Com­pro­mise III is a 38-foot Penbo cruiser that James Mur­phy re­stored and uses as a sum­mer home.

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It hap­pens ev­ery year, when the weather turns warm and the boats are in the wa­ter on Long Is­land’s east end. James Mur­phy moves aboard. “clean up and then get the stuff on board — the dishes, the tow­els, the TV … the food and ev­ery­thing — and then it’s all over and I move on board,” says the 55-year-old from East Hamp­ton, New York. “It’s a spring rit­ual.”

Com­pro­mise III is a 38-foot wooden Penbo built in 1973 by the Penob­scot Boat Co. in Maine. It’s been home to Mur­phy four months of the year while he works on the yachts that make their home ports around the Sag Har­bor, East Hamp­ton and Shel­ter Is­land ar­eas. “I moved out here from New York af­ter 9/ 11,” says Mur­phy, who bought the boat seven years ago. “I was done with the in­san­ity.”

The na­tive Mid­west­erner tapped into his boat­ing back­ground and opened a marine wood­work­ing busi­ness. “Dad was a sailor. We al­ways had boats,” he says. “We did the Mack­inac race and a lot of Great Lakes cruis­ing, so I al­ways liked boats, and I like wood- work­ing. I put it to­gether, bought some tools and got a shop.”

Work­ing with pri­vate clients, mari­nas and boat­builders, Mur­phy spent sum­mers liv­ing aboard sail­boats, the last an Ir­win 32, which he had for six years. Things took a turn in 2010, when he sold the Ir­win. “I didn’t have a boat,” Mur­phy says. “I thought I’d take a sea­son off, re­lax, have no bills.”

In­stead, he got a call from a dock­mas­ter friend who told him about an old wooden power­boat that needed work. It turned out to be the Penbo. “My first thought when I saw it was, this thing is crazy. It’s like a house,” Mur­phy says. “I’ve been liv­ing on an Ir­win 32, which is like a sub­ma­rine be­low, in com­par­i­son. And here’s this boat with a fire­place in the saloon.” Mur­phy calls it “civ­i­lized liv­ing.” He says the owner had kept the boat as a sort of so­cial club, mak­ing sure it ran but pay­ing less at­ten­tion to out­side main­te­nance. The paint and wood­work suf­fered. “He’d owned it for 16 years and was spruc­ing it up to sell,” Mur­phy says. “He wanted me to do the work.”

That’s when the Penbo in­sin­u­ated it­self into Mur­phy’s life. The owner wanted Mur­phy to buy the boat, and the price kept com­ing down. “Fi­nally, I made my best of­fer, and he ac­cepted it,” Mur­phy says. “So I bought it.”

The price was $10,000, and to his as­ton­ish­ment, Mur­phy also got a slip in Sag Har­bor for the sea­son as part of the deal.

He spent the first few months bring­ing the wood­work back and paint­ing the cabin and hull. “I’m a Shel­ter Is­land kind of guy, but when you’re at a marina in Sag Har­bor, you want your boat to look good,” he says.

Live­aboard ameni­ties on the 44-year-old boat in­clude a fresh­wa­ter VacuFlush head, a flat-screen TV and stereo sys­tem, hot and cold pres­sure wa­ter for the shower, and a wood-burn­ing stove.

Al­though he lives aboard, Mur­phy gets away on Com­pro­mise III when­ever he can. “I grab a moor­ing at Sag Har­bor or go over to Shel­ter Is­land,” he says. “You work Satur­day, head for Shel­ter on Sun­day, grab your slip at noon and leave Tues­day morn­ing.”

Power comes from a Perkins T356 diesel,

rated at 170 hp. The Penbo cruises eas­ily at 7 to 8 knots. “Light speed to an ex-sailor,” Mur­phy says. “It sips fuel, maybe a gal­lon an hour. So with 100 gal­lons of diesel I can go a long way.” Elec­tron­ics in­clude a Ray­ma­rine plot­ter/depth sounder and a VHF ra­dio.

Com­pro­mise III draws a lot of com­ments, with its dis­tinc­tive Down East work­ing boat pro­file, Mur­phy says, adding, “Who knows how many of these boats are even left?” It’s been a won­der­ful sum­mer home and a com­fort­able place to come home to. “I work all day, drive back to my marina, and I have a lit­tle baby house.”

And it’s a house with style. “I like it be­cause it’s old and tra­di­tional, with the books, the fire­place — it’s just so com­fort­able,” Mur­phy says. “I can sit there, re­lax and watch a Yan­kees game, make a mar­garita.”

And on a sum­mer night at the marina, when the Penbo is lit up and the doors are open, peo­ple tend to grav­i­tate to the boat. “It’s per­fect for that,” Mur­phy says.

As idyl­lic as the life has been, Mur­phy can see the day when the Penbo might move on to an­other cus­to­dian or owner. “I can’t keep it for­ever, and she needs some work,” he says. “If the right per­son would come along to re­store it, that would be a crazy, awe­some thing.”


Com­pro­mise III has a raised pi­lot­house with a helm sta­tion, a nav area and a bench seat/ pilot berth. The win­dows and side doors (port and star­board) give the helms­man vis­i­bil­ity all around the boat.

The for­ward sec­tion is down wind­ing stairs. There’s a full shower com­part­ment to port and an en­closed head to star­board with a VacuFlush head, sink and coun­ter­top with cab­i­netry. There are full-size port and star­board berths with drawer stowage in the fore­peak. A for­ward locker with lou­ver doors ac­cesses the an­chor line and wind­lass.

The gal­ley is abaft the pi­lot­house, equipped with a sink, stove, re­frig­er­a­tor, mi­crowave and counter space. The saloon has a sofa that con­verts to a berth, plus book­shelves, read­ing lamps and a wood-burn­ing stove. Slid­ing screen doors open to the cock­pit. The en­gine is be­low the pi­lot­house sole; stairs lead down to the lighted en­gine room, which has ac­cess on both sides of the diesel.

James Mur­phy

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