April is not, despite T.S. Eliot’s claims, the cruelest month. Not even close. (It’s January, hands down.) While it’s true that late winter’s lingering snow, sleet, slush and gray skies are particularly stinging to the winter-weary soul, April — no matter how disappointing its actual appearance — is springtime’s vestibule. The pale yellow sun has already warmed our upturned faces with its wan rays, the first purple crocuses have pushed through the snow, and we feel in our bones that we are mere weeks away from buds opening on the trees, from flitting butterflies and cheerful birdsong and — best of all — from getting our boats back in the water.
I have gone two summers now without a boat in the water, and I’m not going to do it again. As I wandered the Miami boat shows, I realized I’d let myself reach a dangerous point. I was excited about having a new center console on the dock behind my house; I imagined myself stealthily poling a flats skiff in search of permit; backing a sportfish down on a giant tuna. So what’s the problem? I don’t have a dock behind my house, I consider permits legal paperwork, and the only tuna I have ever landed has been pried from a can with the tines of a fork. I am merely out of control.
I didn’t fare much better as I wandered the CruiserPort part of the Yacht & Brokerage Show. I imagined myself provisioning for my multiyear circumnavigation and waving goodbye as I set off on my new full-displacement trawler. On the other hand, the sleek semidisplacement models looked like the perfect way to get to Maine each summer and the Bahamas in winter. (Oh, that’s right. I live in Philadelphia and have a full-time job.)
Mostly, I was reminded that, no matter what your personal taste, as long as it’s well-built and seaworthy, there’s really no such thing as a bad boat. And with that in mind, I need to lower my expectations and just get a new one.
I should explain that I own a boat, my first. Bossanova is a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler. Single screw, no bow thruster, not even a windlass. I must have been crazy to go that basic. Truth is, that little ship was the right boat at the right time. Bossanova had everything that mattered, and what she lacked in luxury, she made up for in elegant simplicity. I brought her up the Eastern Seaboard through the Atlantic on my first cruise. She has a lot of freeboard and a lot of windage but is easy enough to maneuver with short bursts of power. Her 120-hp Ford Nor’east diesel is reliable and burns only 1.8 gallons per hour at 8 knots. I love the throaty chug of the dry stack exhaust and the sense of commanding a small ship … or tank.
And whether on the hook or at the dock, I love the saltiness of my vessel, her workboat pedigree.
But boats are about purpose as well as taste. Several years ago, I hauled Bossanova for a routine survey — I wanted to change insurers. Serious corrosion — despite an on-board galvanic isolator, routine bottom jobs and zinc changes — had caused pitting and wasting of the hull. I was so heartbroken that it hardly mattered if it had been stray current at a marina or something on board that had been wired incorrectly. Whatever the cause, Bossanova needed her hull doubled or, ideally, replaced. I had the bottom blasted and got multiple opinions on the extent of the problem. I had estimators crawl around and calculate the cost of various approaches to the repair. I had the bottom recoated again to protect the ailing hull while I pondered what to do. And then I went into a state of indecisive paralysis.
Truth is, my life has changed. I no longer live aboard. My job prevents me from cruising for weeks on end. Bossanova, even in tip-top shape, is no longer the right boat for me.
So I’m finally ready. I need two things: first and foremost, someone who is either an excellent welder who wants a great deal on a very special ship or someone who’s prepared to pay an excellent welder to restore this Phil Bolger-designed beauty to her former sturdy shape. Finding her a good home is essential; I have had much more than my money’s worth of great memories.
And then I need to find the right boat for my life now. It needs accommodations that are adequate for weekends aboard; good looking, preferably Down East lines; speed in the 12- to 16-knot range — enough to get somewhere but not break the bank on the way; and it has to be something I don’t worry about too much: fiberglass, used and (really) affordable. I think I’ve narrowed it down to a model, but I’m open to advice.
Welcome, April! I’ve got a lot to do in the next few months, but it’s going to be a great summer.
“I spent uncounted hours sitting at the bow looking at the water and the sky, studying each wave,
different from the last, seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep
of it all, and letting it take me. The sea.”
— Gary Paulsen
April 2015 issue