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Trailer Sailors

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In This Section:

Sailing4.wmf (3046 bytes) Return To Home Page Yer just gettin' started. Click here to goto "Learning To Sail" instead.
WHEEL1.JPG (903 bytes) It's All About Self Sufficiency A sailor is a sailor, but trailer sailors have some unique traits.
WHEEL1.JPG (903 bytes) Trailering vs. Non-Trailering Common theme: Everything's a compromise!
WHEEL1.JPG (903 bytes) The Bite Of The Sailing Bug Nasty "No-see-ums" that leave you fantasizing fibreglass!
WHEEL1.JPG (903 bytes) From Hobby Farmer To... AKA "Finding Serendipity!"

It's All About Self Sufficiency

Have you ever driven by a lake or bay and spotted a lone sailboat gently drifting along and thought to yourself, "I'd really love to do that some day". Of course you have! Everyone has! That's what postcards are made of.

But the fact is, that while many possess the romantic dream of someday owning a sailboat, they believe it to be a past-time available only to the wealthy, certainly not within their own fiscal realm of possibility.

The sole purpose of this site is to dispel the "Required Wealth" myth, and to encourage you to follow your dream, by sharing in our experiences aboard Serendipity. (Stock photo, but it illustrates "The Dream" so well).

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Since we've began sailing, we've found that there are many types of sailors. Some are social and join clubs to not only sail but enjoy the camaraderie of others with like mind. Others are more competitive and sail in regatta's or regular club racing events. Still others are searching for a low cost past-time the whole family can enjoy. Some like the challenge of building a vessel, others prefer just being aboard, watching the goings on in marina or anchorage and reminiscing past voyages with whoever will listen. Some daysail short stints of 1 to 4 hours and others cruise overnight, weekends and longer. Ondine and I fall into the latter category, sometimes referred to as Trailerable Sailboat Cruisers.

What virtually all sailors have in common, is a love for being on the water and harnessing the power of the wind, while enjoying nature.

When you're outside this circle of people, you may consider the lifestyle unique and exclusive. However shortly after getting started, you quickly realize that you're not alone. Thousands enjoy sailing, be they young or old, rich or poor.

So what constitutes a trailer sailor? Well, I've been scolded in the past by attempting to tie it to a particular size or style of boat. The truth is that virtually any sailboat can be trailered, though some perhaps easier than others. Basically a trailer sailor is the person, not the boat, and that person prefers to be more self sufficient or to cruise distant waters without having to sail to get there, than his non-trailering brethren.

Trailering vs. Non Trailering

There are a number of advantages to trailer sailing, however there are likely an equal and opposite number of disadvantages. Every type boat and sailing style comes with compromises, and personal preference is rather objective in nature.

Trailering

Non-Trailering

Sail different areas more easily Sail familiar grounds more often
Can dock at a different location each season Easier "Where should we dock this year" decisions
Reduced slip, haulout and storage fees Prefer someone else do the work
Lower cost DIY maintenance and modifications Nearby help and professional boatyard service
Flexible annual cost Fixed annual cost
Typically smaller size for trailering ease Typically larger for increased comfort/convenience
Race different competitors and locales Enjoy club racing against same boats and crews

Some trailer sailors slip their boats or drysail (leave the boat on the trailer when not in use) at marina's and clubs, and then take the odd trailer sailor adventure on long weekends or holidays. Again it's difficult to generalize, but I believe those who take this approach actually sail more per season.

It's a rather long story how we became trailer sailors, but if you've truly got the bug, or think that you could, please continue through this passage, and enjoy our account of how we earned this honourable title.

The Bite of the Sailing Bug

My earliest sailing memory takes me back to 1973, when I was 13 years old. A friend and I were visiting a cottage on the Bay of Quinte, where they had a Sunfish, a small, lightweight, and very WET sailboat. We spent a couple of hours on it (or more accurately off it) that afternoon. That was it, the bug had bitten, only a couple of hours but the bug had bitten deep, although the affects were most latent.

Ondine spent summer weekends during her childhood aboard the family power boat, speeding to islands in Georgian Bay where they often tented overnight. Prior to Serendipity, Ondine had never set foot on a sailboat.

Ondine and I met in 1979 and in the summer of the following year, we visited her grandparents at their cottage on Georgian Bay. After a pleasant visit, we strolled down the lane to a nearby marina. As we walked the docks (little did we know what a past-time that would become) we came across a sailboat with a "For Sale" sign on it. We didn't know anything about sailboats or what kind this was, but we knew we couldn't afford the $10,000 asking price.

Unfortunately, we had no idea that it was possible to get into sailing regardless of personal wealth, so we gazed at her pleasing lines and declared, "Some day we'll own a sailboat!"

I can't count the number of times we repeated that declaration over the next sixteen years Every time we spent an afternoon near the water, we'd repeat to each other, "Some day we'll own a sailboat.

In 1993, after 13 years of marriage, without ever really having a honeymoon, in the midst of raising our two children, we scraped together what little money we had saved for each others Christmas present, and combined with the balance we had left on our Master Card, went on a trip to the Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Decameron resort for a week enjoying the sun and sand.

dominic.bmp (24878 bytes) One afternoon I took out a small sailboat, while Ondine watched from shore while chatting with friends that we had just met. It was just as well, as the wind was rather strong, and  with the little experience I had, managed to capsize the boat 3 times.

Fortunately, that childhood Sunfish experience came back to me in an instant and I managed to right the boat on my own, but after the third time I was exhausted.

Despite feeling somewhat embarrassed at my own lack of ability, it was awesome!

First solo sail in a fresh breeze near Boca Chica, about 15 miles from Santo Domingo.

Later in 1995, we were invited to a friends "End Of Season" cottage party. I spent the better half of the afternoon at the end of their dock, looking out over the water. Ondine came down after a while to see why I was being so anti-social and to check that I was alright. The fact was I wasn't. Though it had been 22 years since I was first bitten by the sailing bug, the venom had finally taken affect. "We should be out there", I said, pointing across the water, "I won't spend another summer without that sailboat we've always talked about". "Besides, with the kids going to college in a few years, if we don't do it now, we never will!"

From Hobby Farmer To Trailer Sailor

At first, it was difficult to find information about sailboats, living on a small hobby farm, near a tiny village, about 12 miles east of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Upon finding some "Boat For Sale" type magazines, we realized there were all kinds of styles, sizes, shapes, and price ranges. For the next few weeks, we visited every marina within a 100 mile radius, listening to anyone who would speak. Fortunately, most sailors like to talk about their boats.

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Our kids thought we were "obsessed", and they were right, but before long we had learned enough to determine what we should be looking for.

"Our Sailboat" had to be trailerable, as we might not always be able to pay for a full seasons marina slip, annual haulout, storage, and other boat yard fees.

"Our Sailboat" had to be large enough for weekend adventures and vacation cruises on "big water", yet our tow vehicle could only handle a trailer, boat, and gear up to 2500 lbs.

We started focusing on boats between 18 and 22 feet. We returned to every marina and yacht club but few had trailerable boats for sale. We extended our search to classified ads within 150 miles, and yet there was still very little to choose from.

One day, as I was expressing my frustration to a friend at work, he raised an eyebrow and declared that his sister had a small sailboat they tried to sell years before but had given up and stored it in their barn. He wasn’t sure what or how big it was, but he expected it was still for sale.

I called the number, and made an appointment to see it. It had been stored in the barn for 5 years, and had as many years worth of barn stuff all over it. Yet these were the original owners, had sailed her lightly, and just before storage the sails had been professionally cleaned and recut. The 3.9 hp Volvo Penta longshaft outboard couldn’t have had more than 50 hours on it. "This could be it", I thought.

When my wife, Ondine, laid eyes on it she declared, "It’s certainly is an odd looking sailboat! "Yes, this is probably going to be our boat, isn’t it?" Actually this sounded more like an expectation than a question.

We talked about it a bit, Ondine trying to look beyond the unusual appearance, while I looked her (the boat) over from stem to stern. While she didn’t have all the "stuff" some old salts in our travels suggested, what was there was in excellent condition.

However, the instant we heard the asking price my heart sank as I made my, "Well we’ll certainly think about it, she’s a fine boat", statement and drove away.

The next evening after dinner, we started thinking about what we would name our boat when we found her. Temporarily ignoring the bad luck prophesized, should one be so foolish to ever attempt to deceive the sea gods by changing a boats name, we struggled to make a list of ten names, none of them feeling quite right.

Finally, we  decided to consult Webster for the meaning of "Serendipity".

Serendipity - 1. lucky knack of finding important things by accident,

and from Funk and Wagnalls'

- the faculty of happening upon important discoveries when not in search of them.

The phone rang, and while Ondine left the room to answer it, I rolled the name off my tongue a few times. "Serendipity". "Serendipity". "That’s pretty cool", I thought.

Ondine returned to the room and said the phone was for me, "Serendipty’s owners are calling"!

We talked for a moment, and I said we really liked the boat, but we felt it was more than we could afford. Then I heard the words I was really hoping for, "Well, the price may be negotiable". We made an appointment to meet the next evening.

In the mean time, I had gathered up every evaluation list I had made for every boat we had looked at, and clipped classified ads of every similar sized and reasonably priced boat I could find.

When we met the next day, we talked some more, and I presented the evaluation list I had made for "Serendipity", and a few of the ad clips I had gathered, and waited. After a moment, almost apologizing that used boat prices we so low, I made my offer. It was lower than they expected, a lot lower. But quickly they came back with a counter offer that was exactly our predetermined upper limit. We had a deal! "Serendipity, was ours", and true to her name, quite unexpectedly!

farmer.bmp (58162 bytes) All the way home, our 19 year old "New" sailboat in tow, I mused at all that time we had spent looking and "Our Sailboat" was lying just six miles from our back yard.

Ondine looked over at me, with that coy look and said, "But the time spent and miles travelled weren’t in vain". "We would never have found her, nor known she was right, had we not gone through the exercise".

We pulled "Serendipity" up to our house, blocked the trailer, parked the truck and stood back admiring "Our Serendipity". When we went inside and sat down at the kitchen table, Ondine said those immortal words,
"Now all we have to do is figure out how to sail".

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