About The Blog
Welcome to the SV Kestrel blog. Fair warning, this is an uber, boat-nerd blog where I go into the minutia of my boat projects with a few sailing stories thrown in for fun. The whole purpose of this blog is to provide long-form, detailed posts that maybe someone else can glean something useful from. I’ve gotten a lot of very useful information from other’s blogs and discussion board postings over the years and felt that I ought to give a little something back to the sailing community which led me to start this site. I don’t really know where I will go with it or how long I’ll keep writing, but as long as I have Kestrel I’m certain I’ll have a lot to write about.
I have been in love with boats since my sister and her husband took me out on their 1968 28’ Owens cabin cruiser I think about 33 years ago. I made my second idiotic boat decision when I bought that 20 year old wood boat boat from them; the first was a broken down 23 ft Thunderbird tri-hull that I never got off of the trailer. The Owens taught me a lot in the few years I had her, mostly that owning an old wooden boat is a really bad idea. At one point I had three power boats simultaneously before I was able to shed myself of those first two. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I was introduced to sailing by a friend at work. While I continued to own power boats for a number of years, I also loved sailing on various OPBs (Other People’s Boats).
I finally got out of power boats when my fourth kid came along and I couldn’t afford the upkeep anymore. I tried to satisfy myself with canoeing and kayaking, but it just wasn’t the same. After the kids got a little older, I bought a Stuart Mariner 19 and taught myself to sail and then taught my kids to sail as well. The Mariner was a great boat for this. It was the centerboard model and while more tender than the keel version, it was still a good stable platform to learn and teach on. It was sensitive enough to need constant attention to helm and sail trim and, as a result, did a great job of training me how to keep her upright and moving forward. I used to drive my kids crazy short tacking up the creek to the marina instead of dropping the outboard and motoring back.
About The Search
During the 12 years or so that I had the Mariner, I schemed to get into a bigger boat that I could do longer trips on. In the fall of 2017, I started my hunt in earnest. My mortgage was scheduled to be paid off in spring of 2018 and I would be able to afford a to make the purchase. I won’t go into the set of requirements I listed out for my search, but will say that between yachtworld.com and sailboatdata.com, I spent many, many, many hours narrowing my list of prospects. One fine, cold weekend in March 2018, while my sons were back from school on spring break, we went on a mission to visit six boats over two days.
Kestrel was first, and we drove from VA to Oriental, NC to see her. She had a different name at the time, but we’ll keep calling her by her real name. I was actually more interested in the Bavaria 40 in Hampton, VA than this Catalina 42 except that the owner had made some good investments in a factory rebuild of the engine, new sails, and a few other big ticket items. I was very impressed with what I saw, but I was determined to withhold judgement until I after saw more boats.
Next up that same day was a Beneteau 40 in nearby New Bern, NC. I was not impressed with the condition of this one. The many, many cracks in the jelcoat all around the boat led me to believe that either the owner did a lot of docking while drunk, it had been smashed up in a storm or two, or it just wasn’t built very well.
We looked at the Bavaria the next day and I was disappointed in what I saw and smelled. Poking around under cushions I found that the owners had wrapped the holding tank hoses in plastic sheeting to tamp down the smell. That was the deal killer, but there were a number of things that I saw that turned me off. The lifeline stantions were mounted such that they all seemed loose and unstable, the aft cabins had no hatches or ports, the standing rigging was noticeably less robust than that of the Catalina one slip over, and there was that smell. There were other factors that went into my decision as well. For instance, I didn’t want a sail drive. I don’t like chunks of aluminum being constantly submerged in salt water. Besides the corrosion risk, the whole thing has to be dropped every few years to replace the bellows which is not a cheap operation.
I had really been keen on the Bavaria until I got on her. After that, I made up my mind to go with Kestrel. I called the brokers in Deltaville, VA to cancel the rest of my visits and took the trip back home instead. I suppose I should have looked at a few more boats, but I’m pretty sure I would have picked Kestrel anyway.
Kestrel is a 1998 Catalina 42 Mark II, the three cabin Pullman model. She meets all of my must haves with a shoal draft of 5 ft, autopilot, AC, plenty of space for my family, and is sweet to sail. Of course, because she checks all of the boxes, she is by far the largest and most complex boat I’ve ever owned. At the time of this writing, in the winter of 2020, I’ve spent the past two seasons learning her systems and how to sail and dock her. I’m not an expert on her yet, but every time I work on her or take her out, she teaches me something new. I look forward to many more seasons of sailing and boat projects to write about.