Argo is a Nicholson 32, a classic fiberglass Bermuda sloop.


We bought her from a Pittwater ship’s captain and marine surveyor, for about AU$20,000. He had acquired her a few years back for his two teenaged boys, but they moved on to other, faster hobbies like racing dirt bikes. So Argo was musty from disuse, and more set up for short cruises and drinking out of plastic champagne flutes than for living aboard and cruising oceans.

W and I both liked Argo’s simplicity and classic lines. She had just the right profile for us: a well-built monohull with a long deep keel and a protected rudder. The Nicholson 32 was built for several decades and has an excellent reputation for not getting knocked down at sea. Whatever else you care about in a boat, not dying is primary.

Less stuff means less to break. But I had doubts. Her cabin space was very small, even compared to other boats of similar length. The cabin was exceptionally dingy. Black mold was thriving. She smelled like diesel. And: no oven. I know this is superficial, but I believe ovens are key to the liberation of the cook.

On the other hand, she was about half the price of the boat we had just walked away buying from after inspecting — and after kitting out, she would still probably be $15,000 to $20,000 cheaper. (The less we spend, the longer we cruise: a key theme of posts to follow.)


The captain had said she was built around 1979. But online, we found drawings showing various Nicholson layouts over the decades suggesting she was about 15 years older.

Maybe Argo is one of the Nicholson 32s that were built in Sydney back in the 1960s. Back then, the Sydney Morning Herald did a front-page splash when the molds came down from England, and again when the first boat came off the line.

Old Sydney maps, pleasantly waxy.
She came with some lovely old waxed charts first published in 1963.

Getting Argo ocean-ready __________

One major problem was a nasty case of blisters in her water tank. This tank was built into her keel out of fiberglass, probably back in the 60s. Blistering often plagues fiberglass boats from this era — it’s well known that you have to tap-tap-tap all around the hull to listen for blisters that may have formed by water seeping into the hull. Argo didn’t have that problem, or if she had it was fixed already, but the water tank (same material) was another story. Our surveyor warned us not to drink the water because it could contain styrene (central nervous and respiratory effects, also possibly carcinogenic).

Now, we are working on where to put things. This is not trivial. full