Lessons Learned


Adventuress, at the Tacoma Maritime Museum. At least Flying Gull isn’t this big.

Now that the debacle that was Flying Gull is almost over, except for the wishing it had worked out part, we’ve had time to reflect on what we learned about ourselves from that little situation. We’ve had time to go over in our minds what it was about that boat that made us go so far as to risk, and then lose, a goodly sum of money in order to take a chance on her, and what it is that she represents to us that makes us still sad that it didn’t work out.

Today’s post is written from our windy anchorage off Vashon Island. We took Moonrise out into this fine weather we have today, 80 degrees and a small craft advisory with winds gusting to 28 knots. We had all kinds of fun getting here, practicing our heavy weather sailing skills! And as this is my first time on Moonrise since the test sail on Flying Gull it seemed a good time to reflect on what I loved about that boat.

She’s a Big Girl 

The most surprising thing is that I like bigger boats. I never even considered wanting a boat that big until I met the Gull. We were looking for a boat in the 39-40 foot range, certainly not 55 feet. And now that doesn’t seem all that big to me. That fact is scary just a bit, but only because I know the costs go up with a larger vessel. Still, now that I’ve been on that boat, our Cal 34 certainly feels small to me. I simply cannot wrap my head around the idea of going offshore in this boat after being on Flying Gull. She felt strong and safe, her motion was gentle (from what limited experience I had on board her).  It was a little like riding on the back of a whale. So you’ll not be surprised when, in the future, we look at boats that are larger than 40 feet. Maybe it was actually because of her size rather than in spite of it that I liked her the moment I stepped on board.

Mike's turn at the wheel.

Mike’s turn at the wheel.

A Lovely Room With a View

And then there was the wheelhouse. If I had to choose one thing about that boat that sold me right off the bat, it was the wheelhouse. I cannot express enough how much I loved that cabin. It’s true that it also presented some problems, such as having a difficult entry that was off center to the boat. But the idea of being able to get in out of the weather and still enjoy a view and be able to steer the boat seemed like a dream come true to me.  Not having a way to get in from weather means that the brunt of steering and sailing many times has fallen to Mike, who has more of a tolerance for being cold and wet than I do. And it’s not only the cold and wet times that count, it’s also just getting out of the wind and sun. I like sailing, and I like being in the wind, but when it goes on for hours and hours with no let up and there is no way to get protected from it, it wears me out. Even today I would have loved to have a wheelhouse.

There are plenty of sailboats with a pilothouse around, but it’s rare to find one where the pilothouse actually looks GOOD on the boat and adds to the design rather than looking like someone added a box to the top of an otherwise beautiful hull. And I’ve never seen one that offered the space that this one did. That might be an issue at sea, where you might want to have added handholds for safely moving about, but at anchor or around here it would be dead wonderful! Whereas most of the pilothouses I’ve seen probably detract from the sailing features of a boat, this one would not have. It seemed like having my cake and eating it, too.

In addition, anyone up in the Pacific Northwest knows that we have very few months out of the year where it’s comfortable to sit in an open cockpit. This means that our boat gets used precious little during the fall, winter, and early spring. So… most of the year she sits at the dock. I guess that’s why so many people have motorboats up here. But we don’t want that. We like sailing. And having this wheelhouse would have guaranteed that we would use the boat more, even if it was harder to get her out of the slip.

These are the conditions that greeted us today as we entered Commencement Bay. Wierd! Seemed more like the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Big waves, high wind.

These are the conditions that greeted us today as we entered Commencement Bay. Weird! Seemed more like the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Big waves, high wind.

Flexible Accommodations

Flying Gull had room for my whole family to be together without being on top of one another. I’ve said it before: this is important to me. From the first we have been looking at boats with two cabins for this very reason.  I know there are many people who do not want to encourage guests on their boat. But if those guests are my kids and their friends, I want to encourage it. Her cabins were multipurpose, except for the captain’s quarters, deemed the ‘Ricky and Lucy’ cabin. The forward berth could have doubled as a workshop. The navigation room had berths for two and doubled as a second salon with a dining table. I consider the wheelhouse to be the ‘first’ salon.

Working for a Living

Flying Gull offered multiple possibilities for working from the boat. This is something that I have considered many times, but Moonrise is not set up well for that. I’ve seen a couple of clients on Moonrise, but it’s just not very satisfying. Flying Gull, on the other hand, would have been the perfect office for me. The wheelhouse is large enough to see clients comfortably, and there is even a boarding gangplank that is original to the boat, making access to the deck an easy thing. I had pretty clear visions of closing up my office when my lease is up next year and moving it onto the boat.

The navigation area is actually a true desk, complete with a space for hanging file folders. As I write this post, we are anchored on Moonrise in windy conditions just off Vashon Island. I’m using the fold down table inside the cabin because it’s so windy that I can’t work outside. On Flying Gull Mike and I would have had a dedicated place to write and for me to do the paperwork ubiquitous to my practice. Mike is a programmer and has considered that after he finishes up being handcuffed to Boeing he might take on some contract work that he could do from the boat. That nav station would have been perfect for him. And, of course, if I wanted to work from the wheelhouse, I would have a protected 360 degree water view. I could keep an eye on the boat and my surroundings and also type this post. Excuse me while I heave a great big sigh.

Just practicing with my longer lens from the front of the boat. Hanging on with one arm, photographing with the other. Fun times.

Just practicing with my longer lens from the front of the boat. Hanging on with one arm, photographing with the other. Fun times.

A Classic Beauty

What else is there to say about this? We like boats that have classic lines. We want to look at our own boat and sigh with wonder.

A Woman of Character

This really speaks to that whole ‘feeling’ thing that no one can adequately describe.  I remember the first time we saw our house. It was a complete mess. The woman who lived there was in her 90’s and was slowly being poisoned by carbon monoxide, such was the state of the furnace. There was cat pee on the walls. They were covered in nicotine residue. It had popcorn ceilings that had seen better days.  And that was just the EASY stuff! I know people thought we were nuts moving from a recently completed, beautiful house into this one. But this house offered things our previous home did not.  And there was that ‘feeling’ about the house. We knew we’d have to do a lot of work and we were right. Looking at the photos of it now, you would hardly know it was the same house.

But it is. We had the ‘feeling’ about that house. It had good bones, and it just felt like a happy house, in spite of the sadness of the state of the woman living there, and in spite of the fact that her husband had suffered from alzheimers disease. The house itself felt happy and solid. It had a good structure, but needed some repairs, and certainly it needed to be remodeled. Now it’s really a lovely home and is an asset to the neighborhood instead of being an eyesore.

Maybe that’s how we felt about Flying Gull. Certainly her history gives her a ‘coolness factor’ that cannot be bought for any money. We like a house with history, and I guess we like a boat with history. She has character. Sometimes that means more work, but the rewards are priceless.

If you get the idea from this post that I’m still sprung on that boat, you’d be right. I have to stop writing about it or I’ll talk myself right back into wanting her again. I hope we can find another boat that has enough of the features of Flying Gull to make the walking away worth it.

Just a small sample of what was NOT there when we moved into this house.

Just a small sample of what was NOT there when we moved into this house.

13 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. Melissa: I concur with your thoughts about the advantages of a bigger boat. I was on the water today as well, out of Shilshole, single handing our Westsail 32, reflecting how much easier it is to sail than our previous 26 footer. A steady platform, easy self steering by tying off the tiller or using the auto helm, doesn’t change course when you go forward to mess with the sails. The pilot house I like is the Fisher 34, but I’m guessing it is more of a motor sailer than a sailboat with a pilot house.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Will. Yes, your Westsail is more than twice the weight of our Cal 34, and out on the sound yesterday I could really tell that a heavier boat would have been just as fun, but not as tiring. We really did feel rode hard and put away wet at the end of the day, but the sailing was fun. I imagine it takes more than the wind we had to put you Westsail’s rail in the water, but Moonrise had it there several times. I might enjoy that on a day sail, but I think at sea it would get tiring pretty fast. Of course, at sea we’d probably have those sails set a different way.
    You are right about the Fishers, I believe those are motor sailers.
    Checking out your blog! What a fun trip it looks like. We’ve read the posts down to San Diego so far.

  3. Glad you enjoyed a nice day of sailing on Moonrise, and at least you now know what you’d like in your next boat. You want to spend time sailing that next boat … not fixing it up for years. =)

    • Indeed! 🙂 But we will definitely check out the Sceptre 41/43. That looks like a sweet boat! Will check out your blog, too! Thanks very much for posting.

      • The Sceptre is a pretty heavily built boat (though not “heavy”). Way more solid platform than our previous C&C 38. We found going from 38 feet to 41 feet gave us a huge (!) increase in interior space. But I couldn’t imagine going to 45 or 50 feet! So much boat to handle; so much to maintain… so much work and $$… :O

        • Yes, that’s for sure. But I can totally imagine it. it would be a learning curve, but in the long run I think I would like it. Still, it was more about that particular boat than about it being 55 feet. I think we will be looking in the 45 foot range anyhow. The Sceptre is a nice boat. I think they are a bit out of our price range, though. it’s always a challenge to find the right boat at the right price. We’d like to be able to keep our house, and that puts limits that otherwise would not exist. We’ll see how that pans out.

  4. I can totally relate with going after something that has that “good feeling”, or “good bone” as you call it. We did that with Sundowner. Sure there were other boats out there in better condition for a little more, but we LOVED the way the boat made us FEEL. We knew it had been around the world many times and it seemed to exude this mysterious sense of self, purpose. It feels like she is alive to me and that is something you can’t buy. Almost like maybe she would protect us in our journey.

    Tate feels this way too as his last house was a fixer upper from the 1930’s. The house just FELT right, deep and meaningful.

    I really hope you find these things you want in a boat out there in better shape. I CAN’T WAIT to see that blog post. But in the meantime I enjoy seeing you guys attempting to get seasick and battle the waves of the NW.

  5. +1 on the Sceptre…my dream boat. I spoke with an owner once and he said “you can put up all the canvas you want in the cockpit but you’re still outside”. Made sense to me. A small heat pump could provide heat or cooling depending on your latitude.

  6. I can’t wait to WRITE that post! Yes, I imagine Tate’s house was hard to let go of. I know we struggle with whether to sell or to rent out our house, and that struggle is on many levels. That love of the feeling embedded deeply in the grain of your boat will see you through the stressful times, as we discovered in our house remodels. I still think we could have pulled off Flying Gull, but we just chose to step away from that kind of work. For now.

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