Yarrrrrh, what is it about these salty vessels that maketh us to take leave of our senses, overlook obvious incompatibilities, and spend days in frenetic and impassioned research? Yup, I did it again: got myself seduced by a ship with character, style, superb construction, solid design, and a level of WQ (Weirdness Quotient) somewhere way out on the asymptote of marine architecture.

This 52-foot 3-masted Colvin junk triggered another bout of Nautical Dementia (to use Dave Wright’s apropos term for this disorder). For a week I immersed myself in aerodynamics of the Chinese lugsail, designs of the venerable Tom Colvin, galvanic isolation of aluminum hulls, and the ever-amusing politics of dealing with yacht brokers. (I think the latter all read the same textbook, for no matter what boat strikes my fancy, there always seems to be “a guy” who just showed up and is about to make a competing offer. I gotta find that guy, and tell him to stop following me around!)

Anyway, this is really a beauty as sailboats go, and the junk rig is famous for being easy to manage when cruising: it reefs quickly, is easy to balance, and even takes the place of a wind-vane self-steerer. They have a reputation for not going to windward all that well, but that’s only in comparison to fresh-cut Bermuda rigs… not the tired and stretched sails that one typically sees Out There away from the racing circuits and well-equipped chandleries. In other words, it suits me perfectly, since I’ve called myself the “exact opposite of a racer” ever since the Winnebiko days.

There’s more: Tsai Hung is about as shoal-draft as a monohull of that scale can get, drawing only 4 feet and change. She’d even take to the beach without a problem, if done with a touch of finesse.

So why this tone of regret? It’s because I never got around to getting myself bonzai’d during my growth spurt in the late ’60s, and thus find myself with a 76-inch mass of sore-backed gangly protoplasm that needs to be shoehorned into hulls designed for those of average height. Marine architecture is rife with trade-offs, including many that involve juggling freeboard, and designers don’t usually go out of their way to make sure that the occasional tall sailor won’t bump his fool head.

To some extent, I can live with this; I fully expect to duck through passageways and fold myself into painful angles when it comes time to peer at the Racors or swap out an impeller. But when a boat offers virtually nowhere I can stand erect, and I find myself scheming to raise the entire roof or drop the sole into the bilge, then we’re veering dangerously into the territory of Big Projects.

And here there be dragons.

So, it is with a reluctance reminiscent of turning down an alluring lover (which I surely must have done at some point in the past, although memory fails…), I have had to say no to the coquettish Tsai Hung. All the others on Yachtworld suddenly seem so ordinary… white boats with blue sail covers, cranked out by the foot, cut to length, and priced accordingly. But it is time to GO, damn it, not saddle myself with massive to-do lists involving welding, joinery, rig modification to compensate for the added windage of my amateur hacks, and those countless oops events that inevitably fall out of the most well-intentioned little tweak.

The quest continues….


  1. Anonymous on September 2, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    heh. dude… I am so buying this boat!

  2. Steve Roberts on September 2, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Excellent… she’s a great ship!

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