This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue
When I first saw Antares, she was sitting forgotten and forlorn in a boatyard’s back lot. Weeds grew tall around her and her once bright hull was streaked with grime. But something in her lines caught my eye and I knew at once that this Westsail 32 was what I wanted in an offshore cruiser. Gazing up, I was smitten by her graceful sheer, her classic lines and her ship-like ruggedness. Her beauty had faded with time and neglect, but I could still hear her siren song.
I climbed aboard and sat in the dirty cockpit, imagining myself anchored in a tropic port, with warm winds rustling distant palms. A few days later I made an offer, and suddenly she was mine. She had started life as a bare fiberglass hull, a kit boat, and her finish construction had suffered under the clumsy hand of her original owner. I spent five years and thousands of hours carefully rebuilding her, inside and out, lavishing particular care on her all-wood interior. Like all boats, she was a project. But I didn’t realize just how much of a project she’d be until I’d owned her for a while. Over the years my list of upgrades has numbered in the hundreds, and I have lost track of the hours spent rebuilding her.
For most of those years I stayed aboard Antares, working on her the entire time, living in the dirt and the dust and the mess. One project followed another and I tore out entire sections of the interior, rebuilding them from scratch. But through it all, her siren song always led me toward that vision of a tropical anchorage with graceful palms swaying in the warm tradewind breeze.
At last, though, she was finished (in as much as a boat ever is really complete) and today she radiates an aura of comfort that never fails to warm my heart.
This comfort was most appreciated on the bitterly cold nights when I lived aboard her in the long darkness of a Midwest winter. A few hardy souls do live aboard their boats year-round in Michigan, and for many years I enjoyed that life. There is nothing quite so pleasurable as walking carefully down a snow-covered dock, stepping under the cocooning cover, pushing back the hatch and breathing in the aroma of a savory soup bubbling on the hot stove below. Winter winds might howl above, but I was snug and warm below. Aboard Antares, gently rocking to a stinging gale, my feelings were of utter contentment and joy.
I now live on Antares for just half the year, and when I go cruising, I’m still at home no matter where I am. I mostly sail alone and Antares and I have put many a mile behind us. In our 17 years together we have endured the lash of unspeakable storms and vicious North Atlantic seas, but we’ve also danced together, gliding to the song of gentle winds, under a full moon rising over dark, pine-scented islands.
I’ve sailed her north to the bone-chilling water and foggy shores of Lake Superior, thrilled by the magical call of loons in remote, rocky inlets. I’ve spent a week aboard her on the Hudson River, walking the busy streets of New York by day, sleeping in my own bed by night. But I also found that tropical anchorage I once dreamed of, after I sailed her alone across the Gulf Stream to the palm-fringed shores of Bermuda. There, the circle was complete. My dream had come true, for I had breathed life and adventure not only into her soul, but into mine as well.
Every year my pleasure in sailing Antares deepens. I know her from stem to stern, from top to bottom. I know her every habit and idiosyncrasy, her good points and her bad. Soon we’ll be off again, sailing together into the uncharted sea of our future adventures.