Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shiriri Saga #2. The search for the right boat.

Under a light dusting of snow, the trim little 32` steel cutter was for sale at our local wharf. "Perfect"! we thought and arranged for the owner to show it to us. We were launched into the beginning phases of making our dream of an independent sailing life come true and this first prospect was close to home.
While browsing through the boat ads, we had also been researching in sailing magazines and books to prepare for this most important of purchases. We were now ready to start looking in earnest! "Steel is good," we said, "fairly new,..." : we had a list of desirable qualities a yard long. We also expected a lot of boat for a very limited budget. There were to be difficulties ahead. This boat for example, had been built with a larger cockpit than the original design called for. That made it great for coastal summer sailing, but for our specialized oceangoing needs the original design with a smaller cockpit and larger cabin would have been best. The price was a little high.

We kept on looking for two more years: most boats were coastal boats, after all and I suspect that we were so full of book learned prejudices that we passed by some nice yachts that could have been adapted if only we could have seen their possibilities. We were ready to give up when we saw an ad. for a large, recently built, traditional wooden schooner over on the mainland. In desperation we put our specifications list to one side and off we went on the ferry.
The schooner sat on the hard and towered above the other boats. The broker was late, so we walked around her. We craned our necks to take in the long bowsprit, tall pole masts and elegant transom stern. The winter gale flapped the slime green tattered sails and from our vantage point we missed the grimy decks and cockpit partially filled with a hearty brew of seagull spiced stagnant water. People who were not as desperate as us would have run while they had the chance!

We did`nt of course. By the time the broker arrived, we had already convinced ourselves. Compared to all the many boats we had looked at, this really was a proper ship! After conducting our own survey we made a very low offer, waited for several months and she was ours.
Buying a boat is a form of falling in love. No matter what the practicalities are, if the beloved fits the seekers dream image, then all those little nagging worries about character and expensive habits are swept aside as fixable once the marriage is consumated. So it was with the schooner we came to call Shiriri and, contrary to all realistic expectations, we were rewarded in the end, with a brave and beautiful ship who would take good care of us for years to come.

Note: Mount Shiriri was not far from where we taught in the Rupununi district of Guyana. South America. We first saw it while on a camping trip with some local ranchers, Charlie and Edwina Melville, and were impressed to hear that it was a holy mountain. Only the Piaiman ( Shaman) could go to this special mountain to make all well between the Gods and the local Indian people. We were so impressed that we vowed that if we ever had a boat that could carry a name like that, we would name it Shiriri.

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