Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fiberglass For Everyone
By Michael

This is Eleanor this morning, assuming her first
formal watch under power as we headed back to La Paz.
She kept an eye on the temperature gauge, followed our
course on the iPad, changed course using the autopilot,
watched for other traffic, and advised of any wind
changes that may allow us to sail. She did all of
this for about 90 minutes. She was proud.
Before the 1950s, boats were made of wood, by craftsmen. They cost a lot of money. If you didn’t live like the Kennedys (or weren’t hired as crew by the Kennedys), you probably didn’t spend time ocean sailing.

Then fiberglass came along. It was relatively cheap, fast, and easy to build with. Recreational sailing was suddenly accessible to a burgeoning, post-war middle class. Fiberglass changed everything.

But the unanticipated longevity of fiberglass (the material isn’t prone to rot like wood) means that most boats built over the past 50 years are still with us. That is a lot of boats (and every year they build more). Fiberglass durability is changing everything, again.

Our boat is 34-years-old, built in 1978. Most of the boats of the cruisers we’ve run into were built in the 1980s--some a bit older, some a bit newer. As the fleet of fiberglass boats grows and ages, prices of older boats drop. We paid $64,000 for Del Viento and put half again as much into her. But the replacement cost indicated on our survey is $499,500. The family of four who crew Knee Deep, a 1984 Catalina 38, famously paid $25,000 for her (the base price of a 2012 Catalina 38 is over $280,000)--a boat Lin and Larry Pardey said would be their first choice if they were to buy a fiberglass cruising boat. In our 20s, Windy and I cruised from California to Florida over 7 months on a 1980 Newport 27 for which I paid $8,500 (in 1993).

I’ve written before that there is a path to the cruising life for just about anyone who wants it (and few do). The cost of entry is not a limiting factor. If you have any doubts, watch the movie below. It stars the crew of a boat named Pestilence. The title of the movie is Hold Fast and it is the brainchild of a sharp, eccentric, 20-something guy named Moxie Marlinspike. In short, the documentary is about buying a $1,000 boat and cruising on a shoestring budget, taken to a far-out extreme by Moxie and three friends (who needs a dinghy motor when you have a friend with fins?). Moxie narrates the film with an Ira Glass-like delivery that is at the same time deadpan and full of enthusiasm. Whether you’re looking for entertainment or inspiration, I recommend it highly. Following is the trailer on YouTube and below that the entire film on Vimeo. For info on downloading the movie using BitTorrent, click here. Finally, Charles Doane does an excellent job describing the movie on his blog.



Same girl, a few days prior, at the helm of the dinghy under supervision.
I have always read that cruising with children affords opportunities for
them to demonstrate responsibility at an early age. It is true, and a kid like
Eleanor eats it up.


  1. Hold Fast? That's what it's called now? We saw it when it was referred to Blue Anarchy - this is a more polished version - love it!

  2. I remember the thrill of manning my father's teeny tiny aluminum fishing boat. I was a little older than E but not much.

  3. My brother and I were 7 and 9 when we had our very own little 8' dink that was given to us, and a 2.5hp outboard we bought with our own $65 and a boat wash, while living aboard in the Bahamas. I'm 30 now with my first child due any day now and cannot wait to get back on the water and show my kids the same things I saw growing up. I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree with you about cruising kids and responsibility at an early age.


Thank you for taking the time to comment; we look forward to reading your feedback. Don't forget that you may also contact us directly at delviento@hotmail.com (please type DEL VIENTO in the subject line)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...