The Black Dolphin, Spencer S-28, for Sale for a Minute — Now Not

I popped open the Craigslist boat sale section, as I occasionally do just to see what’s hopping, and lo and behold, I found another Spencer-28, The Black Dolphin, for sale up on Whidbey, and immediately set about seeing the vessel in person in a bay and not just on stilts.

She took my breath away. 

So modestly graceful on the exterior, while her interior has a homespun elegance that made David joke about buying her on the spot so we can have two, side by side in matching slips.

This is how artists like things: Grace Kelly on a budget. I could be here forever. Check out the tile backdrop of that perfectly sized wood-burning stove. It likes chips and kindling, bits of wood-working debris such as a carpenter like Blake would have on hand, and keeps the whole thing warm, all eighty square feet of it. 

The boat sits very high on the water compared to contemporary sloops. One of the potential buyers of our boat commented that this would indicate a dry boat — water not splashing onto the deck quite as much, especially from behind. The after-market aluminum toe rails can be seen in the first photo of the Black Dolphin, enabling the water to escape. 

We are currently debating the situation with the toe rails on our boat. We know they are coming off, because the front part were broken off in an accident. It’s a question of how long this refit will take, and will we even want a puny girl sloop when David gets finished. 

Justin Hirsch called our boat “seakindly,” which means the motion of the vessel is not that conducive to seasickness. 

I asked the owner, Blake Mennella, how she sails. He replied that she is very sensitive, and that one should reef early, reef often with her.

He also lamented the outboard; in choppy seas it is not ideal. That is probably true of any sailing vessel. These are day sailers and that is probably what should rightly be expected of a sixty-year-old yacht — if that. A lot of these boats have perfectly interesting lives in boat yards and country lawns alone. I hope to be reporting on that further. Besides my own hull, of course. 

For that reason, I beseeched David to consider putting the engine back in and selling the outboard we have. He looked the old block over last night, and said it seems to be all there, but in bad shape. He is already planning to take a diesel mechanics class at some point to be able to work on our boat. Now that’s some serious “honey do.” ETA splash: 2023 at this point, that date probably revised as things get more and more perfect, which I like and ought to encourage. Soon she will be a Fabergé egg that never sees corrosion in salt and certainly not a spot of soil, kind of like those perfect, frustrated motorcycles behind plexiglass. 

David is so very fine at everything he does, as well as being a professional builder with a girlfriend who likes the buildings that are boats — and rattling his cage in a blog. I would remind everyone that the great comedian Phyllis Diller built part of her act lampooning a husband she nicknamed “Fang.” He is part of the act now. 

There are many harbingers of the usual progression with boats. There is always the next one and it is always better. The next boat will make me happy like nothing ever else has. We are feeling it, but, wait. We should take a deep breath and resist the fatal lure of the shiny gelcoat and the boat loan. 

Isn’t our boat also a writer’s office in Georgetown that never leaves South Park? That could happen, too, if I don’t play my cards right. And still on stilts. 

David recently hiked 20 miles through the Enchantments. They didn’t make it up to Asgard Pass on account of avalanche conditions, but I did have some worried moments in the nursing assistants’ staff room over what was going on with no cell coverage and ten thousand feet of elevation with nothing but what they carried. 

We might end up with that situation in boats. I welcome some of that, but not dealing with the Pacific outside the Sound. Coastal cruising looks like something you do if you don’t have a continental plate to deal with. Florida is my bet — where all the sane boats are. We'd just need an air conditioner and a steel boat hook to keep the alligators off.

There is always the challenge of perfecting an art. I think the art we should perfect is that of clear thinking in the face of obsession, and leave the rest to What if?

Blake was having trouble parting with the Black Dolphin — this is his second unsuccessful attempt, and I can attest to the conflict between practicality and a boat — and says he is working on a boat share with some friends, so she is not fully for sale but a possible fractional situation is in the offing.

© Joann L. Farias 2023