We’d been looking for a Mac 26 for some months, but found very few on the market and those we found were at least six hundred miles away. The idea of driving that far just to look at a boat and possibly finding it not to our liking just didn’t seem feasible. But luckily Eric found a MacGregor owners forum online and asked a guy in Wilmington if he’d be willing to let us look at his newly purchased MacGregor 26 sailboat. Greg was very excited about his new “baby” and sent us several chatty emails about how much he loves the boat.
We headed off Saturday morning early. It was drizzly and cool and not exactly prime sailing weather, but we weren’t expecting a sail, just a viewing. But the thrill of finally getting to see what we hoped was the boat of our dreams was tempered by our frustrated efforts to get Greg, on the phone. Eric called several times on the drive, left messages, but Greg never answered. Twice the call was returned, but there was nothing but silence on the other end of the line. We were driving three hours from Durham and were more than a little nervous about traveling this far and possibly not connecting with this guy, who, by now, we were sure must be completely nuts.
Arriving in Wilmington, we checked the email at McDonalds (god bless ‘em) and found an email from Greg saying the boat was at the Otter Creek Marina in Carolina Beach. We googled it. Yes, they have a website! But there was nothing but a post office box for an address. Frustrated, Eric tried to call him again. No answer. He double-checked the phone number from the number on the email. All good. The guy must just really be nuts or something. We decided to go to Carolina Beach and just ask someone. Eric looked at the satellite photo on GoogleMaps and saw a big marina just under the bridge at Snow’s Cut. That had to be it.
But we couldn’t find it. We found a narrow canal with a sign that read Otter Creek Landing, but no marina. There were a few powerboats moored there, but no sailboat that we could see from the road. Dejected and frustrated, we turned around in a little parking area and went back the way we’d come. Down a narrow residential street, we spotted a man sitting on the steps of a house. I pulled up in the driveway and Eric asked if he knew where the marina was. He jumped up and said he didn’t know, but his buddy would and he took the steps two at a time. In seconds he was back. No problem, he says, you go to the end of the street, take a right and you’ll see it.
Maybe we could at least find the boat and look at the outside. So we followed the directions. At the end of the street was a huge marina attached to an equally massive condo complex. But the name was wrong. Luckily, a very salty looking young white guy in dreadlocks came up from the docks. We asked him. He was clueless. Never heard of it. But another guy came up behind him, an older guy equally salty, with a waddling dog and a baseball cap and he had heard of it. He said it was just the next one over, but the roads were not straightforward and it would take some turns to get there. He grabbed the dog’s collar and waving the other arm, pointed out the general direction we should go. He also added the crucial information that there was a parking area with a dumpster and when we saw that we should look for the path to the docks.
We followed the streets back the way we came, hitting a dead end or two and turning back and forth. At the end of one of the streets, we saw four parking spaces and a dumpster with wheeled carts resting upturned next to them. This can only mean boats. It had to be the place. The sign said, “Otter Creek Condominiums” further confirming that this must be it. We parked and looked toward where we knew the water to be, although it was completely obscured by the two-story condos. There was a tiny boardwalk, almost hidden by the lush landscaping. Up a slight rise, we saw the boats. It had to be here. We scanned the docks for a mast and found several. The wooden gate was closed but unlocked. We pushed through and saw a man fishing by a small gazebo and maybe a dozen boats beyond him. But as we approached, we saw that none of the boats was the Mac 26.
The boat is trailerable, so we thought, well, maybe he hasn’t launched it. We asked the man if he knew if this was the marina and if he’d seen the boat or knew Greg. He said it was Otter Creek, but he didn’t know the boat. However, he asked if it was “inside” or “outside.” We were confused because usually the larger boats dock to the outside of the docks and we assumed this is what he meant. But we could see all the docks from the gazebo and there was no Mac 26 inside or outside. He pointed a gnarly finger behind us to where we could just see the tip of a mast in a small canal between the condos. “Inside” in this context must mean inside the canal. We thanked him and headed off. By now we were afraid to hope that this might be it, so we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the scenery.
The place was really pretty, carefully kept but lush, the immaculate-looking condos had huge decks and balconies furnished with nice outdoor furniture and potted plants. There was not a soul in sight and it was very quiet. The seventy-degree breeze brought the smell of the marsh and made me feel slightly intoxicated.
“I want to live here,” I told Eric dreamily.
“Me too,” he answered quietly.
I stared at him surprised. Early in our relationship we’d talked about our dreams for the future and I said that mine included a condo at the beach. It had been summer at the time and I was sick and tired of cutting my four acres of fast-growing weeds and the idea of someone else taking care of the yard was a big appeal. But Eric was taken aback and even made a remark about how our relationship would never work because he couldn’t see himself ever living in a condo at the beach.
“You do?” I asked him.
He shook his head. “Heck, I’d cut all this grass and clean the pool if they let me live here.”
By this time we’d rounded the small swimming pool and come to the docks. On either side of the little canal were individual docks and down on the left was the unmistakable hull of the Mac 26.
To be continued…