Monthly: November 2013

29 Nov

18 Comments

The Upside of Downsizing

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uvs130918-001

By Sean Mulligan


I could feel myself starting to grin as Scout accelerated down the lake. WIth a fair wind directly behind us she was really feelin’ her oats and surging at times to 5.5 knots. That’s not all that impressive until you realize that she’s less than 14’ long.

This was a totally new experience for me. I have been sailing pocket-cruisers for a few years, but this microcruiser deal—well—it was new territory. I honestly was not really sure if I’d enjoy it, but as the hours passed by I got my answer.

Scout is a 13’ 10” Matt Layden-designed Paradox. I was fortunate to find her for sale, over 90% complete for a very fair price. Having been a lurker on many microcruiser sites over the years, I was very familiar with the Layden family of designs including Little Cruiser, Paradox, Enigma, Swamp thing, Elusion, and a couple others. Much of what I knew came from following sites like Dave and Mindy Bolduc’s Microcruising.com and the Watertribe Everglades Challenge site. I’d figured out from these sites that there is a whole ‘nother group of sailors and way of sailing I knew nothing about—microcruisers. About the time I became aware of micro’s, Scamp hit the internet with SCA extolling its virtues. I was hooked. I had to try this “micro” thing for myself.

I think what intrigued me most about these little boats, was how big the adventures were that people were regularly taking them on. Many popular designs had proven themselves to be far, far more seaworthy than anyone who was not an enthusiast would ever imagine. In fact, through the web I was following microcruisers who were far eclipsing any adventure I’d attempted in my boat of 6-10 times the displacement. The adventures were real interesting, and most endearing to me—they were cost effective with boats easily managed by one that could support its crew handily. This was truly a revelation to me. I had no idea about this type of cruising.

I was simply having a blast flying southbound down Lake Havasu. The plan was to sail a 30-plus mile course that I figured would end up being a total of 40-plus by the time I tacked upwind all the way home. The twist to this little adventure was to do it with no motor usage whatsoever. I pretty much sealed the deal for myself as I didn’t even bring a motor along. The self imposed rule was that any sort of human or wind power was acceptable, but that was it. The other boats that joined me for the trip decided to try the same rules, although all but one, my friend Jan on his Balboa 20, had an outboard along for the ride “just in case.”

I set sail at sunrise, and since their was no wind, out came the means of human propulsion. I’d brought along a yuloh for sculling and a stand-up paddleboard paddle to offer an alternate set of muscle use and to change the pace up a bit every so often. That turned out to be a good decision. The wind was forecast to start up at 8 a.m. and build to a nice 15 or so out of the north giving us a sleigh ride to the south end of the lake before having to turn around and beat home. The “rules” stated that sometime during the trip “The Island” at Lake Havasu City would have to be circumnavigated, including under the London Bridge.

My plan was to paddle/yuloh north , through the channel that cuts under the bridge, then around to the north side of the island where I figured I would arrive just as the forecasted north breezes would begin, then enjoy the sleigh ride south for around 17 miles. It worked…kind of. The winds were late arriving and I ended up paddling all the way around the island (about 3.5 miles) before the breeze filled in. At that point the paddle and yuloh got put away for the next 15 hours.

We shot south taking full advantage of Scout’s standing lug rig and nearly a dead downwind heading. I was able to cut the corner of every twist and turn of the lake to within feet of the shoreline as Scout’s 9-inch draft and kick up rudder gave me the confidence to sail where I had never sailed before. Catching up with a Seaward 25, we played leapfrog with them, sometimes chasing them and nipping their heels like the proverbial Chihuahua nipping the big dog’s hackles, other times taking advantage of the rig and ability to sail shallow to pass by them and lead the way for a while. At the end of the downwind leg we were within 200 yards of the big boat, rounded the mark ahead of her, and started the 14-mile upwind bash that now lay before us. It was around 1p.m.

Scout has no centerboard or keel. She’s completely flat-bottomed and relies on a huge rudder, chine runners, and her hull shape to drive her to windward. Crazy enough, it works! In fact, it’s flat-out amazing to me that she’ll point nearly as high as the keel boats. What cost us ground was the wind chop that had built up considerably. Before the mark we were riding the swell….now we were now bashing into it. This definitely impacted our speed and we slowed to 3 knots in the chop as the big girls left us in their wakes. At this point Scout’s anemometer (by Inspeed….check them out) was showing 26-mph apparent. We were in a large basin of the lake and had about 2-3 miles of fetch coming down on us. The wind waves were significant, but never stopped Scout—just slowed us down. On we went through the afternoon.

I learned a lot about Scout on this trip, eventually figuring out that I was way oversheeting  her for upwind work. Once I got that figured out the speeds came up as well as the VMG. About that time the winds backed off to a beautiful 12-14, the water flattened out, and the sun vanished behind the mountainous shoreline. Darkness didn’t stand a chance though. Within 20 minutes of sunset…..was a 100% illuminated full moonrise. It was spectacular, and the amount of light it bathed the water and shoreline in was incredible. On we went. More than once I told myself to stop thinking about whatever I was thinking about and just look around. The moonlight on the water, sailing buddy’s running lights silently crossing the lake until they tacked, the sound of canvas momentarily flogging as they crossed though the wind, coyotes and burros sounding off on the deserted desert shoreline. I remember thinking, Why am I not out here more? I live right here! This is 5 miles from my house—I have to get out here more often at night, especially full-moon nights.”

About 1a.m. and 3-4 miles from home the wind finally died, the water returning to absolute glass. I mounted the yuloh and silently drove Scout home at 2 knots.  

At 1460 pounds designed displacement, she is not the lightest girl at the dance, nor the ultimate paddle/yuloh machine. But…..she is able to be driven manually if so desired.  At 3 a.m. I reached the dock where we’d started, closing the loop and completing the task—my friend Jan right beside me in his Balboa. He had dropped his headsail hours earlier just so we could enjoy each other’s sailing company, rather than blasting on by with his faster boat. Because of that, we shared one of the most beautiful evenings I can remember on the water. His presence nearby, occasional chat between boats, and having someone else to share the experience with made it just that much better.

I have sailed my Montgomery 23 Dauntless many times up to about 100-nm without using a motor, however, the outboard was there and ready to go if needed. Sailing Scout without a motor even on board has been a confidence-building and gratifying experience. I may or may not eventually add an outboard bracket to her, but knowing that my fate is not tied to the outboard is a liberating feeling for sure.

Of course, Scout cannot quite provide the comfort or amenities of our larger trailersailer, but it’s quite surprising how comfortable I’ve already been able to make her for a crew of one. Add the fact that her rigging up and de-rigging involve no heavy lifting (from which I often get a sore back with Dauntless)…and Scout just keeps looking better and better.

Setup and teardown time at the boat ramp are around 20 minutes each way. When we get home she’s easily tucked away in the garage and the trailer can easily be moved around by hand.

Is Scout the “end-all be-all” of sailing? No, absolutely not. When ‘Jo and Ensign can come along, Dauntless is the ride for the three of us. But for when I have some time and no one else does, Scout’s incredible ease of rigging and ability to deliver fun in varying conditions from dead calm to over 25 knots seems to offer a new Nirvana.

I guess I still have “2 foot itis”…..it just changed directions. I hope more folks will learn about this aspect of sailing. Any boat that gets us on the water easier and quicker is bound to get us there more often. And that’s what we need. Boats that are accessible to the “everyday guy,” that can provide “out of this world fun” (like the Paradox and the Scamp), and are extremely affordable compared to the “normal” trailersailer—will lead to sailing for the masses. And that can’t be anything but good for our sport.

Photo: Jan Maslikowski

Filed Under: Blog, Uncategorized

18 Nov

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Fetch; Returning home.

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After getting back from the Small Reach Regatta I worked on the Loon drawings for another 10 days and had them scanned and printed in Bangor. I handed them to Mike O’Brien who was going to write an article about her for the November issue of the magazine. During this time I enjoyed my stay at the WoodenBoat School campground. Conveniently, I joined the meal program, which allowed me to just show up at mealtime and munch away. I didn’t need to spend any time buying and preparing food. Once in a while I would wander through the shop and chat with students and instructors. Greg Rössel was teaching lofting and boat building fundamentals. On occasion we would hang out together at meal times and he would always have a story or two up his sleeve. He loves to talk and is quite the character. In another room Geoff Burke was teaching the intricacies of building Adirondack Guideboats; beautiful delicate lapstrake boats with sawn frames. He was intrigued by Fetch’s Gunther rig and we often discussed different ways of rigging it, because he had a commission for a boat with that rig.  John Harris was guiding along a CLC kit building class of one of his designs; the Sassafras canoe. I know John from my time in the Maritime Center in Port Townsend and we had some interesting discussions. Nick Schade was teaching strip planked canoe building. I knew him from a visit to Mystic Seaport years ago. I had stayed at his house, where he has a small shop on the water building beautiful canoes and kayaks. I had long discussions with one of the students who was thinking about having me build a 20’ sailboat for him. A few weeks later he let me know he had bought a used boat, so that was the end of that.

 

repair class at the WoodenBoat School

 

Geoff Burke (left) teaching Adirondack Guideboat building

 

adirondack guideboat under construcion

 

sawn frames

 

Nick Schade (middle) teaching strip planked canoe building

 

Greg Rössel (middle) teaching lofting

 

Kerry, a former student of the boat school in Michigan, where I taught last winter, invited me to come to Camden for the Schooner Festival. He was participating in the building of an irish Currach. This was a project that was initiated by Lance Lee, who I had met about 17 years ago in Maine. I was moving to Holland at that time with my family and Lance and I had spend a few hours talking about setting up a boat center of some kind in Holland. It would be nice to see him again, so off to Camden I went. I left Fetch at her mooring at the school.

I stopped in the co-op in Blue Hill for coffee and happened to read a small poster about community. It made me think about where I would want to live and what I was looking for. So far the plan was to go south after my stay in Maine and spend time in the Chesapeake and Carolina. Somehow I wasn’t convinced that I would want to do that in Fetch however. Instead of driving from one sailing area to the other I started thinking about being in a bigger boat and staying on the water. I started looking at ads for sailboats in the 27’ range, like a Cape Dory 27 or 25. I found that I could buy one of these for the same amount that I could sell Fetch for.

 

 

 

 

It was nice to be in a place like Camden after having stayed in Brooklin for a while. Brooklin has one convenience store, two restaurants and a library, which is pretty basic. Camden felt like uptown, with lots of restaurants, gift shops, some fancy houses and a real harbor. The schooner festival had brought a lot of wooden boats to town and it was fun touring the windjammers. On shore the ‘quick and dirty’ Sika boat building challenge was in full swing. Odd contraptions, that sometimes just only vaguely resembled functioning boats, were constructed by enthusiasts of all ages to be raced on Sunday. I met the folks of the Currach project. The instructor had come over from Ireland and happened to be a good friend of an irish boat builder who attended my school in Holland about 15 years prior. Small world.

 

arriving in Camden

 

schooner festival in Camden

 

A yawl boat of one of the schooners. The mother ship has no engine

 

inside a windjammer

 

irish currach under construction

 

quick and dirty boat building

 

 

final race

 

I was quite taken by the art of Buckley Smith who had a booth there. His art is very colorful and lively and he really knows how to draw a boat with the wind blowing through the rigging. He lives on a converted workboat making art and I found that quite inspiring. Another guy I met, Tom, had single handedly built a substantial Pinky Schooner called Prophet. He is a furniture builder and had spent six summers working on this Schooner, built all the hardware and sails as well and now lives on her. Amazing what people can pull off.

 

 

 

Tom (on right) built this schooner by himself

 

Tom builds those chairs for a living

 

He also built the hardware and made the sails

 

After the festival, still trying to meet up with Lance Lee, I followed the folks of the Currach project to Nobleboro, where the boat shop is located. Lance owns the shop, called the Mill, which is located in a rural setting. Lance and his assistant Arista are trying to establish another apprentice shop and were looking for an instructor to take lead in building boats. I was tickled by the idea of teaching in such a setting in Maine, so I went to check it out. I spend a few days, talked to different people there and watched the Currach getting framed up. I enjoyed the community aspect of it, with a simple kitchen in back and living quarters upstairs, but the building needed a lot of work and typically no one lived there in the winter because it’s too cold without insolation and good heat. I decided to go talk to Lance at his house in Rockland, where we met up and discussed matters. About a week later I decided not to go for it. Later during my trip I visited one of Lance’s first apprentice shops in Bath. He had started that in 1972 and in 1974 John Wilson started the WoodenBoat Magazine. It dawned to me that it was around that time and here in Maine that the wooden boat revival had started. At that time few people saw the value in messing about in wooden boats.

 

The Mill, Lance’s next apprentice shop

 

 

currach was getting framed up

 

 

tools in the shop

 

 

First WoodenBoat Magazine mentioning Lance Lee

 

Back in Brooklin, I packed Fetch with fresh supplies and headed out for my last cruise on Maine’s beautiful coast. I was heading toward Mount Desert Island and found favorable current and wind. At Casco Passage, north of Swans Island, I was bucking the eb for a bit and the waves got quite lively. One reef in the main took care of that. I got to Southwest Harbor averaging about 4.5 knots and was excited to feel the Atlantic swell as I got out of the protection of Great Gott Island. Fetch in an Atlantic swell; that was something! The boat started on the Pacific coast in Seattle, was then sold to James in Anacortes after which I converted her to a cabin cruiser in Port Townsend and now here she was; on the other side of the continent.

 

navigating through Casco Passage

 

entering Somes Sound

 

I had heard that Somes Sound was worth a visit, so I sailed past Southwest Harbor and headed into the fjord-like inlet. I had to motor the last mile and tied up to a mooring in Somes Harbor about 5 hours after I left Brooklin. Rain set in at night and the morning was pretty wet as well. In spite the wetness I took a stroll ashore and learned that back in 1761, Abraham Somes was the first permanent settler on the island. I went back to Southwest Harbor and enjoyed a nice lunch in town. I hiked up Flying Mountain to get a good overview of the area. Past the Cranberry Islands I could clearly see the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

 

Friendship Sloop in Southwest Harbor

 

Fetch tied up to public dock

 

hiking to Flying Mountain

 

view from Flying Mountain

 

hmmm, I could live there…

 

After spending the night tied up to the public dock I had breakfast in town and set sail to go around the east side of the island. The winds were fairly light except for some unexpected blasts coming down from Gorham Mountain. After a pleasant three hour sail I arrived in Bar Harbor; just in time for lunch. The little town was busy with folks who were just unloaded from a gigantic cruise ship. Most of this island is Acadia National Park and very popular with tourists. I had a tasty pasta dish and a beer at the Rupununi bar.

 

fancy houses with view of the Atlantic Ocean

 

nice yacht

 

lunch in Bar Harbor

 

tastes good after a sail

 

Wind was up and the sun was hot, so onward around the north side of the island. The wind kept increasing and when my double reefed main with working jib became too much, I had a choice of either turn the motor on or bend on my storm jib. Normally I try to avoid changing jibs under way on Fetch, but this time I gave it a try. I kept the main partially filled to keep way, tied the tiller off and crawled forward with the storm jib in hand. Fetch behaved well and I got it done without mishaps. I beat to weather for another hour till I arrived at the bridge connecting the island with the mainland. The chart showed 25’ clearance under the bridge and some shallow water under it. At low tide, I couldn’t find a way through the thin water and decided to call it a day and anchor in a protected cove. The next day I made it through and set sail again. The forecast called for high winds later that day and I was beating into tide and wind, so I didn’t make much headway. I could wait till the afternoon for a more favorable tide, but then the wind would be against it and was expected to be stronger as well. The way back to Brooklin was quite exposed in places and the prospect of beating into big waves didn’t appeal to me, so I doused sail and turned on the iron horse. I just didn’t feel like waiting another day to return. After motoring about two hours I bounced across exposed Blue Hill Bay and found shelter in Naskeag Harbor before tide turned and it would all get too crazy.

 

 

finally enough water to go under the bridge

 

motoring back to Brooklin

 

Back in Brooklin my time in Maine was coming to an end, but somehow I didn’t feel like going south to the Chesapeake. After talking to some people about Cape Breton I decided to go north instead. I left Fetch with Eric Dow for a few days and headed up the coast. Due to the fog I didn’t see much of the scenery and in Saint John it was so thick that I could barely read the road signs. I ducked into a campground and spend the night. The next day I marveled at the gigantic tides in Fundy National Park. The town Alma claims to have the biggest tides in the world! Indeed at low tide the water was way the heck out there, not only far away, but also clearly way below where I was at the high tide line. They have a tide range of 46 feet, which is about four times as much as in my hometown Port Townsend! It can rise about 6 feet per hour. The few fishing boats I found were high and dry at low tide, supported by small cradles under their bilges, waiting for water to return. I remembered boats in England being tied to the quay without water in sight.

 

 

mudflats at low tide

 

no water to be seen

 

back afloat

 

Further up the coast I visited the Hopewell Rocks, big chunks of rock seemingly standing on stilts, undermined by wave action, with tufts of trees on top. At low tide one can walk around them and at high tide one can kayak through them.

 

Hopewell Rocks

 

carved by waves

 

As I went further north onto Nova Scotia I hit the tail end of some tropical storm with torrents of rain and very gray skies. After spending the night in Antigonish, the rainy weather continued for another day till I arrived almost at the north end of Cape Breton. Finally, as the weather cleared a bit, did I see where I was at. The Gulf of St. Lawrence to my west and to the north, somewhere beyond the horizon was Newfoundland. At the north end of the island I found a small pleasant RV camp right on the cliff overlooking St. Lawrence Bay and enjoyed the views. One of the campers pointed out a trail on the map to a high viewpoint. I drove up there and hiked for a few hours and got to some awesome views. On the trail I noticed a fresh imprint of a bear paw, which made me a little nervous.

 

Cape Breton coast line

 

view from camping at north end of the island

 

 

vista at the end of my hike

 

nice views

Oops, that’s a bear print

 

The scenic road around Cape Breton Island is called the Cabot Trail and I continued it on the east side going back south. Back in Antigonish I had the tires of my van replaced for new ones and the ride got a lot smoother after that. I increasingly got more restless about my trip. I was heading back to Maine and still didn’t know where to go after that. My little detour from Brooklin up north had been a bit further than I had expected and by the time I was back there I had driven 1600 miles, which is the same as about halfway across the US!

I picked up Fetch and started south, still not resolved about my next destination. I called Lance Lee and told him I had to pass on his job offer. I also passed on another job offer that I got in Brooklin. As I was slowly leaving Maine I realized I didn’t want to go down to the Chesapeake. It didn’t feel right to me. Instead I decided to go back to Port Townsend. It felt like I belonged there. I had family, friends and a network there. I’d lived there for 10 years, which was the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I also wanted to get back before money would run out again. I had a long way ahead of me, but looked at it as if I was going to cross an ocean. I would try to get into the routine of driving all day for at least a week and enjoy the ride.

I dawned to me that I could get on I-90 near Boston and stay on the very same road all the way to Seattle! About 3100 miles (5000 km) on one single road. So that’s what I did and the only time I diverted from it was to visit Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. It was amazing to see those huge faces that look so alive, carved out of rock. They had removed eight hundred million pounds of stone to create that carving.

 

beginning of I-90

 

cruising along

 

 

Fetch at Mount Rushmore

 

They had removed eight hundred million pounds of rock to make this

 

One morning, in the foothills of the Rockies, I waited for the snow to melt in one of the passes when my former brother and sister in law, Louis and Kindy, caught up with me. They had also been on the east coast and were right behind me. We spend some time together in Missoula after which we went separate ways again.

 

Louis and Kindy also live in PT

 

Rocky Mountains

 

Fetch in the snow in late September

 

Columbia River

 

Still on I-90 arriving in Seattle

 

My sons Theo and Nico share an apartment in Seattle and my arrival couldn’t have been planned better, because it was on Nico’s birthday. It had taken me 7 days of driving on I-90 to get there. I had left Port Townsend on April 22, 2012 and now it was September 27, 2013. In that year and a half I had worked 10 months and covered about 15,300 miles with Fetch behind my trustworthy Dodge campervan. It had been a memorable trip with great sailing and meeting wonderful people. I had now seen a big chunk of this continent, which was part of the reason to go.

Back in Port Townsend, I considered moving onto a live-aboard and saw a few boats, but decided to live ashore instead. Within a week I was working again on the boat I worked on last summer. One of the boats I had looked at, a Newport 28, kept calling my name and finally I couldn’t resist…. Next summer I’ll be exploring the inside of Vancouver Island with a boat I can stand up in. Fetch is for sale.

 

back in the Northwest

 

my new boat to go north with next summer