The Big Switch

We will never forget the feel of a boat under sail, but we
welcomed a change to the convenience of power.

By Edward P. Stafford

    Steering northeast ten miles offshore, we were bound from Gloucester, Mass., to Portland, Me., and Casco Bay. We had passed the Isles of Shoals, abeam to port, just before noon. The wind was from dead ahead (the anemometer wavering between 15 and 20) and kicking up a three-to-four foot chop which ran diagonally across the long ground swells rolling in from the east. Visibility was about a mile in light fog under low, dark clouds. At intervals of ten or 15 minutes, light, wind-driven showers rattled across the deck. And even in early July, the cold, wet wind had an unwelcome bite.
    In the pilothouse the reverse-cycle air-conditioning unit, humming on “warm,” took the chill out of the afternoon, and when the showers struck, the windshield wipers helped maintain what visibility there was. I sat in the helmsman’s chair


monitoring the autopilot and glancing occasionally at the changing digital display of latitude and longitude on the loran. Every half hour I plotted our position and changed course as necessary. Inboard of the loran, radar on a 16-mile scale showed the irregular coastline to port, with Cape Elizabeth converging toward the bow. Directly over the wheel and compass, on the boat’s centerline, another digital display showed depth in fathoms under the keel. From the 70-channel VHF to starboard came the comforting sounds of other boats calling each other on Channel 16 and then switching to other frequencies for conversation. Just aft and to starboard my wife sat sat on the watch berth reading the cautions and comments about Casco Bay, in the Waterway Guide, ready when needed to take over the chart and


guide us safely into port.  
    At 1700 we picked up a morning off Eagle Island in Casco Bay, having threaded our way between half a dozen, rocky, surf-ringed islands looming out of the gray mists a mile or less away. With the engine and electronics shut down, we moved down from the pilothouse to the saloon for a pre-dinner martini “on the rocks” from the icemaker. At 1800, with the generator rumbling sturdily, my wife fired up the microwave and dinner was on in time to enjoy network news on TV at 0630. It had been a routine passage with a pleasant ending, even in heavy weather.

Sharlee II (above), a seaworthy Kadey Krogen 42, is a comfortable home afloat and a dependable cruiser in any weather.

    For seven years before we moved aboard the Sharlee II in April of 1984, we had owned and enjoyed the original Sharlee, a spacious yet cozy sloop-rigged Columbia 34. While we were far from bluewater voyagers, we had cruised extensively in the Chesapeake and had make a round-trip from Annapolis to Florida via the Intercoastal Waterway. From those years of sailing we knew what that Gloucester-to-Casco Bay passage in that weather would have been like under sail – taking the chop first over one bow, then the other, ducking under the bimini for protection, taking the wind and rain in the eyes and sweating out landfalls. And finally, with the ice in the box melted, trying to enjoy a warm beer before pumping up the alcohol stove to prepare a dinner – which would not have been steak.  Still, when the time came to fulfill the dream of a lifetime and more aboard a boat, free of all the encumbrances of shore life, we found it hard to give up the idea of sail, with its effectively unlimited range, operating economy, relative quiet and peace, and its overriding sense of unity and identity with the sea and the elements. There is undeniably something very special about being under sail at sea and knowing that the sounds of the bow wave, the gurgle of the wake, the wind in the rigging, are sounds that every seaman has heard on every ocean of our planet since man first hollowed out a log and set a bark-mat sail.
    Yet, there can come a time in one’s life when the trimming and re-trimming of sails becomes more a chore than a pleasure. It is then that it is very satisfying to be able to rule a course line on the chart and turn on the engine with every expectation that you will arrive at your destination on or close to your ETA.

    Nevertheless, in our two-year search for a seaworthy, long-range, economical, comfortable, manageable and affordable home


Her large, well-lighted pleasant living area includes a well-equipped galley.

Uncluttered fore and sidedecks permit easy access fore and aft to tend gear.


Wheelhouse offers excellent full view for maneuvering,
and up-to-date equipment.


Hull's fine entry, deep forefoot and long keel with
nice run aft make yacht seakindly.

afloat, we investigated a lot of boats with sails. Eventually, however, we decided on a trawler-type yacht, with our pocketbook proscribing anything over about forty-four feet.
    All that spring and summer, while we spruced up our home and our Columbia 34 and put them on the market, we planned how we would outfit, provision, stow and decorate a new power cruiser, and the voyages we would take in her.
    Our search continued into the fall; then, in October, through sheer serendipity, we saw just what we wanted at the Annapolis Boat Show. Her dimensions were 42’4” x 39’6” x 15’ x 4’7”. From a high, solid-looking bow her decks and bulwarks swept aft gracefully to a slightly rounded stern. There was a spacious upper deck that extended all the way aft to provide shelter of an open area abaft the cabin. She had a large, pleasant saloon with fully equipped galley, two staterooms with head and shower, and a commodious pilothouse. I especially liked the big, reliable six-cylinder diesel and the deep and well-protected propeller, as well as her sturdy anchor platform housing two anchors and an electrically operated windlass.
    The more we looked, the better we liked her, but we soon discovered that she would exceed our budget when we added the extra gear we wanted. So we called a marine surveyor and asked him if he knew of any available Kadey Krogen 42s – for that is what she was. “Funny you should mention that boat,” he said, “I was out on sea trials on one today.” And that was it. The following spring we moved aboard our “new” used boat and quickly became involved  in the work we knew had to be done. Try to conceive of moving from a fully furnished four-bedroom home aboard a forty-two foot yacht. We gave things away; we sold, loaned and stored things and stashed others in a safe deposit box. And we took some things with us. That required a lot of decision making and trafficking back and forth.

    Aboard the Krogen, the generator, heads, shower and heaters all needed repairs, and when we filled the water tanks we somehow also filled the bilges. There were myriad other time-consuming tasks – the boat’s name to be changed
dinghy chocks reshaped to fit our dinghy, a loose water heater to be screwed down, and all-too-many other chores.
      But with the help of the local yacht yard, one week after moving aboard we were almost ready to get under way on our first passage – destination Charleston, S.C. It was Easter Sunday, a day of glorious rebirth which should have been auspicious – but it was not.
    We backed out of the slip precisely at 0805, the first time (except for ten minutes of turning her in circles out in the open water five months before) that we had ever handled our new floating home. Exactly fifteen minutes later we began bumping through the river mud a hundred yards or so outside the channel. I had misread the channel markers.

"Funny you should mention the Kadey Krogen 42, " he said. "I was out on sea trials today."

 But we powered on through, digging a trench in the bottom, and safely reentered the channel. By a little after 1000 we were purring comfortably down Chesapeake Bay. The Bay was calm under a high overcast. On the advice of the previous owner, we were running at 1,500 r.p.m., a power setting that I understood him to say would give us a speed of eight m.p.h. However, it didn’t quite work out that way.

    By 1200 we were experiencing rain and increasing headwinds and by 1800 we were navigating by radar. At 1930 it was dark and raining hard, the wind out of the northeast at 20 knots. But our progress down the Bay had been steady and now through the murk the radar and an occasional glimpse of a flashing white light showed Windmill Point Lighthouse at the mouth of the Rappahannock River two miles on the starboard
beam. It was another 30 minutes on the same heading to the buoy at the river mouth, but we had to be sure it was buoy number two. Misidentification could mean piling up on the tongue of sand and mud that makes out from the point to the lighthouse. So we
  passed the  buoy close aboard and verified. As we came to a new heading around the buoy the short, steep seas which had been astern were now on the starboard beam, giving us a lurching roll that made it difficult even to stand. At that point I began to feel sorry for, but increasingly admiring of my wife, Charlene. From experience as navigator in the navy, I had complete confidence in the radar. She lacked that experience. For her, reality was the drumming of the cold rain on the cabin top, the streaming windshield, the cresting seas, the pitch dark and the incessant cursed rolling. Yet, I heard no hysterics or even complaints. That steadied my nerves.
    Slowly but steadily we picked up each buoy on schedule, finally coming into the lee of the point and calmer seas. At 2030 we picked up buoy number six, which meant only a mile and a half between us and the tranquil safety of the harbor and those long awaited steaks and martinis. But in the continuing wind and rain this proved to be the most difficult part of the passage. However, by using extreme caution as we nosed into the harbor entrance, and with the resourceful help of Charlene, who suddenly appeared at my side wielding a flashlight, we safely maneuvered the channel into the peaceful landlocked basin.
    At 2115, still in our soaking clothes but relaxed, we were in a local restaurant enjoying martinis, steaks sizzling on the fire, and peering into the rain filled darkness from which we had come, thankful to be where we were. Just across the dock, unscathed and somehow now really ours, gleamed the white hull and distinctive bow of the Krogen- our gallant new sea-going home.
    For us, the big switch was the right one.

Edward Stafford, Commander, USN (Ret.) has a 20-year history of freelance writing on nautical subjects.

Reprinted with permission from Yachting magazine.