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The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

Posted October 12, 2016 8:00 AM by HUSH

Welcome to the first blog post in what will be a long series of blog posts, entitled The Sailboat Diaries. The title is a bit romantic, but so is this project. And ‘Captain’s Log’ was just too cliché.

I had a few experiences sailing on square-rigged ships as a kid and teenager, and a handful more on beach catamarans. I’m also 100% a summer person—and I can’t think of a better way to spend a hot summer day than with family and friends on a boat in a New York lake or along the Connecticut coast. So after a year of late nights on Craigslist (looking only for boats, I swear), I finally found a small sailboat for sale at a nearby marina that suited me.

Anything in my price range was going to need a little work, and it was something I actually preferred. Not only could I make it my own, but I’d also have an excellent grasp on all the boat’s systems. And because this is being completed on a shoestring budget, I virtually cannot hire professionals. I’m not going to disregard safety in the name of time or money, but I at least need to try all repairs or refurbishment before going back to the marina.

So, with this prologue, I introduce my newest prize: a 1970, 20-foot, fractional-rigged sloop, model type Matilda, produced by Ouyang Boat Works in Whitby, Ontario. This type of boat is somewhat rare in the United States, but the designer, Robert Tucker, is a renowned boat designer with many other of his successful 16-25 foot designs taken into production. Since my boat isn’t officially named, she’ll be called Matilda until I’m finally ready to pick a name and apply the vinyl decal.

I wouldn’t buy a lemon of a boat—the previous owner had her in the water for the past two summers, but lacked the time to sail or maintain her properly. Matilda’s hull is in great shape, though it needs some gelcoat in spots and some bottom paint too. Fiberglass boats from this era are notoriously overengineered because people were skeptical if fiberglass (I prefer calling it glass-reinforced plastic) was going to hold up as good as wood. (I think today we know which won.)

Matilda came with 10 sails, nine of which are in great shape. A 6 HP two-cycle outboard is there for when the sails aren’t enough. A trailer that should last another decade or so.

But the boat is 46 years old, so she of course has her rough spots. I know for a fact I’m at least her fourth owner. She needs some transom reinforcement, which was turned into a forum post last week. I need to check for a leak around her centerboard trunk. The centerboard needs new steel cable, as well as a limiting mechanism to prevent it from overextending. I can’t believe there isn’t a single bilge pump in this boat! The electrical system looks like a mix of 1992 and 2012.

And then there are about three dozen cosmetic/comfortability projects. New boat cushions. New lights. Replacing the 1997 car radio with something even close to modern. How about a door or at least curtain to the head? Fixing the sink plumbing. Replacing the running rigging. An awning for the cockpit might be nice. We’ll definitely need a stove or grill on the stern. This list goes on…

I have no idea how long this blog series will go on. A year? Two? Maybe more? But I do hope you’ll take this journey will Matilda and I, even if you won’t be shoving off with us in 2017.

15 comments; last comment on 10/15/2016
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