Preview: Rare Birds: Classic Boats Offshore; A Guest Blog by Ellen Massey Leonard

(Note from OCH: In a conversation about this blog, we asked Ellen a bit about her ‘schmee’ and the following two-paragraph introduction was her response.)

I‘ve written a book about our round-the-world voyage that is far more about growing up and taking risks and cementing relationships than it is about ocean passages and yacht design.  After my agent in NYC read the first draft, he really harped on me to change the first chapter to be more about what drove me to make this voyage.  So I’ve thought a lot about that.  It’s all bound up in being exposed to the sea and boats practically from birth.  It has to do with that enchanting draw the sea has for some people–it’s like a magnet.  I love being out there with nothing but waves and clouds and birds and stars and whales.  The sea out of sight of land is for me the most magical place on earth.  Of course it’s an immense challenge–humans didn’t evolve out there–but that just adds to it. I completely respect what the sea can do–I’ve sailed through 60 knots of wind and apartment-building-sized waves–and I’m drawn to the adventure of that.  Maybe I’m crazy–I suppose I am a bit because most people don’t want to play this game where your life’s the stake–but I can’t get enough of it.

A comment I got on my last OCH blog inspired me to write this one.  A couple of people wanted to know more about HERETIC, so I thought it might be interesting to write not only about her but about the other classic boats we met on our round-the-world voyage.  There aren’t so many of them out there making long passages–in fact, we met only four that really count and two more that might in a pinch (an old Hinckley and an early Swan).  Each one of these classic yachts and their sailors have interesting stories, so it’s too much to tell in a single blog post.  I was thinking of writing a series that I’ve titled “Rare Birds: Classic Boats Offshore”.  Here is the first of that series, about HERETIC and HAFORN, the first other classic boat we met.

Rare Birds: Classic Boats Offshore

Part 1: Heretic and Haförn

 © Ellen Massey Leonard, 2013, All Rights Reserved.

Wooden and classic boats are what a birder might call “locally common.”  There are thriving populations in places like Downeast Maine, the Seattle area, the Mediterranean, British Isles, and Tasmania.  But they are nearly extinct on long distance sailing routes.

Why?  The easy answer is that classic boats are mre difficult and costly to maintain.  This is certainly true of traditionally built wooden yachts and to a large extent also true of old, non-wooden classic boats.  To keep expenses down you can do the work yourself, which is what my husband—then boyfriend—Seth and I did on our round-the-world voyage aboard our 40-year-old classic cutter HERETIC.  Of course, this greatly reduces time spent sightseeing and cruising which is, after all, one reason we went sailing initially.  But this doesn’t have to be the case.  As yards like Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine and Jespersen Boat Builders in British Columbia prove, a modern boat doesn’t have to, well, look ugly.

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7 Responses So Far to “Rare Birds: Classic Boats Offshore; A Guest Blog by Ellen Massey Leonard

  • Avatar

    Bob Shipman says:

    Well it’s October and I’m back in Texas after a wonderful six weeks in Maine, Brooklin, Bristol, Camden. So I just now came across your first of a series about classic boats offshore and especially Heretic. Thank you for sharing all this. Looking forward to your future comments.
    Where do we get your book??


    • Avatar

      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Hi Bob,
      Thanks for your comments–I’m glad you enjoyed the piece! It was your comment on my last piece Messing About that has triggered this blog idea, so thank you!

      My book actually hasn’t been published yet–I’m in the final stages of editing it and drawing up some charts to accompany it. I’ll definitely let you know, though, when it is published and how you can find it! Either I can come back to this comment or find you on some future blog page.

      Hope the fall is treating you well. All best,

  • Avatar

    Jon Arcuni says:

    Keep writing! Love the story and the pictures!

    Jon Arcuni, Boquete, Panama

    • Avatar

      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Thanks, Jon! I’m hoping to start on the next installment soon.


  • Avatar

    Ellen Massey Leonard says:

    Hi John,

    Agreed on both points! In my opinion, just because something is old doesn’t necessarily make it a classic, but neither does a classic have to follow such strict criteria as being built of only, say, carvel-planked Honduras mahogany. I didn’t make my own criteria explicit in this article, but you’ve probably guessed that for me a classic has to be a pretty boat (see the paragraph about overhangs and sheerline…) capable of doing what her designer intended. No matter what the material, or even really when she was built. I like to think that this is a broader interpretation of classic without lacking discernment, and I think it incorporates both HERETIC and HAFORN. There’s a range of very different yachts to come in this blog series! Glad you’ve enjoyed this first entry!

    All the best,

  • Avatar

    JOHN DUGGAN says:

    Classic Boat Magazine had a readers’ forum recently on the definition of a classic boat. There was some pretty snobbish and elitist stuff there and a common theme was that a classic boat can be built of pretty much anything except fiberglass. “Classic ” car shows have a lot of cars that were bad when they were built and are now no less bad, despite qualifying as Classic, just on account of being old bad cars. I am pretty sure that, in the same way, there are many boats out there which their owners are pleased to regard as classic but which are not a patch on the two fiberglass beauties described in this article.

    • Avatar

      Ellen Massey Leonard says:

      Sorry, meant my comment to be a reply to this one :)