VIA-MARA is a 1969 Trojan 42 Aft Cabin Motor Yacht owned by Barb and Dave Gamblin. They were kind enough to invite our writer, Denise Miller aboard with her notebook and camera in summer 2020. The team at Canadian Yachting magazine thanks the Gamblins and Denise Miller for sharing this wonderful, original classic motor yacht with us.
Andy Adams – Editor
The Saint John River, located in New Brunswick, Canada, is world-renowned for its scenery and beauty and is truly a mecca for boaters from all over North America and beyond. The river can be accessed via the Reversing Falls in Saint John Harbour and Bay of Fundy and it stretches 673 km long through the province of New Brunswick, into Quebec and Maine. Once known as the Wolastoq, the system is revered, as are some of the vessels that traverse the rivers and tributaries; none more so than the VIA-MARA.
You would be remiss if travelling between Saint John and Fredericton, you have not come upon the 1967 Trojan 42 Flybridge Motor Yacht. Berthed at the Oromocto Boat Club, the VIA-MARA is truly a sight to behold, towering over other boats. It comes with a story that is equally compelling.
Dave and Barb Gamblin are VIA-MARA’s current owners. Married in 1970, Dave, trained in engineering technology and a successful serial entrepreneur and Barb, a lifelong teacher and administrator, are the glue that keeps VIA-MARA together. Once that task got more time-consuming, the Gamblins retired happily and were able to dedicate more time to their boat and other hobbies, including flying. Dave and Barb also own a private four-seat aircraft. Both have been volunteers with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary for more than 35 years, Dave volunteers as an instructor with the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons and still occasionally teaches the VHF Radio course. The couple have no children, but have had a succession of ship’s cats; the current kitty is Smokey. Neither came from boating families; they were deciding between a cottage, RV, or boat, and do not regret the choice they made.
The Gamblins had several boats prior to the Trojan 42: a 14-foot runabout, a 19-foot cuddy cruiser, 28-foot Express Cruiser, a 31-foot Trojan Flybridge Express cruiser, then like many boaters… got a major case of “10 foot-itis” and were on the hunt for their next vessel, a Trojan 42.
This did not come on a whim. A lot of research and a “feeling” as Gamblin explained, caused the couple to save an advertisement of the 42-foot Trojan from the back page of a 1972 boating magazine. The picture served as the incentive for a 10-year goal. Eight years later, they went shopping for a Trojan 42 and the story continues.
Ironically enough, the Gamblins initially went to see VIA-MARA in Ontario but passed her over at the time, due to the fact the aft cabin in that particular boat had twin berths. They found another in Baltimore, MD, with the design they wanted, made an offer, and the offer was accepted. However, the seller started modifying the terms of the agreement, the broker had some discomfort about the deal and returned their deposit. At that point, Dave and Barb took their 31 Trojan off the market and continued their search. That coming winter, as fate would have it, brought them back to the VIA-MARA. During that time, Dave did some research and realized he could convert the aft cabin to the double berth layout they preferred, and VIA-MARA was purchased in Port Credit, Ontario, in March 1981. After sea trials and surveys, they started the 1,340 nautical mile trip home and on May 30th, 13 days later, VIA-MARA arrived at her new homeport in Oromocto, welcomed by friends ready to celebrate the arrival of what was likely one of the largest boats on the river system at that time.
The Gamblins have enjoyed extensive travel with their 42 Trojan including many excursions in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, and down the coast of the United States to places like Belfast, Maine and New York. Her full plaining hull gives her fantastic sea ability with cruising speeds of 14-16 knots. The boat can easily tow a water skier and is able to tow large boats that have encountered issues ― and has done so as part of the couple’s volunteer work with the Canadian Coast Guard Auxillary. Prior to retirement, the Gamblins both had busy careers and little time for downtime due to mechanical issues, so they have extra shafts, props, ignition parts and such to ensure every minute on the water counts.
One such issue occurred on a trip out on the Bay of Fundy. The boat, originally powered by twin Ford 427s, broke a connecting rod. Barb thought at the time they may have hit a whale. They returned home on one engine and made the decision to repower both engines. This was the end of August. Dave ordered new twin 454 (7.4 L) MerCruisers, MIE 340s. Upon their arrival, everything was ready to go and the new engines were running a mere 11 hours later. Dipsticks and water pumps were modified to fit and within two weeks of going down with a broken engine, they were back on the water and put in enough hours to complete the break-in time on the new engines just in time for haul out that October. Dave credits the well-thought-out design of the Trojan 42 that enabled seamless removal of the engines through a factory roof hatch without much hassle at all.
Perhaps it is the maintenance schedule of the VIA-MARA – that Dave describes as “rigorous” – that keeps it in its current stellar condition. Be it the exterior or running gear, nothing is left to chance. Some of the maintenance that the Gamblins do religiously includes oil changes and filters, done once a season or after 80 to 90 running hours. Fluids are checked at regular intervals and the impressive, carpeted engine room allows easy access to check belts, pumps and such. Another major part of the maintenance plan is that every season, an oil sample is sent away to get Spectra Tested. This analyzes the engine oil for trace wear metals, water, coolant, or other foreign entities, providing an early warning for signs of premature engine wear. The dependable Velvet Drive transmissions are original. Dave describes them as “old but doing great” with clean oil and maintenance to seals.
Interior-wise the Gamblins take a balanced approach to upgrades for convenience, comfort, and efficiency, but they are very careful not to take away from the original look of the boat. One major upgrade five years in the making were the new headliners. As many boat owners know, even newer headliners tend to fade, sag, and look dated with age. Finding the proper white vinyl with small, perforated holes was a difficult task, but necessary to keep the factory look. Finally, a local company, Flyer Products, sourced just the product they needed; one without the foam backing so it could be attached to a wood structure. There was no fast way to do this daunting job, which required hidden seams and special fittings. But, the added time allowed for proper cleaning, resealing, vacuuming, and the addition of new LED lighting that is vintage in appearance but much more efficient. Beacon Marine in the United States specializes in old Timber Trojans and was able to source fittings, and other items including a new/old Trojan flag that proudly adorns the boat.
The roomy galley still has the original Princess Stove that gives it that retro look. An upgraded 2-way fridge four years ago was necessary, but is complimented by custom wood trim that makes it look like it was always there. The cupboard area has a versatile set-up with a lazy susan and pull-out banquet table. The salon has a stock Trojan table that was built especially for this boat, which converts from a coffee table size to a complete dining room table in a few easy steps.
The electrical panel is another project that Dave took on himself. Using his own design, he upgraded to a new Blue Sea panel that swings out 90 degrees. Discreet in its placement but affording easy access, it rivals that of most newer boats on the market today. Much the same can be said for the addition of air conditioning: a new MarinAire 16,000 BTU system that will run off a 15-amp breaker, which is what many clubs in the area are limited to. Even the venting system panels that were sourced or constructed keep the vintage look consistent throughout the boat. Everything in this boat works as it should, right down to the original autopilot.
During the Gamblin’s travels, people commonly approach the boat to run their hands down her hull. They are usually in awe of the condition and finish and find it incredible that she is a wooden boat – let alone from the 1960s. A lot of credit goes to maintenance, especially storage. VIA-MARA is stored in her own boathouse. Years ago, the couple purchased old railway tracks from another club. Dave designed a custom cradle not unlike the factory shipping cradle, to move her onto the tracks which lead from the boat yard into the building in Lower St Mary’s. This facilitates the move into her off-season home. It takes four able-bodied volunteers and some heavy equipment to get this done annually, but it pays off in dividends. The storage allows for Dave and Barb to work on the boat in the off-season. The boat is essentially painted every four years and one would question whether the finish is wood or ‘glass due to its pristine condition. The teak deck and railings are in outstanding condition.
As time rolls on, the voyages stay closer to home, and the inevitable question is asked. Dave’s own words sum it up nicely:
“I always wished to have something different than others, and in the words of another Trojan 42 owner, “It’s a good boat that does most everything reasonably well”.
“A boat is a collection of compromises, and the right compromises for you become the right boat for you. It worked out and VIA-MARA has exceeded our expectations. We have cruised her a lot, and she seems to attract people wherever we take her. The wood construction, once common, is now rare and only seen with custom-built boats”.
“There have been very few vessels I would trade her for and all these years later, if I did not have her, I would want her. Faster than most, the hull is easily driven, has a good ride and can flatten most seas you would not want to be out in. We have had thoughts about upgrading, but the longer we have her, the harder it will be to let her go. The day will come, it’s getting closer all the time, and we are NOT looking forward to it. I hope we can find someone to take care of her as we have when the time comes…”
VIA-MARA Quick Facts
1967 Trojan 42 FBMY built in Elkton, Maryland, USA
Length of hull – 42 feet 5 inches plus swim platform etc. Overall length about 45 feet with a 14-foot, 10-inch beam. Dry weight 28,000 lbs.
Main drives – Twin MIE 454, 7.4 L MerCruisers
Genset – 6.5 MCCK Onan
Notable additions – A/C, laptop navigation systems with repeater, backup camera, hour meters, fire suppression system in engine room.
Cool fact – In 1985, Prince Andrew was aboard for a cruise while a guest of the city of Fredericton. It has been said this is the only time a private vessel was utilized for a Royal Visit in Canada. The Gamblins have a thank you letter from Buckingham Palace in a scrapbook with lots of details.