We were going to be a dealer for Com-Pac Yachts and we had to buy 2 boats to qualify as their North Carolina dealer. We found the factory on Knapp Drive in Clearwater Florida and they had a brand new 23 on a trailer waiting to go somewhere. It had great lines and I knew it was going to be a wonderful boat. I didn't know all the details yet, but I liked the way the 23 looked and I knew Com-Pac made quality boats from their reputation with the Com-Pac 16. We were going to buy a 16 and a 23 and we would have to make 2 trips to Florida. We were thinking about transporting 2 boats at the same time, but that was going to take more money and more equipment than we had at the time. We did the 2-boat transport several years later.
Com-Pac was glassing their boats at their Factory location. That was going to change as the boat business got bigger. Com-Pac decided to farm out just about all the parts and pieces to different vendors and put the boats together at the Knapp Drive location. Space has always been a large part of the business overhead in the Gulf Coast area. They did maintain a large metal working shop at their main business location and they still do metal work for other builders. RJ Industries did the glasswork for Com-Pac in the early years. They also made the glass components for Island Packets boats. RJ and Bob Johnson (Island Packet) played golf together and that made for a good relationship. Companies that glassed the hulls and decks for Com-Pac has change through the years, but the lay-up schedule for their boats are controlled by the Hutchins Company.
Buck Thomas was the marketing manager for Com-Pac Yachts and a partner in the business. It was his responsibility to find dealers and sell them boats. Buck was really good at what he did and he kept the boats moving from the factory to the dealers. He also had the responsibility of transporting boats to the dealers if they didn't pick up their own boats. The largest order he transported for us was 6 Com-Pac 16s on a big 18-wheeler. They were stacked 2 high on a very high trailer. He once told me that he had to unload a 16 using a tree limb up north. The old boy that used the limb was the Parker River dealer and he kept his boats in a barn on his farm during the winter. Buck had some great stories to tell. He was also the driving force in the design of the 23. Clark Mills is the official designer, but Buck is the person that gave the 23 its character by doing most of the detail work. The Hutchins Company decided that everyone at the factory was going to have input into their boats. Mr. Hutchins (we all called him Hutch), the founder of Com-Pac and Jerry and Richard's father selected the ports for the 23 and Buck picked out the sail plan and other performance details. Buck was into performance boats at the time and he suggested a little more sail area than a normal Com-Pac would normally have. The 23 sail plan is a semi high aspect rig. Small foot and high luff with a good size genoa makes for a great sailing boat. The ports that Mr. Hutchins picked out only lasted for a few boats. Everyone called them manhole covers and they didn't open. The first boat had a full keel of concrete ballast. They made the second boat with a bilge in the end of the keel and a little less ballast. That took care of stern down problem with the first boat. Those early 23s were called Mark I boats and they had aluminum hardware and mahogany plywood interiors. We sold some of the early boats for a little less than $10K and they looked great at the time. They were too hard to rig, launch and sail from a ramp for daysailing and most of our customers didn't buy trailers. The trailers would become more popular when the hurricanes came and the cost of slips increased.
The next 23 out the door was a Mark II. The Mark II is my favorite and a great sailing boat. It has stainless on the outside and teak on the inside and both were big improvements. I didn't like the brown cove stripe that came with the Mark IIs but Jerry said it was an earth color and would match lots of other colors. The 84 model was the only Mark II with a white cove stripe and it looked good to my eye. The Mark II had a 12-inch bowsprit that balanced the boat better and it sailed better. The bowsprit moved the top of mast forward to move the sail plan center of effort forward. The wire rigging remained the same with the new bowsprit. There was enough slack in the turnbuckles to accommodate the bowsprit change. Everyone that had a Mark I wanted a bowsprit and Randy Angel from Sanford NC made them in his garage. Randy was good at welding stainless steel. A 23 with a bowsprit and a 155% genoa was a fast boat and won most of our club races in North Carolina. We had one night race from New Bern to Oriental and back that took all night. The race started at dark with light wind. The wind picked some and the first boat that rounded the half way mark was a 27. The wind died a little in the early morning hours and our 23 slide by everyone for a win. We were the first boat to finish and of course we won big time on handicap.
Com-Pac built a special 23 for someone in Florida. It had wheel steering and a boot stripe that grew in size going forward. Cool boat, but I don't like wheel steering on a 23. The newer boats had halyards aft and I didn't think too much of that improvement. The only time halyards aft work is when your racing and you need to adjust the sails. Other than racing, halyards aft get in the way and are a general pain in the neck. The 23D was a big change. It had a diesel for power and it made the boat sail even better. A diesel in a 23 is a good installation and well worth the extra money. It's a boat where you can have a normal conversation in the cockpit and hear what the other person is saying. Richard Summers sailed his 23D over thousands of miles. Another favorite 23 of mine is when the 23 lost the brown stripe and gained the tan nonskid on the deck. The forward hatch change was good and retooling the deck mold to get the angle for the sheet winches was another good improvement. The catbird seat with a diesel installation was another good change. Our rumble seat modification may be a little better. A soft cushion and a bimini that works over the rumble seat is in the works. The next new improvement on a 23 should be a centerboard. Reduced draft will improve launching from a trailer and a centerboard will improve pointing ability in less than 8 knots of wind. A counter balanced mast hinge using lead and blocks inside the boat would be another improvement. Since we have lots of older 23 in North Carolina, we don't see many of the newest boats with the stainless steel ports. When we do see a new boat at a show, the quality is still there and we think the 23-foot size is about as good as it gets for most people.
Clark Mills, Buck Thomas and the Hutchins family made a great boat when they made the 23. Boats that will sail just about anywhere and can be maintained by the average person without breaking the bank. As soon as we make the mast go up and down easy, it's going to be the perfect boat for most sailors.