I spied a rowboat in the distance. I tried to remain nonchalant and kept at my drawing as it approached the island. “Is that your canoe down there?” the rower asked me. Canoe? Didn’t he recognize my guideboat, the Terrapin, as a rowing craft?
As far as I knew I had been the only person on Hope Island all day, how could there be a canoe down there? After briefly talking to this newcomer to my island, I crept down to the shore and sure enough there was an abandoned plastic canoe, partially filled with water. That was somewhat of a relief, I remember thinking, maybe I might talk to this guy after all.
Turns out he was a pretty interesting fellow who knew many things about boats. Andy was his name. We chatted about sailing, rowing, currents, and about my growing fixation with getting a sailboat. I explained that I really wanted a boat that was big enough to carry my family and some camping gear, yet small enough to trailer with my existing car, singlehand, store in my skinny driveway, and row or skull: no motor desired. Perhaps a tall order, but one that I felt that I might find with some luck trolling Craigslist for long enough.
The next day Andy handed me a piece of paper with the names of small boat designers Iain Oughtred and John Welsford. I had heard those names, but didn’t really know too much about their boats, which can’t be purchased off the showroom floor: you have to build them or have them built. Realizing that while I can do some basic carpentry, I have neither the skill or the time to build something that I’d risk my life in, I figured I’d stick with my original plan of trolling the internet.
For months we swapped e-mails and links for boats for sale from Canada to California. What about this one? How well would that one work? There were ugly plywood dories, tubby catboats, clunky wooden sailboats. Each had something, but none of them were quite right. Come late fall, I was starting to give up hope.