I’ve only loved one boat in my life. I didn’t pine for her, or search for her. No pros & cons lists, no comparison charts. I didn’t make an offer on her, negotiate for her or close on her. She was offered up to me as “ours” and I fell hard and fast.
|She wasn’t so sure about me. I hit my head the first dozen or so times I stepped aboard, first on the overhead handrail above the companionway, and then on the oil lantern hanging in the saloon. I apologized each time to the first mate that had preceded me, at first jokingly, and then quite seriously when I learned that the lantern had been a gift from her. I’m sorry, Renee.|
It was only the first time that we took her out for a sail that I understood that the boat was my former partner’s only other love, the only other woman in his heart at that time. If anyone was to blame for my cerebral run-ins with the rigging, it was all the boat’s fault.
|When he finally left me aboard alone, I talked to her. I asked her to let me love her too, to love me back, to stop smacking me upside the head. I get it. She’s the boss. I assured her that he’d never leave her for me, praying that he’d never leave me for her.|
|She let me stay and I fell in love. She was the only inanimate object I’ve ever loved, everything in a boat I ever would have wanted.|
She was an Island Packet 380, which meant absolutely nothing to me when I first stepped aboard, and came to mean the world to me long before I stepped off. She was stronger and stabler and more seaworthy than I could ever hope to be. If I could handle the conditions, she certainly could; even if I couldn’t, she probably could. That’s the kind of boat you want when you’re far offshore – a boat that can take more than you can, that will shield you when you’re down and out, that will get you back to shore no matter what.
From the bottom of the keel to the top of the mast, safety and stability were clearly as much of a priority for her designer (Bob Johnson) and boatbuilders as they are for me. It helped me sleep at night. Thank you, Bob.
Island Packets are famous for their full foil keel and integrated rudder. It’s a whole lot of lead keeping the boat from broaching, and a lot of surface area in front of the prop and rudder to keep everything below the waterline intact. The first time I saw a fin keel boat out of the water, I was shocked how exposed the rudder was. And then I watched a video of an Island Packet that washed up onto the reef in Cayman and then motored away; I assure you that no other boat’s rudder and keel would have survived getting pummeled up onto the reef. Would I have chosen a full keel with everyone claiming how much they slow speed and decrease maneuverability? Probably not. Would I buy another boat for blue water sailing without one? Probably not.
Island Packets are cutter rigged sloops (“That’s a lot of sail!” my New York law firm partner used to tell me.), with no electric winches. All three sails have Harken mechanical furlers that allowed me to furl and unfurl them from the cockpit using my own (limited) upper body strength. The staysail gives you extra options on how much canvas to put out, and the hoyt boom makes it easy to tack and jibe when you’re shorthanded. A boom vang and preventer keeps the main from accidentally jibing. Chainplates are integrated into the hull; they’re not coming loose no matter how hard the wind blows. It’s about as solid as rigging comes.
Island Packets have a cozy semi-enclosed cockpit. The full stern pushpit keeps you onboard despite the weather, and the deep-set cockpit keeps you out of weather’s way. It’s like a little cocoon you never have to leave; all the halyards, sheets and furling lines lead back to the cockpit. I spent all my long overnight watches settled into the cockpit, clipped in, warm, dry, safe, protected.
I didn’t appreciate how well designed IPs were until the first time I found myself trying to make it from the cockpit to the head wearing foulies with the boat hobbyhorsing under me in big seas and the exhausted captain sleeping on the settee under foot. Every time I stumbled, I found a handhold right in front of me. It’s as if they took the prototype out into 50k winds and 8m seas and marked every place where their hands went for support, and then put a handhold there. Sometimes it’s the little things that go a long way. Hold on tight.
Four and a half years living aboard and over 10,000nm sailed, I could go on and on about every little last thing I loved about her. A deck lined in beautiful teak. A cabin full of beautiful teak. A huge enclosed shower. A big vberth. Low power consumption. A bow pulpit I could perch on. A saloon folding table I could serve ten at. Lazarettes and holds I could climb into. Thick fiberglass that never creaked or flexed.
IPs are so loved they have a cult following. Every time we pulled into a marina or harbor, someone would come over to tell us about the time they sailed an Island Packet, or their friend who owns an Island Packet, or how much they really love Island Packets. In St Maarten we were greeted by a dinghy shouting, “Hello, Packeteers!” I was wary at first, but now I count some IP owners as some of my closest cruiser friends. There seems to be a shared understanding of what it means to be out to sea, and what kind of boat you surround yourself with if that’s your plan.
Island Packet went through some hard times, and closed its doors a few years ago. It was sad to think that new hulls weren’t being produced, that more people weren’t going to get to fall in love with their IP the way I did. But Leslie and Darrell Allen purchased the company and restarted production last year. They are committed to maintain the quality of the brand while revitalizing and updating the boats. This is great news for the Island Packet brand and future IP owners.