Family Magazine

There’s This Boat: Mary Powell

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

march 119s

It takes many years of diligent saving and personal sacrifice to afford the boat of your dreams and cruising adventure. Or, you can limit your selection set to what fits into a ready budget, and trade years of anticipation for years of cruising.

That’s what Steve Dolman did. His modest sloop, Mary Powell, was not a candidate for swagging at a boat show or splashing across a magazine cover. But the simple monohull was kinder to the budget, and it meant he could go- soon. We met Steve in Mexico, hung out again in Tonga, and caught up recently once more in Malaysia. What does one man’s perfect cruising boat look like? Steve took the time to answer a few questions for me.

Tell me about Mary Powell.

She’s a Discovery 37, designed by Peter Hatfield and built in 1970 in Richmond, BC. They were built for just a few years by ICL engineering.

How did you find her?

Just by fluke, with a broker in Sidney, BC, looking for an economical blue water cruiser. At the time, I was also looking at C&Cs. Glad that didn’t happen (keels have a habit of falling off!). It had been sitting for three years after death of the owner; kids used it a little, not much, and it hadn’t been maintained. Mostly, it just needed TLC, nothing major. I put $38,888 (Canadian) into the boat.

Tradewind sailing

What were your major upgrades?

I put in a windlass, and HF radio, radar, autopilot. All the other basic essentials were there.

What makes her special to you?

Actually didn’t like her much at first, but it was what I could afford. The choices were to blow the budget on the boat, and go back to work, or buy a cheaper boat and go cruising. She grew on me and by the time I got to Fiji I wasn’t jealous of anyone. The boat is the right size, the right investment, I know her inside and out and know she can just about anything handle anything.

What kind of preparation did you do?

I hit almost every gale in the Georgia Strait that winter to make sure that if anything broke it broke there. If you call mayday you’ll have traffic jam in 15 minutes! Ice pellets at 35 knots make a special sound on a full sail, but a lot of fun.


Tell me what you like most about her.

Her ruggedness. She’s been on rocks and reefs. She’s got a bare lead keel – no fiberglass. Three times it’s happened, and each time we got off unscathed, despite bumping and bouncing. Just a spade rudder, there’s no skeg. And, she’s pretty fast; we keep up with the 42 footers of the world.

What don’t you like about Mary Powell?

All funds and focus have been on hull, rig, and engine, but that’s the stuff that counts. The interior is still very 1970s! Mary Powell could stand everything cosmetically. No change to layout, just make it look a little newer.

Do you know much else about her history?

It was registered in Victoria by the first owner, who had her for nine years; the second owner for twenty seven years, and I’ve had her ever since September 2007.

sailboat canada mary powell lighthouse

Departing Langkawi – 2014

Mary Powell is a modest boat, but she and Steve have put down a respectable miles. He crossed the Pacific in 2010, then sailed up to Japan and across the North Pacific back to British Columbia. By 2013, he was back down in Mexico and preparing to head out across the Pacific again. It was such a treat to hear from him a few months ago that he was in Bali, and wondering if we’d be able to get together. The cruising world is small, and it’s great when it comes around again.

Sitting on Totem in Langkawi, Malaysia, Steve and I talked longer about what’s next. He’d like to get back to Trinidad, where he was introduced to sailing as a teen and has fond memories from his youth. But after criss-crossing the Pacific a couple of times, he’s hoping to explore Southeast Asia a little longer before continuing west.

Fair winds Steve- I wonder what corner of the world we’ll get to see you in next?

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