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Apsara: Details: Buying and Building Apsara

We purchased the boat through Paul Kaplan of KKMI which is Nautor Swan's west coast agent and was the number one seller of Swan's worldwide in the year we signed our contract. We were the small boat, with them selling a Swan 112, a 100, a couple of 60s and three 56s all about the same time. Their experience with Nautor dates back many years and Paul and his partner, Ken Keefe, were actively involved in our planning and building process. Ken is a former America's Cup sailor and rigger and he traveled to Finland about once a month to monitor the building process of all the KKMI boats. Ken is highly respected by the Nautor Finns and when he says that something is probably not being designed or built to handle tough offshore conditions, they tend to listen and make adjustments. Ken was on hand when Apsara was launched and his help getting the final technical items sorted and tested was invaluable.

Building the boat was one of the most fun aspects of our adventure. Swan allowed us fairly broad latitude in designing and customizing the boat while Paul and Ken kept us from getting into too much trouble by guiding us back to mostly proven ideas and concepts. In the end there were about 35% more labor hours put into our boat than the hypothetical "stock" build - I don't think that they have ever done a stock build since every potential owner wants some degree of customization. Much of what we added/changed were items to make the boat more bullet-proof for cruising (redundant methods to charge the batteries and cool the fridge/freezer, more fuel capacity) and more comfortable (larger owner's suite/cabin, separate stall shower, air conditioning, heating). Swan and KKMI were great through this process and I would love to have the experience again on our next boat.

New vs. Used
We bought a new boat for two primary reasons: Perceived higher reliably and the ability to customize the boat to fit our needs and desires.

I believed that a new boat offered us the best chance of having the fewest problems. I was somewhat inappropriately applying a new car vs. used car analogy here. I knew that there would be some "teething" problems as we worked out the problems of the new boat, but I thought that having a one year warranty and having Swan service centers along our intended route would allow us to quickly fix problems that arose. The idea of buying a five year-old boat with older systems, modifications made by the original owner but not documented in drawings, electrical connections corroding, etc seemed unappealing compared with getting a new boat, especially one build stem to stern with Finnish attention to detail. Now, about nine months into our warranty period we have spent about seven weeks in boatyards getting the "teething" problems sorted out. This has been frustrating. Our biggest issues have been a leaking rudder due to bad seals (finally fixed in Antigua), watermaker failure (fixed and working great since Sweden), refrigeration starting problems (hopefully fixed in Antigua), a vang that wouldn't hold gas pressure (maybe fixed, maybe not), a poorly designed bow roller that is causing problems with anchoring in med-high winds (not yet remedied), and the failed NKE autopilot (now fixed and working better than the newly added Raymarine pilot). In addition to the big stuff there have been dozens of small things that any used boat would probably have (small water leaks, failed water pumps, door rattles, loose knobs, etc.) Nautor has been in general been very, very responsive and there have not been any arguments about whose paying for what. However, it is clear to us now that the most trouble-free period of this boat's life will probably be years two and three.

The second reason we chose to build a new boat was that we didn't see what we wanted on the used market. Being able to have one of the best yacht builders in the world tweak and customize an already proven boat was very attractive and as I mentioned above, fun. This certainly proved itself to be true.

In retrospect, I think that given that we had about a 24-month window to build the boat and do this sail, we probably made the right choice for us. The hassles of the new boat's problems have been diminished by a builder that stands behind the product and outweighed by how well this boat works for a couple wanting to cover long distances quickly, safely, and upon arrival at the distant tropical anchorage have a "home" that is comfortable, beautiful, and relatively spacious. The only better way to have done this would have been to taken delivery in San Francisco, lived aboard for a year while regularly sailing the boat fairly hard before leaving. For us this wasn't appealing as part of our adventure was to pick the boat up in Northern Finland and sail through Europe and do a westbound (the fun way) crossing of the Atlantic . In addition, I don't think that I could have convinced Nancy to move out of our place on Russian Hill and commence weekly offshore sails in the 50 o F Gulf of Farallones to shakedown the boat while she continued commuting an hour and a half to her job in San Jose. I don't believe simply owning the boat in San Francisco would have been sufficient to have worked our all the bugs in the first year. Some things only showed up after 3,000 miles and three months of daily use of the systems. It would have been a shame to "waste" the warranty period by not sailing the boat as much as we have.

So, would we do things differently next time? Yes, certainly, but I still think we'd go with the new boat. Of course, some of this depends on the resale price. Swans hold their value and we know of people who have sold their two or three year-old boats for close to what they paid. In addition the replacement price, in US dollars, for our boat is now about 40% higher due to the devaluation of the dollar against the Euro and slight price increases at the factory. So we will revisit the question in a year or so.

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