Houdini – ex Element, ex Gulp, ex On the Reach

  • Owner: Jim
  • Location: Rye NY
  • Year: 1988
  • Hull #: 28
  • Sail #: 41788
  • PHRF: 114



I stumbled on this page today, can’t believe I never saw it before as I spent a lot of time researching Express 34’s before we bought Houdini (ex. Element, ex Gulp, ex On the Reach (?) and I still look now and then to see what the market is doing.

Three years ago my wife and I decided it was time to buy a cruising boat and I did a lot of digging to find a boat that was firstly in our budget but also offered decent performance, good looks and a cruiseable interior and it basically came down to the Olson 34, j/33, j/35, and the Express 34.  Both my wife and I are long time avid racers at a fairly high level (We met when I was her watch captain during the ’02 Bermuda race) so we wanted something that would sail well.  After looking at the J’s we decided the interiors was a bit lacking.  I then stumbles on Sabrina which was in my old stomping grounds.  We took a look at her and liked what we saw and negotiated with the insurance company after she was damaged during Sandy.  After a lot of number crunching and talking about the project we decided Sabrina was not for us for a number of reasons.  I then found Element for sale and the next day my Wife and young son hopped in the car and drove the 10 hours out to Ohio to have a look.  She was in decent shape but needed some love but was fairly sound.  On the way home we discussed the boat and decided we would make an offer based on a survey.  We got a survey done and she was OK but had a couple small issues, well 99% of the were small but more on that in a bit.  We made an offer and it was accepted and had the boat shipped back east to Long Island Sound where she had spent most of her life.

The first year I did not do much to her other than adding a fine tune to the main sheet, new stereo, chart plotter, and doing a VC Offshore bottom…..I know she is a cruising boat but I have spent so much time working with Baltoplate/VC Offshore that I just stuck with what I know.  We did our clubs Friday night none spin series, gunkholed around western LIS almost every weekend and did a week long cruise out East.

The second year we had her I started making some improvements which include new Andersen 46 Self Tailing winches, all Dyneema running gear (including replacing all mast head sheaves) drip-less stuffing box, a new Isotherm hot water heater, and just general tiding up.  With that said the survey had shown some moister in the starboard side of the cabin top and it quickly became pretty soft.  Again we raced Friday nights and gunkholed her a lot, slept on her 36 nights during the ’14 season.

This past spring I decided to repair the cabin top myself.  What I thought would be a 30-40 hour job ended up taking right about 100 hours. I cut the out skin off and dug out all of the moist wood…..I never thought it would ever find dry wood but I eventually did. Long story short we finally launched her in early July with a redone cabin top and a modern pit complete with Constrictor Rope Clutches and Andersen 28ST winches….awesome upgrade.

All in all we could not be happier with Houdini with the exception of her speed under power (5.5kts at 3K RPM), she offers fine living space for the three of us on weekends, is fun to sail and is now a solid boat….we are now saving our pennies for a paint job.



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