She was the sinking ship of all sinking ships: born sinking; the only sailing sieve on this or any other coast; a romantic but impossible craft.”
The Boat That Wouldn’t Sink chronicles the love story of a sailor, his family, friends, and an old, leaky, attention-demanding, 34-foot wooden catboat called Scatt II. She was nearly a wreck when they found her, but in their youthful exuberance, they knew they’d be able to save her, replacing pieces one at a time.
The first time she was launched, she filled with water within two hours. They pulled her back out and patched, filled, and sealed every suspect spot. They found afterward that she leaked only moderately. “If you pumped her for 10 minutes or so every few hours, you could keep even with the flow.” The engine worked occasionally: “Hitting it with a hammer seemed to help.” The sail resembled “a great circus tent” with a 200-foot mainsheet.
What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures (mostly misadventures) and getting to be known by the local Coast Guard, who were called upon to rescue her way too many times. Their only piece of reliable equipment, it seems, was the much-used pump.
Disconcertingly for many sailors, a vivid description of the boat capsizing and the subsequent damage is followed by a section in which they took on paying passengers. They hired a youngster to hide from the passengers below deck, behind closed cabin doors, and continually pump out the water leaking in. Because of luck, and maybe Neptune’s blessing, they never did sink with passengers aboard. The business was successful enough to finance further repairs to the Scatt II and to generally improve her condition.
Scatt II’s crew, consisting of the author, his wife, Lucy, their four children, and miscellaneous friends and relatives grew to love her for all her idiosyncrasies. They sailed, bailed, and explored the eastern coastal areas from New Jersey to Maine for 26 years.
The book is pleasant and easy to read as it tells the story of the Scatt II and her family. Many sailors will identify with the mishaps and humor while the family learns about sailing and their boat. While this book is not Farley Mowat’s classic, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float, it is enjoyable and just the thing for any wooden-boat owner to pick up after a few hours of bailing.