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Old 03-09-2017, 10:36   #1
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Crushing, literally and figuratively

Ok, maybe I am a dinosaur. Maybe I have offensively low standards. Maybe I am trying to live in the past. But I like to think I see beauty in what others see as a wreck. Does a boat have to look beautiful to BE beautiful? Would you be too embarrassed to sail an ugly boat?

This all got started the other day when I was browsing craigslist and I thought to look into one of those ads, you know, where they will take your boat for scrap. They had photos.

Hey, there's a Columbia 24, not in very bad shape... just like my old one! Hey theres a Columbia 29 just like mine! That's not in bad shape at least in the picture...gave them a call, maybe those boats are still sitting somewhere?

"All the boats pictured have been scrapped."

Those boats just no longer inspired any dreams. And those dreamers still out there missed a chance at those boats.

And then there is the clincher when discussion of old boats comes up, the dream killer: "They are not worth it. You'll never get all the money back... it's not economical..."

I guess I see it from the kids' standpoint, my own kids and the kid still in me, and al the kids whose eyes go big when they feel the sails fill and they can steer a big boat, and they see dolphins for the first time.
Is it fun? Is it safe? Is is comfortable?

Not "will I get lots of compliments in the anchorage?"
Not "what's my return on this investment?"

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to hear compliments. And I am not into wasting money. But as my two kids banged the kayak into the side of the boat, and as they tread all that sand on the boat, and as they banged the paint and varnish and spilled all the hot cocoa and whatever... I did not care or complain, too much. It's the kids' boat as much as mine. And it affords us the chance to explore a (seemingly) remote and faraway land full of wondrous creatures, some beautiful and some scary. It affords us a chance out on the open sea where you never know what might pop up (we saw a big shark surface right at our waterline and a whole bunch of dolphins.) It affords us adventure and rest.

We are sailing on a shoestring. My boat sat for years for sale before I found her. Thankfully the previous owner did not give in to the temptation to give up and let her go for scrap. I bought her for very little, no survey, no sea-trial, not even any negotiation. I knew that boat. As she was, I untied her and sailed her 50 miles home. I replaced the structural needs. New rigging. Put it on myself with a friend. Bought a like new used mainsail, though the old one is still ok. Had a sailmaker do some work on my jib, and put in a set of reefs in it and the main. Bought some new lines for running rigging. Found a Danforth 20H for $20. That's about it. And we're off.

Of course there is still the usual maintenance and slip fees. But to actually untie and get going, sometimes it doesn't take much as long as you are willing to suspend the need for perfection.

I looked down on the anchorage yesterday from the cliff on the island. My boat was the smallest and admittedly the ugliest there. It has cosmetic needs. My bimini is a big plastic tarp. Laundry is hanging on the lifelines and dirty dishes are on the lazarette. If I had to sell it today, I doubt I'd find any takers... even if I offered it for less than the value of the lead.

Value. There it is.

My point is this. For my kids, for the kids of the world, for the kids still in us, a good old boat can be more valuable than gold. Bristol or not. Maybe, for the kids, it is better NOT to be Bristol. Just make her safe and comfortable and let the kids run all over her and bang her up. And they will learn to love the sea and the stunning beauty of an "ugly" boat as she heels, bends enormous white wings to the wind and accelerates over a mysterious and alive watery planet. And the kids will learn a kind of self-confidence and pride, and ability to dream bigger, that they are all desperately seeking from behind walls, in front of electronic screens.

And maybe a few older kids will be freed from also having to be Bristol in order to be worthwhile, or useful, or valuable.

So as you walk the docks and see an ugly old boat, what do you see?

1962 Columbia 29 MKI #37
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:50   #2
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Depends.... I once thought a Catalac catamaran was quite ugly until I met a very nice couple who'd sailed all over the US, Europe, the Med and Caribbean on one. 'Changed my entire view of the Catalac... their boat was kept up very nice and obviously seaworthy; a real beauty if measured by function.

An unkept, derelict, ugly boat is.... just plain ugly and deserves to be crushed.

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Old 03-09-2017, 14:21   #3
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Nice post, Don, and a good attitude IMO.

Ann and I volunteer at the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, and some of the boats shown there are things of enormous beauty, with faultless bright work and sparkling bronze and stainless. Gorgeous things, but hardly ever sailed... just looked upon and admired. Other entrants are showing signs of age and usage, not so shiny, not so sparkling, but they have been sailed hard in the years since the last show and many before that. They are still "alive", doing their jobs and bringing joy to those who sail upon them.

Both have their form of beauty and their own place in the world.

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II , lying Pittwater, NSW fora while.
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Old 03-09-2017, 16:35   #4
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Love the post Don. Like everything on a boat for me, it is compromises. Sailing or safety, it's always fix the safety item. Sailing or cosmetics, it's always sailing. Sailing or convenience, it's always sailing. Sailing or upgrades, it's always sailing. ...

I get to the non safety items when I can't sail.
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Old 03-09-2017, 16:55   #5
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Great post.
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Old 03-09-2017, 17:26   #6
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

I've seen quite a few old war horses that were chipped and rusty with black or even missing wood, etc., that were loaded for bear and circling the globe. I've been doing a refit on my boat in NC and a few 70's era Valiants (and others) have come through, long in the tooth with scars to match. Step aboard and you see mementos from all over the world, a warm and cozy home bristling with memories of experiences that most people only dream about.

When I was small me and my siblings and parents went through boats at a good clip. My father would find an old dory or day sailor or whatever and trade a bottle of scotch for it and we'd use the hell out of it, sanding and caulking and slapping paint on them every spring. Our prize was an old wooden Cheoy Lee 30' tank of a sloop and we'd take off for weeks at a time. My parents never gave a damn about it being polished or pretty. It was all about the sailing and going places.

All that said, I think a lot of the advice on this forum is cautionary, to seemingly new boaters/sailors who may not know what they are getting into, or have the skills or knowledge to buy a "junker" and make it safe. It's wise to at least let them know that it's going to be more work, and more expensive, than they probably think it is.

The yard I'm at is full of broken that someone bought with a gleam in their eye and visions of casting off, only to let them rot as the task of bringing them back from the dear proves more than they can handle. It's very sad. And while some people have the skills and knowledge to see a diamond in the rough and make it right without a lot of fuss and investment, the majority don't, unfortunately.

I mentioned on another thread that "value" is an entirely relative concept. To one person an old Columbia 29 is a boat that will require putting money into an never getting it back out. To the next person it's an insanely affordable classic that they'd have to pay +$100K to match in a new boat.

By a boat for $5k and put $10k in it and you probably have "lost" $5k. But buy a new boat and as soon as you leave the dock you've lost a lot more than that.
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Old 03-09-2017, 17:26   #7
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Good one Don.. as they say.. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.. not our fault others are blind..
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Old 03-09-2017, 19:28   #8
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

great post Don . There is a boat in my marina that matches the description you painted. After I wash her I get at least a grand out of her. ( paid $300 but thats another story.)
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Old 03-09-2017, 20:20   #9
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Many classic designs have lots of potential for good times without a ton of money being poured into the sailboat as long as they are structurally sound. I would not spend money to restore those boats, but I would surely enjoy sailing them regarding them as disposable boats. If something happened to them, it would not be a large financial hardship. Works for me.
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Old 03-09-2017, 20:29   #10
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Nice post, Don, and a good attitude IMO.

Ann and I volunteer at the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart, and some of the boats shown there are things of enormous beauty.....


Yep, and I am reasonably sure that at least one of the boats at that festival is only ever sailed TO that festival. The rest of the time it sits in a pen under layers of sunbrella cloth.

Where's the beauty in THAT scenario?
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Old 03-09-2017, 21:46   #11
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

This is exactly the reason I purchased my Hunter 27. She was from the day of thicker glass hulls, and other than a few less complicated issues, she had a dusty bilge while sitting in the marina when I examined her. I know how to fix the mast step, I rebuilt the sump pan (something I did not know was corroded before purchase, to be fair), and I knew that I needed full running rigging, but as the mast had to come down for the step, not such a deal breaker. I knew the lights worked. I knew there was a battery on board. I knew we needed an alternator and starter. The hatch and ports needed replacement.

Still, at 300 pounds and change, I was able to walk all over her flat surfaces with no deflection, and she came with an excellent sail shaft outboard (8 HP Evinrude), so I cannot complain there. I paid less than I would have for a new outboard of that HP and got the boat and the rest for essentially free. Her age means her registration in Florida is only 6 bucks a year. Evidently, 1978 was a good year for sailboats.

I loved the way she felt underfoot. I loved the way my wife immediately pronounced a new name the moment she placed a foot in the cockpit (we did not take that name though because I did not want to have to announce on the VHF "This Bitc* Is Movin'" for fear of getting charged with improper use of the radio). We did rename her, though, to something less troublesome.

We made the first trip on the vessel (later named Equinox) through the ICW from Daytona to Jacksonville, and from there through the St. John's River to her temporary mooring near Palatka. The trip took four days if I recall, and we had a ball. Motored all the way with that outboard, and it never skipped a beat. Ran aground a couple times. Woke up heeled once in a shallower than marked anchorage. Stopped off at The Landing for lunch at Hooters.

This vessel won't be my last, to be sure. It may not be the most posh from the start, but it will be the first sailboat I have owned and will be the 'norm' by which all others will be judged as I look at and evaluate them. That makes this old and dusty vessel a standard bearer for me, at least. The minor leak I discovered by the nav desk is on my list to be repaired, as is the various broken ports and even the foredeck hatch. But even in this condition, I am still happy with what I got for what was spent. I see it as an investment in future enjoyment, and the only way to get that investment back is to enjoy the process and the future use of her to make those trips again, this time under sail, preferably.

Had another vessel "called" to me, I would have gone another way, but this one was THE one for me at the time. I still believe it is THE one at the moment. The future will show what comes next, but for now, I am entirely satisfied with this "old" boat and the promise of future satisfaction she offers, despite her age and state of non-completion.
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Old 04-09-2017, 07:43   #12
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Great post Don! It is a reflection of what has happened in todays society.

Three years ago friends of mine took ASA 101 and 102 classes and him and his wife were immediately hooked on sailing, and having a sailboat as a second home on weekends. We got to talking one day and he brought this up, and how he was looking for a boat to buy, nothing much, and on a tight budget. We went out looking and I must say it was fun looking to spend someone else's money. We traipsed through several marinas, and shopped on craigslist for something that fit their list. We went through many older boats, that had been loved, and cared for, just not recently. We wound up finding a nice older Catalina 30, which he and his wife have spent some money and a lot of time fixing up. While we were shopping around, we came across a once beautiful Ericson 41 at a yard in Muskegon Mi. Her lines were a thing of beauty, I was just taken aback. A nice S&S design no doubt. I asked the broker, what about that one, he came back with a story of how it was left at the yard, with the companionway open to the elements for two years, and it was filled with water, and was going to be scrapped that week. We both just were in shock someone could just let it get to such a sad state.

Fast forward a year. I went to a sailboat show, and toured the expensive new boats, all glossy and smelling like a new car, who does not love that "new car smell"?? The new boats looked really nice, not beat up, bilges filled with water, or systems that looked like crap to the first time boat shopper. How can you compare a new boat to an older run down one that still functions but looks "tired".

To me it seems that most people these days want something as long as they don't have to work fixing it up, and are willing to finance for x years to get it, as long as they can get immediate satisfaction. Almost gone are the days of taking something from the rough, and restoring it to something that shines like a polished penny. Pride of work, and craftsmanship is in short supply these days. Sometimes it is lack of money, or sometimes lack of time. There are so many demands on both it is hard to be able to invest without sacrifice of some sort, which most people are not willing to do. In this day of "having" to have granite countertops, stainless everything, even though other surfaces work just fine, people are just plain spoiled or lazy sometimes. I am of the though if you want something, you will do what it takes to make it happen through hard work, and investments of some sorts.

I look at "boats of a certain age" and the lines just speak to me, and I know that it is not the case for all people, everyone has ideas of what looks good to them. As Don Casey once put it, the "row away factor" is a big part of what I like about certain designs, but that is only part of my criteria.

My current boat is a restoration project, which I chose to make it a restoration project for the most part. It is truly a classic plastic in every sense of the word, and was unloved and abandoned at a marina for two years. There are a number of things which didn't work, or were totally botched over the previous 49 years of ownership. I know this is a long project, and I actually enjoy spending time working on it. I find it relaxing, but also it is satisfying to see a project start from a nasty hot mess to come out looking like new. A friend of mine recently reminded me that once it is done, it will be gorgeous, but it will also be "mine".

Now I know not everyone see an item like a boat as something that deserves lots of love and attention...I get that. Much as some people will see a car, or a boat, as a tool to be used, and maintained as they demand(breakdown or maintenance). I see it as something to be taken care of, and kept in the best condition that I can afford to spend time and money on. Someday I will be on the water in my own boat, but until then, I beg for time on others boats, or volunteer for beer can races.

See you out on the water...

Untitled by Scott Ehrich, on Flickr
Untitled by Scott Ehrich, on Flickr
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Old 04-09-2017, 08:27   #13
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Don, thanks for the wonderful thoughts on this thread. I love your attitude. My boat is only 28 years old and was never in disrepair, though neglected for a few years before I bought her 18 years ago. Still, I've always been more interested in sailing her than is varnishing her. She has a few scrapes in her topsides that I repaired but they are still visible if you look closely. Her shear strip is a bit faded but to me she is lovely. And the view out from her deck is as fresh as the day she was first launched.
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Old 04-09-2017, 08:50   #14
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

Great post! The value is in the verb, the "doing", not the noun, the "have I got."
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Old 04-09-2017, 09:14   #15
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Re: Crushing, literally and figuratively

In this marina there are boats that become property of the Port because the moorage fees haven't been paid in a long time. Two or three times a year the Port holds an auction where the price is the amount due for the moorage. After that auction they will take whatever price is offered just to unload it.

They never sell.

Beat up, moldy, covered in droppings, they are the saddest sights you will ever see.

Until last April when I saw a man hosing down one of the derelicts (a Balboa 29?)
and I stopped and talked to him. Turns out that he is a Big Brother to 2 fatherless boys from Idaho and here was his plan:

Bought the boat for $50 from the Port. Get the boys out here (WA) and teach them how to get the boat seaworthy. Then he would teach the boys how to sail and they would take short trips out to the San Juan Islands and either sleep aboard or tent camp on shore. When the summer was over and they went back to Idaho he would provide a used trailer and give the boys the boat as a surprise.

Lets see - they got a Big Brother, they got to learn about sailboats, they got to learn how to sail, they got to see the beautiful Islands, then they get a boat and trailer when the summers over.

All for an initial $50.

I don't remember the man's name but I will never forget him and his big old heart.

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