trusty: "If this, then that" method (very reliable).  While testing out our new mountain biking headlamps on our favorite two lap loop near our house, I almost ran over a rattlesnake (who freaked me out). I told Andrew:  If I see the rattlesnake again on our second lap, we should not buy Sonrisa.  One lap rattlesnake.  


So, on my 31st birthday, October 5, 2012 we opened negotiations on Sonrisa and made our very first offer.  We then headed out on the town for dinner and a show -- Wicked at the Smith Center for Performing Arts in Las Vegas.  It was a pretty good day.