From Typee to Alvei
From an article in Latitude '38, May 1995
Back in his formative years, Evan Logan was a voracious reader of the great novels of the sea Conrad, London, and particularly Melville. In the latter's book Typee, one passage helped form a life philosophy.
"Melville noted that to the Tahitian way of thinking, work and play should be the same thing," he recalls. "That worked for me!"
Through the various stints of fun/work as a fine artist, graphic artist and ship master, Logan who still calls Lockeford, California, home was never far from sailing. And we're talking big sailing. Square riggers and 'working' schooners such as Sophia, and Regina Maris were his preferred mode of travel. He skippered the latter vessel for several of her extended voyages in the mid '70s.
By the mid '80s, Logan was ready for a big schooner of his own. "I'd been sailing other people's versions for 12 years," he says. "And I thought I knew enough to avoid all their mistakes."
But what he ended up with must have seemed to some the biggest mistake possible. Not only was the vessel he bought not a schooner, it wasn't even a sailboat. It was a 92-foot steel cargo boat originally built as a herring drifter in 1920!
The detractors were soon silenced. Similar to the famous steam schooners of the West Coast (of which the Sausalito museum ship Wapama is the last one), Alvei was part of a transitional style of ships whose lineage traced the path from sail to steam. Like the steam schooners, the 'lugers' started out as sailing ships with small engines. As time went by, the engines grew larger and the sails smaller until the latter were used for little more than stabilizing the ride. Throughout the process, the ships retained the graceful, slender hulls of their sailing forebears. All the Scotland-built Alvei needed in the way of hull modifications was the addition of a 2-foot-deep, 15-ton ballast shoe run the length of the keel.
The project started out swimmingly. Logan and partner Bart Willems bought Alvei in Norway in the fall of 1986, and by the time they reached Gaia, Portugal, where the conversion/rebuild would take place, they had already bought the wood for the topmasts (in Norway) and the steel for the lower masts and yards (in Holland) for bargain basement prices. Logan, Willems a boilermaker by trade and the main welder on the project and a band of believers more or less just threw on the docklines in Portugal and got to work.
Like all boating projects, though, time and material estimates pretty much flew out the window after awhile. Logan figured the conversion would take two years. It has taken eight. As each obstacle was surmounted, it seemed like another two would present themselves. Some at least had humorous aspects. In November, 16 beautiful brand new white sails finally arrived from Hong Kong. Thing is, they ordered tanbark. "Oh, well, the bill ended up being less than estimated, so what the heck."
On January 16 1995, Alvei Norse for 'one who goes everywhere' sailed for the first time in her 75 years of life. The shakedown cruise to Vigo, Spain, ended up a baptism by fire, as the ship scudded before gale-force winds and 25-ft seas. But she made it in fine fettle, only to drop her anchor right into the hold of a sunken wreck! Extricating the hook necessitated several hours of scuba diving, the assistance of a local fishing boat, repair of the windlass (that broke trying to raise the fouled anchor) and a several day delay to the schedule. After all that, could anyone doubt Alvei was now a full-fledged sailing ship?
"I prefer to think of the ship more as a way of life than a charter boat," says Logan. Whatever crew is onboard gets to decide which island to visit and for how long.
"Five guys can actually sail the ship," he says, "if they're all meat bucket deck apes that know what they're doing. Most of the rest of the time, it will take a crew of 9 to 12." Long term, he sees Alvei's ideal crew comprising three different types of people, one third 'regular' crew, one third long term (5 or 6 months) shareholders and the final third, short-time charterers or just people aboard for daysails or island hopping.
It appears that Logan is one of those enterprising souls who's been able to pull off what most of us only dream about and turned an ugly duckling into a swan to boot!
Captain Evan Logan (right) discusses sailing basics with crew member, Merlin. 2010, Tasman Sea.