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Windshifts: When Two's a Crowd

If I’m racing, I sail to win. If I’m cruising, I sail to relax. The sailing bug bit me 20 years ago, and I’ve never recovered.

I confess to being a bit of a planner. According to psychometric profiles, I’m a “maximizer,” who focuses on details and lives in the future. To balance all of those issues, I sail. If I’m racing, I sail to win. If I’m cruising, I sail to relax. The sailing bug bit me 20 years ago, and I’ve never recovered.

We were, and still are, lake sailors in South Dakota. Plagued with two-foot-itis, we’ve owned several sailboats, starting with a 26-foot Chrysler and eventually moving up to our Catalina 387, Equilibrium. But during our 23-plus years of boat ownership, we never kept and maintained two boats—until now. 

The plan was simple. When I semi-retired, we wanted a boat to sail in South Dakota during the summer and a boat in the Caribbean to spend winters aboard as snowbirds. (As a side note, we’ve also co-owned Equilibrium with some great friends the last seven years. We do most of the maintenance, but we also have more time to sail her, so it works well.) 

So far, so good. What a great plan.

Then, two years ago some friends from Omaha told us they were ready to sell their Bavaria 39 in the British Virgin Islands. They’d bought her new in 2006 and lavished her with air conditioning, a generator, a washer and dryer, a watermaker and even a bow-thruster. They had been living aboard for six months a year. 

So now, as you’ve probably surmised, we maintain two 39-foot sailboats. As I write this, we are between Virgin Gorda and St. Croix on Asylum midway through our second winter with her. Come May, my wife and I will go back to South Dakota to work and enjoy weekends sailing Equilibrium with family and friends.

On paper, this looks like a perfect arrangement: I get my sailing fix year- round, and still work six months a year. Trouble is, I forgot to weigh in one very important fact in all of that planning. It was easy to miss, since I’d never faced it before. Sailboats are, by nature, jealous. 

My brain has one compartment for boating stuff. Granted, it is a big compartment, but both boats are competing for it. They each try to confuse me and force stupid boating mistakes on the other. Seriously. Some areas of confusion are easy to identify. For example, the aft water tank fill on Equilibrium and the diesel tank fill on Asylum are in the same place on each of the two boats. It’s only a matter of time before Equilibrium leverages her seven years of familiarity and makes me fill Asylum’s diesel tank with water. 

This familiarity also haunts me at Asylum’s chart table: all of the 12v circuit breakers are in the wrong spot and are labeled with arcane German symbols instead of words. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve adapted and learned the layout of many a circuit breaker panel. It’s the going back and forth between the two that makes have to me stop and think each time I flick a switch. 

Thanks to the loose-footed, full-battened main and a big genoa that we equipped her with, Equilibrium is lighter on her feet than Asylum with her in-mast furling mainsail. This is especially true since she carries less water, less fuel, less gear and no generator. Frankly, she is friskier and more fun to sail. She reminds me of that every chance she gets. 

Equilibrium also likes to play the “I’m easier to love” card, since she lacks the many systems that are aboard Asylum that always needs attention. Living in salt water, Asylum also needs her stainless cleaned way more often, and more upkeep of her watermaker and generator. 

However, Asylum rewards all that attention with some really great sailing and tropical island-hopping. She reminds me that she represents what a sailboat really is. As Capt. Jack Sparrow so aptly put it, she is “Freedom.” She has enabled us to meet some amazing people wherever we’ve steered her—St. Martin, St. Lucia and any number of islands we’ve visited. 

Both boats know how to get under my skin when I’m looking for the right tool or the obscure spare part that’s tucked away under the v-berth. Oh wait, on Asylum it’s tucked under the aft berth. It’s amazing how two boats can compete for brain cells. 

The only real solution is to return to one-boat ownership, and at this time Equilibrium is for sale. But don’t tell her. She will make me remember all of the great times we had aboard her as a family: my wife, our boat and our two now-grown girls—priceless memories.

Rats. Maybe two is a good number after all.

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