All of our passions have a starting point. There’s that first time at a baseball stadium, the first time on skis, the first time flying. They’re all portals that open up a lifetime’s interest and participation.
And so it is with boats and boating. For John Collins, 54, a Baltimore computer networking consultant, his passion came early and from unusual beginnings. “I guess it ould be romantic to say I’m the son of a son of a sailor, but nothing could be further from the truth,” says Collins. “My family was not into boating at all. My dad rented a boat once and dropped the outboard motor overboard. That was it for him.”
Not for his son. “When I was 12, I spent a few weeks on a lake in Maine with a friend,” says Collins. “We had a 12-foot aluminum boat with an 8-hp outboard. I spent every possible minute cruising on that lake. We tied an old door to the back of it and that was my first introduction to boating and skiing.”
Forty-two years later, the passion is still there. Only the boats have changed. There was a 21-foot overnighter, a 17-foot runabout, a 27-foot aft-cabin cruiser and a fleet of small boats. But of all the boats Collins has owned, the one he and his wife, Sharon, share today comes closest to perfection. “This is the first boat I’ve owned that I am completely happy with,” Collins says. “Size, performance, accommodations, seaworthiness and fun is what I wanted. I’ve found it.”
Collins’ boat is a 1995 Albin 28 Tournament Express, a single-engine overnighter with full accommodations below and a roomy cockpit and helm area. The price was $78,000, and they took delivery in 2005. After looking over several other boats, they spied an Albin at a local marina. “My wife said, ‘Now that’s a real boat,’ ” says Collins.
The couple researched the builder and liked what they found. “Words that stuck in my mind were seaworthy, stable and reliable — all of the things I was looking for,” says Collins. Still, it was a complete departure from the boat he’d imagined buying. It had a single engine instead of twins, no bridge deck and a “smallish” cabin. “But it has a large cockpit with plenty of room for friends, dogs and fishing,” he says. “Whether we are cruising, on the hook or at a raft-up, we spend most of our time on deck. That’s where we wanted the space.”
Seakindliness was another major consideration. The couple was tired of getting beat up every time Chesapeake Bay got a little rough. “This boat will handle much more than I am willing to take on,” he says. “Last year we ran from Thomas Point light to the Gunpowder [River] in a 4- to 5-foot chop. My last boat would have been pounding and lurching all over the place. The Albin just powered through and shook if off. The worse it got, the more confidence I had in this boat.”
The Albin sleeps two in comfort (four in all) and is equipped with a stove, refrigerator, microwave, television and a “good size” head. Power comes from a 310-hp Peninsular diesel. Top end is around 25 knots, and it cruises at 18 to 20 knots, says Collins. Average fuel consumption is 4 or 5 gallons per hour.
Overall, the boat was in good shape. The hull was badly oxidized, but the cabin, helm area, cockpit, bilge and engine compartment were in perfect condition. With little work to do, the first season was spent learning how to handle a single-screw boat. The second year was spent having fun. Last year Collins upgraded the electronics and replaced the canvas and coaming pads.
Now that they’re settled in, the Collinses are looking ahead. They’re planning extensive cruises on the Bay and a voyage to Ocean City, Md., via the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. The couple’s “someday cruise” will be a trip on the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida. More often than not, they’ll be close to home.
“We’ll be out a couple afternoons during the week and just about every weekend,” says Collins. Favorite destinations include Rock Hall, Great Oaks Landing, Still Pond, Middle River and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Collins is so enthused about his boat that he started the Albin Owners Group, which now counts about 400 registered users. A Chesapeake Rendezvous is planned, along with similar events in Boston and the Pacific Northwest. “We encourage all Albin owners and potential owners to join the group,” says Collins. And share the passion.
The Albin 28 Tournament Express is one of the longtime builder’s most successful designs, with more than 1,000 sold since its 1993 debut. Noted for its solid construction and seakindly handling qualities, it is popular as both a family cruiser and a fishing boat. (Albin stopped building boats last fall.)
The hull is a modified-vee, with a skeg-protected rudder and a reputation for straight tracking. The bow is tall, and freeboard extends well aft below an even sheer. The coach roof with handrails is surrounded by walkable side decks and a slight bulwark forward. A hardtop version features a swept-back wheelhouse with good visibility through a triple-pane windshield and large, opening side windows. The helm station with pedestal seat is to starboard, with a companion seat to port. The cockpit is large and open, with room for fishing or entertaining. Engine access for the standard 315-hpdiesel is through deck hatches; an engine box is required for larger power plants.
The interior is compact and complete. There’s a large berth forward that converts to a spacious C-shaped dinette. The galley — with sink, stove, refrigerator and storage— is to port. There’s a head compartment to starboard, with a marine head and shower. Additional touches include a handy quarter berth and a teak and holly cabin sole.
The Albin 28 Tournament Express is a popular boat on the used market. Prices run from around $50,000 for older models to around $100,000 for more recent boats. A 1993 boat with a hardtop was for sale in Florida for$49,000, “ready to go” with a 220-hp diesel. In Alabama, a 1996 model “in very good shape” and with a low-hour300-hp diesel was listed for $72,000. The freshwater boat came with full electronics, a new transmission and a swim platform with dinghy davits. A California boat, vintage 2001, was selling for $109,000, with a 300-hp diesel. The fire-damaged vessel had been completely refurbished, with electronics and all other systems upgraded. A “well-maintained” 28 Tournament Express in Virginia, with a low-hour 300-hp diesel, was selling for $115,000.
Steve Knauth is a contributing writer for Soundings Magazine. This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue.