Last week I got the awful news that the J/29 I loved and cared for from 1996 through 2002 was abandoned by its owner in the Ferry Point marina. The marina took over the title of the boat and discovered that she had filled up with rainwater while sitting on land, destroying the interior. When boat yards are in a situation where they have taken title to a worthless boat, they cut them up and have them hauled off to the dump to free up space for paying customers. That is what happened to my poor baby.
I found out because over the years I have kept in touch with the guy who owned her before the last owner. As it happens I had travelled to see her a couple of times in recent years and I knew she had fallen into neglect. When I saw her in 2018 right after we sold Le Saberage she was in the water and had obviously not been sailed in many months or even years. I asked Peter to put me in touch with her owner to see if I could help fix her up and get her sold. The owner, who was reputed to be in poor health, never responded to Peter.
I realize that some people may view boats as material objects but I, for one, have a habit of developing very deep emotions for them. I guess in part it’s the joy of taking care them – like a pet owner. But in my personal experience these emotions grow as a result of the collective experiences one has aboard these boats. They are a setting – a stage – for fun and exciting experiences to happen. I proposed to Lisa and later married her on Jeopardy. We had countless adventures aboard her including winning the windy 2001 J/29 North American Championship and beating the much-maligned Hustler team in the process. We had countless late evening sails with friends and more than a few overnights to St. Michaels. All of these collective experiences grow the bond between man and object. To me beautiful boats are also works of art that grab and hold my gaze – and I can think of no other design that so often has that effect on me than the J/29. Until this day I spin around on my heels and stare whenever we come across one. And there’s magic and art in the way a great boat sails – in the J/29’s case, especially upwind. These boats are objects, yes, but they also bridge the gap between humans. The designer’s passions and dreams come alive through the graceful arch of a sheer line or the way she pivots over the tops of waves to drop into the trough on the other side. A beautiful design is the promise that many humans will have many wonderful adventures that in turn bond other humans together.
I loved this boat and cared for her fanatically while I was her steward. I lived in DC when I bought her in 1996, and more than once I got up in the middle of the night to drive to Annapolis because the winds were up and I need to be sure she was tied up right. I did that more than once at 2 or 3 AM and was happy to do it. Every winter I took her mast down and I covered her. During my restoration I had new handrails and winch bases fabricated from teak and then I varnished them. I painted her entire interior and had her cushions re covered in new fabric. You can find photos of the results here. She was hands-down one of the most beautiful and loved J/29s on earth when I sold her to go to business school in 2002.
When I learned of her fate last week I felt a mixture of grief and rage at such a senseless waste. If someone doesn’t have the time or the good health to use their boat, why don’t they sell her to someone who will love her? It’s absolutely appalling to think that this beautiful piece of art has been squandered.