Death of a dream

Guest perspective/W.R. Cheney

I used to see her on my way into town from our winter home at Lady’s Island, S.C. Factory Creek runs parallel to Route 21 – the Sea Island Parkway – for a short distance, just east of the bridge connecting downtown Beaufort with Lady’s Island.

There’s a popular anchorage in the creek for transient boats on their way down the Intracoastal Waterway, and among the visitors in recent years has been a growing number of abandoned boats.

My favorite among these neglected beauties was a sturdy cutter, unmistakable as a Westsail 32, or one of her near sisters, the Dreadnaught 32. From the early beginnings of fiberglass boatbuilding, these hefty double-ended vessels have been iconic dream ships, their every detail evocative of blue-water cruising, palm trees, island maids, and sun drenched tropic isles.

Inspired by the Colin Archer school of Scandinavian offshore passagemakers, these boats were built heavy and deep, with snug rigs. They might not be fast, but they would be comfortable in a seaway, roomy for their length, and, above all, would tend to safely reach their destinations.

Driving almost daily toward the bridge, and Beaufort beyond, I would look down into the creek and admire the little dream ship as she lay on her anchor year after year, untouched and apparently unloved, except by me.
I wondered what her story was. What had caused her owner to leave her to her lonely vigil? Was the skipper a novice mariner who, one day, had suddenly experienced the fury of the sea. Had he or she been somewhere off the daunting coast of the Carolinas, survived simply finding the nearest anchorage, and fled his dream and dream ship in terror?

Or had his partner found the sea vagabond’s life not to her or his liking. Had the crew simply said, “Norbert, it’s the boat or me.” Or was the story darker? Was the law involved? Drugs or drug trafficking? We will never know.

Last October, Hurricane Matthew swept up the coast from Florida and dealt the Beaufort area a heavy blow. Our stalwart little voyager was driven ashore along the Parkway, together with a number of other craft. She decorated the roadside there until March 28 of this year, when Beaufort County took action to “remove the eyesore.”

I, for one, will miss her.

W. R. “Bill” Cheney sails the engineless Marshall 22 Penelope out of Swans Island, Maine, in summer, and his Marshall Sanderling Shorebird out of Lady’s Island, S.C., in the winter. His book, “Penelope Down East”(Breakaway Books 2015, 222 pp., $14), which imparts much Maine Coast cruising wisdom and imagery, is available on