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Beebe's first cruise took him across the Indian Ocean from Singapore to Greece. With his diesel clicking off 7½ knots, he met his first real seas and launched the flopperstoppers. They hit the water with a splash and zipped down to their 15-foot cruising depth. Suddenly Passagemaker stopped wallowing, immediately and completely, and began a continuous flow of conversation. That is the first thing Beebe learned. Flopperstoppers talk. It is a strange language, almost but not quite intelligible. Coming on watch in the dead of night, for instance, as you step out into the cockpit, you will hear: "Helloooo there hummmmmm."
"I beg your pardon?" you will ask.
"Hooow booom, rah rah boooom," they answer.
"How's that?" you say.
"Hooo raaa raaaaa whoooooo!"
Beebe has never quite got the gist of flopperstopperese, but no matter. What they say isn't important; it's what they do.
Beebe and Passagemaker spent that summer puttering about the Greek isles, where they met an American artist whom Beebe soon married (his first wife died just before he retired). Next spring all three of them sailed for Marseilles and Passagemaker's second test: the canals. Down came the masts and away they went, slowly, happily, sometimes with less than an inch to spare in the locks, but Passagemaker did just fine, thank you, chugging up the Rhone River all the way to the Rhine and down to the North Sea. Nothing to it.
It was in England that Norris Hoyt, a long-time sailor and frequent SI correspondent (Aug. 8, 1966), met Passagemaker and almost instantly signed on for a trip across the Atlantic. The voyage was a revelation. In the Bay of Biscay, 25-knot winds whipped up big seas quartering from the stern—exactly the conditions guaranteed to make life hell on a small motorboat. Out went the flopperstoppers and presto, pots and pans sat quietly on shelves, food stayed on table and sleepers were able to stay in their bunks.
Hoyt, a schoolmaster by trade, spent the rest of the cruise jotting down such things as: "The flare of her bow increases exactly enough to lift air before taking water—and she nuzzles ahead" and "Layout is leisurely, comfortable, filled with privacy and places to put things. In fact, there is so much room it's sinful."
That is exactly what Beebe had in mind when he built Passagemaker.