Preview: Three Boats I Lust After (and Why), by Nat Benjamin

January 10, 2012

Nat Benjamin

This question should really be directed at amateurs, not “experts.” The problem with experts, professionals or whatever misnomer you choose is that we’ve all been messing about with so many boats for so long that any vestige of unbridled desire has been distilled into a raw assessment of facts and qualities that make up a particular craft. Having said that, I’m reminded that just the other day my heart went pitter patter as the 65’ schooner Juno came roaring through the harbor under full sail and the locals lined up on the beach observed in silent… amazement, bewilderment, awe…lust? Ask an alcoholic to name his three favorite drinks and he’ll give you an equally ambiguous stare through a similar blurred vision.

More often than not, I find myself appraising a vessel by the company it keeps. The chaotic tub that sails off every afternoon with a pile of happy kids aboard who are firing water balloons at unsuspecting targets has more appeal to me than the sleek an exotic 6-meter or 8-meter sloop locked to its mooring most of the summer. Unfair as this may seem, it is human nature to pass judgment subjectively and these days my subjects are between the ages of four and nine—all armed with water balloons.

Having excused myself from serious consideration, I’ll briefly describe three boats that my children and grandchildren could sail aboard in full pirate attire and adventuresome spirit.

#1: The Bay Bird

The Baybird sailboat designed by Starling Burgess
The Bay Bird was designed by W. Starling Burgess for shoal draft sailing in Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod. I learned to sail in this lovely craft back when I was around 12 years old at the Pleasant Bay Camp. At 18’ on deck, 16’3” on the waterline, 5’6” beam, and with only 6” of draft with the centerboard up, this sweet little gaff sloop could carry two or three campers plus an instrutor in relative comfort. The sloop rig is just right to keep everyone occupied—one person tending the jib, one on the main sheet, a helmsman at the tiller, and perhaps a bailer. This is a great sailing, responsive open boat with the bare essentials for the essence of sailing. I understand that the class is being revived. Contact:

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