Tranquility turns 50!

Sparkman & Stephens Columbia 29 Tranquility
Sparkman & Stephens Columbia 29 Tranquility

It’s been a while since the last time I posted about Tranquility. We have been sucked into different activities and duties on land, and even though projects were constantly happening on our boat, the engagement was not at the top levels. Now that we are facing a renovate wave of passion for our little craft, the levels of commitment and project management are springing back up. We may be able to resume cruising soon and this is what brings fresh to strong breeze to our endeavour, but we don’t want to say it too loud because like every sailor we are a bit superstitious.

The big event is that Tranquility turned 50 years old. Built in 1965 in Portsmouth, VA she is not immune to the inexorable effect of time passing and all our effort goes in the direction of making her a safe and pretty little boat. All across the world thousands of old boats sit abandoned in various stages of neglect, sometimes they are not even as old as Tranquility is. When we found her in a random yard of the South Coast of Massachussets two years ago, she was asking for help. Paul, the guy who sold us the boat, had a great vision for her and started a complete refit after she had been neglected for a few years. He eventually had to give up due to other projects happening in his life and put her for sale. We caught the ball.

Tranquility is the boat we fell in love with, she makes our heart sing and tickle our fancy when we imagine her at anchor in a quiet cove, floating over turquoise water. She is also the boat we could afford to buy, but it’s fair to say that she has a lot of competitors for that price range.  Both Kate and I were hooked the first time we saw her. Now that she is undoubtely the boat we own, we are trying to bring the best out of her, with our limitation of budget and knowledge.

In the past 50 years boat design and technology made great stride, as innovation never stops. Boat shows brings every year new shiny models with the latest improvements onboard. Even ten years old boats become quickly obsolete as bulding materials, safety gear and electronic components change every month, and the great circus of progress will make that boat turn in a less desiderable dream. Eventually will come the time when an expert will state that a boat has done her time and she’s not worthy to upkeep, as the price to bring her to current standards would exceed the convenience of purchase a new model. It happens with all our technology and goods: today nobody thinks it’s worthy to fix a pair of shoes, it’s easier to buy a new pair.

Why would somebody invest so much energy and money in an old boat? There is no pragmatism when it comes to sailing, at any level, and so boat restoration evades the usual categories of economical profit. Some people may think that you could recoup what you put in monetarily once you sell an old classic design in shipshape Bristol fashion. But this is just a mirage as boats have a tendency in not holding their value and they require expensive components and supplies to be kept in good shape. It doens’t matter how good is the boat. Millionaires know it too. Futuristic newly built Luxury Yachts depreciate very quickly too and chartering sometimes don’t even cover the running costs. For the haves, it is often a way to avoid taxation rather than a profitable business.

Luckily human discovered sailing thousands of years ago, and for how refined this art had become its basics are founded on simple principles. Older boat can still bring the emotions of a brand new model, for a fraction of the cost, plus an old boat can still benefit from newest improvement and accessories. With sufficient thought and effort, you will end up with a boat that satisfy your eyes and can be fitted to your requirements better than any new production could. This is the way we decided to take: starting with a bare-strip hull to reconfigure the boat as we prefer.

After coming down the East Coast with a partially complete boat we have learned two things. The first is that is surprising how little you need to enjoy cruising. The trip was in fact enjoyable and safe, even if some parts were installed along the way and others had never really been. The second is there are very important issues you want to address in order to fully enjoy your time. Trying on Tranquility we discovered what worked and what didn’t, what we liked and disliked, and that helped us establish priorities in  our project list. In the next weeks we are going to share some of these improvements, hoping that posting them publicly will help our legs keep pace with our desires.