The old family boat

While tootling around the Internet I ran across a surprise: my family’s sailboat, sold in 1992, has come up for sale!

1979 Cheoy Lee 32 SWAN SONG

SWAN SONG is a 1979 Cheoy Lee 32 designed by Raymond Richards. Her first owner, a guy named Swanbeck, now you know why she is named SWAN SONG, was a 747 pilot for United Airlines. Swanbeck bought her new and watched her being built in Taiwan. My folks, along with me & my sister, saw SWAN SONG the first time at the 1980 Boats Afloat show on Lake Union, WA. Swanbeck set the boat up as a timeshare, a way to use the purchase as a tax writeoff, and we were the only ‘club members’. Essentially we were the only ones using the boat as Swanbeck wasn’t much of a sailor nor liked spending nights aboard. When the tax shelter was no longer working Swanbeck offered my folks first dibs on purchasing the boat. My folks bought SWAN SONG in 1982 or 1983, can’t remember exactly, and remained her owner until 1992.

SWAN SONG at Matia Island, Rolfe Cove, San Juan Islands. In this picture can see her original wooden mast and boom and the original color over her canvas.

My family spent a lot of time on the boat, including long summer cruises around Puget Sound, San Juan and Gulf Islands. At 16 SWAN SONG was the first boat, not including dinghies, I sailed and cruised alone.

The boat isn’t a fast sailor. She is heavy and wide. If the wind is blowing above 10 she does better. 15-20 she is really happy.

The boat was a good fit for a family of four: two quarter-berths and a v-berth forward. Nice sized head as it is placed amid-ships and the galley is well organized. In 1979 SWAN SONG was a large and fancy boat. She had 12v and 120v (not common at the time) and a forced air propane heater (very rare). She also was large – most folks sailed boats under 30′. By today’s standards she is small and lacking bells and whistles.

SWAN SONG’s sellers are likely the couple that bought her from my folks. They seem to have kept her up and spent some money over the years: new mast (replacing the cedar one), new motor (replacing the raw water cooled Volvo MD11C), new cabin cushions, and a headstay furler (she used to have four hank on sails: genoa, working jib, storm and a a light air blooper). My guess is the main is the one my dad had made back in 1985/86 (a nice full battened sail so if it is the same one likely needing to be replaced). My mom made all new canvas about 1989/90 so my guess is what is present is newer-ish. The green pictured in the ‘for sale’ pictures happens to be the same green my mom used.

They haven’t fixed everything. I wonder how the deck are doing? The Choey Lees are called ‘leaky teaky’ for good reason. At some point the deck must have been, at a minumum, recaulked. The ground tackle is original to the boat. In the picture below you can see the block attached to a broken one built into the toe rail. Those built in toe rail blocks broke in the mid-80s.

The fiberglass work on these boats is thick and adequate (my folks ran aground a few times with no significant damage). The woodwork is outstanding in quality and quantity (all that wood is also why many folks don’t want a Cheoy Lee). The original hardware is so-so stuff. Around 1981 the steering’s main quadrant broke into multiple pieces as it was made with cheap ‘pot metal’. The replacement quadrant was made in Seattle and likely still there. The Cheoy Lee stainless isn’t very stainless and metal pieces that were chromed have a finish prone to pealing off. The gel coat is not the best and prone to being chalky (no spider cracking when my family owned the boat – just couldn’t hold a shiny finish). The paint on the rebuilt wheel pedestal, done when the quadrant was replaced, has the best finish on the boat.

A story about how tough these boats are: the one and only race my dad captained on SWAN SONG he t-boned another boat at the start line. The other boat had a messed up toe rail along with hull/deck joint damage. The boat spent some time in the boat yard being repaired (the owner was actually really cool about the entire thing and always thanked my dad for the nice new finish on the hull). SWAN SONG’s damage: a scuff on the bow.

Good to see that SWAN SONG has been cared for and is still afloat. So many of these boats have gone into the chipper because their decks become waterlogged, the old raw water cooled Volvo rusts up, the wood mast rots and the cost to repair is much greater than their value. I’m tempted to go take a look ‘just because’.

Young me at SWAN SONG’s helm. Believe this was about 1988 during a Spring Break cruise with college friends.

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