This story starts way back in 2004 on our old yacht Norlee, an S&S 39. We were anchored somewhere on the Queensland coast and on our way home to Fremantle. Having spent 2 and a half years circumnavigating Australia we had been on board and viewed from close range all manner of sailing vessels always thinking of how these boats fitted our idea of the perfect cruising yacht. Now Norlee was a great boat but the S&S style leans towards the compact and not the voluminous. We have lived aboard for 4 years and while relations were mostly harmonious, (divorce was never thought of but murder..........?????) we felt just a little more space, light and breathing room might ward off either option in a long term live aboard scenario. Anchored as we were and with not much to do we grabbed a sketch book and together drew up our “perfect cruising yacht”. It didn’t take a degree in naval engineering, just a wish list really gathered from countless sundowners on all manner of yachts. We had something in the 42-44 foot range, centre cockpit, aft cabin...big aft cabin and a tidy V berth for guest, and then the usual layout you see on most yachts. The final sketch looked like a smart boat, a good and practical cruising yacht that had space enough and was quick through the water. Now dear reader, we need to fast forward 12 months to around July 2005 and a lot has happened.
We got back to Fremantle after our much anticipated beating (both versions) down the West coast and, ...........how should I put it, were reconsidering our boating options. Maybe we could move to the country and grow our own vegies, have chooks, take out sailing DVDs and leave it at that. It didn’t last long and we were soon having thoughts of selling our beloved Norlee and looking for something bigger, a proper cruising yacht. We tried selling Norlee ourselves but all we managed to hook were shroud twangers, those curious folk who front up at the jetty gates on a balmy Sunday morning with absolutely no intention of buying any water born vessel but who think they might scam a free sail around Fremantle. You twig after a short time. The moment comes as you discuss the intimate detail of the electrics and watch as their eyes glaze over and the long suffering missus stares out to sea thinking......thinking... of ways she will get pay back from this totally pointless exercise. Better to leave it the hands of a broker. We arranged to meet said broker and he had a look over Norlee and drew up the usual paper work with inventory. It felt like we were selling our youngest child to some international slave ringor body parts dealer. How could we do this to our Norlee, our home, our protector, our sanctuary across the Southern Ocean and she had done everything we had asked of her....and more. Still, you move on.
In the meantime, Diana, the official “Boat Project Manager” was doing the usual scouring of internet sites, Saturday’s West and Trader Boat looking.....just looking....... for something interesting. Well, to be honest, there wasn’t much out there especially in the local scene. And then The Doctor quietly slipped into our lives. Diana saw it on Vicsail’s website and it seemed to tick a number of boxes, especially the price, reduced as it was from 175,000 to 145,000. We rang the broker and organised a viewing. It was after work and it meant a long day was going to be even longer but Diana was adamant we should see this, it might be interesting. It was. We got down to the end of C jetty at FSC,(why are they always on the end of C jetty??) and there was The Doctor, a sleek, flush decked centre cockpit that looked to be tugging at her mooring lines just desperate to be let loose. We climbed aboard noting with some early dismay the flaking deck paint, spongy rot around the chain plates and the general lack of TLC she had suffered. Down below was the same. Nobody had wiped a cloth over any surface area in a long time. As it turned out, the owner had used it as a bedroom while on work related duties from Melbourne, thinking if the job continued he would move his family over and start sailing it properly. The job didn’t work out and he was back in Melbourne trying to sell a yacht in WA that really needed some tidying up. He did take it to Rottnest one Saturday with some mates. The other doctor blew up on the way home and he got back in about 20 minutes, had some issues getting it back into the pen (read bent stanchion) and never sailed it again. The owners previous had done some extensive refitting and sailed her up to the Kimberleys where some of her strip planking started to stretch apart due to the dry weather and lack of glass inside the hull. They sailed her back to Fremantle with 2 reefs permanently in palce and had the whole inside glassed.
So there she was, a big, powerful yacht that when you sit on the push pit and observe her full size, as I did on many occasions, you think, as I did on many occasions, how are we ever going to manage this beast. We went back down below after the broker left and I pulled out the sketch pad. We looked in disbelief as the sketch we had drawn up matched almost exactly the layout of the Doctor. The only difference was a fractional rig as opposed to a mast head, oh......and the fact that it was a wooden boat. We were long time believers in the only wooden boat you should buy is the one you give to your worst enemy and so here we were contemplating that very thing. But hey, this was covered inside and out in layers of fibreglass so it’s kind of only half wood which seemed to make it a whole lot better. It needed some work but there was a lovely sense of space and solidness that came with this boat and we were gone for all money. Our trusted shipwright came on board and reassured us that all our fears of rot and decay were easily chopped out and replaced and that if he had the money, he would buy it!!!! Don’t you just love to hear that as you move ever closer to signing the deal? We put in an offer subject to the sail of our daughter, sorry Norlee and sat back and waited. In the meantime, we had figured out a way to get down below on the Doc and had taken to spending long winter afternoons down there or sitting in the huge cockpit having coffees dreaming, planning and very nearly throwing off the mooring lines.
Suddenly someone was interested in Norlee. He had his heart set on an S&S 39 and was looking for the best one in Perth. There was another up in Hillarys but we knew Norlee was the best and he eventually put in offer which was about what we had paid for her 6 years previous. Signing the papers was traumatic, we loved our daughter and we would miss her badly. The deed was done and one day we went down to our pen in Challenger Harbour and she was gone, a big empty space not just in the water but in our lives. Time to turn our attention to The Doctor.