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A 26-foot boat and a 2,000-mile maiden voyage

Several months ago, a reader called regarding the photo of a 26-foot Duffy on the cover of our September issue, which focused on a back-to-basics theme.

He was in the market for another boat, liked what he saw and wished we'd given more information on the little Down Easter.

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Well, dear reader, read on and you'll learn more about the boat that caught your interest by way of a story of another Duffy 26, named Talisman, and the notable maiden voyage she made a couple of years back.

Talisman is owned by Chris and Maureen Carsel, who live on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The couple bought the 26-footer new from the Atlantic Boat Company in Brooklin, Maine, and then proceeded to bring her home on her own bottom. At 2,000-plus miles, that's a pretty fair distance for a small single-engine boat, with some good stretches of open water between islands. The builder was on board for the leg to Newport, R.I. After that, it was just Chris, a 59-year-old full-time musician, and Maureen, a licensed CPA.

"We left Maine on May 22, and we reached St. John Aug. 16," Carsel says in an in an e-mail interview from his island home. "Truly a great experience. The Intracoastal Waterway was a very relaxing time. The Bahamian Islands were a bit more testy. We learned that after you leave Nassau it becomes very remote, and a satellite phone would have been a comfort running on one engine."

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But the couple took their time and carefully picked their weather before making any long, exposed passages between islands. "Three times we left port and then turned back - just too much wind," Carsel says. "We found that with our size boat, it was best to leave at

4 a.m. and get across the big water before the afternoon winds." In Mayaguana, the easternmost island in the Bahamas, for example, they waited for 11 days for a break in the weather before proceeding to Provo (Providenciales) in the Turks and Caicos.

"Running 235 miles along the coast of the Dominican Republic was rough, but the boat handled it well, slow and steady, sometimes only making 4 to 6 knots," Carsel reports.

Given Talisman's size, there was no shortage of skeptics. "Most people thought the boat was too small for the journey," he notes. "However, most of them waited, while we waited, for the same window of weather."

The semidisplacement Talisman is powered by a 260-hp Yanmar diesel, giving her a 20-knot top end and an economical 7-knot cruising speed. "She burns 1.3 gph at the most when cruising at 7 knots," he says.

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Good thing. The Carsels undertook their voyage in 2008, when fuel prices were spiking. "A big surprise was that after we left Florida there was a major fuel crunch," Carsel recalls. "For example, there was no diesel at Chubb Cay and no diesel at three marinas in Nassau. At Highborne Cay, we paid $7.22 per gallon to fill up."

This is the Carsels' third boat. They've owned an open wooden 23-footer built by West Indian craftsman in Tortola and an open 26-foot fiberglass sportfishing boat made in Trinidad. When he began looking for another boat, Carsel wanted something that was seaworthy, efficient and good-looking. He says they couldn't be happier with their choice.

"This boat is the perfect size for island hopping," Carsel says. "Now we use the boat for family fishing and cruising. We mostly cruise from the Spanish Virgins to Anegada in the BVI, about 80 miles. And when I play gigs on other islands, the boat provides transportation, and I have my own space to end the party, if you know what I mean. Talisman only draws 2.5 feet, so I can go just about anywhere I want, on very little fuel. And it certainly is seaworthy."

In addition, Carsel adds, "[We] get many compliments from the West Indians every time we are out. Tings irie."

Tings irie? As best as I can tell, that's island slang for things are good.

"She went by with a lift and a swagger some twenty yards away ... she looked as if she had sailed off a Greek vase."

- Ernie Bradford

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue.