Skip to main content

The Mistress I Don’t Mind

“Bad news, honey,” my husband, Leif, told me, “We own a sailboat.” That’s how I found out about the Cape Dory Typhoon Weekender.

“Bad news, honey,” my husband, Leif, told me, “We own a sailboat.” That’s how I found out about the Cape Dory Typhoon Weekender.

Leif had made a low-ball bid on an eBay auction, left town for Thanksgiving, and returned to learn he’d won. We now owned a 1974 sailboat, three states away, in the middle of winter. I couldn’t wait to see how he’d work his way out of this one.

This is not the first watercraft my husband has sprung on me. Five years ago, there was the secret kayak. It was delivered to his office and lay hidden in the basement for a few weeks before he was finally overcome with guilt and confessed. She was a pretty, taut, dark red folding kayak. I told him she was the kind of mistress I didn’t mind him keeping, and that one day I might even take her out for a spin myself.

The Cape Dory, on the other hand, posed an immediate logistical challenge. How could we get it home to Minnesota—in December no less—without a heavy towing vehicle?

Luckily, Jerry the eBay seller, motivated by his girlfriend’s ultimatum to thin out his fleet of seven sailboats, cheerfully offered to deliver the boat himself. He even brought along his cross-country skis so he could enjoy the snow while he was here, and he oversaw the inaugural rigging of the Cape Dory via the iPhone photos we emailed to him the following spring.

I’d been skeptical, and Leif had been lucky. We had the boat. We had it rigged. Now what?

“Floating family slumber party!” That’s how Leif sold the vision of taking our two daughters on an overnight trip and sleeping all four of us in the tiny V-berth in the Weekender’s cuddy cabin. The girls, who were only just short enough to make this plausible, were thrilled at the prospect of an adventure. But I found myself having flashbacks to when I was 10 and my father bought a pop-up camper. For years I’d had similar delusions of slumber parties, but he never once opened the thing up, and eventually ended up selling it off again. Would the Cape Dory be different?

While the girls and I mulled over the possibilities, Leif and his writer-friend Michael took the Cape Dory on her maiden voyage to a regatta on the Lake of the Woods up on the Canadian border. Ever the entertainer, Michael regaled a national audience with his stories of 45-knot squalls that came out of nowhere, a fur of mosquitoes that descended on them at nightfall, and the way Leif’s wife had hummed the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island” as they prepared for the trip.

Reading Michael’s stories from the comfort of home, I began warming up to the idea of the Cape Dory. Leif, on the other hand, returned from his weekend away brimming with a renewed sense of appreciation for me. After sharing the boat’s very small cabin with another human being for a long period of time, somehow all of my bad traits had vanished! He loved my sense of humor! He found me fun and easygoing! Perhaps this would become another mistress I didn’t mind.

A few years ago, when my husband took to reading books like Alone at Sea at family events, I might have worried our marriage was in trouble. But I have since come to see the escape of sailing as the perfect way to resolve a mid-life crisis. It’s a chance to get away, alone or together, and an opportunity to plan adventures and solve problems. And at the end of the day, what’s not to love about a pretty little Cape Dory skimming across a Minnesota lake on a sunny day? I’m already dreaming about cozying up in the belly of the Dory next summer, falling asleep to the lullaby of the loons and waves, surrounded by the people I love.

Family slumber parties, here we come.

Photo by Michael Tortorello

Related

00-LEAD-210918_11HR_AZIMUT48HRS_AMO_00411

11th Hour Racing Team's Green Mission

“I’ll admit, it’s still hard to watch the boat leave the dock sometimes,” says former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Mark Towill. Since meeting during a Transpac campaign over 15 years ago, he and his teammate Charlie Enright have sailed thousands of miles together aboard two Volvo ...read more

D61_JKELAGOPIAN-3

Boat Review: Dufour 61

Dufour, long one of France’s most well-respected builders, has been producing sailboats in La Rochelle since the dawn of fiberglass boatbuilding. Having recently merged with another La Rochelle-based builder, Fountaine Pajot, Dufour has now joined other European mass-production ...read more

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more