Saturday, August 22, 2009

I did it! Found and purchased the Perfect Sailboat Project- Hurley 22 Twin Keel

First allow me to say, mea aculpa for my long absence.
I was studying for the MCATs. Now I am a bit older then your average medical school applicant which I think is an asset. When you are 20, you might think that standardized tests are worth crying over, when you are 31, they are only worth laughing over.

Also, I feared I was turning into one of those people who will always pine for a boat and a fair wind, but never actually get there.

I am not writing to bore you dear readers about MCATs, nor my own neurosis however. Happily I am here to report that it has happened; I have purchased the perfect sailboat project! She is a 1966 twin-keel hurley 22' (sail number 44). H22s continue to be popular. They have a sail anywhere (and everywhere), seaworthy reputation on par with that of a folkboat or perhaps Flicka. She displaces roughly 3900 lbs, with half of this in her twin keels.

My H22 is happily floating on her mooring as we speak, which means that she does in fact float. Still though she is a definitely a project (Oh boy is she!) requiring some major updating. That said, she is, in general pretty sound to the best of my knowledge.

She came named Emmanuel so perhaps I should refer to the boat as he... alright, he then (at least until a rename).

So, how did this acquisition transpire?

In my never ending quest for a boat, I stumbled across the following website about a gentleman who crossed the Pacific in a Vivacity 20':

I began researching these and their smaller sister, the Alacrity 19':

Because both boats were built by Hurley, I eventually wound up at the Hurley Owners Association website, where I discovered the Hurley 18', Hurley 20, and the Hurley 22'.

Around this same time, there was both a Hurley 22 and an Alacrity for sale near me. The Alacrity was a good $700 more than the Hurley 22, not as seaworthy, and probably a bit small for my family of three.

On the otherhand, I knew I would be single handing, and the Alacrity can be trailered by anything including my 4 cylinder truck, easily launched and retrieved etc., while the H22 would be a bit more challenging.

From week to week I flip-flopped between the two, while trying to sort out my finances in order to make a purchase. Then I decided on the Alacrity-- I figured, keep it simple. However, the Alacrity wasn't simple-- it was being sold through a charity company, which meant they would hold title for three years-- lots of wierd strings attached. It had an untested diesel engine. The trailer "appeared" to be in good condition according to the seller, but had not been inspected, and of course there was the extra $700.00 to contend with.

Enter the H22. My wife is tired of the back-and-forth. She keeps saying, "you want the Hurley, why don't you just get it already?!?" A friend of mine offers me his V-8 Toyota Tacoma with 9500lbs towing capacity to bring it back home. Enough already! I decide at the last moment to buy the Hurley.

The boat was located three hours south of me. It's former owner was a nice guy, but he knew I was hooked on his boat and wouldn't really budge on the price. I'm also not much of a negotiator. We settled on $1950 for the boat, trailer, trailer extension, mainsail, working jib, genoa and drifter (all pretty old except the drifter) and various sundries (flare gun, some epoxy paint, a dc spot light... pretty much anything he'd throw in). H22s are designed with a head, sink, three berths (a quarter berth, side berth and v-berth). The boat seems spacious for its size to me.

Driving back through the green mountains boat in tow, it started to rain. I was pretty worried about hydroplaning and suffice to say, my heart was in my throat the entire ride. Still, seeing my new H22 rolling along behind me, it was really a happy moment.

I kept Emmanuel in a friends yard for the first two weeks, cleaning him up, sorting through equipment, and trying to convince enough friends to help me raise the mast and launch him. This turned out to be a pretty comical event which lasted two days and involved a brief encounter with the state police, but I will save that for my next entry.

You may recall that in my first ever entry I made a general plan in the form of I list.
The first item on that list was:

1) Buy an inexpensive (less than $3000) project sailboat 25’-30’.

A year or so later I can proudly say, "Done!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


On Sunday we rented a Soling (26’ open cockpit racing boat) and went sailing on the lake for a few hours. Even in the late afternoon the heat stopped our breath still in our dry throats, yet the water was beautiful. It was also choked with motor boats and sailing vessels of various shapes and sizes. Of these the jet skis were the worst. We had planned to sail into the middle of Mallets Bay, heave-to and then jump overboard for a swim. Instead we had imaginary races with the other boats, following those that seemed fastest, trying to learn about sail trim by trimming our sails just as theirs were and then sometimes even slightly better.

My daughter, who has quite a vocabulary for a two-year-old, practiced her sailing terminology, “sheeeets, haaalyard, staaarboard, rudderrr…” I couldn’t help but be proud.

My friend Abigail was visiting from New York. She served as crew. My wife watched kept close watch on the baby and was mostly quiet. She was thinking about a future on boats, and a present which lately has been consumed by boats. I believe that overall she was happy with what she saw in her mind’s eye.

We returned to port close-hauled, drinking in the wind on our faces— this was a welcomed change.

Our mooring approach was flawless, which was a major event for me (even if we had forgotten to attach a pick-up buoy). The obvious trick was communicating with my crew well of two (three counting the baby) well in advance of our approach… this and visualizing an escape route in the event that I overshot the mooring, which didn’t happen. Abigail leaned over the bow and deftly grabbed the mooring pennant. We were still flaking the mainsail when the courtesy launch arrived.

The next day my wife came home and demanded that I should drive to the waterfront to see a sailboat which had recently picked up a mooring. I went to see the boat; it was nearly dark when I arrived. I called to the silhouettes of two kayakers in the harbor and a man paddled over to where I was standing on the dock. "Would you mind paddling over to that one boat moored over there to tell me what the name of the vessel is." "No problem" the man replied. He paddled over with the speed that belied his utter comfort with his craft. “Baby Blue” he called out from across the quiet water. "Thank you" I replied. His partner was beside him now, and they paddled onward into the darkness, following the shoreline. I still need to do some research, but I am fairly certain s/v Baby Blue is friendship sloop; cutter rigged, large cockpit, nice boat.

Since starting this blog, I’ve received a number of emails, the gist of some say “give it up man. You’re crazy.” The large majority say, “Keep true to your dream. Anything’s possible. I know, I did it.” or "I can relate, I'm building a boat in the yard out back." I am struck by the heartfeltness of all of the responses I have received so far.

The issue usually is not “can it be done?” but “how can it be done?” I think I will follow the advice of those who have done, rather than those who say it cannot be done, since advice borne from experience is usually the more instructive of the two.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How I learned to sail and lost my sense of reason:

I found some sailing instructional videos online (I've included the link at the bottom of the page) that seem pretty interesting so I was inspired to write this post.

I spent a summer working as a photographer on Martha’s Vineyard. By the end of my first week there, I befriended a young man by the name of Emanuel. He was about my age, had studied sculpture in college, and was now apprenticing at the esteemed wooden boat building yard Gannon and Benjamin (you can read all about these guys in the book Wooden Boats: In Pursuit of the Perfect Craft at an American Boatyard). Anyway, Emanuel lived on a Bristol Channel Cutter. This boat was about 80 years old. No electricity, and cotton sails (the jib was actually the wrong size so we flew it up-side-down which seemed to work better for some reason), but the best part for Emanuel, is that he lived on the boat for free, as the owner kept the boat in Martha’s Vineyard but hadn’t used it in years. He relied on Emanuel to keep the decks swabbed and the bottom scraped and painted.

Living accommodations were spartan to say the least, but for Emmanuel they worked, and he was an inspiration to me. Often times, I would row out to his mooring, “borrowing” on of the dinghies at the G&B yard dock, and he would be there, strumming his guitar, reading and munching on a crust of bread, or just watching the sun set. Because his set up was really simple (a flashlight for light, books for entertainment, a couple sets of cloths, and a cell phone), it was easy for Emanuel to cast of the mooring lines and go for a sail. Occasionally, he’d take me, and usually a few others out in the evenings, after we had all gotten off from our respective jobs (in my case this meant after I had downloaded my photos and sent them off to press). Usually we’d sail from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, pick up a temporary slip, run into town for a beer and some fries, and then back on our small ship for the sail back. We were usually quite a site for the mess of yachtie vacationers around, shirtless, shoeless as we were, our boat with it’s stretched out, up-side-down sails and Emanuel paint covered with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, grimy from a day of hard work at the lower echelons of the boat yard (he would eventually work his way up to boatwright). This was my first foray into sailing and it suited me just fine.

After that I was really, truly hooked. To my credit, I’ve made some considerable gains in the realm of learning to sail since then and that is the purpose of this post—to pass on what I’ve learned for others who are anxious to sail but aren’t sure how to get started.

After my luck friendship with Emmanuel, I dedicated myself to getting on the water whenever possible. The following season, I joined a boat club on a tiny little lake. It wasn’t at all like sailing around Martha’s Vineyard, but there was wind, water and I was happy. The club was cheap to join which suited me perfectly, and they offered lasers as well as Rhodes 19’. The Rhodes was a perfect first keel-boat experience and initially I balked at the lasers. Soon I discovered that not only were lasers a blast on hot days, but actually I learned how to sail better on a Laser because it was so responsive.


Lesson one:

Get on the water anyway possible and IN ANY CRAFT possible. If you see yourself as a one day Blue water cruiser fine, but you can still learn a lot (and have some real fun) but flying around in an optimist dinghy.

Lesson two:

If you can afford it take lessons. This first summer of lake sailing, I learned everything from books, from trial and error, and a little from going out with Emanuel the summer before. Suffice to say, progress was slow (still it was progress). In 2007 I used a little spare money from a tax refund to take American Sailing Association (ASA) basic keelboat lessons. I took a five day course, and found the instruction invaluable for consolidating my boating knowledge and know-how to date. The benefit of taking a class is that you have a teacher who has experience teaching, and has the benefit of a curriculum. This is vastly better than the ad hoc lessons you’ll get from most friends. I also noticed that the cost of classes varies considerably from a few hundred to nearly $1000.00 so shop around.

Lesson Three:

Use every opportunity to keep practicing. What has really allowed me to retain most of what I have learned about rigging and sailing a boat, reading wind, heaving to, man-over-board drills, etc. is practice. The school I went to offered a week of free boat use after successful completion of lessons. This was a real bonus so make sure you ask about perks if you do take a class. This year I am volunteering at the local community sailing center for free use of their boats. The sailing range is limited for liability reasons, but I am still able to leave work, walk to the lake, rig a boat and get a good two hours of sailing in, which is plenty for practicing sail trim and so forth. So you see, what I have discovered so far is that with a minimum investment that does not require expensive yacht clubs, I have managed to become a proficient beginner sailor. Perhaps this is why I am so confident that I will be able to figure out how to buy and prep a boat for coastal cruising even though I don’t have a lot of extra income to do so…

Lesson Four:

Perhaps this should be lesson one but here goes: make friends with boat people. For me this means talking to complete strangers, leaving notes on companionways of boats that I like, sending out emails to strangers, anything I can do to open up communication with people who are sailing in my area, who know about boats, or who own boats that interest me. I’ve found that most people are happy to share their time and their knowledge. Sometimes I get lucky and score a sail out of it, other times I’m even luckier and score a new friend out of it.

That’s it for now. Since this is a new blog, and I see that already some people have visited I will let you know that I will not be posting until Monday but in the near future I will have the following:

-A list of my favorite sailing, how to, and boat building books.

-I am thinking about doing an interview with a guy I recently met named Skip (who I approached randomly see lesson 4). Skip used to make fiberglass sailboats, is very knowledgeable about the process, and helped me look over the meridian to determine her exact needs. Most recently he helped another guy in the boat yard restore a beautiful Tahiti Ketch (I’ll post pictures when I can. It will be up for sale soon by the way). After spending a few hours with Skip going over the boat, I realized that Skip is really a unique person—I’d like to learn more about him. If skip agrees I might as well share with the rest of the world by posting our conversation in interview format on this blog.

Until then, feel free to leave feedback. I have also posted a u-tube video link with sailing instructional videos. These look interesting. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My short long list of boat choices

Our approach to sailing is minimalist. We will follow the advice of Don Casey and Lew Hackler in the book Sensible Cruising: The Thoreau Approach : A Philosophic and Practical Approach to Cruising. Basically in the Thoreau approach one has enough to cruise safely but with out extravagances which, while handy at times, also have the potential to, as Casey and Hackler put it, “insulate” one from the experience of sailing. Also, the extras cost money. In other words:

-no engine over gas engine (or any engine requiring rebuild)

-No boat over 30’

- Oil lamps over electricity (or LED headlamps).

- A good set of working sails but nothing fancy.

- Bucket over a head.

- Alcohol over propane, cooler over fridge.

-Sextant, and compass over fancy navigation equipment.

-Sheet to tiller over electronic self-steering.

And so on…

My top boat choices:

Buehler Hagar 28’: this boat tops my list. Salty, sea worthy, wood. These are home-built boats for the most part though and rarely if ever come up for sale. I did hear of one in serious disrepair being offered in the fine state of Washington, but shipping it here would be cost prohibitive. Maybe one will turn up. If anyone has one, I'd love to hear from them. Capsize ratio: 1.6, motion comfort 30.56

Aleutka: Actually this and Buehler Hagar top my list. Unfortunately these boats rarely come up for sale. There is one currently listed but it is out of my price range for now. On a side note, I actually met Letcher in person and asked for plans, but he said he couldn’t find them (I think he decided not to part with them)… He did give me the original article published on the boat. If anyone knows where plans might be located, drop a line… Capsize ratio: 1.63

Alberg 30’: Obviously, size-wise this is the biggest of my boat choices. But I think perhaps it is too big for my purposes, which means more expensive, harder to maintain, more challenging to sail. Thought these numbers don’t mean much I’ll include them: capsize ratio: 1.68; motion comfort: 31.67

Rhodes Seafarer Meridian 25’: Very similar to the Pearson Ariel, but lower capsize ratio: 1.63 and greater motion comfort: 29.66. Build in Holland and there is a boat for sail in my area for pretty cheap—everything leaks and so it needs a deck re-core and maybe a new main bulkhead. The hull is sound, but due to the leaks the interior also needs work. At the right price this might be the project I am looking for, but it might be a little bit too much of a project… Not much is available on these boats, but all the owners I have spoken with are impressed.

Bristol 27’: Nice boat. A lot of them around. Capsize ratio: 1.71; motion comfort: 28.87

Cheoy Lee Cadet (offshore 27’): Really pretty boat with tons of teak. Cement and iron pig ballast though which has a tendency to turn crumbly pieces of dust from what I’ve read. Capsize ratio: 1.62; motion comfort: 32.83

Cheoy Lee Frisco Flyer: Another nice boat. Capsize ratio: 1.77; motion comfort: 22.37

Pearson Triton: Proven voyager. A lot of them around. Seems to be just like the meridian with a few extra feet. Again, a little bit bigger than I’d like for a first boat. Capsize ratio: 1.73; motion comfort: 27.97

Pearson Ariel: Closer to my size. Almost identical to the Meridian but with less impressive number. On is for sale in my area with a trailer, but the asking price is high for a fixer. Capsize ratio: 1.86; motion comfort: 23.86

Bristol Corinthian: too small, but pretty. Maybe if we are feeling really adventuresome or if Meg decides she hates sailing and so my cruising endeavors become shorthanded. Capsize ratio: 1.86; motion comfort: 21.58

I am also considering the following tiny boats for two. Either of these would require a revision of the overall sailing plans but nonetheless, they interest me:

Bolger Long Micro

Matt Layden’s paradox

Dream boats that are always too expensive to afford at present:

Laurent Giles Vertue: Of My Old Man and the Sea fame. This is a great book about a father and a son who set off from Long Island, through the Panama Canal, and then south and around Cape Horn in 25' boat.

Falmouth Channel Cutter

Bristol Channel Cutter


I'd also consider a Westerly Centaur or Pageant but I don't really like the looks of these. Golden Hinds seem like nice boats but they rarely come up for sale in the States and are generally pricey.

Unless something happens, I will probably put a really low offer in on the Meridian that is for sale, toward the end of the sailing season. For fun I’ve included a poll below to get people’s opinions on this boat.

Off the top of my head the boat I am interested needs:

deck recored and refinished.

Interior sanded and repainted

Gasoline engine removed, replaced with outboard (or no engine)

Mast sanded, painted and inspected.

New cockpit locker hatches

Everything rebedded

Jib sheet tracks installed (alternately toe rails with blocks attached will suffice)

New running rigging.

Head removed


Main Bulkhead replaced

I realize that this is a lot to accomplish. On the other hand I think I can get the boat for a song, and actually I am into the idea of a serious clean-up and upgrade. It seems like a great way to really know a boat without actually building it from scratch…

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Plan as it stands today:

Even though I finished graduate school a few years ago now, I am still broke for the most part. Partly this is self-imposed; after completing my degree in Creative Writing I decided that a career in writing wasn’t really for me… Whoever said that we should do what we love was an idiot. The idea that people should reduce their passions down to the primary intention of money making is a fool hardy recipe for taking passion and turning it into drudgery. If you love what you do for work that is one thing, if you happen to make money at something you love doing, that is also something, but if you try and turn what you love into work, that is mere stupidity as far as I’m concerned.

I digress… after foregoing the starving writer or English teacher path, I decided to take classes in the sciences. I now have the prerequisites for medical school tucked neatly under my belt. I also have gainful employment. I also have a partner and a baby. We also own a house.

The general plan as it stands today is as follows:


1) Buy an inexpensive (less than $3000) project sailboat 25’-30’.

2) Spend the winter and spring completing repairs.

3) Shakedown cruise on Lake Champlain during the first half of the summer.

4) sail down the Hudson and ICW in the Fall and Winter of 2009-2010

5) Complete the Great Loop?


1) the house this winter. We’re hoping that the tenants currently living there will be interested. That said, if there is anyone out there that wants to buy a Victorian duplex in Montpelier, VT with positive cash flow for $160,000 get in touch. It may seem silly to sell a good investment, but we want to get sailing, not be landlords.

2) Pay off credit cards. We are almost there. About another grand to go. Feel free to send money.

3) Sell our car. We’ll probably wait until next spring for this one. 2004 Honda civic anyone?

4) Sell our furniture.

Sailing practice

1) Continue to log hours on Lake Champlain this season.

2) Complete ASA coastal cruising certification this autumn.

3) Practice sailing with the baby.

4) Meg to complete ASA keelboat certification next spring.

There are a few challenges in our way:

1) We are pretty broke. Such is our twenty-something reality. It raises an important question, namely: How will we pay for the boat and repairs? Well, our plan is to put the boat on a low interest credit card (rates are better than banks, and most banks won’t make sailboat loans for less than $5000). We will pay this and the remainder of any other debts upon the sale of our house and all of our worldly possessions

2) Fixing a sailboat is a big project. This of course is true. That said, I have some carpentry experience, and we have read everything we can on repairing old fiberglass boats. Messy? Yes. Time intensive? Yes. Impossible? No. We will save money where we can by buying and salvaging materials.

3) Where will we keep the boat while we work? This is a good question since yard fees, especially during the off-season are expensive. We have a few ideas and I will keep the blog updated as things progress. That said, if there are any people living in the Burlington area, that have some extra barn space they can spare for the Winter and Spring, please get in touch.

4) Sailing with a two-year-old seems crazy. Perhaps, but many people do it. Already, when day sailing we take appropriate precautions: i.e. self-righting life vest. When we get ready to go cruising we will include lifelines, harnesses, etc. Also, our daughter will begin swim lessons this autumn although she already loves the water… Besides, cruising down a highway is crazy too when you really think about it.

5) How will we make money while underway? We have no clue. Any suggestions? Meg teaches ballroom dancing—maybe we’ll teach tango to the yachties.

6) Didn’t I say I was thinking about Medical School? Yes, I am doing just that; thinking about it. Actually, I do feel pretty certain about medical school. In fact, for the first time I can say I feel called to something. That said, I am not in any rush either. My entire life I have been rushing to make something of myself. At 29, I have a wonderful partner, a beautiful daughter, and a dream about which I am passionate. My intention is to savor this for a little while. If we cruise for the next 4 years, and then I go to medical school, I don’t think that on my death bed I will say to myself, “I wish I had taken those four years I spent sailing, and used them for working instead.” I guess I could be wrong though. I’ll tell you when I get there…

7) Why not wait? I can’t. I hear a call to move, to shake, to fight against the false comforts of meeting expectations, of giving into inertia, of falling in with the status quo. It has taken me a while to decipher that message, and its source. In the interim Life has persisted as it does always. But now that the message is clear and the source has been revealed as my own voice I would be remiss to ignore it.

The beginning

My utter infatuation with sailing and all things sailing-related began 6 years ago. I can’t precisely pinpoint the catalyst for my eventual obsession, what I do know is that I was nearing the end of graduate school. I was also teaching part-time and moonlighting as a carpenter’s helper-- I’ve always been interested in building things. The pay from these jobs was barely enough to get by on so I was perpetually broke. Besides the expense of groceries and rent, I was yoked by a pile of student loan debt, most of which I incurred when I was still too young and easily influenced know any better. Yet for all my schooling I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had vague notions of wanted to be writer, but my reasons were only partly creative, the rest were pure ego. I wanted to do something, felt I had to do something in order to make meaning in my life—but what to do? Added to this, I was in an unhappy relationship with a girl who I had been living with since college so that in sum, I had already begun, even at such a relatively young age, to feel the invisible cords of inertia beginning to wind and tighten a snare around me.. I felt poised on the brink of an existential crisis, and I latched onto the idea of sailing like a life ring, for the same reasons so many before me have. A boat represented to me, and still does, everything needed to slough of the weight of mundane, predictable, mindless existence. A sailboat meant freedom, a home, an adventure, a project and a goal, and most of all it meant vast expanse of water stretching to the open air in which I might learn to breathe again, learn to live again and learn to just be again.

At that time, I had been day sailing, once, maybe twice in my entire life. Worse still, I didn’t know anybody who sailed or owned a boat and might oblige me in furthering my sailing aspirations. Broke as I was I ruled out expensive sailing lessons never mind actually buying a boat. However, like every person susceptible to a bite by the sailing bug, I had the inexhaustible capacity to dream.

In retrospect, the fact that I didn’t have any money was, in a way, a blessing. Because I couldn’t actually go sailing, I immersed myself in the next best thing to sailing, which for me, was reading about boats and sailing. I devoured books on sailing technique, sailboat building and cruising. On weekends, when my classmates were at local watering holes, I sat in front of my computer, scouring the internet for sailing websites. I researched boats, dreaming about the perfect seaworthy minimalist cruiser for me. I ordered books by John Vigor and Larry and Lynn Pardy from my library and kept them well past their due dates. I read the basic keelboat sailing manuals put out by the American Sailing Association and US sailing: tack, jibe, heave-to, man overboard... When I found myself exhausted by the technical side of sailing, I lost myself in sailing narratives. My favorites were the works of Bernard Moitissier. I read all of Tamata and the Alliance: A Memoir.

This research turned out to be invaluable for stripping away some of the cumbersome misconceptions about what, as a land lubber, I thought a boat should be, and more profoundly, what I thought life should be. Six years later I have a much clearer and slightly more realistic vision about what boat ownership is, and what it is not. The first rule of sailing could easily be haste makes waste. I've already learned a lot about patience. You want to learn how to sail? Patience. You want to buy a boat? Patience. Your boat needs work… a lot of work… patience. You are not there yet… be patient.