September. A month possessed of an uncertain identity. Today a reminder of summer, tomorrow hints of winter chill and damp are ushered on its shoulders. The whims of September make planning a challenge. With a warm southerly wind on a September Saturday, sailing is the order of the day. With a winter chill thoughts turn to staying warm and sailing southern waters. It was fitting that I headed to Buffalo, on a gray drizzly day.
This call to a boat could be seen as an impulsive event. But it was born of considerable thought. Susan and I had already decided (as much as these things can be decided) to spend a year cruising after we retired. To do so, of course, required a boat and we, well mostly I, had given considerable thought to the ideal craft.
Our plans were modest and did not include long offshore passages. For the most part we would be able to pick weather windows and not worry about storms at sea. There would be a few overnight passages across the Gulf of St Lawrence, down the coast and across to the Bahamas. A well found coastal cruiser would suit us. Buying and outfitting a boat is always a balance between the funds available, the cost of the boat and the cost of outfitting. What were we looking for?
Simply, a production boat with basic creature comforts, a good pedigree, well designed, well built and aesthetically pleasing would suit our needs. Size was important from several perspectives, small enough to be easily handled by a couple in their mid 60s and large enough to have a few creature comforts. About 36 feet seemed the right size. Draft was also an issue. Deep draft vessels sail better, but in the skinny water of the ICW or Bahamas they present a different challenge, keeping the keel out of the mud. Shoal draft it would have to be.
Our pockets are not deep, so price was a concern. Price was going to be a balance between the cost of the boat and the cost to equip it. A lightly equipped boat at a good price might not be a bargain once cruising essentials were added.
The long list began. An early contender was a Dickerson 37. The Dickerson was listed in Ferenc Mate’s Finest Yachts. A Yachtworld search showed a few for sale and sort of within our price range. Tartans and Calibers also appeared, as did Sabres. Each fell off the list for their reasons, save the Sabres.
The Dickersons, while attractive and well-built boats were too unique with limited support from other owners. Calibers had a lot of positive features, designed for cruising they had ample tankage and a reputation for being well built. However, after hanging out on the Caliber email list for a while, it was apparent that Calibers had shortcomings. Tartan 37s stayed on the list for a long while. A Sparkman and Stevens design it had a reputation for being a well heeled cruiser. A long production run meant many 37s were available at reasonable prices. In the end, the dark teak interior, while beautiful, was just too dark.
I first boarded a Sabre in the late 1980s at the New York Boat Show. A Sabre 34 Targa was on display and I was smitten. A quarter century later the promotional material still lives in a file drawer. Years later, at another boat show, I boarded a Sabre 362. I was smitten again, if only I could ever afford one. While it was not a 362 with its cherry interior, in 2001 I became the proud owner of a 1981 Sabre 30, Identity Crisis.
There, sitting in the Buffalo drizzle sat Whisper, a 1993 Sabre 362.
I called home. “Can I buy this boat? Do you want to see it first?”