First off, sorry for the long absence. My dear old mom fell ill last spring and Helena and I spent the majority of last year in Florida, taking care of her and making sure her last days were as easy and comfortable as possible. She passed away peacefully on the 13th of February, still in her own home, surrounded by friends and family. She was 84 good years old.
In the meantime, Helena and I sold our house back in Huntington, and sold our beloved Blue Moon. Yes, the Blue Moon sold to a gentleman named Oren from New England. He will be sailing her up to New Hampshire in the spring, so she will make it a bit further up the coast. Hopefully Oren will eventually sail her up to Maine and fulfill my dream of sailing her up the whole northeast coast of the US. But she's Oren's dream now. Fair winds, Blue Moon!
Helena and I have also been searching far and wide for our next boat. We've been looking for the perfect blue water boat. Perfect for us, of course, not perfect for everyone, which is not possible.
So what were we looking for?
Well, if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I have a soft spot for Atkin boats. We were originally looking for a wooden 38-foot Ingrid - a classic Atkin double ender, based on the seaworthy and sea kindly Colin Archer designs.
I actually looked at several real Colin Archers, but they were designed to survive North Sea gales, and thus are very conservatively rigged gaff ketches.
|Typical Colin Archer|
The Atkins updated the Colin Archer designs to make them faster and handier, and the Ingrid is, in my eyes, a fabulous boat.
Alas, there are few wooden Ingrids left in the world, and we couldn't find one that suited us. No matter, Ingrids were built in fiberglass by several builders, including Blue Water and Alajuela. We looked at a half-dozen Alajuelas and for a while I thought we had found out boat, but in the end, I couldn't pull the trigger on a plastic boat. It just didn't stir my heart sufficiently. It just wasn't interesting enough.
So where to look for an interesting boat? And what about the old Chinese curse: "May you buy an interesting boat." We had to be careful.
Around this time, I happened to stumble across an old book in a used bookstore. It was called The Long Way, and was written by a famous French sailor named Bernard Moitessier. It was the story of the first around the world solo sailboat race. Probably the most famous race of all time. The one that Robin Knox-Johnston won in his wooden, 32-foot Atkin Eric. A boat made so famous by the race that someone in California decided to build them in fiberglass. The builder called them Westsail 32s. You might have heard of them. There were hundreds built and they launched the modern long-range cruising era.
I'd read Knox-Johnston's book long ago. It was a story of seamanship, survival, and endurance. His boat was strong enough, and seaworthy enough to survive months in the Southern Ocean, but barely. It was a hard, tough sail that made both the boat and the man famous. Suhaili was the only boat to cross the finish line in England. Knox-Johnston 'won' the race.
Moitessier's race was very different. His 40-foot Joshua ketch was built from steel and designed for long distance sailing. She was at the same time more faithful to the Colin Archer hull design, and yet somehow more modern than Eric, which was, after all, designed in the 20's.
With her longer waterline, Joshua was of course faster than Suhaili. She was also vastly more comfortable. While Knox-Johnston battled nature in the Southern Ocean to keep his boat afloat and moving forward, Moitessier practiced yoga on deck. Unlike Suhaili, Joshua had almost no gear failures. She did suffer a collision with a freighter that would have sank most wooden boats, but Moitessier repaired the damage at sea and carried on.
Most famously, when Moitessier had rounded Cape Horn, and was headed north towards the finish line and and almost certain victory, he lost interest in the race, and turned south again, towards the Cape of Good Hope which he rounded for the second time. Instead of limping back to England, he sailed robustly on to Tahiti, sailing not once around the world, but one and a half times.
By the time I finished the book, I had one thought on my mind: surely here was an interesting boat.
Moitessier's own Joshua was now in a museum in France. Had others been built? Were any still afloat?
I started looking...