1971 Seafarer 31 Yawl Smiling Skull

S/V Smiling Skull

Owner: Dan Augustine

After a few life-altering events, I decided to spend the rest of my savings on a boat. Why? because I was young and silly. I decided on a sail boat so I wouldn't have to spend much on gas, and because I had always wanted to learn to sail. I bought a 24' home-built wooden sloop named Gittana. I spent the winter rebuilding and reading every possible book I could find on how to sail. When spring came I launched the boat the boat and sailed her adequately enough. After a year I realized that as much as I loved sailing, the five feet of headroom in the cabin wasn't enough for my six-foot-three-inch body. I began calling marinas and boatyards in search of abandoned 30' boats that were in need of some TLC. Unfortunately, there were none to be found that weren't holed or delaminated. I had some expirience refitting one boat already, so I wasn't afraid of work as long as it didn't turn into a behemoth of repairs. Anyway, I finally was referred to a broker (actually a decent one), who told me there was a sailboat of about 30' in the back row of the marina that I was welcome to look at, but he didn't know if the owner would consider selling her. In fact, he only knew that the boat had been sitting sine 1992 when it was moved from another yard. I took the afternoon off and drove out to see the boat. It was in horrible shape at first sight. Someone had broken out the teak companionway boards and a couple of port lights and the boat was filled with wasps and about four inches of mud. The next day the broker called to explain that the owner (who was the original owner) would sell her if the price was right. I obtained permission to root around the boat for a day or two, before I made my final decision.The hull was solid, and the interior wasn't in such bad shape considering the near-terminal neglaect she had suffered. I arrived at the conclusion that with some elbow grease I might just be able to bring her back to life.We finally settled on a price of three-thousand dollars in late November. The owner took one look at the boat, and thought he was making a killing. I thought I was getting robbed, but I had a good fealing about it, so I took the chance. After cleaning her out and spending many nights in sub-zero temperatures just trying to rewire and clean without freezing to death, I was able to spend the summer of 1999 sailing. Underneath the four inches of mud and five years of grime I found:

  • Two fresh water tanks totalling 100 gallons

  • Hot water tank

  • Pressurized plumbing system that included a shower

  • Shower sump

  • Roller furling gear

  • Original sails

  • Three anchors

  • Engine with 60 hours on it

  • Depthsounder

  • Teak grates for the cockpit

I also found a second strange-looking piece of metal aft of the wheel attached to the cabin sole. After asking a friend of mine who is a life-long sailor to come and look at everything he announced that what I thought was spinnaker pole with no ends was actually a mizzen mast. I owned a yawl, and didn't even know it! I spent several months rewiring, painting, laying new nonskid, rebedding the deck hardware, and getting the sails cleaned and rebuilt. Now you must understand that when I first saw the boat, I couldn't get a good look at her lines as she was crammed in between so many other derelicts. I spent so much time focusing on each little project that I never looked at her entire being. I launched her in June of 1999 and took her to a marina on the Cuyahoga River where I put the final coat of paint on the decks, and Cetol on the trim. I walked down on the docks and a few slips over, and took in the whole picture- amazing! I just wanted to see the paint, but all I can remember is seeing her sitting on her lines, and the sheer of the deck and cabin. I fell in love. Over the summer I was constantly asked if she was a Hinkley. The yawl sail plan balances the boat very well in heavy air, and she heels just right when going to weather. She was built in 1971 at the Seafarer Yard in Huntington, N.Y. and designed by William Tripp, Senior. She has the'Newport Deck' and 'Cruising Rig' which is five feet shorter than the 'Racing Rig' option.

As far as structurally, I am still in awe that she was so sound. aside from leaky port lights, the deck is solid, and the hull is perfect. The overbuilt solid glass construction is still in great shape. This season I am planning to put a final coat of paint on her topsides, and repower her with a Westerbeke 25HP diesel. I have set a date to go cruising for two years and have that much time to get everything finished. I will also be taking out the awful teak contact-paper-covered plywood with either cherry or mahogany. I will be replacing the port lights with brass and tempered glass models, and getting a manual windlass, refrigeration, and a new head system.

The boat's original name was Peppermill Erie, but I have since changed it to Smiling Skull. I don't know what else I can say about the boat, other than for the money and work put into her, I got a heack of a deal. She sails beautifully, and I plan to cruise the Caribbeana nd maybe the Mediterranean in the next few years.