The Captain of the Family Fleet Struggles to Set Sail

'You can't have too many boats," I have always been fond of saying. But then there came a day when I found myself deliberating whether to go out for a sail on Harold, the 19-foot O'Day, six miles away at bay side Naskeag; or Sojourner, the 22-foot cruising sloop moored nearby just off the tamer waters of Eggemoggin Reach; or drive 12 miles in the other direction and take Marisol, our 14-foot Cape Dory, for a sailing spin on the lake-like waters of Smith Cove. Unable to decide, I stayed home and mowed the lawn.

Each boat had been an opportunity, a bargain not to be missed. And they didn't sit idle most of the time. I rented them out. In fact, Marisol had been purchased so that when Buttercup, our 22-foot cruising catboat, was sold we would have something to sail around in - Harold being almost continuously on charter. But then Sojourner came along - too good to resist - and for a while we had four sailboats. So we chartered out Sojourner, and when Buttercup was gone we were back to needing Marisol for times when both Harold and Sojourner were out.

I never imagined that anyone could own too many boats. In fact, my dream had always been to have just the sort of three-ocean Navy that we had now. But if you rented them out you didn't have them, did you? You were boatless, in fact; undone by your own success.

In August they were almost always rented. And it was in August that our daughter, Michele, was here with her family - who loved to sail. Our two sons lived nearby, but they were usually too busy to sail. Now that we lived in Maine, we were all too busy most of the time. Something was always coming up - like the lawn.

So sell them. Get back to only one. Which one? Harold, of course. Harold was not only a good day sailer, but had a tiny cabin. I had cruised three days on it by myself some 10 years ago. You could even trailer it, if you wanted to. Harold was also virtually maintenance free. We hauled it up on rollers with pulleys ourselves, and the only thing you had to do to it each year was paint its bottom.

"You sold Sojourner?" said Michele, who had come a week early. I tried to explain, but it wasn't much good. Marisol was gone, too, as was Harold, for the next five days - to a former renter who would be so disappointed....

"We could go canoeing," I said.

We were driving around, looking at sailboats. All of Maine was out on the water, it seemed. All but us.

"Poppy, there's a boat," called out Katie, my five-year-old granddaughter. I stopped. It was a 19-foot O'Day, Harold's twin, named Martha. Harold and Martha. They would make a nice pair. "How much?" I asked. The owners were giving her away. "We'll take her," I said.

No, I wasn't getting into it all over again. You can have too many boats. One and a backup, I said to myself. Think of Martha as the spare.

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