24 Nov


Riding the Wild Ocean


By Paul S. Krantz, Jr.


Butler Hole and Pollock Rip –
The seas continued to build, the wind now shrieking. Lou began to express concern with the narrowing channel. On the GPS screen, he could see the shoals squeezing us on both sides. Our flashing red four-second buoy was clearly visible off the port bow as we rode over wave crests but disappeared in the troughs. Once again hard on the wind, we were going to slip safely past the red flasher mid-channel. The next buoy, a flashing green about a mile to the east, was directly in our path. We had to stay to the north of that buoy to stay within the channel. Missing that to the south would take us over shallow areas of sixteen to twenty feet at the northern end of Stone Horse Shoal, the channel being generally over forty feet deep between shoals. The concern over those shallows was not bottoming out against the sandy sea floor but encountering locally larger, steeper seas. I could tack to port to reposition into the channel but preferred to avoid that risky maneuver in those dark seas if possible. Lou could feel the seas still building. He began voicing his concern that he could not control the boat in the raging maelstrom. Suddenly he cried out, “You have to take the boat. I can’t control it!…

Dawn began breaking. In the dim gray light of morn, I silently went into shock at the spectacle of the seas surrounding us. Although we had been in them for hours, we had not seen the seas before that moment. I had never been in anything like that in my life. Mountains of water nearly as high as my spreader, which is halfway up my thirty-foot mast, raced by. Every wave foamed with angry, writhing energy. Spray blew from every wave top into the next trough. There was no color in that predawn world, only bleak shades of gray…

Caught in a Fish Trap –
Not wanting to sail headlong into the net and dismast the boat on the overhead steel cable, I threw the tiller to starboard. The boat began to spin to port just as it slammed against the unyielding net. I heard the single starboard shroud screech and then groan as it scraped along the heavy cable. The wind plastered the sail against the net folding it about the cable. The boom clamored past and under the cable with a metallic clunk. The jib flailed violently against the net. The sea that drove me into the net slammed against the hull and into my sail pinning everything hopelessly against the unforgiving net. I could see little in the inky black night. I was soaked. I could hear large fish next to me inside the net smashing into one another in their panic to escape the unseen intruder trying to get at them through the net. The boat dropped into a trough, allowing the stern to wash deeper into the net. The starboard shroud, riding against the cable, held the bow somewhat into the wind and the seas. Waiting for the seas to swamp the boat, I knew I was going to die.

The Bull’s Eye rose with the next advancing wave as I stood in the cockpit somehow hanging on to the sail above me. As the boat lifted in the sea, my head was driven into the overhead cable, which then scraped down the side of my face and ear onto my shoulder. I screamed with pain expecting my collarbone to snap. The excruciating pain collapsed my knees, and I fell to the floor. As I went down, the cable followed me pressing my back ever lower…

Chatham and the Race to Provincetown with Tropical Storm Hannah –
Our host drove us out onto the pier to the arch leading down to our boat. As we exited the car, the wind-whipped rain pelted us unmercifully. Vaguely aware of a large human form standing in the archway, we hurried in that direction toward the gangplank leading down to the floating dock. As we approached, the form moved into our path making clear his intent to stop us. Under the semi-shelter of the arch, I could see his face glaring at me from under the hood of his yellow, commercial grade, rubber foul weather jacket. He was wearing khaki shorts revealing heavily scarred, well-tanned legs, and leather work boots. With rain cascading off his foul weather gear, he conveyed an ominous intent. I came to a stop about four feet from him, Lou behind me.

“Do you two belong to that little sailboat down there?”

I responded with a firm, “Yes.”

“Do you make a habit of helping yourselves to other people’s slips?” I stood there dumfounded, staring up into that hard craggy face, not knowing how to respond to the question…

“Get your boat off my dock! I don’t care where you go, but get it out of here.”

Stalling for time, I mumbled something about sailing all night into Butler Hole, and twelve to fifteen foot seas in Pollock Rip, searching for an opening in the combers across Chatham Bar, getting caught in a rogue wave that ripped my dinghy off the back of the boat…on I babbled…about how exhausted we were. I began to feel about as pathetic as I must have sounded as I contemplated the agony of going back out into that storm to search for another place to stop and tie up…

Book available here.

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30 Oct


Discovering the Wilds in a $400 Yacht


Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

David Buckman

The flickering lantern spread a civil glow across the cabin as we had dinner, the depths of our tiredness washing over us. Clearing the bilges of the leaky 18-foot wooden sloop after settling into our sleeping bags, I left the pump propped up next to my pillow, its hose stuffed into the centerboard trunk. With this arrangement I could roll over in the middle of the night and evacuate the influx before the ever rising internal tides gave us the rudest of awakenings. “Remember Bucky,” the mate chortled seconds before snoring reverberated from his berth on the other side of the centerboard trunk, “The tide waiteth not upon the sloth of any man.”

Morning was burdened by a dull pewter sky, scarves of fog blowing low and the main halyard beating a tattoo against the mast. Tuning in a local station on the portable radio, the only piece of electronic gear aboard, the marine forecast started out with small craft warnings, calling for a 15-25 knot southwesterly. We were hoping for something more civil, decidedly more civil. There was a certain tension to our mood, that we tried to keep to ourselves, but every time the mast shuddered, the reality of the challenge was painted vividly across our minds.

That it would be a fair breeze once we cleared the Sakonnet River was the only comfort, and with an early start we hoped to put a few miles behind us before it matured to full force. We knew if we didn’t give it a try, we’d spend the rest of the day regretting it, and after studying all the escape options from Westport to Fairhaven, we shoved off for Marion, 41 miles to the east.

Bashing into a cauldron of steep sided seas, the little wooden sloop pitched over on her ear and bucked through the white crested slop. Slap. Slam, crunch the bow bit into every wave. Slacking off the wind a few degrees to minimize the pounding, which I feared would loosen every screw in her dodgy bottom, a steady stream of salty tears sluice aft.

Weathering the frenzy of whitewater bursting against Schulyer Ledge, our sense of deliverance was palpable as we bore off the wind and winged out sail. Ahead lay the plentifully periled waters of Buzzards Bay, a shallow 50-mile-long sound, contained on its southern flank by the broken chain of the Elizabeth Islands, and to the north by a low coast harboring the old whaling ports of Fairhaven and New Bedford.

As the ebbing tide turned its weight against the wind, growling seas heaped into frothy crests that toppled noisily alongside, and our lot was invested of a stirring spectacle. Hauling away at the centerboard pennant till she had little more than two feet of draft, eased the helm and gave her a more forgiving posture in case she flirted with a broach, which I’d witnessed a number of times on the race course.

Like a skier playing the rhythm of a mountain we banked our $400 cruiser off the crest on one wave, and swooped down the trough of the next with a rush of speed that set our stomachs to quivering. We worried that she might bury her bow in the backside of waves we were overtaking, but the sloop rose buoyantly to challenge after challenge.

Peering into the mists as we raced along there was a wildness to our lot beyond our most vivid imaginings, but no time for anything but paying attention to the Leight’s mood which was transmitted to us with commanding alacrity. Feeling like prey among predators I cast quick glances at the army of seas rolling up astern, and checked the backstay telltale to make sure we were square to the wind.

In the midst of it all the mate’s pallor began to take a turn for the worse. “Skip, I think I’m going to be sick,” he mumbled. His moment of extremis was exceedingly graphic. He felt better for it. I felt worse.

Not long after the mates returned to duty we were startled by a pale specter rising out of the water off the bow, and with our hearts thumping away like drum beats we struck the jib with the downhaul to slow our flight. The amorphous shape evolved into the hulk of a rusty old freighter impaled on Wilkes Ledge.

We discussed putting into Fairhaven, which was tempting as it was only a few miles to port, but without the confidence of experience these were uneasy calls that left us anxious. Hours passed, the mists grudgingly dissipated and not long after midday we washed into Sippican Harbor in as civil circumstances as could be imagined, for at this point in our life of adventure, any cruise we could walk away from was a good one.

Poking about the shallows by Tabor Academy we came to rest alongside a dinghy float at Barden’s Wharf and inquired about a berth for the night. When the dockmaster asked where we were laying, he did a double take when we pointed to the Leight. “Oh that,” he said flatly as though she were an unworthy trifle. “Stay right where you are, I won’t charge you for that.”

She might have been an unworthy trifle to him, but I saw many good things in her simple harmonies and felt affection, which seemed the optimal circumstance in which to pursue such things. —END

Signed copies of Bucking the Tide available here.

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30 Sep


Nominate Your Favorite Small-Boat Cruising Ground



There are lots of places to sail—especially in a small boat—but let’s face it, some places are better than others. Maybe it’s the amazing weather and consistent winds, or the scenery, or the miles of shallow water and deserted anchorages, or the special history of the place. Whatever brings you back, we’d like to know about it for a feature article we’re working on.

In the survey below we’ll ask you for a few details about your favorite spot and we might include your quotes and information in the upcoming feature. (We know we’ve already asked some of you this question and we appreciate your previous response and may use those too, but this more formal survey will help us flesh out the article—Eds)

Click here to participate in survey.


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13 Aug


The Cartop Carrier Yacht


An Inveterate Tinkerer Turns Things Upside Down
by Jim Graves

I stopped at a nearby neighbor’s almost perpetual garage sale, where a Sears cartop luggage carrier about six-feet long caught my eye. I figured that with a bit of work—some judicious cutting and drilling here and there—it’d make a quickly-built and quirky little sailboat.

After a bit of planing and sawing, the hull begain to show promise of a capable, if tiny, sailing craft. Much online research was begun to find the specific ratios and distance dimensions. A lot of small boat comparisons of apparent sail area to hull profile were tallied; the same with lee board size and location. The “quick” project went the same as all the others, taking far longer than expected, but the enjoyment was not diminished. It became obvious that, more than with motorcycles and other builds, a sailboat has to have all its component parts designed at the same time to work properly. As in an engine, everything has to work together, and small dimensions matter. It takes at least as long to research and design as to build and install. But the hope remained that, in the end, maybe it would float.

I also consulted with a few experienced and successful sailboat designers. I learned that the scale of the appendages does not change at the same rate as the hull, when scaling to a different length. So, as always, a bit of “over engineering” in places seemed wise, if specifics are not known. That is, we don’t have to know some of the exact parameters, but should be able to compare and copy closely. Thought was applied to where stress would originate and travel. Also, it was decided the materials used should be conducive to low-cost construction. Pine wood was settled on for its lightweight and finished beauty.

Some extra heft was put in the leeboard swivel surface. The hull was stiffened using 6″ pvc thinwall tubing around the upper inside gunnels. And it provides floatation. The mast step is pvc tube too, held stiff and distributing the loads by lateral tubes to the gunnels, with a stiffening plate under. More pvc space frame may be added later. If it floats. An aluminum extendable tube was attempted as mast, but added unneeded complication; the old proven aluminum tube being resorted to. The experimental  sail is of painters drop cloth. The boom will be changed from the pvc to matching aluminum. L-boards and rudder are foil shaped, and the rudderhead is hand carved, using electric power tools. Stand by in a future issue of Small Craft Advisor, for the results of the sea, I mean, pond, trials…. if it floats.


The all-self-built assembly.


Showing lee board swivel mounting.


Inside. Flotation gap allows enough room for skipper’s nap below.

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