Another boat that really caught my eye was the 28' Bristol Channel Cutter. I liked the way it looked, the way it was built, and its legendary reputation for both speed and sea worthiness. We had no children so the size was right for us. I met with owners, sailed on one and even traveled to Southern California to attend a BCC reunion at Newport. I visited the Sam L. Morse factory, then owned by Roger Olsen. I couldn't afford a new one and the used ones were also too expensive. I looked at bare hull options and visited a guy in Pennsylvania who was completing a bare hull. And then we found out we were having twins! As my wife said, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"
For a while I doodled different interior arrangements of a BCC but was finally forced to admit that a BCC was going to be too small for our soon to be enlarged family. My thoughts went back to the Cape Dory 36. I figured it was now or never. After looking for about a year I found one on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When I first saw her she was under a foot of snow. She looked OK but not great . . . a little tired and haggard. But she had those lovely Alberg lines.
I knew at the time I would have to make a lot of changes. Despite its size there is not a lot of room in a Cape Dory 36. Long overhangs and a relatively narrow beam means less interior volume than a more modern designed boat. I wanted an interior that reflected what I thought a sea-boat should have--two pilot berths, lots of storage, and simple easily maintained systems. I had to have a tiller instead of wheel steering. The Cape Dory had what I thought was a huge and very heavy engine--a Perkins 4-108. Though the Perkins has a great reputation it clobbered the space under the cockpit and main companion way. It was a much bigger engine than we needed. It turned a large fixed three blade prop that I knew was a major underwater drag.
When I was a kid we lived on an Allied Mistress 39. Like the Cape Dory she was a good strong boat. However, it had a lot of complex equipment, for the times, which was a nightmare to maintain. The maintenance struggle left a big impression on me. I knew, even then, if I got my own cruising boat one day I would never be a slave to complicated systems that would suck the money out of my pocket and the joy out of sailing. She also had a big three blade prop. We changed it to a fixed two blade that we could lock in the deadwood. What a difference it made. She tacked easier and faster. You could feel the improved acceleration and her overall handling in light air improved quite a bit. We took pride in sailing out and anchoring under sail. We sailed her up to the dock. A big heavy boat can do a lot if the crew knows what it is doing, the boat is well balanced, and a few changes are made to keep it moving in light air.
Anyway, I knew the Cape Dory would need to be a very different kind of boat than our Allied 39 and in fact would have to be different than the boat I was now looking at. Figuring the amount of work I would need to put into the boat we made an offer far below the asking price. We expected the owner to flat turn it down, however, we were surprised and delighted that the offer was accepted. The Far Reach was ours.
For more information you can visit the Cape Dory Sailboat Owners Association