Thursday, January 19, 2012

Boats I have known

I grew up in coastal Maine so boats have always been a big part of my life. My first boat (although it was really my dad's of course, I just thought of it as "mine") was a 13 foot Boston Whaler with a 25HP Gale outboard. It was pretty basic by any yachting standard but damn, was it fun. It was fast enough for water-skiing on Swan Lake and stable enough for a run to the islands in Penobscot Bay. I'm pretty sure I would not have survived some of the things I did with that Whaler in any other boat. But damn, that boat was a lot of fun. Throughout my high school and college years my summer social life revolved around boating - some of my fondest memories of that period involve being on the water. Good times.

So I guess it's only natural that as a newly married young man fresh out of the Army and starting a new career, one of the first things I did was get a boat. Since I was newly settled in a town on the shores of Casco Bay it seemed reasonable to select a craft that was suitable for coastal cruising, and sail seemed preferable to power (this was in the early '70s, a time of gas shortages and sky-rocketing fuel prices). After some research and a lot of scouting the market, I settled on a Cape Dory Typhoon, a 19 foot sloop with a full-keel and accommodations for a short cruise. "C-Lark", as she was named, was the perfect boat for a neophyte sailor - stable, easy to handle and , most importantly, forgiving. Her only drawback was that in a chop, a frequent condition on Casco Bay, she was wet - the spray generated by the bow hitting the waves blew straight back into the cockpit, soaking the crew. I loved everything about the boat except being wet and cold at the end of a day on the water - clearly what I needed was the same boat, only bigger.

I was in Bermuda when I first saw a Pearson Commander, a 26 foot weekender designed by Carl Alberg, who also designed the Typhoon. To say it was love at first sight would not be an exaggeration since here was a boat that was exactly what I was looking for: a design like "C-Lark" but bigger to reduce the spray problem, with a huge cockpit to accommodate a large crew and enough cabin space to enable a couple to go on a short cruise. This, I knew, would be my next boat and so it was; after a short search I found a Commander for sale in New Hampshire and "Deja Blue" became my new vessel. The sail from Great Bay on the Piscataqua River to her new home port on Casco Bay was the first of many memorable adventures that we would take together. She was a part of my life throughout all of my marriages - that has to count for something! But nothing lasts forever.

As my extended family grew there were so many competing activities that sailing became less important in the grand scheme of things. So I installed a swimming pool (who doesn't love a pool?) and sold the boat. I regretted this decision almost immediately and began to consider ways to reconcile my family's total disinterest with sailing and my need to go boating. And that is how I, a sailor of 30+ years, wound up back in the ranks of power boaters (stinkpotters). I spent a short time visiting local boat yards and "kicking keels" before I found a boat that had the "salty" lines that I was looking for and was reasonably priced (i.e., "cheap"). So after a short negotiation "Pursuit of Happiness" (as she came to be named) was my newest watercraft. The kids have grown up, the wife has moved away, but I still have the boat.

So here's my dilemma - last summer I went boating exactly zero times. Despite launching earlier than I ever had before I never went out on the water - not once. I spent the whole summer sunning by the pool. So what should I do? As I see it, my options are: give up boating and sit by the pool; sell "Pursuit of Happiness" and go back to sail; or (for about the same money) repower "POH" (to save on fuel cost), refurbish her, and maintain the status quo.

I'm open to suggestions but right now my thinking is to go with option "C" - there's nothing wrong with the status quo.

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