The Passport Project: Part 1 (A decision)

We have news. Big news. We sold our boat and bought another one.

This might surprise those of you who know that less than four years ago, after looking high and low for a boat in the Northwest and beyond, we went down to Mexico, bought an Island Packet 38, decommissioned it ourselves, had it trucked to Seattle and put it back together, a lengthy process I wrote extensively about.

It might seem crazy that we’d sell our lovely Island Packet 38, Three Sheets. I understand that, because it seems a little crazy to me too. But sometimes it takes spending a little time on a boat to figure out what aspects of it work for you and which don’t.

That was the case with Three Sheets. We lived on it four-plus months last summer and discovered it lacked some features we wanted and had some others we weren’t too keen on.

The boat sailed and handled well. That wasn’t a problem. It was the galley that proved the biggest drawback. It has practically no counter space and very little storage, aside from a cupboard under the companionway and a big open space under the sink, the only place to keep anything bigger than a lunch plate. That meant I was constantly shoving my arm in there and fishing around for the salad spinner or a plate. As someone who likes to cook, I found that crazy-making.

Plus, the only two drawers in the galley were just deep enough to hold a spatula or two, so I dumped all my kitchen utensils in a big wicker basket with a lid that I had to haul out anytime I did any real cooking. Again, crazy-making.

Lest I sound like a privileged person who’s fretting about the layout of her boat when there are plenty of people with real issues to worry about, I am aware of how trivial my complaints might sound. First-world problems, for sure. And when we bought the boat, we were so happy and relieved to find a good bluewater boat we liked and could afford — even if it was all the way down in Mexico — I suppose I overlooked the galley’s shortcomings.

Lily Winston Churchill keeping lookout from Three Sheets' companionway.

But it wasn’t just the galley, which we figured we could modify to create some extra storage. We realized that while the boat had vast amounts of deep storage, there was a lot of wasted space inside — above the hanging lockers and behind the settees, for example — that could be better put to use as storage.

And the openness of the salon, which we’d originally liked, started feeling a little cold. The settee is straight on both sides, with a diagonally curved end on the starboard side that doubles as an aft-facing seat at the nav station. The absence of a L-shaped or U-shaped settee meant people couldn’t sit around the table the way they could in our previous boat.

The heads were another issue. The boat has two of them, which seems a waste of space on a 38-foot boat, particularly since neither has a shower stall. Two heads and no shower stall. Why, Island Packet, WHY?

The forward head has a track with a shower curtain, but no matter how careful we were, each time we showered water got everywhere and we had to wipe down the entire head. We tried to figure out how to build in a shower stall, but with all that molded fiberglass and a need to keep the middle of the head clear to access the anchor locker — and neither of us being engineers — it didn’t seem feasible.

And there were two major projects we considered necessary before going offshore. One was replacing the water tank, which is aluminum and prone to leaks. That would require ripping up the cabin sole to get at the tank. The other was replacing the chainplates, which are bonded to the hull and fully encapsulated in fiberglass. But accessing them requires tearing out much of the salon furniture (for an idea of how fun that project is, check out this link).

Over the summer, the list of must-do and want-to-do projects piled up. Meanwhile, we were spending time across the fairway on our friends Heidi and Kirk’s boat, Due West, a Passport 40. They’ve owned the boat for 20 years, lived aboard for almost 10 and seem deliriously happy with it. Most boaters I know seem to regard their boats as a compromise in some way, but not these two. They LOVE their boat.

It’s not hard to see why. It’s a solidly built bluewater cruiser that has a reputation as a good sailing vessel that’s easy-to-handle with a small crew. And down below it’s lovely and cozy, with beautiful teak everywhere. The layout is almost exactly like our previous boat, a Robert Perry-designed Islander Freeport. Marty recently read a book by Perry about his designs and discovered that he designed the Passport 40 as a bigger version of the Freeport 36. No wonder we were drawn to it.

The perfect boat, or ... not.

One look at the Passport galley and I had instant galley envy. It had ample counter space, numerous cupboards and drawers — oh my, the drawers! I instantly began picturing myself in that galley, baking bread while anchored out in some quiet harbor.

We’d long liked Passports, but after almost buying a Tayana 42 which we discovered during the survey to be covered in blisters like a teenager with a bad case of acne, we were advised to avoid Taiwanese-boats built during the 1980s. And boats with teak decks, which most Passport 40s have. Gun-shy after that debacle, we set our sights on an Island Packet.

And when we found Three Sheets, she was the perfect boat for us, at least at the time. She was essentially the rebound boat; she had the bluewater capabilities our Islander Freeport lacked but not the issues that drove us away from the Tayana. And as is often the case with a rebound relationship, we eventually started to wonder if Three Sheets might be a more perfect match for someone else.

After moving back into our townhouse in the fall, we started thinking about the work we needed and wanted to do to our boat. And we started wondering, if that much compromising and customization and work is needed to get the boat where we want it to be, is it really the right boat for us?

We skirted the issue for a while, neither of us, I think, wanting to acknowledge that our perfectly fine offshore boat might just not be perfect for us. But in early January, we had an honest talk about it and decided that we’d put Three Sheets on the market in the spring and see what happened.

The very next day — I kid you not — on a quiet Sunday afternoon, Marty walked into the living room holding his iPhone and looking like he’d just opened the front door to find a pot of gold sitting there with a leprechaun on top.

“Oh my god,” he said. “You won’t believe the email I just got.”

It was from a couple in Oregon who’d found Marty’s name on an Island Packet owners forum and, noticing that he lives in Seattle, emailed him to say they were looking for an older Island Packet 38 and wondered if he knew of any for sale on the West Coast.

Out of the blue it came, just like that. If that isn’t kismet, I don’t know what is.

On Wednesday, we’ll tell you what happened next after that fateful email. Stay tuned.

34 Responses to The Passport Project: Part 1 (A decision)

  1. Cindy Matwichuk May 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Congratulations! What a wonderful story!

  2. Wendy Hinman April 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Great article. It’s a big decision. Glad it worked out so well. Sometimes if you have too much time to think about it . . .

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      Thanks, Wendy. True, one can overthink these things, but it’s such a big decision.

  3. mic98034 April 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

    You alluded to a big change when I talked to you at the reception for Capt. Fatty. Yep, that’s big. It may only be a couple of extra feet but the Passport 40 is in a whole other class. Way to go!

  4. Carolyn April 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    I am so happy for you and Marty, I look forward to reading part two!

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks, Mom. 🙂 And thanks for the ear, as always.

  5. Susan Fox April 17, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    We walked by your Passport at Boat Haven last week. In fact Gary stopped to look at it. We stood there admiring it. Little did we know it was yours. Congratulations!

  6. Courtney Kirchoff April 17, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Congratulations Marty and Deb! I look forward to reading part two of your Passport tale. And I’m really hoping for pictures of your new girl…

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Thanks, Courtney! Pics coming soon, I promise!

  7. Barry Kaplan April 16, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Welcome to Passport! If you make it SF we have a very active group of Passport owners here. And don’t forget to stop by the google group (!forum/passportowners).

    -barry & rosie
    -Mistress Quickly, Passport 42

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Hi Barry,

      We’ve joined the Google group and are already finding it to be an incredible resource. We’ve gotten some great input from fellow Passport owners.

  8. Kevin & Ginny April 16, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    Wow – that was unexpected big news. Congratulations!! I was on Cold Feet weekend before last saw Three Sheets being fitted for a new dodger.

    I was doing final cleaning and prep before Ginny comes home this week!!. If she ever sees a Passport 40 I think galley envy is a definite.

    Looking forward to Wednesday’s post.

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks! Yes, Three Sheets is getting a new dodger from Iverson’s. I’ll be curious to see it. They do beautiful work.

      How wonderful that Ginny’s coming home this week! You must be so happy.

  9. Bill Germano April 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Since I currently own your old boat I understand why you like that layout so much. But I also want to be a Passport 40 when I grow up. Nicely done!

    • Jeff Orlando April 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      Good plan Deb and Marty. As a former Freeport 36 owner myself (PugetSounder #145), I always loved the Passport 40 and its layout

      I’m on my way down the size curve these days and own another Freeport 36 clone: A Nonsuch 30


      • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

        Hi Jeff,

        We recently went aboard a Nonsuch for the first time and thought it was lovely.

        Thanks for the link to your blog. I see you got an Iverson’s dodger. Very nice.

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Hi Bill,

      Camelot really does have a great layout, doesn’t she? I loved that galley and the pullman berth. It’s such a sweet boat. I’m glad you still have her. Give her a kiss for me. 🙂

  10. s/v Eolian April 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm #


    It doesn’t seem quite fair, that it went that easy, but I am happy for you that it did.

    So what boat name will I be looking for in Port Madison and around the Salish Sea?


    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Well, after our last boat purchase we were ready for something a little easier.

      As for the name, we’re not sure yet. We’d love to keep the Three Sheets name but are wondering if it would be bad luck. We need to do a little research and think about it more.

  11. Danny April 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Marty: You just bought my dream boat. I don’t think there is a finer boat one can buy for cruising the Sound and beyond. Good luck and let me know if you want to see her 4 years from now!

  12. Stuart April 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm #


    • Ron Hay April 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

      Hi Deb:
      I love reading your articles and adventures. You and Marty are such amazing writers. I don’t sail a boat anymore but I love the vicarious thrills of reading about it.
      Keep up the great stories.

      • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

        Thanks so much, Ron. We’ll have to take you out for a sail this summer. That last trip was a lot of fun.

  13. Mike Brough April 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Good luck with the new boat.

    Thanks for the part about what you liked and did not like.

  14. Scott Wilson April 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Congratulations! Glad everything got worked out after the survey. I’m looking forward to all the article-fodder that moving onto yet another boat is sure to produce. 🙂

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Thanks, Scott! And yes, there’s going to be plenty to write about. 🙂

  15. Sea Maid April 16, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    What an extremely smart move. Me and my wife have lived aboard our Ericson 39B for over 5 years. You have to be comfortable and have a functional galley. You made the right move, the smart move and will be extremely happy with your decision once you are aboard your new boat. You will never forget the difference now, especially when you are cooking in your new galley.

    • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Thanks for the encouraging words. We’ve asked ourselves more than once if selling our boat was the right decision, because it is a great boat in many ways. But ultimately we decided that the galley really needs to be functional and easy to use, especially if we’re ever going to do any long-distance cruising, and that’s our goal.

  16. Bob Vizenor April 16, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    There was a fabulous Passport 40 for sail last year at EBM that was the only boat we have ever seen that we would willingly give up Aeolian for. Unfortunately we didn’t win the lottery before it finally sold. Those Passport galleys really are amazing.

    • Deborah Bach April 16, 2012 at 8:16 am #

      Bob, I know which Passport you’re referring to. I tracked it down in the off chance that the buyers might be interested in selling it. Naturally, they weren’t.

      • Alex Kimball April 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

        We look forward to sailing along side each other or anchoring close by … Our waves will cross and each time they do we will both smile to ourselves and know we each have our own special best boat.
        Last night after racing Saturday we sailed across to Eagle Harbor with the intent of enjoying the small craft warnings anchored here. It sunny so it might be fun this afternoon to spread wings and race north to Port Madison tonight… If your in the area… Sail on by.
        Alex and Christina

        • Deborah Bach April 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

          Thanks, Alex!! We’d love to meet up with you two on the water this summer. I hope that happens.

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