The following is a short piece I wrote for Latitudes and Attitudes magazine. The boat has changed but my thoughts and feelings on small boats has not.
My loving wife swears to me that size doesn’t matter. But does it? I was recently told that my boat is too small. Living in the boat yard I meet all types: boaters, builders, workers, and dreamers. We fall somewhere in between the lines. At a whopping 24 feet with a displacement of 6500lbs, by today’s standards our boat is considered small by any measure.
I recently read an article titled Pocket Cruiser Of The Year. It was a 38-footer. I guess our boat is now considered a dinghy. Our Allegra 24 designed by Fred Bingham has 6’1” standing headroom and four berths. The shortest, our double, measures 6’5”. The Roo has a full galley with a two-burner propane stove and oven. Even though we choose to use a cedar bucket we do have a very nice enclosed head which is small enough to be considered seaworthy but large enough to actually pull your pants down while inside. With two adults and two dogs this might sound small but it works for us.
Because we are financially challenged there aren’t many boats in our price range to choose from. Even if we go up to 30’ we won’t get much more usable room. Having such a small boat we can get away with an outboard engine and no marine head. This leaves us with the usable space of a well-built 30-footer with no prop drag and lighter displacement. Being of a traditional design but built with modern building techniques and materials, our boat is incredibly strong but lighter and faster than she would appear.
Sure we could sell our boat and put a nice down payment on a larger boat. Then in 20 years when it is payed off we could spend another three years rebuilding everything on it and sail away. I would be 62, Lizzie would be 50, and we would have a boat that is older than the one we currently own.
By then we might not be quite as adventurous as we are now and may not be able to happily live without hot water, plumbing, full electronics, and all of the power it takes to run these luxuries. We can’t support fancy electronics so we don’t have them. Instead we have to be better sailors and navigators adding to the pleasure and satisfaction of cruising. Outfitting and refitting our boat cost less because marine equipment is basically priced by the pound, inch, or foot. We also purchase used equipment where we can. After all, once you use something it really isn’t new anymore. Is it really worth paying more than double to have gear that is new for one use? With a very small initial investment we don’t feel the need to carry insurance. Every part of our boat takes less time to maintain and is easier on the budget, leaving us more time to play which is what cruising is really all about.
I remember the first tie I spotted The`, it was over ten years ago but seems like just yesterday. I was living on my Flicka in Seal Beach and walking the marina with my then girlfriend Lizzie.
We sat down with a bottle of wine and just stared at her. We admired her wide decks and stout lines. This is the boat I want to live on she commented, me to I said with a smile.
The years passed and life moved on, I didn’t find The`. she found me. Just like you cant choose who you fall in love with, you cant choose the perfect boat. When the time is right the situation will reveal itself.
I sat in the cockpit this morning, it was warm and there was a light drizzling rain, I looked at each project I have completed and am satisfied with my work. I have given up on rushing and dreaming about what may be. My reality is here and now.
A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
~ Colin Powell
All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.