For many years our family cruised the coastlines of Nantucket Sound and Lake Champlain in the east. Then, after our move to Vancouver, we cruised the Salish Sea, skipping along the beaches like sandpipers, enjoying the islands, villages and inlets. We cruised in both power and sail and our boats always reflected the best we could afford during those early times in our lives, when financial priorities dictated searching for older boats in the best possible condition. We sailed in dinghies and cruised in cuddy cabins and pocket cruisers, all beautifully maintained by previous owners. We motored in an outboard-powered 16-footer, a 25-foot cabin cruiser, and for a few years with a partner family, in an elegant 33-year-old, 36-foot, gas guzzling double-cabin cruiser. By 2020, the count was up to seven boats in 45 years. The constant annual upkeep and outfit- ting was always a labour of love, a pastime and a relief from the stresses of working life. And we were rewarded with reliable equipment which sustained our passion for boating.
Recently, I retired. As I got older— even though the work was familiar and enjoyable—it became more of a demand on a diminishing reserve of energy. In 2020, the latest boat was a beautiful old 27-foot cruising sailboat, which demanded a lot to maintain. The “kids,” now older and busy with their own lives, were often no longer available as crew. And single-handing her when nobody wanted to join me was becoming more and more challenging. Although she leaned magnificently to the wind, our range of cruising was rather limited by sailing speed. So, I decided to sell her, not knowing if there would be more boating in our future.
Looking ahead at the possibility of spending my later years onshore, and grounded especially by the Covid pandemic, it occurred to me that our family could finally afford a better, simpler and, hopefully, newer boat. With encouragement from all, the idea began to drive me, with the possibility that we could again cruise the coasts of the Salish Sea. The wish list was for something faster, with comfortable cruising capability, an outboard (no more inboard maintenance), a kicker for fishing and emergencies, and hopefully, a five-year warranty which could possibly take me into my 80s repair-free! However, I wasn’t alone in the market. Boating was seen as one of very few safe escapes from Covid isolation. A huge demand for new boats along with labour and material shortages drove prices up and created long delivery schedules.
But the end justified the means, and I persisted, filling endless hours over several months with research and technical comparisons. By the end of 2020 I had narrowed my search to a boat that seemed to fit the wish list, and a friend who owns one referred me to a dealer. Then began the negotiation which was a whole new experience for one who had been used to seeking surveys and teasing out hidden problems from previous owners when buying older boats.
To my delight, every detail from licensing to test running and breaking in the engines was included in the service. In June of 2021 the Ellen B II was delivered—a fast, worry-free Cutwater 24 capable of 30 knots, bringing the expanses of the Salish Sea within reasonable cruising range once again. And guess what! The “kids” and now the grandkids are back, joining me on the water once again. The experience of owning a new boat in my older years truly has justified saving the best for last.