In 2005, I found
our HC33 listed on a classifieds website for boat brokering. The woefully low price led to an assumption that
the vessel suffered from serious defects, and nearly caused us to disregard the ad. But, having nothing better
to do at that particular time, I contacted the broker, who redirected me to their own website
where I discovered the reason for the discount.
| ~ May, 1986 Cruising World Ad for HC33 ~
The bargain boat had been repossessed. These liquidators
normally dealt with power yachts, and being the sole sailboat in their inventory, wanted to unload it
posthaste. Careful scrutiny and professional assessments of this little gem convinced Don and me that
we’d found a diamond just a little in the rough. It was incredibly difficult to restrain our excitement
during the negotiations to ‘take it off their hands’.
business of unwillingly relinquishing one’s property meant contact with the previous owner was not
possible, so everything onboard was a mystery. We were forever discovering tidbits of our vessel’s
past; a name stitched in canvas coverings, pictures hung on the bulkhead, notes written on old receipts,
charts stashed in a cubby. Clues had been left behind, but sadly, explanations had
become part of the collateral damage.
By happy chance Harley, Re Metau's third owner eventually contacted
me through our website. He kindly provided me with some of Re Metau’s sometimes sordid –
sometimes sweet story. The history of all Hans Christian yachts was fraught with its own ebb and flow, but the period of our 1985 yacht’s inception occurred within
what has been described as the “Golden Age” of Taiwanese boatbuilding.
After a decade of disagreements over designer royalties, bootlegged models, and mold ownership, the
founder of Hans Christian Yachts, Californian John Edwards cast off all his enterprise’s current
conflicts and, in 1979, went back to the drawing board. His passion to build the Ultimate Offshore Cruising
Sailboat for export to the US remained strong, so a new designer by the name of Harwood Ives was engaged,
and Hansa Yachts and Shipbuilders of Taiwan, a state of the art boatyard built by
noted engineer Herbert Guttler, was commissioned.
with creativity, an exceptional eye for lines, and a love of time-honored style, Ives embraced
what was perhaps the greatest technical design challenge to date. His blueprints lofted by Hansa’s
superb craftsmanship resulted in the creation of a sturdy, seaworthy, classic double-ender known as the
Hans Christian 33 Traditional. Proof of “Woody’s” pride and confidence in the yard’s
workmanship was in the fact that Ives choose to take his own HC33T as payment.
|~ Flying Our Colors ~ |
boat, number 93, was born in that very boatyard in August of 1985. Like a young Taiwanese bride, she crossed
the vast ocean to meet her first owner, an American who, according to our historian (and confirmed by
our later discovery of a decades old chart), launched her in Lake Erie. Ironically, Don and I were
originally from Ohio, and each in our own time learned to sail on that very lake. While
a challenging body of water to master, I imagined our stout little offshore cruiser’s
heart was a little dampened by the confining boundaries of that inland lake.
Harley alleged that
the original owner wanted to live-aboard and, in an effort to coax his artist-wife to accept his pursuits,
had the quarter birth converted to a large desk. Frankly, we were completely enamored with the practical
alteration, so seamlessly crafted it was impossible to ascertain that it’d not been part
of the original design. In any event, the floating studio didn’t draw the wife
in, the owner’s sailing dream was scuttled, and eventually the boat was put up on the adoption block.
The next chapter of our Hans Christian’s story was in the custody of North Carolinians.
Completely in love with their divine little craft, the new crew christened her “Agape III”
(the name embroidered on her cockpit cushions when we took possession). These charitable owners
dipped Agape’s keel in the lovely salt waters off New Bern, which must have been heavenly for the
blue water cruiser. For several years, our happy little yacht returned from ocean
adventures to the safety of a posh berth tucked up in the Trent River.
Tragedy hit in the form
of breast cancer, taking the life of the first mate who, Harley implied, had been the catalyst for the
couple’s maritime exploits. The widowed took his watery ward and wallowed down to Florida.
After some time, he became smitten with an inland wench and the cost of courtship usurped the
expenses of Agape’s ministrations. In due time, our dejected ketch found herself
moored and ignored in the waterway of Tequesta. Her neglected stuffing box wept, and lifeless batteries
could not spark the pump into keeping her tears at bay. With less than a decade under her keel,
our spurned ship found herself slipping slowly into the sea.
in the autumn of 1996 resurrection was about to arrive all the way from Northern California.
Searching for a sailboat to live-aboard and learn, a couple of optimistic swabbies saw possibilities in
our sad little bucket of teak so sinfully left to ruin. With a borrowed dingy and a rented pump,
the tenacious treasure hunters climbed aboard, waded through the puddled cabin sole, tightened the leaking
stuffing box, and buoyed Agape up out of her misery.
|~ Happy Don ~ |
By October, the dynamic deckhands
made a discount deal for the derelict, docked their bargain booty at the Blowing Rocks marina, and dubbed
her "Moon Snail". In due course, the lunar limpet was brought back to her Bristol beauty,
all the while sailing between St. Augustine and Biscayne Bay. Once comfortable with
their nautical knowledge, the skipper and his firstmate turned the rudder toward the Abacos.
Moon Snail’s sails must have billowed with the joy of finally being in the offshore element for
which she was built.
In 1999, now shipshape and stately, Moon Snail was sold at a tidy profit.
Harley handed the helm over to an executive from New Jersey, who immediately scraped her
sweet name from her stern and rechristened her “Vulcania”, a misnomer of epic absurdity
in my opinion. The original Vulcania, of which pictures hung in the salon when we took possession,
was a 1920s Italian ocean liner. I could never comprehend the incongruent analogy between a pretentious,
profligate passenger ship of fire and a sagacious, self-sufficient sailboat made for wind.
Our chronicler noted that shortly after taking over the title, the magniloquent minded Mad
Man was transferred to San Francisco, and planned to have his dwarf-sized cruise ship shipped across the
country. Unfortunately for him, the women in his world refused to move and Vulcania never left the
east coast. Divorce? Discharge? Detention? Destitution? Harley had no more to add with regard to
how our little ship got left on the auction block.
I found our HC33’s chronology
of particular interest in that I feel she may have always been in my bearings. My first sailing
experiences took place in 1986, on Lake Erie – the very lake at most likely the very year our Hans
Christian was first launched.
Though Erie was a Great Lake, compared to the 95,000 miles of shoreline that
surrounded the United States, it was but a puddle. Undoubtedly, we were on the same body
of water at the same time. Perhaps I saw her sailing by all those years ago.
Perhaps she sparked in me, a land-bound nautical novice, the idea of cruising around the world.
|~ Always In My Bearings ~ |
In the early 90s, I took my young daughter for an ocean side vacation to, of all places,
New Bern North Carolina. Did I see Agape floating in her slip then? I’m certain that
beautiful double-ender with her long bowsprit and teak bright work would have caught my eye.
were other vacations spent up and down the coast of Florida throughout those years. Did I see Moon
Snail anchored off Biscayne Bay when I crossed over to Key Largo? Did she rekindle a decade
old dream? And there was one odd-ball adventure to Mystic, Connecticut – a
monkey’s fist throw from the Pawcatuck River where Vulcania waited for me to find her (and give
her a more fitting name).
The joys, exhilaration, and thrills we'd experienced onboard, as well as
the blood, sweat, and tears we'd shed on our boat transformed Re Metau from an inert mass of
teak and technology to a tangible essence of sorts; a kindred-spirit, a member of the family,
an extension of our lives. In learning about her past, I couldn’t help but believe there was
the hand of destiny at play. No matter what my imagination invents, I know our future together will
fulfill an ocean full of dreams.