I live a double life. On one side, I’m a marine journalist who can go through a multi-million-dollar yacht and find it riddled with flaws. With so many boats to cover and only so many pages to do so, my job not only encourages, but requires, me to be a boat snob of the highest order.
The truth is, I’m an entirely different person after putting the pen down and clocking out. The same guy who criticized every nook and cranny of an Italian motoryacht earlier that morning can be found puttering to the cove in an old sailboat that very same day.
While Dan the Editor would analyze every boat—its design mission, current market value and competitive set—Dan the Boater never met a boat he didn’t fall in love with. You may recall the Grady-White I wrote about a few months back. It was crawling with bees and left for dead, yet I tossed and turned for months, dreaming about restoring her. I imagined early morning fishing and afternoons nosed up to our favorite beach.
Then there was a Northcoast 24 that almost came into our lives. With only a V-berth and a porta-potty, she lacked the kind of accommodations we are looking for, yet that didn’t stop me from dreaming about towing her up to Maine and island hopping.
If there was one person who enabled my boat searching addiction more than anyone else, it was my old man. To date, he’s sent me 26 different boat listings ranging from outboard-powered weekenders to project boats as ambitious as Noah’s Ark itself.
Like an old flame, I kept finding myself searching for one boat that I’ve long had feelings for. She’s a Bertram 28. As per usual, there’s nothing about this boat that I don’t like. As a Bertram, she possesses the kind of sea cred an editor requires with lines any vain boat snob can appreciate. Twin engines, sleeping accommodations for four and enough cockpit space to fish or entertain with ease—I was smitten.
I learned about this boat years ago when I introduced myself to the owner of an immaculately restored 28. I started asking him about his restoration and even if I could climb aboard to have a look around. I then dragged Karen aboard. The owner told us of memories cruising with his family. The hook set just a bit deeper.
Last summer, I built up the courage to take the next step. I visited a 28 for sale in Rhode Island. My pulse quickened and palms started to sweat as I approached a truly beautiful boat. I met the owner, who happened to be my age; we hit it off immediately. We bonded over the fact that we both grew up boating. Unfortunately for the both of us, the walkthrough fell apart faster than you can say “take my money.” Everything I touched raised an issue. “Oh, that you just have to jiggle a bit.” “Yeah, I’ve been meaning to fix that.” “I have the parts for that somewhere if you want.” “If you do the hokey-pokey a few times water will eventually flow from that sink.”
Not one to give up, I joined the owner on a sea trial. I made it clear that I wasn’t sold on the boat, but he took me out anyway. Getting to handle the boat in confused seas reaffirmed that this is my type of vessel—I just didn’t love this particular one. We quickly broke it off but promised to stay friends.
Fast forward to a cool fall afternoon. I found another 28 nearby. Like a single teenager on a dating app who just swiped starboard, I checked my phone feverishly hoping to hear back from the owner.
Bzzz, bzzz. I snapped my phone open—or at least I would’ve for effect if flip phones were still around. “She’s on the hard and winterized, but you’re welcome to come down and look at her.”
I dragged Karen and our 3-week-old into the car bound for the boatyard. If this deal was going to happen, I’d need Karen’s buy-in; young Connor was my ace in the hole. The owner must have thought I was out of my mind—no judgment here—when I climbed onto the boat with a baby in his car seat.
“See Connor, this is where you’ll catch your first fish,” I said as Karen came within earshot. “And here’s where you can take in an afternoon nap and some cartoons.” I needn’t twist Karen’s arm too hard. She saw what I saw, what you see in all good boats: potential. A sea trial can’t come soon enough.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.
Since I was a kid, I’ve found enjoyment in writing about my boating adventures. I always enjoy revisiting old stories and bringing memories made on the water back to life. As I begin a new chapter in my boating life, and try to pass along the boating gene to my son Connor, I will be keeping a regular blog that can be found at boyandaboat.com. I hope you’ll enjoy a more intimate view of my boating life there. —Daniel Harding Jr.