Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Boat Quest, Part 3

Late in the summer of 1996, Phil LeBoutillier gave me a copy of September's Cruising World magazine. It contained a review of the Com-Pac 25, a compact--as the name implies--but comfortably set-up cruising sloop. I forgot about trying to build a boat from scratch as I read and reread that review, studying the pictures for every possible detail. The most intriguing thing to me was that the boat was trailerable. As a landlocked Coloradoan, that opened up all kinds of possibilities. Instead of traveling to the boat to sail it, I could trailer the boat to where I wanted to sail, whether it was some large reservoir or the Gulf of California.

At the end of the review, in the specifications table, I always came up against the hitch: a list price of $36,000. My computer business was having its best year ever, but there was just no way to afford it. That didn't dissuade me from emailing Gerry Hutchins at Com-Pac (www.com-pacyachts.com) and requesting the brochure and price list though. Or, when my parents invited me to join them at their new vacation home in Savannah that following spring, from emailing Gerry to see if I could arrange a side trip to tour the Com-Pac headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. He said I should contact him when I got there, but I never did. It was a 350-mile drive, I would have had to rent a car, and at some point I would have had to say, "Thanks for taking the time to show me around, but I can't really afford to buy one of your boats."

That fantasy pretty much died right there. Only to be replaced by a new one, of course. I can't remember now how I heard about it, but before long I was fascinated by the MacGregor 26 (www.macgregor26.com), another trailerable sailboat, but featuring a water ballast system instead of a keel, at the almost-affordable price of $15,000 (in 1997). The trade-off was that nobody was going to safely sail around the world in a water-ballasted boat. I read one account online of somebody crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida to Bimini in a MacGregor, and even though he did it using just the outboard motor and no sails to make it a fast trip, he still said it was the scariest thing he ever did. So maybe the MacGregor could be the coastal-cruising "trainer" on the way to something bigger and better someday?

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