Sailing Mango

Another Madness

Years ago (years? Jeez...), we were sailing in South Puget Sound, coming back up towards Gig Harbor. Kristen was down below home schooling with the kids, leaving me to sail the boat on my lonesome. I don’t recall the start of the day, but I clearly remember raising the sails on my own without assistance, no autopilot, which I think was my first time doing so.

I would get the boat moving a bit, lock the wheel with the clutch, then scurry forward to the mast to hastily haul the jib halyard, get about a third of the way up and have to skip back to the cockpit to adjust our heading. I must have looked like one of those speed walkers, who walk with at least one foot on the ground at all times. No one _runs_ on a boat, no, that would be foolish. But I certainly scooted along, trying to make the most of the minute or so that I had to raise sails before I had to course correct.

Eventually I got the sails up, and what a fabulous sail we had. I happily pulled sheets, steered with my feet on the wheel, and smiled ear to ear. The wind was in the 10-15 knot range, just perfect for easy sailing, and makes a sailor look good.

I only recall a handful of great sailing days like that. I’m sure there were many more, and Kristen would roll her eyes if she was reading over my shoulder at the lack of my memory. One such sail was crossing the Straight of Georgia from Vancouver to the Gulf Islands. Going the other way the week before was a little too blustery, there was a bit of vomit, and a few too many fish on the sole of the aft cabin from the little fish tank, also on the sole of the aft cabin. Other than that, it would have qualified as a great sail.

The return trip and better half by far, started by raising the hook, all 400 ft of chain and rope by hand, and then lazily letting the light wind push us off the island and into the straight. We hoisted all sail, managed to catch Portier Passage at slack, and sailed into Clam Bay on Penelakut Island. I was feeling pretty good about that sail, but fortunately for my hubris, I was knocked down to scale when we ran around, a little harder than ideal, a few days later.

One of the first things I began doing after selling Mango, perhaps before (but I share no secrets), was surfing for the next boat. What could be better than sailing a ketch, with one sail more than is strictly necessary you may ask? More lines, more sails, that must mean more fun! I saved bookmarks pointing towards "classic" sailboats on Yatchworld, which are all manner of ketches, yawls, gaffers, and other sailboats considered these days as oddities. For the past two years I have hit craigslist every day or two searching for these odd balls in the area. My real goal was a Cornish Crabber 24, a lovely hog of a sailboat, measuring 24 on deck with a six foot bow sprint, and gaff rigged. Some say they are a wee bit slow, but I probably would have ignored that in favor of all manor of handkerchiefs one could fly off of that salty wooden spar. I would have the requisite main, staysail and jib of course, but also a topsail, maybe a, ah, dang, what are they called? The outer-most jib, set flying way up high. If the hour was late enough I would silently think about a water sail, and if I was ever so lucky to find the yawl version of the Cornish Crabber 24, well, that would yield the wee mizzen of course, but also that silent weapon, the mizzen staysail. Oh, I blush thinking of the late nights I spent surfing for these gems in "private" mode.

About eight months ago an interesting boat, more interesting than most, came to my attention on Yachtworld. While Kristen and I had visited several boats after selling Mango, I did not mention this one to her. Wooden, an almost outrageous spring to the shear with a delightful bow sprint, she captured my attention as something to be admired in a nautical museum. Recently built, barely sailed, nearly blemish free, with a tasteful color palette, she was a beauty. A couple of days a week I would return to the listing and pursue the description, the 82 pictures, and let my imagination run.

A few months into my secret affair, I showed Kristen more as a dream, a lark, oh lookie hear at this delightful little yacht. She was far above our budget, entirely impractical, but beautiful with her graceful white hull with blue boot stripe, just a touch of exposed teak, an almost cartoonish clipper bow, and of course a gaffer.

Kristen would often sigh appropriately when I showed her good looking boats. She humors me, and she did not disappoint with this boat. I’m not really sure how it happened, but this one seemed to stick with her as well, and before we knew it, we were driving to take a look in February.

And now here we are in July, during Covid-19 of all times, and we have an accepted offer. It’s the most ridiculous thing, buying a wooden gaffer. Nearly all pleasure boats have very little to recommend them from a practical point of view, but this boat is worse than most. There are exactly zero others like her that I can find, so we have no reference as to her sailing qualities. She is made of wood, has a gaff rig, and to top it all, we won’t get to do a standard sea trial to see how she sails. The boat is on a trailer, and the owner isn’t keen to spend a day launching, a day or two sailing, and then put her all back together. But recently the seller dropped the price, we jumped, and now I’m nervous as hell until hopefully, after splashing, I get to try on a smile and see how it fits.

Two positives at least that I can see are that the boat was designed by William Garden, and the builders seem, at least to my eye, to have built the boat to very high standards. Most of the William Garden designs I am familiar with aren’t primarily recommended for their sailing speed. As I have researched William Garden designs, it seems many of them aren’t build for any particular thing, and perhaps because of that seem to do "being a sailboat" quite well. They are like my dogs, who are unapologetic about being dogs. They don’t pretend to do anything other than exactly what they are supposed to do, and they do that very well. This boat seems just like that.

I don’t have any good pictures yet, so for now, click here for the listing.