On Friday I said goodbye to my first love.
Alchemy is the boat my husband owned as part of a partnership when I first met him. We raced her and cruised her in the way that you do before kids – long sail every day, always ending with a pub somewhere close by.
She is a J/35 and if you know J Boats you’ll know that she was sleek, sexy and oh so fast. You could be sitting on glass and all of a sudden see a few cats paws on the water. She would take them, slowly starting to ghost along, gently building and accelerating on the freshening breeze until you realised that you’re on a train and you should probably breathe again.
She looked after us in heavy winds too. I remember at least one memorable Swiftsure yacht race when it was just honking and we sailed up wind to the mark with a double reef in the main and blade (a small jib sail) up square waves to the mark, sitting on the rail all the way there and getting waves over our heads the whole way – which would be about 12 hours or so. We put the spinnaker up at the Neah Bay mark and surfed all the way back, I believe we hit 13 knots on the Speedo as we clung on for the ride home. On finally getting back to Victoria, we were one of the few boats that didn’t seem to be sporting a ‘spinnaker toupee’…. The head of the spinnaker attached to the halyard fluttering away at the top of the mast with a whole lot of nothing underneath it.
Then kids came along. One boy for us and three boys for our partner, so she became a family cruiser complete with kiddie netting on the lifelines. She is not a complicated boat, so there wasn’t much the kids could do to destroy her. We didn’t have running water or even hot water on the boat, I will always remember bathing A. In a Rubbermaid box on the dock next to the boat. Alchemy’s decks were wide and flat so there wasn’t much for an active toddler to trip over. A. Learned to climb the companionway ladder (not stairs, it’s a ladder) when he was exactly 12 months old, we watched him in horror on day one of a two week holiday as we realised that he would no longer be confined down below and that we had to be even more vigilant. We’ve so many wonderful memories of Alchemy that the decision to move on was always a bittersweet one.
It’s now 2 years since we decided to dissolve the partnership and sell, and in January it would have been 2 years since we put her on the market. People have come and looked at her and squawked a lot about the lack of headroom. It’s funny, but in the 10 years I sailed on her, the fact that I couldn’t stand up in some areas of the boat never really made our time less fun, nor did it make our adventures less adventuresome. She is a great boat at a great price, but really she is a great boat sitting at the dock for nearly 2 years.
We made the decision to move on after the summer. I could not think of a better cause to donate her too – the Disabled Sailing Association, who will sell her and the money will go to funding their programs. Owning a boat is never a shrewd financial decision but I won’t lie – I’m glad to move on, to stop cleaning, polishing and paying for her but It pains me that she is still tied to the dock and that we earned a tax refund instead of real money for her.
So this is a farewell to an old friend. There are lots of adventures left in the old girl for someone game enough for a thoroughbred. Our journey with her has ended and we walk away with a decade of stories that have enriched our lives in a way that a fist full of dollars could never have.