Sharing Our Stories

2 Extreme: Step aboard a global abode

The world was theirs” is Mattie McAlarney’s favorite headline written about her seven-and-a-half-year trip around the world with husband Henry. The couple wrapped up a 70-country cruise aboard their 39-foot Corbin Center Cockpit 2 Extreme in 2009.  “I wanted to be home for my 70th birthday,” Mattie tells me as I admire the aft-cabin curtains sewn from hand-embroidered silk fabric bought in some exotic eastern market. “I made it back a year early.

Since then 2 Extreme has been on the market. Media outlets ranging from Pacific-based sailing magazines to Pasco County Florida’s local newspaper has interviewed this fascinating couple with so many stories to tell.

Mattie and Henry keep 2 Extreme at Anclote Isles Marina in Tarpon Springs, Florida, an easy drive from their land home. When the newlyweds decided to go ’round the world’, they sold their house in Summerland Key, but retained the digs up North on Florida’s West Coast near Tarpon Springs. And so it was that Henry and Mattie volunteered to pick us up at Tarpon Springs City Marina on an early December morning for a tour of the 1979 Corbin. We’d already viewed 2 Extreme and her stats on-line.

We have learned through experience that absolutely nothing beats seeing, smelling, touching and hearing the actual boat on site as it is. Scott keeps a boat-shopping list; we’ll call or e-mail the seller to arrange a showing when we’re in the neighborhood. The quest is proving to be enriching in ways I’d never imagined, allowing us to meet fascinating sailors while touring their equally fascinating vessels.

In addition to on-line research such as owner listings and group sites, I always take lots of snapshots when we’re looking at a boat. In the moment, you may not notice every little detail. Pictures bring into focus both pros and cons when formulating a decision.

This particular Corbin had been on Scott’s list for some time. Her overall length is listed as 38’2” with a 32’ LWL and a 12-foot beam.

Not super-sized compared to our current 32-foot DownEast, but definitely larger in terms of storage and working areas on and below deck. Powered by a 1987 Perkins 4-108 Diesel (91-gallon fuel tank capacity), the 22,800-pound vessel officially drafts 5.6’ – Henry notes that when she’s fully loaded draft is closer to six feet.

The Corbin, designed by Robert Dufour of Montreal, Quebec, carries an 822-square-foot sail area. While not known as the fastest in the bunch, doing 5 knots on a good day with a max cruising speed of 6 knots, this bluewater sailing vessel is, as Marius Corbin requested and Henry and Mattie can attest, a boat that can be sailed safely and comfortably around the world. The Corbin 39 was produced from 1979-1990. The original molds were lost in a fire; post-1982 the vessel continued to be produced with reduplicated molds due to its popularity.

When you spot this boat at a dock, its spacious, uncommon flush deck is one of the first things you notice. Henry says he knew he was a goner the minute Mattie saw 2 Extreme, as a flush deck was one of her not-debatable conditions.

A flush deck was one of Mattie’s not-debatable conditions

Aboard 2 Extreme, Mattie shows the “girl stuff” while Henry, an accomplished maritime professional with impressive racing and commercial credentials, takes Scott over the details from the sail plan to the engine room. Interests, anecdotes and technical exchanges often overlap as we explore every nook and cranny.

Mattie displays the rattle-proof mis en place storage for saucepots.

For example, I call Scott’s attention to the clever “en place” pots and pans storage in a cunning drawer beneath the nav station opposite the galley. Mattie tries to scramble out of the frame as I snap, shooting me a dirty look when I catch her. She doesn’t tell me I can’t take her picture, but I have a feeling that if I asked her to pose she’d give me a flat-out “no.” So I don’t ask.

Scott taught me to cook; we share galley duties on our boat. Neither one of us thinks the stove on 2 Extreme is adequate. Chip Ahoy has four burners. We can never go back to two, no matter how cleverly this little beauty is gimbaled side-to-side, so the hot stuff won’t fly out at you in rough seas. Mattie demonstrates her favorite heavy-weather cooking position, with one foot braced against the companionway ladder. “I can peel five pounds of potatoes like this,” she rightfully brags.

Stoves are easy enough to replace and most other aspects of the boat are more generously proportioned than our current living space.  Of all of the Corbin’s attributes, for Scott and me the tastiest carrot dangled before the horse is storage. This vessel abounds with it, from the lazarettes holding propane tanks and on-deck essentials to the dry-as-a-bone bilge cubbies accessed via the floor of the solid-teak interior cabin. There’s even a secret spot; can’t tell you where that is.

The couple was just married when they embarked on their circumnavigation. Mattie had zero experience. She says she’d always dreamed about sailing – the water called to her – but boats hadn’t ever been a part of her life.

The super-experienced Henry knows a well-found vessel when he sees one. He saw no need to engage a surveyor and he was comfortable singlehanding as needed.

While Henry did go forward for mainsail adjustments, the ability to control the headsails from the cockpit was a definite advantage that helped to ease first-time sailor Mattie’s concerns in rough seas.

The couple learned what the boat could do as they went. Purchased in the water, 2 Extreme wasn’t hauled out until Trinidad. Mattie says the country lived up to its festive reputation at Carnival time, as well as being a good place to work on the boat.

Being completely new to sailing, Mattie’s learning curve was steep; she was not at all interested in heeling.

Heeling happened eventually, as it will on a sailboat. The wind doesn’t really care if you’re a newbie awed into a panic by its powers.

Mattie shakily ordered Henry to not go up on deck the first time they hoisted too much canvas. He explained to her there was no other choice if she wanted the freight train to slow down.

This was her baptism into the odd and revered school of salts known in some circles as “People of the Cloth.”

Mattie spent many a night watch
in the comfy cockpit.

She never learned to handle sails or the anchor, or any of that stuff. But Mattie proved her mettle on watches. Able to go for many hours without sleep, Mattie took every night watch, all night. There were times when she had to wake him up. But it’s safe to say he got more shuteye than one might expect with a novice partner.

Mattie’s windblown hair shows that she has given up taming who she is. Her beauty and force of personality is forged by all the things she’s experienced.

We’ve clicked in that magically instantaneous way that sometimes bonds certain cruisers, and I feel free to pepper her with questions about her trip around the world.

So here’s the cliché question, what about pirates?”

Mattie said the only problem was at anchor in Tanzania, when “a big black dude” came on board off the stern. Henry firmly assured the intruder that the couple had the means to get him off the boat if he didn’t leave under his own steam. He seemed to understand, retreating. A couple hours of later, around 4 a.m. the miscreant came back and they went through the same routine. Then they hauled anchor and left, seeing as no one was going to get any more sleep that night, anyway.

Next question: which country exceeded expectations and which was not so great, although you anticipated it would be fabulous?

Yemen was great,” she says. “We met a taxi driver who took us around to all the sights.” Mattie notes that the travel climate is not as favorable today, post-911. “This is probably not the time,” she says, noting that many passage makers they know are sticking to the Pacific these days.

The Galapagos gets her vote for most overrated destination. “It was not what you see on National Geographic,” she says, explaining that wildlife encounters were chiefly staged in arranged park settings.

Surprising sights awaited elsewhere. For example, “Everyone grows pot in their yards in the Marquesas,” she says, chuckling. “It’s on vacant lots, everywhere.

Clearing in and out of countries was normally no problem. Mattie’s pick for most obnoxious bribery is Egypt, where boarding customs officials brazenly brought an empty suitcase they expected to be filled.

Wherever they went, the couple enjoyed trading for artwork and other regional goodies. Mattie carried a Ziploc bag full of make-up (especially lipsticks) and perfume. “It doesn’t even have to be new,” she says. Hair ornaments, clothes of any kind and cigarettes are also very popular. If she went back to Africa, she says she would bring lots of toddler-size shorts and boxers for the kids, who ran around naked by necessity, not tradition.

We only came home once, for Henry’s father’s 80th birthday,” she says.

We didn’t change the name. I hope no one ever does,” says Mattie.

Besides pants for little bottoms, Mattie would also have a watermaker on board to supplement the 80-gallon water tank capacity if “we did it again.”

But I’m not gonna do it again. Seven-and-a-half years was enough. Henry would go around the world again. I just don’t want to. It just became too stressful.” And there’s that infectious twinkle in her eyes again, with a bit of a challenge thrown in. “But Cyndi, if I was 10 years younger I would.

As we went over 2 Extreme from stem to stern, the couple received an offer over the phone. Henry passed up to the cockpit a folded slip of paper. Nosy journalist that I am, I didn’t think twice about reading the message in reverse. Mattie knew it, and we exchanged smiles. “It looks like we both have a lot to talk over with our mates today,” I said. “No matter what happens, I’m so glad we met.

Scott and I decided to keep looking for the “right” boat for us. We heard that the offer on 2 Extreme didn’t pan out. I continue to follow her status with interest; this boat – and Mattie’s story – is a hard one to get out of my head. I’m glad to know that the world was hers.

About Cyndi Perkins

Freelance writer and editor Cyndi Perkins shares her liveaboard adventures in numerous nautical publications, including the book “Women On Board Cruising”. She recently completed her first novel manuscript, “Loop Dee Doo,” and is taking the book to market in 2013.

For more info on Corbins and a word from Marius Corbin himself, check out the owners’ page at

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