“I've never experienced so much J O Y , and so much H E A R T A C H E, from any other woman.”
-Jim Zevalkink, my father
S/Y D E S I R E E
1 9 6 2 PEARSON
I N V I C T A 37’
In 1962 s/v Desirée was designed by Bill Trip and built in Bristol, Rhode Island. The Pearson Invicta is 37.75 feet overall, and only 25 of those feet meet the waterline. Unique with her dramatic overhang and “bubble” cabin top, there were only 21 of them ever built. I grew up on hull no. 8 in Lake Michigan. She is a rare bird and her design permanently influenced the course of sailboat design after it won a major ocean race. Bill Tripp proved fiberglass to be competitive with its wooden counter parts. In 1964, the Invicta placed 1st in its class during the Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda race. With the Cruising Club of America in mind (CCA rule) its design met the needs for safe family cruising alongside competitive ocean racing.
In 1972 my father bought Desirée off of her original owner who housed her at the Chicago Yacht Club. Desiree had been a Great Lakes cruising boat fresh off the factory. For roughly 20,000 dollars it was his, and as a diesel mechanic back at his family owned and operated logistics company, that was everything he had. Half of the money he had to borrow from his father, in which he paid back by turning wrenches. At 23 years old, my father and his best friend prepped to sail “America’s Great Loop”. One year later, after cruising the Mississippi River, Bahamas, Eastern seaboard, Hudson River, Erie Canal and Canada’s “North Channel”, he returned to Michigan after receiving “the greatest education he has ever had.” A journey I followed in his footsteps when I too, turned 23.
This heavily constructed yawl holds some of my earliest memories, some of my fondest. It is a privilege to be traveling in this vessel and to say I am spoiled to be borrowing it is an understatement. This boat has a grand story and I have made it a mission of mine to keep writing it.
The joy felt when heeling hard over, overhanging freeboard taps the waterline and she picks up speed. The heartache felt when the teak cap rail gets smashed against the dock in a gale. The joy brought when waking up at anchor, sipping coffee in isolation watching the fog lift and receiving friendly welcomes from local wild life. The burning heartache when your engine has a massive oil leak and has to be re-built. The joy restored in re-installing it all yourself. It is a very simple cycle that must be approached with strong will and gratefulness. We are indebted to our sailing vessels, for they provide us with our greatest stories. Desirée is certainly becoming mine as I work towards an “even greater education”. She has years on me and I may never be as wise. She will likely outlive us all, and in her long life we may be in return, her greatest joys and heartaches.