Story of the $1 Sailboat

This story begins in Alameda, California. A quirky suburb of San Francisco which is actually an island and home to a former Naval Base. In 2009 I moved here with my family, escaping the hurried life in San Francisco. I sold a duplex which I had converted into condos and was able to buy a large 2000 square foot Victorian home for the same price as our two bedroom condo in the city.

one dollar sailboat

Akula Sailboat Ranger 28

I’ve always tried to do what is accessible wherever I live, so after a few years of residing in Alameda, which is really an island, I began to notice that we were encircled by marinas, sail makers, boat yards and rigging shops. Wow, this is the place to own a boat for sure!

You have probably heard all the horror stories and innuendos about boat ownership, but I was determine to jump in. I started asking around to everybody I knew for suggestions, experiences, etc. and lo and behold a good friend of mine who is an exec. at Salesforce said “I’ll sell you my boat for a dollar.” This sounded good to me so I waited and waited for him to be back in the country and finally got an appointment with my high powered buddy through his personal assistant.

When I arrived at the corporate headquarters of Salesforce, I was ushered into a small room and told to wait for my guy. I was a little bit in awe at what I witnessed, from the towering glass structures being erected all around me to the 20-something kids running around with Macbooks, and the luxurious “break room” if you could call it that. Then in walked my guy Woodson. We quickly signed all the papers, had some niceties, shook hands and off I went with the marina key and title in hand. Transaction complete! $12 for 30 minutes of parking, $1 for the boat. I guess you can honestly say parking in S.F costs 12x as much as a sailboat.

Guess where I went immediately after leaving Salesforce? You guessed it, I went right to the boat which I had barely even seen. It’s a Ranger 28 which is actually a fantastic racing sailboat with a roller furling jib, new bottom paint and an Atomic 4 gas motor. Woodson had done considerable upgrades after having purchased himself for just $1, and was passing down the good fortune. I suppose I will be obligated to sell it for a dollar when I’m ready.

After taking the boat out numerous times for short sails and getting as far as Alcatraz, I began to undertake some projects. The largest of which has been the head liner. It was torn and moldy and falling apart. After pulling out the entire vinyl foam backed headliner, It turned out that water has been leaking into the core of the boat due to faulty mounting of deck hardware. I’m starting to see why people have all these innuendos about boats, when you get into repairs they can seem never ending. And there is not always a clear way to repair something. Special tools and “marine grade” materials are necessary. I’m beginning to think “marine grade” means triple the price and add a high combustion warning label.

Fortunately my methodical and tenacious nature has enable me to attack even the most complicated repairs. I’ve figured out how to drill and fill holes with silica-epoxy mix in order to prevent core damage, tune and re-route the rigging, and through-hole mount the deck hardware in a structurally sound manner. I’ve removed the portlights and had them machined at Tap Plastics (a boaters delight) and learned how to re-mount them accounting for the differing expansion properties of acrylic. The learning curve is steep but I’m systematically bringing the boat up to modern standards the same way I have done with many of my apartment buildings. Next on the list is the electric system. I’ll tell the story of the “Nick gets electrocuted while working on his Landcruiser” one day when I know you better.

Even with all the repairs, I have promised myself that I’ll take the boat out regularly rather than getting bogged down in endless repairs.


Nick and Woodson in his mega yacht!

With the vulnerability of a relatively small sailboat combating the fury of the San Francisco Bay, I thought it prudent to get educated in the nautical arts. My first class was the Adult Sailing Course at the Encinal Yacht Club. My daughter has been in their Jr. Sailing program for years so it was the natural beginning. More recently I signed up for and completed Basic Cruising at Club Nautique. Basic Cruising was intense and an absolutely fantastic curriculum which was very well presented. I learned so much in 4 straight days on the water in their Beneteau 31. I can honestly say I feel very confident maneuvering that craft around the Bay, doing man overboard drills, dropping anchor and “heaving to”, just to name a few. All this is in preparation for chartering a bare boat in the British Virgin Islands next year with my family. Next up is my Bare Boat class which includes overnights, charting and plotting and so many other things I can only imagine.

My boat, the Akula, is berthed at Clipper Cove at Treasure Island, a really interesting area that is undergoing re-development. If you enjoy sailing or would ever like to go out on the bay with me please send me an email, I’m always looking for a good crew.

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