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Preview: Just About Right – A Visit Aboard VITO DUMAS

June 11, 2015

Every now and then a young man meets his perfect boat and sails off into a lifetime of watery bliss. Hop aboard the Argentinian double-ender VITO DUMAS, named for the legendary single-handed sailor.

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– I’d just finished college, and a buddy and I, decided to look for a boat together. And we were actually living in Southern California at the time. We’d only looked at one other boat before we saw this one, but after seeing this, and going out sailing on it, we thought, heck, it’s just about right. Just what we’re looking for. So it was a pretty easy decision, and never looked back from that point. It needed quite a bit when we first got it. Took us about six months repairing, covering boards, toe rails, rebuilding the cockpit, and making her seaworthy. Vito’s measurements are 31 feet on deck, 41 feet overall. 10 four beam and draws a little less than five feet. It was built in 1933 in the Perrotti Yard, in Buenos Aires. And it was designed by Manuel Campos, who’s an Argentinian designer. She was originally gaff rigged, after 10 years, to date, they had decided that, they wanted to modernize, and put a new rig in the boat. This Marconi rig, drawn by Herman Freres, Sr. in 1943, and I’m happy they did because I like the Marconi rig in this boat. We got her in January, and then we tore into the boat almost immediately. By July, we had it pretty well back together. By early Winter, we were preparing to leave for our cruise, and we left in March of 1977, sailed down the coast to Baja, and spent several months there cruising the Sea of Cortez, and where we provisioned up and left in early May. We were practicing our celestial coming down the coast, so our first real test was sailing out to the Revillagigedos Islands that are about 200 miles south of Cabo San Lucas. So we stopped there briefly, and congratulated ourselves, and then took off from there to the Marquesas, which was about a 31 day passage. We landfalled in Fatu Hiva, and we spent three months in the Marquesas. Then continued on to Tuamotus for a few weeks, and then, into the Societies coming back into Tahiti eventually in September. By February, we had the boat ready after a haul out to sail back up to to Hawaii. Got up to Hawaii in early March. 21 day trip, spent about a year living on Maui, anchored off Lahaina. And then, by June following year, which would have been ’79, we sailed up to Alaska, and made landfall up north of Sitka southeast, in this big bay called Palma Bay. Then spent the rest of the summer comin’ down through British Columbia doing the Queen Charlotte’s, now called Haida Gwaii, and back to, eventually, Stuart Island in Port Townsend by October. It had been a bit of a cruise, and it was time to kinda settle in for the Winter, and find a job, so Port Townsend was kinda the obvious choice. Well, I’ll take ya on a tour of the features that I really appreciate about this boat. This original hardware is the boom gallows here, and the traveler. All the hardware on this boat was galvanized to begin with, and I didn’t have the heart to replace these because they’re such really great pieces, and this becomes something I always go to when I’m trying to grab something. Whether I move an aft, or not, it’s a solid piece to hold on to. These winches on the house top are one of the original pieces of hardware on the boat. These were made in Buenos Aires, and I always liked them because they have a handle, but they weren’t quite big enough for the Genoas and the Jibs so I ended up retiring them to staysail duty on the housetop. Now one of the features I really appreciate about this boat is how wide the side decks are. You know, with 10 four beam, and a pretty wide house, it still has adequate room for comfortable walking. You know, it’s interesting, with a house this wide, and this tall, it gives you a space down below, as if you were on a bigger boat. That’s one of the benefits of having a tall house like this, even though, at times, you go, woah, the house is rather large on this boat. I really like the way the layout is around the mast here, with these pin rails. They’re through bolted down through two deck beams. They help to hold the mast partners in. It’s just a great arrangement for strength and utility. My halyards tie off here, and I’ve replaced the bolts over time with bronze. Again, they were galvanized bolts. And I tell ya, most of my time’s spent, removing fastenings and replacing fastenings over the years. But it’s the way, of like, now the boat can last because I’ve gradually worked all the iron out of her. The mast on this boat has pear-shaped section with a internal bronze track on the aft edge, made from this spruce we call “bear claw” spruce because it has these claw marks of the burl in it. Makes for a really strong mast that doesn’t have the tendency to split. I’ve always really appreciated the way it’s hounded up higher around minimal hardware, yet very strong, beautiful spreaders. Even though she’s only 31 feet, it has this huge foredeck. Place to lie down, place to fold sails, work, you know, it’s quite open. This capstan’s kind of an interesting feature. It’s a old iron one, you know, with an iron drum, and iron base, and I’ve cast new gears out of bronze, so that it won’t freeze up every couple of weeks, but, it’s something you don’t use often, but it’s got some power if you need it to break the anchor free. The hatch is all original hardware. It has some great little wings here for ventilation. You can easily fold them down and that’s, gives you another way of getting ventilation in the boat, if someone’s sleeping up there, it’ll protect it, good airflow. The anchor grates are something that gives a great visual element to frame the bowspread well as providing places to put the chain when you’re working up there and haulin’ the anchor. Rebuilt them by putting new slats on the top and they’ve held up wonderfully well for the last nearly 40 years of my ownership, and another 40 years before that. And the hospipes are nice, original fittings, that held up really well and work really well. Handsome, as well as functional. Other fittings of interest would be the gammoning iron, which was originally galvanized, along with the cap on the end of the bowspread, is another nice piece that was galvanized, now bronze. One of the items that I managed to score right when we were rigging the boat was this bronze wire that I’ve used for the life line. And it’s just lovely stuff. It wears so well it almost feels soft like line. It works well with the stanchions and it’s durable. Doesn’t chafe or wear, and seems like it fits on the boat. It’s one of the items that people have asked me about quite a bit at shows, like, where did you find that? It’s like, lucky. Timing. The deck is a laid deck. It has wood called “petiribi,” which is a teak-like wood. When we got the boat it was covered already, with some airball-type material. We had to redo it then, and then, that lasted for the four years of the cruise, and by the time I came back to Port Townsend, the decks were starting to split on all the plank lines, and really needed to have some work. So I, once again, took everything off, and covered the deck with a epoxy system with a versatex cloth, and I painted and did a sand finish on top. That has lasted for 30 years, it’s amazing. The house sides are made from Paraguayan cedar. It’s what all the furniture is inside the boat. It’s this beautiful, cigar box wood, is what it’s people remember it as, Spanish cedar. The hatch here, and the other hatch is a denser material. It’s another South American mahogany. You can still see some of the iron stain that had developed after years of rust creeping in. This is the deck iron where I attach a stovepipe to for my wood stove down below. I’ve got a nice, little enameled wood stove. The cockpit size is one of those things about this boat is, again, shows how well-designed it is. Sitting here, I can have my feet down below, I can have my feet up above if I need to, but it’s all in a real human scale, which makes it a lovely boat to sail. You can either have, you know, comfortably, probably four people in here if you’re sailing. Then, once you’re in, you can, helms off to the side, and we’ve had up to 10 or 12 stacked in here during festival when it’s the social time. Why don’t we go down below, and I’ll show ya Vito’s den? So, this is a shot of the main salon down here. The mast dips right down on to the keel. It’s got a nice drop-leaf table with the ruled joint. You can sit six people comfortably here, and then these are the main berths in the boat. Headroom about 6’2″. I’ve reconfigured the forepeak from its original, it’s a modified V-berth arrangement with a bunk on the port, and sail storage on the starboard. You can access the foreward hatch and stand up, and you know, hand things up. Got nice, original cabinetry. The bookshelves and all the cabinetry was really nicely done with these radius pieces here, and, it’s pretty unusual it seems like on a boat of this age, it hasn’t been just all torn apart and redone at some point and it feels so nice to have some of this old furniture feel down here. The stains in the wood, and yet, the real luster of the beautiful, Paraguayan cedar. And a nice amount of space in between the two sides really makes for a great little social environment down here. So this is a little tell-tale compass that again was, on the boat when I got it, and it’s quite a handy feature when you’re at sea. You can, if the boat’s on the self-steer you can check down and make sure you’re still on your course. Again, I’ve grown accustomed to having such a great little detail here that there’s no real need to remove it, and appreciate having it there. Another instrument that’s original is the old barometer. That came on the boat and it has all it’s terminology in Spanish, and it’s in millimeters, the graduations. Little different than the inches we’re used to here, but still works just great. One of the original features of the boat is this flag rack, which has its complete set of signal flags. Something I don’t use too much anymore, but such a beautiful piece of original texture and history that I don’t have the heart to take it out, nor will I need to. Got good lockers underneath the deck, where those wide side decks gives you quite a bit of room. Nice navigational area here, also a good little kitchen prep zone. Always appreciated how this layout is simple, but you know, it just has worked so well, years. Plenty of stand up room here, underneath the companion way, so it’s where a lot of the cooking happens. It has this original cooper nickel treatment here around the galley with a raised sink, the salt water pump at the sink. This nice copper nickel work that’s lasted. The boat originally had a double gimbal single burner stove in this space, which worked great when we were at sea and on the cruise, but once we came up here to the northwest, there was a need to have some heat, and I converted the icebox to wood locker, and put a little wood stove in. So since the water’s so chilly up here, you could keep the beers underneath the berths for coolness, and have a little cooler for your other items, but something about having the warmth of the stove is such an important part, and I really appreciate this little Luna brick stove that I got and had a local craftman build up this stainless stove pipe. You know, instead of throwing something away every five years this is a permanent piece. You can just pull it out and clean it, and put it back in, and it’ll last forever. Okay. I remember sitting down with this one fellow, who had a trimaran in Tahiti and he goes, “how would you guys ever be able to go back to normal life “after having experienced this?” You know, it’s like, well, I don’t know, we’re ready to get jobs, and go to work, and stuff, that’s okay. But it was wonderful to be able to sail this boat at that time, you know? It was just simple, no instruments, other than the compass, and we had a RDF. No Ham radio, no depth sounder. None of the things that we really rely on, just a, and our wits about us. So it’s simple. It’s nice.



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