No mat­ter how long the win­ter, spring is sure to fol­low

Soundings - - Underway - By Mary South

April is not, de­spite T.S. Eliot’s claims, the cru­elest month. Not even close. (It’s Jan­uary, hands down.) While it’s true that late win­ter’s lin­ger­ing snow, sleet, slush and gray skies are par­tic­u­larly sting­ing to the win­ter-weary soul, April — no mat­ter how dis­ap­point­ing its ac­tual ap­pear­ance — is spring­time’s vestibule. The pale yel­low sun has al­ready warmed our up­turned faces with its wan rays, the first pur­ple cro­cuses have pushed through the snow, and we feel in our bones that we are mere weeks away from buds open­ing on the trees, from flit­ting but­ter­flies and cheer­ful bird­song and — best of all — from get­ting our boats back in the wa­ter.

I have gone two sum­mers now with­out a boat in the wa­ter, and I’m not go­ing to do it again. As I wan­dered the Miami boat shows, I re­al­ized I’d let my­self reach a danger­ous point. I was ex­cited about hav­ing a new cen­ter con­sole on the dock be­hind my house; I imag­ined my­self stealth­ily pol­ing a flats skiff in search of per­mit; back­ing a sport­fish down on a gi­ant tuna. So what’s the prob­lem? I don’t have a dock be­hind my house, I con­sider per­mits legal pa­per­work, and the only tuna I have ever landed has been pried from a can with the tines of a fork. I am merely out of con­trol.

I didn’t fare much bet­ter as I wan­dered the Cruis­erPort part of the Yacht & Bro­ker­age Show. I imag­ined my­self pro­vi­sion­ing for my mul­ti­year cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion and wav­ing good­bye as I set off on my new full-dis­place­ment trawler. On the other hand, the sleek semidis­place­ment mod­els looked like the per­fect way to get to Maine each sum­mer and the Ba­hamas in win­ter. (Oh, that’s right. I live in Philadel­phia and have a full-time job.)

Mostly, I was re­minded that, no mat­ter what your per­sonal taste, as long as it’s well-built and sea­wor­thy, there’s re­ally no such thing as a bad boat. And with that in mind, I need to lower my ex­pec­ta­tions and just get a new one.

I should ex­plain that I own a boat, my first. Bossanova is a 40-foot, 30-ton steel trawler. Sin­gle screw, no bow thruster, not even a wind­lass. I must have been crazy to go that ba­sic. Truth is, that lit­tle ship was the right boat at the right time. Bossanova had ev­ery­thing that mat­tered, and what she lacked in luxury, she made up for in el­e­gant sim­plic­ity. I brought her up the Eastern Seaboard through the At­lantic on my first cruise. She has a lot of free­board and a lot of windage but is easy enough to ma­neu­ver with short bursts of power. Her 120-hp Ford Nor’east diesel is re­li­able and burns only 1.8 gal­lons per hour at 8 knots. I love the throaty chug of the dry stack ex­haust and the sense of com­mand­ing a small ship … or tank.

And whether on the hook or at the dock, I love the salti­ness of my ves­sel, her work­boat pedi­gree.

But boats are about pur­pose as well as taste. Sev­eral years ago, I hauled Bossanova for a rou­tine sur­vey — I wanted to change in­sur­ers. Se­ri­ous cor­ro­sion — de­spite an on-board gal­vanic iso­la­tor, rou­tine bot­tom jobs and zinc changes — had caused pit­ting and wast­ing of the hull. I was so heart­bro­ken that it hardly mat­tered if it had been stray cur­rent at a ma­rina or some­thing on board that had been wired in­cor­rectly. What­ever the cause, Bossanova needed her hull dou­bled or, ide­ally, re­placed. I had the bot­tom blasted and got mul­ti­ple opin­ions on the ex­tent of the prob­lem. I had es­ti­ma­tors crawl around and cal­cu­late the cost of var­i­ous ap­proaches to the re­pair. I had the bot­tom re­coated again to pro­tect the ail­ing hull while I pon­dered what to do. And then I went into a state of in­de­ci­sive paral­y­sis.

Truth is, my life has changed. I no longer live aboard. My job pre­vents me from cruis­ing for weeks on end. Bossanova, even in tip-top shape, is no longer the right boat for me.

So I’m fi­nally ready. I need two things: first and fore­most, some­one who is ei­ther an ex­cel­lent welder who wants a great deal on a very spe­cial ship or some­one who’s pre­pared to pay an ex­cel­lent welder to re­store this Phil Bol­ger-de­signed beauty to her for­mer sturdy shape. Find­ing her a good home is es­sen­tial; I have had much more than my money’s worth of great mem­o­ries.

And then I need to find the right boat for my life now. It needs ac­com­mo­da­tions that are ad­e­quate for week­ends aboard; good look­ing, prefer­ably Down East lines; speed in the 12- to 16-knot range — enough to get some­where but not break the bank on the way; and it has to be some­thing I don’t worry about too much: fiber­glass, used and (re­ally) af­ford­able. I think I’ve nar­rowed it down to a model, but I’m open to ad­vice.

Wel­come, April! I’ve got a lot to do in the next few months, but it’s go­ing to be a great sum­mer.

“I spent un­counted hours sit­ting at the bow look­ing at the wa­ter and the sky,

study­ing each wave, dif­fer­ent from the last, see­ing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watch­ing pat­terns, the sweep of it all, and let­ting

it take me. The sea.”

— Gary Paulsen

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