Boat Swapping in Wales

In the early 1990s, my husband, Monty, and I took early retirement, stepped aboard our Gulfstar 39, Salsa, and didn’t come back to our home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, for five years.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

In the early 1990s, my husband, Monty, and I took early retirement, stepped aboard our Gulfstar 39, Salsa, and didn’t come back to our home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, for five years. Our meanderings took us from Newfoundland to South America and nearly everywhere in between. 

In 1998 we brought Salsa back to New England. Wonderful summers downeast ensued, but we missed the siren song of the new and unexpected. There were no Rastafarians catching our lines in Maine, no friendly dolphins to swim with, no castles in the air. Castles! That’s what we craved next. We could have flown to Spain or Germany or the UK, but Monty and I like visiting the damp edges of places. We’ve learned that’s how you get to know a place, by hauling a dinghy up on a beach and asking directions to the nearest tienda, hardware store, or castle.

We wanted to sail to Wales—for the castles and much more, as it is the country of Monty’s forebears. No, belay that idea. We wanted to sail in Wales, not to Wales. We wanted to see for ourselves—from the Menai Strait, not from a bus—Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (which translates as “St. Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rushing whirlpool and the church of St. Tysylios of the red cave”). We wanted to know what the Lundy and Irish Sea Pilot meant when it talked of “yachts that can take the ground” or “training walls with perches.” No, flying to Wales wouldn’t do.

So we arranged a boat swap by putting an ad in the British sailing magazine Yachting Monthly, and found Jennifer and Rod, who offered up Jadocam, their 29-foot Van de Stadt Trintella. We flew the American flag from Jadocam’s port spreader and never saw another foreign cruiser, not even Scottish or Irish or English ones. Strangers gave us fish, fishermen offered moorings, we couldn’t pay for our own pints in the pubs, and we couldn’t get a good sea story in edgewise. And, yes, we saw castles: Aberystwyth, Caernarfon, Conwy, Criccieth, and others. At each spot we beached the dinghy and stormed the ramparts from the sea (see SAIL August 2000).

Hooked on swapping, Monty and I have done it twice more since then. In 2002, dreaming of exotic jungles, chilled cachaça, and samba on the beach, we discovered a boat exchange website (now defunct) and swapped with Gustau and Elena in southern Brazil. We sailed their 36-foot Fast sloop, Esplai II, beneath the soaring mountains of Serra do Mar and in and around the Ilha Grande archipelago (see SAIL May 2002). Then, in 2010, we arranged another swap with Drew and Carol in Scotland. 

In each case, our swap partners came to the U.S. and sailed Salsa. Their experiences were as wonderful as ours. 

We considered the risks. What if something broke? What would insurance cover? How could we be sure our swap partners were responsible? We had done several house swaps, both nationally and internationally, and learned that letters, phone calls, photos and e-mails can tell you a lot about strangers.

By the time we arranged our swaps, these strangers had become friends. We knew where they had sailed and in what conditions; we knew how they made their livings, what their hobbies were and whether they had a sense of humor. Our insurance company told us that since no money was changing hands, it was considered a boat loan—rather like letting your sister borrow your car—and no extra coverage would be required.

We also turned a boat-borrower’s eye on Salsa. Would anyone know where to look for the bilge pump light? What if they turned on the hot-water heater without being plugged in at a marina? We replaced a few incidentals, did a better job of labeling, and wrote out a long set of instructions.

We made sure that dry goods, cleaning products and linens were aboard, as well as our sea boots and foul-weather gear. We left books, charts, CDs and games in their places. And then, just to be sure, we arranged our swaps in such a way that we could personally show our partners the ropes, and vice versa. 

Then we took the chance—just like we’d taken the chance to try a cup of chichi in the San Blas Islands at a coming-of-age party for a young Kuna girl; just like we’d eaten tepisquitli (jungle rat) in a Guatemalan riverside village; just like we’d sailed 6,000 miles from Newfoundland to Venezuela and back again. And aren’t we glad we did. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Boat Swap Websites

These sites are only databases with no guarantees. However, the type of people who list on them are probably just like you:

Boatswap.info is a Dutch site with listings for boats all over the world. A current sampling includes an Elan 36 in the Adriatic, an Ericson 28 in the San Juan Islands and a Vindo 40 in Sweden.

Seemysea.com is a French site with over 200 boats listed. I counted 22 possibilities in France alone.

Sosimpleholidayswaps.com is an Aussie site with some intriguing listings, including a catamaran in South Africa.

Related

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more

emirates-600x

Emirates Team New Zealand Splashes the last of the AC75s

Emirates Team New Zealand unveiled its second-generation AC75 yesterday, joining the other three America's Cup teams with boats in the water. In just over 100 days, this boat will attempt to defend the Cup for the Kiwis, but there's plenty of racing between now and then, with ...read more