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Sometimes the Mooring Comes First

Whatever the impetus, it’s never too late to buy a boat

By Basha Burwell

My husband and I tend to do things (like make large purchases) a bit impulsively, along the lines of “the cart before the horse” sort of thing. We had a mooring before we ever set eyes on or bought our first and only boat, lived in the same state, got married, acquired a home, shared bank accounts, or had a child.

Scout, shown here sailing on Eggemoggin Reach, is perfect for outings with friends and family. Photo courtesy Basha Burwell This happened because a trusted friend and sailing mentor told us 12 years ago that the mooring field in our harbor—Center Harbor, Brooklin—was filling up and that in order to secure a mooring spot we should act soon. We did just that. Then we set out to find a boat to put on that mooring. 

Eventually we bought a Cape Dory 25 sailboat from a friend who was trading up. We named her Scout. Small enough to be a great daysailer but large enough to sleep on, she turned out to be the ideal boat for us. 

At the time we acquired her, I was the sailor in the relationship. My father and uncles built and raced their own small sailboats in South Freeport, and my grandparents always had boats. My interest in sailing really kicked in, though, when my mother bravely bought her first boat at age 45—a 19-foot Cape Dory Weekender. I spent lots of time in high school and in my early 20s getting comfortable at the helm on that boat in Freeport’s Harraseeket Harbor. By my mid-30s I had taken proper sailing classes, chartered, delivered, raced, crewed, and cruised on a variety of boats.

Basha Burwell, her husband, and son explore the ledges under a day marker on Center Harbor. Photo by Ryan Goodrich So while I was never an exceptional sailor, or even that confident, I was seasoned enough for our new acquisition. My then-almost-50-year-old husband was another story. Having recently moved to Maine, he was just getting acquainted with sailing and boats. But he learned fast. These days he remains a tad obsessed with the boat, and, quite possibly, is now the better sailor. 

As the years have passed and we have become more confident on the illustrious Eggemoggin Reach, our sailing habits have evolved. My husband prefers solo sails midday or later when he can find steady breezes and lovely solitude. My preference tends toward group sails and picnics with families and kids, or late-afternoon/early-evening outings with friends (usually women) when lighter winds allow us to enjoy socializing—often we just sail around in circles. 

I tried my hand at sailing a Beetle Cat last summer, determined to set an example for other women/mothers/girls by racing in our local and quite-casual fleet races. As it turned out, I didn’t have the stomach or strength, or possibly I just chose to sail on days that were too gusty and windy. The Beetle Cat overpowered and intimidated me. I just wanted to get back on Scout, where every response, line, and angle, inside and out, was comfortably familiar. I feel safe sailing Scout, whose heavy keel keeps the boat stable and comfortable.

Sometimes we just spend time on Scout at the mooring. We can watch the sun set and the moon rise, have a picnic dinner in the cockpit, and sleep aboard. This past August on my annual sleep-out with my now-9-year-old son I asked him, “What are your favorite three things about Scout?”

He quickly answered: “It doesn’t capsize; it’s a good boat to go to islands on; and I like to sleep on board.” 

I agree wholeheartedly. Eating lunch or enjoying cocktails on board while sailing downwind is a favorite activity. We love to pack for the day, bring a few friends, sail for a bit, then anchor off an island and spend time exploring and picnicking. Our sailboat has small but cozy accommodations below and we can “cruise/camp” aboard. 

My son, my husband, and I all agree that Scout is the perfect boat for us. We are proof that it’s never too late to begin sailing, or to own a boat, and that sometimes it’s best just to jump aboard and not to think about it too much. 

Basha Burwell art directs and styles photo shoots from Amsterdam to Santa Barbara and many places in between. She and her husband and son spend part of their time in Marfa, Texas, but feel lucky to call Maine their home.

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