They say the two happiest days for a boat owner are the day he buys the boat and the day he sells her. But how does the boat feel about this? I have had a few owners since coming out of my mold and expect I will have a few more before I either sink or am finally left to rot in some yard. These days, I ride on a mooring behind the breakwater in Sag Harbor, a town with a long history of sailors and whalers. Call me Calypso…
Some years ago – never mind how long precisely — my fiberglass hull was formed by the now defunct Seafarer Company. A man bought it bare and began adding my cabin and rigging but died before getting very far. I waited on a cradle until another man, Bob, paid a small sum to the first man’s estate and had me delivered to his house in East Patchogue.
Bob thought he would finish the job with a friend and launch me into Great South Bay the following spring. They soon discovered the work was so shoddy they had to rip everything out and start from scratch. They began deconstructing me and planned a better layout.
But after six months, Bob’s friend burned out. Then Bob was elected chairman of the math department at Brookhaven Lab. For four years, my enormous white hull sat in his driveway. A wooden ladder sat perched on my gunwale. Cobwebs gathered in my cockpit. I looked like a relic whose time had come and gone, and I had not even been launched. The only thing Bob did for me after that was give me a name. He didn’t know about Jacques Cousteau’s ship. He chose Calypso because she was the sea nymph who kept Odysseus exiled on an island before setting him free.
When Bob came to see his son, Richard, graduate from college, Richard introduced him to Dave, a friend who’d grown up around boats and was looking for something to do after graduation. They arranged for Dave to live in a camper in Bob’s backyard and work on me fulltime while Bob pitched in on weekends.
That summer, they climbed up the ladder to brush away the cobwebs. They made progress but often disagreed on how to proceed. Dave worked out measurements quickly on scraps of paper before major moves like installing my bulkhead. Bob labored for days drafting, considering, reconsidering, redrafting. When Richard showed up in the fall to help, he and Dave went out to a local bar and Dave complained about how difficult it was working with Bob. Richard knew what Dave was talking about. Bob was a perfectionist.
I was finally launched in the spring of 1981. Richard left to attend graduate school, and then lived in Asia for several years. Bob, done with his chairmanship, had more time for sailing. But he was frustrated by my constant maintenance problems. My Ferriman diesel kept breaking down. He spent hours spraying WD40 on frozen bolts, bleeding fuel lines, adjusting my reverse gear connection that was always going out of alignment.
Then, in 1986, Bob lent me to a friend. Graham was an experienced sailor who was looking to do an extended cruise. At Bob’s memorial service recently, Graham’s widow, Pat, told how Bob slapped Graham on the knee, and said, “Why don’t you take mine?”
Graham made it to the Bahamas and stayed all winter. A photograph shows Bob and his wife, Nancy, who flew down from Long Island for a couple of weeks, sitting in my red dinghy, looking up at the camera, tanned and laughing, Bob handling the oars. He went down again in the spring to help Graham bring me back up north. The ship’s log describes more maintenance issues, encountered and solved. On one sad day, he writes that my dinghy capsized as it was being towed astern and had to be cut loose.
On the whole, I performed admirably. It was Graham’s studied opinion that I was a fine and sturdy craft. With upgrades, I could even be seaworthy enough for ocean passages. Bob docked me in Cutchogue after that. A few entries in the log and a fading video are evidence of the good times had aboard me during those years. I finally began to feel useful and needed.