Saturday, February 7, 2009

Chorus Sea Trial

This weekend we got to crew on Bradley's recently purchased 1958 Kettenberg 38 "Chorus". Wow. What a boat! I hope Macha's not listening when I say she's the prettiest boat I've ever seen. (There's different kinds of beauty, and Macha is still the boat of my dreams...)

I wasn't familiar with Chorus' boat racing record, or the sterling reputation of her previous owner Peter English in the San Francisco sailing community. So for the last few weeks I had been gently teasing Bradley based on all the stereotypes I had rattling around my head about wooden boats. "Biodegradable hull." "Needs some TLC." "Get the bilge pump handle and the varnish brush ready." Bradley would ask for advice on whether we thought Chorus was a good investment. Finally, I said "No boat is a every a good financial investment. But if it's love, it's love, and nothing I can say or do will change your mind."

All joking aside, it was clear as soon as we laid eyes on Chorus that she wasn't just any neglected wooden "project boat." From stem to stern, every brightly finished inch of her radiated an aura of meticulous care.

Her narrow beam and graceful overhangs looked fast even tied up to the dock.

Her running rigging and deck hardware indicated that rather than a flimsy showboat, this was a boat that had been set up to be sailed well and sailed hard.

Actually, while Macha and Chorus are very different boats, I think they both ooze with character and purpose. In Macha's case, that purpose is to be a home on the water: a comfortable, maneuverable and decently quick "Ark" for a nomadic family of seasteaders.

Chorus' purpose, as best I can tell is to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. It would be easy to see all that gleaming Mahogany and think "What a charming old boat." But if you're on the racecourse when you have that thought, watch out!

While Chorus is currently the flagship of the Master Mariners Benevolent Society (a group devoted to restoring and racing classic wooden boats), according to Peter she's aroused come controversy because she's TOO fast.

Below the waterline, she has a faired keel and a carbon fiber elliptical rudder has replaced the original keel-hung barndoor. Her stick is aluminum, rigged by Peter's childhood friend, Scott Easom. Her running rigging is all modern low stretch cordage, and her sails are all high-tech laminates. (As white as possible, to stealthily mimic Dacron from a distance.)

In short, she's the sailboat equivalent of dropping a V8 in a ford model-T to make a hot rod!

Chorus has won a number of local PHRF races and even raced in the 1996 TransPac.

We had a great spin from Sausalito around Angel Island and back up Raccoon Straits. Bradley was obviously thrilled to take the helm of his new baby, and Peter was obviously happy to know that the boat that has meant so much to him is going to a good home. From the sounds of it, he'll continue to be involved with Chorus as he shows Bradley the maintenance routine, introduces him to the Master Mariner crowd, and maybe sails some races.

Chorus has got a really nice feel. We found it pretty easy to get her going 6.5-7knots upwind. With the fancy rudder, she's got a really nice helm feel: responsive but solid. Aparently with spinnaker up she'll do 12-13 knots.

P.S. Speaking of Master Mariners, Bradley told us that one of their board members saw Macha tied up in Berkeley. Thinking, "What a beautiful old gaffer", he walked up to leave a note inviting us to Master Mariner events. When he got closer, he knocked on the hull and realized she was old growth fiberglass. Hehe.

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