A Lee bit crazy…

As promised, here’s a little story of the Lees. Myra Lee, Laura Lee, and Annabel Lee.

In the beginning, there was Myra Lee. A lovely little Marshall catboat, delightful to sail. She’d been renamed, awfully, I might add, but I learned Myra Lee was her original name, and I returned her to her rightful title. I had many years of pleasant sailing, but I must admit I was growing tired of crouching headroom and the outboard on the stern. I began considering a Flicka, which wasn’t much larger, but more ocean-capable, with a modest cabin and inboard engine. Yet…

…I’d been working in a nearby boatyard, and languishing in a far corner was this lonely little trawler, Laura Lee. Not really that little actually. 32 feet, but built like a tank. Bigger than I wanted, and lacking a sail of any sort. The owner, having driven her hard onto some rocks, found himself on the rocks financially as well, and stopped paying the yard for storage.

Years passed.

A friend at the yard constantly kidded me. He’d say “there’s the boat for you. I see you with that boat someday.”
“Yeah, right,” I’d laugh. But the thought stuck. And when the yard leined her, I began to think about it. Consider it. Click the link, you’ll see, she’d be one hell of a project. The potential was there, though. Everywhere she wasn’t built of absurdly thick, uncored fiberglass, she was solid teak. Only some interior trim was teak veneer. And the engine… a 80 horse 4 cylinder Ford Lehman diesel. With that big, slow turning prop and a full displacement hull, she wouldn’t go anywhere all that fast, and she’d barely sip fuel in the process. In short, they don’t build boats like this anymore. They didn’t build all that many to begin with. Best I could determine, there were maybe a dozen or so of these little Hong Kong built Cheoy Lee Shipyards trawlers world-wide. We started looking a little closer. There was lots of work, but it was do-able. Being that I worked at the yard, boat storage was free, one of my benefits. I got parts at cost. I had access to the tool shop, the wood shop, lifts, everything. The yard owners said if, come spring, I paid storage owed, I could take title. They shook my hand. I sold Myra Lee to a fellow who’d for years been begging me to sell her to him. I started gathering my tools, getting ready.

Then the owners decided they wanted to spiff up the yard, change the image from a working yard to a more ‘yacht-club’ style facility. They began denying storage and docks even to paying customers with less than ‘desirable’ boats, telling them to leave. They told employees we no longer had free boat storage as a benefit. And they told me they would NOT be selling me Laura Lee. In fact, they told me they intended to cut her up and crush her.

I tried to negotiate. Pleasantly at first. I tried to go around them and contact the long-gone, out of the country former owner, seeing if I work some arrangement with him. No go there. I tried every reasonable thing I could think of, none worked. Needless to say, I no longer work there. There was no reason to anymore. I’d sold one boat, didn’t have the other, the owners were lying pricks driving away all the customers I liked and schmoozing the yuppie scum I loathe. There was no reason to stay.

There was another of the same trawler for sale, hours up the coast in north Mass, but too expensive for our budget. We looked at other boats, but none compared, and none were what we wanted. The year passed. Laura Lee still sat there, and as winter approached, the price on the Massachusetts one crept down. One day we went for a ride, took a look, and made a low offer. The seller accepted. We shook hands. By time surveys were complete and contracts signed, it was November. We spent three days moving her down the coast to Cape Cod, near my parents, to wait out the winter.

Spring came, the cover came off, and we’ve begun getting her back in order. I’ve said I prefer not to rename boats, but this one had been through two other names, neither very good. A boat should never have a name that’s unpronounceable or confusing. Names should be clean and elegant. You don’t want to offend the water gods. So the old name came off. I would have carried on ‘Myra Lee’, but the original Myra Lee still bears that name. The consensus, for many reasons, was that Annabel Lee suited this boat perfectly.

Now the funny part(s). One; the old yard must have realized how expensive it will be, both in labor and disposal fees, to get rid of 20,000 pounds of boat. I was told I could buy her if I was interested, and I’ll admit it felt good and bad at the same time to tell them “No, I already have one.” And two; our dear Annabel Lee seems to be quite admired, with many people stopping to comment. A few have asked if we’d consider selling her. Amazing what some proper maintenance can do, considering her last owner struggled to sell her. One fellow asked if we knew of any others like her, as he’d never seen a Cheoy Lee trawler. I laughed, and told him about Laura Lee. He wanted more information. Then my phone rings, and there’s another fellow, heard there’s an abandoned Cheoy Lee trawler, he wants information too. I set up the pictures online, sent them both links. I suspect the phone at the old boatyard’s been ringing today. Maybe Laura Lee will float again, rather than wind up landfill.

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