September 15, 2015

In love with a Vertue 25

PEOPLE CAN BE SO CRUEL. Even people who know you well. Even people without a harmful bone in their bodies. The trouble is, they just don’t stop to think how something might affect you.

Two good friends of mine, Sue and Jere, out cruising in the Salish Sea, have sent me an e-mail picture of a gorgeous little wooden boat they came across in Pages’ Resort Marina on Gabriola Island in British Columbia.  I recognized her as a Vertue 25, a British design by Laurent Giles.

She looked brand new, sparkling in the Canadian sunshine with gleaming white topsides and faultless brightwork, but I discovered she was built by the Bent Jespersen boatbuilding firm on Vancouver Island in 1985.

She’s called Sarissa and I fell deeply in love with her at first sight, as, I suspect, my friends knew I would.

What can be more cruel than unrequited love? I can’t afford to buy her, I can’t afford to maintain her, and as far as I know she’s not for sale anyhow. The simple act of sending me her picture has broken my heart.

I’ll get over it, of course. I always do. This isn’t the first time. But each time it takes a bit longer.

I have drooled over the Vertue 25 ever since I first read Humphrey Barton’s book, Vertue XXXV. He singlehanded her around Cape Horn, of course, the smallest boat to double the cape at the time, I believe. And then there was the epic voyage of another Vertue 25 as detailed in that splendid book My Old Man and the Sea, written in alternating chapters by father and son, David and Daniel Hays. A wonderful read.

The Hays’s set out from Britain, sailed south and across the Atlantic to Panama, made their way via the Galapagos to Easter Island, and then plunged into the Screaming Fifties to round Cape Horn and head for home up the Atlantic again.

So what is it about the 25-foot Vertue that affects me so much? Hard to say, really, except that she’s simply a beautiful, sturdy  little heavy-displacement boat that has all the features I love. A transom-hung rudder. A full-length keel. A well-protected cockpit. Narrow beam. Three-inch bulwarks. A cocky doghouse. A simple sloop rig. A sheerline to die for.

Most people these days would describe her as old fashioned and outdated. I don’t care. I’m that way myself. Say what you like, but this is a boat that just wants to be taken to sea, and when you look at her you know that she’s promising to look after you in the bad stuff, tiny as she is.

As a final touch of cruelty, it occurred to me that if I did own a Vertue 25, I would feel compelled to cross an ocean in her. That, after all, is her purpose in life.  But I’m getting too long in the tooth for that sort of thing. However, when I mentioned this to another friend she said:

“I disagree with you, John. The purpose of owning a  Laurent Giles Vertue would be to have a boat that you loved, that made you recall previous ocean crossings, and  admitting that cross-ocean adventures are beyond you now, while enjoying short sails in the protected Gulf Islands. Would you like us to go and have a look at her for you?”

Thanks, Jen, but no. I’m suffering enough already.

Today’s Thought
It is the special quality of love not to be able to remain stationary, to be obliged to increase under pain of diminishing.
— Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters
"I couldn't sleep a wink last night with those curtains wide open."
"Why didn't you close them?"
"I can't reach across the street."


57 Degrees North said...

Sometimes you end up marked for life. My first unrequited love was a Cape Dory Typhoon. At ten years old I thought she was about the most nifty thing I'd ever laid eyes on. Even today I'd argue that you won't find a prettier boat with more graceful lines. From that moment I "knew" what a proper sailboat was supposed to look like...

My second love was a GRP Folkboat some criminal was letting rot away at her mooring. I tried to buy her a couple times, but always her owner claimed he was "getting ready to fix her up..." She died by inches, decks buckled, mast rotted with the standing rigging hanging like crazed spider webs, her bottom a veritable forest of marine growth. Then, one day gone. I was heartbroken.

John Vigor said...

57 Degrees North, you have impeccable taste. I owned two Cape Dories, a 25D and a 27, and a damn near bought a Typhoon a little while back. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I couldn't sit upright down below. Not ideal for overnighting. Also, I would have bought an International Folkboat years ago but for one thing -- the mainsheet slide runs across the cockpit and cuts the driver off from the rest of the boat, making singlehanding awkward. Anyway, congratulations on knowing what a proper sailboat is supposed to look like. (They have a name for us. I think it's Luddites. Maybe Troglodytes.)

John V.

57 Degrees North said...

Heh heh! Or it could be we're just channeling Carl Alberg... Now there was someone with views!

I dunno, it just seems like too much emphisis lately is being placed on "performance" and amenities at the cost of seaworthiness, or even comfort underway. (Have you seen the beating some of these newer designs take while going upwind?) I know many will disagree, but when the chips are down and the barometer is dropping... Plus they're ugly. I've seen some bathtubs with sexier lines! If you are going to pour money into a hole in the water, it may as well be a beautiful hole... If that makes me old-fashioned, I can live with it.

I can't remember who wrote it, but someone once noted that the typhoon wouldn't win any races, but was the boat you bought if you sailed for the pure love of sailing. They are a bit "cozy" down below, I'll grant you that.

Do you know, I never once considered the practical aspects of singlehanding that folkboat? I just wanted her. Some interesting parallels spring to mind, probably best not to go there...