Editorial March 2000 Issue

All Things Must Pass

Nothing lasts forever. Not even a good boat. Viva, the 1975 Tartan 44 we bought in 1993, didn’t expire, but was sold last fall to a couple from Sacramento, California who keep her on San Francisco Bay.

It was a difficult decision and long in coming.

I bought Viva with the intention of some day taking her offshore to the Caribbean and perhaps beyond. Big boats are faster and more comfortable than small boats, and at 44 feet she was the largest I’d owned. She was stiff and fast, going upwind like a 12 Meter. The downside is that cost of parts rise exponentially. I remember one of the first expenses—replacing the cracked turnbuckle barrels for the 7/16" lower shrouds: $80 each! And that was just the barrels, not the studs!

Over the next six years, I replaced just about everything on the boat except the recent Yanmar diesel, early ‘90s sails and recently reupholstered cushions. Every spring was spent laboring on her: rewiring, replumbing, rerigging, replacing deck hatches, you name it. I enjoy this work…as long as I have time for it. And time became increasingly difficult to come by. I hate feeling rushed. I’d have a list of three things I thought could easily be accomplished on a Saturday morning. Suddenly I’d look at my watch, see that it was already 1 p.m. and I hadn’t even finished job #1. Knowing I couldn’t get back to the boat for a few days or perhaps a week would really bum me out. Rush! Work faster!

The aggravation soon faded, however, as launch day approached. The first few summers we sailed her a lot, cruising Narragansett Bay, out to Nantucket and into Long Island Sound. She was comfortable, strong, and to my eye at least, pretty. My wife, Andra, always felt overpowered by her though, and was never confident she could handle her alone if something happened to me. I tried to explain (as I had to myself) that it was just a mental adjustment, learning that a jib sheet you used to be able to pull in by hand now required a large three-speed winch. There were few things on Viva that could be manhandled. The 44-lb. anchor needed an electric windlass to retrieve. Oh well, I thought, when we go cruising I’ll just do all the work.

After a while, we tired of sailing her in the bay. There was too much traffic, and it was hard short tacking Viva. Eventually, I’d motor out of the bay under main alone, then unfurl the genoa when we knew we could stay on one tack for an hour. She was made for open water.

So we used her less and less.

Many a day, staring out my office window at the passing ships, I made mental calculations trying to figure when we might be able to get away for a winter. Would have to enroll Steve in correspondence school. Need a year’s salary in the bank. Rent the house. What to do with the dog? In short, not many of the usual obstacles were easily resolved. Not as easily as it was 13 years ago when Andra and I last quit our jobs and took off. Then there was no house, no dog, no son.

After vacillating for two years, I made the decision—mostly on hard, financial grounds—that it made sense to sell Viva and recoup what I could of my investment while all of her many upgrades were still worth something. (See the article on p. 18 for the amounts of money we’ve lost money on various boats.) Viva now belongs to Hal and Dorel Harms. She’ll do well on San Francisco Bay. I envy the thought of them sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific.

There is, I rationalize, always time for another boat. Indeed, we’re looking for a smaller, simpler boat. An interim boat, I tell myself. Something easy to maintain. Something agile for scooting around the bay traffic. Looking is fun, contemplating the choices—fin or full keel, monohull or multihull, sloop or ketch?

Some day we’ll buy another cruising boat.

My time will come again.

—Dan Spurr

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