The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm

Appendix (Chapter 43)

The Anatomy of a Dream Boat

       To face the elements is, to be sure, no light
       matter when the sea is in its grandest mood.
       You must then know the sea, and know that
       you know it, and not forget that it was made
       to be sailed over.

                     CAPTAIN JOSHUA SLOCUM

passages on the oceans of the world in comfort and safety, with speed
and economy, within the reach of serious dreamers?
  In this book we have seen that almost every possible size and type
of floating device has not only crossed oceans, but also circumnavi-
gated the globe.  They have ranged from canoes and rafts to amphibi-
ous Jeeps; from lovely little 20-foot sloops to luxurious 100-foot
brigantines. They have been motorless sailboats and sailless motor-
boats; and auxiliary-rigged craft of every description. They have been
cutters, sloops, ketches, yawls, wishbone ketches, square-riggers and
morphodite brigs. They have been monohulled, catamaran, and
trimaran. They have been deep-displacement, light-displacement, and
planing hulls. They have had long keels, short keels, fin keels, and
centerboard keels. They have been built of wood, fiberglas, steel,
aluminum, and even concrete. One at least was hollowed out of a
giant cedar log. They have been, when they began their voyage, a
century old, and a few weeks old. They have been manned by one
person, and as many as twenty-five. Their cost has ranged from as
little as $500 to more than a quarter million dollars.
  In short, one can only conclude even at the risk of being a male
chauvinist that a boat is truly like a woman. And what is one man's

    ~ 407 ~

wine, woman, or bluewater yacht, is another man's poison, bitch, or
  The first consideration, of course, is seaworthiness. Howard I.
Chapelle in American Small Sailing Craft ( New York: W. W.
Norton & Co., Inc., 1951), summed it up masterfully:
  "No known boat (of less than 40 feet on deck), can be considered
wholly safe in heavy weather, for there are conditions of sea and wind
that will overwhelm even the best surfboats and lifeboats. Fortu-
nately, such conditions are relatively rare and, with forethought, can
usually be avoided by small-boat sailors. (Also) a good boat is no
more seaworthy than her crew in other words, skill of handling is a
part of seaworthiness in small craft . . .
  "For the beginner, or relatively inexperienced sailor, to venture out
into a heavy sea and wind in any small boat is folly that invites
  Chapelle's advice has been proved sound time after time in the
hundred or more voyages that were analyzed for this book, and in the
dozens more that were researched but not used.
  Conor O'Brien wrote that his ideal vessel would be 48 feet on
the waterline and 12 feet in beam, with proportions for beam to
length decreasing to about 33 percent for a 38-foot waterline vessel.
Below that size, he said, he would keep to short passages of not more
than a week or so.
  Patrick Elam and Colin Mudie, who sailed Sopranino, which was
only 17 feet 6 inches on the waterline, on some astonishing ocean
passages, considered her an extremely efficient sea boat in every
way in fact, "one of the safest vessels of any kind that has ever
floated on the ocean."
  Elam hastened to add, in Two Against the Western Ocean, "I
would not pretend that Sopranino is the optimum size. At sea she is
near perfect, but could with advantage be a few inches longer to give
a slightly bigger cockpit and a separate stowage for wet oilskins
below. In harbor, she is too small (for comfort). In harbor she is too
delicate and vulnerable."
  He recommended a larger Sopranino, about four feet longer. It will
be remembered that when John Guzzwell asked Jack Giles for the
smallest practical yacht to sail around the world, Giles came up with
Trekka, which was about two feet longer and it circumnavigated
twice. Colin Mudie, incidentally, a Giles associate, went on to
become a famed yacht designer and innovator in his own right.
  It was Bernard Moitessier, who was more a sea creature than alien

      ~ 408 ~

man who sailed over the seas, in his first book recommended a 30-
footer as ideal, but when it came to building his own dream ship, it
had stretched to 38 feet He noted later than even the most salty
bluewater sailors seldom make passages of more than a few weeks.
The rest of the time is spent in harbor or anchored. In a world cruise
of four or five years even, seldom more than 10 to 12 months are
spent at sea.
  "The majority of long-cruise sailors will agree that at sea a boat can
never be too big."
  The idea that size has handling limits has been disproved many
times. Bernicot sailed alone in his 42-foot Anahita. The Van de
Wieles circumnavigated in Omoo, which could easily be handled by
one person and was unattended much of the time. Chay Blyth raced
around the world alone the "wrong way" in British Steel, a sleek
modern 59-foot yawl.
  Even the Hiscocks, who preferred small ships and twice circum-
navigated in the 30-foot Wanderer III, in the end grew tired of
cramped conditions and the vicious roll of a narrow hull, and settled
upon the 48-foot Wanderer IV for a permanent home.
  On the other hand, among modern bluewater voyagers, Hal Roth
and his wife, Margaret, summed up their grand design nicely in a 35-
foot John Brandlmayr designed Canadian-built Spencer-class fiber-
glass sloop.
  Cost, of course, is a vital factor in making a dream ship come true.
Most voyagers are maddeningly vague about how they financed their
projects. Many of them professed to having been pushed into drop-
ping out of society and into the ideal nomadic life because of
financial disaster. Yet somehow out of this major disaster, they would
have us believe, a genie appeared out of a bottle with the bread
needed for their escape ship. A casual glance at the boat ads in the
yachting magazines indicates that it takes a minimum of $15,000 to
even talk bluewater boat.
  Slocum was probably responsible for the image of a cheap boat.
When he was "cast up from old ocean," he was given a ship by his
friend, Captain Eben Pierce. It turned out to be an old derelict
oysterman which he rebuilt himself for a cash outlay of $553.62 in
thirteen months. Harry Pidgeon perpetuated this myth with his
Islander, which took eighteen months of his labor and a thousand
dollars cash. Robinson's Svaap, a beautiful little Alden ketch, cost
him about $2,000 even in the booming 1920s. Dwight Long, on the
opposite coast, acquired Idle Hour, which was similar in size and

    ~ 409 ~

design, for about the same amount at the beginning of the Depres-          t
sion. Suhaili, the 32-foot ketch which was first to circumnavigate
nonstop singlehanded, cost Robin Knox-Johnston about $12,000 built
by native labor in India in the 1950s. Jack London's Snark cost
$30,000 in 1906. Ray Kauffman's Hurricane was built by the Gulf
Coast character, Sidoine Krebs, for $2,000, during the depths of the
Depression. Chay Blyth's British Steel cost that corporation about
$100,000, which was charged off to advertising. The debt-ridden
contractor, Richard Zantzinger, spent about $20,000 buying and
outfitting the Molly Brown, a 35-foot modern fiberglass racer-cruiser.
The Roths' Spencer, about the same size and rig, cost them about
$35,000 ultimately. The record so far probably is Eric Tabarly's latest
Pen Duick. His entry in the Whitbread round-the-world race cost
the French navy more than a million and a half dollars. On the other
hand, Bardiaux and Le Toumelin both built their dream ships under
the noses of the Boche in occupied France during World War II,
from materials mostly scrounged.
 Anyone seriously planning a dream ship has probably already read
everything on the subject he can find. But for anything he has
missed, I would recommend the following: the books of Bernard
Moitessier, which go into minute detail on the practical aspects; the
books of Eric Hiscock, which are precise and accurate and carefully
thought out; the aforementioned American Small Sailing Craft; the
books of William A. Robinson, a man whose experience and skill in
small craft is matched by his mental capacity: those of Slocum,
Pidgeon, and the Crowes; the books of Conor O'Brien (especially the
later ones); Frank Wightman's The Wind Is Free; Voss's Voyages;
London's Snark; Donald M. Street, Jr.'s The Ocean Sailing Yacht;
Richard Henderson's books on cruising and sailing; The Good Little
Ship by Vincent Gilpin; Sea Quest by Charles Borden; L. Francis
Herreshoff's books on yacht design and cruising; and Alan Eddy's little
booklet on sailing around the world in the first fiberglass yacht to do
 Very few bluewater yachts have been built expressly for that
purpose. In most cases, the owner took what he could get, or the
most he could afford, and went on from there. This usually resulted in
at best a compromise, and at worst a suicidal impulse. It is interesting
to note, however, that Frank Wightman, who built the sister ship to
Pidgeon's Islander from Rudder plans (the enlarged Sea Bird, also
made famous by Thomas Fleming Day and Captain Voss), at a cost
of about $1,000, regarded it as a no-compromise boat. A man who

    ~ 410 ~

refused to compromise his personal principles in order to join the
establishment noted that "you do not compromise with the sea in
small yachts. You triumph or you are extinguished The verities of
the sea are few, simple, and austere. Wylo's characteristics were
buoyancy, and speed before the wind."
  There was much nonsense about "comfort" at sea, Wightman also
noted. Any small yacht is acutely uncomfortable in heavy weather,
and even in mild weather there is no such thing as "ease of motion."
Jack London also pointed this out after his experience in Snark,
which was built to sail around the world in comfort.
  In all such research leading up to making a major lifetime decision
such as buying or building a dream ship, one should keep in mind
that no single source, no one authority, no matter how prestigious,
should be regarded as the ultimate not even the saltiest of the
bluewater sailors.
  As Don Street pointed out: "Seamanship is seldom really well-
learned unless a person has sailed on various boats with various
people. Many singlehanders have done all their sailing on their own
boats, with no one to point out their errors, and with no exposure to
other people's methods. As a result, they have often been doing the
same thing wrong or the hard way for many years. They drift, as it
were, around the world. They think they know how to sail, but often
really do not."
  The same can be said for yacht designers, yacht builders, yacht
brokers, and yachting writers.
  When it comes to beating one's own drums, however, there are no
more vigorous wielders of the drumsticks than yacht designers them-
selves. They frequently become so convoluted by their own creative
enthusiasm that their opinions are unreliable and often dangerous. It
is a natural thing, of course, for a man to praise best his own cre- 
ations and his own acquisitions, whether it be a design, a piece of
creative writing, or a newly acquired wife or automobile. How much
of this praise is justifiable pride, and how much of it is justification of
argument is difficult to separate.
  For example, a more controversial boat has never existed than
Slocum's Spray. For three-quarters of a century, sailors and designers
have been arguing over its merits. The controversy started on the day
Slocum disappeared, and burst into flame with the well-known classic
analysis of Spray's lines in Rudder magazine by Cipriano Andrade,
Jr., who was first praised and then condemned by none other than
John Hanna, who himself had designed a modified Spray. Although

     ~ 411 ~

most thoughtful students today consider Andrade's analysis a little
too pat, it is true that most Spray detractors today have never even
read Slocum's book, and therefore are immediately suspected of not
knowing what they are talking about.
  On the other hand, no one could rightly say that Howard I.
Chapelle knew not what he was talking about. As a young draftsman,
he worked for Charles Mower, the great yacht designer who first put
Spray's lines on paper for Rudder. In a letter to me, he wrote:

       Slocum's letters are like those of a 4th grader rather-rather
       backward at that. He was 60 per cent fine seaman, 10 per
       cent liar, and 30 per cent showman, I would say. Had a
       lot of guts. He was going nowhere in no hurry so I sup-
       pose he sailed as the boat wanted to go.
         As I said, no lines were actually taken ofF Spray, so that
       poor Andrade was victimized by the old fraud, Tom Day,
       with Charley Mower the fall guy. Had Mower taken off
       the lines we would have had something to work on- 
       now we have no reliable plans as a basis for analysis.
       But the whole story of the wonderful abilities of Spray
       is now highly questionable.                          

  The legendary John Hanna, who in 1923 created perhaps the most
famous dream ship that has ever existed the 30-foot Tahiti ketch-
called it a vessel suitable for "all oceans and all conditions of sea . . .
one that would take you anywhere you wanted to go" in comfort
and safety. His choice of a name for his creation was part showman-
ship, part genius, and self-suggestive for Tahiti was everyman's
inspiration and Valhalla in those days. In fact, Hanna's construction
notes accompanying the first publication of the lines in the old
Modern Mechanix were prefaced with:

       Poke her nose to the mornin' sun.
         On a tide that's ebbin' speedy-
       Start her sheets to the breeze fresh run
         On a slant for old Tahiti.

 What romantic dreamboat dropout could resist an appeal like 
  As John Stephen Doherty wrote of the 30-year old dream boat in
the March 1967 issue of Modern Mechanix's successor Mechanix

   ~ 412 ~

Illustrated, "In the history of small-boat ocean voyages, no single
design ever logged more miles at sea."
 Hundreds of Tahiti's were built or started, and dozens of them
made world cruises some making dual circumnavigations. But yet,
Tahiti is not for amateur builders. Skill and patience are needed. In
time, figure three to five years depending upon skill and resources. In
Hanna's day, the cost of home-building was estimated at about
$1,000. Today, $15,000 would be minimum for home-building;
$30,000 for a custom job. In early 1974, a 20-year-old Tahiti was
advertised in a Seattle newspaper for $25,000.
 At 20,000 pounds displacement, she is no ocean gazelle. It takes
half a gale to drive her, as some had noted. Yet she was not built for
speed, but for ocean passages in the Slocum tradition. This was my
impression the first time I actually set foot on the deck of a Tahiti in
San Pedro harbor in 1937. It was like stepping on the deck of a real
ship. Even the heavy wakes of passing ferries scarcely ruffled her
skirts. One sensed instantly that if any ship could take you to the
South Seas, Tahiti was the one.
 Perhaps when all is said and done, and the current generation of
"Tupperware yachts" has passed on, Tahiti will still remain the one
and only true dream ship.                                                 [
 In the same year that Jack Hanna was creating Tahiti, the Irish
rebel, Conor O'Brien, was scouring the secondhand bookshops in
seaport towns for cruising books and the logs of old sailing vessels
from Colonial passage days and the wool and grain trade. As he
noted, the cult of the sailing ship had been reborn again then, just as
it had every decade or so, and which it has every decade since. The
result of his research and personal inclination was Saoirse, a ship with
a waterline length of 37.5 feet, modeled after an Arklow fishing boat,
with a design speed of seven knots, and an average passage-making
speed of about five knots. In her, O'Brien became the first to circum-
navigate east-about south of the three capes. And he did it with such
ease and understatement that it could have misled many who under-
took the same passage and failed.
 Most world cruisers are designed, of course, for the trade wind
belt, circumnavigating from east to west, making use of the canals,
running or broad reaching most of the time. O'Brien's reason for
going the "wrong way," he said, was because he did not have an
engine and was too impatient to wallow in calms frequently found in
the middle latitudes.
 Besides, he said, "Every passage is in a sense a race, a race against

   ~ 413 ~

the consumption of stores; and even if one had unlimited stores, it
would still be a race against boredom.
  "On the whole," he added, "it was worthwhile; there are not so
many adventures offering nowadays that one can afford to miss even a
modest one." This is 1923!
  It will please dream ship aficionados to no end to know that as of
this writing, Saoirse is alive and well and still sailing.
  Summed all up, one has to go back to basics: What is the yacht
going to be used for? What is the biggest one can afford? Where will
it be taken? How much time will be spent at sea, and how much in
port or sheltered waters? How many people will live on it?
  Today, prospective boat buyers are really in luck, in spite of high
costs and material shortages. Largely because of the unprecedented
boom in world cruising in the preceding twenty years, and the even
greater boom in ocean racing, there have been more advances in boat
design than in the previous two thousand years. Up until say a decade
ago, the average speed of a boat as Conor O'Brien pointed out a
half century earlier was only four or five knots on an ocean passage.
Today, with a modern hull, you can count on six to eight, and some
of the fast ocean racers are now approaching the speed of the old
clipper ships which reeled off twenty knots day in and day out.
Modern materials have all but eliminated the nagging old problem
that voyagers used to have in remote out-of-the-way places where
regular bottom maintenance could not be done. Fiberglass, steel, and
aluminum, along with greatly improved paints, have simplified rou-
tine maintenance.                               
  The same can be said for modern yacht equipment and accessories:
light small diesel auxiliaries, dependable electrical sources, transistor-
ized electronics, aluminum spars, synthetic ropes and sails, compact
refrigeration units, and even such things as low-cost radar, loran, and
automatic direction finders. Today, with a $50 transistor radio you
can hold in your hand, you can get the time ticks from WWV and a
dozen other signal sources, eliminating the need for an expensive
chronometer that needs frequent rating.
  As Robinson said in To the Great Southern Sea, in spite of the
few hardheaded hold-outs, "Sentimentality about sailing without an
engine may be left to a few diehards. The question today is what
form the auxiliary power should take." Today, a lightweight diesel
engine costs little more than a gasoline engine, and if properly main-
tained, is more dependable and economical to run, with a lower fuel
consumption, and infinitely safer to use.

    ~ 414 ~

  In the December 1973 issues of Sail magazine and Yachting World
the latest study made by the Ocean Cruising Club was released.
Membership in OCC is worldwide, and is restricted to amateurs who
have made passages of a thousand miles or more in vessels of less
than 75 feet overall. The study was based on a comprehensive ques-
tionnaire returned by 300 members, who were asked to give their
opinion on what they considered an ideal ocean cruiser, if they had
the opportunity and the resources to build their own dream ship for a
typical world voyage which would take them into northern and
tropical waters (excluding the high southern latitudes and Arctic
  When the questionnaires were analyzed and a composite yacht
drawn up by Colin Mudie, the results revealed a significant trend
that is still going on, and a decisive departure from previous concepts,
during the past decade from 1964 to 1974 the period during which
ocean voyaging in small craft has shown the most growth.
  The trend shows a swing away from the ketch and yawl and toward
the sloop or cutter. A decade ago, occ members dreamed of a 35-foot
loa vessel; today they consider the 40-foot range as the ideal (58
percent chose a length of from 29 feet to 40 feet loa). A surprising
number 41 percent chose 40 feet and over as the ideal.
  Another surprise was the fuel for cooking. Unlike the old days,
modern bluewater yachters chose propane or butane, 52 percent over
31 percent for kerosene (paraffin), and 11 percent for the highly
touted alcohol.
  Ninety-five percent wanted a single hull vessel, over the catamaran
or trimaran. Eighty percent said the draft should be between 5 and 7
feet. Twenty-four percent chose wood for hull construction; 15 per-
cent wanted fiberglass (G.R.P.); 13 percent, foam sandwich; 15 per-
cent, welded steel; 10 percent, welded aluminum; and only 4 percent,
  Ninety-eight percent wanted Terylene (Dacron) sails. Sixty-three
percent chose the wheel steering over the tiller. About 76 percent
wanted some kind of vane self-steering. Seventy-two percent chose
the aft cockpit arrangement. Ninety-four percent wanted a single
auxiliary engine on the centerline; and 93 percent wanted it to be
diesel. None wanted a motorless sailboat. Most of them, or 70 per-
cent, wanted an auxiliary with a range of from 200 to 800 miles. The
greatest percentage wanted electric starting, 12-volt d.c. ship's electri-
cal system, electric refrigeration, electric running lights and naviga-
tion systems, and their battery preferences jumped from a single

    ~ 415 ~

12-volt battery to a bank of four. The British CQR plow anchor won
hands down over the Danforth (the choice of anchors is mainly a
nationalistic, political, and emotional one, it seems, for some strange 
reason).  The 360 compass card was chosen over other types. 'the
choice of dinghy changed from the rigid to the inflatable. Sixty
percent chose the dry chemical fire extinguisher over the more
dangerous CO2.
  Ninety-five percent would take an inflatable dinghy; 91 percent an
RDF; 96 percent a depth sounder; 49 percent a high frequency
radiophone; 72 percent a spinner log; 49 percent taped stereo music;
26 percent a pressure water system; 67 percent sleeping bags over
bedding; and 68 percent a diaphragm type bilge pump over other
  For an earlier definitive study of trends in auxiliary cruisers see the
article by Pete Smyth in the October 1972 issue of Motor Boating and
  By happy (and at times unhappy) coincidence, my own dream
ship became a reality at about the same time this long book project
was drawing to an end; and before the results of the occ survey were
made public. Compare my final choices (compromises) with the
results of the survey:

          Yacht Wild Rose. Documented No. 546703, 11 net tons.

       Length overall  42 feet
       Load waterline  34 feet
       Beam            11 feet 2 inches
       Draft           5 feet 6 inches
       Displacement    19,000 pounds

  The hull design (by Robert A. Smith of Portland, Oregon), is
modern semi-displacement, with a large fin ballast keel, large skeg
and rudder, and the modified counter preferred by most OCC mem-
bers. It is sloop-rigged, without bowsprit, with center cockpit and after
cabin trunk. Hull construction is of hand-laid fiberglass cloth and
woven roving (no mat), marine plywood bulkheads and deck, cov-
ered with fiberglass cloth.
  The engine is a 4-107 Westerbeke of 37 horsepower, with a
Paragon hydraulic reverse gear, a monel shaft and two-bladed fixed
prop. Diesel fuel capacity is 184 gallons, giving a theoretical range
under power of between 1,000 and 2,000 miles. Cooking is with a
modern gimballed propane gas range, with deck storage for the fuel,
and flexible high-pressure fuel lines. The engine has two alternators,

    ~ 416 ~

 one for engine use only with its own bank of two high-capacity
 marine batteries; and an auxiliary 85-amp alternator feeding a bank of
 three batteries for ship's service. Separate shore-power converters take
 over the battery load automatically when moored. In addition, there
 is an alternator-run 115-volt AC unit that will provide 3,600 watts
 either moored or at sea.
   Electronics include a VHF/FM twelve-channel transceiver, a SSB
 high frequency transceiver, and a battery-portable Zenith Trans-
 Oceanic all-band receiver. A hand-held Vec/Trak RDF is used for
 coastal navigation (an amazingly simple and accurate unit). And,
 because I have been an amateur radio "ham" since high school days,
 I have the ship equipped with portable VHF/FM in the ham bands;
 and transistorized SSB all-band transceiver capability in the medium
 and high frequency ranges, which gives me a theoretical worldwide
 communications systems. By "patching" in with other hams, I can
 reach almost any country in the world, from almost any place in the
 world. Incidentally, yachts equipped with the regular marine VHF/
 FM units can, through the telephone company marine operators, also
 reach practically any landline telephone in the world, and of course
 any other yacht similarly equipped.
   Few yachtsmen to date really understand how practical, inexpen-
 sive, and effective the new VHF channels are.
   Other details of Wild Rose include electric refrigeration and a
 small portable freezer; stainless steel rigging; fiberglass water tanks
 with filtered supply lines, pressure water system with hot water by
 dual electric and exhaust-driven elements; electric anchor windlass; a
 modern solution to the toilet controversy an electric macerator-
 chlorinator head with provision for a holding tank later; dual fresh-
 water and seawater galley supplies; shower bath; hydraulic center
 cockpit wheel steering; compact vented charcoal and Pres-To-Log
 fireplaces in main and after cabins; teak trim; and a vinyl enclosed
 cockpit winter weather shelter. The dinghy is an Avon inflatable.
   As can be seen, the essence of my own independent accumulation
 of experience, research, analysis, personal preferences, expediency,
 and advice of those better qualified, pretty much followed the general
 trend a coincidence that might interest the perceptive market ana-
 lyst today.
   I departed from the general trend in some things, however, for
 example in the choice of a hollow wooden mast, instead of the
 popular aluminum spars; and in going back to the old-fashioned slab
 reefing in preference to modern roller reefing. The main reason was

    ~ 417 ~

financial. The aluminum job would have cost $2,000 more. For less
than $500, I built my own laminated hollow wood stick, which is just
as light and has the advantage of being tapered for better weight
distribution. Moreover, it has a little give in the way of stress, and
simplifies the attachment of cleats, winches, and other accessories. It
requires more maintenance, but on the other hand, modern synthetic
glues, wood preservatives, and new type paints reduce this to a
  As for roller reefing, it takes two people to properly reef this kind
of sail, and the additional mechanism requires special boom and
fittings, adding not only to the cost but also to the probability of
failure. Slab reefing is not only simpler, and cheaper, but results in a
better airfoil. Besides, the new " jiffy reefing" technique makes
furling even easier.
  With a little thought and planning, I was able to reduce the need
for so many hand winches, which have become the most costly part
of a boat. Why these should be so expensive, I have never been able
to understand. On some racers the cost of the winches comes to more
than that of the bare hull itself. The use of carefully selected blocks
in strategic places eliminates the need for many winches, as well as
the "winch apes" for running them. After all, old Slocum and his
contemporaries handled much heavier gaff-sail gear alone without
these chrome-plated goodies.
  Sharp-eyed readers will be quick to ask, then why the extensive use
of electronic gadgets? Isn't the purpose of an escape machine to
sever communications with the complexities of society? True, but
number one, electronics has been a personal hobby of mine since
high school days; and number two, since those nostalgic years when I
first met Tahiti, and especially after the war was over, I never had the
urge to "escape," whatever that is. Somewhere down the years, early
attitudes changed and with maturity came different perspectives. As
Edward Allcard noted, anyone who can't come to grips with society,
can't adjust to the world around him no matter where he is. The
human is a herd animal by nature, not a lone wolf. Dropping out is
little more than passing the buck of collective responsibility onto
someone else, while still sharing the accrued benefits of society. The
exception, of course, is the retiree, who has spent his life working and
saving, with his rewards to accumulate for later enjoyment if he
lives to enjoy them.
  The story of Wild Rose, then, really began in the middle 1930s on
the blizzard-swept prairies of North Dakota, about as far from salt

   ~ 418 ~

water as you can get. And it began with Hanna's Tahiti, published in
the 1935 edition of How To Build 20 Boats (New York: Fawcett
Publications, Inc.), as it did for thousands of the restless kids of
the period. I still have the original plans, and in the intervening years
they were carried all through the war and all over the world. Faded
and brittle now, with little pieces torn from them and faded pencil
notes here and there, they are in a safe place, as a nostalgic keepsake
of a generation that was unique in all its aspects, and will never
happen again.
  Along with these plans, there is a crumbling old catalogue from Bay
City Boats of Bay City, Michigan, which sold prefabricated dream
boats, one of which was Tahiti. In those days you could buy the
frame and planking kit for about $1,000, all ready for reassembly. As
noted, Tahiti was not really a boat for amateur building, in spite of
Hanna's inspiring prose. In the late 1930s, then in Juneau, Alaska, I
had worked up through several boats to a Tahiti, and saved enough
money from gold mining and commercial fishing to buy the kit. I had
rented space in a waterfront shop and engaged a boatbuilder to help
put the parts together. Then came World War II.
  After the war came readjustments, college, family, career, and all
the pressures and crises of a more sophisticated and changing world.
Not until I was within sight of retirement age did the opportunities
and possibilities of fulfilling an old dream put new spice into what
had tended to become a lusterless life of quiet desperation. At the
same time had come more maturity, changes in objectives, different
tastes and requirements. I had never had any special desire to sail
around the world per se; but had always held the view that any yacht
in which one invested so much money should be capable of going
  And, since those first dreamy wintry days in 1935, I had never had
any desire to sail off to romantic South Sea islands even before the
war in which millions of us got a free ride to many of these same
places. The islands left me for years with the impression of being pest-
holes full of insects, tainted food, alcoholics, and a general slothful-
ness that perhaps offended my Anglo-Saxon origins.
  Down through the years, my old dream faded away, only to re-
appear from time to time. There was a succession of lesser boats, and
a continuing interest in the sea and in developments in cruising and
racing. It became a relaxing diversion in times of stress, and as the
files of research grew, I also acquired building plans and specifications
for a number of what I considered ideal dream ships.

    ~ 419 ~

  These included, as a matter of interest to others, Slocum's Spray
model, the Rudder's enlarged Sea Bird or Islander, Hanna's Tahiti
and the larger Carol ketch, a design or two from the prestigious
Sparkman & Stephens, a Tom Colvin junk-rigged cruiser, and
L. Francis Herreshoff's famous Marco Polo. The latter I consider the
finest world cruiser ever designed. Unfortunately, most of the yachts
built from these plans were altered by the builders for aesthetic
reasons and thereby the original concept was destroyed. In conver-
sations with the old master himself at "The Castle" prior to his
death, I gathered that Marco Polo was one of his favorite "babies,"
and it disappointed him that it had not achieved more acceptance.
  Appearing in a Rudder series in 1945, Marco Polo embodied
almost everything that our by-now war-weary and disillusioned gen-
eration longed for, in a world cruiser. Fifty-five feet in overall length,
with a lean 10-foot beam and a 5-foot draft, she was based on the
whaleboat model. Rigged as a three-masted schooner, one man on
watch could easily handle all the sails. On the foremast, she carried a
square sail for running down the trades. For the doldrums, and for
running up exotic rivers, she was diesel-engine powered and capable
of making up to 12 knots, with a fuel capacity for runs up to 4,000
miles under auxiliary alone. The extra fuel capacity also provided for
possible oil burning cooking and heating facilities, as well as the
ability to purchase oil in bulk quantities for as little as 10 cents a
gallon then.
  She was cut-away forward and aft in just the proper proportions for
heaving-to, running before a gale, or fetching up to a sea anchor or
drogue. She also incorporated the spade rudder with a 150 one for
maneuverability and for lashing down to take the strain off the blade
when making leeway. Everything about Marco Polo showed the
genius of Herreshoff in distinctive relief. In a dozen different ways
she was far ahead of her time.
  She was then, and still is, the one bluewater displacement yacht
that can consistently make 200-mile-plus noon-to-noon runs in all but
the worst weather. Considering that most ocean voyagers seldom
average more than five knots, this is indeed remarkable.
  Unfortunately, Marco Polo was a little too "radical" for the fickle
consumer market. Average blokes reacted nervously to the three
masts, even though they simplified the overall rig; they did not like
the narrow 10-foot beam, although the length gave the vessel an
unusual roominess; they were afraid of the spade rudder, although
this is now almost standard on racing craft; and perhaps the

   ~ 420 ~

double-ended whaleboat model was not as aesthetically pleasing as the
modern yacht club type reverse-canted transoms, even though the
vessel was designed to be incapable of capsizing or being over-
whelmed when running or lying ahull.
  Marco Polo was my first choice, and still is; however, I had neither
the time nor the space convenient for building her, and with wood
becoming more difficult, it was not practical in my circumstances. For
reasons of financing, convenience, and ultimate maintenance, I
finally selected fiberglass or G.R.P. as the basic mode, after long
consideration of sandblasted and zinced steel, aluminum, and even
ferro-cement. Once this was decided, I began a search for a hull I
could live with, in kit form, which I could complete myself in a
convenient place, either in or near the water.
  During this time, a fascinating correspondence with veteran de-
signer Weston Farmer, who entertained secret ambitions of building
John Hanna's version of Slocum's Spray out of aluminum, led me to
buying a set of Foam II plans from Hanna's widow, Dorothy, in
Dunedin, Florida. I also had some interesting correspondence and
long distance telephone conversations with Tom Colvin, whose steel
junk-rigged 42-footer I admired much and almost went for. Joe
Koelbel, consulting designer for Rudder magazine, also offered some
valuable comments during this period on building Herreshoff's Marco
Polo. At one point, I even considered having my friend and Portland
boatbuilder, Jim Staley, a wizard with plywood, build me a copy of
Rudder's Seagoer, the 34-foot version of Sea Bird, designed by
Frederick W. Goeller, Jr., which became Harry Pidgeon's Islander.
  All of which shows the mental gymnastics and the sweet sensual
pleasures (and agonizing conception) that one goes through getting
married to a dream boat. At one point, it all led me to buying an
armload of one-dollar offset tables from Howard Chapelle's collection
at the Smithsonian, in a short-lived impulse to find my dream in the
traditional old Atlantic fishing boats. In the end, I often wished for
the simplicity of Erskine Childer's Dulcibella, in the Riddle of the
  I was later to understand that the fun is in the search, the anticipa-
tion, the exquisite expectation, not in the finding. It is like being on
the prowl for a mate, on the stalk for a prey. Everything that comes
later is anti-climactic. I inspected dozens of brands and types, trav-
eled hundreds of miles, covered the yacht harbors of half a dozen
centers. California is a major fiberglass boatbuilding region. One of
the largest firms in Southern Cal offered several models I liked, at

    ~ 421 ~

what seemed the lowest prices. Investigation, however, showed the
hulls to be of marginal construction. But what really turned me off
were the company's terms, printed on the order blank, which offered
"15 minutes of consultation time" with each hull purchase. It took
less than 15 minutes to decide they could keep their hull along with
their consultation.
  But one model intrigued me the 32-foot fiberglass version of the
Tahiti, custom-molded in Carpenteria, a pleasant little seacoast town
south of Santa Barbara. I went down there, looked over the sample,
and was greatly impressed. Workmanship was excellent, and the mold
was said to have come off Tom Steele's Adios, which had twice cir-
cumnavigated the world. Even the relief of the original planking was
molded into the outer skin, with salty, pleasing effect.
  In the end, for several reasons, I reluctantly passed this up. Ulti-
mately, I chose a Cascade 42 sloop, designed by Robert A. Smith and
built within thirty miles of my home. This was also one of the first
possibilities I had looked into, so now I had come a full circle, arriv-
ing back home.
  About 250 Cascades, in the 29-foot, 36-foot, and 42-foot lengths,
had been molded and sold by this time. They were well-built, by
hand, of stout construction that used no mat in the lay-up. They were
sailing in all parts of the world. Jerry Cartwright had sailed a 29-
footer in the Singlehanded Trans-Pacific Race sponsored by the
Slocum Society; a number of them had been entered in the Victoria-
Maui and the Los Angeles-Honolulu races with fair showings. Still
others had been proved on long ocean voyages, including several that
had sailed around the world.
  The Cascades were the second generation of yacht designs pro-
duced by a partnership of three local yachtsmen. Back in the 1950s,
five yacht club members had pooled their resources and commissioned
Robert A. Smith to design for them a 34-foot fiberglass auxiliary.
They then incorporated, built a temporary shop and a mold, and
pitched in to turn out five hulls. After all five hulls were completed,
they drew lots to see who got which ones. It was a successful venture,
and all five Chinooks are still sailing.
  After the project was completed, it seemed a shame to dispose of
the facilities, so three of the five went together and formed a com-
pany to produce more hulls for sale. Several hundred Chinooks were
sold before the design was replaced by the more modern Cascade
line. Of the three original incorporators, one of them worked full-
time and ran the shop. The other two kept their regular jobs and

   ~ 422 ~

 worked part-time. I will call them Tom, Dick, and Harry. Tom ran
 the shop, Dick taught at a nearby university, and Harry was an execu-
 tive in a manufacturing plant building heavy equipment. All of them
 were easy-going, cooperative, and took a personal interest in their
 customers. But of the three, Harry was hands down the workhorse,
 and over the years, since their shares depended upon how much they
 put into the firm individually, Harry wound up with a controlling
 interest and became president.
   After the customary deliberation, consultation, and cross-examina-
 tion of the partners on commitments and prices, I put down an
 initial $100 for a set of plans for the 42-foot model. At that time I
 was still undecided between the 42 and the 36, a more popular selling
 model. I was scheduled to take a long trip to Alaska, the Aleutians
 and Bering Sea, and down to the Hawaiian Islands, so I took the
 plans along with the idea of reviewing the whole thing en route and
 making a decision when I returned.
   The decision was that the 42 was the minimum size I could get by
 with, and so I made a $500 deposit and got on the list for the first
 available hull, which I anticipated would be ready sometime in
 January the coming year. The full price for the hull alone, with chain
 plates molded in, shaft log and deck stringers, was $4,950. For a
 nominal amount I could also order the floors, keelson, main bulk-
 heads, deck beams, molded freshwater tank, and molded shower and
 toilet room installed. Altogether, I estimated very carefully, the hull
 could be completed ready for engine and equipment, for about
 $12,000, a figure which I could easily afford.
   It was at that point, after I was committed too far to back out, that
 the trap was sprung a story as old as unrequited love itself.
   Not even such experienced and level-headed voyagers as Eric
 Hiscock and Miles Smeeton have escaped the ecstasy, frustration,
 depression, elation, disillusionment, and financial difficulties involved
 in acquiring the ultimate retirement boat. In Miles and Beryl Smee-
 ton's case, it was a matter of a robust adventurous couple, retired
 from the wars on a stump farm in Canada with all their money tied
 up in England during the sterling freeze. They had previously owned
 a small outboard boat in which they commuted from Salt Spring
 Island to the mainland, and had gotten to know some of the yachties
 in the area. Thus they conceived the plan of going to England, using
 their impounded funds for buying a yacht, sailing it back to British
 Columbia and selling it for a profit. How they did this, and their
 subsequent acquisition of Tzu Hang and their misadventures learning

     ~ 423 ~

to sail her, were finally related in Smeeton's last book, The Sea Was
Our Village, a tale that will startle Smeeton fans who perhaps had
the impression that this famous couple had been born to the breezes
like Slocum. The Smeetons, incidentally, were the prototypes of
Nevil Shute's couple in Trustee From the Tool Room, who tried to
smuggle their savings out in the form of diamonds imbedded in the
cement ballast.
  In the case of the Hiscocks, perhaps history's most famous voyag-
ing couple, who had behind them decades of experience in world
cruising and had written several books that became standard texts, it
would seem that when they ordered built Wanderer IV, their retire-
ment boat, everything would progress smoothly. Not so. The aches
and pains, disappointments, builder deceits and poor workmanship,
misfit equipment, cruddy accessories, overcharges and broken prom-
ises so paralleled my own experiences, that comparing notes later I
could shake my head ruefully and laugh with tears streaming down
my cheeks. And it really ain't that funny.
  Readers who like to suffer vicariously can follow the Hiscocks'
thorny wake to Holland during the building of Wanderer IV, from
there to England for refitting, and then on to America and New
Zealand, in their last and one of their most charming books, Sou'-
West in Wanderer IV.
  Their experiences, and mine, proved to me once more that the
only way to beat the system is to be your own builder, or to do it at
the taxpayers' expense, or to write it off as a business venture.
Looking back over years of research, I find very few besides Slocum,
Pidgeon, Trobridge, and Colvin who have done it. One of the few
also would be William A. Robinson, who owned a shipyard when
World War II broke out. With the help of the legendary Starling
Burgess and L. Francis Herreshoff, he worked out the design of
Varua, possibly the most beautiful and efficient yacht ever built, and
put it together in a back corner of his yard with professional artisans
as expansion began for defense work, presumably charging it off to
research and engineering. When the war ended, he was ready to drop
the tools, close the yard, and retire to Tahiti with his well-earned
  It has been only recently that I have reread Jack London's Cruise
of the Snark, and his experiences with boatbuilding sharpies. I had
forgotten how similar our lives were, although we lived in different
periods. London earned his living, after a harsh boyhood struggle, by
writing; so did I. He had done much of his early sailing in Alaskan

    ~ 424 ~

and Bering Sea waters; so had I. Our marital histories were similar, as
were our basic personalities. In later years he made the decision to
build his dream ship, before it was too late; so did I. This method of
financing it, like mine, was by spending most of the time one would
normally devote to home-building, in writing to raise extra money to
pay professionals to do the hard part. Like London, I also worked on
the boat doing less exacting jobs in my "spare" time, and undertook
to do all the finishing myself.
  London had estimated his probable cost at $7,000 in 1906; the
Snark cost more than $30,000 and was uncompleted inside when they
departed San Francisco for the South Pacific. I had estimated $12,000
in 1972; the project ultimately came closer to $50,000 with still plenty
of work to do inside. Of the difference, I would estimate that $10,000
was labor padding and inflated charges on equipment. The rest was
the result of my own inexperience, misjudgment, and inability to
estimate costs realistically. Afterwards, I knew that it would have
been cheaper to have purchased a stock boat from a production
builder. Or I could have saved half the cost by shopping carefully for
a used vessel at one of the many yachting centers in Florida, Cali-
fornia, the Eastern Seaboard, Panama, or Hawaii.
  But I didn't.
  Walter Magnes Teller, Slocum's principal biographer, claimed
London built Snark at a cost of $30,000 by "cheating contractors," a
statement which does Teller no credit. There is not the slightest
evidence that London cheated his builders. Indeed, he himself was
the victim of perfidious contractors and associates. London later
explained the excessive costs. He had contracted to write 30,000
words about the proposed voyage for a magazine at the going rate. As
soon as the contract was signed, the magazine began promoting the
forthcoming series widely. The publicity created the public impres-
sion that the magazine was underwriting the venture, prompting all
his contractors and suppliers to inflate their charges as much as 300
percent. Actually, London himself financed the project out of his
writings, a commitment that forced him to turn out a thousand
words a day, every day before, during, and after the voyage, even at
sea during gales and emergency situations and when decked with
blackwater fever in New Guinea.
  London laid the keel for Snark on the morning of the San Fran-
cisco Earthquake. The genesis of Wild Rose was not quite so earth-
shaking. As I learned later, another customer had backed out of his
deal for a Cascade 42, sloop, leaving the firm with the hull still in the

    ~ 425 ~

mold. I had originally wanted a ketch, but was talked out of it in
favor of a sloop. The reason was obvious later. The chain plates have
to be molded into the hull, and differ between the ketch and sloop
configuration. This was the first in a number of subsequent "com-
promises" that came about primarily for the convenience of the
builders, rather than through the judgment of the owner. Thus, I was
informed to my surprise in October, that "my" hull was already out of
the mold and on the floor, three months ahead of schedule. This
moved up my financial plans to my inconvenience.
  But a payment of $3,500 around Christmas brought me up to date
with progress on the hull. I was in good shape and determined to
keep it that way. It was a pleasure doing business with the firm. The
partners and crew were easy to get along with, personally interested
in my boat. My funds had nearly run out, so I asked for a monthly
accounting as long as the boat was in the shop, and ordered no work
done unless I specifically ordered it. It was not, however, until the
following March that I received the next statement, a "partial" one
for $12,000. This was when the bubble burst with a sickening splat-
ter. The established catalog prices for standard parts and equipment
installed had given way to custom labor charges which impressed me
as being miscalculated or padded. For example, there was one labor
charge of $5,000 to which I could relate only the construction of two
bunks in the main cabin.
  I thought of all the things I could buy with five grand, besides two
wooden slat bunks with less than $25 worth of materials, which I
could have built myself in less than a week's time.
  From then on, I followed the example of another customer, who
refused to pay for any work done when he was not there personally to
supervise it. He camped on the job, sleeping in his trailer, while
working on the boat himself. I decided to do the same thing, but was
told the crew objected to owners working on their boats. I questioned
the crew individually and they denied it. I then threatened to remove
the boat from the shop, and suddenly the objection was removed. It
was the slack period, and mine was the only hull on the floor.
  More personal supervision revealed an old and established tradition
in custom shops where craftsmen are paid by the hour, with the
customer charged double the worker's rate to take care of the
overhead and profit. Workers kept record of their time in a ruled
notebook in the shop. Checking entries against my own daily journal,
I found that everyone apparently put down from 30 to 50 percent

   ~ 426 ~

more time than actually worked against my hull. This accounted for
the high labor costs.
  Obviously, the sooner I got my boat out of the shop, the more I
would save. I tried to hurry things along, but the work went agoniz-
ingly slow, interrupted by other jobs that came in, and delayed by
growing material and parts shortages. Instead of a March launching,
it now began to look like late May.
  Meanwhile, I felt that one reason for the delay was that my hull
was being used as a floor demonstrator to sell other prospects. For
weeks my boat was subjected to a daily procession of dreamers,
curiosity-seekers, cigar-chomping executives, dentists and doctors,
bearded hippies, and erstwhile yachties, crawling over, under, and
into every compartment, getting in the way, impeding the work of
the crew, distracting me with silly or personal questions and insipid
remarks. Even more frustrating was the knowledge that the expense
of all this was subsidized by me. I felt like a drowning man, gasping
his last and reaching out for rescue, which could come only when I
finally got the boat out of the shop and away from the vultures.
  There were some advantages to the arrangement: The shop had a
ready stock of screws, bolts, small parts, and tools, only a few steps
away. Moreover, the management and crew were unfailingly ready to
show me an easier way of doing a job, based on long experience. I was
not charged shop rent, and the plant was open nights and weekends.
Not the least advantage was the availability of equipment and gear at
reduced prices, sometimes even at wholesale prices, and of quality
British equipment imported in large quantities at competitive prices.
  At other times, I had to battle for my own choice in the matter
of some items of equipment that I felt were better suited to my
needs. Sometimes the shop went ahead and installed things their
way, presenting me with a fait accompli, which I would have to tear
out at my own expense. I have some definite and unswerving opin-
ions on many things, and among these is that I will not permit
copper tubing for propane and engine fuel systems on any ship of
mine. These were installed over my protestations, and I promptly
ripped them out and reinstalled flexible high pressure hoses at extra
  Their idea of a 12-volt electrical system was truly pre-World War I.
I redesigned and installed all the wiring myself. No provision was
made for removing the engine shaft in case of a break. I had a battle
over this one, and there was another flap over my insistence on

   ~ 427 ~

installation of a flexible shaft coupling. I had requested a three-
bladed prop to use the first year, when I would be motoring until the
mast and sails were installed. Instead they installed a two-bladed one
they had in stock. Later I went to the expense of buying the proper
propeller and hiring a diver to change the blades. Another contro-
versy arose over my insistence on an automatic bilge pump before
launching. I was told I only needed a vacuum cleaner for the bilges.
Although I ordered bronze through-hull seacocks on all hull penetra-
tions, brass gate valves were installed in about half of them.
  And so it went, week after week, month after month.
  Much of the frustration was due to the current shortages, high
cost, and poor quality of much marine equipment and parts. Often I
would wait weeks for delivery of an order, only to find some of the
vital parts missing, requiring more delays and correspondence. Pride
and dependability seem to have been two qualities abandoned by
manufacturers these days. Much marine equipment is of poor design,
even worse quality, and incredibly over-priced. For example, a $600
marine head arrived without a single piece of instruction for install-
ing its complex mechanism, and without a necessary high-amp sole-
noid switch. The navigation sidelights, designed for recessing into the
side of the trunk cabin, did not have enough overlapping lip to cover
the hole necessary for recessing them. The horn turned out to be
made of pot metal, which fell apart during the installation. The
plexiglass windows were covered with a protective paper with a glue
so tenacious that the paper could not be removed without scratching
the plexiglass. I tried every solvent known to science without success.
The glue remains on the windows to this day.
  The fuel and water pumps, without exception, burned out im-
pellers during initial tests. I paid $80 for a stainless steel sink that I
later saw advertised for $30 in a Montgomery Ward catalogue. Many
of the standard items of rigging called for had been discontinued by
original manufacturers, and substitutes could not be found. Other
standard parts, such as bronze turnbuckles, were inflated beyond
reason. The ten required turnbuckles for the standing rigging were
priced at $40 apiece, plus the toggles at $12 each. Quite a markup for
an item that costs no more than $2 to manufacture. It was impossible
to find the proper size sheaves for the running gear. Not manufac-
tured any longer. The expensive gimballed propane stove was engi-
neered with the hose attachment at the rear, which is impossible to
inspect for gas leaks once installed. Marine type cabin light fixtures
were costly beyond belief, but I solved this by shopping in trailer

    ~ 428 ~

parts stores where similar fixtures can be obtained for a fraction of
the marine prices. The expensive marine diesel engine came without
the proper filter and hoses, and with a parts and operating manual
I'm sure was put together by a not too bright grade school pupil, with
most of the instructions applicable only to other models, not the one
I bought.
  Like Hiscock, I found that nothing ever fit the first time, nothing
ever worked the first time, and nothing ordered ever arrived complete
or on time.
  On launching day, I again checked to see if the bilge pump was
working, and also rigged up an anchor and line in case of engine
failure, much to the amusement of the management and crew. The
crane lowered Wild Rose gently to the water. As the rain poured
down in a late spring deluge, I toasted the occasion with a few friends
and a couple of bottles of champagne. Then, light-headed and gay, I
started the engine and maneuvered out into the channel. The engine
quit cold. Air in the fuel lines. We tied up again and bled the lines.
The second departure got us a little farther into the channel. The
engine quit again. Air in the lines. Fortunately, I had the anchor
ready, which saved us from drifting aground. We bled the lines once
more, started up, and headed out again. After a few preliminary
maneuvers to check the steering, I put into the dock to let off some
guests. At the dock the shaft pulled out of the engine coupling.
Someone had forgotten the set screws and safety wiring. The shaft
slipped back until the prop rested against the skeg. Water gushed
into the engine compartment.
  That's when my foresight in demanding an automatic bilge pump
saved us from sinking.
  Getting a tow back to the crane, we hauled Wild Rose out and
reinstalled the shaft. Then we had a second launching, this time
without champagne.
  A half hour later, we ran aground on a mud bank on the way to
the marina. I was able to back off. At the marina, we no sooner
docked than the engine quit again. Air in the fuel lines.
  For the next three months, I fought that "Red Devil" in the
engine room, bleeding lines repeatedly and reinstalling fuel filters,
lines, and fittings. Nothing worked. The engine would run for about
an hour, then quit. I changed filters. This did not help. I appealed to
the factory and received an asinine form letter that was of no help
whatever. Obviously, I was going to have to fight for my warranty

   ~ 429 ~

  At last, after a frustrating summer during which an my spare time
was spent trying to get the engine and fuel system working, I acci-
dentally discovered the source of the problem: The machine screws
holding down the top of the fuel pump had never been tightened at
the factory. The engine had gone through final assembly and testing
this way, with a heavy coat of paint hiding the defect.
  Lost were three months of my time, a couple of hundred dollars in
spare parts and hired help, and all the good weather for the year.
  Meanwhile, dozens of other defects showed up: The pressure
water pump was defective and had to be replaced; the main line came
off the combination hot water heater and engine cooling system and
flooded the engine room; the rudder tube leaked and filled the rear
cabin bilge; the hinges came off the six hatch covers; the propane
storage proved inadequate and inaccessible and I had to redesign and
reinstall new tanks on deck; the main engine shaft developed a
warble at certain speeds; the bow pulpit, which was to have been
installed at the shop, wasn't, and it didn't fit; the custom-made
drawers did not fit if closed, they could not be opened, and if opened
could not be closed; my five thousand dollar bunks proved not very
practical; the fiberglass water tank had not been steamed and I was
stuck with a resin-tasting water supply; the engine instruments
worked only sporadically; the genoa track kit was minus some parts
which could not be replaced....
  One of the few bright spots in this endless tale of frustration was
the discovery of the mobile home and trailer parts industry. Unlike
marine suppliers, this industry is a healthy one, which carries a wide
variety of parts and equipment that can be substituted easily for
standard marine items, at a fraction of the cost. I made a few for-
tuitous purchases. I found an anchor capstan in a war surplus catalogue
for $190 that works just as well as a $900 marine model of the same
  The last blow was yet to fall, however. When the final bill arrived,
it came to more than $21,000 in addition to the $18,000 I had already
paid, plus another $4,000 I had spent outside the shop in parts and
equipment. Because the builders were essentially honest people and
reasonable of heart, and because I was able to find a number of errors
in their chaotic bookkeeping system, we eventually negotiated a
settlement acceptable to both sides.
  But the experience was a traumatic one, with little comfort in the
knowledge that it happens to most dream ship addicts sooner or later,

   ~ 430 ~ 

and that not even such cautious and experienced hands as Eric Hiscock
have been able to avoid it.
  Once your decision is made and you are hooked, and it's too late to
turn back, you have no choice but to sail on and make the best of the
bad weather. Sooner or later, you learn to be philosophical about the
whole thing, and even to take fierce pride in the result, as did
Slocum, Pidgeon, O'Brien, and even Gerbault, none of whom could
boast of having a finer vessel than Wild Rose.
  We have come to know that she is a basically good ship, and her
performance has been all we had expected. Out of all the misery has
come a more intimate knowledge of her advantages and disadvan-
tages, which is indispensable in any ocean-going yacht.
  As with any expensive mistress, you either have to live with her or
kick her out. We plan to live with her for some time to come.

  ~ 431 ~

 - end - The Anatomy of a Dream Boat (chapter 43)

To Author's Notes.

Return to Table of Contents.