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A Great Buy: The Classical Tollycraft

Solitude Tolly 48What a temptation.

For those who may not know, my wife and I are boaters. When I was 12 I nearly bled to death. A priest, Father Jo, who worked with my Dad, actually gave me last rights in secret. (My Dad never learned of this! Father Jo also gave me a small envelope he told me had pieces of the true cross but years later I opened it to only find some sand.)
Anyhow, I nearly bled out from an stomach ulcer. In those days an internal bleed like this was likely fatal. My Dad promised me we would buy a boat if I lived. That first yacht was a 21 foot outboard, the Steph I.

The Steph I was replaced with a 27 foot CruisAlong .. with an inboard. Gorgeous but rather cramped for a family of four .. soon replaced as we grew to five with the birth of my brother Hugh. Then the Steph II was replaced by the gorgeous Steph III .. a 37 foot Richardson with a salon, a flying bridge and twin screws! Of course thi was in the wood boat era and Richardsons were among the elite. I grew up and went to collage liv8ing on the Steph III. The last of our “woodies” was the 43 foot Richardson tricabin .. the “Black Eagle.”

My wife and I honeymooned on the Black Eagle. But, having become a scientists I never thought she and I would ever be able to own a “yacht”. One day in Seattle we discovered a way to own a sort of yacht. We discovered the cheapness of a used, decrepit Bayliner. We, now with our own two kids. bought the Yovel (Hebrew for anniversary). That boat was a real POS but she had a half height crawl in aft cabin and we crammed our kids, our dog and the two of us in. With all of us aboard we got as far north as Desolation Sound.

One day the Yovel was at anchor in Seattle’s Andrew’s Bay. We took the dink out to run around the little bay. We saw something beautiful … a 34 foot tricabin … a Tolly! We learned about these great boats and fell in love.

My wife and I began looking and ended up buying the Aquila in 1990. Lots of adventures. Got to meet Mr. Tolly. He amazingly remembered OUR boat out of the thousands he had built.

Sadly, she, the boat, almost died when , after 3 major gasoline leaks, we ended up being towed by the USCG after a smoke filled bilge filled us with scares. The smoke turned out to be a heating system leak but the bilge also held gallons of leaked gasoline.

NO MORE GASOLINE. We had to make a decision. After too many close calls we had to turn Aquila into landfill or .. restore her with diesels. We did that. We restored the whole boat .. new gel coat, decks, cabinetry, propane cooking., LED lighting NMEA 2000 wiring, and to think we were going to sell her for a newer boat! Although I have to say, GraysOnline is a great place to sell a boat should you be looking to sell a boat of yours sometime in the future. Thirty years after she was launched in 1981, Aquila was a new boat. We brought her to Mr, Tolly’s 100th birthday party. HE SIGNED HER! (We have two plaques with a drawing and his signature).

So this year we were north in the Broughtons. On our way back we ended up in Campbell River .. waiting out 5 days of 40 knot gales! Walking the docks, I saw a beautiful 1977 Tolly 48 foot tri cabin. FOR SALE! Met the skipper, Brian. Quite a guy. Brian is the minister for the North American Indigenous Mission (NAIM), missionary group that serves the needs of first peoples from the Johnstone Straits north through Queen Charlotte Sound, Haida Gwai, and southern Alaska. Turns out that about a decade ago someone gave a little used Tolly to NAIM. Brian has used her, now the “Solitude.” to serve the mission’s people along the coast. The large lounge, sleeping capacity of 8 (friendly) people must have made for many great stories on cold, wet nights in these waters! Brian even installed a full household refrigerator so he could feed the crowd!

Brian is also a boat mechanic. The engines are amazing. 3000 hours on 40 year old Cats? He has done everything to maintain them .. not only oil changes but fresh water flushes of the cooling system regularly! The engines are nearly cherry!

The boat could use some cosmetic stuff.

The decks are a mess .. Tolly’s teak patterned gel coat was never good to look at and it wears badly over four decades. If we were to buy the “Solitude” we would have the decks sanded down, resealed with fresh gel coat and then painted with Kiwi grip ..one of the best updates we have made to the “Aquila.”

That .. and one leak in the salon, are about it. The rest is a wonderful decorating opportunity. If we were to buy her, there is one huge bulkhead in the master cabin where I would love to get a coastal artist to paint (or carve?) a wall mural!

Price? My guess is they would take $90,000 (US). What to do? We are in our seventies. The Aquila is OUR boat, she is signed by Mr. Tolly.


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  1. Roger Rabbit #
    1

    I, too, love wooden boats, especially sailboats. That is, I love to look at them, and read books about them. But my love is strictly vicarious and platonic; I don’t want to own one, live on one, or go to sea on one. I’m too old for that now.



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