dave reed headshot
A tall, lean figure in a baseball cap, polo shirt, and jeans stood alone on the dock alongside his boat. His shoulders hunched slightly, hands stuffed deep into his front pockets. From afar, he stood out amongst the tire kickers strolling the docks of the U.S. Sailboat Show. His awkwardness was unmistakable. He was a stranger cast into a strange scene.
To his left, floated a low-slung, angular 32-foot trimaran. It, too, was out of place amongst the slab-sided, luxury cruising catamarans nearby. His boat’s gel coat was blinding white and its raked carbon rig sparkled as if it were buffed with the morning dew itself. Only devout multihull sailors were giving it any real attention. For anyone with an appreciation for speed, it was the sexiest boat in the show. It belonged to Mike Secrest, a retired cattle and poultry farmer from North Carolina. A souring economy be damned, he was a richer man, indeed.
Mike’s not exactly the guy that you’d expect to be standing next to an arrestingly beautiful, custom-built, carbon-fiber sailboat. But there he was, the proud and humble owner of a Corsair 32RX. As I peppered him with questions for nearly an hour, he willingly engaged with any inquisitive passerby. But he was uncomfortable when anyone asked the question most often heard at a boatshow: “How much?”
“You know,” he told me, when I posed the question myself and learned the boat cost nearly a half-million dollars. “I’m almost embarrassed by the cost. The whole time we were building it, I struggled with spending this much. It didn’t feel right. But one day I was talking to my sister about it, and she said, ‘You know what Mike? You’ve worked hard your entire life. Gettin’ up at four in the morning and takin’ care of the cattle and dealin’ with them chickens. You deserve this.'”
As I listened to Mike’s story I thought about how cliche the “work hard, reward yourself” thing is, but his sister was right. He’d served his country, raised his family, worked his tail off, and was easing into retirement. Now all he wanted to do was go sailing. It was impossible for him to put a price on the feeling he gets when the wind hits his sails.
To fulfill his dreams, he commissioned a high-powered trimaran that will likely scare the Dickens out of him and make him feel more alive than ever. And the funny thing is, he has no idea how to sail the darn thing. His previous boat was a Snark, which he bought at a big-box store a while back. The Snark is a goofy-looking Sunfish knockoff made of recyclable plastics, but the memory of his first self-taught sail, he tells me, is one he couldn’t adequately describe.
Several years ago he came across an ad for a multihull, and it intrigued him. He tapped the Internet and connected with legendary designer Ian Farrier, which led to a liaison with boatbuilder John Lombardi. Lombardi took on Mike’s Farrier 32RX and then carried it to an enviable finish. The boat is museum quality.
As with most projects of this sort, time and costs ran higher than Mike had anticipated, so in the final stages he reported to Lombardi’s shop in Virginia and took to the sanders himself, putting in long, agonizing hours. There are pints of his sweat equity in that boat’s interior finish.
The economic guillotine that was hanging over the boatshow made the price tag on Mike’s craft seem embarrassingly excessive. But sitting amongst the other dreamboats it was proof that sailors like Mike, who posses a deep-rooted love of sailing, won’t be held hostage by an unpredictable economy. He’s got big plans for the boat, and knows that the wind will be forever free. Those who harness it will ultimately be richer in the one commodity we all seek in our short lifetimes: happiness. Mike understands that sailing is forever. Life is not.
Dealers, builders, and equipment suppliers are getting creative to get through the current recession, so we’ve asked them to let us know about their special offers for 2009. We’ll let you know about them throughout the year, but check in regularly at www.sailingworld.com/specialoffers.