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

August 2, 2013

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(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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