Boat as Idea
When talk turns to their boats, owners wax melodic. Web extra from our May 2012 issue.
I met a terrific man in Villefranche during my Med cruising days. Jean Claude only took his boat out of the slip in August of each year. The rest of the time she was secured in her slip in the marina. His boat was a classic, 60-foot, gaff rigged schooner. Wood planked, copper sheathed hull. Massive wood spars that gently raked aft. Teak decks and varnished teak cabin house and trim. He first saw her when he was nine years old, moored in the harbor near where he lived, and he decided right then and there that this beauty would be his one day.
We spent a week in Villefranche, and every day Jean Claude would come down to work on her. Climbing the rigging to paint a bit of tar on the lines. Some sanding here, some varnish there. Some work on the hull, some work on the cabin house. Sometimes it was early in the day; sometimes it was late at night. But he was there, every day.
(Phillip Yaffa, Peregrina, Miami)
In my years at Adler/Barbour I had literally thousands of conversations over 35 years with prospective refrigeration system buyers. Talk about dreams! There were young guys and couples just starting out with a minimal boat—they wanted a cheap and simple system, 12 volt DC, etc.They were fun to chat with. Sometimes they sent me excited postcards from exotic places.
But there were a lot of older guys too, usually in their late 50s or even mid 60s; they’d sailed locally—coastal cruisers or race boats—but never long or far enough to be really satisfied because duty always came first. They’d built their successful businesses, sent their kids to college, paid off one or even several ex-wives, had the big one and the triple bypass. But they still felt pretty good, were now building their getaway world cruising dreamboat, and needed a big capacity deep freeze and lots of reefer space, never mind the cost, just get it to the yard ASAP.
I cannot describe how stressed and anxious many of these guys were, with their eyes on the clock and “September Song” in their ears. Most of them made it; some did not—I’d hear about those from the new owners of their dream boats, calling me to order a spares kit for a long voyage. Sad stories too—how they found the boat in Florida or the Caribbean, owner carried off the boat, never to return, estate sail, etc.
(Michael Adler, Prudence)
I have an acute sense for just how short this life really is. Partly from the debt I feel to my brothers who did not come home, and partly from my own experience of nearly dying from leukemia. I have chosen to live deliberately. Even taking that stance, I savor the essence of my little ship, at the dock or under way. Last night, having trouble sleeping, knowing she was waiting for me—this was in my thoughts, a great comfort.
I remember once when I was really sick. Had not slept in a few days. My wife took me down to my little ship and I climbed aboard. She rocked me to a deep and peaceful sleep even though I was not able to free her from her dock lines that held her fast. Now I sail her, and other boats (I make deliveries). My life is better for the fact that I sail, and my little ship has more value than ANY insurance policy will ever reflect.
(Senior Cruiser, Faith, 1964 Pearson Ariel, Cruising between NC, Bahamas & Pensacola)
I seem to use my boat, Winsome, a blue-hulled CS 40, less and less, a victim of schedule and lately, poor weather. But she is full of memories, most of them good: the 2000 Annapolis-to-Bermuda race in which we sailed 500+ miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake to St. George’s harbor on ONE tack, hardening up as we finished in a modest squall; three summertime cruises to New England, lolling off a friend’s mooring in Edgartown Harbor, watching the swells come and go; a fearsome electric storm one midnight during the 200-mile run from Newport to Cape May that spun us around and then blew us forward in precisely the right direction; a perfect evening on a mooring in Cuttyhunk harbor slurping oysters delivered boatside by a sweet young thing in an open skiff. You get the idea.
(Terence Smith, Washington, D.C.)
All winter long, I lie awake thinking about this thing or that I want to fix or improve on the boat. With so little water in Colorado, sailing for me has to be an abstract concept, or as you say, “the boat as an idea,” rather than the act of sailing. That’s why we usually go out at night. The darkness gives the illusion of a bigger body of water. Often, we use it like a floating cocktail lounge, with like-minded, similarly afflicted people, in the marina where we keep our boat, or anchored in a secluded part of the lake.
(Neil Westergaard, Denver, 18-foot Capri)
Sometimes I think that my boat is much more fantasy than reality. She was built for me, a prototype Alibi 54. Signed contract September 2008. She was delivered November 2011. I wanted a boat that captured my imagination, in appearance and innovative technology. Its ambitions were beyond any of the production boats I’d seen.
The build was a nightmare. The first yard in Thailand dissolved. It took 10 months to set up a new yard and hire staff. I hired a project management team, held weekly production meetings on Skype. He flew over several times. I flew over five times in two years. It was a struggle. The time I’ve spent sailing it, three or four weeks, have been pretty thrilling. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. I’ve had fantasies about building another one.
(Paul Gray, Chicago)