It actually had happened last summer, but a Facebook memory triggered me into writing about it.  The memory went back to 2019.  I was cleaning out our old boat, Sabine, to get her ready to sell.  I brought a few bins and tote bags with me, figuring how much stuff could we have possibly stashed into a boat we had for 17 years?  I quickly filled all those totes and bins.  Because there was a lot of stuff.  Because we had this boat for 17 years. And there were dozens of little nooks and crannies we jammed all manner of everything into. 

Sabine was supposed to be THE boat.  We bought her in 2002 from a man who was selling her in Noank, CT—not so far from where we live.  She was a 1976 Island Trader ketch rig.  She looked like a pirate ship with all that wood trim on it.  Ketch rig means that she has 2 masts.  The forward one is the one we attach the jib (the sail in the front of the boat) and the main (the sail attached to a boom in the center of the boat).  And then there’s another mast behind the forward one called the mizzen mast.  It’s shorter and also has a sail on a boom that is smaller than the main sail, called the mizzen sail. 

Sabine the Island Trader was the 3rd boat we ever had.  ( Here's a story about our first boat. )   We quickly learned that this new boat wasn’t all that she was cracked up to be, and thus began 17 years of restoration.  The engine, a Perkins diesel, refused to stay running and would randomly and inconveniently conk out.  Todd did things like bleeding injector lines but it was too far gone. We replaced the engine.  Basically every single winter we did a major project: replaced the entire potable water system, the fuel tanks, tiled the shower, replaced all the floors because the prior owner had sprayed foam to make the floors seem like they weren’t rotted and eventually the foam compressed revealing that the floors were rotted.  We replaced the main mast step with a white oak one that we’d made in our workshop. The one that was in the boat was a literal jack that you’d use to change a tire on a car.  We replaced rotting wood, we painted, we took off the teak decks, we had the teak railing lifted off and had resin poured underneath it to stop it from raining inside the boat.  We did everything to this boat.  Everything.

It sounds like an immense amount of work.  And it really was.  But we did it together, and that’s what made it so much fun.  Every year we still sailed on some amazing trips.  We went to New York City, then up the Hudson, then into the Champlain Canal and into Lake Champlain. We went to Salem, Massachusetts, to Provincetown, to Martha’s Vineyard and Cuttyhunk.  And then we started to wonder what else was out there for us.

Then in 2018 the voice of my friend Maggie, former owner of New England Yacht Rigging, was in my head. Early on when we bought this boat, and we’d been working hard, we were in Maggie’s shop ordering some part for some big tear out project.  Maggie had said to me “This boat is a ton of work. You won’t always want to do this.” I replied that of course I’d always want to do this.  She smirked, knowingly, and said “That’s what I love about you.”

It was June 2018 and it was hot out.  Sabine was on her mooring and we were doing that year’s big project.  The teak floor supporting the toilet, and the wall opposite the toilet had rotted.  We had gotten in the habit of leaving the porthole in that room open to keep air circulating, and years of that had taken its toll.   We pulled out the toilet and then yanked out the floor beneath it.  Because we were on the mooring, and not on a dock, a bathroom was not nearby.  It was hot and I was purposely not drinking enough water because I had no way to relieve myself unless I went ashore and walked somewhere.  I was thirsty and grouchy.  Todd suggested I take a break and drink some water.  I whirled around and faced him and asked, in an appalling irrational way, “And what the hell am I supposed to do with this water after I drink it? There is no toilet here!”  Maggie was right. As much as I loved Sabine, I didn’t want to do it anymore.  As fun as restoring a boat was, I didn’t want to deal with some massive pain in the ass project every season—in addition to all the normal commissioning stuff we do every spring.  I was over it. 

We reassembled the floor, I painted varnish on it, and we replaced the wall and clamped new panels glued into place. Then we went sailing that season, not knowing it would be our last season with Sabine.  That fall we learned of a charter company across the bay in Barrington that was having a demo sail on a Fontaine Pajot catamaran.  We were hooked and put Sabine on the market, which them led to me cleaning her out the following May.

We sold Sabine in 2019 and also bought our own Fontaine Pajot catamaran in 2019 and sailed her up from Fort Lauderdale.  Then the man we sold Sabine to sold her to a couple from Nova Scotia who bought her sight unseen during the pandemic.  Due to travel restrictions, they couldn’t travel here and bought her on faith alone. She sat in the back corner of the boat yard.  We knew she’d been sold, and we wondered when the new owners would come to claim her. We checked on her periodically to make sure that she was covered for the winter and that she was safe.

Then in the summer of 2022 the Nova Scotians came to town.  Todd had given the boat broker his number and suggested that if the new owners had any questions he’d be available to help—seeing as how we know every single inch of that boat.  We’d torn her down to the fiberglass on more than one occasion in those 17 years.  For a week every day after work Todd went to the boat yard to walk the new owners, Sean and Elana, through the systems on the boat—the systems he’d designed himself.  He helped them get the engine started, he explained how things worked. Sean and his friend Pierre were going to sail her to Nova Scotia, and we helped get her ready. 

The night before they were due to set out, we helped them pull the boat out of the slip and brought her to our mooring for the night.  Our boat was in Boston at the time, so our seasonal mooring was empty.  While they would be traveling north to Nova Scotia we’d be traveling south back from Boston to Rhode Island.  I got tears in my eyes as we put her sails up on the way to the mooring.  So much of who Todd and I are as a couple was forged on that boat.  We worked together there, we entertained each other there, we argued there, we supported and loved each other there.  I always said that when we sold Sabine the new owner would have to take her far away from there because it would break my heart if I knew she wasn’t being cared for.  And then the moment came when she was going far away, and my heart broke just a little bit at that too.  I went back below decks and took a deep inhale of her fragrance—the diesel mixing in with the teak.  I kissed my fingers and pressed my hand on the teak and whispered “Good bye, sweet girl.”

That weekend, on Saturday, we untied the mooring lines in Boston Harbor on Rising Tide—our catamaran who replaced Sabine.  We were going to sail back to RI over that weekend.  The day before Sean and Pierre left with Sabine, and they anchored for the night just south of the Cape Cod Canal.  By the time we were approaching the canal Todd had said “If my calculations are correct, they should be just north of the canal, maybe we’ll see them.” He called them, and sure enough they were.

I scanned the horizon and then got a better look with the binoculars.  “There!” Todd pointed.  “That spot on the horizon, northeast of the canal had to be them.  We aimed in that direction and sure enough it was. 

Thanks for everything you ever taught me, Sabine.  Not only about sailing, and navigation, and fixing stuff, but also about life.



BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.