Seeing how Dustin and I both have full time jobs and about a million side projects that we are working on simultaneously at any given moment, we are always looking for ways to save a little time. There are several sail boats that we’ve been eyeing on the internet that were just close enough for us to consider driving to see over the weekend, but just far enough away to be too far to go just to see a boat. So when we decided to go to Niagara for a mini vacation for our anniversary earlier this month, Dustin started looking at boats in that area. We made plans to go look at a 36′ Islander Freeport in Port Colborne on Lake Erie on the 2nd day of our trip, which was about 20 minutes from Niagara Falls, Ontario. A few days before our trip, Dustin also found a 38′ Irwin MKII that was for sale in Bay City, MI. So we decided to take a short detour and drive up to Bay City first before heading over to Niagara.
We arrived in Bay City around 3pm and found the marina where the boat was located, Bay Harbor Marina. The boat broker was still on his way so we used the time before he arrived to take some pictures of the outside of the boat.
He showed up a few minutes after us and took us aboard the vessel.
The boat was a center cockpit sailboat and very well kept. We liked the space in the stern of the boat that was created from the center placement of the cockpit. It would suit us well for a fish cleaning/grilling/dog bathing area. Other boats that we had looked at had not offered a space such as this and it gave us something new to consider.
The boat was outfitted with a nice, clean, navy blue dodger and already had dinghy davits installed. In fact, it was for sale including a small 2 hp dinghy but unfortunately it was a soft bottom dinghy and we want a fiberglass bottom dinghy, so that wasn’t really a bonus for us. The davits were a plus though.
From the cockpit, there were 5 steps down into the cabin. On the port side of the vessel was a walk through galley kitchen with a large ice box and a 3 burner stove. The floor was sunken in this area, which was nice as we didn’t have to crouch down to walk in the kitchen.
This area led into the captain’s quarters or master bedroom and it had a fantastic walk around centerline bed with ample storage for clothing, which let’s face it, as a woman, made me excited!
Dustin and I laid on the bed to try it out and see how we fit and it was PERFECT! Much better than being crammed into a V-berth, awkwardly trying to escape each other during a snore fest!
From the stairs into the cabin on the starboard side of the boat was another walk through from one of the two bathrooms on the boat (I hate calling them heads because it makes me feel like a trucker…”I’m gonna hit the head”) into the aft stateroom. So there were two entrances to the aft bedroom.
There was another v-berth bed with a second bathroom. I am very close with my family so Dustin and I are planning on our families coming to visit as often as they want while we are sailing and it’s important to us to have a private space for them so they feel comfortable when they visit. We loved the layout of this boat, being that it had two private bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Our PROS of the Irwin MKII:
- Wonderful centerline aft bed
- Lots of drawers and nice closet space
- 2 bed/2 bath
- nice area behind centerline cockpit
- toe guard/lip around outer deck
- clean dodger in good shape
- dinghy davits
- larger than normal windows in cabin
- comfortable cockpit
- large ice box
- large V-berth
Our CONS of the Irwin MKII:
- No swim platform
- 5 steps down into cabin-would be tight with groceries or dogs
- boring living area with straight line setee (couches)
- will need new windows
- needs new electronics
The broker had been keeping an eye on the weather the entire time that we had been looking at the boat because a storm was rolling in and it didn’t look pretty! The clouds coming in looked wicked and soon enough, Bay City’s emergency tornado alarms started to sound. We figured we had better leave so we closed up the boat and hopped on the highway to try and outrun the storm!
We managed to stay ahead of the storm for most of the way to Niagara and on our second day there, we drove about 20 minutes over to Port Colborne on Lake Erie to look at the Islander Freeport that we were interested in. One of my must haves in a sail boat is large windows. I hate feeling closed in or like we are in a dark cave. So Dustin found this unique sailboat that offered expansive views from inside the cabin and lots of sunlight with it’s larger than average size windows.
Dustin had done quite a bit of talking with the current owner of the boat prior to us arriving, so we knew a lot about the boat when we got there. Even still, we were given a very thorough tour of the boat and learned about its history. The aft cockpit was huge! There were 4 of us sitting very comfortably as we were conversing with plenty of extra room to move about.
The boat had double doors into the cabin and there were only 3 steps down into the boat on this model, which made the cabin feel like part of the cockpit, rather than a separate room inside of the boat.
The kitchen was located directly inside the cabin on the port side and was set up very nicely so that someone could be cooking and still be able to talk to everyone in the cockpit with ease.
The ice box/cooler was installed in a way that it was accessible from the cockpit or the galley, which we thought was a neat feature! If it was really wavy and we didn’t want to have to get up and go inside to grab something to drink or snack on, we could just open it up from where we were sitting!
The salon was fantastic! Absolutely a dream. The windows were exactly what I was hoping to find in a sailboat, as they let in tons of natural sunlight and the cabin felt bright and cheery.
There was a large wrap-around couch on the port side and a straight line settee on the starboard side. We were told that the dining table had a leaf that could be added to make it so the area could support up to 8 people at once!
The Islander had a different layout than we had seen at that point, with a Pullman berth (where the bed is located on the port side in the middle of the vessel versus being in the bow or the stern). The bed was a good size and we both fit in it well, but we were a little concerned with how the person on the inside near the wall would get out without waking the other person, should one of us have to get up in the middle of the night.
There were shutters to close on the side to make it more private for if we had guests but that was another concern. There was only one bed and one bathroom. And you have to walk past the bedroom area to get to the bathroom. The bathroom was huge for a boat and was a true “head” in the bow of the boat, but we worried that its location would be awkward if we had overnight guests.
Directly across from the Pullman berth were his and hers hanging locker closets and a set of drawers. In one of the drawers, there was a vanity with a lighted mirror. Just below the bed, there was a step that also doubled as a seat which was right across from the vanity and would make a great area for me to get ready while Dustin was in the bathroom if needed.
Overall, we really liked the layout of the Islander Freeport. It felt a lot more like a home than most boats do and we could really picture ourselves living in it. That being said, it’s important to us to have a place for guests and this boat just didn’t offer it, so we were a little torn on our opinion of it.
Our PROS for the Islander Freeport:
- Wonderful living area (cabin/salon)
- Huge windows with lots of sunlight
- Only 3 steps down into the cabin
- Can cook and still be near people in the cockpit
- Cooler opens from cockpit area
- Dogs would be able to see outside from inside the cabin
- Huge bathroom compared to a lot of boats
- large cockpit
- Fold down transom that acts as a swim platform
- newer sails because owner owns a company that sells sails
- nice wrap-around couch
- lots of storage inside
- Easy to reach engine for mechanical repairs
Our CONS for the Islander Freeport:
- Only one bed and one bath- no privacy for guests
- Will need to be outfitted with all new electronics
- Will eventually need to install new windows/ports
After talking with the owner and his son for about an hour and a half, we learned that they own a business selling sails for sailboats. Dustin learned that they did not currently have a sales agent covering the Lake Michigan area where we live, which sparked his interest. We have both been researching jobs that you can do from anywhere so that we can travel more without such a set work schedule and this sounded like it could be right up his alley. So we’ll see where that goes. We want whatever is God’s will to happen for us and are trusting him to lead us to the right places at the right times to make things happen!
After Niagara, we had also planned to spend the last day of our trip near Lake Saint Clair looking at sailboats. The area is known as the Nautical Mile due to its numerous marinas and thousands of boats.
When we arrived, we pulled up a map on our phones and searched for waterfront restaurants, hoping to find a nice location for our anniversary dinner. We found 3 that looked nice that were all in the same area so we drove by each to check them out and then settled on one called “The Current Food and Libations”.
It was situated behind a marina with slips surrounding two sides of it and a cozy looking upper deck.
We had looked at the menu online and it sounded fantastic! We asked to be seated upstairs on the outer deck so we could enjoy the view. Not knowing that the upstairs had a separate, smaller menu from the downstairs area, we were unable to order what we had originally planned on. We chose the view over the food though and ordered some fish tacos and clam chowder instead that ended up being really tasty!
It was a Monday night so the place cleared out quickly and soon it was just us upstairs enjoying each other, the glow of the string lights above us and the warm breeze coming from the lake.
Before dinner, we had briefly looked for a hotel and hadn’t seen a single one near the lake so we asked our server for some suggestions before leaving and she said the closest ones would be in Roseville, which was 4-5 miles away. We found it kind of odd that such a pretty lake didn’t have any lakefront hotels, but we didn’t mind since it was just for a night. We stayed at a nice Days Inn with a huge pool area and only had to pay $68 for a room with a king sized bed! This was a steal compared to the prices we had paid for much less in Canada. We were glad to be home and back to reasonable rates again!
The next morning we got up and had breakfast at the hotel and then went out scouring the Nautical Mile for marinas to inquire within about sail boats. Many years ago, Saint Clair Shores is where Dustin’s mother had found and purchased her first sail boat and she suggested we look there. To our surprise, a lot had changed from what she remembered and many of the marinas had switched to power boat sales instead of sail boats. There was only one marina that we found that sold sail boats and the boat broker was not in when we stopped by. We gave him a call and he wasn’t going to be in for at least an hour so we decided to drive a 1/2 hour over to Harrison Township, as Dustin remembered seeing several boats for sale there on Craigslist.
Harrison Township was a very charming little lakeside town and to us, had more sail boats than the “Nautical Mile”. As we were driving past one marina, Dustin spotted another Irwin MKII that he had seen online. It was listed in another town so we drove past it by complete chance, not knowing it was there! We decided to stop and take a look. Dustin called the marina and was put in contact with the owner and she gave us permission to climb aboard the vessel to look inside, as she lived over an hour away. The boat was set up very similar, but did not have the nice centerline walk-around queen berth that the first one had and that was really the whole selling point of it for me. It did, however, come with a lot of upgrades and electronics. Dustin really liked that part! While I understood how important all of that stuff is to have, I was more inclined to choose the boat with the bed that we liked because it was so much more comfortable, and that is important to me since we are going to be living on the boat. I wasn’t in love with this boat and had made up my mind pretty quickly, so I didn’t take many photos of this boat.
As of right now, the Islander Freeport and the Irwin MKII are our main contenders. They both have things we like and dislike so we plan to continue searching to make sure we find everything within our budget that might be appealing to us before we decide on which boat would suit us best for the kind of sailing we want to do. In the meantime, we have been working on fixing up our house so that when we sell it, we can make a larger profit that will go towards buying a boat. We will show you our progress on the house in a future post!