Lake Erie is one of America’s great inland waterways, and its varied coastline and historic harbors provide a lifetime’s worth of boating. James Priest, a native of Dunkirk, New York, grew up along Erie’s shores and over the years has grown to know it well in a variety of boats.
Early craft included a 16-foot Lonestar with a 100-hp Mercury outboard and a 17-foot Cruisers runabout with a 140-hp Mercury. A 25-foot Viking cruiser with a 260-hp MerCruiser I/O later broadened the Navy veteran’s horizons.
“I love cruising, having spent most of my time on Lake Erie on many of her northern and southern ports of call,” the 66-year-old retired electrical and project engineer says.
Favorite destinations include Port Colborne and Dover, both in Ontario, with weekend trips to Erie, Pennsylvania, and Presque Isle, Michigan. On one memorable cruise in the early 1990s, Priest voyaged from Dunkirk harbor down and back to Watkins Glen, New York, for the NASCAR races.
Many of these trips were made in the faithful Cruisers 297 Elegante, which Priest owned for 14 years. In 2010 he decided it was time to step up from the “well-traveled” 30-footer, and the Carver brand came up early in his search.
“I was introduced to the Santego by a friend who was also looking for an upgrade,” Priest says.
He looked at a few and liked what he saw — walkaround side decks, a big flybridge, a master stateroom forward, a wraparound dinette and a full galley. “I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of space utilization and overall design, as well as the resale values,” he says. “More specifically, the Santego had an extremely spacious interior layout and was well-equipped for my cruising lifestyle.”
A long search for just the right boat came to a fruitful end. Buffalo, New York, broker Tom Frauenheim told Priest about a boat he’d just booked, a 1989 Carver 380 Santego in nearby Clayton. “I immediately made plans to travel and examine the boat,” he says. “[It] was spectacular — insanely clean and beautiful. Everything of importance was functional, and then some. The boat ran well and looked much newer than her 20-plus years.” The surveyor had given the boat a “very good” rating.
“After the excitement dust settled, I bought the Santego that afternoon,” Priest says. The price was in the mid- to upper-$40,000-range, and the brokerage firm was a big help in making the deal happen, he says. “Tom arranged everything, from the sea trial to the surveyor.”
Galenaea (goddess of calm water, Priest says) cruises out of the Dunkirk Yacht Club, not far from Priest’s home in Fredonia, New York. Power comes from twin gas 454 MerCruisers rated at 340 hp each. The 16,000-pound boat cruises at 22 to 25 mph, topping out at 30 mph, he says.
“She responds well to throttle commands and comes up on plane quickly and rides well most days with the trim tabs retracted,” he says. “On one of my tests I was able to measure a planing angle of approximately 4 or 5 degrees, which will keep most of the chips and dip on the serving table, where they belong.”
Electronics include a DSC VHF radio wired to a Garmin 215 GPS. A Si-Tex radar networked with a Standard Horizon plotter and linked to a fluxgate compass allows radar and chart image overlays.
Priest stores the boat in North Tonawanda, New York, at an indoor heated facility 50 miles from the yacht club. “Each year starts with a 50-mile boat ride and ends with a 50-mile boat ride,” he says. Most of the time they are beautiful spring and fall rides on Lake Erie, though not always. In rough weather the Santego has handled what the lake dished out.
“She is a heavy boat, so she rides well if speed is matched to sea conditions,” he says. “I have never been concerned about my well-being, even though I have caught some rather naughty sea conditions from Mother Lake Erie.”
As a cruising boat, the Carver’s layout was a major selling point. It’s a single-level floor plan with “no endless number of up and downs to move about the saloon, galley, V-berth or head,” Priest says. “The flybridge is a beauty in that there are only four steps to reach the helm — no ladder. The flybridge is very spacious, and it can accommodate maybe eight individuals comfortably.”
For Priest and his companion, Judy Thurber, the Santego is just the right boat for the Lake Erie idylls, with a combination of power and performance and the layout to take on any of the couple’s future missions.
“My plan is to continue to cruise, with perhaps more extended cruise time,” Priest says.
The Trent-Severn Waterway beckons, as do adventures along the Lake Erie shore, from Dunkirk into Lake Huron.
“Galenaea has been a grand lady, up for any challenge that I am able to provide,” Priest says. “I am a happy sailor.”
There’s a sleek, modern (for the times) look to this popular midsize offering from Carver Yachts, the longtime builder based in Pulaski, Wisconsin. Introduced in the late 1980s, the 34 Santego had a successful 13-year production run under a dizzying variety of names (3467, 380, 638). The bow pulpit and attached swim platform with steps up to the cockpit extend the sedan’s overall length to 41 feet, 8 inches. It has walkaround side decks and a large “command bridge” with a centerline helm, an electronics and accessories console, and additional seating.
There’s a convenient walkthrough to the foredeck. Inside, the saloon is set up with facing C-shaped lounges that convert to berths. (The boat sleeps six.) It also serves as the dining area, with the galley to port, equipped with a two- or three-burner stove and a compact refrigerator. The galley area includes a wet bar for entertaining. The enclosed head compartment opposite has a marine sanitation device, a stand-up shower and a vanity. The large master stateroom is forward, laid out with an island berth, hanging lockers and shelf space. Options included air conditioning, a stereo system, an icemaker and either a generator or shore power connection to run them.
In 1954, Wisconsin boatbuilders Charlie Carter and George Verhagen started building small wooden boats in a little shop in Milwaukee. Three years later they moved up to Pulaski, near Green Bay. The rest is history. The company went on to help popularize the aft-cabin family motoryacht and midsize sedan.
Today, Carver offers models from 34 to 54 feet. Recognized as a leader in the family motoryacht market, the 60-year-old builder’s used boats are well-priced, plentiful and in demand. The 34-foot Santego models normally sell at prices ranging from $40,000 to $75,000, depending on the year and condition.
LOA: 41 feet, 8 inches (including pulpit/swim platform)
BEAM: 13 feet, 2 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet, 4 inches
WEIGHT: 16,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: twin gas I/O or inboard to 350 hp
TANKAGE: 232 gallons fuel, 100 gallons water
BUILDER: Carver Yachts, Pulaski, Wisconsin,
PHONE: (800) 231-8978
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August 2014 issue