BOATOWNER’S BOAT REVIEW
1981 Cape Dory 30 Cutter Miss Marley By Chris Kreitlein
ate on a blustery winter’s afternoon, I sailed out Pensacola Pass into the Gulf of Mexico on my 1981 Cape Dory 30 cutter, Miss Marley, on a solo voyage to Panama City, FL, a distance of approximately 90 miles. As the north wind blew me out the pass, I saw ahead of me a newer model production sailboat also heading out. Curious, I called them on the radio and asked their destination. The captain replied he was taking his 36-footer far enough out to pump the holding tank, then heading back in. Upon learning my own plans, the captain cautioned me that a small craft advisory was in effect and that he recommended I return to Pensacola Bay with him. I probably sounded overly confident when I replied, “Well, I am in a Cape Dory, so I think I will be okay, but thanks for the info.” At 15 miles offshore, I turned Miss Marley to the east and steered toward Panama City. As the wind piped up, I double-reefed the main, lowered the yankee and sailed on with the staysail and double-reefed main. The seas were building, but the short fetch between the shoreline and me kept the swells down to five feet. I sat in the cockpit as the swells came rushing up, slamming into the port quarter and lifting us up before passing underneath. The sight and sound of the rushing swells with occasional breaking tops was a little unnerving, so I decided to go below to avoid watching them. I adjusted the main traveler and tied off the wheel at the right spot for Miss Marley to steer herself on a course toward Panama City, and stepped down into the cabin. (I have often found tying off the wheel on a flexible line as effective at keeping a course on a broad reach as using my autopilot, and it uses no precious electricity.) I spent the evening and night sleeping, snacking and peering outside for ship traffic—of which there was none. At 6am, I climbed into the cockpit in time to see the sunrise and the Panama City outer marker two miles ahead on my bow. I was pleasantly surprised at my good fortune at being there, right on the spot, after not having touched the wheel for hours. Miss Marley had weathered the small craft advisory without incident—no surprise to me. That goes with having a Cape Dory. When I look in books that describe the characteristics of a blue water cruising sailboat, they invariably describe my Cape Dory. She is low, lean and narrow. She has a cutaway full keel with nearly half her total weight in lead encased in the keel. I once filled out an online form to determine her capsize rating only to get an answer that made no sense—until I realized it was because she was off the scale and extremely unlikely to capsize.