“I got introduced to Wednesday night PHRF racing… and became addicted. The Beneteau First 30 seemed to be the ideal boat.”
INTERVIEW WITH THE SKIPPER – Don Miller
Why did you choose to buy a Beneteau sailboat?
The combination racer/cruiser initially appealed to me. I wanted a boat that I could race competitively as well as comfortably day sail with family and friends. Designed by talented Juan Kouyoumdjian (Juan K), the 10’ beam is carried all the way aft. This provides for a very large cockpit for a 30 footer; I can comfortably sit six while sailing and 8 while hanging out on a mooring. The feet of the people on one side don’t hit the feet of the other.
Below decks is spacious with 6’ of head room in the center of the main salon. For cruising, the forward V-berth can sleep two, plus two in the aft quarter berth, plus two on the main salon seats. I liked having a tiller instead of a big wheel in the cockpit which would take up a lot of room. An enclosed head with shower plus a galley with two burner propane stove and icebox were pluses. The nav station opposite the galley (on the starboard side) is comfortable to use and right near the companionway for ease of communicating with the crew while racing. Create your own instrument package (right next to the nav station) offers a lot of options. Under the starboard cockpit seat is a wet locker where I can store fenders, lines, buckets and other things I’d rather keep out of the cabin. The Yanmar 19 HP engine with a saildrive is very quiet.
What boats have you previously owned?
I grew up on the North shore of Long Island and sailed in Manhasset Bay off LIS. I started sailing when I was 5. My father’s boat was a Bulldog (about 15 ft) named “Woof”. When I was 7 or so, he built for me an 8’ pram in the basement which we just barely got out the basement door. Very much like an Opti hull but with a Marconi rig. I sailed that all over Manhasset Bay, taking part in informal races against like boats and kids my age out of the Plandome Field and Marine Club.
My first real racing boat was a Meteor Class. Sixteen feet long centerboard; very much like a Comet except with a larger main and handkerchief jib. The hull was very similar to a Hustler. The class was only in Manhasset Bay; about 15 boats. The boat’s name when we bought it was “Bedlam” which I didn’t like, but I was taught back then that it was bad luck to change the name of a boat, so I didn’t. I then graduated from skippering what I could afford and started crewing, doing foredeck, on the hot shot racing class in Manhasset Bay at the time: the Resolute. Again, the class was only in Manhasset Bay. The boats were very much like a Shields but were all built in Norway out of wood. Beautiful boats all kept in indoor storage over the winter.
After graduating from college, I moved to Marblehead in 1968 and started crewing (again doing foredeck – I was still young) on IODs which was the class to be in in the late 60s and 70s. First crewing for Tom Rowen, whose father Carlton, founded the IOD class in Marblehead, and then for Jon Wales when Tom retired. I was very proud to do foredeck for Jon when we won the IOD Worlds in 1980.
With 3 young kids and a wife sitting at home every Sat, it was time to reconsider. I wound up buying a Sailstar Corinthian designed by Carl Alberg. It was a popular boat (19’6”) with over 50 in the harbor and as many as 20 showing up on the starting line when the weather was good. A great social class, even through the winter.
When the kids were old enough for me to leave on Saturdays, Bill Douglass got me interested in the Etchells class. Probably the best one design boat ever built, it was a challenge. For several years, I was in partnership with another racer. When he decided to leave the class, I sailed with Bill for many years and, as were his wishes, I continued racing “the mighty Valk” for a couple of years after his passing.
I got introduced to PHRF racing around that time and crewed for quite a few skippers on different boats. I also got introduced to Wednesday night PHRF racing (on a couple of different J/105s) and became addicted. Now retired from a long career at Raytheon, the Beneteau First 30 seemed to be the ideal boat.
What other kinds of boats did you consider buying before this model?
It just had to be a sailboat! I did a lot of looking, not finding anything quite like the Beneteau. So my program for many years was OPB (other people’s boats).
What are the features you like most about your boat?
The large cockpit and tiller, and down below, the layout (headroom, nav station, sleeping capacity, shower, stove, ice box).
What features/improvements have you added or do you plan to add?
I’ve made a few minor modifications, but basically kept the boat the way it was when I bought it.
How do you typically use your boat over the summer, and where do you go?
Wed. night PHRF racing is number one. Also day sailing with family and friends. I haven’t yet cruised too far from home.
What is the biggest challenge you have in servicing your boat?
Paying the bill. I have chosen to have all my work (yearly maintenance, repairs) done at Manchester Marine. They have very knowledgeable people, do excellent work, and are friendly and accommodating to my needs.
Do you have any advice for those looking to buy a Beneteau sailboat?
Each to his/her own.
What’s the story behind the boat’s name?
My uncle was quite a sailor. His modus operandi was to buy a boat in need of work, fix it up, put a great racing record on it and then sell it. His boats were all named Feather, up to his last boat which was a 40 square meter named Feather XIV. He had passed on, so when I bought my Corinthian, I asked my aunt if she would mind if I carried on the name. She said she’d be honored so my Corinthian was Feather and Beneteau is Feather II. I know I’ll never get up to Feather XIV.
Check it Out
To learn more about Feather II, click the gallery below. To see other boats like this, simply type in Beneteau in the manufacturer’s drop down list in the Harbor Directory.