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April 10, 2000

Mesa, Arizona; San Diego, California; Santa Barbara, California; Eugene, Oregon; circa April 10, 2000

 

I know the right boat is out there. The more I come across unsuitable boats, the more assured I am that I'll eventually come across the perfect boat. Since last November ... the bleak, dreary month when we had to leave "Silver Heels," ... Ellen and I have looked at boats from Maryland to Maine. From San Diego to Seattle. We searched for a boat with classic lines and some character. We met one broker that understands our interests, the others just try to change our minds. A boat big enough for us to live aboard and big enough to be comfortable is heavy. A heavy boat requires big, heavy sails. It takes more sail area to move a big boat. More sail area means heavy sails. Sails that are hard to muscle up 60 feet to the mast top. Sure there's new gadgets that roll the sail into the mast and around the headstay. There's winches to trim sails and windlasses to raise heavy anchors. Bring this all together on one boat, and I'd buy it. But, I guess it's possible to want something desperately and still be OK if you don't get it.

Our broker called and said, there's a nice wood ketch called "Bounty," and she's on the West Coast. He said I should see this boat. "Bounty" was Herreshoff's design just before he designed"Ticonderoga," one of the most famous sailing yachts of all time. I saw "Ticonderoga" in San Francisco in the 1960's when I was just walkin' the docks, boat dreaming. The broker hadn't seen "Bounty" himself but said, "Everyone says she's beautiful." He referred me to an upscale West Coast broker's office in Southern California to see "Bounty." This, I realized, called for a clean shirt, creased khaki trousers and clean boat shoes. We drove to Newport Beach and looked at 68 feet of classic Herreshoff genius. From the clipper bow, along the gentle sheer to the transom she was sweet intoxication. She was a ketch with mastheaded sails, no gaffs to lift. Beautiful joinerwork. Bright varnish on the cabin sides and rails. Unfortunately, I couldn't see Ellen and myself handling this vessel. The dock extended around her banner adorned stern (the vessel's). The mizzen boom overhung where I could reach it from the dock. I grabbed the boom, hung there and tried to move her 68 foot hull, just a little. From the dock, I swung my whole body weight on the boom. Nothing happened! She was so much heavier than "Silver Heels." Truly, too much boat for short handed cruising. I couldn't afford her either. She needed a new cockpit, where there was some rot. She needed refrigeration. She needed new sails, and a roller furling jib, and an anchor and ground tackle. I do believe life is not for the timid, but this boat would be like a rock crusher with me inside.

We traveled to San Diego to look at a pretty little ketch called "Unicorn." Traditional in every way, this boat had teak decks, a clipper bow and romance. But, neglect had allowed seams to open and the paint to peel. This was too much of a project for us although she was the right size.

Disappointed, there we were standing on the dock in San Diego's bright morning sun. The broker, realizing he had a wood boat freak standing along side, said, look over there. What do 'ya think of that one?

I looked down the dock and there she was. Primal beauty. "This was it!" Standing there in a predatory hunch, I thought, " I lived my life for this moment. I won't need my doctor's treadmill test this year." Her name is "Brushfire."

"Brushfire" is 51 feet overall. A wood constructed sloop designed by Sparkman & Stevens and built by Driscoll in 1969 as a racer/cruiser. She's oak, mahogany and teak, and fully restored. New engine, new sails, new systems. All the old paint was removed and new synthetic paint was applied inside and out. She looks brand new with her fresh bright varnish and new canvas covers. This is the point where logic breaks down and purchasing a sailboat really becomes interesting. I think, "If I buy this, I will have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones."

At the present time I made an offer, and that was rejected. There's still a way to have "Brushfire" however. Right now it just seems that the owner is asking for my retirement nestegg and my first born son. There has to be a way to get this boat, and I'm working on that.

Best regards to you all.

Terry

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