Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sailboat Story

This is an ongoing story about a sailboat, a 1968 Ericson 30, which I named Narrow Escape. Sometimes the story will be about day sailing, or trips to Catalina Island, mostly single-handed sailing. There will be a little bit about cruising class racing. There will be a lot about restoring an old boat, including making an old Albin gas engine reliable once more. Replacing and adding hardware and electronics will also receive some attention. So will refinishing cracked and crazed gelcoat. And sometimes it'll be about just hanging around the boat and the marina, special places both.

The story will not be about crossing oceans or planning to sail around the world or even to Baja, not that this boat isn't capable of all those things with some preparation. Voyages don't fit in with everything else that is part of my life. Narrow Escape provides my principal form of recreation, but not the only one. That probably makes me a lot like a lot of other people who own and enjoy boats.

I don't know the former name or names of this vessel. It had none when I bought it in September 2005. It is hull number 57 of the Ericson 30 line, which was the first of many boats that Bruce King designed for Ericson Yachts. The company and the boats enjoyed a fine reputation from the sixties into the eighties, when the Southern California yacht-building industry withered. Pacific Seacraft bought Ericson's assets and built a couple models for awhile. But it stopped doing that in the early 1990s to focus on building its own lines of cruising sailboats which have earned their own fine reputations, among them the Crealock 34. Pacific Seacraft used to have an Ericson section on its website. But at the moment the company's website is undergoing reconstruction, with no link to Ericson material and no indication if there will be one in the future.

What I know of this Ericson 30 is that it was based in San Francisco Bay until about 2003, when it carried its owner and family south as far as Avalon on Catalina Island. I could make out the shadow of its former hailing port, Redwood City, on the transom. Apparently a voyage to Mexico was the plan, but engine problems and perhaps other issues prompted the owner to call a Long Beach boat broker from Avalon with a plea to sell the boat -- immediately!

As luck would have it, the broker had a friend looking for a sailboat. They went to Avalon, struck a deal on the spot, and motored and sailed home after somehow starting the engine despite a dead battery. The broker recalls being able to hand crank it. But by the time I acquired the boat nearly two years later from a successor owner, no crank was aboard. Nor can I see how it ever could have been done.

What I do know is that when I bought the boat the inboard engine was not working, although the seller assured me that it had been rebuilt and had some parts receipts as evidence. Meanwhile he had invested in a Nissan 9.8 hp electric-start outboard, and a transom-mounted bracket.

The inboard did, indeed, look rebuilt with a good coat of paint, a clean engine compartment, and a plausible story about a problem with the carburetor that seemed like an easy fix to me. Besides, the outboard worked fine.

As I was telling the seller that I would buy his boat, I thought back many years to the time when I bought a VW Squareback that would barely run. That seller gratefully accepted my lowball offer. Then I drove the VW a few discrete blocks away, opened the engine compartment, freed up the stuck automatic choke, and it ran beautifully thereafter for many thousands of miles. I had visions of similar good fortune with the Ericson.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, I'm no sailor by far, yet myself little brother and two cousins sailed an ericson 30 with no moter or lights from richmond bay to bruno's island. it took us 15 1/2 hours and the last part was in the dark. I had that boat on it's side and let me tell you there is no better feeling than that. we'll be fixing it up and doing alot more your sight is a major part to us. the motor most of all. it is firing but no gas is getting to the plugs. keep up the sight, I use it.