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Why Did You Chose Ithaka?

By The Ithaka - Published August 26, 2005 - Viewed 1196 times

Why Did You Chose Ithaka?

What made you think Ithaka was the right boat for you guys to live on go offshore cruising?
- Ann Peckham, Encinitas, California

From Douglas: Bernadette and I spent more than eight months trudging painfully up and down the Eastern seaboard looking at various boats and being continuously disappointed before we gratefully found what emerged as the right one for us. During that time we were often exulted and discouraged, nearly giving up once, and out of desperation almost buying a very popular but dreadful looking boat that we would have forever regretted. During that time our criteria evolved as we learned more about what we felt we needed and didn't need, and what we liked and didn't like and about specific brands that had once caught our fancy but for a variety of reasons did not look so hot under the practical microscope of "Is this really the best boat? Is this really the right boat?"

We had a number of factors on which we easily compromised and others that were non-negotiable. For instance, we didn't want teak decks. (We got them, re-caulked them and now they're just fine, thank you.) We didn't want a lot of systems. (We ended up with two very independent refrigeration systems: a 12 volt and an engine driven, but beautifully installed. Humph.) Bernadette wanted a scoop transom with built-in ladder and shower area. (Nope. We got a beautiful champagne-glass stern, and no place to sit, but the perfect set-up for the self-steering vane.) We wanted a keel stepped mast. (No, again, but an excellent deck-stepped mast installation.) We wanted a separate stall shower. (Nope. But we're not heading North, and we do have a perfectly good shower in the cockpit.) We knew we wanted something 38-45 feet. (We got 39'8")

We refused to compromise on what we came to call the "momma nature" factor. Can mamma nature kick the daylights out of this boat and it will be just fine? As Bernadette said in one of her essays, we wanted something seriously robust, a boat whose strength would help compensate for our inevitable shortcomings and errors. We found a magnificently over-built, heavily constructed, well-tested, gorgeous vessel with attributes that far surpassed what we first looked for. Separate shower stalls became small potatoes.

Our requirements were financial, practical and aesthetic. In the long run we endedup spending more than we had expected because in the current boom there are boatloads of yuppies out there looking at boatloads of boats, and that keeps the market high and the brokers happy. We found early on we could not rely on one broker to find our boat. It is, after all, our boat, and that made it our job to find it, which meant doing our own homework. This seems a symbolically useful lesson regarding this entire enterprise. Our trip. Our responsibility.

One hears agonizing tales of the great good fortune of someone's cousin's brother-in-law who found his dreamboat in a divorce/distress sale for $20,000. (Bastards.) There may be boats like this out there, but we surely never stumbled on any and, as with everything else, there comes a crucial intersection of time and money. Which one are you willing to spend more of? Also, there's cachet and inflated expense with certain brand names. In my curmudgeonly way I'd rather snip the external labels off my clothes than be a walking billboard for some corporation not paying me for the favor.

On a practical level, we wanted a vessel that we could handle easily as a couple. We both favor cutter rigs for just that reason. Also, while neither of us is much a racer, we wanted to be able to rack up the miles every day. And, we definitely did not want a major project boat. I all too well remember my first house and the renovations I did there. One of my friends commented after the second year that he knew I had made some progress when I had finally moved into my bedroom and replaced the wheelbarrow with a vacuum cleaner. I also recall the wooden boat I lived on 25 years ago. I rarely sanded and sailed on the same day, and I did not enjoy sistering the ribs or scarfing planks. Every vessel needs upgrades and alterations, but we didn't want to spend a year doing them. Most importantly we wanted a sturdily built boat that had a track record of serious cruising and not just an advertisement that said it was capable of such.

To be sure, beauty is always defined in the most intensely personal ways. We KNEW-really knew this time-that we wanted our boat to be a beautiful space in which to live together, both above and below decks. As one of our friends said, "When you step into that dinghy and row somewhere, you want to look back and smile."

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