A trail of broken promises leads to yet another dream fulfilled
It is a very slippery slope, this business of owning sailboats. We all like to throw around the old saw about the two happiest days of our lives when buying and selling them, but the first time I ever bought one, and by that I mean one big enough to actually live on, I was scared out of my mind. It was the biggest check I’d ever written in my life, by a factor of about 10, and represented a substantial percentage of my total net worth. This was to buy a 30-year-old fiberglass yawl for a price that today might land you a nice used car.
But it was a fantastic investment. I lived on that boat full-time for a number of years, wandered all over the North Atlantic, and spent hardly any money doing it. I had no rent to pay, no utility bills, no car payments, and only had to buy food and boat parts. Sometimes I went weeks without spending any money at all. I promised myself then I would never own a boat I wasn’t living on, as this obviously was the only way owning a boat could be at all economical.
Of course, I broke that promise. When I moved back ashore—to go to work for a boat magazine, ironically—I soon sold my old yawl and felt virtuous, for a little while at least. I then fell in love with another cruising sailboat, bought it, and then another one after that, after suffering briefly through that economic purgatory reserved for “two-boat owners.” To justify these promiscuous affairs, I swore another oath and promised myself that at least I would never ever buy a new boat.
I never thought that would be too hard. But then, after a decade of very fine times together, I decided I needed to replace my aluminum Tanton 39 cutter Lunacy. She is an outstanding boat, but I realized A) her cockpit, so very handy when sailing singlehanded, was too small to enjoy with my growing teenage daughters aboard; and B) my aging shoulders are too ruined to steer a big boat with a tiller for very long.
These, of course, are easy criteria to fulfill: a bigger cockpit and a wheel, but my years aboard Lunacy have corrupted me. Once you’ve enjoyed the benefits of things like an aluminum hull and a transom skirt, there really is no turning back, so the list of suitable replacement boats necessarily got much shorter.
My research led me to a small builder in northwest France, Boréal Yachts, whose bluewater centerboard cruising boats have earned it a growing reputation among the aluminum Illuminati of Europe. The company’s smallest boat, 44ft, or 47 if you tack on a transom skirt, was a few feet bigger than what I had in mind, but this sort of escalation was not immediately offensive to my principles. After all, those teenage daughters sure aren’t getting any smaller. What was a problem, I realized after more than a year of haunting YachtWorld, was that Boréals never (or almost never) show up on the brokerage market.
I dismissed the notion of buying one, but when a research trip to Europe last spring brought me within driving distance of the Boréal yard, I figured there’d be no harm in getting a tour. As a sailing journalist, I am, of course, highly experienced in the art of touring boatbuilding yards without buying any of the boats built in them.
I had no such luck this time. Within moments of entering the yard, I was introduced to the spare boat frame you see in the photo here—the bones of the beast, as it were. After my tour I was told, if I wanted, those bones could be mine, as the owner who’d ordered that particular boat wanted to be pushed back in the production schedule. Suddenly, those bones looked very beautiful to me.
Now, just over a year later, those bones have become the new Lunacy. By the time this magazine appears, I will be aboard her in France, preparing to sail her home. By October, she’ll be on display in Annapolis, where you can get a tour if you like and perhaps join me here, at the bottom of the slope, where there are no more promises left to break.
SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com