Creative photos and essays from the San Juan Islands


Jim’s Big Boats

Jim's Big Boats

These two photographs, made to advertise these vessels for sale, show the two largest boats I’ve owned. The upper boat is a 40 foot motorsailer built in Florida. Coming up the coast to Friday Harbor from California…twice…proved its mettle at sea. I appreciated the layout and all the teak doors and trim below, but I constantly had to fight rainwater leaks from windows and the deck. And was this boat ever maneuverable! It is a sailboat on a motorboat hull, and unlike most sailboats, this one would turn on a dime and back up beautifully. It is now owned by an engineer from Everett, WA. He uses it for relaxation, and since it’s on a mooring bouy, the cost of ownership is minimal.

The other shot is of a 34 foot commercial gillnetter built in Canada and converted to pleasure use by the man who fished it. Wood boats are more work to maintain than fiberglass boats, but there’s an ambiance that is different, and most agree, better. I sold this boat to a Friday Harbor B&B owner, who, after pouring money into it, sold it for less than he paid for it to a couple in Gig Harbor who love wood boats and were happy to take over the stewardship of this old girl.

An old saying goes like this: The best two days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells it. I’ve never had buyer’s regret, but I have often had seller’s regret! So other than having the money to move on to another boat and start the first part of the equation all over again, or relief in not having to maintain and moor a boat, I can’t recommend the “happy selling day.”

Lessons have been learned about owning bigger boats: Unless you can save money by putting the boat on a mooring bouy, the moorage bill for a larger vessel at the dock can be quite expensive. It’s assumed that if you can afford a boat, you can afford the moorage, and I’ve always been frustrated that the Port indexes their moorage to Seattle, an urban market rather than our rural one. Indeed, sometimes you can’t even give away a very large boat for that reason, hundreds and hundreds of dollars each month to own it at the dock.

Then there’s the meaning of ‘b-o-a-t,’ bring on another thousand (dollars.) I’m pleased to announce that I’m having a ball with my current new boat, a 12 foot kayak. Practically no maintenance, and cheap moorage ($27/month) allow me to use it often due to the ease of launching at the Port of Friday Harbor. Another advantage to small boats is they can go into tiny coves, under bridges, and be carried on a car or truck to lakes and other adventure venues.

I DO still own a 31 foot Cruise-a-Home houseboat which I was going to sell but decided not to because I know I’ll never be able to replace it. It’s killing me with monthly moorage payments, but ultimately I’m hoping ownership will prove a good “plan B” should I lose my gig at the assisted living facility for some reason. I have always believed in being prepared.

Photo locations: Upper and middle Friday Harbor, San Juan Island.


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