Alice remembered, and Happy New Year!


2013 is going to be a bang up year for Panbo, I think. News about that tomorrow, and soon we’ll be back to actual electronics news and reviews, I promise. But first I have one more bit of boating nostalgia to cap off 2012. I took the photo above in April, 1978, as the good sloop Alice reached along well offshore about half way to Maine from Man-O-War Cay in the Abacos (hence the conch jerky hung to dry in the rigging). We’d already endured some fairly heavy weather without problems and this was a glorious morning when Alice was taking care of herself nicely and I was further enjoying the fruits of our long relationship…

Five of us bought this 1946 plank-on-frame Maine-built 40-footer in the spring of 1971 and we all moved up from Connecticut to live aboard on her mooring in Camden Harbor, even though the old Red Wing gasoline engine was frozen solid due to a partial sinking that winter. She’d also had all her bright mahogany exterior woodwork coated with white latex house paint, but she’d surveyed well and the prior owner’s short-term irresponsibility led to a bargain price. Credit a liberal arts education for teaching people how to learn because though none of us were experienced boaters yet, let alone mechanics, we did manage to install a Mercedes diesel in Alice that summer as well as restore the woodwork and more…


Above is a shot from about 1973 of Alice grounded out on the tide against the Camden Yacht Club wall, which was a great way for low-budget cruisers like Bruce Ray and us to paint a boat bottom (quickly). By this time we’d long given up on the idea of sailing around the world, one couple had sold their share, and we two remaining partners were happily sharing the boat over time instead of simultaneously with our respective significant others and pets. The 1971 ying/yang eyes remained on the bow, though, as something was definitely encouraging this boat to overlook some pretty major beginner mistakes. We’d already managed one round trip to New York and another to Virginia but I’m pretty sure this photo was taken before the first trip to the Bahamas (and Haiti, which eventually led to my time on Regina Maris), because it was a sunken wreck at Great Inagua where I salvaged the life line stanchions that Alice had always lacked…


Here she is a couple of years later with lifelines installed — well, better than nothing — and a more subdued paint job. We’d also fiddled with headsails and could set that furling flying jib along with the working jib cutter-style, at least to windward, or replace it with a furling standalone genoa. Note how the inner jib stay is balanced with running backstays, which stabilized that bendy hollow spruce mast nicely. I can also just make out the working jib downhaul, a little add-on that made it much easier and safer to drop that sail. And I notice the VHF whip antenna at the masthead, our sole means of communications and the only electronics on board except for a flashing fathometer that could swing into the companionway…


We did use a mechanical Thomas Walker taffrail log for offshore dead reckoning and you can can see it streaming aft in another 1978 photo (along with a spare VHF antenna). Also visible is the dodger which we should have gotten sooner and the self steering gear that really made the boat feel complete on passage. I still have the Walker log and also that home-built plywood fishing reel with a bungee cord ratchet mechanism and 300 lb test drag’em-til-they-drop line. The teak on the cockpit seats was one of my last Alice projects, done at anchor off Big Pine Key, FL, but I understood when a later owner stripped it and most everything else off the decks…


Alice’s near fatal flaw was galvanized iron fastenings from the toe-rail up and also iron keel bolts. I still have one of the latter, or at least the part the surveyor Giffy Full twisted off with a wrench when we sold the boat in 1979. That was a startling moment given the ’78 offshore trip, but Alice continued her forgiving ways and has deservedly found two great owners who’ve taken care of every issue Joe and I never got around to. I need to catch up on her current status but when I took the photo above several years ago, her current owner was was well into a thorough rebuild with improvements. Alice never had cockpit lockers before, for instance, and I doubt anyone had ever taken apart that heavy duty Edson worm steering gear piled in one of those new lockers. And while the owner was a fairly young man without much money or boatbuilding experience, he was doing excellent work, all of which made Joe and I quite happy. But the last I heard he’d also fallen in love with a woman and they were about to have a child, so Alice may still be in that shed in Portland and understandably so. I intend to check the next time I’m there.
   I’ll close with another shot from that last long Alice sail in 1978. Thanks for following along with this old guy remembrance, which may come in handy when readers think I’m just about powerboats and electronics (like in the SailTimer discussions?). And here’s wishing everyone a great night and a fabulous 2013.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

3 Responses

  1. Robie says:


  2. PeterH says:

    Nice piece about Alice, Ben! I missed this earlier. You did a great job of sharing your time with the boat. They kind of become like family!

  3. Dave says:

    I remember seeing Alice up against the CYC bulkhead when I worked there. Long time ago!

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