Discovering Family Pocket Cruising

Here’s a lovely letter from a long-term pocket cruiser, encouraging newbies to the fun!

I’m thankful that people like yourself are compelled and willing to venture into the business of building a boat like the Melbec 18. I’ve been a self-employed professional videographer…so I know something about the insecurities of entrepreneurship… On the other hand, I know practically nothing about boat building; and I can’t contemporaneously represent the youth you are trying to attract to your product. However, I was in my mid-thirties with a very young family when I bought our West Wight Potter; so, I’ll offer what insights I can from that retrospective.

My wife and I met camping, so that is sort of in our immediate family DNA. Recreational canoeing came along even earlier than that, for me, and I’d long enjoyed the pleasures of riding our beautiful waterways – mostly in New York State and Minnesota. Canoeing and camping are a couple silent sports that go together as naturally as the words sound.

When I got a job transfer to…La Jolla, CA, we left our pop-up camper behind; but not our love for weekend homesteading…[there] the ocean finally got my attention. I signed up for sailing lessons, and started my search for a sailboat that could combine what we loved about our two favorite recreations: camping and canoeing.

A Malbec 18 being launched from a boat ramp.

Somewhere early in that process, our second daughter was born. She and her older sister had a lot to do with the safety criteria of my sailboat search. Our 4-cylinder Trooper had a towing limit of about 2000 pounds, which narrowed the field considerably. We were a single income family at that point, so cost was a major factor and always would be. I may not recall every boat on the list; but I do know there weren’t many.

Today, I think the number of eligible boats being currently manufactured would be even fewer. That’s why I’m thankful for the few builders like yourself. Our boat needed to accommodate our little family – both in its cockpit and a dry cabin. It needed to be light enough to tow behind a vehicle limited to a ton, and as easy to launch as a boat of adequate size could be. Most of all, it had to be so seaworthy that we’d be willing to take our infant daughter with us. Practically everything about launching and sailing would have to be done solo; because somebody needed to tend our baby. I didn’t care a lick abut speed.

I felt that our West Wight Potter met all those rather conflicting criteria; and I suspect your Melbec 18 would, too. I particularly appreciated the hard chine hull of the Potter – both for it’s contribution to a relatively roomy cabin, and to impressive initial stability.  The exaggerated depth and slight flair of the hull are also family friendly features that added space and secondary stability.

Living with the Potter taught me another thing or two. Ours came with a nice, but slightly oversized, Honda motor. I soon learned that I didn’t like sharing my cockpit with a bulky and smelly gas tank. I also didn’t like the effect that the extra cantilevered weight had on the Potter’s trim.  Boat manufacturers necessarily specify the maximum horsepower motor allowable for their craft. Additional horsepower means additional cost, weight, and bulk. So, I wanted to know the smallest motor that would push my sailboat around a wind-blown harbor reliably and with confidence. I think I ended up trading the 8 or 10 HP Honda for a 4 HP Nissan with integrated tank. It worked great.

In promoting the Melbec 18, I would emphasize how uniquely well suited such a pocket cruiser is for young families. One $25,000 investment can serve them at sea and on land. No slip required; no big expensive motor needed; no limitation to one body of water. I would test the Melbec for the smallest motor that can move it safely through some weather, and let that be known in print and video. A picture of a pretty (small) mom holding a baby in the cabin would be worth a thousand words that I have not seen expressed. Pictures of a family camping out of their sailboat would be an equally rare site. I don’t think we ever spent a night on the water with our Potter; but we enjoyed several on land. Any video or still shots of the Melbec being towed or launched should show only examples of the smallest vehicles capable of safely pulling it. The sleek bow and cabin lines of your boat are probably everything and the only things that need to be said about its speed…

I do hope you find some of this helpful. Most of the sailboats that fill this niche are no longer manufactured. That should bode well for your success with the Melbec 18; because some of us just want to sail or putt around or camp, and we don’t want to spend our time restoring or reconditioning.

Please feel free to keep in touch. As you can tell, I’m very interested in your commendable venture.