Our Boat

SARABANDE's pedigree and story

The Pearson Countess

In the early 60s, Pearson Yachts asked their dealers to complete a survey regarding a motor sailer design they were tossing around.  At that time, well-to-do cruising yachtsmen were growing restless with the cramped, spartan living quarters one could expect aboard a traditional sailboat design.  These lonely gents wanted a boat with spacious accommodations that they could cruise with their families in comfort.  Pearson, ever abreast of the modern-day sailor’s changing style, wanted to tap into this need with a boat that a couple or small family could crew in luxury, without leaving behind the amenities of home.  

Based on the survey findings, Pearson employed the office of the famous naval architect John G. Alden to design their new model, slated to be named the Countess 44.  A master of the art, Mr. Alden delivered Pearson a beautiful, seaworthy design that would sail like the devil, but also had the auxiliary power and spacious interior to rival a powerboat.  This was not a boat intended for a hoarde of salty male crew, surviving on canned food and sterno, taking bucket baths and sleeping in narrow, cramped bunks while they tossed their way across an ocean.  Heeding well the survey's results, Alden's Countess was a boat to be crewed by a civilized couple or two, an elegant little group who held high in esteem matters of privacy, comfort, hygiene and dining, but who still wanted to travel far and fast.  

Alden gave the Countess a ketch rig to keep the sail area manageable for the hypothetically small crew, and a beefy 109 HP engine to ensure that the Countess would skip along whether a breeze was afoot or not.  The open interior and picture windows in the deckhouse kept the cabin pleasant, ideal for entertaining, and imminently liveable.  Pearson excitedly approved the design, and production began in 1964.


In Washington D.C., Mr. George Bell,  president of engineering research company Geonautics, Inc. was on the market for a new sailboat.  The Countess sounded like just the ticket, except he had his heart set on a sloop, not a ketch.  Working with John Alden's office and Pearson, George's broker at Annapolis Yacht Sales arranged a one-time altering of the Countess design especially for Mr. and Mrs. Bell.  

Once the changes were agreed upon by all parties involved, the Bell's custom Countess was built by Gruman Allied Industries in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  It was 1965 and she was the 4th Countess built, unique amoung her sister ships as the only sloop.  Mr. and Mrs. Bell christened her SARABANDE.

George Bell went on to become a special assistant to President Nixon under the President's counsel Charles Colson, known as Mr. Nixon's "hatchet man" and whom the Watergate scandal exposed to be not a nice man, to put it mildly. Mr.Bell passed away in Washington at the age of 60 in 1973*.  His beloved SARABANDE was offered at his estate sale.  

The boat was purchased by the psychologist Dr. Howard Kern of Norfolk, Virginia.  Dr. Kern promptly moved aboard and sailed to the Carribbean to lauch a  successful new career chartering tourists on happy jaunts around the islands in conjunction with a luxury hotel.  No doubt SARABANDE contributed to many a fantastic vacation throughout those sunny years!

Around 1990, Dr. Kern, like George Bell,  also passed away at a relatively young age, and the boat was again offered at an estate sale.  She was purchased by Mr. Joseph Sanacore of New York, NY.

A serious lifelong sailor, Joe outfitted SARABANDE with all the modern sailing conveniences, important safety features, and the latest in navigational technology.  He spared no expense, and his choices did much to rejuvenate the 25 year old boat.  He spent the next 16 years sailing SARABANDE often and far, with a mooring in City Island serving as a home base.

We met Joe Sanacore in the fall of 2005 because he was cleaning out his basement.  Walking home from work one evening in Jersey City, NJ, Brian found old sails, corroded hardware, and moldy charts the Canadian coast on the curb waiting for the garbageman just a block from our apartment.  Ever the packrat, he excitedly gathered up all that he could carry and rushed home, happily reporting that there must be fellow sailor on the block.  

Over the next few weeks, the sailing stuff continued to appear on the curb and we grew more and more interested in meeting whomever was tossing it.  At last, one night we spotted a salty-looking gentleman on the stoop.  He was gazing abstractedly at the most recent garbage batch, wreathed in cigarette smoke and enjoying the early evening air.  

    "Are you the one who's been throwing away all the sailing stuff?", we asked.
    "Are you the ones who keep digging through my trash?" he replied.
    "Yes, sir."

Joe invited us in, introduced us to his lovely lady Janet, and we had a fascinating night sharing sailing stories and talking boats.  At the time, we owned our little CAL 25, and we had just put her on the hard for the winter.  Toiling in the marina yard to winterize our little boat, we'd seen the travelift bring a very tough-looking bluewater boat up on land; she had everything we'd read about in cruising books, she was huge, and we were extremely impressed by her.  We’d window-shopped for plenty of cruisers, but we’d never seen one quite like this one before, and we wondered about this amazing boat. 

When our conversation with Joe turned to cruising, we told him about the boat we'd seen.     

"About 45 feet long?  Red bottom paint?  That would be my boat," he said casually, gesturing to a beautiful painting of SARABANDE on his wall.

Joe was our new hero, and the friendship was off to a great start.

Incredibly, one year later, erroneously believing himself to be getting older, and not wishing to fall prey to the possible “curse” that befell George Bell and Howard Kern, Joe chose us as SARABANDE's new owners.  She needed a little work, and we agreed to bring her back to her former glory.  Joe’s amazing generosity has changed our lives in such a dramatic way that we bless him nightly, and our grandchildren will know his name and what a wonderful kindness he paid us.  Joe knows every inch of SARABANDE and all her quirks, and he's been such a fantastic source of advice and technical know-how.  We can't believe our good fortune, and we won't let him down in our promise to take her out on the ocean where she belongs in all her glory.  

What exactly is a 'sarabande'?

A "sarabande" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a stately court dance of the 17th and 18th centuries resembling the minuet". Sounds a little boring, eh?  Yet her second owner Howard Kern described a sarabande as “a lively Spanish Dance” in his charter brochure.  Music historian Carl Engel, in his 1922 essay "Jazz:  A Musical Discussion" for The Atlantic Monthly agrees with Howard, asserting that it was a rather risque dance before turning more respectable:

 “When you hear mention of a sarabande, you think of Bach’s, of Handel’s slow and stately airs; you think of noble and dignified strains in partitas, sonatas and operas of the eighteenth century.  Yet the sarabande, when it was first danced in Spain, about 1688, was probably far more shocking to behold than is the most shocking jazz to-day.  The sarabande seems to have been of Moorish origin.  Then, as now, the oriental, the exotic touch, gave dancing an added fillip.  When Lady Mary Montagu, writing from Adrianope in 1717, described the dance that she saw in the seraglio of a rich Mussulman, she made allusions which leave no uncertainty as to the exact nature of these proceedings.  Something of that character must have belonged to the earliest sarabandes.  They were the proud Hidalgo’s hoolah-hoolah.”

We like to split the difference and think that a sarabande is the joyful, celebratory dance of a gypsy.  Our boat is one classy lady, but she's not some buttoned-up prude who's above letting her hair down!

Visual Aids

We are fortunate enough to be in possession of photos and documents that help paint the full history of our boat.  Click here for some scans.....  

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A Work in Progress

The marine environment is notoriously harsh.  Boats, particularly old ones, take constant maintenance to keep the ravages of the elements from getting the upper hand. There are a number of projects that we've undertaken to bring SARABANDE back into her fighting shape, and many more on the agenda before we head off on the big trip.  See the 'Boat Projects'  section of MISC if you'd like to see what we've done so far.

And What's That Little Boat You've Got There?

WHAT'S HER FACE is an 8' Dyer sailing dingy, probably their "Midget" model.   Brian acquired her from Craigslist as a gift for Alicia on her 27th birthday.  Her exact history is unknown, but she could be even as old as SARABANDE.  Nameless, she was stored in elevator shaft of a New York City movie props house for some years, but luckily still possessed her sailing rig, centerboard, rudder and oars.

She promptly began to sink after her first launch, but after a little love and epoxy from Brian, she was soon sailing the whole family around the marina.  She's slated for further strengthening and a spruce-up over winter '07-'08.

*Interestingly, during Watergate investigations taking place after George's death, Charles Colson named his conveniently deceased former assistant as the author of the infamous "master list" of Nixon's political opponents.  The list featured some 30,000 names, including Barbara Streisand, Bill Cosby, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda .  The White House Counsel's Office planned to use the IRS and other federal agencies to ruin the people listed, as they were deemed political opponents of the President.  The list was sent in memo form two years before George's death.  http://www.archives.gov/research/independent-counsels/watergate/.

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