Decision Time – September 2003

Southampton Boat Show Opal Marine

After many years of dreaming, reading yachting magazines and brochures, then spending many happy hours visiting boatyards & boat shows clambering over yachts old & new, the day of reckoning was fast approaching! We had decided on new or as new as possible within the constraints of our budget.

We had produced a wish list for our perfect craft and done lots of research on what we believed were the ideal yachts to suit our needs! We just had to find the perfect one.

During a visit to Fox’s boatyard in Ipswich (also the home of Oyster Yachts – oh yeh! way out of reach so dream on Dave and Sue!) we viewed a couple of contenders which fitted the profile but somehow did not feel right. However, the Sales people were extremely helpful and accommodating, inviting us to return to view a yacht that was in commission and about to be placed in the water the following morning. The Sales person even booked Suzie and I into the hotel across the road from the Marina at a discounted rate, joining us for a drink after he finished for the day. When we returned the next day, we were suitably impressed by the yacht he showed to us and he proposed that we visit the forthcoming Southampton Boat Show (SBS) where he would be able to offer a deal and gave us complimentary tickets to attend.

September 2003 arrived and armed with cheque book & pen in Suzies handbag, we excitedly made our way to Christchurch where my brother lived, to have a holiday and family reunion with brother Trev, his wife Sue (yes another),  staying at the Somerford Inn managed by my lovely niece Kelly. Following a lovely evening of catch up, Suzie, me, Trev & Sue caught the train from Christchurch to Southampton and booked into the Premier Inn – Southampton for 2 nights.

Following a hearty breakfast at the hotel and a leisurely walk through the centre of the city, we arrived at the entrance to the Boat Show, only to be greeted by a huge array of stands selling a host of goodies, extra’s, gadgets & widgets we had never envisaged or considered (that would come later). Our first priority however were the boats, so we made our way hastily to the bit that mattered – even that took 30 minutes!

We had never visited SBS before, so after we had crossed the bridge onto the boat area even with site plan in hand, the first question was “where the hell do we start?”. Immediately in front of us was a massive Sunseeker ‘gangsters gin palace’ and this was next to the Moody stand which I had marked on our plan as the first port of call. Both had signs to say “by invitation or appointment only”. “Bugger that”, I thought, using an Aussie expression, Moody was one of my targets and I find out that this was the super-yacht section that even my gold card would not get entry to. So moving swiftly on, we decided to wander around first, marking our site plan for later viewings. This took the entire morning and then we found the Guinness tent – result!

One, OK then, maybe two pints later we had decided on a program for the afternoon starting with Fox’s who were represented in the Beneteau stand on the hard. Swiftly moving on, we then visited our target yachts which were afloat in the marina. First stop Southerly followed by Feeling, Halberg-Rassy, Moody (proper ones), Island Packet, Jeaneau and Poncin.


We shortlisted the Feeling 40, Poncin 44, Island Packet 38 and Southerly 36 for second viewings and went back to the Guinness tent for another pint (OK two) to consolidate our thoughts. Whilst I do not recommend using the Guinness tent to form a rational decision about any future purchase (or financial commitment) of this type, I can suggest that whilst we knew what we were looking for beforehand, we needed time to confirm we were heading in the right direction.

Second viewings duly carried out, we once again returned to the Guinness tent to finalise our way forward. I favoured the Southerly and Suzie favoured the Feeling, the Island Packet 38 was still in our mind as 3rd choice. The rationale here was man thoughts vs woman thoughts – i.e. functionality vs functionality and overall interior cosmetics. On to third viewings then!

We returned to the Southerly 36 first, I was still impressed until we got down to negotiations and by the time we added up the sums with all the extra’s, I had moved my thoughts to the Island Packet 38 (a world girdler) all in for a lesser price and more room.

Southampton Boat Show Poncin 44
On the Poncin 44

Our final visit of the day was to see the Feeling 40 again which was still Suzie’s 1st choice. I had to agree that the interior was more suited to our brief when Simon, the MD of Feeling UK asked us to have a look at the 44. He explained that this was his own personal yacht and only 8 months old. He then went on to say that Feeling wanted him to put a new 48 on demo so he was selling the 44 to cover the exchange. That threw the cat amongst the pigeons because he offered us his 44 for the same price as the show price of the 40 and, it was already fitted out with all of the electronics and extras as well. Back to the Guinness tent!

Decision made (well sort of) we went back to see Simon on the 44 and agreed in principle that we would buy it. By this time, the boat show was closing for the day and it was party time for the exhibitors. Simon asked us to stay behind on his boat and have a glass of fizz even though contracts were not signed. He then invited us out for dinner in the centre of Southampton. We had a fabulous evening with maybe 20 or so other yachties and exhibitors before finding our way back to the hotel for reflection. Decision made?

We had another day to enjoy at SBS, so once again breakfast and a walk before hitting the show. This time, to look at all of the many stands offering all sorts of everything. We bought deck shoes, courtesy flags and even an under-sink water purifier during a morning of unexpurgated pleasure.

Lunchtime arrived and once again a visit to the Guinness tent was calling before committing to what was going to be the second largest purchase we had ever made. Then, all of a sudden, both Suzie and I said in unison hmm, let’s go and have another look at the Island Packet.

Southampton Boat Show Island Packet 380
Island Packet 380

Walking back to the Marina berths where we originally viewed an Island packet on the water, we came across one on the Opal Marine show stand on the hard that we had not seen the day before so we went to have a look. It was in the middle of 3 or 4 Bavarias and 3 other Yachts I did not recognise and for some reason I cannot explain we immediately excluded the Packet from our thoughts and carried on walking the show. We then saw a stand exhibiting only 1 yacht which was a demo boat that looked good and being sold by a broker – it was a Legend 44 but the broker was also Opal Marine. We went aboard and this Yacht seemed to tick all of the boxes that had drawn us to the Feeling, plus a few more making us question our decision. Whilst talking with the representative he explained that Legend had just introduced a new model that he considered to be a superior proposition and that it was back on the Opal stand next to the Island Packet.

Southampton Boat Show Opal Marine
Suzie at the Opal Marine Stand

Out of curiosity, we decided to go and view the new model which turned out to be the Legend 41 AC. Within minutes of stepping down the companion way, no words were necessary to describe the sensations we were both having – this was the one! We were blown away. After spending nearly 2 hours with the representative and going over the whole boat covering every possible query or question we could think of, we were walking away with pre-purchase agreements subject to contract following a satisfactory test sail in the Solent.

The problem now was having to go and see Simon on the Feeling and explain our decision. It was not easy and I felt really guilty, but in the end, we made the right decision for Us!

Following our test day 2 weeks later, we signed the contracts and completed the order for our personal build specifications. Our dream was about to become a reality and the long wait for the arrival of Hull No. 14 had begun.

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
— Mark Twain, Great American Writer

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