Category: General Posts

19 Jun


Themed Issues —by Joshua Colvin



This might come as a surprise to some of you, but the selection of articles in each of our issues is more-or-less coincidental. Any apparent “theme” is mostly happenstance, as we typically run the articles in the order they were accepted. Whatever curating we do happens, for the most part, when we select and edit the original submissions.

Of course we’ll sometimes rush to print a time-sensitive article or rearrange the schedule of a few articles if we feel we need a little more regional diversity or more “how-to” or “adventure,” for example, but each magazine is mostly comprised simply of the next batch of articles in the queue.

I mention this only because we find it interesting that a lot of our magazines end up with an unmistakable theme anyway. Last issue (#110) was a good example. It so happened we had articles on human propulsion, a pedal-powered boat, a solar-powered boat, and a power-sailer—a sort of “Alternative Power”-themed edition was born. While it was a tinkerer’s dream, not everyone liked the esoteric content and shortage of sailboats. This helps explain why we avoid overt themed issues, as by their nature they please fewer readers. (Better, we think, that you occasionally skip a page or two you don’t find interesting, than receive a whole magazine focused on something you find uninspiring.)

Similarly, when we’re asked, “Why don’t you do more articles on (fill in the blank)?” our answer is usually, “Because we’re not getting any articles on (fill in the blank).” While we occasionally generate or solicit articles on a particular topic—like we did recently with Perfect Prams and Best Places to Sail—we’ve found the best material is generally whatever’s on the mind of those of you who contribute to this magazine. It certainly makes editorial direction simple: What topics do our readers want us to cover? The same ones covered in the articles they send us.

Speaking of themes, we’ve also noticed over the years that specific words or references sometimes appear multiple times in a single issue. Once it was Tinkerbelle—the boat and the book—that came up in a bunch of articles, then more recently it was Swallows and Amazons. For whatever reason “Huck Finn” made multiple appearances last issue. Maybe these repeat references aren’t so surprising—in fact they might do a better job explaining what our magazine is about than anything else we could come up with. Any fan of Tinkerbelle, Huck Finn or Swallows and Amazons will probably feel right at home with Small Craft Advisor. —Joshua Colvin

05 Oct


How fast can you go in a small cruising boat?



Gerry Spiess and Yankee Girl arrive in Honolulu. Pic by Marlin Bree.

“When it comes to small boats,” my friend Gerry Spiess was explaining to me, “all the rules go out the window.”

Gerry is the champion small-craft sailor who set two world’s records by sailing his 10-foot homemade plywood sloop, Yankee Girl, across both the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.

On the long reaches across the Pacific, he took only 34 days to sail 2,539 miles from Long Beach, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. He had averaged 74.5 miles per day—an extraordinary run for a heavily laden boat with only a 9-foot waterline. Much larger sailboats do well to average a little over 100 miles per day.

He was bettering his North Atlantic record run. He had sailed out of Virginia Beach, Virginia, heading eastward to England. That sail took him an elapsed time of 53 days, 5 hours nonstop to Falmouth, 3,780 statute miles. He had averaged 60 miles a day an average speed of 2.5 miles per hour in storms, high waves, doldrums, and some good sailing. His best day’s run was 84 nautical miles.

Out of Honolulu and in the South Pacific’s trade winds, Yankee Girl began hitting 100 miles per day under her twin 29 square foot jibs.His best day’s run: a whopping 138.09 miles.

He abashedly jokes about his little boat’s speed: “I was asleep a third of the time.”


Marlin Bree ( is a contributing writer to Small Craft Advisor and the author of numerous boating books. He has twice won the coveted Grand Prize Award in Boating Writers International’s annual Writing Contest.

20 Mar

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Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream


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Interview with Steve Wystrach about the upcoming feature documentary called Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream

For more information on the film and to watch the trailer, click here.

1. How did you come across the Robert Manry archives?

The seeds of the Robert Manry Project sprouted in 1996 while I was preparing for a voyage from Southern California to Hawaii. I’ve been an avid sailor most of my adult life, with a special love of bluewater passagemaking. During that period, I reread many of my books about solo sailors and small boat voyages.

Since I was in the process of outfitting my boat, I had a particular interest in sections about gear and provisioning. One of the most detailed chapters on the subject is “Comments for Sailors,” in Manry’s 1966 book, Tinkerbelle. His book was exciting and inspirational the first time I read it, and remains one of the best sea stories in my library.

I noticed in Manry’s equipment list that he carried a 16mm movie camera. I simply asked the question, “Where is the film?” That set off a case of amateur sleuthing, and in the end (after two years), I located Robert’s brother John, in Alberta, Canada, who told me, “Yes, it’s all in a box in my garage. I was afraid I might have to toss it in the trash one of these years during Spring cleaning.”

2. Have you always worked in the film industry?

I’ve been a filmmaker since high school, and spent my professional career as a film editor and archivist. I manage the classic TV archive for the US Borax 20-Mule Team show, Death Valley Days (1952-1970), and just completed the restoration of all 452 episodes for the Library of Congress. It’s currently playing on the STARZ Western channel, and Grit TV.

3. Are you also a sailor or adventurer?

Besides sailing, my other passion is making long-distance walks on the vast network of European trails, particularly in France. I’m leaving in April for a 5-week trek heading south from Reims. I walk solo, and carry an ultralight backpack, and usually stay in bed and breakfasts, or hostels. It’s a fabulous way to see a country. I’ve also walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain three times. I have a website about those adventures at where there’s a short video about some of the trails I’ve walked.

4. What have you learned about Manry during your research that has surprised you?

First, he was an ordinary “everyman,” who nurtured a very strong secret desire to fulfill his life long dream of sailing across an ocean, ever since he heard a lecture by a German adventurer, while growing up in India.

Second, was how the news media feeding frenzy began, and the audacious way that one journalist set out to track down Manry at sea, in order to scoop up the story before Tinkerbelle arrived in England. It’s a riveting twist to the story, and makes the film much more than just a “boy in a boat” adventure.

5. What impact do you think the voyage had on Manry’s relatively short life?

The main thing is that despite the limitations placed on him by culture, class, finances, and family, with humility, quiet tenacity and a joy for life, he made his dream come true. There’s a lot of depth to his biography that is not included in his book.

His fame gave him freedom to pursue other ventures. He had a successful tour of the lecture circuit, and made a second, year-long voyage, in a larger boat, circumnavigating the eastern United States with his family. I own that film, too, so who knows, maybe there will be a sequel. But, first things first.

6. What do you anticipate will the movie’s running time?

This is a full-length feature and runs a little over 90 minutes. We have a finished rough cut, which has been honored as an “Official Selection” at the American Documentary Film Festival, coming up in Palm Springs. In late March, I’ll be participating in a film pitch forum, competing for a grant that will go toward completing the film. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. There’s a second trailer rough cut you can watch here.

7. What is your expected movie release date?

If the financing and creative details like composing the score, animation, and a massive amount of film restoration all come together, we’re looking to complete by November – in time to submit to Sundance. ###

Read the eBook PDF of Tinkerbelle here.

Filed Under: Blog, General Posts

23 Sep

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Finding Pax: The Unexpected Journey of a Little Wooden Boat (Excerpt)


An excerpt from Chapter 2: The Best and Worst of Days, pages 30 and 31

From FINDING PAX: the unexpected journey of a little wooden boat
by Kaci Cronkhite, for readers of Small Craft Advisor


DURING THE HOUR’S DRIVE to Port Angeles and the hour-and-a-half Black Ball Ferry crossing to Victoria, Adam answered questions, offered advice, and quelled my nerves. Outside the ferry terminal, in welcome contrast to the horde of tourists, stood a young man with a fuzzy beard, a fisherman’s cap, and glasses. It had to be the owner, Derk Wolmuth. When he raised a hand, I waved, and within seconds we were on our way to see Pax.

His car smelled like wood smoke and was cluttered in a familiar sailor’s way with tools, rope, books, and bags. I crawled into the backseat, giving Adam the extra leg room as Derk passed around a bag of fresh-steamed salmon buns. His thoughtfulness and the warm local food put us all at ease.

As we made the half-hour trip across the peninsula together, the guys talked wooden boats while I listened, contemplating my decision and watching the British stone formality and urban buzz of Victoria’s inner harbor give way to the open, arty, tree-lined streets of Oak Bay.

Through a clearing in the trees, I spotted sailboat masts and the rocky headlands of Cadboro Bay. The sun was hot on my face when we got out of the car at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where Derk had Pax moored.

The bay was warmer than Port Townsend, protected from winds in three directions. Only a slight current of tide and whisper of wind nudged the mooring buoys. Otherwise, all was peaceful. Still as a picture.

As we waited for the club’s security gate to open, conversation stopped. I scanned the docks, expecting to see Pax. Derk pointed out into the center of the bay.

Of course. She was unmistakable. The reflection of her tall wooden mast extended toward us like a ribbon on the water.

We followed him to an empty slip marked “RVYC Guest” and waited while he went to get the boat.

As he rowed away, I took a wide-angle picture of the bay with my phone, then zoomed in for a second shot. As I framed him in the foreground and Pax beyond, his face was hidden in shadow, and something else, maybe his posture, made it feel too private a moment. I lowered my camera and instead watched the perfect line of the wake of his rowboat and the even pattern of his strokes on the water.

From what I heard on the drive and could see in his easy manner, he had been rowing and sailing boats his whole life. Now, when he got to Pax, he shipped an oar and put one hand on her cap rail to stop, then crossed the oars and stepped aboard her with the fluidity of a lifelong mariner.

With him in view onboard her, I finally had perspective. She was larger than I thought.

To order the book click here.