Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Boat Quest, Part 5

Dan Gold may have been a believer in the MacGregor 26 trailerable sailboat, but that didn't mean he wasn't interested in selling me the one he owned, a 1992 MacGregor 26D. Whenever I ran into him, he would play up the advantages of his boat over the MacGregor 26X that I was dreaming of at that time, back in 1999. He said the 26X was nothing but a powerboat with a set of sails tacked onto it and that it had way too much freeboard, which would make it sail poorly. Dan was equally forthcoming about his own boat, saying it had a significant weather helm problem and that the cabin was cramped and uncomfortable, but he would sell it to me anyway for just $10,000--$5000 less than a new 26X--and that made it an unbeatable deal in his opinion.

Dan kept his sailboat at the Aspen Yacht Club on Ruedi Reservoir, above the town of Basalt and just down the highway from Aspen. It took me until the summer of 2001 to finally make it up there to take a look at it, at Dan's request but without his presence. As coincidence would have it, Steve Parrott was visiting us at that time, so he and his girlfriend went with me. Steve was one of my shipmates from the American Sailing Association class in Bareboat Chartering that I took in October, 2000. (See my "Education" post for details.) And he also owned a MacGregor 26, a late-model 26X. The three of us located the boat on its trailer in the yacht club's yard above the lake and spent about an hour crawling around on it. Steve thought it looked pretty good but that I should offer $9000 to see if Dan would go for it. It turned out that he would, but we continued to negotiate good-naturedly for many more years anyway.

When I started working at Aspen Valley Hospital in 2003, where Dan was the director of the pharmacy and my wife Nan's boss, we would talk frequently about sailing. Dan was the person who told me about Larry and Lin Pardey's cruising seminar in Denver. (See my "Lin and Larry Pardey" post for details.) In return, I asked them to sign his copy of their book, The Self-Sufficient Sailor, for him.

It wasn't until the following April, when Dan and I were both laid off from the hospital during a financial crisis, that we finally got together to sail his boat and commiserate about our shared misfortune. Dan was right, the boat did have a significant weather helm problem, causing it to round up quickly into the wind at every gust. No amount of effort at the tiller would keep it on course. Dan said the problem could be solved with a larger rudder and that there were plans online for how to modify the existing one, but he hadn't gotten around to it.

Dan never did get around to fixing his rudder. He died of a heart attack while skiing with his wife Kathy at Snowmass on February 16, 2006. He was 61. Nan and I attended his funeral the same day that I was rehired at the hospital. As I write this, I am looking at the large toy schooner that sits on my desk behind my flat-screen monitor. It was a recent gift from Kathy, who thought Dan would want me to have it. We never did complete a deal on his MacGregor, but in a smaller way I feel that I finally have Dan's boat. We miss you, Dan.

No comments: