Finding a Boat
Somewhere along the way, in the following days after our hot tub discussion we realized we needed to learn something about sailing, and quickly.
Since we didn’t know much about sailing yet, and purchased a few good books on the subject and read them ravenously. Throughout the books we learned that we needed to be sitting in a boat pulling on lines, pushing a tiller, listening to the singing of the wind high up in the standing rigging. The rudder cutting through the water would turn the boat hither and yon, taking us to far off places.. and yet, darn it, there was neither a rudder, a tiller, running OR standing rigging for us to listen to the wind whistle through. What to do?
Ah ha. Buy a boat. Living in Colorado and having visited few lakes ever in the last twenty years here at 7000 plus feet above sea level left us cold… in more ways than one. What to do? Craigslist, eBay and several other nice sites to help us locate a boat later – we found two. One was within driving distance, in Black Forest Colorado. It was a Macgregor 26. A newer boat… and when we first saw her, thought it looked funny. Odd. Fat even. It turned out to have a centerboard type keel with a water ballast. It looked… wrong. I don’t know precisely what it was about the boat, but neither of us fell in love with it right off. The price was a bit higher than we intended, but then we didn’t know the price of boats. We continued to shop.
Two other boats in Colorado caught our eye. One never responded to any emails, obviously not wishing to part with their expensive-as-hell-well-used boat. We gave up on that one.
The last boat was on the far side of Monarch Pass, a good three hour drive from us. Long, long away. Far, and over a very HIGH mountain pass, nearly twelve thousand feet high in fact. The boat had been kept in Gunnison Colorado at Blue Mesa for the past unknown number of years, perhaps at least ten or twelve.
She was in the care of a college teacher, a photographer and a man from Louisiana who claimed to be a sailor. His story was he came here to Colorado for teaching, and a job and missed the ocean, thus had purchased the boat from another man, who had kept the boat in the Blue Mesa. After a half a dozen conversations with him we decided to make the trip out early one morning in October of 2008. My wife and I got up very early and climbed into my trusty Jeep Cherokee and moved on down the highway. A few hours later we contacted Phil, the owner and asked him to meet us outside, we’d be there shortly. He gave final instructions and as we came coasting into the driveway at his modest complex we could see the boat in the distance. It looked promising.
We met Phil who directed us around the block and to the parking lot behind. We walked through some grass and trees and I took the camera and snapped the picture as I saw the boat. She was absolutely beautiful. Dirty, covered in leaves, mud and rubber marks from bouncing off some dock somewhere, but sitting proudly upon her tiny (almost too tiny) trailer. She was white, but had a blue bottom and red boot stripe. Red, White and Blue, my favorite colors!
JoAnne took one look, gasped and said, “That’s it. That’s the one!”.
“But this is only the second boat we’ve seen,” I protested.
“This is it, this is our training boat,” she breathed sexily. And who was I to argue with that?
We examined the boat, I wasn’t happy with a lot of the things I saw and the upkeep of the boat had obviously not been accomplished. She was dirty inside and out. The overhead was an ancient piece of plywood that was rotting away, covered in an even more rotten, not to mention ugly carpet. The flooring was covered with blue carpet, which remains to this day because I couldn’t bear to remove it and expose the ugly yellow contact cement that had been used to hold it down in the first place. So far, it has served it’s purpose. But, I digress.
After dickering for all of twelve minutes, thirty-two and three tenths seconds, I agreed to the exact price asked by the gentleman from Gunnison. The boat was, in my humble and inexperienced opinion, well worth the $3500 that’d we had saved up. I figured I could replace the rudder, tiller, remove the overhead and temporarily fill the little screw holes later. I could clean the boat and make it work. I carefully examined the sails, rigging and saw some damage to one sail, nothing that couldn’t be gotten around, and the rigging was well intact.
The running rigging was well worn and was probably fifteen or twenty years old, at least. Something I could easily replace.
We had a glass of water with the owner, made arrangements to come back in about a week and pick up the boat. I didn’t have a tow hitch on my Jeep so figured to borrow my son’s giant Dodge Ram Truck to get over the mountain.
Phil graciously offered to pay for our gas for coming out, and again to pick up the boat. I refused his kindly offer, and asked only for him to be honest and tell me the boat would float. He assured me she would float. Good enough for me. We drove off that afternoon happy in the fact we had a new boat.
She turned out to be a 1979 Macgregor Venture 25. An eight hundred pound drop keel on a cable was her stabilization, the mast was and still is a little “bent” from apparently being dropped sometime in the past. But the boat certainly floated and floated well, we later discovered.
A week or so later, my wife, son and myself made the trip again. This time Phil brought the boat part way to meet us, up to the top of Monarch Pass where we exchanged information, paperwork, money and a boat. He seemed genuinely reluctant, nay, sad even to part with the boat. But, I asked, “What is her name?”
“She’s never been named” he said sadly. That made me glad we’d bought her. We named her tentatively “Winds of Change” that evening because this was a change in our lives, a change for us. We had a BOAT. Better than a pet, or a new car!
Over the course of the next few days I changed the state registration, got insurance, new tags for the trailer and all the petty things the government wants you to do, to prevent you from spending your money on important things like food.
Over the coming winter months, I would get very, very familiar with the “Winds of Change” – in more ways than you can imagine!