DAVID G. SELLARS ON THE WATERFRONT: Longtime salt heading away from the water to the farm
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Sea Chest, a 42-foot Grand Banks Classic formerly owned by Sabin.
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David G. Sellars/for Peninsula Daily News
Speeder III, a 12-foot-long powerboat Sabin built from a set of plans in a 1951 Popular Mechanics magazine.

By David G. Sellars
PDN Maritime Columnist

While driving along Marine Drive in Port Angeles a couple of weeks ago, I saw that Sea Chest, a 42-foot Grand Banks Classic, was moored to the dock adjacent to the boat house where she is usually berthed.

Seeing an opportunity to take a close look at the boat and chat with her owner, Mike Sabin, I walked down to the boat but was unable to roust anyone.

Later in the day, I called Mike only to find that he had sold his boat and boat house and would soon be weighing anchor and heading to southern Oregon — to a farm.

As a youth, Mike was seldom far from a boat or a marina.

His parents owned and operated a marina on the Patuxent River, a major tributary of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

Mike remembered that the family had a screened porch on their home that was used as a restaurant and that his mother sold the best crab cakes for miles around.

He said his father, who was a shipwright, saw the potential of fiberglass in building and repairing boats and pioneered its use on his own projects.

The family subsequently moved on to manage the Fort Washington Marina on the Potomac River.

As a child, Mike raced little speeder boats that were 10 to 12 feet long with 10-horsepower motors, and he recalled that they were fast and loud, and a heck of a lot of fun.

After a four-year stint in the Marine Corps, Mike was hired to sail a Gulf 32 to Bermuda and deliver it to a gentleman who owned an onion farm.

He stayed in Bermuda, doing odd jobs along the waterfront, frequently signing on as a crewman aboard small sailing vessels for owners who were headed to a port along the Eastern Seaboard for which he was paid the princely sum of $200 and a plane ticket back to Bermuda.

In the mid-1970s, Mike left Bermuda and sailed his Herreschoff H28 sailboat to Maine, where he attended a wooden boat school in Lebec.

When he completed school, he headed to Alaska to ply his trade, and spent the next three years fishing for King Crab out of Dutch Harbor and Kodiak.

Crabbing was a young man's job, Mike said, and “ignorance kept me going.”

When he realized he was no longer a young man, he went to Virginia, where he spent a couple of years customizing vans.

The early 1980s found Mike in Seattle living in his customized van and awaiting the arrival of a commercial fishing boat that he had signed onto.

When that boat broke down in Kodiak, it left Mike wondering what to do next.

He then worked briefly for the Lockhaven Marina in Ballard before setting up shop to build boats next to the Ballard Bridge.

For the better part of the next decade, Mike started building houseboats that were sold to live-aboards on Lake Union at Gas Works Park.

After building 14 of the two-story houseboats 40 feet long and 12 feet wide — resembling the paddlewheel boats of long ago — he tired of the business aspect, closed the shop and moved to Poulsbo.

He lived aboard a 65-foot Monk while he built a 45-foot barge that would serve as his home and workshop in Poulsbo for the next few years.

He sold the Monk that had been built during World War II for a Weyerhaeuser executive.

She was the type of vessel, he said, that belonged in a boat house.

Besides, he was tired of polishing all the brightwork on the boat.

After spending a few seasons rehabbing and selling boats, he got completely out of the boat business and moved to a log cabin in which he and wife Yvette spent time living off the grid.

When the wanderlust next struck, Mike modified a 30-foot Willard to a live-aboard, and he and Yvette headed to Alaska.

For the next couple of years, they lived aboard the boat, and she studied herbal medicine with the various Native tribes in southeast Alaska.

In 2003, Mike and Yvette settled in Port Angeles. Yvette continues with her studies of herbal medicine, and Mike continues to go from one boat project to another.

His current undertaking is Speeder III, a 12-foot-long powerboat he built from a set of plans in a 1951 Popular Mechanics magazine.

When he sells her, Mike said he will build Speeder IV, which will be powered by twin jet drives that are similar to those currently used in personal watercraft.

Mike and Yvette have had many shared experiences in their life together, and working the dirt and growing some of their own food is something they've wanted to do for quite some time.

However, Mike said he will always be working on a boat project.

“After all, isn't that what barns are for?” he asked.

I wish them fair winds and following seas, and long may their big jib draw.

Squadron meets

The North Olympic Sail and Power Squadron will hold its monthly meeting Monday night at the Cedars at Dungeness Golf Club, 1965 Woodcock Road, northwest of Sequim.

All those interested in boating are welcome to attend.

The squadron, which provides instruction on numerous topics of boat ownership and operation, is part of a national nonprofit educational organization that was founded in 1914 and has more than 45,000 members in 450 squadrons nationwide.

The social hour will begin at
5 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m.

Guest speakers will be the Port of Port Angeles commissioner candidates Colleen McAleer and Del DelaBarre, who will deliver prepared remarks and then field audience questions.

The ham buffet dinner is $19 per person, although it is not necessary to purchase dinner tickets to attend the meeting.

Schooner tales

As part of the schooner Adventuress' centennial-year celebrations in Port Townsend, Sound Experience staff and board members will share stories from her past and visions of the Adventuress' future at the Tuesday, Sept. 17, Point Wilson Sail and Power Squadron meeting.

The presentation, at the Port Townsend Yacht Club, 2503 Washington St., across from West Marine, is free and open to the public.

A potluck is held at 6 p.m., with the program at 7 p.m.

Like the North Olympic unit, Point Wilson Sail and Power Squadron is a branch of the nationwide U.S. Power Squadrons.

For more information on the Sept. 17 meeting, phone Linda Newland at 360-437-9350.

________

David G. Sellars is a Port Angeles resident and former Navy boatswain's mate who enjoys boats and strolling the area waterfronts.

Items and questions involving boating, port activities and the North Olympic Peninsula waterfronts are always welcome. Email dgsellars@hotmail.com or phone him at 360-808-3202.

His column, On the Waterfront, appears every Sunday.

Last modified: September 07. 2013 6:18PM
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