Off Watch: Bye-Bye Boat

“I decided to try to give it away, to someone more worthy of its potential as a nice little weekender ... to pay it forward, as it were."

April 6, 2020
As I motored away from the little Pearson for the last time, I was comforted knowing a better future awaits her. Herb McCormick

It’s never a great start to a very early, very windy Saturday morning when your phone vibrates and the identifying caller ID is “Newport Harbormaster.” But that’s how my weekend commenced early last October.

Gulp. “Hello?”

Tim Mills, who runs the waterfront show here in my Rhode Island hometown, always gets right to the point. Apparently, the deck-stepped spar on “my” Pearson 26 (more on this shortly) was no longer, um, erect. Something bad had transpired when it was gusting 50 overnight. The good news was that, with the shrouds intact, the rig was still attached to the boat, though largely underneath it. Coffee was immediately required. Followed by a quick dash to my yacht club, the Ida Lewis YC, and a launch ride out to the boat in Brenton Cove.


The launch driver, Griff, is an old mate. “Well, that doesn’t look good,” he said. Thanks, Griff. And the water’s still wet, right?

I’ll diverge here for a moment, for there is a backstory to all this. Well, actually, a front story. Because this is a tale all about moving ahead.

The vessel on which I gingerly stepped aboard, though obviously on my mooring, was no longer technically mine. (Sorry, Tim, I was meaning to mention it.) Nope, I’d decided to search for something new this winter, which meant I needed to divest myself of the Pearson. Now, I hate to admit this, but the poor little boat had not fared particularly well under my stewardship. I’d acquired it for basically nothing from a friend when I got my mooring, and had used it primarily as a swim and lunch platform. I decided to try to give it away, to someone more worthy of realizing its potential as a nice little Narragansett Bay weekender. I was hoping to pay it forward, as it were. Naturally, I took to Facebook.


This is where the story takes a happy turn because, through a friend of a friend, I made the acquaintance of one young Stuart Wemple—a talented, sailing-crazed student at Tabor Academy, where he’s on the sailing team, and who was looking for an interesting senior project. Stuart hopes to someday pursue a career as a yachting photographer. He has as a mentor one of the best—local shooter extraordinaire Onne van der Wal, who, perhaps not coincidentally, completely overhauled an old Pearson 36 a couple of years back, which he documented thoroughly in these pages. Stuart reckoned that fixing up the old 26-footer, and recording it all on his blog with photos and updates, would be a cool winter project. And at the end of it, he’d have himself a sweet little cruising boat.

Kismet, no?

Stuart and his dad, who was probably rightfully suspicious of the entire enterprise, had shown up and taken a look, deemed it a not-impossible task, and we’d sealed the deal with a handshake.


All that had transpired a week or two earlier than the unfortunate, untimely dismasting. Once I got on deck, it was quickly apparent that a failed headstay tang was the culprit (it had been one bouncy night), but other than that, luckily, no other damage had been incurred. Somehow, I had not burst Stuart’s bubble. But, man, it was clearly time for him to take the reins.

First, of course, I had to get the mast out of the drink. Which proved to be quite an interesting puzzle, insofar as I’d never given much thought to such a scenario. But an assistant harbormaster showed up on a big RIB (this would likely be a far different story otherwise), and with a labyrinth of lines strategically placed, we slowly and incrementally inched it skyward. At just the right moment, Griff appeared on the launch with a couple of club members he’d unsuspectingly hijacked, and we all grunted the thing on deck, and I lashed her down.



Stuart took all this news a lot better than I would’ve, I reckon. Shortly thereafter, he rounded up the boat and almost immediately made some real progress, which he dutifully recorded in fine fashion on his blog.

And thus, the next ­chapter for an old classic plastic begins. Praise Neptune! And I believe there’s one thing we can all agree on: She’s in a much better place now.

Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.


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