The Next Boat Comes Home

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

So. We’d found and agreed upon The Next Boat. A Nimble Nomad, she’s a pretty little river trawler, needing only 18 inches of water under her keel and able to run up on a sandy beach.

A 45 HP Honda outboard powers her so quietly you can carry on normal conversation in the cabin.

Which is where the helm is. No more frying in the sun in an open stern, we’ll do our boating in the shade. Or out of the rain. A companionway (nautical for “door”) both fore and aft enables captain or crew to step out into deep cockpits from which to handle lines safely.

Ideal for a pair of senior mariners, this boat invariably suggests two adjectives -- “geriatric” and “cute” -- that I suspect Dave is tired of hearing applied to his vessel.

But it’s true. The boat has grab-rails and other safety provisions built in, and with its forest green scalloped canopy, it’s just plain cute.

The plan was that we’d bring her to Georgia from her location in Annapolis early last winter so we could have her ready for spring launching. We traded in a puny Toyota for a Jeep Grand Cherokee with the muscle to tow 3,500 pounds -- the whole point of a small boat is that we can tow it to waterways around the country.
Now size is relative. A 25-foot trawler looks awfully small when you’re working out sleeping arrangements and an adequate galley for two adults. But set her on a trailer and hitch her to the Jeep, and suddenly small becomes mammoth.

Dave wanted perfect weather and road conditions before he assayed to haul her home. As winter passed, he spent hours a day on The Weather Channel until he spotted a window of opportunity. It was late March before we hauled our new trailer to Maryland to pick up the boat.
He swears it was a piece of cake, but I left fingerprints in the Jeep’s arm-rest as the Titanic behind us start wagging the car. It happened only at certain speeds, downhill, and scared me to death.

Dave never failed to correct it quickly, however, even though that entailed the use of brakes. Conventional wisdom says to pull straight ahead, but surge-brakes make a difference. Apply them and both tow-vehicle and trailer slow down decisively.
At last our objective was secured and we had The Next Boat within easy reach of tools. During the loveliest spring in my memory, the overhaul began. I can honestly say those months were among the happiest of our marriage, planning, shopping, working, solving problems. Together.

First there was all the obvious stuff -- removing old varnish, sanding teak, buffing out the dark green paint of the hull, repainting the red bottom, and scrubbing to remove months of airborne soil from the white gel-coat.
The major construction projects at my insistence. To circumvent having to take down the dining table and rearrange cushions to make up a bed, we revised the portside bunk to become a settee by day, and built a neat oval table with a drop leaf that can remain in place when the settee is used as a bunk at night.
I wanted a cabinet I could store my laptop in, with a drop-down leaf on which to type or read electronic charts and still sit with Dave. Built to reflect the console on which the ship’s wheel and the compass are mounted, it’s a series of trapezoids, with virtually no right angles or parallel lines.

An engineer I am not, and several efforts to make kraft-paper patterns for Dave to turn into a plywood structure resulted in some truly dreadful failures and not a few heated discussions.
With no two planes quite parallel, and no way to be certain what’s level on a boat on a trailer, one relies heavily on eye-balling a project. Lesson learned: if a line looks slanted, regardless of what the spirit level says, slanted it is and slanted it will remain. Amazing what defects some well-placed trim can correct.

We installed teak dish shelves and a knife block and better access to the boat’s capacious storage bins, built a cutting board/lid for a food storage bin, added a fiddled shelf over Dave’s bunk to match the one over mine, installed reading lamps, a mirror, and a shelf for toiletries in the head.
We beat a weekly path from boat to hardware store to Home Depot and HomePlace, with telephonic detours to the marine supply catalogs, buying hinges, cane webbing, insect screening, and forest green place mats, napkins, galley towels. The small scale of a small boat provides ways to save, such as splitting one king-sized cotton blanket into two bunk-sized.

One day, Dave said, “Let’s get this boat in the water.” We had bought, built, or invented just about everything we needed to make The Next Boat our own -- except for a name.

As we peeled “Beachcomber” off her sides, we debated whether to stay with the name of her two immediate predecessors -- “Alice I” or “II” -- or choose one that includes all three of our daughters. “Three Girls”? An acronym of “MaryAliceJean”?

In the end, we decided not to forego family tradition. The decision made, we watched the sign maker work computer magic with Brush Script and forest green vinyl.
And a few days later, the steady hand of our friend Marquita shadowed with gold paint a name that remembers an absent child while acknowledging her sisters: “Alice III.”

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