One of my favorite kernels of family trivia is the fact that our first cruising boat—a Pearson Vanguard sailboat—arrived the day I was born: June 23, 1964. I was two weeks late; I'm not sure exactly how late the boat was, but by the time we both showed up my parents must've thought the summer was half over. Ten days later, the five of us (plus the dog, I'm sure) went for our first family sail.

Hersper under spinnaker, circa 1968.

Hersper under spinnaker, circa 1968. Note the spare dinghy, aptly named Barnacle, clinging to the cabin top.

The Pearson Vanguard was designed by Philip Rhodes, who is probably best remembered for his popular daysailer design, the Rhodes 19. In the 1960s he gained a reputation for designs that looked good and sailed well too, and our family cruised from the Chesapeake to Maine during the six years we owned this boat. My father (an excellent woodworker and engineer) spent many winter evenings building custom parts that would make the boat a little more comfortable, including chocks on the cabin top to tie down a second dinghy. Those were installed shortly after my parents had to rely on the kindness of strangers to rescue my brother and me, who capsized dinghy #1 sailing ice cream and other groceries back to the boat.

Our recent landmark birthday started out with an email from my dad: "Happy 50th to Hersper!" That started me thinking about where she might have ended up, a half century later. My parents sold her over 40 years ago, so it's likely she's changed hands a few times since then. And even though her varnish still glistens in my memory, she could've been abandoned, or sunk, or just so neglected that she could no longer be called a boat. But I figured it was worth a Google search to find out.

I knew she was a 1964 model, and my dad told me that the sail number (which probably matched the hull number) was 128. So I was able to weed out most of the Vanguards in the listings. One 1963 boat (available for sale in the USVI) is in very nice shape, and has obviously sailed some impressive miles. I'd like to assume this is how Hersper ended up.

kids cruising on Pearson Vanguard

I'm the youngest. From my expression here you'd never predict that for the next 50 years, I'd be the most active sailor of the family.

It looks like hull #128 is still sailing, but inquiries for further information to the Pearson Vanguard Yahoo Groups went unanswered. Perhaps it's because I'm mixing work into this personal quest, by writing about Hersper here on

So I'm going to go on assuming the best. In my mind, anyway, Hersper sails on. Hopefully she has a new family aboard: a dog barking from the cockpit at any seagull that gets too close, and a crop of kids learning the joys of command at her helm. At age 50, that's not a bad place to be.