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In this boat together

By the time you read our July issue, I will have a boat in the water. It’s a bold goal, but Parkinson’s Law — “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” — is ricocheting around my brain, a pinball fired by budding trees, light evenings, the return of birdsong. And once spring is well and truly here, it is chased by an admittedly irrational sense that summer will soon be half over.

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In the Northeast, where temperatures occasionally experience a 30-degree swing between Monday and Tuesday, spring’s arrival can lead to a Thoreau-like yearning “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” — or at least to a determination to make the most of a glorious season. (If you have ever actually seen anyone sucking the marrow out of anything, you almost definitely asked to be moved to a different table.)

I was just at the Brewer Dauntless Marina in Essex, Connecticut. Is there a happier sight than a boatyard this time of year? It was a sunny day, 70 degrees, and the yard was a hive of upbeat activity. Heavy ice on the Connecticut River this winter damaged a lot of pilings, and at Dauntless they had already been pulled and replaced. Boats were being serviced, uncovered, moved around and launched. I imagine the service department was about as stressed as they get, but the guys in the yard were practically whistling while they worked.

“We had two whole months this winter when we couldn’t even show a boat,” broker Jim Eastland said, as we crossed the yard to see a Cape Dory 28 hardtop. (I liked her a lot but not enough.)

Anyway, I’m not sure whether the palpable good mood that’s in the air is just spring fever on overdrive or a collective case of Stockholm syndrome, but Mother Nature is finally smiling upon us, and we’re in too good a mood to hold a grudge. Let the marrow-sucking begin.

I’m driving to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to see a 38 Young Brothers, a skeg-built lobster boat with a Detroit Diesel. She is awfully pretty and at the top of my smallish budget, but there are a few things that need to be finished before she’d work for me. I’m nervous about it — I have a sense I may fall in love and throw practicality out the window. It’s happened before.

The following day — if I haven’t already written a check for a 38 Young Brothers! — I’m planning to go to Annapolis and see a Cape Dory 28 Flybridge that looks exceptional. Nearly everything has been replaced or rejuvenated on this boat, and I know she’s going to go fast — as in, sell quickly. (She’s been repowered with a 240-hp Yanmar engine, so she will literally go fast, too. Another plus.)

There’s an additional boat on my short-list, a 32 Jarvis Newman in Maine that looks beautiful. A little slower than I’d like, with a top speed of 12 knots, but a very handsome craft, and at the top of my budget.

And I do have one last total wild card. A 30-foot Monroe Sea Sailor, built in 1969. Teak, lovely lines, an old-fashioned fantasy. Very, very affordable and as pretty as anything I have seen, with varnished doors that accordion wide open and let the helm/saloon flow to the cockpit. (Insert low wolf whistle here.) I could buy her with cash, but would I spend the rest of my life working on her and wishing she were 10 knots faster? Probably.

I have loved hearing from readers with suggestions and even actual boats for me to consider. Thank you. It gives me the feeling we’re in this boat search together, but don’t worry — I promise not to hit you up for a loan.

“If a man must be

obsessed by something,

I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a

bit better than most.

A small sailing craft is

not only beautiful, it is

seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble.” 

— E.B. White

June 2015 issue