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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.

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#1

Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/12/2016 12:10 PM

I look forward to your progress in this project!

Sail away!

Drew K

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#2
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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/12/2016 2:41 PM

Thanks! I'm planning monthly updates, here in the maritime tech blog.

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#3

Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/12/2016 3:05 PM

Great pics and project!

Was the Miller Lite part of the deal?

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#6
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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 9:20 AM

Haha. Actually not mine! (Not that I'm opposed to having one or two while I work.)

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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 10:29 AM

That particular brand (as well as many popular lagers) are well suited for aquatics...they are already f'ing close to water!

Drew K

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#4

Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/12/2016 5:52 PM

Aye Matey she's a trim and proper craft to be sure...after a hard days work and after drinking your days ration of grog I've linked you to a site to practice palaberin' proper ships swagger...

http://www.playcrossbones.com/Pirate_Talk.php

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#5

Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/12/2016 7:38 PM

I do. This will be a permanent blog as long as you own any boat.

P.S. Nice boat by the way. Looks like fun. Don't be tempted to get one too big though. As my dad (a lifelong sailor who actually lived aboard for 15 years with no home ashore) says, the amount of use and enjoyment you get out of a boat is inversely proportional to its size.

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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 9:24 AM

Absolutely. Smaller boat = less storage and towing issues; smaller fixes; smaller systems; smaller replacements (sails, anchor, cushions, etc.).

Afraid she's a bit small to liveaboard, but a weekend might be doable. Really depends on how much food I can bring and how long I can tolerate the marine head.

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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 10:18 AM

Tip#1....the head is mostly just for looks...

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#11
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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 2:43 PM

No sure where I read this before...

"A marine head is a luxury for ladies and a hassle for men."

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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 12:55 PM

I agree. My parents tried full-timing for a couple of years on a 35 ft Hinkley Pilot to be sure they would like it before selling the house and buying a beamy and comfy 41 foot pilot house motor ketch to cut all land-based ties. Once they decided they were done with the full-time live aboard Cape Cod - ICW - Bahamas lifestyle, they sold the motor ketch and bought a smaller 40 foot Downeast cruiser which is another name for a wooden lobster boat with a bigger cabin and shorter deck. That was their summer cottage on the Cape when they weren't wintering over in New Hampshire X-C skiing and snowshoeing.

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#12
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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/13/2016 2:45 PM

B-E-A-utiful.

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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/14/2016 6:08 PM

And she sailed beautifully as well. My dad always delighted in overtaking much larger sailing vessels, but alas she's designed for speed over comfort. (At least if you are planning on full-timing it.) Weeks long cruises are fine, but as a 'house' . . . .

This was the 'house' for 15 years.

and then the 'retirement' cottage

A couple of years ago they decided to hang up their slickers, as my dad put it, "Before a disaster happened."

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#14
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Re: The Sailboat Diaries: Ahoy!

10/15/2016 11:33 AM

This is what I want. Not quite the best of both worlds, but if i can find one with a strong diesel that can make good progress into the wind or save fuel to enjoy the sails I will be happy.

Drew K

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10/15/2016 9:36 PM

Yep. My dad was always a sailor and 'sneered' at the 'stink-pots' (good humored) but he also understood the reality of the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) means that you motor for most of it. His motor-ketch had a 6 cylinder Perkins diesel that threw a 28 inch prop. On numerous occasions, he and my mom had pulled folks off the putty. That boat was a 'tug' for sure. It would sail, but even sailing, the engine was running, but the sail area provided a very nice steadying force as well. It was 22 ton displacement and very comfortable for two to live-aboard with occasional guests. My parents' last boat was all power as they aged, to avoid clambering around on wet decks dealing with sails, etc. The pilot house design means that if the weather is nasty, you can stay below, warm and dry while you travel. Also makes for a nice space to entertain guests too.

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