Monday, September 3, 2012


On one of my frequent dock walks at Newport's South Beach Marina I came across this sign on the bow pulpit of a Columbia 43.

Ten thousand dollars? Could that be right? The inside must be a nightmare. Outside, the boat looked to be in reasonable shape, although the deck and cockpit were littered with anchors, four old batteries, two crab traps and two blue 55-gallon drums.

I called the number on the sign and Keith, an old salt I knew from previous walks, answered the phone. He was acting as the agent for the owner and agreed to show me the boat.

Inside the boat was not what I expected. The owner completely cut out the old interior with a sawsall and fiberglassed in new plywood bulkheads and furniture. To my mind, the layout was brilliant--perfect for a cruising couple. With a flush deck and 12 feet 4 inches of beam, the hull volume in a Columbia 43 is huge. The owner put every inch to use in creating a comfortable and efficient interior. Of all the boats my wife and I looked at over the last two years, this interior was by far the most livable. A big bonus for me is that most of the boat has enough headroom for my 6-foot-4-inch frame.

Keith knew the owner and vouched for his craftsmanship, especially the fiberglass work. "I was going to have him do some work for me before he got sick," Keith said. He told me that the owner was selling the boat because he got cancer.

I told Keith I was interested, but that I needed to show the boat to my wife.

A couple of days later I was back with my friend Doryman to get his opinion. Although not to his taste exactly, he thought it was a well-made boat, both the original hull and the work done so far by the owner. Doryman gave the boat a thumbs up. Of course, Doryman takes to boat projects like a duck to water; the bigger the project the better he likes it.

I took a video of the interior so I could show Virginia, who was living four hours away at the time. The next weekend I showed her the video and she liked it. I also researched the Columbia 43 and its designer, Bill Tripp, and wrote a couple of short articles for a blog I write for to help me crystallize my thinking and allay the questions about the boat.

On a Sunday afternoon Virginia and I spent two hours on Oceanus looking, sitting, lying in the bunks and dreaming. A couple of days later I called Keith and told him I wanted the boat. He said he would take the sign down that day.