This might surprise those of you who know that less than four years ago, after looking high and low for a boat in the Northwest and beyond, we went down to Mexico, bought an Island Packet 38, decommissioned it ourselves, had it trucked to Seattle and put it back together, a lengthy process I wrote extensively about.
It might seem crazy that we’d sell our lovely Island Packet 38, Three Sheets. I understand that, because it seems a little crazy to me too. But sometimes it takes spending a little time on a boat to figure out what aspects of it work for you and which don’t.
That was the case with Three Sheets. We lived on it four-plus months last summer and discovered it lacked some features we wanted and had some others we weren’t too keen on.
The boat sailed and handled well. That wasn’t a problem. It was the galley that proved the biggest drawback. It has practically no counter space and very little storage, aside from a cupboard under the companionway and a big open space under the sink, the only place to keep anything bigger than a lunch plate. That meant I was constantly shoving my arm in there and fishing around for the salad spinner or a plate. As someone who likes to cook, I found that crazy-making.
Plus, the only two drawers in the galley were just deep enough to hold a spatula or two, so I dumped all my kitchen utensils in a big wicker basket with a lid that I had to haul out anytime I did any real cooking. Again, crazy-making.
Lest I sound like a privileged person who’s fretting about the layout of her boat when there are plenty of people with real issues to worry about, I am aware of how trivial my complaints might sound. First-world problems, for sure. And when we bought the boat, we were so happy and relieved to find a good bluewater boat we liked and could afford — even if it was all the way down in Mexico — I suppose I overlooked the galley’s shortcomings.
But it wasn’t just the galley, which we figured we could modify to create some extra storage. We realized that while the boat had vast amounts of deep storage, there was a lot of wasted space inside — above the hanging lockers and behind the settees, for example — that could be better put to use as storage.
And the openness of the salon, which we’d originally liked, started feeling a little cold. The settee is straight on both sides, with a diagonally curved end on the starboard side that doubles as an aft-facing seat at the nav station. The absence of a L-shaped or U-shaped settee meant people couldn’t sit around the table the way they could in our previous boat.
The heads were another issue. The boat has two of them, which seems a waste of space on a 38-foot boat, particularly since neither has a shower stall. Two heads and no shower stall. Why, Island Packet, WHY?
The forward head has a track with a shower curtain, but no matter how careful we were, each time we showered water got everywhere and we had to wipe down the entire head. We tried to figure out how to build in a shower stall, but with all that molded fiberglass and a need to keep the middle of the head clear to access the anchor locker — and neither of us being engineers — it didn’t seem feasible.
And there were two major projects we considered necessary before going offshore. One was replacing the water tank, which is aluminum and prone to leaks. That would require ripping up the cabin sole to get at the tank. The other was replacing the chainplates, which are bonded to the hull and fully encapsulated in fiberglass. But accessing them requires tearing out much of the salon furniture (for an idea of how fun that project is, check out this link).
Over the summer, the list of must-do and want-to-do projects piled up. Meanwhile, we were spending time across the fairway on our friends Heidi and Kirk’s boat, Due West, a Passport 40. They’ve owned the boat for 20 years, lived aboard for almost 10 and seem deliriously happy with it. Most boaters I know seem to regard their boats as a compromise in some way, but not these two. They LOVE their boat.
It’s not hard to see why. It’s a solidly built bluewater cruiser that has a reputation as a good sailing vessel that’s easy-to-handle with a small crew. And down below it’s lovely and cozy, with beautiful teak everywhere. The layout is almost exactly like our previous boat, a Robert Perry-designed Islander Freeport. Marty recently read a book by Perry about his designs and discovered that he designed the Passport 40 as a bigger version of the Freeport 36. No wonder we were drawn to it.
One look at the Passport galley and I had instant galley envy. It had ample counter space, numerous cupboards and drawers — oh my, the drawers! I instantly began picturing myself in that galley, baking bread while anchored out in some quiet harbor.
We’d long liked Passports, but after almost buying a Tayana 42 which we discovered during the survey to be covered in blisters like a teenager with a bad case of acne, we were advised to avoid Taiwanese-boats built during the 1980s. And boats with teak decks, which most Passport 40s have. Gun-shy after that debacle, we set our sights on an Island Packet.
And when we found Three Sheets, she was the perfect boat for us, at least at the time. She was essentially the rebound boat; she had the bluewater capabilities our Islander Freeport lacked but not the issues that drove us away from the Tayana. And as is often the case with a rebound relationship, we eventually started to wonder if Three Sheets might be a more perfect match for someone else.
After moving back into our townhouse in the fall, we started thinking about the work we needed and wanted to do to our boat. And we started wondering, if that much compromising and customization and work is needed to get the boat where we want it to be, is it really the right boat for us?
We skirted the issue for a while, neither of us, I think, wanting to acknowledge that our perfectly fine offshore boat might just not be perfect for us. But in early January, we had an honest talk about it and decided that we’d put Three Sheets on the market in the spring and see what happened.
The very next day — I kid you not — on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Marty walked into the living room holding his iPhone and looking like he’d just opened the front door to find a pot of gold sitting there with a leprechaun on top.
“Oh my god,” he said. “You won’t believe the email I just got.”
It was from a couple in Oregon who’d found Marty’s name on an Island Packet owners forum and, noticing that he lives in Seattle, emailed him to say they were looking for an older Island Packet 38 and wondered if he knew of any for sale on the West Coast.
Out of the blue it came, just like that. If that isn’t kismet, I don’t know what is.
On Wednesday, we’ll tell you what happened next after that fateful email. Stay tuned.