BOATS I HAVE OWNED have taught me a lot in my lifetime. I guess I ought to be giving thanks to them right now. So, OK, thanks to:
My International sliding seat canoe whose name I have happily forgotten. She taught me how ancient Roman army catapults worked. Every time a gust came along I was catapulted off the sliding seat and over the boom into the drink.
Shane, a 14-foot Sprog one-design. My thanks to her for teaching me that having a fast boat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll win races. It needs cunning and deviousness as well.
M’aidez, an 11-foot International Mirror Class dinghy, for alerting me to the fact that you should never name your boat M’aidez if you ever want to call anybody on VHF radio.
Mother’s Ruin, another Mirror, taught me how to wage psychological warfare against racing competitors. Old Band-Aids stuck on a brand new mainsail seemed to distract them greatly as I sailed past.
Messy, another Mirror, taught me the valuable lesson that there are various forms of polyester resin, at least one of which will not cure if you don’t exclude air from its surface. Her taped seams never got hard, never accepted paint, so I deliberately gave her a splodgy paint job and painted her name on her sides with a whitewash brush.
Trapper, a C&C 27, deserves my thanks for raising my social status at the yacht club. Everybody admired her looks, if not my racing results. A sweet boat.
Freelance, a Performance 31, by Lavranos, carried me and my family to a new life in America and taught me how to lie ahull in 50-knot winds off the Cape of Storms.
Square One, yet another Mirror, was a wreck I found in Los Angeles. She taught me how to restore a wooden boat in a garage in an apartment block without alerting the tenants directly above. I learned their habits, and did my banging and sawing while they were showering or listening to loud TV. Nobody reported me to the fierce landlady.
Square One II. Yep, a Mirror again. Another wreck, this time in Seattle. I learned that I could
use an epoxy paste to replace a whole ply of marine plywood that fell off the starboard topsides. I was very proud of that repair job.
Tagati was a Santana 22 that showed us the glories of Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands. Fast, simple and easily handled. I spent 13 months restoring her and should never have sold her.
Jabula, a Cape Dory 25D, took us around Vancouver Island on a six-week trip and allowed us to to meet an Oregonian cruising couple who gave us their recipe for gravlox salmon, which became our most-requested dish ever.
Sangoma, a Cape Dory 27, took us around Vancouver Island again and taught me that you can tow a heavy-displacement full-keel sailboat for two miles behind a small dinghy in a calm if you know how to scull with one oar over the transom. Yes, our engine broke down, but I got her into a small port from which a friendly Canadian boat towed us 10 miles to the area’s only mechanic.
Eclipse, a Cal 20, one of Gary Mull’s finest, taught me that I don’t like outboard engines that work in small wells let into the cockpit. She was a champion sailor, but I couldn’t stand the idea of her propeller protruding beneath the hull and causing drag all the time.
And finally, I have to mention Tokoloshe, a 10-foot, narrow-gutted, fiberglass fishing skiff that served as tender for the last four boats I owned. She was an unfinished mongrel of a boat, but without peer for seaworthiness. We towed her for thousands of miles, including hundreds in the open Pacific, and she never gave us a moment’s worry. Perhaps it was because I warned her that if she ever gave us trouble in a heavy following sea, I wouldn’t hesitate to cast her loose. I give thanks that It was a threat I never had to carry out.
So once in every year we throng
Upon a day apart,
To praise the Lord with feast and song
In thankfulness of heart.
— Arthur Guiterman, The First Thanksgiving
"Why did that sailor buy drinks for all those girls?"
"He likes to have a port in every sweetheart."