Boat porn. That’s what I’ve spent the past few days looking at, surfing the photos at sailboatlistings.com and yachtworld.com and daydreaming about a 40 foot Island Packet with bow thrusters. Or maybe a 40 foot catamaran. Or heck, why not make it a 54 foot Hylas, as long as I’m only dreaming? Dreaming, like boat porn, is free.
In the meantime I have a 30 foot Catalina waiting for me at the lake and these pictures of our first sailboat, a MacGregor 26M we could load up on its trailer and tow all the way from Missouri to the Florida Keys. Splish, splash and we were in the water, hanking on the headsail and hauling up the main. Ask any real sailor and he’ll tell you the MacGregor 26M isn’t truly a sailboat, that she’s way too squirrely in the gusts to earn that noble title, but she has two features that made her perfect for beginning sailors like us: a centerboard we could yank up when the boat dragged mud and a 50 HP motor we could fire up when our tacking skills failed. Built-in rescue mechanisms, the perfect add-on for a worrywart like me.
We kept the MacGregor in the Keys the entire winter of 2011, and visited her as often as we could. Our first multi-day sail was pure sweetness, with a twelve knot wind pushing us wing-on-wing to our first night’s anchorage and then on to an ungodly-priced dockage at a Key West Marina. We watched the sun set from Mallory Square, went searching for milk to wash down our Key Lime cookies, and fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the boat. It was heavenly. On the final day we sailed out into a gentle ocean, with Key West to port and endless water to starboard. Two dolphins played beside us, free spirits who might have followed if we’d turned our bow south instead of east. Cuba was out there and Puerto Rico and Venezuela; all it would take is the wind and the will to go. And a real sailboat. Eventually, after hours of trying to tack into the breeze, we fired up the horsepower and motored east.
Dreams. That’s what sailing is all about, I’ve decided, or at least what sustains sailors through the Midwest winter months. I guess I’m not the first one to have that thought. Robert Rose said something awfully close to it:
“Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made.”