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Deviating from course

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What is it that makes a boat perfect?

This time last year I was in the midst of surveys and final paperwork, keenly excited about the Cape Dory 28 Flybridge I was about to buy. I had done my homework and was convinced this particular boat was as close to ideal as my budget would allow. And I wasn’t wrong. A shakeout run from Annapolis, Maryland, to Essex, Connecticut, gave me a chance to see what she could do — I was very happy with my handsome little yacht. I got her off the dock a few more times and enjoyed staying aboard for much of the summer, but fall arrived all too soon, as it always does.

Sometime before Matinicus was hauled for the winter, my friend and colleague Bill Pike, executive editor of Power & Motoryacht, called me to talk about his own boat quest. Bill was moving down from a Grand Banks 32 and had decided he wanted a well-built, good-looking boat that could accommodate some weekend cruising.

“Mary, I have looked at a lot of Cape Dory 28s, and I’m pretty sure you got the best one out there. If you ever want to sell her, let me know.” I laughed at the notion but promised he’d be my first phone call.

Well, dear reader, would you believe that spring arrived and I made that phone call? (Me, neither.) But I thought back to last summer and the ratio of expense to enjoyment, and for the very first time in my life, something really weird happened: I was willingly practical. Yes, I could afford the boat, but was she just more boat than I needed? Each summer I have been spending a little more time working from Maine. In fact, my best chance to use a boat will be for these few months each summer. Maybe I would be better off, I realized, with a boat that realistically acknowledges my geographical and time limitations.

I recently saw a quote that said: Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it. Buying the Cape Dory was not a mistake, but keeping her for the next five years while I pay for dockage and winter storage and maintenance as she spends most of her time sitting in a slip would eventually turn her into one.

And knowing Matinicus has found the right home with someone who will lavish obsessive love upon her leaves me free and excited to find a smaller, no-fuss boat. Of course, I thought again about how wonderful it would be to look out the window and see a lovely catboat bobbing at a placid mooring. But my newfound practicality kicked in, and I imagined myself cursing like a pirate as I learned to sail her through the minefields of lobster pots in Penobscot Bay. Our lesson for today: Discretion is the better part of valor.

Like a million mariners before me, I’ve come to realize that joy will be found in the amount of time I spend on the right boat, and that’s one that gets me out on the water easily and often. I’m thinking about a lobster skiff, around 18 feet — one that will be at home in some chop; something I can launch when I get to Maine and haul out and winterize when I leave. If I only have two months a year to enjoy the boat, I’m going to make sure I can spend my precious time on the water and loving every minute. And don’t worry: I haven’t become completely practical. Did I mention the next one will be wooden? n

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue.