By the time I was 15, I knew there were 3 sailboats I wanted to own. Each one was a singular design, similar to others in their size ranges, but also individual and unique. None of them were spectacularly popular, and in the intervening 30 years, all three became, to one extent or another, orphans cast in fiberglass.
And I have been fortunate enough to own all three of them.
The first was my AMF Sunbird. A jaunty little 16′ sloop with a saucy sheerline and tastefully sized cuddy cabin (for stowage and kids only!), I fell for her lines at a Minneapolis boat show, and on the sales floor at Jack Cully’s old dealership (the name of which escapes me at the moment). 20 years later, I took a wrong turn on my way home, and, lo and behold, there sat a forlorn-looking Sunbird painted a dark green. Needless to say, I bought her, and eventually restored her, along the way developing the still very active AMF Sunbird group on Yahoo.
The second boat I knew I needed to own was the Chrysler 20 sloop. Not the more popular 22, the 20 had but a small cabin on her. She DID have a 10′ cockpit though, and a swing keel inside of a stub keel, so that you had lateral resistance with the board up or down. I first saw one at the Minneapolis Boat Show, when I was about 15. And I wanted her with a teenage desire usually directed in a slightly different direction. Then, about 8 years ago, I spotted one, sitting outcastedly in a powerboat yard, loaded with 2′ of old water, rotten cushions, and somewhat miraculously, all of her gear stowed high and dry inside the dealership.
Yep… I bought her.
The third boat was, of course, the Sailbird, our Clarity, the subject of this happy little blog.
But this chapter is the story of Gratitude, the boat I wanted since I was a kid.
And the one boat I never finished.
Gratitude, named by her previous owner, came home with me, full of promise. I pumped out the water, ordered all new running rigging, and a bunch of stuff like pumps, lines, anchors, compasses, and the rest of the kit needed to properly prep and sail her. I cleaned the hull and the interior, ripped out the old, moldy shag (!) carpeting, and tore the rotten covers off of the cushions.
And after all that work, she sat. Idle, waiting for me to come back.
But I had gotten caught up in kayaking, and in life in general. So I ignored her. Not consciously, but I did. For a couple of years.
One day, I got re-motivated, and got to work on the interior. I ordered material, and made all new cushion covers. I cleaned and dried the foam rubber cushions, coated them with plastic, and slipped on their new, dark blue envelopes, cloth on top, vinyl on the bottom, with a handy velcro closure. I was pretty proud of those cushions!
But apparently not too proud to keep on working on her. So she sat again. and six months later, I bought a house and moved. Gratitude came along for the ride, and found a new home on the east side of the house, for my neighbors and the google satellite so see at will.
And she sat.
She watched as I met, fell in love with, and married my wife. She felt the occasional scamper of furtive feet as the kids snuck on her, and the very occasional thump of me checking on her, but not doing anything to keep her up, or get her seaworthy.
This was just not right.
And then, last week, while perusing online for a small boat for Sue to practice sailing on, I found an ad – Wanted: Sailboat, will trade motorcycle.
Sue and I had been talking about getting a motorcycle (I currently have a Honda Reflex 250 scooter, but its only good for 1 person at highway speeds) so that we could go riding with friends. And the owner of this Kawasaki Concours wanted a sailboat. In a bit of serendipity, he was in the same position as I, insomuch as he had a motorcycle that he just wasn’t going to use, no matter how much he wanted it. So a trade was agreed upon, and should happen this weekend.
Sue asked me about the karma of doing this, as I’d had the boat so long, and I liked her so very much. I had already been thinking of that, and I told her that I think the karma here is good. I got the Gratitude out of a life of powerboat yard doom, and got her a bunch of bangles and baubles… more so than most 38 year old small cabin sailboats ever see, kept her safe (if not clean), and got her ready for the owner that will indeed use her as she was meant to be. And I will become the custodian of a motorcycle that has seen many a mile, but with the obvious care of an owner who loved her.
Did I mention that when I first saw a Kawasaki Concours 1000cc sport-touring motorcycle back in the late 1990’s, I fell for her taut lines, plentiful power, and pleasant possibilities immediately, just like I had fallen for the three sailboats of mine?
I think that Gratitude and Clarity both approve.