originally published in Good Old Boat, March/April 2000
A tale of two Tanzers
A pair of tough mini racer/cruisers strut their stuff in
Maine and New York
by Mary Maynard Drake
"I'm sailing." As Bob Howe speaks those words, his eyes sparkle, and the
grin common to born-again sailors spreads broadly across his face. Six
years ago, the 54-year-old East Harpswell, Maine, resident stopped at a
boat brokerage on a whim. He walked out owning a 1973 Tanzer 22. "The
next day my business partner remarked, `Oh, those are good boats,' "
Howe says. Tanzer Industries, Ltd., of Dorion, Quebec, built more than
2,000 of the one-design fiberglass sloops in Quebec, plus a few hundred
in North Carolina and Washington, between 1970 and 1986. Each carries
222 square feet of sail (main and working jib) plus optional genoas and
spinnakers. Below are a forward V-berth, a convertible dinette to port,
a tiny galley, and a quarter-berth to starboard. Most owners mount a 5-
or 6-hp outboard on the transom.
Once he had bought the Tanzer 22, Bob Howe and his wife, Kathy, went
looking for a lot along midcoast Maine's rocky wooded peninsulas,
carrying a nautical chart to ensure the water would be deep enough for a
mooring. "A very expensive dock" is what Bob calls the passive solar
home they designed and built on the New Meadows River, three miles from
A self-sufficient Mainer, Bob built a boat cradle, modified a low-bed,
car-carrier trailer, and bought a doublewheel dump truck so he can launch
and haul his 2,900-pound keel sloop from his neighbor's level yard. then
tow it home. "Saves $300 or $400 a year," he says. "Besides, our
mile-long driveway is so steep that the trucker who towed the boat down
the first year said he would never, ever do it again."
To Bob's delight, his summers are free for sailing. (Most of his work as
a health-care lobbyist at the Maine State Legislature occurs between
January and April or June). He launches Svoboda (Russian for "freedom'')
in April, and often is the last one out sailing in November. Kathy is a
nurse practitioner, so they sail together on weekends. Weekdays, Bob
may sail his homebuilt Bolger-designed Gypsy. The Howes usually sail
east, for Bob spent many summers exploring the nearby waters in a
13-foot wooden skiff with his daughter.
Each August, Bob singlehands Svoboda to Penobscot Bay, Maine's fabled
island-dotted cruising grounds. After Kathy completes a monthly clinic
on Vinalhaven Island, they take off on their annual week-long cruise.
"It takes a while to get used to living on the boat together," Bob says.
"By the second afternoon, Kathy enjoys sailing. By week's end, she wants
to sail longer on a bigger boat." Since they usually try to do more than
is practical, they often venture to outer islands, including Damariscove
and less-visited Matinicus, 16 miles offshore.
Once, fog marooned them on Matinicus for two days, so they chatted with
locals, attended the annual islandwide bean supper, and basked in the
respect of fishermen because they arrived in little Svoboda. When Kathy
pointed out their sloop to an island patriarch, he looked at the boat,
then at her, and said, "That took courage."
At the end of Kathy's vacation, they leave the boat in Vinalhaven and
drive home. Bob returns later to sail back. "It's an easy boat to
singlehand, especially since I've added an Autohelm ST 1000," says Bob.
"'Otto' makes my solo trips a lot safer." Unlike self-steering windvanes
that follow the wind direction, the 12-volt battery-powered "Otto" has
an internal compass to maintain the course Bob programs in.
Since Bob only raced once, in 1995, he disregards Tanzer 22 class rules
about modifications. "I've put just as much money into upgrades as I
spent on the boat originally," he says. "It's easy to get parts for my
27-year-old boat because John Charters, the class association vice
president, runs a parts company.
Bob added lifelines ("so I won't lose Kathy overboard"), a 130-percent
genoa with Furlex roller furling, larger winches, a traveler, a
vang/preventer, a compass, a depth finder, a GPS, a boom tent, and a
solar-powered vent fan. He devised jiffy reefing for the mainsail and
replaced the wiring and the four-fuse circuit panel with a seven-fuse
All are successful except the traveler. "It restricts movement in the
cockpit, so it's more trouble than it's worth," he says. "We aren't
racing sailors who demand every last tenth of a knot."
Upkeep is simple - except when the coating pulled away from the iron
keel. That required sandblasting down to bare metal, then priming and
painting. Now all the boat requires is annual bottom painting.
"Svoboda is easy to sail, performs well, feels like a bigger, heavier
boat and is very seaworthy," he says. "I don't know what it would take
to capsize it. I had it over 40 degrees and never worried that it would
Because they like to cruise overnight or longer, the Howes find the
sloop's most serious flaw is lack of standing headroom. "It just isn't
big enough for two to be comfortable on a long cruise or in bad weather.
Also, the cockpit is large enough to sleep in, but if it filled, the
water would pour below, and we'd be in big trouble."
Bob dreams of cruising the tradewinds some day in a larger, full-keel
boat. He's learning to use a sextant and satisfies his offshore cravings
on other people's boats. Twice, he's sailed from New York to Bermuda
through Ocean Passage Opportunities, an organization that matches boats
and captains with crew. In October last year, tropical storm Irene's
50-knot winds and 25-foot seas pummeled the Beneteau 411 he was crewing
on. Safe arrival in Bermuda ended the ordeal.
Bob prefers a previous winter cruise he took aboard a chartered 39-foot
catamaran with two other couples in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Meanwhile, Bob sails Svoboda, usually with Kathy and sometimes alone.
One December, he rounded a nearby island during a slight snow squall
while reading Kon Tiki. "Other things being equal, I like warm-weather
sailing. But I was sailing in December, albeit with gloves on.''
Three generations later
Bill O'Reilly Jr. grew up on New York State's Lake George, learning to
sail as a child in dinghies and an O'Day 19. "The summer I was 15, my dad
(Bill O'Reilly Sr.) ordered a new Tanzer 22, hull #1685, with keel and
optional black hull," he says. "I have lots of great memories sailing
Twenty years later, as he teaches his son, Bill, and daughter, Chelsea,
to sail, the sloop is enchanting the third generation of Bill O'Reillys.
"The Tanzer 22 is a great boat for kids," says O'Reilly, 35, a
globe-hopping power plant manager who sails whatever, whenever, and
wherever he can. "It's solid with a big cockpit, small sails that are
easy to handle, and plenty of room below for the kids to play. A
self-tending jib would make it perfect, though, because the genoa
sometimes hangs up."
The O'Reilly children sailed before they could walk. Now Billy, 6,
handles the tiller, keeping the boat headed into the wind while Chelsea,
9, pops up through the forward hatch and pulls up the sails. "Billy's
big thing is letting us know when motorboats are coming," says Deborah
O'Reilly, 33, Bill's wife. She was raised on a New Hampshire farm and
learned to sail after their marriage.
As a teen, Bill belonged, along with his father, to a small Tanzer 22
fleet on mountain-rimmed Lake George. They both waited impatiently for
the monthly class newsletter and enjoyed the camaraderie.
"Everyone participated in the low-key races," Bill says. "We had no
spinnaker, so we'd race the two upwind legs only. When everyone popped
their spinnakers on the downwind leg, we'd pull out our lunch bags and
eat our sandwiches. We'd reach the finish in time for the party." Bill
hasn't raced as an adult, preferring to share the fun of sailing with
his family, and not let them get all tense and hyped about racing.
"Sometimes the kids would like to go faster," he says, admitting that he
roared around in his own motorboat as a youth.
A 4-mph target
The O'Reillys consider their Tanzer 22 perfect for sailing on
32-mile-long Lake George. Dulse (from the Gaelic word for "seaweed")
draws 3 feet 6 inches, allowing them to sail or tie up almost anywhere.
Bill scheduled his summer classes (he's completing an MBA at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute) on evenings and Saturdays, leaving weekdays free
for sailing. They stay home weekends, Deborah says, because the boat is
a 4mph target for the powerboats, parasailers, and jetskis that zoom
around Lake George's touristy southern end.
As they introduce their children to sailing, two-hour sails have
stretched into all-day cruises, and overnights are planned. "On a nice
day when the wind's out of the south, off we go, wing-and-wing with the
whisker pole out," says Bill. "It's so beautiful and quiet, with no
tacking... sailing at its best."
A four-mile cruise from their dock at his mother's house takes them to a
favorite place - Sandy Bay Community Park. "We pick up a mooring. jump
off the boat into shallow water, and swim ashore where the kids can run
around on the beach.
"Sailing on the lake is a challenge, for the wind can whip up whitecaps
or switch direction in no time," he says. "We keep an ear to the radio
and an eye to the west. If we see thunder clouds rolling over the
mountains, we batten down, start the motor and head for home quick."
Freshwater sailing makes it easier to keep Dulse shipshape. When Bill's
job transferred the family and their boat to the Connecticut shore for a
year, marina workers were amazed at the 18-year-old sloop's sleek
bottom. However, the antifouling wax the O'Reillys applied didn't stop
saltwater marine growth.
"When we pulled her out of the Thames River, I almost lost it. Six
inches of slimy stuff were growing on her," says Deborah. "We'll never
put her in the ocean again."
Back on Lake George, the O'Reillys sail into November, enjoying having
the waters almost to themselves. Chelsea and Billy's schooling
restricts boating time, though Deborah admits they occasionally take the
children sailing on a really great school day. Bill's return to work in
June 2000 will further restrict their cruising. But, they agree, boating
has top priority.
"Dulse is the one steady thing in my life," says Bill. "She was there
during my teens, through my parents' divorce, and when I had vacations
from Maine Maritime Academy. We sailed her in Long Island Sound, then
came back to Lake George. She was waiting when I returned from two years
working in Kazakhstan."
Bill is fulfilling his dream: involving his wife and children, so all
enjoy sailing together.
In her previous life, newspaper reporter Mary Maynard Drake and her
then-husband, George Maynard, built Scud, an engineless replica of Capt.
Joshua Slocum's Spray, in their backyard and sailed it around the world
with their three children from 1973 to 1978. Later she and her husband,
Bob Drake, sailed his Cape Dory Typhoon and a 23-foot Sailmaster on
Fishers Island Sound before they moved to Maine. Mary prefers writing
about boats and boaters and sails whenever possible often in the Grumman
aluminum 15-foot outboard boat they rigged with a windsurfer sail.