Monthly: June 2012

25 Jun


Melonseed Solstice Regatta


We received a nice event recap from Roger Crawford at Crawford Boat Building. He writes:

In a few words……………….

19 Melonseeds.

Light to occasional medium shifting winds on a hot day.

Incredible hospitality by the Marion, MA Harbormaster and his staff.

A simply beautiful place to sail.

Picnic lunch on a pristine sand spit.

The most remarkable 19 boat ballet I’ve ever seen.  After lunch we found some good wind in the outer harbor and all sailed around together in an area no larger than a circle quarter of a mile wide, tacking, gybing, dallying and dancing about in appreciation of each other’s company, friendship and the wonderful boats that we all enjoy so much.  It seems that everyone had a tiller in one hand and a camera in the other.  Most of the photos taken show a Melonhead taking a photo of another Melonhead/Melonseed!

The constant exchange of smiles.

Great boats, great people, great location, and that magic point in the year when the promise of another summer of sailing is near intoxicating.


Day two has sailing scheduled for 12:30.  Solid rain this AM, but patchy clearing now starting.  Wind report is 14 from the NW, an excellent wind for these boats.

Party at the boat shop last night was, as usual, lots of fun, and we’ll have another tonight with probably double the number of folks.



Congratulations on another successful event. —Eds

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23 Jun

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Whitehalls blossom at the Workshop on the Water


Both boats seen here, the carvel in the foreground.

Interior of the carvel Whitehall.

Fine entry of the carval boat, flanked by the whaleboat on the left and the lapstrake on the right.

The lapstrake Whitehall growing up around her molds.

Detail of the carvel boat showing her floor timbers and frames.

Slack bilges and flaring sides create a beautiful form.

Here one can see the wineglass transom that characterizes the Whitehalls.

Planking up the lapstrake boat.

Workshop volunteer Nick Pagon clamps up a strake…

and begins cutting the gain.


all photos copyright Thomas Armstrong

The Whitehall is generally considered to be the quintessential American rowboat. The iconic design was derived from European models, fast rowing gigs, wherries and cutters. The name originates from Whitehall Street in New York City where they were first built. They ranged in length from 14 to 22 feet and are recognizable by their fine entry and distinctive wineglass transom. Considered to be one of the fastest, easiest rowing designs known they served as water taxi’s, pleasure boats and are still a favorite with home and professional builders alike. They were first built in lapstrake and later carvel.

In a program that incorporates both CHAD students and workshop volunteers, two Whitehalls are currently underway at the Workshop on the Water in Philadelphia, one lapstrake and one carvel. They will join the workshop fleet when completed, hopefully by the end of June and will compete in rowing matches with the two extant Whitehalls in the small craft collection.

The project, overseen by lead boatbuilder at Workshop on the Water Bruce McKenzie, is building to John Gardner plans, with slight modifications by Nick Pagon.

See Gina Picton’s student driven blog on the project here.

A further intro and appreciation of Gardner and his work can be found at the TSCA.

Originally published by Thomas Armstrong in 70.8%

22 Jun


Fetch; Theo’s visit


June 14 – 17

The restoration of the centerboards was moving along. I had reglued the strips that made up the boards and faired them smooth. After coating them with epoxy I covered them with fiberglass. Now they were strong again. The tillers and rudder blades needed some touch up as well, mainly a good sanding and paint.


centerboards covered with fiberglass


In the mean time my son Theo (age 23) emailed me that he was going to swing by after his stay in San Francisco.


Theo drops by for a visit


Thursday afternoon we met in Sausalito and immediately drove out of town toward the coast. The freeways were stuffed, so we took the long and windy road to Stinson Beach. Theo enjoyed the landscape and mentioned it was like Spain. The wind was blowing pretty good and after an enjoyable ride we arrived in Pt. Reyes Station. It was getting dark, so we started looking for a spot to spend the night. Behind the store in Inverness seemed as good a spot as any, so we parked and made some pasta. At about three o’clock, we were woken up by someone knocking on the window and calling out loud. I woke up out of a dream and had no idea what was going on. I went to the door and stood face to face with the local police officer, who wasn’t happy with us. What were we doing there – sleeping, did we have permission – no, where we aware of the local ordinance regarding staying in a vehicle – no. Could we show ID – sure. Slowly I was waking up as we went through the procedures.  I wasn’t happy either, couldn’t she just let us sleep? When where we planning to leave – 7 AM, Where were we going? Etc etc. She said she was cutting us a deal by letting us stay till 5AM and not impound my vehicle. Thanks! I had a restless few more hours of sleep, before I moved the car to another spot, where we slept till 7. We drove back to the spot behind the store because of the nice view and had breakfast.


5 AM, time to get up and move the van...


breakfast in Inverness



We headed back to Sausalito and started preparing for a trip on Fetch. We were planning to stay the night at Angle Island. We left with very little wind along the waterfront, but we could see whitecaps further over on the bay. I didn’t quite know what to expect so I put in a reef. I didn’t want to scare Theo, so I wanted to be prudent. Theo has never showed much enthusiasm for sailing in the past and I didn’t want to ruin his renewed motivation to give it another try. In approaching the white cap area we got a taste of the wind in some puffs, which made me decide to change to the storm jib and a second reef. The down wind ride to Angle Island was made even more exciting by the outgoing tide against the breeze. I felt a bit nervous the whole way, even though Fetch did great. At time we were surfing over six knots (on GPS) while bucking a 2 knot current, so we must have gone over 8 knots through the water, while planing/surfing.


whitecaps in the distance



planing and surfing along


Tiburon to port


We arrived at the cove on the north side of Angel Island and although we hadn’t sailed far, I didn’t want to push the matter, so we tied up at the dock and took a nice walk around the island. The trail is beautiful and offers great views all around. On top of Mount Livermore one has a spectacular 360-degree view of the Bay Area. Down between Tiburon and us they were starting a sail race, which added to the spectacle. On a plaque I read the history of the island:  “In 1775 the packet San Carlos, first know Spanish ship to enter San Francisco Bay, anchored in this cove while her commander, lieut. Juan Manuel de Ayala directed the first survey of the Bay. Ayala named this island Isla de Los Angeles. The island has been a Mexican rancho, US military post, Bay defense site and both a quarantine and immigration station. “


Angel Island



looking back at our anchorage










sail race


At dusk we tied to a mooring, put up the mizzen to keep us pointed in the wind and made dinner. Pesto pasta was on the menu, because it was simple and tasty. Some bigger items like the cooler had to spend the night in the cockpit to make room inside.


Mount Tamalpais in the background


After a restful night we woke up around 6:30 on this Saturday morning and decided to take another walk on the island. I went for just an hour, but Theo took a three-hour walk. The park entrance features a dock area, an anchorage, a ferry landing and a small café.  Crew for the café and their supplies started arriving around 9. I sat down just as the café opened and the first ferry arrived around 10. Several ferries brought many loads of visitors to the island and I watched the park transform from totally quiet and peaceful to a crowded place with people everywhere, on foot, bikes, tour wagons and even Segway’s! Families with coolers and backpacks raced over to claim their benches as a group of musicians and performers where setting up the next show. One kid on a small bike fell off and screamed for his parent’s attention and a band-aid. After taking all this in, it was time to leave.


people pouring in from the ferry


We motored a ways around the island in very sloppy water, before we set sail back to Sausalito. We cruised through the anchorage a bit to look at the different ways people live on their boats and took a D-tour through the house boats.




motoring back


living at anchor






That Saturday was quite hot, so we laid low the rest of the afternoon. The next morning however we were ready to boogie again. After breakfast at Café Taste of Rome, we drove to Muir Woods Park, located at the base of Mount Tamalpais. Theo wanted to see the redwoods, so we took a long walk through the woods. First there is a boardwalk along the river with interpretive signs and lots of visitors. Further and higher up in the park it gets quieter. We came out of the woods on the west side and walked toward the coastal road through open fields. Fog was coming in and out for a while, but would fill-in solid later on.





By the time we were back at the car we had walked about 6 hours. We drove to the top of Mount Tam and enjoyed the view, even though by now most everything on the west side was hidden under a blanket of fog. At the West Ridge Road we watched the sun go down. As it touched the fog layer, it seemed to flatten to a disc and linger for a while. Looking at the photo of this disk I can make out a small green spot above the sun (click on the picture twice to enlarge); did I photograph the green flash without knowing it?


fog flowing over the trees like water



Sun turns into a disk. Look at the small green spot! Green flash?


Driving through the woods that were hit by the incoming fog it seemed it was raining. The fog left the trees soaking wet, even without rain they get plenty of water.

Theo took the Greyhound bus back to Port Townsend and I went back to work. His visit had been a true pleasure. It’s amazing and good fortune how ones kid can turn into a great companion.


12 Jun


Fetch; Watercolors and centerboards.


May 31 – June 3

I stayed in the boathouse for a few days to make some watercolors (see previous blog entry). I found a folding table and set up a nice studio for myself. Right outside my window I could see waves and the Marin hills rolling by. Under my feet was either mud or water depending the tide. I felt very fortunate, being able to stay in a spot like that.


Makeshift art studio in the boathouse




Drakes Bay


These watercolors are for sale for $375 each. (12” x 16”, 140lb cold pressed paper).

If you’re interested, email me and we’ll make arrangements ( I’m planning to make more of them as I go.


On Sunday the yacht club put on a special display, just to keep me entertained. A wide variety of boat sizes and shapes got out there and didn’t seem to be put off by the usual windy conditions. They where hiking out in trapezes and put spinnakers up to get the most out of the breeze. All boats are stored in a fenced area and are launched off the end of the dock for every outing.


Sunday race



studio with a view


high tide at sunset




Once in a while I took a trip, like taking a drive to Drakes Bay at the tip of Pt. Reyes national park. The wind was from the northwest and the waves were bending around the headland to end up crashing on the beach from the south. The strong wind was now opposing the breaking waves. This made their tops blow off in a big white plume, which was quite a treat. Someone pointed out a gray whale spouting white puffs in the air. I hadn’t seen those yet on this trip.


Wind against waves on Drakes Bay





In trying to visit the lighthouse I ended up in thick fog so I never saw it.  In about half an hour the fog had started as a narrow cloud a few miles long, right over the beach and ended up covering everything except low above the water, where the sun was still reaching. Strong wind gusts rushed down the cliffs hitting the water, whipping up spray (williwaws?). At one point I was staring just about straight down a few hundred feet at waves breaking on the rocks, while around me fog kept me from seeing much of anything. Some small deer were grazing on the steep slope like it was a regular meadow. It reminded me of trips in Scotland were I got stuck in fog hardly being able to find my way back to my little hut. Somehow the whole area made me think of Scotland, with bare smooth rolling hills surrounded by cliffs and ocean. All that was missing was an occasional castle popping op here and there.





small deer on steep slope



On my way back from the lighthouse I ran into a herd of Elk. They were grazing on a ridge with fog in the background. Two bucks were sparring a bit, which was fun to watch. They kept a close eye on me and I was glad there was a fence between me and them, because I had heard they can be aggressive at times. Fortunately they took it out on each other.



One night I went to Pt. Reyes Station for the Western Weekend where there was going to be some barn dancing. There was a live band and a good caller. I had a good time line dancing and square dancing with the locals.



June 4

After my stay at Inverness I drove to Sausalito.  I knew that parking there with a trailer was a problem. You can’t park a car and trailer for more than an hour on public streets! Just as I was debating what to do, a guy on a bicycle stopped to admire Fetch and asked if I was looking for a place to launch. I told him, I was actually looking for a place to park the rig and stay the night. He said I could just follow him and park at the marina where he keeps his boat, where parking for the night wouldn’t be a problem (for free) and I could even use the bathroom with showers! Good old Fetch had done it again. I won’t disclose where this marina was, but I stayed there many nights while I went to work during the day. I had met a guy who needed repair work done on a classic Shark catamaran. He had shop space available with tools and such. This way I was able to make a little cash to support my trip. His centerboards and rudders were coming apart. They were made out of strips of Mahogany glued together, but the glue had failed. I cleaned the strips, glued them back together, reshaped, sanded and fiberglassed the boards so they were strong again.


separated strips that formed the old centerboard


glueing back together


I was able to return the favor to the guy who pointed out the marina, by driving him to Concord with my van and trailer to pick up his Potter 15 and a dory.  It all worked out very well and occasionally after work, I took Fetch out for a spin along the Sausalito waterfront. Cafe Taste of Rome remained my favorite place to eat and hang out (and use their internet). Sausalito is a special little town tucked under the hills, across from San Francisco at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. Cool air rolls over those hills keeping the place pleasant in the summer. All kinds of characters between artists, yuppies, bicycle designers, software developers, gallery owners and restaurant folks live here in boats, house boats and fancy houses on the hill. People from all over the world are gathered here. Frantic commuter traffic on the 8 lane 101 highway, conveniently circumnavigates the town up the hill. Driving here during the commute is a trip, spiffy cars push by you left and right, to not leave an open spot unused. People pay big bucks for a house boat here to be on the water and close to the city (SF). Apparently the house boat community became so big because way back the city started to sell off city lots under water and in the mud.











For me the wildly creative and colorful house boats seem to express the free spirit, optimisme and abundance that hangs in the air in Sausalito.


Egret fishing between house boats


Night Heron comes out in the evening