The Fantasy Fleet

It's a simple question, really: What's the one boat you'd most like to take sailing somewhere? Longtime CW contributors respond. A special boat review from our October 2009 issue.

November 10, 2009

There’s a game my parents have been playing for about 35 years now: If we could take any boat cruising, what boat would that be? It’s a fantasy game, sure, but one that’s not without teeth when my parents play it. I was 8 when they bought their first sailboat in 1974-the same year Cruising World was born. The boat was a MacGregor Venture 25 called Lilas that we sailed on Lake Michigan for five or six years till the keel broke off in an October gale; the boat capsized and sank, and two generations of Murphy males nearly drowned. It was the sort of focusing event that compels people to make choices-the reasonable choice in this case being to foreswear sailing and other forms of risky living and count our suburban blessings. But my folks didn’t do that. Instead, they bought a 41-foot Garden-designed ketch, sold the Chicagoland house, and set us off exploring the bigger world.

They’ve been living ashore in Annapolis, Maryland, for 20 years now. But still they play the game. “I keep coming back to the Prout 45,” my mom said recently when I initiated another round. She recounted stories of the easy living that friends have described while making miles around the world aboard those boats. My dad, a yacht broker, concurred, but with a caveat. “Whenever we’re in an anchorage,” he said, “I’m still always drawn to the ketches. I love the way they look and all the choices they give you to balance the sail area. But I think catamarans have taught me that I couldn’t live anymore in a dark cabin with just a couple of portholes for light.”

Yes, this is clearly a game with a few more rounds to go.


On the occasion of Cruising World’s 35th birthday, we’ve pitched the same question to a handful of our longtime friends and abettors. Here’s what they have to say.

****| |Melanie Neale: Shannon Shoalsailor 35|

Melanie Neale
Actually, that’s probably the hardest question ever. But here’s my response: I’d want to take a Shannon Shoalsailer 35 around the Bahamas, especially the Pipe Creek area in the Exumas. I love this boat-it’s one of the most innovative designs I’ve seen recently, and being able to take it into the shallow water in the Exumas would be so much fun. It draws less than three feet, you don’t have to deal with a centerboard or any moving parts below the waterline, and it’s still a pretty boat. It sleeps six, but four seems like a better number. The perfect crew? My husband, my sister, and my brother-in-law.


CW columnist Melanie Neale ( grew up sailing the U.S. East Coast and Bahamas with her family aboard a Gulfstar 47, Chez Nous. She lives with her husband in Hollywood, Florida.

****| |Tania Abei: De Villiers 38|

Tania Aebi
My fantasies are still fluid. Given a few more days or weeks, my choice would change many times over, guaranteed. This will do for today: an aluminum De Villiers 38. I’d buy the plans and have it built by a yard of my choosing, outfitted with nothing but the best-especially the engine. Two models are already out there in the world. One is sailing; the other is being finished up; both are ruggedly dreamy. The northeastern part of North America, so close yet so unknown to me, needs a visit, and it’s geographically convenient enough for me to make good on many of my as yet unfulfilled promises and spend several years taking patient family and friends exploring and sailing.”


Nine hours later: “I’ve had a little more time to think, and to make it a real fantasy, I’ll stick with the northeast cruising destination and De Villiers bit-for now-but I’m gonna have to lose the labor-intensive relationships with family and friends as fantasy crew and go with John Cusack and Nigel Calder instead. Now that’s a crew worth fantasizing over.

Maiden Voyage author Tania Aebi, who’s recent feature for CW was “You Can Go Home Again” (October 2008), first wrote for the magazine as a teenage girl in the 1980s. She lives in Vermont with her two sons.

Carol Newman Cronin
At the age of 15, I promised to marry a sailing friend when I turned 30. The only caveat: He had to own an Ohlson 38 by then. We didn’t get married-not to each other, anyway-but I still have a hankering to cruise on an Ohlson 38. My fantasy specifies updated sails and hardware, modern cordage, and immaculate varnish. Crew must include my husband, Paul. The destination? Nova Scotia’s Bras d’Or lakes. I cruised there with my parents a few weeks after the marriage proposal referred to above. The scenery and gunkholes I remember definitely deserve another look-without the distorted lens of teenage petulance.
Olympic sailor Carol Newman Cronin is the author of Oliver’s Surprise: A Boy, a Schooner, and the Great Hurricane of 1938 (Gemma, 2009). She lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island.


Ed Sherman
When it comes to boats, I like timeless designs, and I admire craftsmanship and top-quality systems. Since price isn’t a concern here, my dream boat is the Chuck Paine-designed Morris 42. I’ve long admired Morris Yachts, and I consider the company’s boats to be among the most finely crafted American products in existence; those sailboats are built by artisans. On my dream cruise, I’d take my Morris transatlantic to the United Kingdom; then I’d migrate south through the Med, ultimately returning via the Caribbean to Newport.

Ed Sherman, a resident of Wickford, Rhode Island, has served as CW’s electronics editor and as a Boat of the Year judge. He develops curriculum for the American Boat & Yacht Council (

****| |Annie Hill: Benford-designed Badger|

Annie Hill
No debate: My dream boat is Badger. Not as she is now, usually sitting on a mooring, compromised for weekend sailing, but as she was when we sailed together: dancing in the trade winds, drifting in fog, dodging ice, with the oceans as her playground.
We’d take a gentle cruise: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland, then across the Pacific to New Zealand, where we could grow old together, spending our summers in the fjords and at Stewart Island, our winters at North Island.

Just me and my perfect boat.

Annie Hill is the author of Voyaging on a Small Income (2001, Tiller Publishing) and Brazil and Beyond (2002, Thomas Reed). She wrote to us from on board Iron Bark, a 35-foot steel gaff cutter, in Nelson, New Zealand.

****| |Steve Callahan: Russell Brown-designed Jzerro|

Steve Callahan
The boat? Jzerro, a Pacific proa designed and built by Russell Brown. It’s a wickedly fun and minimalist cruising machine that will keep the crew in touch with the environment and local folks, especially the curious and oddball. The destination? The Greek Isles, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, and the coast of Turkey. Kathy Massimini and I will get there from our home in Maine via extended explorations of Bermuda (an expensive but also hugely fun destination that we’ve frequented, with a climate much improved over Maine’s winter) and the Azores (for us, a nostalgic fourth visit to one of the most lush, beautiful, and friendly archipelagos on the planet). The length of the voyage? Who knows? But I’d say at least one year.

Steve Callahan is the author of Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea. He and Kathy Massimini live and write near Mount Desert Island in Maine. For more on Jzerro, see “A Starship to Oceania” (March 2001).

Nim Marsh
A Tayana 37 is my choice for a fantasy cruise-a yearlong North Atlantic circle. She’s lovely to look at, and while she may appear matronly above the waterline, designer Bob Perry has cleverly departed from the North Sea double-ender design below the waterline to produce a sailboat with inspired performance that will also be easy on the crew in all weather. Her 31-foot waterline belies her ability to log 150-mile noon-to-noons in 20-plus knots of breeze. Her 337 displacement-to-length ratio suggests primo liveaboard capabilities. With her tall rig and 17.3 sail area-to-displacement ratio, she keeps moving in light air. A moderate 36-percent ballast-to-displacement ratio hints of an easy motion in a seaway.

Nim Marsh was among the first editors Murray Davis hired to steer Cruising World in the mid-1970s. Nowadays, he edits Points East magazine and lives with his wife, Naomi, in Rhode Island.

Dodge Morgan
If it’s true that the simplest things in life are the sweetest, Eagle, a 1926 John Alden-designed Malabar Jr. schooner, couldn’t be any sweeter. She’s 30 feet long, not counting her bowsprit. Lazy jacks tame her gaff-rigged sails. She has tackle and belaying pins, and there’s not a winch in sight. She carries two bunks with brand new cushions, a coal-burning stove, and an ice chest that’s wedged neatly under the drop-leaf table. There’s even a proper head tucked in beside the engine. She’s the boat Mary Beth Teas and I sail in our dreams, and best of all, she’s the one we row up to when we take the dinghy to our mooring. Between us, we’ve done a lot of sailing, on much larger and more lavishly equipped boats. They’ve carried us both handily around the world, around South America, to Tahiti and to Alaska, through the Caribbean and the Mediterranean-so many happy memories for each of us. But the cruise we crave now is a going-nowhere-in-particular sort of cruise, just poking among the bays and ledges along the coast of Maine with no calendar or schedules involved. Sweet and simple, just like Eagle. The sooner we get going, the better.

Dodge Morgan won the Cruising World Offshore Medal in 1986 after his solo circumnavigation, which he chronicled in The Voyage of American Promise (1989, Houghton Mifflin). Mary Beth Teas wrote several CW feature stories in the late 1980s and early 1990s about voyages to Scandinavia and around South America with her family aboard Abbie Haymaker. Her daughter is CW Boat of the Year judge Stacey Collins.

****| |Theresa Nicholson: Hallberg-Rassy 43|

Theresa Nicholson
My first thought? Take off across the South Pacific on Stormy Weather, the 1935 classic designed by a 25-year-old Olin Stephens. The yacht has sailed more than a quarter of a million sea miles, made 15 Atlantic crossings, and competed in seven Fastnets. Of the more than 2,000 boats Stephens designed during his long career, Stormy Weather was his favorite.

Alas, when my dream clouds cleared, I remembered how much time my husband, Darrell, and I spent working on our own wonderful 70-year-old wooden classic during the 12 years that we sailed her. Our tour de monde was mostly a tour de hardware stores. I’m happy to have done it, but I could’ve skipped the constant maintenance.

If Stormy were docked next to a brand-new (or slightly used) Frers number, say a Hallberg-Rassy 43 or a Swan 45, a boat two people can handle, a boat with enough displacement to go offshore but that can still go to windward, I’d take one last long, loving look at Stormy, and then off we’d go. And make it the Med this time, too. Somewhere in the vicinity of Greece.

Theresa Gibbons Nicholson spent her 20s sailing from Florida to Malaysia aboard a 32-foot Atkin ketch, Tosca, that was built in the 1930s. She now lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her husband, Darrell, and two sons.

****| |Carol Hasse: Nordic Folkboat|

Carol Hasse
My favorite cruising boat is our family’s 25-foot long Nordic Folkboat, Lorraine. Built 50 years ago of oak, pine, and copper rivets, she’s a joy to sail and fits in our Pacific Northwest water wonderland like part of nature itself. Working tides and summer winds through British Columbia’s islands, bays, and fjords is our dream adventure. We sail from island pubs to secluded anchorages where rowing ashore puts us on beautiful beaches replete with shellfish or mountain trails. A month or two of cruising with my partner, Nicki, and our two boys in our “tiny yacht” reminds us how simple and grand life can be.

A longtime CW contributor and BOTY judge, Carol Hasse is herself a fixture in the Northwest with Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails in Washington.

****| |Ben Zartman: Cape George 31|

Ben Zartman
The boat: a Cape George 31 hull with topsides and interior redesigned for a family cruise. We’re scheduled to launch Ganymede in July 2009. The crew: Danielle and our three children, Antigone, Emily, and Damaris. The cruise: every remote, rugged speck of land off the Pacific coast of Mexico: Cedros, Isabella, Tres Marias, the Revillagigedos, and finally, the remotest of all, Clipperton. After that? Perhaps west to Hawai’i or east to Costa Rica or south to the Galapagos. It doesn’t really matter, for the best part of the cruising life isn’t found in a strict plan but in an infinitude of possibility.

Ben Zartman, currently CW’s Backyard Warrior, is fast approaching making his dream cruise on his dream boat a reality.

****| |Tim Murphy:Rozinante|

As he sat writing, Cruising World editor at large Tim Murphy’s dream boat was L. Francis Herreshoff’s Rozinante, as described by the author in that 1953 classic, The Compleat Cruiser. But yes, that’s subject to change.


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