Sometimes you have to go through a few boats to find the right one. That was the case with Jerry and Rebecca McRorie’s Skagit Express Cruiser, Rosario. They’d owned numerous boats before, but when they saw Rosario, it was love at first sight.
She’s called Rosario and she has lived her entire 55 years in the Northwest corner of the Pacific Northwest. Born in 1957 in the tiny town of LaConner, Wash., some 60 miles north of Seattle, she’s something of a homebody.
Rosario is a Skagit Express Cruiser some 16 or 17 feet long (depending on how she’s measured). The title says 16. The manufacturer called her a 17.
She now lives on Lummi Island about 20 miles by water north of where she was built. My wife, Rebecca, and I purchased her from a friend who had restored her to better than new. In 2009, after hearing our sad story with another boat we owned, our friend said he would sell us Rosario at a price so reasonable, in my opinion, that we jumped in our truck, checkbook in hand, and drove some 100 miles to where he lived.
It was love at first sight. It was great to hear Rebecca saying, “Jerry, I want this boat!” because I wanted it, too.
The owner we’ll call Chuck, because that is his name, started up the motor, a 50 horsepower Evinrude twin, and we listened to her purr. Out came the checkbook and the boat, trailer and motor were hooked to our truck.
I had owned boats all my adult life, starting with an eight-foot wood pram, followed by three 12-foot aluminum boats and two inflatables, all used for fishing the lakes of Washington State for trout. Then a friend introduced me to sailing and I built a 17-foot daysailer. My wife wasn’t fond of that boat. It heeled over when the wind blew and she was only comfortable with boats that rode upright.
So, I bought a beamier wooden lapstrake 18-foot sailboat which, combined with wind and my lack of sailing skills, made Rebecca happy only on calm days. The next boat was a 24-foot Fiberform on which we traveled the neighboring San Juan Islands, with a number of fishing trips into the Canadian Gulf Islands. We parted with it when we bought a small general store on Lummi Island and had no time for boats.
Some years after selling the store we were back to little aluminum fishing boats until we were offered a 1961 18-foot Larson. The boat was free but motor repairs, a trailer and a new transom, full canvas and seat cushions quickly brought the expense to $6,000. When the rebuilt motor kept giving trouble, we got rid of it for 1/10th what we had invested.
I believe what we like best about Rosario is impossible to answer. The fact that the motor starts when called upon and runs economically is important to me. The cuteness of it and the fact it was built the same year Rebecca was born appeals to her. Rosario fits us. She is safely sitting on a trailer in front of our house when not in use. No more having a mooring buoy come loose and trips looking for our lost boat.
Nothing we know now about the boat would have changed our minds about buying her, although a different shape to her bottom or a good way to attach canvas to keep spray from blowing on us would be nice. We can’t run with some newer boats even as small as ours when the sea gets choppy.
One trip comes to mind that was an unforgettable experience. We took our Golden Retriever dog with us on an overnight camping trip on the boat. We tied to a DNR mooring buoy well out in a shallow bay. Now, two people, a small camp stove, a couple of ice chests and a port-a-potty pretty well filled the little boat, but we slept quite well. Next morning, before leaving for home, we decided to beach the boat to potty our dog. I knew the tide was heading out but I figured five or 10 minutes wouldn’t make much difference.
When we got back to Rosario, she was already hard aground. I waded in the muck and tried to raise the motor so I could slide her to deeper water. The prop was already half-buried and it wouldn’t lift. I tried my cell phone to call BoatUS to take advantage of my towing insurance. Cell was dead. Got on VHF but no response, so I called the Coast Guard and asked them to contact the tow service.
I stayed on the radio and soon they asked if we were in any danger. I mention that we weren’t in any danger but I am diabetic and dependent on insulin. I had only brought along enough to get me through breakfast and it would be about 10 hours. Within a short time, a Coast Guard boat arrived in the bay towing a very unofficial-looking dinghy. The man in uniform boarded the dinghy and rowed to within about 50 feet of our boat which was now that far from the water.
Wearing rubber boots, he managed to wallow through the muck to our boat. The approved plan was to take us to our home some 10 miles away, where I could get more insulin and some food, and then back to the boat to wait for high tide. I slogged to the dinghy and he rowed me to the waiting boat. Then he went back for Rebecca and our dog. He carried the dog to the dinghy while my wife plodded along beside them. Firing up a pair of 200-horsepower Hondas we were home in a matter of minutes.
Then back to the bay and an even longer slog for all to our boat. The Coast Guard stood by in a larger vessel and called on the VHF every half-hour until the tide rose enough that I could free the prop from the mud, push the bow toward the water and slide it into enough water to start the outboard. When we got home, VesselAlert had called the house and asked if we still were in need of assistance.
Where would I like to take our boat? We have enough islands with parks and harbors to last a lifetime within a couple of hours from our house. I’m thinking we’ll do most of our boating right around home.
What if someone were to give me $10,000 to spend on our boat? Well, the boat is about as good as it can get so I guess I’d buy a new four-cycle outboard to push it around.
And suppose I could have any other boat? Well, if I had the money, it would be a Secret Cove 24 built by Island Boat Shop on the Olympic Peninsula. Based on the raised deck classics of the 1920s, it is a camping cruiser powered by a 25-horsepower, four-cycle outboard in an enclosed well. Just the right size for Rebecca and, I along with our dog and cat. Our life is complete now, but could it be completer?
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