by David Jr.
Although I grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay, after spending four years in Michigan I had almost forgotten just how much I loved being on the water. I had practically grown up in and on the water, but a few years in Michigan had convinced me that those times were over.
That attitude changed when I spent my first summer sailing on Lake Michigan in a 20' Chrysler sloop that my wife and I bought in July 2002. Although she wasn't the best looking boat, the Chrysler was affordable and ready to sail. Her swing keel made her especially suitable for trips close to shore where we would drop anchor and spend a lazy summer afternoon swimming and laying out on the beach - my wife's idea of a good day sailing. During that summer I must have sailed five days a week. Whenever the weather cooperated, I was on the water.
It wasn't long before I began thinking about how great it would be to have more boat, something better suited to real sailing - long-distance cruising, comfortable overnighting, with a galley and headroom. During the evening I began to search the internet, pretending that I had the money to even contemplate buying something bigger than the Chrysler - never mind that we didn't even have the money for the Chrysler.
Like my dad, I am attracted to classic lines. I searched internet classifieds for older Pearsons, Alberg 30's and 35's, Westsail 32's - the boat I grew up sailing on with my family - and the Cape Dory 36, my dad's favorite since the early 80s when he saw one at a boat show. It quickly became apparent that most of the boats were far too expensive for us to even consider, and the Cape Dory - what we really wanted - was way beyond our reach.
My dad had also been searching for a boat for about a year or so. In fact, he'd looked at a Cape Dory 36 in Florida by the name of Charisma II that he had fallen in love with. Unfortunately, she was worth every penny of the $80,000 asking price. My dad continued his search undaunted. In no time, he had a binder full of pictures and spec sheets for several CD36's for sale. We were dreaming and scheming.
During one of my internet searches I happened across a CD36 for sale on Cayuga Lake in Upstate New York that was priced lower than comparable CD36s. My parents happened to be visiting that weekend and I showed the listing to my dad. I was surprised by his sincere interest - I knew he wanted a boat, but I didn't think it would ever happen. We rattled off an email to the owner asking him if the boat was still for sale and some specifics about her condition. Our hearts leapt within us when we got a reply saying that the boat was still for sale. We couldn't believe that a Cape Dory 36 at that price and in her condition could still be on the market. Now the scheming began in earnest. How could we make this work? Where would we get the money? Was this what the family wants to do? Unbeknownst to me, some months earlier my parents had been talking about retirement, and they decided that they'd probably never have the money to buy a cottage on the lake, so my mom suggested, "Why don't we buy a sailboat?" My dad didn't need to hear another word - a boat it would be. Obviously, we'd keep the boat in St. Joseph since my parents live in Ohio, but how would that work?
After a few more emails over the next week or so, we arranged with the owner to meet him and take the boat for a sail over Labor Day weekend. Our expectation and excitement were almost uncontrollable. We had to be careful, though, not to get too excited over something that might not be.