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Oops, I bought a launch

Sometimes you just have to do something that you’ve said you’ll never do. It lets your inner, crazy rebel out to play. In my case, having sole-owned a yacht in my thirties and co-owned a yacht in my forties, I thought that my days of boat ownership were over.

But somehow I find myself in possession of a launch.

Here’s the thing about boat ownership. It begins with your heart, not your head. Sensible logistics like money, maintenance and dirty bilges have no sway when you see a pretty boat across a crowded marina and are instantly transported to a star act in a performance all your own: you are at the helm, dropping the anchor in a clear-watered bay prior to serving canapes in the cockpit. For some ridiculous reason, I was wearing a long, batik dress.

The real-world version is that I’d been cruising ‘boats for sale’ online when I spied a launch that reminded me of the Marlborough Sounds-styled classics that Ian Franklin built in the 2000s. Frankie is a friend, so I asked if any of his Franklin 925 launches were for sale.

Nope, he said.

He rang back two weeks later: the local boat broker had just listed a Franklin 925. It was four hours’ drive away.

“I’ll see you at one o’clock tomorrow,” I said. My head said I was tyre-kicking. My heart was already at the helm. Besides, another potential buyer was looking at the boat at 3pm. My head never stood a chance.

Purists may say that swapping from yachts to launches is like a politician crossing the floor, but I have no such qualms. I love trimming a spinnaker in a race, sheeting on and easing out as the speed log keeps tally of the trimming talent. But, for cruising, I think I’m done with reefing sails in 25-knot rain squalls. And when you own a yacht, the maintenance list is 90% sailing-related: broken cleats, sticky winches, chafed sails, jammed furlers. It just seemed the maintenance regime would be simpler without sails and rigging.

A big, big difference from my earlier boat ownership was that this time around I could afford a boat that was professionally built throughout, not yet of a certain age, and I could afford to look after it. If I stayed on top of the maintenance, I could quell that nagging fear that if the engine stopped, I had no sails to get me home.

Besides there were only seven Franklin 925 launches built – enough to have established an impeccable pedigree and retain their value, but not enough that another was guaranteed to come on the market soon. Nantucket was perfect for me: a blend of genteel, 1950s styling with medium-tech composite construction and even carbon in those important places, like the prop strut and the keel shoe. I knew her systems such as engineering, plumbing and electronics were well designed and properly installed, so components would be readily available.

When I stepped onboard, I was Goldilocks – the boat was not too big for a learner, not too small to handle a seaway: she felt just right. I paid the deposit.

I wasn’t used to driving launches in and out of marinas, so I considered putting an L-sticker on the transom. But in those early days as Ian Franklin guided me through the surveys for hull, engine and electrical systems, I considered placing a bulk order for L-stickers: one for the engine compartment with the 240hp Yanmar with turbo, another for the remote vee drive compartment (Ian: What’s the remote part mean, again?), and the helm console with banks of switches and, underneath, lots of cables and fuses and circuit breakers.

But you can learn anything if you’re passionate about it. The owner’s manual became my bedtime reading. There was another owner’s manual full of electrical diagrams, but who am I kidding? I still think AC and DC are a rock band that’s split up.

I got lots of advice from friends, mostly about the bow-thruster. “Don’t use it. You’ll get dependent on it and then if it’s not working, you’ll be stuffed.”

I nodded in agreement, even though I can’t even back a trailer.

Then the vendor took me for a sea trial. “I use the bow thruster all the time,” he said. Its harsh growl reverberated through the pier as he reversed out of the berth, and blar-growled again as he nosed her back in.

I instantly became a founding member of Bow-Thrusters Are Cool. I even wrote the motto: The best maintenance for a bow thruster is to use it. I’m pretty sure that’s true and I maintain my bow thruster often, at least three times every time I leave or enter the marina. I wish it was silent so I could look like a pro, but I tell myself it’s the growl of my inner rebel coming out to play.

© Rebecca Hayter

Reprinted courtesy of Pacific Powerboat magazine,

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