A Magical Little Boat


  • Length: 22 feet
  • Hull style: Semi-displacement
  • Beam: 8’1″
  • Draft: 1’11”
  • Powerplant: 4 cyl Volvo Penta diesel stern drive (TAMD 22 SX)
  • Horsepower: 102
  • Cruising speed: 16 knots @ 4,000 RPM (2 gals/hr.)
  • Top speed: 20 knots @4,500 RPM
  • Displacement: 4,100 lbs
  • Fuel tank: 50 gals.
  • Year built: 1998 in Olympia, WA

January 1990:
Inga and I accompany Gene, our business partner, to the Seattle Boat Show at the Kingdome. We’ve been swept up by his enthusiasm for boating but once we’ve walked around for awhile, we soon lose interest with all the ostentatious, fiberglass mega-yachts or the purely fishing boats. That is, until we round the corner and spot a boat that instantly enchants us. It looks like a little trawler or tug boat. It’s only 22 feet long and it is utterly dwarfed by the giant boats around it. Its hull is dark green, the pilot house is white and it’s trimmed in teak. It is absolutely unique and delightful. We walk up to it with our mouths open and a sense of wonder. It’s like we’ve encountered a magical creature deep in the woods and we’re not quite sure it’s real. Standing next to the boat is the man who built it, Sam Devlin, of Devlin Designing Boat Builders in Olympia, Washington. He explains that it is his Surf Scoter model, named after a very seaworthy duck, and he invites us to take a look inside. We’re awed by the craftsmanship and style of the boat. We also take a real liking to Sam. He’s down to Earth and genuine in a Prairie Home Companion way. We feel that this is more than just buying a boat. It’s about building a lifelong relationship with a true craftsman who loves what he does. So, that’s it, we’re hooked. In short order, we put down a deposit to have one built. Typically, we start reading every available book and magazine about the amazing Puget Sound marine environment along with boating in general and we chatter constantly about the adventure of cruising its many waterways. But it all comes to a screeching halt as the banker we’ve applied for a loan with explains to us ‘kids’ that it is customary to first buy a house, then a boat. A house??? We tell him that we don’t want a house with all those chores and lawn mowing and screwy neighbors with devilish children. Yuk! We purposely rent and we want a boat! Then he very politely points out that every dime we have is wrapped up in risky real estate development, we have no savings and no credit to speak of, one way or the other. So no boat for us. Inga and I briefly discuss having Sam at least build us a rowboat but we’re too discouraged. We let go of the dream and move on with life. In 1993, we buy our first house in a neighborhood South of downtown Seattle.

June 2005: I don’t realize it at the time but my restful, three day sail up the beautiful Inside Passage from Washington State to Alaska has set the stage for boating to reenter my life. The only flaw in this marvelous journey is that Inga and Freya are not with me and I’m acutely aware of their absence the entire time. By the time I ride my motorcycle to Denali National Park, I vow that it’s time for a change.

August 2005: Having purchased a sport bike earlier in the year with the intent of spending less time on the street and more time on the race track, I need to invest in the required safety gear and rig our Honda Element for towing the bike to the track and back. But I repeatedly resist taking the next step and clearly something has changed. I finally figure it out. I don’t want to continue in a hobby or sport that keeps me away from Inga and Freya. After the motorcycle trip to Alaska and back, I feel like I’ve completed a stage of my life and it’s time to embark on a new journey. I’ve been motorcycling for 7 years and I’ve ridden 10,000 miles or more each year. It’s been a remarkable adventure. I mention an interest in boating to Inga and it’s like throwing a lit match on gas soaked rags. She’s instantly excited at the prospect and explains that her boating desire has never wavered. She’s just been biding her time and waiting for me to show up on the dock. The homework begins and even though we purposely look at several other boat manufacturers here in Washington State besides Sam Devlin, we synchronistically end up right back where we started; looking at Sam’s Surf Scoter. He has a used, 1998 Surf Scoter named “Bunky” listed for sale on his website. We arrange a visit and as we step into the boathouse where it is moored, we immediately feel that magical energy again emanating from the boat. We examine it, ask lots of questions, go for a ride and sign the papers, contingent on the results of the marine surveyor’s report. Bunky passes with flying colors due to his first two owners painstakingly caring for him. We are on our way to owning our first boat!

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